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Yoni Goldstein Headshot

Keep the Government Away From My Junk (Yes, That Kind)

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The best argument for banning circumcision, as the German city of Cologne did last week, is that it's an incomprehensibly stupid religious exercise for which there is no reasonable explanation. Why, if god really wanted penises to look a certain way, didn't he just make them like that from the beginning? And, more fundamentally, what's with the weird fixation on peckers? To humans, that sloppy appendage is a living punch line, the bumbling member that gets men into trouble, more often than not. I can see why god would feel the need to dictate rules and regulations when it comes to the upper head. But the lower one? That's just weird.

Anyways, the absurdity of the religious isn't a good enough reason to stop people from slicing up penises -- if it were, we'd have to ban a lot of other stuff, too. And neither are the rest of the arguments anti-circumcision crusaders regularly trot out. Those are filled with more holes than Genesis.

Take health concerns, for one example: people against circumcision cite worry over surgical complications, mostly related to blood loss. That concern is negligible, based on numerous studies. And they don't tell you about the flipside -- the part where tests have shown a circumcised penis means lowered vulnerability to AIDS and HIV, STIs and urinary tract infections.

As for the pain caused by lopping off a bit of foreskin, it subsides rather quickly -- anyone who claims they can remember the agony when that knife cut their little pee-pee is either lying or, well no, they're just lying. When it comes to health, circumcision vs. non-circumcision is a wash.

A particularly galling argument against penile circumcision is related to the repulsive act of female genital mutilation practiced in some African and Muslim countries. The logic goes as follows: Since all moral people agree that removing a woman's external genitalia is truly awful, the same should hold true for males. Except the effects of the two actions don't correlate. A circumcised male will still enjoy sex (albeit, studies have shown, slightly less than if he weren't missing that particular bit); a "circumcised" female suffers a loss of libido, plus a far higher degree of pain. Also -- and this should be obvious -- penises and vaginas are very, very different creatures: our philosophical and moral approach to one should have no bearing on the other.

But by far the most asinine argument against circumcision is that it's unfair to force male children -- usually babies -- into such a major decision. It should be his choice, to be made when he's old enough to understand the implications. This is incomprehensible, as if parents don't make all kinds of life-altering choices for their kids without waiting to see whether they'll approve. The fact is we are born stupid -- it takes years, decades, before we can hope to gain any insight into how we work, let alone how we fit into the greater world. In the meantime, a lot of very important arrangements have to be made. And if having a circumcised penis makes you feel inadequate when you're all grown up, you can get a foreskin restoration, or, the more popular choice, just hold it against your parents for as long as you three live.

In The Counterlife, Philip Roth -- definitely in the top five most penis-obsessed humans ever -- writes:

"Quite convincingly, circumcision gives the lie to the womb-dream of life in the beautiful state of innocent prehistory, the appealing idyll of living 'naturally,' unencumbered by man-made ritual. To be born is to lose all that. The heavy hand of human values falls upon you right at the start, marking your genitals as its own."

This is nonsense. Roth and the anti-circumcision gang are putting way too much thought into this. Penises, circumcised or not, aren't metaphors for nature or innocence. They're just penises. And though Roth's circumcised meat -- and mine and many others' -- might not be "whole," they still work perfectly fine. Ultimately, circumcised penises are just as able as uncircumcised ones to fulfill the noble schlong's simple mission: speak only when spoken to and otherwise minimize exposure so as to avoid embarrassment (and, potentially, lawsuits). That's really all there is to it.

The state has no place in our bedrooms, and it has no place in our pantaloons, either. People who think differently are just a bunch of pricks.