Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: Vagina, A Cultural History by Naomi Wolf

Vagina: A New BiographyVagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Naomi Wolf’s new book, Vagina: A New Biography.  Of course I would, I am a heterosexual, male, monogamist and a first class flake, so I was like a kitten with a bowl of warm milk.  It puts me in mind of that song from The Sound of Music, These Are A Few of My Favorite Things.  In a way, I wish some one else beside Wolf had wrote the book, then I would not be forced to acknowledge that much of the world thinks this is a silly book and most of the people who think that are women.

I really like the idea that a woman’s vagina and brain are one.  We men have been accused of thinking with our little heads for centuries, so it refreshing to see a feminist make such a claim for women and their vaginas.  I also like the idea that my wife is a goddess and her yoni is sacred and by appealing to her goddess array and engaging in deeply penetrative coitus I can send her galloping off on a magical unicorn of orgasm across a technicolor rainbow of pheromones from my arm pits and a love potion number 9 of feel good hormones and neurotransmitters absorbed from my semen.  This is all good stuff and I loved reading about it, and yes I am exaggerating, but only slightly, what Wolf has said in the book.  

But I can also understand where many women may not quite like the idea that their thinking is so strongly colored by their vaginas or that they need a man to help them see in technicolor.  I also think the Wolf is getting worked over with some past due karmic debts from some feminists...I saw numerous references to Julian Assange in many negative reviews.  While I consider myself a pro-feminist supporter, I am in no way familiar with the nuances and politics within the movement, but I definitely get the feeling that Wolf has stepped on a few toes in the past and her book is something of a pair of combat boots in a ballet.

Much of what I read in Vagina, I already knew, I have an interest in sex like some people have in astronomy.  However there was for me one piece of valuable information that I never realized before  The female pelvic innervation is not only far more complex than I understood, but also subject to a lot of variation from woman to woman.  This explains the mystery of vaginal orgasms verses clitoral orgasms.  As I have long suspected Freud’s claims of a woman’s maturity determining the type of orgasm she experiences is bullshit.  If a woman lacks the nerve connections for deep vaginal orgasms then she will experience clitoral orgasm--maturity has nothing to do with it.  For me this was worth the price of the book.  Another fascinating bit of knowledge for me was that, although I knew nipple stimulation causes oxytocin to be released, I did not know that nipple stimulation is actually used in natural child birth procedures to initiate labor contractions.  It amazes me that nipple stimulation would have this kind of power.  Wolf provides some cautions that a woman may want to be choosy about whom she gives access to her bra (especially near the end of her pregnancy).  Oxytocin is a bonding hormone.  Helen Fisher has offered much the same advice regarding with whom one sleeps.

Some of the reviews I read took Wolf to task regarding the quality of her research.  I suppose one could ask to what standard does one hold such a book?  It is what I would consider a popularization, not a scientific document.  She provides extensive footnotes and to be honest I saw very little that would give me pause, although bear in mind, I am a hobbyist, not an expert.  She did rely a good bit on anecdotal evidence but I also believe that she adequately identified what was valid research and what was anecdotal.

That said, there was one area of concern for me regarding research that cast a wider shadow on the entire enterprise.  She quotes Marnia Robinson in several places and calls her a “dopamine researcher”.  Marnia Robinson is an author not a scientist.  She promotes a type of non-orgasmic sex called karezza, and in my opinion gets a bit hysterical about orgasms.  Yes, I am not a fan of Robinson, although I think she means well.  What Wolf quoted about dopamine was not out of context, but still quoting Robinson in an extremely pro-orgasmic book struck me like having Rush Limbaugh deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.  Robinson, the last I knew, was not about to say anything good about an orgasm, so her appearance in Wolf’s book was a bit curious and would suggest a hurried effort at research.  I did a quick internet search and found nothing from Robinson refuting Wolf’s book.  It sort of struck me that a pissing contest is being avoided.  Although I will emphasize, it was a quick search.

Another area of concern, I think Wolf seemed to go a bit overboard with her reactions to negative references to the vagina.  I agree entirely that women should not be subjected to obscene language and that men should not only refrain from using such terms, but to not think of women in such terms.  However as we all know such terminology exists and is widely used by the Neanderthals among us.  So how does one handle it?  During my working life, I had been called various things of the four lettered persuasions some involving maternal sex and fellatio. (the first technically true, the latter not).    If I were to take such things to heart I would have had to quit working at a very tender age.  So I regarded Wolf’s claim of six months of writer’s blocks over an ignorant reference to pasta vulvas a bit over the top.  It brought to mind something my mother said about the histrionics my cousin inflicted on the world when she was in high school.  “A good six inches of hard manhood delivered fast and furiously would straighten that girl right out.”  Hmmm, what to do?  Naomi was already having technicolored orgasms with her man so what the hell does one do now regarding such histrionics?   Unfortunately my late mother is no longer available for comment.  I will say though that Wolf’s point should be taken and understood by men.  This woman is the love of your life, don’t treat her or her vagina with disrespect and expect her to fly off to Oz in your arms.  If men spent as much time polishing their relationships with the women they love, as polishing the fenders of their Dodge Ram pickups, the world would be a far better place.

