Saturday, November 10, 2012

Annie Lennox Tacitly Endorses Male Circumcision as HIV Prevention - TWICE

Just a few days ago, Annie Lennox sung at the Hope Rising! "benefit concert" in Toronto, put on by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. This would sound like a noble thing to do, as, at least ostensibly, it benefits AIDS programs in Africa. Why would it be a bad thing to want to help end HIV/AIDS? You'd be a heartless, soulless wretch to be against helping those poor people in Africa.

The problem here is, what is defined as "help?"

And do Africans need or want it?

Annie Lennox is to be commended for putting her celebrity towards a good cause that seeks to end suffering in an unfortunate corner of the globe. Actually, there are a few songs I like for when she sung with the Eurhythmics. But does she know exactly what charities she is supporting? What they stand for?

Who is Stephen Lewis?
Wanting to end HIV/AIDS is a noble cause, but the Stephen Lewis Foundation is founded by none other than Stephen Lewis, whom we intactivists know to be absolutely coo-coo for male circumcision and getting every male in Africa circumcised under guise of HIV transmission.

Here are some things that Lewis has been quoted saying:

An "Orgy of Male Bonding"
There was some titter of laughter and gentile applause which resonated throughout the room. So I felt it was the appropriate moment to tell the crowd that I was circumcised. Which I did. There followed what can only be described as an Orgy of Male Bonding. I have never been so embraced and hugged so extravagantly by numbers of people simultaneously as they conveyed to me that they understood the importance of circumcision and recognized that it's withstood the transmission of the virus.
(Fora, TV. (2008). Stephen Lewis: Disease and climate change in Africa.)

In Praise of Paula Donovan of UNICEF
She [ Paula Donovan] realized that male circumcision was a good preventative way to slow the spread of AIDS. So she took that analysis further. She suggested to the male leadership in Nairobi, that UNICEF propose that circumcision accompany the regular process of immunization of infants... Paula was easily 10 years ahead of her time, because that's exactly what's being discussed in several countries now... and what did the UNICEF hierarchy do at the time? They grabbed their genitals in protective embrace and laughed it off like only male sexists can laugh things off. ...the UN took more than a decade to see male circumcision for the inspired preventative technology that it is.
Circumcising Infants to Protect Them from HIV
USAID, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization conducted a fascinating analysis to estimate the value of scaling up circumcision to reach 80% of the adult and newborn male population in 14 African countries by 2015. ...It's really incredible when you think about it, and it's already happening.
 --Lewis, S. (2010, January 07). Male circumcision, part 2. Retrieved

Ancient Blood Ritual is a new Technology
The most unexpected and successful preventative technology, which has been chronicled in the last couple of years, is male circumcision.

--Stephen Lewis. Fora, TV. (2008). Stephen Lewis: disease and climate change in Africa.
Stephen Lewis happens to be Jewish; this may be the reason that he thinks of male circumcision, particularly infant circumcision, as "inspired preventive technology."

Note: Thus far, no "researcher" has been able to demonstrably prove that the foreskin facilitates HIV transmission, and that circumcision reduces it.

Does Annie Know?
Does Annie know that this is the person she has chosen to help? Do the other singers who have participated? Other singers who have contributed to Lewis via his concert is Alicia Keys, K'naan, Angelique Kidjo, Sarah McLachlan, Rufus Wainright and Holly Cole.

Do they know?

Not The First Time
Annie might be forgiven for ignorance, if it weren't for the fact that this is the second time she seems to be tacitly lending her support and endorsement for male circumcision as HIV prevention.

Annie Lennox appeared at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, 2010, where circumcision as HIV prevention was given heavy promotion. From what I can remember, Michel Sidibe, who had then just barely become the new head of UNAIDS, had given a speech where he praised circumcision as the latest innovation to help fight HIV/AIDS. Another speaker who delivered his speech (I don't remember his name) also mentioned circumcision. Without even questioning what had just gone on, Annie Lennox was trotted out as one of their AIDS/HIV celebrity champions, hounding people for money.

Now that I remember, the tone of the entire Vienna conference was one where spokesmen were making donors and potential donors guilty for not giving more. AIDS movement organizers were entitled to more funds, and donors were guilty for not giving enough. Annie Lennox, if I remember correctly, was barking at the audience.

Not in these exact words, but something along these lines, I could remember her saying something like "Take out your wallet. Take out your checkbooks. What did you come here to do? If you're not here to donate, what are you even doing here?" The poor people of Africa are entitled to HIV/AIDS relief (even if it means genital mutilation), and the only thing standing in the way were penny-pinching donors. Maybe she thinks it made her sound sheik, determined and resolute, but to me it just made her look like a bad televangelist trying to guilt people out of their money.

