Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We Need More H8

Many of you have probably seen the circumfetishist #NoH8 campaign on Twitter. The intention is to imply that intactivists are full of hate, hate those who are circumcised, and hate parents who circumcise their children.

I hate genital mutilation of any sort. I don't hate those who are circumcised, as the circumfetishists say I do, because they are victims and deserving of pity. I do hate parents who mutilate the genitals of their children if they did so for reasons other than ignorance.

The cultural pendulum of American society has swung from the roaring twenties to the "Leave it to Beaver" 50s to the free love 70s. Now, it is swinging in an orthogonal direction. Americans are obsessed with "not judging" anyone for anything. It is frowned upon to criticize people who behave badly.

We tolerate those who abuse their children, abandon their obligations, or act rude in public. We tolerate pedophile priests. We tolerate sexualization of our children. We tolerate and defend those who leave their kids in hot cars to die.

I say tolerate because there is no real outrage. There is no action—only lip service. We still attend Catholic church and give money at collection time. We back down and fail to speak up when wronged in public. We still buy products advertised or watch shows that feature inappropriate characterizations of children.

When I say we need more hate, I am saying that need to stop tolerating abuse of children. We need to hate that abuse to the point where we work to stop it. Forgetfulness is not an excuse for leaving your child to die in a hot car. You don't forget your children. You just don't. You don't cut the genitals of any child: there is not a reason in the world that can justify it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Circumfetishists R Dumb

Claims to Tweet Foreskin Benefits

Last December, @AParentsChoice tweeted "the benefits of circumcision are easy enough to understand". I responded with the following tweet:

He responded with the following tweet:

He said "I do, you choose to ignore those posts." What? Is he saying he does tweet about foreskin benefits? So I asked him where those tweets are. He didn't seem to follow the conversation:

He never responded after that.

Never Denounces Evil

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be associated with evil or people who do evil things. People who condone evil are either too cowardly to stand up against it or support it. The circumfetishists have never denounced circumfetishism, Gilgal, or FGM. It is disgusting.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Penis Sucks

My penis sucks. Sure it can feel good and I can orgasm. But I have no way of achieving the full sexual experience of an intact man. It's more than knowing what I'm missing. As I have gotten older, sex and masturbation have become less pleasurable.

Glans

A lot is made of glans sensitivity. I have no idea what the glans is supposed to feel like, but the skin on mine is dry and leathery. When I rub it dry, it feels quite numb. If I scratch it with my fingernail, I feel that less than if I were to scratch my arm. If I rub it with lubricant, it feels uncomfortably ticklish. Rubbing it along with stimulation of the scar does seem to enhance the sexual experience somewhat, but it is nothing to write home about.

I have read many circumcised men complaining about chafing of the glans. I have never experienced this. I wear briefs, so that may explain it.

The Scar

The scar is the only part that feels good. After a few days without orgasm, it feels more sensitive than with regular sex. With more than daily sex, it tends to feel more numb and the sexual experience is degraded considerably.

The Shaft

The shaft skin doesn't seem to have any erogenous tissue. The shaft skin sliding up and down in combination with stimulation of the scar (and glans) is about as good as it gets for me—and possibly any circumcised man. Vibration and sliding up and down of the shaft skin alone can eventually induce a very lame orgasm. There is clearly more than one mechanism at work in the male sexual experience.

Vaginal Sex

Vaginal sex has never been my favorite. Unlike the claims of many intactivists make about circumcised men liking it "hard and fast", I've never liked that. "Hard and fast" sex feels completely numb to me. I can orgasm, but it's not satisfying and it doesn't feel very good. Slow sex building up to an orgasm feels better. I suppose that is because the few nerves I do have need time to stimulate the right parts in the brain.

My wife, on the other hand likes "hard and fast" sex. The clitoris is a very large organ and virtually all of it is internal. I suppose that, for my wife, "hard and fast" sex is needed to stimulate it. With slower sex, she can hardly feel anything at all. If I were to have sex the way she wanted, I'd last between 30 seconds to a minute. After ten or more minutes of sex with my wife, my penis ends up becoming numb enough that we can do "hard and fast" the way she likes for long enough for her to get close... but not close enough.

