A Reluctant Defense Of Circumcision

Rhys Southan offers one, writing that the practice “hurts some people, but we can’t pretend that it doesn’t bring joy to others”:

I agree with [philosopher Brian D.] Earp and [intactivist Matthew] Hess that this is honest and significant pain, not a laughable quirk to be mocked into hiding – and this is why I can’t fully side with the intactivists. If harm is in large part subjective – and to credibly amplify the voices of a tiny minority who regret circumcision, intactivists need to admit it is – cutting is bad only for the people who find it so. It’s dishonest to claim that the joy the Jewish practice of brit milah brings its practitioners counts for nothing when most people who are circumcised for religious reasons do not grow up to think of themselves as abused. The organisation Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (FREE), based in New York, says that it has circumcised more than 13,000 Jewish adults who were prohibited from infant circumcision in the Soviet Union. Many of them no doubt felt harmed by not having been circumcised in their infancy. Until far more Jews and Muslims step forward to protest their own circumcisions, to me it looks more hurtful to ban religious circumcision than to leave it alone.

The “joy” of others is a strange defense for the infliction of physical pain and permanent scarring on an infant’s body. But, look: I do not favor banning it for Muslims and Jews and others. I simply favor ending it as a routine procedure for most infant boys and raising some consciousness about the men whose own bodies were permanently altered without their consent.