Open Letter to Annie Lennox
Back then, I decided to write an open letter to Annie Lennox, which I posted on her forum, and I sent to a number of e-mail addresses for her. I even posted it in various locations on Facebook. One could still Google my blog handle (Joseph4GI) and "Open Letter to Annie Lennox" read what I wrote, which is basically what I've been writing about in this blog. (Her forum can be accessed here. I've re-posted it on my blog as a separate entry just for good measure.) 

Do Celebrities Actually Care?
At this point, I must ask, are celebrities actually interested in the human rights of the people they are supposedly trying to help?

Or is it all just empty PR and don't care anything further than that being involved in charity, at least superficially, boosts their image?

Is Annie Lennox actually interested in HIV/AIDS prevention? Or is she merely trying to use the HIV/AIDS cause to boost her image and keep from becoming a has-been?

If it were female circumcision the UN was pushing as HIV prevention, would she still be singing at these "benefit concerts?"

The time will come when Annie Lennox, and all who gave their tacit endorsement of male genital mutilation, will be embarrassed to ever admit they did.

Having sung for Stephen Lewis will leave an indelible stain in their careers.

Celebrities, investigate the charities you contribute to.

You may be helping to perpetuate human rights violations on the very people you say you are trying to help, and sooner or later you will be held responsible.

Memory Lane: My Open Letter to Annie Lennox, 2012

Following her appearance at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, 2010, I wrote the following open letter to Annie Lennox. I'm just re-posting it as an accompaniment to my latest post regarding her latest appearance at the Hope Rising fundraiser concert in Toronto.

Is this about HIV/AIDS prevention and human rights?

Or is this a mere PR project for her?

An Open Letter to Annie LennoxFriday, July 23, 2010

Dear Annie Lennox,

I am Joseph Lewis, and I'm a US Citizen, resident of the City of Stockton in the state of California. I'm writing to you today because I saw you on some footage taken at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

I must commend you for your activism against AIDS. I had heard some of your music before (my favorite song by you is Love Song for a Vampire), and I must say I never imagined that you'd be such an activist in this field. You do it so passionately as well. You went to the conference in Vienna with an in-your-face attitude, and I think that’s what it’s going to take to get governments involved.

I was writing because I wanted to express my concern for part of what is being vehemently promoted at the Vienna Conference, and that is the promotion of male circumcision.

As a human rights activist, and as a member of the male sex, and as someone who appreciates not having undergone circumcision as a child, I am concerned as to why any organization has even considered research that centers around the vilification of a perfectly healthy body part, and legitimizing its destruction, especially in healthy, non-consenting individuals.

Would organizations such as the WHO, UNAIDS or UNICEF ever consider "research" on female circumcision? If "studies showed" that female circumcision "could reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV/AIDS by 60%", would these organizations ever endorse it and call for mass female circumcision campaigns? Would you, Annie Lennox, ever get behind them? Why or why not?

I hope that I have brought attention to the underlying sexism in this campaign to circumcise a mass population of men. "Research" and "benefits" seem to matter only when it comes to male circumcision; female circumcision would NEVER be endorsed, not even if there were "studies" that said that it reduced HIV risk by 100%. I’m sure of it.

Here are some studies that show a correlation between female circumcision and a lowered HIV transmission rate. I somehow doubt that the WHO or UNAIDS would ever take them seriously though.

Stallings et al. 2009
"Risk of HIV among women who had undergone Female Circumcision is roughly half that of women who had not. Association remained significant after adjusting for region, household, wealth, age, lifetime partners and union status."
Female circumcision and HIV infection in Tanzania:
For better or for worse?
3rd IAS conference on HIV pathogenesis and treatment
International AIDS Society

"Women who have undergone Female Circumcision have a significantly decreased risk of HIV-2 infection when compared to those who had not."
Kanki P, M'Boup S, Marlink R, et al.
"Prevalence & risk determinants of HIV type 2
(HIV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1
(HIV1) in west African female prostitutes
Am. J. Epidemiol. 136 (7): 895-907. PMID 

You might tell me that female circumcision causes all this damage, that women lose the ability to orgasm. "Studies show" that male circumcision "doesn't affect satisfaction", and thus this is why circumcision can be recommended. But did you know, studies ALSO show that women who have been circumcised do not lose their ability to orgasm? In fact, women who have undergone infibulation, which is the worst kind of female genital mutilation in the world, are still able to orgasm.

Still, others claim that having one’s labia removed actually INCREASES “satisfaction."

Please understand that I am in no way trying to justify female circumcision: The point that I'm trying to make to you is that when something is wrong, when something is a human rights violation, it doesn't matter how many studies have been written for it. It doesn't matter if it’s couched in medical terms. It doesn't matter that it is performed in a clean environment by doctors, with clean utensils and pain killers. Genital mutilation is genital mutilation, whether it is performed on women or men.

