Subjective evaluations require only the individual.

The mindlessness of both research and reporting about circumcision is exhausting. I fear this story is going to be the new gold standard for the smug dismissal of any challenge to pro-circumcision advocacy. Consider:

Circumcision does not reduce sexual satisfaction and so there should be no reservations about using this method as a way to combat HIV, a study says.

Nearly 5,000 Ugandan men were recruited for the study. Half were circumcised, half had yet to undergo surgery.

There was little difference between the two groups when they were asked to rate performance and satisfaction, the journal BJU International reports.

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh. The ways this is going to be abused by those who’d rather cheer their reality-free position than think their way into an honest conclusion that recognizes medicine and ethics…

Sexual satisfaction is a subjective measure, unique to each person. Collective judgments are irrelevant.

The men in the study are adults volunteering for the surgery. Don’t read more into it than that.

These results do not change the medical and ethical issues surrounding infant circumcision.

There is a difference in the skin of a freshly healed circumcision and a circumcision that occurred in infancy many decades ago. The former is still pink and moist. The latter is keratinized and tough. This is not open to debate.

Par for circumcision advocacy reporting, the article immediately restates that (volunteer, adult) circumcision may reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV infection. It leaves out most of that specificity, of course. Consider what the journalist reports on how (voluntary, adult) circumcision may achieve this result.

Specific cells in the foreskin may be potential targets for HIV infection, while the skin under the foreskin may become less sensitive and less likely to bleed – reducing risk of infection – following circumcision.

In any other academic pursuit, such obvious contradictions would be called out and the position advocated on faulty thinking would be dismissed. These two claims conflict. (Voluntary, adult) circumcision doesn’t affect sexual satisfaction, but it might reduce sensitivity. So which is it?

Still, we must focus on circumcision as an individual procedure. The study found the following:

Some 98.4% of the circumcised men reported satisfaction, compared to 99.9% in the control group.

And so on, with the reported caveat that these differences aren’t clinically significant. That doesn’t matter for the individual.

I don’t have the numbers, so I’ll use assumptions based on what’s reported. I’ll assume 5,000 adult men volunteering for the study, with 2,500 in each group. So, of 2,500 voluntarily circumcised adult males, 2,460 are happy with the results. That leaves 40 men who are not satisfied. For those 40 men, they can claim “oops” and have that suffice. If the study’s findings hold for infant circumcision, which I doubt on a one-to-one comparison, “oops” is not sufficient to justify the implied harm done to those 40 males circumcised as infants at the decree of their parents.

One thought on “Subjective evaluations require only the individual.”

  1. Large-scale studies like this cost big bucks yet circumcision advocates never seem to have any trouble getting the money they need to fund them.
    I’d love to know who’s paying for all these dubious research projects and why their largesse is only being extended to those who favor the practice.

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