Magazine article The Spectator

The First Cut

Magazine article The Spectator

The First Cut

Article excerpt

The thinking of those who seek to ban circumcision is dreary, backwards - and often anti-Semitic

There are lots of weird campaign groups around today, but none so weird as a band of unmerry men called 'the intactivists'. If you've never heard of the intactivists and you're a bit squeamish, or you are reading this while lunching on a sausage roll, then you might want to turn the page now. Intactivists are men who were circumcised at birth and who, as their name suggests, long to become 'intact' again. In a nutshell, they want to recover their foreskins.

And they'll do almost anything to achieve this, including undergoing skin grafts and even attaching weights to the little bits of foreskin that their possibly careless circumciser might have left behind. Hey, look, I told you to turn the page.

Originating, like most mad campaign groups, on the west coast of America, intactivism is fuelled by some of the most regressive political trends of our era. Its adherents have that annoying Oprah-ite habit of blaming a long-gone childhood incident - in this case the simple, harmless, millennia-old snipping of the foreskin - for every trouble that befalls them in adulthood. They seriously claim that their inability to have good sex or to hold down a relationship is down to the fact that their foreskin was removed when they were a few days old. Which raises the question of how generation after generation of Jewish men, alongside all the non-Jewish blokes who got the chop, managed to please the ladies and procreate.

Intactivists also do that grating thing of turning every issue into a question of human rights. 'Intact genitals are a human right!' their T-shirts declare. The bonkers transformation of even foreskin possession into a human right captures very well how the lingo of human rights is often used to undermine real rights that people have enjoyed for aeons - in this case the age-old religious right to remove newborn babies' foreskins, which is cleaved to by Jewish communities in particular, and also by Muslims. So-called children's rights are often just a battering ram against adults' rights, against the right of communities to instil in their young certain ways of thinking and believing, as summed up in the dangerous notion that the rights of an eight-day-old baby boy should take precedence over the rights of his parents and their community to express their faith as they see fit.

And intactivism also has more than a smattering of anti-Semitism. There's an intactivist publication called Foreskin Man, in which the eponymous hero, who has blond hair and blue eyes and is immaculately Aryan, battles against Monster Mohel, a swivel-eyed Jew who is always armed with scissors because 'nothing excites him more than cutting into the flesh of an eight-dayold infant boy'. Foreskin Man is extreme, and it has been complained about angrily by the American-Jewish advocacy group the Anti-Defamation League; yet its simplistic, fairytale-like narrative about innocent babes being 'mutilated' and having their future happiness ruined by a rabbi with a knife speaks to the fatalistic, self-pitying heart of the intactivist movement more broadly.

Now the intactivists, or certainly their ideas, are gaining ground in Europe.

Across Europe, officials, judges, commentators and shrill secularists have declared open war on circumcision. …

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