And my question is HOW can this have happened? How have organizations managed to come to the conclusion that they can endorse male genital mutilation under the pretext of "HIV prevention?" What would be the outcry would that the WHO endorsed female circumcision for the same reason? What would be YOUR reaction, Annie Lennox? My question to you is how could you stand idly by while UNAIDS head Michel Sidibe and Deputy President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe celebrate that they were able to coerce men to take up the practice of circumcision? How would you react if you heard women celebrate and say "we are so happy and excited that women are accepting female circumcision."?

The slogan for the conference in Vienna is "Rights here, right now." One of the speakers that I saw footage of was one Claudia from the country of Chile. Human rights, she said, is the freedom to choose. It means choices. Choices to live how you want, have sex with whomever you want to, use injected drugs, etc. The WHO's endorsement of circumcision is already being used to promote the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting children who are not even having sex yet, and therefore at zero risk for any sexually transmitted disease. What about THEIR human rights? If an adult man wants to get circumcised, that is his body, and therefore his prerogative. But why should children be forcefully circumcised if they're not even at risk, where they would benefit more from mother-to-child prevention?

I recently saw this video on the website for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and I was heartbroken.

Here is this young man. He is impressionable, and he is afraid. He is old and smart enough to make his own choices. And yet he succumbs to the pressure of his father. Where is “choice?” Where are "human rights" here? That boy did not want to undergo circumcision. He did it out of fear, and out of wanting to appease his father. WHY is circumcision being endorsed when all it takes is education? Why must men be coerced to take up circumcision if they are smart and capable enough to learn to change their behavior? The people of Kwazulu Natal. Did they really need to be convinced to take up circumcision?

Have you read this, Annie?


Jairus*, 41, a family man, knew the procedure would reduce his chances of contracting HIV, but said his wife would be suspicious.

"My wife believes I am faithful - if I go for the cut, she will just think I have been dogging [cheating] on her," he said. "I don't want to create that mistrust."

"We Luos do not circumcise ... it is like betraying my culture, and even my friends we grew up with will look at me badly," said John Ngesa, 37.

Older married have been were particularly reluctant to be circumcised, partly because they see themselves at low risk of contracting HIV, even though it has been spreading fastest among married and cohabiting couples.
"I am married, so where do I get HIV, yet I am a faithful man? I trust my wife," Dan Musa, 43, told IRIN/PlusNews. "When you are faithful you are safe."

Annie, promoting circumcision is going to hurt in more ways than one. It will create a new stigma; having a foreskin makes you HIV positive. To add to that, if a circumcised man is found to be HIV positive, what will people say? That he must have been doing drugs since his circumcision was supposed to protect him? And what will they say of the uncircumcised HIV positive man? That he should have been circumcised to begin with? In other reports, doctors actually suggested that HIV positive uncircumcised men be circumcised "to avoid the stigma." So isn't this just creating more stigma, not to mention it's a waste of money to circumcise an HIV positive man (assuming studies were true)?

Usually, medical studies tend to study how to preserve the human body, not vilify it and justify its destruction. For example, the study of cancer is a tedious one, and usually researchers are trying to find ways to avoid the loss of organs, such as the testicles, the prostate, and/or the mammary glands. Circumcision "studies" are unique. They're the only ones of their kind that seek to preserve a procedure, and not the human body.

Do you know if there has been any research for alternatives for HIV/STD prevention WITHOUT having to circumcise? Is the WHO or NIH doing anything to eventually move past circumcision? Is there research looking for ways in which men don't have to consider circumcision anymore, and is the WHO considering it?

Let's get real here. Circumcision, for all intents and purposes, is the mutilation of a person's healthy genitals. The WHO and others are promoting male genital mutilation and HIV/AIDS "prevention" is the pretext. It should strike you as odd, Annie, that these "researchers" are fixated on trying to legitimize a particular surgical procedure, male circumcision of all things. Recommending female circumcision would NEVER fly, no matter how much “research” the WHO or UNAIDS presented.

Annie, there are many problems with the "studies" people are trying to use to promote circumcision, the biggest one being that their "conclusions" conflict with a few realities.

In America, for example, 80% of men are already circumcised from birth. The rates of infant circumcision are dropping, but at large, the population remains circumcised. These rates are at their highest in the East Coast, where cities such as Philadelphia and Washington DC rival HIV hotspots in South Africa. In the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic first hit, the rate of circumcised men in America was at 90%. One needs to question how something that never worked here in our own country is suddenly going to start working wonders in Africa.

In other countries, the "protection" remains to be seen as well. AIDS is a rising problem in Israel, where the majority of the male population is already circumcised. On Wednesday, July 7th, two weeks ago, Malaysian AIDS Council vice-president Datuk Zaman Khan announced that than 70% of the 87,710 HIV/AIDS sufferers in the country are Muslims (in other words CIRCUMCISED). The Muslim, circumcised population accounts for 70% of the incidence of HIV, but only 60% of the population, which would mean that the circumcised population is getting HIV at a much higher rate than the non-circumcised population.

There are also studies that contradict the trials the WHO is using.