Like I say, I immensely enjoyed this book and found myself in agreement with most of what she said.  I do think that Wolf tended to overstate her case.  Does the vagina affect a woman’s thoughts and is it affected by thoughts?  I think so.  I believe that there is a definite brain-genital connection in both women and men just like there is a definite brain-gut connection.   Ever get butterflies in your stomach before giving a speech?  Has a dose of intestinal flu affected your thoughts?  Does this mean that women are incapable of being a CEO because their vaginas might take offense to a certain product line or corporate deal?  Absolutely not.

Can women experience the world in technicolor after having the right type of orgasm?  Well let me put it to you this way, my own orgasms are paltry affairs...putt, putt, putt and I am done.  Yeah it feels good but I can’t say that I am particularly changed by the event.  But when my wife has an orgasm she flies off and circles the rings Saturn, and she carries me along with her.  I see technicolor after one of my wife’s orgasms, so if it affects me like that I can only guess what it does for her!   So no I don’t think Wolf is exaggerating.  I am being entirely honest here, my wife’s orgasms are far more enjoyable for me than mine are.  So yep, I think a woman can ride down the yellow brick road on the back of a magical unicorn named Orgasm and head off to Oz, while pink and purple stardust emanates from her yoni that will take her man to the far reaches of the finite universe and give him a glimpse of the Infinite.

Are women goddesses? Indeed, but it is that flakey part of me that has been off to Oz with my wife that believes that.  I have to admit, I would have been happier if Wolf could have found some less moonbeamish language to describe this phenomenon. But I also have to admit having been there with my wife...she is indeed a goddess.  So is this a silly book?  Not for me, I have experienced some of the things that Wolf claims.    

Human beings have a remarkable capacity for intellect.  However, we are the total sums of our evolution.   Our intellect has been created in an evolutionary blink of the eye compared to our sexuality.  When we try to intellectualize our sexuality we run into some powerful forces.  I think what Wolf was getting in this book was that we are still subject to the animal forces of our genes and we ignore them at our peril.

Here are two reviews that sum up the problems and the strengths of the book:

Huffington Post, “Naomi Wolf's 'Vagina' Gets More Public Criticism And Faint Praise Than Any Vagina We Know Of”, by Nina Bahadur

Huffington Post, “Who's Afraid of the Vagina-Brain Connection?” by James G. Pfaus

View all my reviews

Note: the Kindle edition seems to have a slightly different title (A Cultural History) than the hardback (A New Biography).  

EDIT 1-4-2013:  Re-reading this review with a little passage of time I realized I forgot to mention that another thing that I really liked about this book was the chapter on how to appeal to a woman's "goddess array." Chapter 14 Radical Pleasure, Radical Awakening: The Vagina as a Liberator. Again I find the moonbeam terminology unfortunate, but the pearls of wisdom she provides should be a mandatory class in high school for all males with refresher courses offered periodically. In essence the chapter states don't take your woman for granted, treat her like you did when you were trying to impress her, respect her, help her and love her. All seems to be common sense, yet look at how many men treat their wives like an appliance, a dinner machine and a sex machine. We can do better guys, and Wolf tells you how in one chapter. Yeah, be a wussie and buy her flowers and take her to dinner. Gaze in her eyes, spend time with her, touch her and treat her like you love her and hang on to your hat the next time you jump into bed. Ladies, if you have a inattentive partner, cast pearls before swine. Make him read chapter 14. 

The other thing I like about this chapter was that she went into a bit of the bio-chemistry of sex. We try to rationalize sex with our advanced cerebral cortex, but sex operates at far deeper and older sections of our minds. Why are condoms so unsatisfying for an committed long term monogamous relationship? Could it be that by using a condom, the biochemical communications is blocked, the only part of our brains that realize that we had sex is on cerebral cortex? The older, down in the swamp sections, of our brains saw no chemical messages absorbed by the genitals from the partner, so was there any sex? If you are in love and you are monogamous with absolute fidelity, in my mind condoms are destructive to your relationship. (Note the strong emphasis on monogamous fidelity--you are a complete idiot to not use condoms and dental dams in a non-monogamous relationships). Wolf hints at some of this complexity in this chapter but she only speaks in terms of female receptivity to male chemistry. I think it is very much a two way street, males are chemically receptive to female chemistry and genitally and orally absorb female biochemistry from vaginal fluids. In my mind this is the real communication during sex, and the reason that I fly off to Oz with my wife's orgasms.  Loving monogamous couples should not block it with a layer of latex. I also think it is good reason for men to take their time and stick around. No need to hurry off. You can only absorb this good stuff when you are in contact with it. The biochemical communication during sex and its impact on love is an area that I think requires a lot more research. Wolf gives it honorable mention, but I think as a society we know very little. Sex is a chemical wonder. It is the attractant that get us together, the adhesive the holds us together, and the oil that lubricates a good working relationship or marriage. Don't we as a society owe it to ourselves and our children to understand this process as much as possible?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Sweetest

About two months ago I was walking through a grocery store when all of a sudden I got this huge mental flash of undefined recognition that went off in my head like a flash bulb on a camera.  I was moving right along when it happened and it took me about 20 feet until I got stopped and thought to myself, what just happened?  I actually had to think about it for a moment.  It was like one of those subliminal commercials.  I saw something and it was troubling me, but what was it?  It then occurred to me.  I just saw an image of my wife and I.  

What!  How the hell could I have just seen an image of my wife and I in a food store?  I must be loosing my mind.  I shook my head and almost left but there was something really bothering me about this.  I was sure that I just saw a picture of us.  How under the sun could that possibly be?    

