According to ABC news, a Florida woman,Heather Hironimus, is in legal trouble for protecting her son (now age 4) from male genital mutilation (MGM) aka circumcision. The full story can be read on the ABC News site (click me).
Circumcision was rare in the United States until the 1920s. During WWI the military encouraged enlistees to be circumcised because it was believed (falsely) that circumcision protected against venereal disease. Anyone following the infant herpes outbreak in New York, know this is not true. These cases are caused by metzizah b’peh an Orthadox Jewish practice where the rabbi puts his mouth over the freshly mutilated baby’s genitals.
After WWI, people in the US started moralizing everything; a return to our puritan roots, if you will. Along with alcohol comsumption, masturbation was seen as the devil’s work (hence the expression ‘idle hands are the devil’s playthings’). Circumcision makes sex less pleasurable and it was thought that it would curb masturbation. This was not just advocated by the clergy, but by doctors as well.
Also at this time child birth was becoming medicalized. Couple this with doctors that buy into the immorality of religious doctrines and male genital mutilation becomes the norm after a couple of generations. Even in the 90s medical opinion was that MGM was healthier. In the 90s it was noticed that circumcision helped keep HIV infections down among the circumcised, but subsequent data shows that those in Africa (where the studies were done) who are circumcised were the least sexually promiscuous do to their brand of religion (typically Islam). Not only that but circumcising men to control AIDS may have backfired. It can create a false sense of security that would cause men to forgo condoms which are known to protect against HIV and other STDs.
But back to Mrs. Hironimus. This past March a judge ordered her to bring her son in for his mutilation. She refused and is currently under arrest. She has filed a federal suit though. The question I asked is why would a judge mandate MGM without taking in consideration of the child? Part of it, I think, is that many older people still believe that circumcision is healthy. But it isn’t. Why is it so hard to change the minds of the believers in male genital mutilation? Because many who are for it are circumcised themselves or have a brother or father who is. To admit that it is wrong is to admit that their mutilation is wrong. If the judge in Mrs. Hironimus’ case is a male, he is probably circumcised. To say that the child will have to make the decision for body modification when he comes of age, and not the parents, is for the judge to admit that his own mother and father mutilated him.
When I bought into the fairy tales of the Bible, I was responsible for the mutilation of two of my children. Once I learned that it poses no health benefit and is cosmetic only, and thus child abuse, I saved my last child from mutilation. But that is the difference between a skeptic and a non-skeptic. The skeptic has no qualms about admitting wrong beliefs and changing them in accordance with better information. Note:I say ‘I’, but I have to give props to my beautiful bride, their mother, who showed patience with my flip-flop over the matter.
Male genital mutilation serves no discernible purpose and the only reason it became popular in the US was to keep boys from exploring themselves. I think every parent must ask themselves if their traditions are more important than the sanctity and dignity of their child. The mutilation is done without the child’s consent which violated the child’s basic human rights. It is child abuse, plain and simple. Thus, no humanist can condone male genital mutilation.