Two recent studies examining African circumcision rates and HIV prevalence found that circumcision status was not significantly associated with HIV. Garenne examined data from 13 sub-Saharan countries found no association, and Connolly C, et al. found that circumcision made no difference in HIV rates in South Africa. Talbott Jr. concluded that, once commercial sex-worker patterns are factored in, male circumcision is not significantly associated with lower HIV.
Michel Garenne. African Journal of AIDS Research 2008, 7(1): 1–8.Connolly C, et al..Male circumcision and its relationship to HIV infection in South Africa: Results of a national survey in 2002. S Afr Med J 2008;98:789–94.
Talbott JR. Size Matters: The number of prostitutes and the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. PloS One. 2007;2(6): e543.
The promotion of circumcision is hurting the African community in different ways. As you may or may not know, circumcision is an important rite of passage for men in certain tribes in South Africa. In case you haven't already been informed, there have already been 47 dead casualties to circumcision rituals this year. Many more have lost their penises to gangrene. Endorsing circumcision is giving tribal groups where circumcision is important the go-ahead for their dangerous rituals. It is considered unmanly to run to the hospital, so many men stay behind fear of being ostracized, being forced to run the risk of death or of losing their genitals.

A recent issue of the WHO Bulletin noted that African ritual circumcisions have a 35% complication rate, while clinical circumcisions have an 18% complication rate. A neonatal circumcision complication rate of 20.2% was found in Nigeria. As you may know, Annie, funds for the fight against AIDS are scarce. Dealing with these complications is going to divert resources away from other more-needed programs, such as mother-to-child transmission reduction, and treatment of people who are already infected.

Bailey RC, Egesah O, Rosenberg S. Male circumcision for HIV prevention: a prospective study of complications in clinical and traditional settings in Bungoma, Kenya. Bull WHO. 2008;86(9): 669-677.
Okeke LI, Asinobi AA, Ikuerowo OS. Epidemiology of complications of male circumcision in Ibadan, Nigeria. BMC Urology. 2006;6:21.
“Male circumcision to prevent Aids is pushing other healthcare programmes, including other HIV and Aids interventions to the back-burner..."

And, as if things weren't already bad enough, there are some opportunistic charlatans taking advantage of the WHO's stance to sell their wares. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has issued out a warning on the so-called "TaraKlamp" because of its high rate of adverse effects.

"Adverse events from use of the TK were far higher: 37% compared to 3.4% for the forceps-guided method. This was a statistically significant result (p=0.004). Men circumcised using the TK also reported worse pain than men circumcised using the forceps-guided method. Furthermore, the device clearly causes consternation: 97 men refused to participate in the trial, 94 of them giving the reason that they did not wish to use the TK.

The TK trial was stopped early due to the unacceptably high rate of adverse events. The researchers concluded, "Given the high rates of adverse events in this study and the low number of available studies, we strongly caution against the use of the TK for young adults, and we recommend careful evaluation of the procedure when performed on children."

And the people of KwaZulu Natal are being told to withdraw the use of the TaraKlamp, and they are  REFUSING to do so.

"We don’t have any evidence that suggest that the Tara KLamp method is more unsafe that the forceps method," said Chris Maxon, spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

THE Southern African distributors of the Tara KLamp circumcision device have rejected a call for it to be put on hold until safety concerns had been addressed.

"Where are you? A catastrophe is taking place in your backyard and you're ignoring it."

These are your words, Annie Lennox. Please don’t let charlatans abuse the AIDS/HIV cause to sell their wares.

Here is what Dr. G Singh, inventer of the TaraKlamp had to say about the Orange Farm study:

"All it needs is a simple withdrawal of your manuscript and gracefully accept the reality. I am even not asking for an apology, for I am a very forgiving man..... but there is a limit!"
Annie, there is a danger in telling men that circumcision “reduces the risk of HIV.” It gives men an excuse to forgo the use of condoms. It’s already happening.

"He [my husband] was circumcised and felt he didn't have to wear a condom. When we found we had HIV after testing, he blamed me. He said, 'You brought HIV into this house.' It was because I tested first, when I was pregnant with my second child..."

According to the Wawer study, women would be 50% more likely to get HIV from a circumcised partner. The study was ended early, because the results weren’t favorable to the researchers, who were looking to find some sort of positive connection between HIV and circumcision.

As you may already know, we are living in hard economic times, and governments are looking for ways to cut AIDS funding. You yourself have been involved in taking governments to task. Funds for making “universal access” for AIDS/HIV treatment are scarce. Reports are saying that HIV numbers are coming down, and that this is due to a change in behavior. African youth are choosing to wear condoms. They are having less sex partners and remaining faithful. In light of this, how does it make any sense to be spending a single penny on promoting and carrying out circumcisions? How does it make any sense to giving any consideration to the dubious benefit circumcision is supposed to offer, when we know that it’s condoms and education that does the job?

