Back in 2006, Emily Bazelon did a little “unscientific research project” about the effects of circumcision on sexual pleasure. You can read her article here. She basically asked men and their partners to describe to her, via e-mail, the effect that adult circumcision had on their pleasure, if any. We believe that the author’s conclusion that, “Sex isn’t better, per se, one way or the other”, could be better phrased as follows on the basis of her own “research”: a normal, healthy foreskin is of sexual value to the informed owner who values his foreskin, but for someone who does not value his foreskin due to cultural factors and/or aesthetic preferences, these factors and preferences can mitigate the loss of this otherwise sexually-valuable tissue, even to the degree that the circumcised man perceives sex to be better post-circumcision, despite the loss of raw sensation, skin mobility, etc., which he may even acknowledge and yet minimize.
That being said, the following points stand:
- Any rational third party would have to acknowledge that it’s a pretty sad state when cultural factors and/or aesthetic preferences cause someone to remove a nerve-rich part of their genitals. However, in America, we live in a circumcision culture, so unfortunately many men do feel pressured to “fit in.” Better than getting a circumcision would be to fully embrace their natural male genitals for the maximal-pleasure-giving organ that it is, just like the natural female genitals, and to change our culture to see the natural male genitals (as well as the natural female genitals) as normal and the altered male genitals (as well as the altered female genitals) as abnormal, which is something Not Yours to Cut aims to accomplish.
- All of the men in the study gave consent, although it’s arguable whether they had all been informed. Not Yours to Cut is supportive of men and women who choose to alter their genitals, as long as they have been informed of the risks, including the risk of loss of sexual sensation as well as information about less-invasive means of correcting any medical problem they are having, if any. What someone chooses to do with their own genitals is none of our business, unless they have not been adequately informed, in which case we seek to inform them.
- Baby boys cannot give consent to circumcision any more than baby girls can to labiaplasty. Interestingly enough, 90% of adult women who undergo labiaplasty report sex improving afterward. I would chalk a lot of this up to the unfortunate cultural factors and aesthetic preferences that likely swayed many men in the Slate study to part with a sensitive, protective tissue from their genitals. In any case, we wouldn’t justify a parents’ decision to perform labiaplasty on their infant daughter on the fact that 90% of adult women who undergo labiaplasty report sex improving afterward, and it is equally unethical to justify infant circumcision by saying that X% of adult men who underwent circumcision report sex improving afterward.
- This whole “study” goes to show that whether or not one values his foreskin is really an individual, person-to-person thing, much like whether or not a woman values her labia or her clitoral hood. As such, the excision of such tissues should be left to the INDIVIDUAL, not to the PARENTS, except for cases of true medical need after all less-invasive treatment options have been exhausted. There really is no ethical argument against this statement.
- Related to #4., it is perfectly conceivable for a man to look at things like this (WARNING: NSFW) or read things like, “Sex became less exciting but more satisfying,” and, “Is it better to have a glass of excellent wine, or a bottle of very good wine?” (quotes from the article) and resent the fact that a potentially pleasurable part of his genitals (that could give rise to more exciting sex and/or excellent sex rather than simply very good sex) was excised for no immediate medical need before he could give consent. This is likely to become more common as more and more intact men (and the women who interact with intact men) describe the functions provided and pleasures given and enriched by the foreskin. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that circumcision, in reality, has no effect on sexual pleasure. The problem is that we would never be able to know this. But you will still have men wondering about whether or not they would have had more pleasure with a foreskin, which is reasonable since it was part of their penis. Shouldn’t men (like women) be spared even having to wonder what things would be like if their parents hadn’t literally had a part of their genitals cut off and replaced with a scar? That’s a pretty disturbing thought to think. We spare women from such an uncomfortable question to face–why shouldn’t we protect men as well?
There is one piece of commentary that Bazelon provides that hints, probably unintentionally, at genital autonomy: “The benefits and drawbacks of either state are between a man and his penis.” All the more reason to leave the choice of state to the man who owns the penis, just like we leave the choice of the state of a vulva to the woman who owns the vulva.