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Thursday, December 2,2010

Letters | Questioning circumcision


Questioning circumcision

(Re: “The truth about genitals,” Sophisticated Sex, Nov. 18.) Regarding Dr. Jenni Skyler’s response to “Concerned Mom-To-Be’s” questions about circumcision, it is great that the Boulder Weekly is addressing this issue, and brava to the mom who wrote in for educating herself. More and more expectant parents are coming to question this archaic practice and making sure to research circumcision during pregnancy. It is no longer acceptable to circumcise a boy just because the father was, when there is so much information available to show that circumcision is not only unnecessary but is, in fact, harmful, and that the foreskin is not merely an expendable nuisance, but a normal, healthy, functional and valuable body part. Parents need good information to counter the myths that abound.

Unfortunately, Dr. Skyler’s response tended to perpetuate rather than dispel the myths. For example, it is a myth that circumcision makes it easier to clean the penis (aside from the fact that removing any body part would make it easier to clean!). The intact penis is in fact super-easy to keep clean. In a young boy, the foreskin is actually fused to the head of the penis (it’s designed that way to protect the penis during the diaper years), so all you do with a child is wash off the outside. Later, once the foreskin separates and becomes retractable, all that’s needed is for the boy to rinse underneath with his regular bath: easy to teach, easy to do, no big deal. Parents who circumcise for “hygienic reasons” may be unpleasantly surprised to discover that circumcision can in fact make the penis harder to take care of, due to the common complications of adhesions, buried penis and inflammation of the exposed urinary opening. In any case, girls have many more folds and crevices, yet I doubt if anyone would suggest that parents consider removing their newborn daughter’s labia to facilitate future hygiene!

As for sexual sensation, it is a myth that circumcision has no effect on sexuality. The fact is, when the foreskin is lost to circumcision, sex is irrevocably altered. Nature designed the penis to have a foreskin to facilitate pleasurable and comfortable sex for both partners. This is thanks to the foreskin’s exquisite fine-touch sensory capacities and the mechanical advantages of the penis having a mobile skin sheath, instead of the taut, static covering of the circumcised penis. Furthermore, before and after surveys of men circumcised as adults are not a valid indicator of the sexual harms of circumcision, due to selection bias (i.e. men who get circumcised as adults do so voluntarily and therefore are already predisposed to being satisfied with the results).

Dr. Skyler, however, did hit the nail squarely on the head with her final advice to let the boy decide for himself. It turns out that the vast majority of intact men are very happy with their foreskins and would never willingly part with them. Since there is no medical indication for the procedure in babies, the most ethical position is to respect the basic human rights to bodily integrity and self-determination, and leave children’s genitals the heck alone. We would never tolerate non-consenting genital cutting in adults or girls.

Boys deserve no less.

For more information please visit ColoradoNOCIRC.org.

Gillian Longley, RN, BSN, MSS/ Boulder

TSA searches are absurd

Americans of all stripes have apparently had enough humiliation, groping and intimidation at the hands of the TSA.

Forget the occasional story about some petty authority-abusing flunky. I’m talking about confirmed mainstream policy, which is, you go through the full-nudity imager, or you get groped. Or, if you refuse, you are detained, harassed and sued.

But what is most irksome is none of this helps. The TSA has never stopped a single terrorist. And even if everything works perfectly, a dedicated terrorist (who’s going to die anyway) will just move up to the “colon bomber” strategy, knowing that is nearly undetectable.

We will waste billions of dollars, billions of traveler-hours and every last shred of our dignity, for what?

Put this in perspective: the 9/11 hijacker trick will never work again because we the passengers will fight with everything we have. In the absence of that, we are down to saving a plane and a few hundred people. When 600 people die and 6,000 are injured every week in their cars, and another 300 are murdered, this fantastically grotesque distortion of risk only serves to keep the drumbeat of fear pounding, to strip away our remaining liberties and to line the pockets of the security apparatus and their contractors.

If the Tea Party showed us anything, it’s that a good dose of focused outrage can make a difference, and nobody is more deserving of outrage than the TSA.

John Lilley/Boulder

Bush smarter than Clinton?

The recent memoir by former President George Bush reveals an understanding of the political system not shown by his predecessor. Bush sought legal opinions from Washington attorneys he appointed to declare that waterboarding was not torture, irrespective of international and Geneva law. By the simple act of consulting government attorneys he appointed, he has been given a free ride in Washington.

Compare the George Bush legal defense to Bill Clinton’s. Put aside, for the moment, your feelings about how Clinton failed to exercise the mature judgment we hope to see in a president. He was impeached for denying he had sex because of evidence showing he had fellatio. I submit, had he asked his appointed Department of Justice attorneys to formally declare that fellatio was not sex, he would have never faced impeachment. He failed to play by Washington rules.

Tom Parsons/Broomfield

Paris and Palin

“Every decade has an iconic blonde like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana, and right now I’m that icon,” Paris Hilton said, according to Time magazine’s Dec. 6 issue. For those who take this kind of delusion seriously and to heart, they probably should or already do see Sarah (Margaret Thatcher/Golda Meir/Indira Gandhi/ Cleopatra and the Virgin Mary) Palin as a viable and desired presidential can- didate, as well. My poor, basically uneducated (to be polite), plain damn stupid sometimes (to be straight about it) country.

Grant D. Cyrus/Boulder

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