Circumcision Ban Seems More Focused on Penises Than Children's Rights

Categories: Government, Health
Won't someone please think of the children?
Lloyd Schofield, the retired hotel credit manager seeking to place a circumcision ban on the San Francisco ballot, says his campaign is all about saving innocents. "Our prime goal is to protect the child," he said in an interview.

But his campaign seems more focused on penises than children.

When asked if he'd ever interested himself in children's issues that didn't involve genitalia, Schofield recalled once donating to a medical burn unit. "But it was insubstantial," he said.

Indeed, circumcision is not on the radar of San Francisco's top children's rights group. "I've been here three years, and we've never had a conversation about it," said Chelsea Boilard, family policy and communications associate with Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth.

However, Schofield does know penises. He manned a booth at the recent Folsom Street Fair explaining the practice of foreskin reconstruction, and was happy to describe the procedure to us.

"It involves stretching the skin to cover the glans of the penis," he said. "Once the skin is lengthened, the head of the penis becomes more sensitive. There's a process called keratinization, the thickening of the tissue on the head of the penis, to protect it. Once the foreskin is restored enough, the tissue becomes -- it's actually mucous tissue -- and it becomes more moist, more sensitive, and more natural, and more normal. Apparently, there's more sensitivity there."

Apparently? As in, Schofield has no firsthand knowledge? For the first time in 20 years of journalism, I was compelled to ask an interview subject about his penis. Did he have the procedure done himself?

"This is not about me personally. I don't want to talk about my penis, frankly," he said.

I don't usually want to talk about interview subjects' penises either. But this is a germane issue concerning the backer of a drive to get a circumcision ban on the ballot, don't you think?

"I'm sure everybody thinks this is germane and their business, but I want the focus to be the issue, and not me. People say, 'Oh, he's uncircumcised and he wants everyone else that way,'" he said.

Hmm. No, I hadn't thought of that. What do you mean?

"They must think he's uncircumcised, and it's so ugly. And it's only because he has an ugly penis that he wants to do this. But I'm not embarrassed. I'm not ashamed," he said.

I wasn't aware some people thought uncircumcised penises were ugly.

"Oh yes, in the U.S. there's a stigma, and it's against intact men," he explained. "Just look at blogs. It seems like people only feel comfortable with what they're used to, and I do feel there is way that intact men are stigmatized. I think it's unfortunate people should be stigmatized one way or another."

I hadn't read blogs that said uncircumcised penises were ugly. Is this common?

"It's very much so. It's social pressure. It's understandable, if everybody is one sway, and somebody is a little different, that person is singled out," he said.

Schofield said prejudice against uncircumcised men is so acceptable that Hollywood celebrities espouse it.

"There's an "F" list commedienne -- you know how Kathy Griffin is "D" list? well this one's "F" list, and she calls people with intact penises as being anti-Semitic."

So there you have it, San Francisco, when a petitioner hits you up to help get a circumcision ban on the local ballot, think of the children.

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My Voice Nation Help

What a small commentary.

I know this article is old, but I found it recently while searching for information on Sweden banning circumcision (it's almost non-existent there and always has been that way except for immigrants).

People who are circumcised may realize that they were abused as infants and disfigured once they are adolescents or adults. So, yes, the psychological pain from this violation is in some cases reached at an older age. If you identify with that, you have no control over what happened to you, but you want to prevent it from happening to other people.

It's like if you had a specific type of cancer and then became involved in activism for that. Would you ask such a person why they aren't activists for all forms of cancer?

What an incredibly rude and small question, with such nasty and petty insinuations.

Being against circumcision is not unusual, and it doesn't result from an unusual focus on the penis. Circumcision is an unusual focus on the penis that throughout its history has had many rationales. But the one thing that is consistent about circumcision is that it is about the penis. Do you think that cultural and religious groups just happened to randomly pick the penis out of the hundreds of body parts? It is a blood sacrifice that is specific to a sexual part of the body--there is nothing random about it. So, your headline is all wrong. Omit the word "ban" and re-read it. Circumcision is a practice that has been co-opted by the medical establishment in only very recent history, and the rationale for doing so 100 years ago was precisely that it reduced sexual functioning (you can see this throughout medical journals), an excess of which was thought to lead to disease. And now 100 years later that same medical establishment says they have no proof of whether altering the penis in drastic ways alters sexual functioning. Of course it does--that was the original indication for the procedure.

Circumcision is about penises. To somehow say people who want to end it are obsessed with penises is bizarre. It's like saying a person who wants to stop a murderer is obsessed with murder.

I can't understand how a journalist got away with such an extreme lack of critical thinking. I am only a high-school graduate and can see the obvious, major flaws in thinking in this piece.

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