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The Anti-Circumcision Reader

Four high-profile authors’ objections and misgivings.


Railing against circumcision, or at least seriously questioning it, has become something of a voguish chattering-class obsession. Andrew Sullivan, author, journalist, and writer of The Atlantic’s Daily Dish blog, and Christopher Hitchens, author and Vanity Fair contributor, have both called the practice barbarism and say it should be banned for infants. Despite being Jewish and ultimately circumcising their sons, Michael Chabon, the novelist best known for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and Shalom Auslander, whose memoir, Foreskin’s Lament, tells you a lot just in its title, have expressed grave reservations of their own. Here, a sampling of their thoughts.

Andrew Sullivan, author, The Conservative Soul
If parents tore the skin off their infants in any other part of the body, they’d be arrested for abuse. The great unmentionable, of course, is that religion, not medicine, is behind this practice—Judaism and Islam, to be precise. Many secular men, in other words, bear the scars of someone else’s religion on their own bodies for life …

My own view is that forcing boys to have most of their sexual pleasure zones destroyed without their express permission is a form of child abuse …

Christopher Hitchens, author, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
As to immoral practice, it is hard to imagine anything more grotesque than the mutilation of infant genitalia … In some animist and Muslim societies it is the female babies who suffer the worst, with the excision of the labia and the clitoris … In other cultures, notably the “Judeo-Christian,” it is the sexual mutilation of small boys that is insisted upon.”

Michael Chabon, author, Manhood for Amateurs
The stated reason for this minutely savage custom is that God—the God of Abraham—commanded it … Nothing having to do with this particular version of God and His supposed Commandments could ever satisfactorily explain my willingness to subject my sons … to mutilation: the only honest name for this raw act that my wife and I have twice invited men with knives to come into our house and perform, in the presence of all our friends and family, with a nice buffet and a Weekend Cake from Just Desserts.

Shalom Auslander, author, Foreskin’s Lament
I found myself … sitting across the way from Patricia, a formerly Orthodox, currently Buddhist, macrobiotic, pro-Palestinian, animal-rights-activist art director. “I can’t believe you’re even considering it,” she said “Why don’t you just cut off his finger or slice off his nose? Stab him—knife him—for God” … I was beginning to feel a bit like a foreskin myself. “Why don’t you just punch him in the face?” she suggested”… Wait eight days, invite the family over, put out some wine and kugel, and just punch him in the fucking face.


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