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The Weirdness of this World - infant male
It's was very easy to
look at other cultures and see them as strange and barbaric from the
comfort and safety of my own country, but there's nothing like a
little distance to give a person perspective. Since coming to
China, I have been looking at the Western world with more
detachment, and questioning many of my cultural assumptions.
I was reminded, by reading Christopher Hitchens' book, "God is
Not Great", that
circumcision of male infants is a very weird practice.
Incredible, actually. Horrible. Unthinkable, if it
wasn't so entrenched in our culture.
Today I sent an email to Doctor Carolyn Bennett - MP representing the riding of St. Paul's, Toronto
We of the Western mind set might be tempted to feel superior to China because of such things as the practice of foot binding, which ended so recently relative to the long history of this country, or our much exaggerated freedom of speech. I don't think my students even know what circumcision is, much less the extent of circumcision in the West. It's our nasty little cultural secret. But it puts a whole different light on our "enlightened" society. It's still legal in Canada, and still widely practiced, both by religious leaders and the medical establishment. Amazing. And embarrassing.
Am I all alone here? Or do others share my situation and view? I would really appreciate some reaction to this post. If you have an opinion, comment or thought on this subject, please send an email to email@example.com
After a friend told me about a study that suggested circumcision helps prevent HIV transmission, I was ready to eat my words on the subject. Certainly wouldn't be the first time I've been totally off base on an issue. Suddenly this isn't a trivial subject any more. It's life and death. I read a very authoritative sounding study which claimed that circumcised men were 60% less likely to get HIV. That a significant difference, and if it's true I guess it's worth it.
This study seems very authoritative and scientific. It presents a strong argument. But then I took a look at the criticisms of the study, which was done in Africa, and found some more information. The evidence is far from clear and there are a lot of conflicting results.
It's so hard, if not
impossible, to control for bias and unrecognized but influential
factors. Groups of intact and circumcised men tend to come from
different cultures. They may have widely differing habits
of personal hygiene, sexual preferences, sexual practices (I
understand that anal sex is more risky than vaginal sex, and
apparently many Africans use anal sex as a form of birth control.),
condom use, and education. If circumcised men come from more
educated cultures that tend to use condoms, while uncircumcised men
don't, this would certainly skew any survey results.
All of this has generated some
interesting discussion. I had one correspondent, a Muslim
friend, who explained the cultural importance of the circumcision
done to him at the age of seven. He wrote: " I was not
consented for the procedure. It was a ritual and I (un?)willingly
obeyed the tradition. I know from that era and after many kids who
tried to escape it, but they were forced or convinced to come back.
It was a parental as well as community decision. Having said that, I
still don't see it as a violence of any sort, though." He
still supports the practice and "Again, as a circumcised adult, I
have no problems as well as no regrets for the event. I have two
grown up girls. Had one or both were boys, I'd have them circumcised
as well; not necessarily for health reasons (I do believe its
merits), but simply because of its traditional values. FYI, I'm not
a fundamentalist Muslim"
I've been surprised in the
past by the number of women who have a strong opinion on the
subject, and I find this interesting. I suppose women have a stake
in the issue, but I don't feel it's my right to advocate amputation
of a parts of their genitals. I find the argument's from women based
on cosmetic considerations to be the most appalling. I have one
relative who had it done to her son because "it just looks neater".
And the "I don't want my boy to be laughed at in the locker room"
argument is truly misguided, especially if this medical fad dies
away and suddenly it's the circumcised boy who has the weird little
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