I realize Ross’ defense of circumcision in response to Andrew Sullivan’s most recent attack on the practice is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but to the extent that it’s serious, it’s not all that cogent.
First, there’s the aesthetics. I’ve heard preferences in both directions here, but frankly, I’m not sure why this should cut in either direction (so to speak). An erect uncut penis isn’t going to look all that different from a circumcised one, and I’d expect that’s the state in which most aesthetic appreciation is going to take place, unless there are large numbers of people who sit around contemplating it flaccid like some objet d’art.
Hygiene invariably comes up in these conversations, but I’m a bit astonished this is thought to be such an important consideration in the modern world. I fully understand why the practice might have been adaptive, from a hygienic perspective, for nomadic desert people who didn’t have to worry about scratchy jungle underbrush but did have to worry about dust and infection given the relative paucity of showers. But I’m told we enjoy this wild innovation called “indoor plumbing” these days. I think they install it with your Internet broadband.
Finally, there’s the evidence that circumcision reduces genital sensitivity. Ross says:
Well, something like sixty percent of American males are so mutilated, and I believe I have the weight of the American experience on my side when I say that any such dampening would have to be extremely negligible.
Well, nobody’s saying circumcision turns sex into a tedious bore. But most of them don’t have a point of comparison, do they? My understanding is that people who’ve had the procedure as adults, however, do report noticing the difference.
Ross skips what seems like the most serious reason to perform what would otherwise be an unnecessary bit of surgery: The potential reduction of female-to-male HIV transmission. But that’s a benefit that comes into play once a person is sexually active, at which point one hopes he’s old enough to make an informed decision on his own, on the basis of an assessment of his individual risk profile.