Not My Choice

Ignore the propaganda spewing from American medical organizations, Wikipedia, and the circumfetishists. There is overwhelming scientific, anecdotal, and empirical evidence that the foreskin is an essential part of the penis, contains erogenous tissue, and adds to the sexual experience. I resent the fact that mine was taken and it angers me that I do not ever get to experience the most sensitive and good-feeling parts of the penis. Research has shown the the foreskin opening (with nerves similar to those on your fingertips), the ridged band, and the frenulum (among other parts) add to the sexual experience and have tons of nerve receptors.

I've toyed with "foreskin restoration", but haven't attempted it seriously. It is the loss of nerves that bothers me the most and foreskin restoration will not bring that back.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Penis Obsessed Fetishists

Intactivists sometimes get accused of being penis-obsessed fetishists. We are often accused by those who themselves have a fetish for genital cutting.

While there is plenty of evidence that circumfetishists exist and get a sexual thrill from talking about, promoting, and participating in male circumcision, there has never been a shred of evidence to suggest any intactivist is aroused by the foreskin.

A well known circumfetishist accused me of having an "intactifetish". I asked what that was and the response was "You amuse us. It is someone against circumcision." Not even the circumfetishists accuse us of being anything other than what we are.

Would you say that the anti-FGM activists are vulva (or clitoris or labia or vagina) obsessed? Would you say that those who are fighting for gay rights are obsessed with gay sex? Would you say that those who participate in breast cancer awareness are "breast obsessed"? Would you call those who raise awareness for prostate cancer penis obsessed? The answer is no to all of these questions.

Intactivists are knowledgeable about the penis and the functions of the foreskin for the purpose of ending routine infant (male) circumcision and adult circumcisions performed without information. We would also like to see the evil practice of FGM end. Beyond that, we want the penis left alone. We want everyone to leave the penis alone! It's the opposite of being obsessed with it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Male vs. Female Foolishness

Far too frequently, I read and hear silly and inaccurate statements pitting men against women and women against men. These statements are bathed in misogyny, misandry, radical feminism, or foolishness.

Cure for Cancer

If men got breast cancer, we would have a cure by now

One in six men get prostate cancer and it kills almost 30,000 in the US. One in eight women get breast cancer and it kills almost 40,000 in the US.

Men who do not die from prostate cancer may suffer uncomfortable and life-changing side effects. Women who do not die from breast cancer may suffer uncomfortable and life-changing side effects.

The effects of these two cancers are on the same order of magnitude. There is not a "cure" for either.

Genital Mutilation

If FGM were done to men, it would be illegal everywhere and not practiced

Genital mutilation is done every day to men and it is called male circumcision. There are more MGM victims than FGM victims and the most common forms of FGM are roughly equivalent to male circumcision.

Male circumcision supporters (and even some anti-FGM advocates) compare FGM (what form they don't specify since they know very little about FGM) to cutting off the whole penis. Forms of FGM that cut the clitoral glans leave the 9cm of clitoris that exists inside the body. FGM victims experience sexual enjoyment and pleasure from sex as do MGM victims. Cutting off the entire penis would leave a man with no erogenous tissue & no means to reproduce—worse off than the most extreme forms of FGM which still leave internal clitoral structures.

Conclusion

In order to counteract the diarrhea of ignorance, we must provide a deluge of information. Those who choose to remain ignorant are fools & should be shunned.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Talk About Hygiene

Someone on Twitter today proclaimed that all forms of FGM are mutilation but, when done properly, male circumcision isn't. I asked him to justify this point of view. The response was hygiene. What a laughable, ignorant, and untenable point of view!

This viewpoint is so ridiculous, it seems silly that I have to blog about it. As long as people continue to hang onto silly beliefs, I will shed light on the issues.

Women have internal genitals covered by the labia. We've all heard the silly & sexist references to female odors. The toiletries market produces feminine deoderant products. Women are advised to wash with water and, if necessary, mild soap (so as to avoid irritation of sensitive tissues). Surgery to obviate women from the need to perform this simple hygiene measure is never suggested (in the West, anyway).