So I back tracked to the last thing I bought and repeated my steps.  Nothing.  I did not see any kind of image.  This was crazy, I should have left.   Still this was really troubling me.  How could I have seen a picture of us?  So I backtracked again, slower this time, and paying close attention to everything that I was passing.

Greeting cards. Ahaa!  I stopped and began to scan the shelves.  


© Hallmark Cards Inc.

There it was, a photograph of my wife and I when we were young before we were married.  Damn how can that be?  I can even tell you when and where the photograph was taken.  Pittsburgh, June of 1975, Three Rivers Arts Festival.  It had to be then because we were walking down a cobblestone street.  I can't think of anyplace else that we would have been on such a street.  

We had been going together for four months.  We were head over heels in love with each other.  Wow!  There she is in one of her pink tops, lovely dark brown hair with red highlights, and that cute ass framed so lovingly in her jeans.  Oh my!  How I dreamed of her behind in those days! (OK, I will admit it, I still do!)   

And there I am slobbing along as usual, dark tee shirt not tucked in, hunched over so that we could awkwardly hold hands.  It's us!  It has be!  Looking at it, I could not find a single aspect that would prove other wise.  It has to be us.  Oh c'mon how could it be?   

 So I bought the card and gave it to my wife.  She looked at it for a few seconds and said, 

"Wow that really looked like us when we were going together except the girl's hair is not long enough.  My hair went to my waist back then."

Damn, it is not us!  OK I knew it could not really be us, but still....  

Here is the message in the card.

Take my hand 
and walk with me
From where we are
to where we'll be.
Love is a mystery. 

We'll learn more of life
as we go---
No map, no answers.
All I know
is this:  I love you so.

All my love 
on Sweetest Day
and Every Day

There is something about this card that really tugs my heart strings.  

It's bittersweet nostalgia I guess.  Lost youth?  

There we are...young, carefree, innocent.  Almost child like.

"No map, no answers."  Not a nickel to our names, no decent job,  a very grim economy. 

How the hell could we be so happy?  

Yet we were.  

How could we have such courage for the map, no answers? 

Yet we did. 

How could I feel for the first time in my life like a completed human being? 

Yet I did.  She completed me.  She made me whole.  

Where in the hell did all that time go? 

I don't know, but it did.    

 "From where we are
    to where we'll be."

"Where we'll be"... for now is today, right here, still together, still in love.  No longer innocent. Perhaps two thirds of a map drawn but not completed.  Some of the answers are in hand but not all of them.

Image Credit: Wikipedia
One answer I am certain of, if it were not for you, my loving wife, taking my hand and walking with me...I would not, alive, and still head over heels in love.  

So my Sweetest...take my hand and walk with me... 

We have yet another third of a map to draw, my love, you and I, through the terra incognita of the "golden years".  We have many answers yet to find.  Adventure still awaits us.  They say getting old is not for sissies.  Do we still have the courage?  I can do it as long as I have your hand in mine. 

So indeed my love...

Take my hand 

   and walk with me

From where we are 
                      to eternity.


Card Photo and Message:  Card # SD 278-9  © Hallmark Cards Inc. Kansas City MO, 64141

Map: Wikipedia, Terra Incognita  

Note on Sweetest Day from the back of the card: 

Sweetest Day was established in the 1920s by a Cleveland candy company employee who wanted to bring happiness to shut-ins, orphans, and other individuals, who were often forgotten.  Sweetest Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in October and has become a day for remembering loved ones and friends who enrich our lives with their thoughtfulness.

© Hallmark Cards Inc 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Spam Or Captchas? Which is the bigger PIA?

Big PIA but I will not tolerate spam. 

For months now I have been getting almost daily email notifications of comments made in my blog from "Anonymous" that sounded like a real comment but always ends with a link to another site.  Spam.   

So I would dutifully check my blog, and the comment was always blocked by Blogger's spam filters.  Well yesterday and today I received the same type of comments with links to porn sites and they were published in my blog. 

I have long resisted using the word verification especially since Blogger went to the Captchas because it is a royal pain in the ass. Its not uncommon for me to have to make several attempts at them before I succeed.  However now that the spam is actually making it into my blog with links to porn, I am forced to use the word verification to block it.  If that does not work, I will invoke comment approval.  I apologize to my readers, yes the Captchas are a pain in the ass...but I refuse to become a free Craig's List for spammers.    

UPDATE 1-30-13  I read some bitter complaints in other blogs about the captchas.  So I turned them off on my blog.   Hourly spam.  Every time I logged on to the computer I had 2 to 4 comments from Anonymous with a link.  The other thing I noticed that may or may not be related was that my hit count went down.  Does Google lower your priority if they detect you are being spammed?  Probably unrelated.  

I do have several valid readers who comment under Anonymous so I do not want to block them, sorry gang I turned the captchas back on.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Google Doodle Bram Stoker's 165 Birthday

Image Credit:

Today is the 165th birthday of the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker.  Stoker didn't invent vampires which are from Eastern European mythology, but he certainly popularized the notion and in the process invented a literary genre.  You can read more about Bram Stoker and Dracula at Wikipedia:

Women's fascination with vampires has been something of a mystery to me.  There seems to be something very sexy about vampires.  Biting and sucking, of course, has a built in eroticism and perhaps the bite is a metaphor for the loss of innocence.  Modern vampire literature is often highly eroticized, but apparently there have been numerous attempts to assign eroticism  to Stoker's original novel, some that attain ludicrous depths of hidden meaning.   Here is an essay which looks at these various epic metaphoric journeys into Stoker's novel and debunks most of them.

