SLATE: How the Internet Broke Circumcision

This week, one Mark Joseph Stern went on a rant in, accusing intactivists of being a “fringe group” that is “drowning out any discussion of facts.” His piece is titled “How Circumcision Broke the Internet.”

Of course, the reality is just the opposite. The internet, in fact, broke circumcision.

The freedom to talk frankly and the ability to find the alternative narrative online is what has so spooked Mr. Stern. His panic leaps off the page at the prospect that circumcision in fact may be seen in the very near future much more widely as the invasive practice that it is.

He clearly fears that the 100 year narrative that circumcision improves the social and physical hygiene of its victims will be overturned as the anti-choice, anti-freedom, useless, harmful, and paternal imposition that it is. I, for one, found his palpable fear and anger refreshing.

For a century, men who have been harmed by circumcision imposed in infancy have suffered the same sense of powerlessness in the face of these “for his own good” attitudes. Mr. Stern’s reaction is the other side.

Thankfully, there are others writing in the media that have something else to say about genital cutting of infant boys. Andrew Sullivan responded to Stern in some detail, but one paragraph stands out.

What Stern has to address – and, despite fulminations and aspersions and disparagement of those seeking to leave infants alone, he never does – is why on earth are we even talking about this? What could possibly justify a horrible, traumatic procedure removing part of an infant boy’s body? Those who favor doing something seem to me to be the ones who need to make the case. The default doesn’t need to be defended. What has to be defended is such an intervention – which is irreversible and which is done without the consent of the infant. If you are concerned about future health hazards, why not remove the tonsils or the appendix after birth? The only reason this barbaric practice endures is religious fundamentalism.


The last point that needs to be made regarding Mr. Stern is that he cannot hold the views that he does about circumcision and honestly support the freedom and openness that he espouses regarding gay rights. The principles supporting gay rights and forced circumcision of infant boys are polar opposites. Such cognitive dissonance is jarring enough for his readers. I hope one day Mr. Stern can right himself and bring his contradictory belief system back into balance.

About David Wilton

fronterizo, public defender, intactivist, gay
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1 Response to SLATE: How the Internet Broke Circumcision

  1. Hugh7 says:

    Mr Stern is known as a contrarian – he’ll say the opposite of what others are saying (and of the truth) just to get a reaction. “Contrarian” is an old word for troll.

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