An intact man has a much smaller internal area than what the labia covers. Sliding the foreskin back behind the glans is easy. In boys, no retraction is necessary because it is not possible (how easy!). Adult men, like women, should use water or mild soap to avoid irritation. Yet, somehow, male hygiene is so tedious and arduous that it justifies complete removal of the foreskin (and all the benefits foreskin provides)—even if from a non-consenting infant. Hygiene alone transforms what would otherwise be mutilation into a beneficial procedure!

What absurd poppycock!

Before folks start running their mouths on Twitter or any other social network, they need to "check themselves before they wreck themselves" (as the classic Hip-Hop lyric goes). Make sure your point of view makes logical sense. Check your facts by doing at least rudimentary research.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Limitations (and failure) of Medical Research

Background

The other day, I had a conversation with an academic on Twitter who retweeted a link to the Morris & Krieger study Does Male Circumcision Affect Sexual Function, Sensitivity, or Satisfaction?-A Systematic Review. This study has been fully discredited.

A number of individuals, including myself, called this researcher out. We pointed to numerous other studies as counter-examples. This researcher couldn't be convinced. After all, the study was a "systematic review" which, in the academic (and Wikipedia) communities, means infallible.

I pointed out that the "study" was performed by a pro-circumcision fanatic who was also a circumfetishist. Academics, apparently, put no stock in these details: they assume that each researcher is ethical, unbiased, and would never skew results.

I pointed out that the "study" only looked at 36 of 2675 studies on the subject. Apparently, looking at less than 2% of the studies on a subject qualifies as "systematic" in the research community and is fairly standard. Who knew? But of course the selection criteria couldn't be skewed! How could a researcher possibly creatively select studies to show a specific result? This doesn't happen, apparently.

This researcher stubbornly refused to believe that there were any flaws in this study and that it represented scientific fact. She pointed out another "systematic review" that, even in the summary, admitted that it reviewed "low quality studies" and "more analysis was needed".

The Failure

My interaction with this academic researcher highlighted the complete and abject failure of medical research to properly vet research and to present the truth. The reason for this failure appears to be naïveté and special interest. The article Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science highlights a number of failings of medical research. The failings that I have identified are:

  • The belief that each researcher is honest, ethical, and credible
  • The belief that there is no reason to vet a researcher's pedigree or motivations
  • The belief that only the "type of study" rather than the study methods and/or inclusion criteria is important (this is a failure of Wikipedia as well)
  • Dubious methods for determining scientific consensus

The Reality

The reality is that lots of research is done for dishonest reasons. Lots of researchers are out to promote a certain point of view. If there was research commissioned by BP showing that there was no significant harm to wildlife after the Gulf oil spill, would you believe it? Of course not—only a fool would believe this research to be credible. But in the medical community (and Wikipedia), credibility has no value. Any attempt to point out conflict-of-interest, financial, personal, or political motivations of researchers is considered a valueless ad-hominem attack (personal attack) and is rejected out-of-hand. In the "real" (non-academic) world, there are dishonest people. Let's not be foolish.

The idea that the "type of study" makes a particular study infallible is nonsense. Researchers can choose their own criteria for systematic reviews. Just as you wouldn't trust BP's results on Gulf oil spill effects, you can't judge that Morris's selection criteria for his studies is unbiased either. If his criteria is only studies that show effects on glans sensitivity (and nothing else), then he will get the desired result. If you choose to study the part of the penis that is the least sensitive and present in both intact and circumcised men, you'll likely get the outcome you want. Since both academics and Wikipedians fail to vet study criteria, they fail to produce the truth.

More than one Wikipedian has mentioned that scientific consensus is determined by (literally) counting up the number of studies showing a certain conclusion. Not only does Wikipedia's own policy on this subject fail to confirm the validity of this method, but it makes very little practical sense. Clearly, researchers with a common point of view (such as oil companies, genital mutilation advocates, etc.) will commission research to try to "prove" that their viewpoint is fact. Those with a financial interest in study outcome will fund lots of researchers at lots of universities. And what if that money comes with required study criteria? I asked multiple times for the Wikipedians to provide me a source that confirms that counting up studies is a way to prove scientific consensus. Not surprisingly, none was given.

My Take-Away

I honestly believe that the academic I encountered on Twitter was quite foolish and naïve. Wikipedians and other academics feel the same way and have the same mindset. And that mindset has many shortcomings. We do not live in a perfect world and we cannot assume that every person or researcher is honest. To believe a "systematic review" without vetting its methods, its authors, or by validating its results by checking other studies is dangerous and foolish.

