The Dudes Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Icelandic Phallological MuseumIn Reykjavik, Iceland, there is the Icelandic Phallological Museum boasting of the world’s largest collection of penises. For around $20 U.S. you can gawk at the members of many different species: some human. Most in jars. Some more jarring than others. In Lima, Peru the Museo de Larco has an enormous collection of pre-Columbian pottery. One section is devoted solely to “erotic pottery” some pre-dating the Inca and others pre-dating Christ. I’m not spoiling anything here: There are a lot of clay pots representing the male anatomy. In Bhutan it’s a custom to paint a phallus on the front of your home for fertility.

Lest we think for a moment we are somehow beyond Freud’s third stage of psychosexual development, look no further than the gazillions of dollars made off of Viagra and Cialis in this country. Not to mention all the coy commercials with sexy-seeming middle aged dudes we’re now all subjected to.

I relay this because I’ve traveled, I’m married to a dude and I’ve left my apartment occasionally, so I therefore realize and am sensitive to the preoccupation the men of our species have with their manhood. I understand.

But last Tuesday when anti-male-circumcision activists from a group called Intaction (you’d be forgiven for guessing they were called U.S. Uncut), interrupted President Clinton at a Clinton Foundation Millennium Network talk in New York, someone had to take umbrage with the outrage.

They were there, eight members strong, to protest Clinton’s support for male circumcision in Africa to battle their very real AIDS crisis.

That’s right, someone is trying to do something about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and there’s a group unrelated to anyone dying of AIDS in Africa protesting one of the tactics. Not because those tactics don’t work (there’s a lot of evidence that they do), but because they personally don’t like them.

I also want to mention that I am very sympathetic to activists. I’ve spent a lot of time with activists. They believe they can change the world because other activists have done just that. They are more sensitive than the rest of us, that’s what makes them activists. In that way they’re our conscience, screaming at us to do the right thing. Even if I vehemently disagree with the cause, I respect taking a stand.

With that being said: Really? Male circumcision?

On Intaction’s website there’s a woman holding a picket sign that reads: “Circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the penis.” Like I said, I’m married, to a dude—therefore (very) skeptical of that claim. There’s really no evidence of that being true in any study (funded or anecdotal).

But my main issue is: of all the things that one can chose as the evil they must devote their lives to stamping out … this is it? Not famine, war, disease, poverty, pollution, corruption, child abuse, slavery, exploited sex workers, exploited children, sweatshops, union busting, soda size-shrinking, forest razing, coal mining, whaling, shark finning, the prison industrial complex, the death penalty, illiteracy, female genital mutilation, AIDS in Africa, being Jamie Dimon, bullying, disenfranchisement, predatory lending, being Walmart, being Monsanto, being any subject of any documentary on Netflix, being Netflix, pornography, child pornography, United Airlines (I don’t forget), censorship, racism, sexism, classism, high taxes, low taxes, handicap access and any land use issue within 10 miles of your home? Not one of those is more important than the extreme ick factor (because it’s not supported by data) of a ubiquitous snip on your extremity?

Not to trivialize anyone’s personal connection—no actually I do want to trivialize it. It seems rather shortsighted to dedicate a bunch of one’s time to being that self-righteous about something that myopic.

What’s really disingenuous about this “cause” is the claim that men are the victims of what they call mutilation. They equate male circumcision with female circumcision, which is false. They also have the gall to compare themselves to the Jews during WWII.

tina dupuyMen have more power than women; historically, currently and otherwise. It’s creepy to have superiority and be a crybaby. It’s like Kim Jong Un feeling sorry for himself.

Call it a-few-inches-below-your-navel-gazing. It’s called junk. It’s just not more important than the estimated 22 million people with HIV/AIDS—70 percent of the world’s cases—in Africa.

Seriously, grow up.

Tina Dupuy
The Contributor

Thursday, 6 March 2013


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    I do agree with commenter Jordan that almost always there are ‘more important things’ for an activist to focus on the his or her chosen issue-du-jour.

    And I too object to close-minded ‘lecturing’ – whether of women by men, or of men by women, or of anyone by anybody. But I don’t see any inherent problem with men weighing in on abortion, or with women weighing in on male circumcision, so long as the proffered opinions are duly open-minded, informed and compassionate.

    It may be worth noting that there are at least two modes – which differ mightily in timing – of
    traditional religiously motivated male circumcision. One mode (Jewish) occurs on
    the eighth day after birth, and is no big surgical or patient-management
    deal. Another (Moslem) maybe is not so simple, as it occurs 13 years
    after birth.

    Competently circumcised males – like folks who’ve undergone competent
    cataract surgery – seem by and large quite content physically (not just religiously) with the results. In particular these do not rob a guy of sexual pleasure: if anything, the opposite. At least in that respect, male and female circumcision are very different.

  2. says

    I find it just as ridiculous that a woman is lecturing men on circumcision as I do when a panel full of men lecture women on why abortion is wrong.

    Can you explain why female and male circumcision aren’t comparable? Because one happens through force and the other happens before a person can protest? Because one’s intent is to rob a woman of her sexual pleasure, while the other procedure’s intent is to adhere to Biblical law? I don’t believe there’s an attempt to trivialize the injustice and horror of female mutilation so much as to say that the result of the two procedures is similar.

    I don’t disagree that the tactics of these activists are ridiculous — fighting AIDS in Africa trumps circumcision concerns, even if jury is still out on whether circumcision really has any effect on HIV transmission rates. But you seem to be forgoing applying your own logic to yourself in this post. Arguing that “there are more important things” to be fighting? “There are more important things” YOU could be writing about than this issue. Why aren’t you writing about poverty? THE CHILDREN DYING OF STARVATION IN AFRICA. See? It goes both ways.

    It’s fine to criticize activist tactics — it’s important to have that discussion and to hold people to account when they’ve stepped out of the bounds of what’s realistic and righteous. But don’t trivialize this cause simply because you don’t understand it, or can’t identify with it.

  3. Taztunes says

    This is great, Tina! I’ve been annoyed by the anti-circumcision crowd for years, especially when they equate the act with female genital mutilation. An 8 day old baby just went through something much more traumatic than circumcision ever could be – birth.

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