Because Sometimes More is More
ithoughtitoldyou: Intactivst! i love that
me: I used to not really like it, but now I use it all the time.
me: (the same way I don't like the word cuddling)
ithoughtitoldyou: you don't like the word cuddling?
me: yeah, it's too ... childlike. Like you cuddle your kids or your cat, but in a romantic setting it feels more serious to me.
ithoughtitoldyou: so what word do you use?
me: I'm forced to use cuddling obvs lol
me: I need to find a language that has a word for cuddling that I like, and move to the appropriate country.
me: All bets are on Nordic countries.
(This question is in regards to claims that circumcision offers partial protection against HIV acquisition).
Let me preface by saying that my knowledge on this issue isn’t in depth. I’m far from being an expert on immunology or experimental science, and as such I don’t feel confident in taking a strong position on the scientific aspects of this issue. What I know is that there appears to be a prevailing view in the international public health community that circumcision can lower HIV acquisition rates among men who have sex with women. I think it’s important to be fair-minded in addressing this potential benefit, while also looking at it in the proper context.
From a biological point of view, this protection theorized to occur because the mucosal membrane of the inner foreskin is particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, and circumcision removes a large portion of that tissue, while causing the remaining portion to become keratinized and therefore less receptive to the HIV pathogen. (The rub, of course, is that this alteration has a significant effect on penile sensation and functioning as well). On a more technical level, the foreskin contains a large number of Langerhans Cells, which have a specific purpose of “sampling” potential pathogens by carrying them inside the body from the surface of the mucosal membrane — as a proactive part of the immune system. In the case of HIV, the virus defeats these cells, causing this mechanism to backfire.
There is some debate surrounding the recent studies that have established HIV prevention as a major part of the circumcision debate. For one, this research was conducted on African populations, which apparently differ significantly from other populations in terms of the epidemiology of the disease. Infection rates among those populations are much, much higher, and primary means of transmission is through heterosexual genital contact. By contrast, in Western populations HIV is predominately transmitted sexually from male to male, and through blood contamination. There are also legitimate concerns over how circumcision status will affect condom use, given that circumcised individuals might overestimate the limited extent of the protection offered by circumcision.
When it comes to circumcision and HIV in Africa, I think the people there should be able to make this decision as autonomously as possible, so I try to stay out of their business. I also recognize that the stakes are much different for them, given an infection rates that tops 20% in some regions. If circumcision can help alleviate this crisis to a significant extent, then I could see myself accepting even the circumcision of children as a justifiable measure. By the way, current circumcision campaigns in Africa tend to focus on adult males, which is ethically less problematic (though not completely so).
The non-therapeutic circumcision of children in Western countries is where I take a stand against the HIV argument. Because elective adult circumcision is widely available in these countries, the imperative to surgically alter infants for the benefit of STI immunity is minimal. As I mentioned earlier, HIV rates in in the United states are 20-30 times lower than in the populations this research was conducted on. They are also higher than the rates in most of the countries you would expect them to be similar — Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, etc., despite the fact that circumcision rates in the United States are already much higher. The other argument is the progress being made in treating AIDS, which is extremely likely to be more fully realized by the time today’s generation of newborns reaches sexual maturity.
Brit Shalom is indeed an alternative naming ceremony replacing Brit Milah (ritual circumcision), BUT there is no pin prick or blood letting of any kind.
I appreciate Dr. Reiss reaching out to me, given that I indeed had the impression that Brit Shalom involves a ceremonial pin prick. (I recognize Dr. Reiss from numerous intactivist efforts, including his work to promulgate this alternative to the Jewish ritual of infant circumcision). I’m not quite sure where I got the idea that Brit Shalom involved some form of minimal blood letting, and I’d be curious to know if such a variation of it is also practiced. Thanks again for the clarification.
Sometimes I wonder about what a given person might think about circumcision, and what talking to them about the subject would be like; for example, Noam Chomsky. Does anybody else have similar thoughts?
Someone (Intact America) can create a facebook app which allows anyone to take a public pledge not to circumcise any future children that they’ll be responsible for.
You install the app, and all of your friends see a notification that you just “took the Intact Pledge” along with as a link to a list of basic reasons against non-therapeutic circumcision.
I see some viral potential in this, and it would give people a chance to take a symbolic but meaningful stand on the issue without spending a substantial amount of time and resources on other avenues of activism. Thoughts?
*Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Not all readers should be considered friends. Merry Christmas!
How do you feel about (presumably straight) intactivists participating in Pride marches?
I’ve never been to one these things, and it’s obviously great that people are getting the message out, but I’m wondering if Intactivism has enough overlap with LGBTQ issues.
Hey, sorry for taking so long to respond!
I did a bit of housekeeping for the t-shirt store, and the black t-shirts are a bit hidden, unfortunately. All you have to do is hit this link for the white text design, and then click on “More Styles…” which should give you a whole bunch black fabric options!
I’ve noticed that the ordering interface at Skreened can be a bit tricky, so if anybody else has any comments, questions, or request, please let me know.
I also had no idea that my stuff was mentioned on AVFM, and I hope the message received a positive response!
(P.S. None of the shirts are marked up, which means that that they are being sold at the lowest possible price allowed by Skreened. However, there is a 10% commission if you click through any of my links, which I contribute to Intact America and other intactivist organizations.)