Science works to prove theories by aggregating facts and evidence. Medical research may or may not be scientific. To blindly assume that all research is science is lunacy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why I Don't Like the Term 'Intactivism'

Although I use it and it is included in the dorky, nerdy title of this blog, I don't like the term "intactivism". I know that activism is the correct word for what we are trying to do, but it has a negative connotation for me. To me, the term activist recalls extremist groups like the NRA, Greenpeace, or PETA whose original goals have long since been overshadowed by extremist agenda. Extremist groups generally fail to see the "big picture", refuse to see other points of view, refuse to compromise, and seem to care little for their original objectives and would rather shock and irritate.

We are not an extremist group. What we are fighting for isn't even the least bit weird. We are fighting for normal.

I understand that any group fighting for a particular goal or objective will be labeled. The term "intactivist", when used in the media, is in the context of "intactivists vs. normal American culture". This makes us look "different" or "weird". But we aren't the weird ones. Cutting genitals is weird. How can we turn the tables?

I don't know if we should be using another term. I don't know what other term to use. I do know that I have never been comfortable with the term that labels us.

Maybe what it comes down to for me is that I am annoyed that any human rights issues have to be fought for. LBGT rights, genital integrity (female, male), women's rights, children's rights (and any others I missed) are the default. They shouldn't have to be fought for. They shouldn't need activism. There shouldn't need to be "counter-culture hippie weirdos" fighting for these issues.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

E-mail to Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Here is the e-mail that I sent to Dr. Laura Schlessinger January 31, 2013 through the Email Dr. Laura link on her website.

I have been a listener and fan of your show since the late 1990s. I was horrified at the advice you gave your caller yesterday. Parents must protect their children from harm. Your advice telling a caller to circumcise her son seems out of place for you.

Your comparison of male circumcision to other parenting decisions such as vaccines and discipline was inaccurate. Male circumcision removes 50% of the skin of the penis and 20,000 nerves. Vaccines do not permanently remove healthy tissue from the body. Neither do parenting choices relating to discipline. Your analogy did not make sense.

Circumcision is a violent surgery that involves giving the child an erection, tearing the foreskin from the glans, crushing, and cutting. Please go see a video if you don't believe me. Anesthesia is only used 45% of the time. The baby is strapped down and oftentimes soils himself.

The claims of "health" and "medical benefits" are dubious at best. The following article helps to clarify:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/more-circumcision-myths-you-may-believe-hygiene-and-stds

Circumcision removes the most sensitive parts of the penis:

http://www.nocirc.org/touch-test/bju_6685.pdf

The recent study on the benefit of male circumcision in reducing HIV has been discredited due to unscientific methods used:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22320006

A recent US Navy study showed no health benefits to male circumcision.

Sunat, a muslim tradition that removes the female prepuce is common in southeast Asia and is typically described as less invasive than the male form. Certainly, you are not OK with that?

http://www.mummysg.com/forums/f40/have-you-sunat-your-girls-29826/

But again, thsese muslim female parents are advocating "parent's choice" just as you were doing for male circumcision.

The truth is that male circumcision is an ethical issue, not a medical one. It is not ethical to remove healthy, erogenous tissue from any child without consent. It's not OK for girls, and it's not OK for boys either.

The worldwide medical community generally regards male circumcision as an ethical violation. 70% of the world's men are intact with the US being one of the few that practices circumcision for non-religious reasons. No medical organization in the world (AAP included) recommends routine infant circumcision.

Regards

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Backing Up Your Beliefs

It has really started irritating me of late the number of folks who think it is acceptable to hold a view about an issue without being able to back up their viewpoint. Oftentimes these folks aren't even well educated on the issues behind their point of view. When challenged, these people get defensive, resort to personal attacks, refuse to look at resources you send, and finally, ignore you.

If you are confident in your beliefs and are well-educated on the issues, the convincing responses should be at the ready. There is no need to be defensive because you have all the facts on your side.

What Is a Fact?