Miller comes to the conclusion that most of this:

 "may be a product of the late twentieth century’s voyeuristic obsession with sexuality, coupled with a determination to project (sometimes in condescending fashion) its own self-proclaimed sophisticated and liberated views onto a Victorian text - and its author".  

Yes there may have been some hidden metaphor for Victorian anxieties of sex contained within Stoker's Dracula, but her essay points to the dangers of trying to mine too much psychological meaning out of a novel and trying to guess what was buried in the author's psyche when he wrote it.  Indeed as Miller points out sometimes a stake is just a stake. 

One thing I found interesting in the Wikipedia article above was that the original manuscript was found in a barn in Pennsylvania during the 1980's.  The co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, purchased it.  How in the world did the manuscript which was written in the 1890s in England end up in a barn in Pennsylvania?  I am sure that Allen must have investigated the authenticity of the document, but it seems rather suspect to me.       

Here is Google's archive of all Doodles:

Not to be outdone by the NFL Official Licensed Products, there is even a Google Doodles store, where you can buy tee-shirts, mugs, and poster with your favorite doodle:

Amazon has various editions of the book ranging from somewhat expensive limited run hardback editions to inexpensive paperbacks and various free editions available for the Kindle:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Double Your Red Cross Donation To Hurricane Sandy Relief

Image Credit: The Weather Channel
EDIT 11-21-2012:

It appears that the donation matching period has ended.  I can no longer find any reference to it on Weather Channel sites.  The link below goes to directly to the standard Red Cross Donation page. 

I could find no references as to what the final matched contribution was.  Several days ago I checked on the link below and the donations were in excess of $151,000.  

At this time I believe that the Weather Channel's matching donation has ended, but the need is still great in the affected areas.  You may still make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief at the link below.

End of Edit.

Original Post:

If you have been thinking about donating to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief, for a limited time you can double your donation.  The Weather Channel is matching viewer donations up to $1,000,000 dollars.  Use this link to donate:

American Red Cross, Weather Channel, Disaster Relief Donation

Donating is easy, you only have to fill in your name, address, phone number and email address and you can use your major credit card or PayPal.  It takes about 2 minutes. 

Thanks for lending a helping hand, and thanks to The Weather Channel for their generosity. 

EDIT 11-5-2012:  ABC is have a Day of Giving Telethon today.  See the link below:

ABC News, ABC’s ‘Day of Giving’ to Help Hurricane Sandy Victims: Live Blog 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Google Doodle, Niels Bohr's 127th Birthday

I promised myself that I was getting out of the Google Doodle business.  At one time I felt the need to post on every Doodle resulting in some posts about people or things for which I had no passion.  A post on a Doodle now is a something of a wave / particle function of a blurred probability which will collapse into a firm reality when the reader observes my blog.  It is a Schrödinger's post of indeterminacy (loosely based on Schrödinger's cat) of unknown probability.  
Niels Bohr 1885-1962

The long and short of it is the probability of my posting is directly proportional to the coolness of the Doodle, the person or thing it commemorates and inversely proportional to the complexity of the subject and my laziness.  So with this particular Doodle, we have a really cool Doodle for one of my scientific heroes, on an extremely complex subject with a typical level of laziness.  This is going to result in a short post pretty much describing the doodle, and you, dear reader, can spend the rest of the day sorting through Niels Bohr's many accomplishments and theories on Wikipedia which have confused smarter people than me.  

Niels Bohr was one of the principal authors of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics and the creator of the Bohr model of the atom.  He won the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in quantum theory.  Later he worked on the Manhattan Project for the creation of the atomic bomb.  Bohr's moral beliefs and his desire to share nuclear technology with the scientific community and the Soviets did not set well with Roosevelt or  Churchill. 

Helium Atom

The Doodle depicts a spooky and foggy looking Google with a stylized Bohr / Rutherford model atom for the first O.  I believe the foggy Google is somewhat representative of a cloud chamber.  A cloud chamber is used to delineate particle tracks resulting from radioactive decay or nuclear collisions.    The model of the atom is not specifically a Bohr model which would not be particularly recognizable by the public but rather a more generic stylized version of both the Bohr and Rutherford models done in the Google colors of red, yellow, green, and blue.  The widespread use of this symbol in the shields of various nuclear agencies, military heraldry,  and corporate logos has placed it in the public's imagination of what an atom looks like.  The truth is closer to the image at the left.  The positive nucleus of protons and neutrons is surrounded by a cloud of probability for the negatively charged electrons located in orbits as indicated by the murky black and gray sphere.  

