On Friday, February 17, 2012, ARC sent the following letter to Dan Savage, gay-identified author of the syndicated sex-related column Savage Love. The letter is responding to some incorrect comments regarding male circumcision in the Savage Love column this week, made in response to a reader, Uncut About Anchorage, whose partner had asked him to have himself circumcised.

Dan, you’re dead wrong about male circumcision. Did you know that male circumcision as a medical procedure (rather than a cultural/religious practice) originally started in Victorian times to stop masturbation and therefore allegedly to cure pretty much every known disease? Since we’re so used to male circumcision as a culture, it does seem innocuous, but it is not. Numerous men are very unhappy to have had an important part of their body taken away without their consent. See http://circumcisionharm.org/index.htm.

You mention clitoridectomy, which is of course horrible, but there are several different types of female genital cutting (FGC) that vary greatly in severity. The least severe–yet very common–type is, as Uncut About Anchorage suggests, equivalent to male circumcision. In fact, many people think male circumcision is more harmful than this form of FGC. On the subject of male and female genital cutting, about which I have published papers and book chapters, check out http://www.circinfo.org/female.html and http://www.icgi.org/information/hgm-classification/.

Such comparisons can distract us from the more important point that–except for the extremely rare cases where medical necessity dictates otherwise–everyone has the human right to have surgery deferred so that, upon reaching adulthood, he or she can make his or her own choices about his or her own body.

By the way, the gay community has long had a huge presence in anti-circumcision work.

Thanks for your great column.

Steven Svoboda
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child