The millions spent on circumcision could be put to better use. It could go towards mother-to-child prevention treatment. It could go towards the treatment of already infected individuals (Julio Montaner said that treating HIV positive people dramatically decreases HIV transmission). It could go towards condoms and education. On the contrary, the promotion of circumcision discourages the use of condoms which would be more effective than circumcision, putting lives at risk, and endorsing the violation of the basic human rights of minors. Indeed, it is putting men who don't want to get circumcised between a rock and a hard place.

Male circumcision is male genital mutilation. It is a human tragedy that pillars of modern medicine, such as the WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF ever even considered "studies" that aimed to legitimize it. There are better ways to prevent HIV, and researchers should be looking for them. No organization would so much as even CONSIDER a "study" that a tried to say something good about female circumcision. All the studies in the world would never be enough to justify female genital mutilation, not even if there were studies that said that it would cut down on HIV by 100%. WHY has this happened with male circumcision?

I just wanted to say, thank you for acting as a whip to get countries to donate their money for funds for AIDS treatment and prevention. But I also wanted to say that I hope with all my heart that you don't support this promotion, this “research” of male genital mutilation. It is my hope that you will use your voice to express opposition against this. Genital mutilation is being promoted, and HIV/AIDS is being used as the pretext. I support the AIDS movement right away, and I want to help end it, but I cannot support the effort if it is going to be used as a pretext to endorse genital mutilation.

I beg that you please use your position wisely. I hope that in your fight against AIDS, you have the dignity and integrity to stand up for what's right. You would not stand idly by, would that leaders called for the mass circumcision of girls and women. I ask that you please react in the same way to the promotion of circumcision of men, as you would to the promotion of the circumcision of women.

Annie, I beseech you, please use your powers to call attention this quackery some people call “research.” People should be studying how to stop HIV, not how to preserve genital mutilation practices. Interested “researchers” are abusing the AIDS/HIV movement to pursue their own agenda. It has happened with male circumcision, and it is happening with female circumcision.

"I'm not denigrating charity per se. But we need to have a paradigm shift in our heads. We need to say: this is about human rights."

It is my hope, Annie Lennox, that you mean these words from the bottom of your heart.

Please forgive my lengthy message.

Thank you for your time.

Joseph Lewis

Monday, November 5, 2012

RICKI LAKE: Obligatory Circumcision Segment Disappoints

After a long hiatus, American television talk show host Ricki Lake has made a comeback to the television screen, tackling hot-topic issues that stir debate. She's not unique in this endeavor, as there are other shows on TV she has to compete with, which aim to captivate audiences using the same tactic.

It seems, nowadays, that no mainstream television talk show is complete without a segment on infant circumcision, which is always sure to draw ratings, as it is already a charged topic in this country. Dr. Phil did his own circumcision apology piece (transcript available here), as has Dr. Oz (even though he is a cardiologist and has little or nothing to do with pediatrics or even urology?). Very recently, "The Doctors" did an episode on it. (See a critique video of it here.) (All sources last accessed 11/5/2012.)

But what would Ricki do differently than other talk shows and TV programs which always try to sell viewers on the "Great Controversy" trope?

Not very much, apparently.

High Expectations from Intactivists
Being involved in the making of the film documentary "The Business of Being Born," intactivists believed they had found a champion in natural birth and parenting. There have also been rumors that her own boys were left to have their normal intact genitals, so when we heard that she was dedicating a segment of her show to address the issue of circumcision, we thought maybe she was going to actually give the issue the attention it deserves.

Instead, the segment turns out to be another mainstream circumcision apologetic piece that sells the classic "Great Controversy" trope to gullible audiences.

The "Great Controversy" Trope: How it works
In order to encourage the belief that male circumcision is a surgery that is carried out for medical reasons, media outlets present male circumcision as a controversial and ongoing debate between altruistic "expert" medical authorities, who are attempting to vouch for male infant circumcision as "disease prevention," and the resistance of extremist "special interest" groups. However, this portrayal of reality is not at all consistent with the view of male infant circumcision given in the position statements of world medical authorities.

While the media presents male circumcision as an "ongoing debate" happening between medical "experts" and angry activists, the trend of opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in industrialized nations. No respected medical board in the world recommends circumcision for infants, not even in the name of HIV prevention. They must all point to the risks, and they must all state that there is no convincing evidence that the benefits outweigh these risks. To do otherwise would be to take an unfounded position against the best medical authorities of the West.

While the latest AAP statement dances around so-called "medical benefits," and even puts emphasis on the "benefits outweigh the risks" soundbite, they still say, as they did in their last statement, that the "benefits are not enough to recommend infant circumcision." (Even so, parents should consider them, doctors are obliged to act on a "decision" based on the consideration of said "benefits" [which professionals at the AAP could not use to endorse the practice?], and the state should pay, apparently...)

It is thus, still true, that there isn't a single medical organization in the industrialized world that recommends the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting individuals. 