The specific orbits or shells are labeled with n=1 which are the principal quantum numbers of the shell, (good luck with that--the complexity factor way exceeding the laziness factor in my mind).  The red squiggly depicts a photon being emitted from an electron jumping, the famous quantum leap,  from shell 3 to shell 2.  The formula states that the change in energy is equal to Planck's constant (h) times the frequency(v) of the photon.  Photons are packets (quanta) of electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves, heat, visible light, x-ray or gamma rays.  The energy of the photon is determined by its frequency which is inversely proportional to its wavelength.  The difference between harmless visible light and the penetrating ionizing radiation such as the x-ray is that the x-ray has a much higher frequency and shorter wavelength.  Those numbers on your radio dial are frequencies of the radio waves and the colors that your eye respond to is the various frequencies of visible light. 
Big Al Einstein and Niels Bohr
at the 1930 Solvay Conference

If you find some of Bohr's contentions in the Copenhagen Interpretation hard to believe, you are not alone.  Big Al Einstein had a lot of problems with the indeterminacy of the theory and said of it:

"Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory yields a lot, but it hardly brings us any closer to the secret of the Old One. In any case I am convinced that He doesn't play dice." - Albert Einstein  

This is the basis of the famous God does not throw dice quote.  Bohr was no slouch though and not about to put up with any rhetorical nonsense from his life long friend.  To Big Al's contention that God was not a gambler, Bohr replied:

"Nor is it our business to prescribe to God how He should run the world." 

Image Credits:

Google Doodle:  Google, Doodles Finder

Niels Bohr:  Wikipedia, Niels Bohr

Helium Atom: Wikipedia, Atom

Einstein and Bohr: Instituut-Lorentz, Lorentz & the Solvay conferences

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Throng of Illogicals and Science Denialists Are Going to Storm The Castle

I like Jesse Bering's blog on the Scientific American website.  Whether I agree with him or not I enjoy his writing and he has a good head on his shoulders.  Well this month Jesse got into a tiff with Andrew Sullivan over circumcision.  

Science Denialists and Illogicals Storming
The Citadel of Logic
Jesse doesn't like Andrew calling his penis mutilated.  Well Andrew feel free to call mine anything you wish,  and I will agree with you.  But as I am finding out sticks and stones will break your bones but words will really piss 'em off.  Frankly I kind of believe that one should call a spade a spade, so when I zip it down and have a good look at old pete, well yeah mutilated comes to mind.  But if it will make Jesse feel better, I could call it decorative, designer, avant garde, pretty, aesthetic, minimalist or whatever would be appealing to Jesse's delicate sensibilities.  It makes little difference to me, my delicate sensibilities were hacked off at birth.  It was modified by the best science of the time...I bear the brown racing stripe... ahhh indeed I am a Gomco Clamp Boy!  I could have been on the front of a Wheaties box at the time.     

Anyhow Jesse presents much evidence of the wonders of circumcision.  OK, and he also states that the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) revised their policy statement on circumcision which according to Jesse:
"The consensus regarding this cascade of new datasets—all of which, they claimed, they went over methodically with a fine-toothed comb—moves the AAP away from its historically noncommittal view and towards a clear stance that the benefits of infant male circumcision now unambiguously outweigh its minimal risks when performed under sterile conditions by properly trained physicians." 
OK so gee I guess I am wrong, circumcision is a really good thing.  Jesse claims that there is a 60% reduction in HIV transfer.  I have read some things about that 60% but OK, I'll give Jesse his 60% reduction.  Then in an ever rising crescendo of hysteria Jesse ends the article with this pearl of wisdom:

"I don’t need someone else to tell me what I should be outraged by, Sullivan, thank you very much. It’s certainly not going to be in response to already stressed-out parents acting sensibly as their child’s health advocate and appealing to the ethical directives of professionals, rather than online blowhards who think that repeatedly referring to an act with an amygdala-fuelled term like “mutilation” makes it so. If you want your child to be at an increased risk of urinary tract infections, herpes, genital ulcers, HPV and HIV, that’s entirely your choice, and feel free to celebrate with other science-denialists sharing similarly misplaced passions. But spare me your righteous indignation over those parents today that fail to see their benevolent, educated decision to circumcise their infant sons as an 'attack on their sexual pleasure at birth.'" 

In case you haven't guessed, the emphasis is mine.  So now I am a science-denialist using amygdala-fuelled terms like mutilation, but good Ole' Jesse here is a paragon of emotional stability.  So let's take a look at what the AAP said in their revised policy statement.  From:  

"Although health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns, the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns. It is important that clinicians routinely inform parents of the health benefits and risks of male newborn circumcision in an unbiased and accurate manner."

Again of course the emphasis is mine.  So does the import of this paragraph warrant Bering's accusation of those who would refuse circumcision as science-denialists?  I really have no interest in Bering's and Sullivan's spat but I do resent being called a science-denialist just because I don't agree with Bering.  But OK I'll concede, I am a science-denialist, but grant me this Jesse,  I am a science-denialist with a mutilated penis and a well fueled amygdala. 

Incidentally I have been counseled by people who are against circumcision to avoid the M-word because it is inflammatory.  But because 1)  I am a little pissed at moment, 2) I am only using it in reference to myself, and  3) that is exactly the word that I feel best describes my condition, I believe that I shall use it for one more day. 

OK I said I would give Jesse his 60% improvement in preventing HIV transfer.  From a practical standpoint what does that mean?  One only needs a condom 40% of the time?  In terms of HIV transfer what real value is attained by circumcision?  HIV is no longer a problem?  Ohhh?  Why did we ever have a problem to begin with in the US?  What about Europe?  The best I can gather Europe and the US have about the same rates of transfer.  Shouldn't the European rate be much higher with the 60% reduction in HIV transfer garnered by circumcision?  Circumcision is relatively rare in Europe.  

Regarding HIV transfer, in a practical sense, being circumcised means that on the average it will take you longer to get infected than it would if you are not circumcised.  But the fact remains that if you engage in continual risky sexual behavior and do not use condoms you will eventually become infected with HIV.  So what exactly has circumcision done for you?  You can get circumcised and have to use condoms all the time, or you can stay intact and have to use condoms all of the time.  The choice is yours.  Oh wait, no.  I am sorry, it's not your choice, it is your parents choice.  I apologize for the confusion.   

