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California Man Writes Comics to Save Foreskins

July 12, 2011

In a strange twist on reality, a California man has taken pen to paper to create a superhero designed to protect the foreskins of infant boys in California: he has drawn a character named “Foreskin Man.”  The issue is that the Jewish “holy man,” portrayed in the comics, is depicted as dark and sinister force, drawing cries of anti-Semitic tones from critics.

There are two forces at work in California, those who believe a baby boy’s genitalia should be protected the same way that a baby girl’s is protected, and those who say that part of their religious practices include cutting a child’s genitals.  That argument that religious practices necessitate cutting a child’s genitals hasn’t held much sway in the issue of female genital mutilation, so it’s surprising that it has taken this long for male genital mutilation to come to this point.

One rabbi blogs about circumcision saying that a child will “learn to accept it” as basically, his obligation, and since the kids will be Orthodox Jews if their parents are, then it’s their obligation to sacrifice their foreskins before the age of consent:

Orthodox Jews follow the commandments of the Torah (Old Testament) and the Oral Tradition of how to keep those commandments. The Torah commands us to circumcise our sons when they are 8 days old. Nearly every single child born to an Orthodox Jewish family will grow up to be an Orthodox Jew as well. The percentages are very high. Sure, some people venture off, but even those folks are likely to keep some basic traditions like circumcision.

So, the kid is going to grow up to be an Orthodox Jew. The kid is going to be obligated to have a circumcision and he is going to want fulfill that obligation. It almost guaranteed that the kid will want a circumcision.

Turns out, the parents are doing the kid a favor. The kid wants the circumcision. It is not something that the kid might or might not choose later on. It is a fait accompli.

Intactivists need to realize that the circumcision is not a “choice” like favorite sports team. A circumcision is something that the child is required to do and will accept that obligation as they grow older.

In other words, it is not an elective surgery foisted upon an unsuspecting youth who is likely to regret or will even possibly regret the procedure, thus rendering it barbaric. Under those circumstances, it is not barbaric.

This blogger’s father performs circumcisions. I wonder how it is that a child is required to have his genitals cut to fulfill a religious obligation. It is just this reasoning, assuming a child will want something drastic like penile cutting, before reaching adulthood and making an informed decision, that pushed people to place the measure on the ballot.  After all, isn’t that argument that the kid will want it akin to the statutory rape laws, wherein a child is considered unable to give consent to genital manipulation, in any form? In California, voters have collected the necessary 12,000 signatures to place  a measure on the ballot that would make it an offense worthy of a $1,000 fine and/or jail time for a  mohel to perform a circumcision.

While some claim that this is anti-Semitic, others simply state that a child’s genitals shouldn’t be a part of a religious cutting ceremony in the U.S., no matter which religion performs it.  The man who created the comics has highlighted all sorts of forms of genital mutilation and has not only focused on the Jewish practice, but nonetheless, people claim that he is promoting anti-Semitic slurs.

I wonder, why is it that comics feature jokes against the Roman Catholic priests as child predators, the Pope, and pastors, but Jewish mohels are somehow above comic representations?  It’s a strange world when all forms of comic representation are called out because of their representation of religious workers.  One religion’s holy man may well be the next person’s jokester.

Children do die from “circumcisions,” even those performed by medical personnel in hospitals, as evidenced by the two-year old toddler who died recently after his circumcision. While some claim that circumcision is a health-promoting measure, it’s of little comfort to woman who lost her baby:

“She was with him every day. She said it’s hard to sleep without him,” Jabbar said of Jamaal Jr.s’ mother, Talea Echeverria. “The thing that bothers her most is that she don’t know how her son died.”

While it may seem benign, another family is struggling after their baby was circumcised “by mistake” and is suing for damages:

Eight days after her son was born and was still being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit, Vera Delgado went home briefly to take a shower and change her clothes.

When she came back to South Miami Hospital, she found her baby, Mario Viera, had been circumcised –- by mistake.

Now, Delgado is suing the hospital, not for a medical mistake, but for assault and battery on her newborn. She is asking for $1 million for the “deformity” the circumcision caused.

“This is not medical malpractice,” said her lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld. “We are suing for battery, an unauthorized assault on this baby. They took a knife to him without his parent’s permission.”

“The baby was in neonatal intensive care with complications from a birth-related infection,” said her lawyer. “They took the baby out and amputated healthy tissue from the penis in an irreversible procedure.”

Of course, nothing can bring back that child’s functional penile tissue.  And the procedure is not without risk, with new studies showing that the number of babies who die from circumcision each year rivals that of SIDS deaths:

The study found that approximately 117 neonatal (first 28 days after birth) circumcision-related deaths occur annually in the United States, one out of every 77 male neonatal deaths. The study also identified reasons why accurate data on these deaths are not available, some of the obstacles to preventing these deaths, and some solutions to overcome them.

Previous studies estimated the death rate as low as two per year to as many as 230. The study collected data from hospital records and government sources to attempt to provide a more accurate magnitude of the problem.

To put this in perspective, about 44 neonatal boys die each year from suffocation, and 8 from auto accidents. About 115 neonatal boys die annually from SIDS, nearly the same as from circumcision.

While there have been massive public health initiatives to combat SIDS deaths, little is being done to warn parents of the risks of circumcision, or what some call genital mutilation. And, apparently when a comic is written about it, some people find that offensive too.  Strangely enough, infant deaths from the “procedure” fail to rally people like a comic.

For those of you still preferring to attack the comic as opposed to the procedure, you may want to check out a beginning list of the dead:

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2011 3:54 pm

    I like this post! I’ve never agreed with people who think Foreskin Man is antisemitic. The Jewish character isn’t treated any differently from any of the other characters, be they doctors, priests, african tribesmen… They simply get the standard comic book treatment. Personally, I think it’s just the usual knee-jerk reaction – somebody says or prints something that they do not agree with, so therefore that person is discriminating against or insulting their religion and culture. It’s a ridiculous stance. I just hope that more and more people will see this issue in the same way that you do. The fact that male circumcision, as with female, is ethically and medically unjustified and should not be the decision of anyone except the man himself when he is old enough to decide without being pressured by anyone else.

    • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
      July 12, 2011 4:03 pm

      Thanks for the positive feedback, and I wholeheartedly agree with your take on age of consent.


  1. Female genital mutilation |

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