I have heard this silly statement more than once: "I don't believe your facts." Facts are derived from evidence and findings and represent reality: "not "believing facts" is nonsense. There are claims that people make and state as fact. These claims can be disputed if the evidence used to back them up is disproved. Dismissing a proven fact out-of-hand is to remain willfully ignorant.

Another dangerous assumption to make is that any particular source is infallible and has all facts on a subject. A good example is that you cannot rely on any single medical study as fact. Not only is this imprudent, but it is not good science. Science relies on a preponderance of evidence to establish fact. This helps to weed out incompetent or biased researchers. The scientific method also requires reproducibility so looking at a single study fails this test too.

Medical Facts

Technically, medicine is an applied science, but I believe it falls far short of that goal. The article "How Scientific Is Modern Medicine Really?" gives some insight into the issue. Time and time again, money funds studies that benefit medical device makers, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and hospitals. These studies are published and are now considered "evidence". Five studies that show favorable results vs. one study that shows unfavorable results must mean that it is a medical fact that the procedure is beneficial, right? Now that's not to say that medical device makers and pharmaceutical companies shouldn't do studies to show that their devices are beneficial—obviously, they should prove their product works. But given the state of peer review in medical journals, their bias, if it exists, won't be uncovered. Which means that these studies must be scrutinized even after they are published in a respectable journal.

After some searching on Google, I find no indication that anyone has made an attempt to define the term "medical fact" or enumerate what is required for a medical fact to be established. The criteria that Wikipedia uses certainly doesn't bring us even remotely close. Wikipedia places absolutely no value on "truth" or "correctness". Its numerous policies establish "fact" primarily through reliable secondary sources. Claims made by reliable secondary medical sources cannot be questioned by Wikipedia editors and must be included as evidence. Wikipedia editors must only consider the type of study and not consider methods, conflict of interest, or other factors. Wikipedia's assumption is that these factors should have been considered by the medical journal or other peer review processes in the medical community:

"Assessing evidence quality" means that editors should determine the quality of the type of study. Editors should not perform a detailed academic peer review. Do not reject a high-quality type of study due to personal objections to the study's inclusion criteria, references, funding sources, or conclusions.

As I mentioned above, peer review fails to properly vet medical research most of the time rendering Wikipedia's policy broken and untrustworthy with regards to properly establishing medical fact. Although Wikipedia's policies produce accurate, correct entries most of the time, I consider it broken because it is unable to cope with biased research.

Wikipedia is unable to cope with controversial issues in which the viewpoints of one culture are reflected in a large amount of published (albeit dubious) research and the opposing viewpoint (where research on the issue isn't necessary because the results are obvious) is ignored. The issue that I have in mind is the one of male circumcision. The worldwide medical community doesn't bother researching foreskin sensitivity because it is obvious that it is. It would be like researching if fingertips are sensitive. Everyone knows that they are. Why do we need a study? Americans and American doctors who are trying to promote male circumcision want to do research in this area to show that the foreskin is worthless and vestigal. And so we end up with articles that, while keeping with Wikipedia policy end up being devoid of the truth.

The reason why I spend so much time talking about Wikipedia is that the standards that Wikipedia uses seem to be similar to the standards that the American medical community, in general, uses to justify beliefs and establish "medical fact". Even though the definition of medical fact is elusive, I see lots of evidence for the harm of male circumcision dismissed because it doesn't meet a certain standard—that "standard" seems to be similar to the standards that Wikipedia uses. Obviously, there should be standards and policies and research of any type should be reliable and accurate. My point is that individual studies must be properly vetted and we can't count on peer review to do this for us.

Conclusion

No matter what the issue, I expect those who openly profess their opinions and beliefs to be able to back them up. If you can't back up your views, it's time to do some research or consider whether your view was worth holding in the first place. I also believe it is time for the medical community to become more scientific. It is time for the media to become more scientific as well; instead of reporting each individual medical study as "a new fact", it should look at the wider body of scientific evidence and report medical consensus. The general public is easily confused by conflicting studies where each new study is reported as fact The media's approach gives the impression that the scientific community is confused or "keeps changing its mind". It is also time for Wikipedia to allow editors to vet research. It's obvious that the peer review process has its limitations. I would like to see Wikipedia as an authoritative resource rather than a clearinghouse for opposing viewpoints juxtaposed in adjacent sentences.