Note: I posted comments 16, 19 and 43 at Bering's Blog at the link above. 

Well my second foray into the world of circumcision blogging resulted in two of my comments not being published.  Now we all know that I ain't too smart, intellect has never been one of my claims,  but wouldn't that qualify as censoring?  Of course the blog belongs to an individual and it is hers to publish or not as she sees fit, but gee, post a note that comments from illogicals will not be posted.  I could go waste my time else where.  Well here are the two blog posts:

SquintMom, Resources For Evidence Based Parenting, What The Science Says About Circumcision: Part 1 — The Benefits

Her conclusion for the benefits:

"Science Bottom Line:* There is no scientific evidence that strongly supports circumcision in the United States for the sole purpose of preventing disease.** 

**Obviously, this is not to say that there’s no reason to circumcise, nor is it to say that there’s no SCIENTIFIC reason to circumcise in areas with epidemic HIV, etc. The point here is that the argument FOR circumcision in the U.S. can’t be made on the basis of scientific evidence, and must instead be made on the basis of values and beliefs."

SquintMom, Resources For Evidence Based Parenting, What The Science Says About Circumcision: Part 2 — The Risks  

Her conclusion regarding the risks:

Science Bottom Line:* There is no scientific evidence that strongly links routine infant circumcision with appropriate analgesiato physical or psychological harm.** Because there are many options available for managing pain during infant circumcision, however, there’s simply no justification for medical circumcision without analgesia. 

**Obviously, this is not to say that no one is ever hurt by circumcision, or that there are not individuals who wish they hadn’t been circumcised. However, the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE does not provide support for the argument that routine infant circumcision is harmful. As such, the argument AGAINST circumcision in the U.S. can’t be made on the basis of scientific evidence, and must instead be made on the basis of values and beliefs.

So I thought, cool!  This person did what appeared to be a fair assessment and arrived at the conclusion that the evidence neither supports or refutes circumcision.  OK I can buy that.  So then I started reading through the comments, and I ran into this inquiry by a mother to be:

"Hi. This is my first time commenting, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while. I am pregnant with a boy and am trying to decide whether to circumcise. I posted on the forums, and the women there are very anti-circumcision. It seems like they make a lot of unsupportable claims, though. For instance, they say that there’s no reason for a boy to look like his father, since they won’t be sitting around with their penises out. I think (but I don’t have the scientific evidence to back it up) that children probably get a lot of their early sense of sexual identity from comparing their bodies to those of their parents. A little girl knows she’ll GROW breasts, and a little boy will get a bigger penis like his father’s…but an uncircumcised boy knows his penis won’t look like his (circumcised) father’s penis when he gets older. Also, my understanding is that the majority of white, middle-class boys in the US are circumcised. What would be the effect on a boy’s psychology of looking around the bathroom or gym and realizing his penis is different? Also, what if he’s in high school or college and hears girls making fun of the way an uncircumcised penis looks?"
So we are not talking about religious circumcision,  HIV, HPV, penile cancer, cervix cancer, sensation, child rights, wishes of the adult, or any other issue than appearance. Is appearance a valid consideration for circumcising a child? In my mind no. Appearance does not exceed the right of the individual. But let's put that aside. I can understand this woman’s concern.  So I wrote the following reply concerning appearance:
"Let’s turn your question around. Immigrants from Africa move in next door. They are nice people and they are going to have a ritual circumcision of their daughter. You have been invited to the ceremony. How much weight will the argument hold with you, that if they fail to circumcise their daughter, she will not look like her mother, her grandmother, her aunts, or her older sisters? Valid argument? Would you object, or simply agree that this girl should physically resemble her relatives?
I am circumcised. I have no idea if my father was circumcised. My son was born in 1983 and he was circumcised. Why wouldn’t he? Its what we do. A decision I deeply regret today. I have not seen my son’s penis since he was 5 years old, and I don’t believe that he has ever seen mine. We don’t exactly lounge around in the buff comparing our goods.
In any event if we are going to use the argument of the importance of appearance, then we should actively support female circumcision in Africa because we don’t know how much damage may result by a generation of daughters not resembling the mothers. If that sounds a bit absurd, and I hope it does, then think again about how that argument sounds for the perpetuation of routine male circumcision in the US."

I wrote another comment (which I did not copy) at the end of the comments.  I complimented her on research and presenting a balanced view on circumcision.  I then went into a rant but a well behaved rant and simply asked why it was that I was circumcised in 1949, and  I replied  with "Well ah you know ah hygiene, prevention of phimosis,  ah err ah he will look like his father." In other words nobody knows.  I then went on to provide a rushed, brief, and admittedly not terribly well written history of circumcision in the US.  The point that I was trying to make was that I was circumcised in 1949 because Victorian zealots 60 to 100 years earlier were convinced that masturbation was going to be the downfall of the Western world and some how the practice not only caught on but became medicalized.  The root historical reason for medical infant circumcision in the US is to blunt sexual pleasure for both masturbation and coitus.  

So I posted both comments on SquintMom's blog Thursday night.  They were awaiting moderation for about 24 hours.  I checked last night, the comments were still waiting.  I checked this morning and my comments had vanished. 

