Sunday, March 28, 2010

To celebrate Genital Integrity Awareness Week, I will be writing a few blog posts about the subject, specifically infant male circumcision in the USA. I will be linking my blog posts from my Facebook page, and I welcome you comments here on Blogger or back at Facebook.

Yesterday I changed my profile picture at Facebook to the pink and blue Genital Integrity ribbon, and shortly after a female friend from Europe contacted me in a chat… astonished to learn that Americans frequently circumcise their sons. She had no idea. I feel happy that such a simple action could so quickly have such a positive effect on “awareness.” …but I will also confess that I have a lot of concern that some of the things I may say may upset some people. I have heard many stories about people who have been “de-friended” for making their feelings known, and have always found it curious that for something so allegedly socially acceptable, we have a lot of trouble bringing up the subject and discussing this openly and honestly with each other. I feel that an open discourse, regardless if it’s agreeable or not, is the first big step we have to take in understanding what is going on.

Today I am going to tackle the subject of hygiene. I will begin with this disclaimer: I don’t have a penis! Yes, that’s right, I have a vagina and I’ve been taking care of it for 40 years. Oh goodness… is my vagina 40 years old already? Where has the time flown?

Well, let me tell you- when I hear women say that they think male circumcision is a good idea because “it’s cleaner” I have to wonder if they would ever consider female circumcision for the same reason. I have urine, other fluids (including menstrual blood), folds of skin that are moist, hair (which I usually make an effort to remove) and just an inch or so away from that- there is my anus… and all of this is positioned on the underside of my pelvis so that if I bend myself around in my greatest contortion- I can only see about half of it. Yet I have been able to manage and no one assumes that I needed any surgical help to tidy up my anatomy and make my hygienic routine any easier. In fact, it would be illegal for anyone to make my genitals “cleaner” with surgery.

Well, “you know how boys are…” they say.

STOP. Hold the phone. Say what? This comment is nothing but sexism pure and simple. Men are perfectly capable and willing to groom themselves. I feel saddened to know that many circumcised men have found solace in this extremely common train of thought so insulting to men. They must feel comforted by the idea that they are considered “cleaner” by women. I think when the cleaner comment comes up, it’s probably a lot easier to feel a slight lift to the ego- than it is to take a step back and consider- “Why you sexist woman! How dare you even begin to pick about the cleanliness of a man as if I don’t know what you are up against in your own feminine hygiene routine? Don’t you know that my penis is hanging right there next to my hand in plain sight every time I take a shower, every time I take a leak? How lazy do you think I’d have to be to forget to wash my very favorite part of my body? Don’t you know it’s FUN to wash!? Don’t you talk to me about cleaner!”

Which brings me to the next thing; the qualifier. “Well, I guess it’s OK for boys to be uncircumcised as long as they are taught to wash properly.” Ugh. I hate that word “properly” … but I have more to say on this. This satetment is like saying, “Well, I guess breastfeeding is OK as long as you remember to change their diapers a few times a day.” One thing has nothing to do with the other! One thing (washing) has to be done regardless if the child is circumcised or not! And many people don’t know, but caring for an intact infant or child is actually easier than caring for a circumcised child. I won’t go into the specifics of this because there is already plenty of information available about how to care for babies- but I do want to take this one step further.

It’s this idea that maybe circumcision is obsolete in this day and age because we do have indoor plumbing and soap. To illustrate this misconception I offer this youtube video of Dan and Jenn who have a little Q&A series on sex matters. At the 2:07 mark pay attention to what Dan says.

Dan, I’m sorry- but you are wrong. The human body has had this design much longer than we have had soap and running water. Humans do not need to bathe the way we do today in order to keep our bodies from imploding- it’s a social nicety, it’s refreshing and relaxing to bathe. But it’s not necessary. How many centuries have hominids walked the Earth before we figured out germ theory? If the theory of evolution is correct, how is it that the very organ of reproduction could have evolved to this point with such a fatal flaw? I’m certainly not suggesting that we shouldn’t bathe- I’m simply saying, that the human right to genital integrity is not contingent on a person’s ability or willingness to wash themselves. I’ll stick my neck out an say it without a qualifier- A man has the right to be as stinking dirty as he darn well pleases and no one has a right to cut a piece of him off.


Anonymous said...

An uncircumcised penis is actually one of the cleanest places on the body, because the foreskin protects the glans. That's its purpose. :-)

Have you read A Mind of Its Own by David M. Friedman? It's a "cultural history of the penis". Very interesting.

Sharon said...

I say this very thing ALL THE TIME!! This post was so great, I had to read it to my husband. :)

Anonymous said...

One comment on the topic of washing "properly". The foreskin is fused to the glans in infants and young boys who have not been circumcised. Misguided attempts to wash "properly" by those who believe the foreskin should be pulled back can cause damage to the penis.