First cut is the deepest: Published in 1987, Point Richmond pediatrician Edgar Schoen’s “Ode to the Circumcised Male” includes the lines:
It’s a great work of art like the statue of Venus if you’re wearing a hat on the head of your penis. When you gaze through a looking glass, don’t think of Alice; don’t rue that you suffered a rape of your phallus.
Schoen’s new book On Circumcision (RDR, $16.95) is prose, but just as insistent: Shearing newborns’ foreskins reduces the rates of urinary-tract infection, genital cancers, and AIDS, Oakland Kaiser’s former chief of pediatrics claims. He concedes that the surgery is “contentious”—as evinced by barbs from groups such as the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM) and Berkeley’s Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, whose executive director J. Steven Svoboda has urged the California medical board to take “appropriate disciplinary action” against Schoen, whom he charges with making false claims while promoting “an anachronistic medical practice.”