SquintMom posted the following comments last night to another person's post.  Normally I would not copy a reply to another person, but in this comment she also indicates, indirectly, why my two comments were censored:

  • "SquintMom September 21, 2012 | 8:18 pm
    Thank you for your comment. I want to make a few things clear: I personally do not take a stance for or against circumcision, though many who have commented suggest that I do. Secondly, religion — the reason many people circumcise — is a force separate and apart from scientific logic. That is to say, a person who would not otherwise believe circumcision is a good idea because the natural state of the male is with a foreskin might choose to circumcise anyway if they believe that it’s a mandate from god as a result of a covenant with Moses or some such. Religion, therefore, becomes its own driving force that can neither be supported nor refuted with scientific literature. This is why, even though the literature leaves ME PERSONALLY (and anyone else looking at JUST the science) at a stalemate, circumcisions will continue to take place among those for whom the decision is a moral one rather than a logical one.

    Reply SquintMom September 21, 2012 | 8:32 pm
    Actually, reading your comment really made me think (enough so that I am posting a second response to it). When I wrote these two circumcision posts, having looked at all the literature, I concluded that I was at a scientific stalemate. As more and more ridiculous comments from intactivists who were citing irrelevant, poorly conducted, or faulty studies started to pour in, I believe I started to realign myself with the pro-circ group simply to distance myself from the throngs of illogicals (a cognitive bias: if they are illogical and I am not, then I must not agree with their conclusion). The ridiculous comparison of male circumcision to female circumcision is yet another failure of logic that works against the intactivists when it comes to speaking to scientists. The fact that someone randomly decided to call the two procedures by the same word makes them no more similar than inflammable (an object that catches fire easily) and inflammable (an object that is not flammable), as I pointed out in an earlier comment in which I addressed the embryological origins of the tissues taken in the two cases.Point(s) being:

    1) Thank you once again for your comment. It’s nice to run across an intactivist who understands that the science does not come out against circumcision, even though ethics very well may.

    2) I hope you occasionally take the time (frustrating though I’m sure it is) to educate fellow intactivists about misuse and misinterpretation of science, and to explain that when a scientist says “The science can’t be used either to support or oppose circumcision in a conclusive way,” said scientist is not necessarily pro-circ, nor is said scientist necessarily saying that ETHICS can’t play a role in making the decision."

    Again obviously the emphasis is mine. OK, now considering my comment posted above regarding the family from Africa, apparently my use of the word circumcision with females is verboten. OK fine. So lets call it Female Genital Surgical Procedure, or let’s call it whatever you want to call it, but I have seen it called female circumcision. My point is the end appearance of the genitals after these procedures have been performed. 

    Does the Male Genital Surgical Procedure change the appearance of a penis?  Yes. 

    Does Female Genital Surgical Procedures change the appearance of the vulva? Yes. 

    Again please remember that we are discussing appearance.  So I would like to know how does what I said in my above comment qualify to this statement:

    The ridiculous comparison of male circumcision to female circumcision is yet another failure of logic that works against the intactivists when it comes to speaking to scientists. 
    How is what I said about appearance a failure of logic? Do both procedures change the appearance of the genitals? Yes.  So how exactly is  a concern about the female appearance in Africa not valid, if concern for male appearance in the United States is valid.  Please show me where my logic has failed. 

    I believe SquintMom has provided the explanation:

    As more and more ridiculous comments from intactivists who were citing irrelevant, poorly conducted, or faulty studies started to pour in, I believe I started to realign myself with the pro-circ group simply to distance myself from the throngs of illogicals (a cognitive bias: if they are illogical and I am not, then I must not agree with their conclusion). 
    So you see all is explained in the end.  How could there possibly be logic in my comment?  As a member of the throngs of iilogicals it would be virtually impossible for me to be logical, for if I were logical then I could not be in the throng of illogicals, but because I am in the throng of illogicals it would illogical for me to be logical.  Ergo to protect the sensitive scientific mind from yet another circular logic problem, SquintMom decided wisely to censor my comments.  

    So let me see if I have this right.  She studies circumcision, garners a gang of references, comes to the reasonable conclusion that:

    "Science can’t be used either to support or oppose circumcision in a conclusive way."
    Then the Neanderthal hordes descended upon her with bad data, bad logic, and bad breath so she decided to align herself with the pro-circ group.

    Elementary my dear Watson.  

    Well SquintMom, I am stupid--I really don't pose a threat to you.  So if you would like to come over and comment, I won't censor your comments, like you did mine.   I don't fear brilliance like you seem to fear the throngs of illogicals.  I do keep a shotgun handy, so if they mob you with their furry smelly bodies, I can dispatch several of them and the rest will run away in fear of the thunder from the gods.   

    Well it is Saturday night, approaching midnight.  Sorry but I must take leave, don my hooded tunic, fetch my pitchfork, axe and torch. I am gathering with the throng over at the castle. We are going to storm the logicals tonight.