On with the show...
So for her circumcision segment, Ricki invited a couple who were fighting about whether or not to circumcise junior, two doctors (one for, one against circumcision) who were going to set them straight (at least in theory), and, perhaps for a twist, one man who got circumcised as an adult (age 37), and attests that "there is no difference."

The setup is already rather skewed. Of the two doctors, only one, Dr. Jay Gordon, is actually qualified to talk about the issue, as he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The other, Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, is an Obstetrician, who specializes in the health and well-being of WOMEN, and whose only connection to children is that she profits from circumcisions she performs on them at the request of her FEMALE clients.

Additionally, only a man who is satisfied with his circumcision as an adult is invited to talk, as if he represented all males. Hugo Schwyzer claims to have been circumcised at the age of 37, and that, for him, sex is the same, if not better than he was circumcised. His schtick is that, as someone who was circumcised as an adult, he has "lived both sides," and can therefore vouch, from his own experience, that "there is no difference," if not that circumcision has "improved" his sex life.

Hugo Schwyzer on Ricki Lake

As her predecessors before her, Ricki presents to her viewers a "controversy" that doesn't actually exist. The "experts" on her show may say this or that, but the fact is that the AAP still does not endorse infant circumcision. Despite all the hullabaloo the AAP tries to raise about so-called "medical benefits" in their last position statement, it still says that they are "not enough to recommend circumcision."

So why is it doctors are even presenting them to parents for "consideration?"

What "decision" is there to make, where there is no medical condition present that necessitates surgery?

Without medical or clinical indication, how is it doctors are performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, let alone be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents?

And why is an obstetrician profiting from performing surgery on individuals that are outside of her purview?

Why invite only a man who was satisfied with having been circumcised as an adult?

Why not invite a man who WASN'T satisfied?

Why not also invite a man who is 37 and is quite content with his intact genitals?

Ricki's segment turns out to be one giant pro-circumcision infomercial, like all other talk show segments on circumcision, but would have probably been more balanced if the doctor testifying in favor of it would have actually been a pediatrician, urology, or someone who is actually qualified to talk about the issue, and, if she would have invited more men to talk about having been circumcised as adults, and maybe even intact men. Hugo Schwyzer is but one man with his own experience, and does not speak for all men who were circumcised as adults. (Nevermind the men who resent the fact they were circumcised as children.) 

Behind the scenes... Pre-determined outcome?
Ricki Lake might be forgiven if she actually thought she was giving a fair and balanced view. However, judging from commentary on Facebook, it doesn't sound like that's what she nor her team wanted for the show.

Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, was interviewed to go on Ricki's show and had this to say:

"They pre-interviewed me for the show, along with several other intactivists, and rejected all of us. They did not want anybody on the show who was uncompromising on the issue of children's rights to an intact body. I was appalled by the producer's tone; she said things to me like, "What makes you think that you know more than doctors?"

And it doesn't sound like they're actually interested in balance. It sounds like the tone and outcome of the show was pre-determined.

What a dissappointment."

Maybe this is why we didn't get to see other men besides Hugo Schwyzer?

After Ricki: Strawman Attack Fest
The shameless circumcision plugging did not stop at the day-time talkshow segment on circumcision, but continued at the end of the day on "After Ricki" part of the show. They trotted out their circumcision champion, Hugo Schwyzer, and had an all-out strawman attack fest against those who oppose the forced genital mutilation of minors. They are lucky there weren't any intactivists there to stand up for themselves.

According to Hugo, infant circumcision is not a human rights issue but a "medical" one (Because children are born with penile problems?) and a "religious" one (Since when do doctors perform religious blood rituals?), one that parents make like vaccination (Because if your son is circumcised, he is immunized against ...?), and that *he's* the best human in the world to talk about it because *he's* seen both sides, and *he* finds no difference in his sexual experience. (Adult men that differ with him be damned...)

According to the people in the After Ricki segment, they "spoke with intactivists" but they "didn't have the facts to backup their claims," that "it was difficult to grasp what they were trying to state," and that "they responded to claims of health benefits with human rights arguments" and "claimed that the HIV and HPV studies were flawed but they wouldn't offer facts to back that up." They tried to minimize the fact that nerve endings are severed as "irrelevant to sexual experience." Then they talked about how the obstetrician on the show "carries babies gently and doesn't strap them like frogs in a lab," (Right, because THAT'S the issue intactivists have with circumcision), and they dismissed the surgical risks.

Had they actually allowed intactivists on the show, viewers would have known that we are actually quite able to substantiate our claims, and refute theirs with facts. Our message isn't exactly "difficult to grasp," as we question the clear ethical dilemma of cutting off parts of healthy children's genitals. We are actually quite able to refute the so-called HIV/HPV "research" and provide the evidence. Instead of actually bringing one of us on the show, they decide to make strawman attacks in our absence.

