What's The Medical Value?

by Patrick Appel

Marissa Brostoff speaks with Melvin Konner, "an anthropologist, physician, and the author of Nextbook Press’s The Jewish Body." His take on the CDC possibly recommending circumcision:

I have to say that in the United States, the public health argument is weak compared to the right of people to decide whether to do it or not. There is clear evidence that circumcision reduces HIV in Africa, and I think it’s a good idea to promote male circumcision in Africa, where AIDS is devastating whole countries. But in the United States, there’s not a clear and pressing public-health advantage to circumcise. And the intervention is great. It seems to change sexual pleasure; it certainly changes the appearance of the penis. People in different cultures have different aesthetic values around this. And that doesn’t seem to be considered in the cost-benefit analysis. They’re not thinking about the cultural issues and the sense of imposition that this could have for some people.

Freddie makes a related point but goes on to say that "HIV is most certainly not a pandemic in the Western world," and that the threat to heterosexual non-IV drug users is greatly exaggerated. A third of HIV infections are heterosexual and in certain regions of the country, such as DC, heterosexual transmission is ahead of male to male transmission. African-Americans also have much greater risks. This is not to argue for or against circumcision, I'm agnostic on the issue, but under-emphasizing the risk to certain heterosexuals is a greater sin that exaggerating it. Matt Steinglass also joins the debate:

Men who are circumcised don’t complain about it. There may be some vanishingly small number of guys who are upset about the fact that their parents circumcised them. It’s a weird thing to be upset about. The whole issue of treating this as some kind of mutilation of a rights-endowed human being who should be allowed to decide for himself seems to me like an insane metastasis of the American fixation with individual rights-based ideology. Children are born into families. Those families have cultures and beliefs, and are entitled to make decisions about how their children will be treated, shaped, and raised.

I've never seen any statistics on the number of circumcised men who are upset about having the procedure preformed on them, but judging from the Dish inbox they certainly exist.