My weekend morning routine includes turning on the computer, and checking links to comments and news items emailed overnight. Lo and behold, I read that a fellow here in Massachusetts has (yet again) filed a bill trying to restrict circumcision.
First, an explanation. Yes, anyone in Massachusetts can file a bill through their legislator, under a provision called “right of free petition.” Whenever a legislator files such a bill “upon request” (meaning: “I’m only doing this because my constituent asked me to”) it’s usually considered the kiss of death.
Still, it bothers me. The author of this bill, and those who share his views, don’t just regard circumcision as unnecessary; they equate it with clitoridectomy and other forms of female genital mutilation.
Before I state my own position on the matter, a bit of disclosure. Yes, I was circumcised in infancy. I’ve never felt traumatized or damaged because of it. But I’ve endeavored to base my own views on research, not just personal experience.
The problem with equating circumcision with clitoridectomy is anatomy. The foreskin of the penis is not analogous to the external part of the clitoris. It’s more accurate to equate the foreskin to the clitoral hood (the flap of skin that partially covers the clit) and the clit with the glans (the head of the penis).
One can certainly argue that removing an infant boy’s foreskin is rarely necessary – but to equate it with removing a grown girl’s clitoris is both inaccurate and insulting, both to the women who have been actually traumatized, and to the millions of Jews and Moslems who consider circumcision an important rite of passage for their infant sons.
Does this mean that, were I to have a son, I’d insist on having him circumcised? No. Unless a doctor showed there was a medical need or benefit, I’d rather not. But I would also not impose such a decision on any other parent. In my eyes, an alternative to the draconian proposal cited above would be to give every parent considering circumcision all of the facts, so that they could make an informed decision.
Expressing concern – sure. Offering facts and choices – absolutely. But histrionic distortion – count me out.