It's interesting how they tried to minimize the fact that the most sensitive part of the penis is amputated during circumcision, and tried to make the issue about "pain management," and how "gentle" the mutilator is. Everyone arguing is wrong, because Hugo Schwyzer "lived both sides," and he is the end-all be-all "authority" on the matter.

The Anti-Semite Card strikes again...
What circumcision plug piece is complete without whipping out the anti-Semite card? What didn't happen on the day-time segment of Ricki Lake ended up happening on "After Ricki."

Here's how it happened.

After Ricki Lake's poor handling of the circumcision issue on her show, I went on a posting rampage on the show's Facebook page, and I wasn't going to hold back.

I had seen this Hugo Schwyzer and his strange circumcision story somewhere else before, and even then, the story seemed rather wishy-washy, incoherent, disconnected and somehow, invented. He romanticises his circumcision, and his story reads much like one of those trashy circ-fic erotica you find on circumcision fetish sites like CircList.

I posted this on the Ricki Lake Facebook page:

Beware this Schwyzer guy. (The guy Ricki interviewed who loves his circumcision.) I have a feeling he might be a fake. I think you can still find his story on NYMag. If I remember correctly, he got cut as a way to offer a "new me" to his fiancee, after sleeping around like a dog. I remember him downplaying desensitization, actually claiming he felt "too much" before getting cut, and "just right" after. I hear now he's claiming he was cut because he tore his foreskin. Interestingly, he comes from a Jewish background. Keep your eye on this guy. Could be a plant, if not a mere circumfetishist out to romanticize circumcision. Ricki, it would have been nice if you could have included a guy who was NOT happy about getting circumcised. I know a few men who were cut as adults who are not as happy as Hugo Schwyzer.

Notice how my post focuses on the coherence of Hugo's story. I mention his Jewish background because it is a matter of irrefutable fact that circumcision is an important ritual for both practicing and non-practicing Jews, and Hugo may have deeper conditions for circumcision than a mere gesture of love for his girlfriend.

Instead of addressing my main points, they ignored them, and they took that little snippet on the After Ricki segment, and made it about how circumcision legislation is all being backed by anti-Semites.

Word got around to me that my post was taken and twisted out of context, so I went ahead and posted on the Facebook page for Ricki Lake's talkshow:

Before they write me off as "anti-Semitic," I'd like to hear them deny, first, that circumcision is a cherished tenet they've been fighting tooth and nail for since Greco-Roman rule. The fact is that being Jewish is a conflict of interest, because infant circumcision is first and foremost divine commandment, if not the most defended sacrament for Jews. This isn't "anti-Semic" it is simply matter of historical fact. Stop pretending like you can be Jewish and care about other things like "medical benefits" and "demonstrating love for a partner." Sorry, I don't buy Schwyzer's story; it contrasts with other stories of men who were circumcised as adults who note palpable desensitivity. Hugo Schwyzer does not represent all circumcised men. Ricki, please give balance to your show by inviting someone who dares to differ with this man. Thank you.

The fact is that circumcision has been defended by Jews since Greco-Roman rule. It is an important "mitzvot" for them, quite possibly the most important one. Even for non-practicing Jews, this is often seen as their last connection with their Jewish heritage. This is a conflict of interest in presenting "evidence" in favor of circumcision.

Hugo Schwyzer, and any other Jewish pro-circumcision nut, is gravely mistaken if they think invoking the anti-Semite card is going to keep me from pointing these facts out.

Accusations of "Anti-Semitism" would only be true if:

1) Circumcision was exclusively Jewish.
2) Circumcision were universal among Jews.
3) Intactivists focused purely on stopping Jewish circumcision.

The fact is, circumcision is not exclusive to Jews; only 3% of all circumcisions in this country are Jewish brisim; the rest are secular, gentile circumcisions performed at hospitals. The fact is that some of our most outspoken voices happen to be Jewish. 1/3rd of Israelis oppose infant circumcision, according to recent polls. The fact is that intactivists oppose ALL forced genital cutting of minors regardless of race or creed.

It is pathetic the way Jewish advocates of circumcision try to act like they're being "singled out."

There are plenty notable Jews in our movement Ricki could have invited. Eliyahu Ungar Sargon, for one. Victor Schonfeld, Rebecca Wald, Dr. Dean Edell, Ron Goldman, Rosemary Romberg, just to name a few.

Plenty to choose from, but Ricki Lake chose not to invite any of them, quite possibly exclude them from her show. 

Who is Hugo Schwyzer?
Hugo Schwyzer is a self-appointed "feminist guru" who has a checkered past, and a history of lying and changing his stories. In his own words, "Not long after my 31st birthday came my last drink and drug, a suicide attempt, and a spiritual rebirth that led to a radical shift in my sexual ethics. Consciously, when I made the commitment to stop sleeping with my students."

Schwyzer is pretty much a pariah in feminist circles, although he still has this pop-culture reputation that he cultivated by selling his twisted story. You can see what other feminists are saying about him on the Facebook page Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer.

Does Ricki Lake screen her guests? I wonder how this one got past her team...

This is a devastating blow to her show's credibility. 

Since I first read his story on NYMagazine, I thought it didn't make any sense. I've always thought Hugo Schwyzer was lying about this, because other stories I've heard from men who got cut as adults contrast with his; most men I've talked to say they absolutely regret it. Not to mention the research that shows that circumcision removes the most sensitive parts of the penis, and that it causes sexual problems for men. His story simply doesn't add up.

He claims both that he had problems with his foreskin, AND that he underwent circumcision as a way to offering a "new me" to his fiancee. He claims he felt "too much sensitivity," and after his circumcision it was "just right," but how would he know he was experiencing "too much" BEFORE getting circumcised? So which is true?

Did he get circumcised because he was experiencing problems? Because his feelings were "too intense?" Or as twisted gesture of "love" for his new wife after a life of promiscuity? (Or were his real reasons for getting circumcised a desire to connect with his cultural heritage?) This would be the first time I've heard of a guy experiencing feelings that were "too intense" from having a foreskin. Hugo romanticizes his circumcision a little too much, which is why I compare it to circumcision erotica one can find on circumfetish websites like CircList. 

Given his history of lying and changing his stories, it is my opinion that Schwyzer has actually always been circumcised from birth, coming from a Jewish background, and this entire schpiel was completely made up with the specific purpose of trying to take steam out of the intactivist movement.  
After all, circumcision advocates have always tried to argue that circumcision "makes no difference," and in recent times, that it actually "enhances" the sexual experience (compare these arguments to the original reasons it began in the West), and what better way to bolster this argument than by becoming "living proof?"

And who is actually going to check the facts? Who can argue with a subjective experience?

Sorry, I don't buy it. I for one want to see medical records, before and after pictures, the works.

Additionally, Schwyzer protests a little bit too much on the Jewish side of things.

I can already imagine him spinning my comments off as "anti-Semitism" as he did on the After Ricki segment. Yes I could just hear him saying that inquiring as to the history of his dick makes us comparable to Nazis pantsing Jews during the holocaust, when all we want is a fact check given his history.

Even giving Hugo the benefit of the doubt...
I'm nobody to dismiss anybody's subjective experience. It could be that Hugo Schwyzer's story is genuine and real.

But even so, Ricki could have done a better job of adding balance to her show by interviewing a man who resents having been circumcised as an adult. Even if Hugo's story is legit, he's not the only man out there who has lived quote/unquote "both sides if the debate." There are other men who were circumcised as adults who are not as happy as Schwyzer, and he does not represent them all. There are also plenty of men who are Hugo's age and are happy with their intact organs. It would have been nice to hear from those men too, not just one man's experience.

In recent times there has been a movement to have all men who emigrated to Israel circumcised. There are is a large number of Jewish diaspora from Russia, for example, who were not circumcised because circumstances did not allow. There are reports that many of these men, who are circumcised as adults, actually regret having undergone the procedure, having lived their whole lives with anatomically correct genitals.

I wonder why Ricki thought it was necessary to even bring an adult man who chose to get circumcised out of his own volition on her show, when what is being discussed is the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors. I'm sorry, but a Jewish man happily choosing to get cut as an adult is not the same. Ricki has, in effect, ignored the crux of the argument, which is the choice of the individual, something Hugo had (if his story is even true), but babies do not. 

Redeeming Quality
Despite all that went on on her show, Ricki Lake has one redeeming quality; at the very least, she is allowing comments of dissent on her talkshow's Facebook page, and apparently is even reading them on the air.

In addition to the comments already posted, I posted the following:
Ricki, assuming Hugo Schwyzer's story is true (I have my doubts), he is but one man with one experience and does not represent every circumcised male out there. You could offer a more balanced approach by interviewing men who are NOT happy having been circumcised as adults. Additionally, it is inappropriate to be interviewing an OB/GYN, seeing as male genitalia are outside of her purview as a specialist in WOMEN's health. Thank you for allowing dissent on your FB page.

In closing...
Ricki Lake's segment on circumcision leaves much to be desired. Intactivists were hoping she would put as much passion into this issue as she did in her Business of Being Born documentary. Instead, she disappoints by delivering more of the same circumcision apologetics as predecessors before her. I agree with Georganne Chapin that it doesn't sound like Ricki and her team were actually interested in any real, balanced "debate," rather, that the tone and outcome of the show was planned and pre-determined. She trots out the same old "Great Debate" trope, and pitting a physician who specializes in child care, against a physician whose expertise is supposed to be the health and well-being of women (whose only connection to infants is that she circumcises them for financial gain), and a man who got circumcised out of his own volition for personal, (possibly cultural and/or religious?) non-medical reasons, isn't exactly my idea of "balanced."

The views I express in this blog are my own individual opinion, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of all intactivists. I am but an individual with one opinion, and I do not pretend to speak for the intactivist movement as a whole, thank you.