    Note: I have been rather liberal about granting validity to people's opinions in this post.  It was for the purpose of the argument at hand, whether their opinions or data had validity or not was irrelevant to my argument.   Most Intactivists (my fellow illogical throng) would not agree with my willy-nilly conceding of points regarding willy and rightfully so.   If you are considering circumcising your son please research this with far more diligence than what I have used in this post.  (Edit: the Edell video below is a good starting point.)   The 60% improvement in the prevention of HIV transfer is hotly disputed.  To me it is irrelevant in a practical sense.  What if it is 20%, do you need a condom?  Yes.  What if it is 80%, do you need a condom?  Yes!  So what do I care what the real percentage is, it is irrelevant if you would like to remain HIV free, ergo circumcision is useless in the prevention of HIV transfer in the US.  The AAP's previous policy said this: 

    There does appear to be a plausible biologic explanation for this association in that the mucous surface of the uncircumcised penis allows for viral attachment to lymphoid cells at or near the surface of the mucous membrane, as well as an increased likelihood of minor abrasions resulting in increased HIV access to target tissues. However, behavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status. 
    Again, obviously, emphasis mine. 

    Edit 8-31-13:  Here is an excellent video on the foreskin and the ramifications of circumcision:

    YouTube, Anatomy of the Penis: Penile and Foreskin Neurology, Ken McGrath


    This post was created with material from my comments at:

    My previous post on male circumcision:

    EDIT 10-4-12:   Here is an interesting video discussing circumcision.

    Here is another video that rationally explains the legal differences between male and female circumcision.  It does not propose making female circumcision legal, but does question why male circumcision is legal.  It also questions SquintMom's contention flat statement that "The ridiculous comparison of male circumcision to female circumcision is yet another failure of logic that works against the intactivists when it comes to speaking to scientists."  When one looks at the total spectrum of what could be labeled female circumcision and considers the legal ramifications, such comparisons are not ridiculous and to label them so may be indicative of bias.   

    Ironically the principle that American society operates under regarding male infant circumcision is hinted at by a quote by Stalin:

    One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic. 

    It is not my intention to make a ridiculous comparison between circumcision and mass political murder.  But consider this, in the years of my childhood, teens, and young adulthood I have seen exactly one uncut penis.  We should not confuse commonality and social acceptance with morality and ethical behavior.  In a world where circumcision did not exist, you would be outraged to read that some crazy parents had circumcised their infant son.  Yet for the past 80 years American society has circumcised millions of infants without their knowledge or consent.    

    EDIT 10-28-2012:  Upon re-reading this I would also like to take exception to   SquintMom's statement:

    **Obviously, this is not to say that no one is ever hurt by circumcision, or that there are not individuals who wish they hadn’t been circumcised. However, the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE does not provide support for the argument that routine infant circumcision is harmful. As such, the argument AGAINST circumcision in the U.S. can’t be made on the basis of scientific evidence, and must instead be made on the basis of values and beliefs.
    Emphasis mine.  But in fact, hospital records do show that a certain percentage of circumcisions are botched.  The intactivists claim that the actual rates exceed the published rates and they provide some compelling arguments for the reasons for such inaccuracies.  My God!  Could SquintMom's first sentence be illogical with her second sentence?  If someone is hurt, then is not circumcision harmful?  

    SquintMom's statement is false as it is written.  If the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE does not provide support for the argument that routine infant circumcision is harmful,  then hospital records are either wrong about circumcision or are not part of scientific evidence.  So are the hospitals lying?  Why would a hospital falsely admit to botching circumcisions?  Are hospital records inadmissible to scientific evidence? 

    Taken at face value SquintMom's statement would indicate that no one will ever be harmed by circumcision-- zero complications, zero botched circumcisions, zero infant deaths attributable to circumcision.   I don't believe that this was her intent, (her first sentence contradicts the second) so I will give her the benefit of the doubt and just say  that her statement was poorly written.  

    If you want to make a positive statement about the harm of routine infant circumcision then you have to make a statement that looks at risk (fancy term for harm) verses benefit.  Here is what the AAP had to say in their policy statement:

    "Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks and that the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it."
    BTW the intactivists would dispute this statement, but let's not go there, again because it is irrelevant  to my argument.  Looking at the above statement SquintMom's statement is just plain wrong.  The AAP is stating that there is a risk, ergo there is some level of harm, but the potential benefits exceed the risk.  Then employing a little logical jujitsu they state the procedure is justified for families who choose it.   In other words, REMEMBER YOU CHOSE TO DO THIS TO YOUR SON, SO ALL OF THE RISKS AND BENEFITS ARE SQUARELY ON YOU, NOT US.  Because we also state:   (the)"health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns."

    So what is it AAP, should we or should we not circumcise our sons?  It's not like flossing your teeth.  Once its done, its done.  

    So getting back to SquintMom, her statement at face value is false.  There is harm done in a certain number of circumcisions.  Again I will give her the benefit of the doubt and just say that she stated her point poorly.  She probably didn't mean that there is zero harm, but that the benefits exceed the harm.  But for someone who is so scientific, so sensitive to the attacks of furry minded illogicals, who holds the scientific method as paramount, such an omission is far more serious than the blatant denial of science that babbling idiots like me purport.  Looking at her statements again, which statement has the greater weight.

    A.  Obviously, this is not to say that no one is ever hurt by circumcision. 

    B.  However, the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE does not provide support for the argument that routine infant circumcision is harmful.

    BTW, the screaming capitals are SquintMom's not mine.  

    To paraphrase the words of Rumpelstiltskin from the TV show, "Well dearie, remember logic always comes with a price." 

    If you are going to make claims of how logical and scientific you are, you best make sure that all your statements are logical and scientific.  

    EDIT 7-26-13:  There is a very well written and poignant account of a mother's struggle with the decision for circumcising her sons at Lilly Cannon's Moralogus: