All this talk about a circumcision ban makes me a bit snippy

So a few weeks ago I’m sitting in the j. newsroom minding my own business, when all of a sudden the Internet is  aflame with news of a proposed circumcision ban in San Francisco.

The proponents want to punish anyone –– doctors, mohels, parents –– who circumcises or allows to be circumcised a male under the age of 18, with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

I can just imagine that cellblock conversation:

Scary Tattooed Axe Murderer: “So whaddaya in for?”

Mohel: “I, um, removed a baby’s foreskin in San Francisco.”

Axe Murderer (frightened look in his eye): “Just stay away from me, man. I don’t want any trouble.”

Actually, this is serious business to “intactivists” (as the anti-circumcision people call themselves). And it would be just as serious to the Jewish community, should the proposed ban make it to the ballot next year or, God forbid, pass. Which it won’t.

Last week I wrote j.’s story about the ban. In the process I interviewed Tina Kimmel, an Oakland intactivist. She is a cheery, intelligent Jewish woman whom I liked very much.

But assuming she is typical of anti-circumcision ground troops, one of her assertions baffled me. Tina said she and her colleagues had come to know men whose sex lives had been ruined because of circumcision; that their loss of sexual feeling was profound.

How would a guy know this? He would first have to have been a sexually active uncircumcised adult, then circumcised for some reason, then sexually active again (and presumably very disappointed).

I’d calculate the number of candidates who fit that description to be: zero.

Besides, really, just how much more are men supposed to like sex? I have never in my 55 years met anyone who said to me, “Making love is OK, but it would be so much better if I had a foreskin.”

I have never met anyone who remembers his bris. I have never met anyone who feels sexually ruined for having had a bris. From whom are these intactivists getting their horror stories?

And as for the “no religious exemption” clause of the proposed ban, all I can say is wow. Just wow.

For thousands of years, brit milah has been at the core of Judaism and the Jewish people. After Abraham undertook the first snip, we have since bequeathed to the world the Torah, the Talmud and the mother religion of most people on the planet.

We have produced a ridiculous number of Nobel Prize winners, musicians, doctors, thinkers and builders. We have given the world Sandy Koufax and Jerry Seinfeld.

If those are the victims of circumcision, I want another.

Here’s the main thing that appalls me about this whole silly deal: I am no libertarian, but I resent it when people try to legislate morality. I hate it when the homophobic, First Amendment-hating Christian conservative crowd tries to do it, and I resent it when intactivists do it, too.

Honestly, if we’re going to ban circumcision to protect children, let’s also ban high school football, skateboards, McDonalds (the food; not just the Happy Meal toys), divorce, television, cell phones and Justin Bieber.

And it’s obvious to 99 percent of humanity that circumcision is nowhere near as bad as Justin Bieber.

There are out there in the big bad world serious threats to our lives, liberty and pursuits of happiness. We of course want to spare our children as much harm and hurt as we can. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes they get leukemia. Sometimes they fall out of skyboxes at NBA games.

Life can be scary and dangerous. It can also be the blessing of blessings, and Jews know that. I have no doubt about our commitment to our kids and their welfare. Is circumcision a holdover from an ancient desert civilization? Yes. Is it medically necessary? Probably not.

But the hysterics in the anti-circumcision crowd still miss the point. Loving Jewish parents have always, and will always, circumcise their boys, and no municipal ban will stop it.

For us, a people 3,000 years in the making, holdovers mean a lot.

Dan Pine
can be reached at [email protected]

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.