Comedian Lawrence Mooney thinks circumcision is no laughing matter

MooneyCrop1Australian comedian Lawrence Mooney makes people laugh for a living but his performance at the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival showed that he is clearly not in the slightest bit amused by the fact that he was routinely circumcised as an infant.

Mooney assured his audience that he had done his research on the issue and he didn’t disappoint. In a wide-ranging rant, Mooney mocked the Abrahamic covenant with god which calls for all males to be circumcised, showed utter disdain for the notion of circumcision as a 20th century fashion statement and lamented about the impact that having a foreskin-free penis has on his sex life.

Mooney began his sketch by revealing that ‘When I was but a few hours old, my parents gave me to a complete stranger. And he took me into a room and hacked the top of my cock off. Let’s just sit with the loneliness and brutality for a moment shall we?‘ He concluded by saying ‘My knob has been rubbing against my undies for 50 years, and it is dead to the touch. Alright? It is. No seriously, you could hit it with a hammer and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I could bang you for two hours…and nothing.

Mooney’s performance was powerful but predictably awkward. Those assembled laughed sheepishly at times but appeared somewhat embarrassed about having such a sensitive issue unexpectedly foisted upon them.

It was a brave and commendable effort by Mooney. He somehow managed to seamlessly weave serious social commentary with disarming humour, which is always the hallmark of a quality entertainer.

Watch Lawrence Mooney’s anti-circumcision tirade below.

Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation attempts to hide the truth on circumcision

As I paced the hallways while waiting for my daughter to recover from her surgery at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick, Sydney, I read a poster on the wall which outlined the hospital’s policies around its care for its patients.Deleting reference to circumcision

I was reassured to read a number of points in relation to the quality of care that the hospital promised. In particular, I was pleased to read a point which was highlighting the right of bodily autonomy. While I can’t remember the exact wording, I recall that it was something like this:

“Children’s bodies are their own.”

Infant circumcision for non-medical reasons was banned in NSW public hospitals in 2006, and as the Sydney Children’s Hospital is a public hospital there should be no non-therapeutic circumcisions being performed there. However, the doctors who practise there can easily bypass this ban by operating out of one of the private clinics surrounding the hospital. I wondered how many of these doctors walked past these posters every day, then walked over to a private clinic to perform this life-changing and damaging procedure on a non-consenting infant.

Nonetheless, I was pleased to read that the hospital seemed to understand the concept of bodily autonomy – that children owned their bodies, and that in the absence of a clear and immediate medical need, they should get to determine what happens to them.

So I was surprised to see that for the foundation’s Gold Telethon 2015 they would be promoting a story of a child rushed to the emergency department as a result of a procedure that is an assault on that autonomy – infant circumcision. Here is a screen shot from the foundation’s website on 5 March 2015:

EliMarch5-highlighted

While the exact timing is unclear, sometime before 23 April 2015 (according the the web archive), the foundation updated the page to remove any reference to the circumcision. This is how the page appeared from that date, and still appears at the time this post was published:

Eli28112015-highlighted

Note that the red underlines have been added to both screenshots to highlight the differences.

When approached for an explanation, a spokesperson for the foundation responded with “We updated the original story as we believed the detail to be irrelevant to the focus of our story – Eli and his treatment for Haemophilia”.

It appears to be unlikely that this reason alone is why the story was changed. In my experience, these types of articles are updated to correct important omissions or errors, or to remove details that are distracting to the story – not merely irrelevant.

The two other stories used to promote the 2015 Gold Telethon also contained information that could easily be determined as ‘irrelevant’. Why were those details not also removed?

The real reason for the revision is open to speculation. An obvious response to the unedited story would be to question why (in its own words) a ‘perfectly healthy baby’ was subjected to unnecessary surgery in the first place. I imagine it was easier for the foundation to sweep this distraction under the carpet rather than address the issue.

The other obvious unanswered questions are ‘who?’ and ‘where?’. It would be difficult for the foundation to claim how heroic the doctors at its hospitals were in treating the child if the situation they were treating was caused by an unnecessary surgery performed by one of its own doctors. Through its spokesperson, the foundation confirmed that the procedure was not carried out at either Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick or The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, but they did not respond to the question of whether it was performed at a private clinic by one the doctors who also practises at one of its hospitals.

Paul Mason, Chair of the Australasian Institute for Genital Autonomy, said “This report and the hospital’s suppression of a central fact about the case are deplorable. All across the world “adverse events” from unnecessary genital surgery on babies and children are shrouded in mystery. It is simply not possible for anyone to pretend that any “benefits” outweigh the obvious risks of these dangerous practices if the risks remained hidden and unknown. Parents are entitled to know the truth and the whole of the truth.”

I hope that in the lead up to the Gold Telethon 2016, the foundation chooses a better example of how the medical profession is helping, rather than hurting children.

Image courtesy of Goldy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Canadian Paediatric Society faces potential child sex scandal

In order to maintain a perception of credibility, so-called ‘peak’ medical authorities in any modern society must ensure that they observe the highest possible standards when they disseminate information to the general public. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) has recently let itself down in this regard by referring to source material that was originally published by a person who is currently serving time in jail for multiple child sex and child pornography offences.

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In September 2015, the CPS released an updated ‘position statement’ on the issue of newborn male circumcision. The document ultimately concluded that the CPS ‘does not recommend the routine circumcision of every newborn male’ however the CPS position statement listed a brochure called ‘Circumcision: A guide for parents’ as one of its selected resources. The primary author of that brochure was Brian Morris, a prominent Australian pro-circumcision campaigner. The brochure was originally published by ‘The Gilgal Society’, a UK-based organisation which was principally maintained by Vernon Quaintance,

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In April 2013, during a discussion that occurred on a Facebook page called ‘Response to Ignorance’, Morris confirmed that he had engaged Quaintance’s services in the publication of the ‘Circumcision: A guide for parents’ brochure. Morris badly contradicted himself during that conversation. In the first instance, he claimed that (quote) ‘I have never met Quaintance…nor have I ever spoken to (him)’. He then went on to confirm that (quote) ‘Quaintance offered to assist in production of professional quality brochures and I accepted his offer’.

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In April 2012, Quaintance was convicted of possessing child pornography. The ‘Croydon Advertiser’ reported that Quaintance had been found in possession of three video cassettes which contained seven to nine hours of ‘graphic footage of child abuse ranked at the second-highest level of severity’. The court found that  boys as young as 11 years old engaging in sex acts were discovered on the videos. The judge in that case sentenced Quaintance to a 40 week suspended jail sentence. In October 2014, Quaintance faced court again, this time on multiple serious child sex offences. It was revealed that Quaintance had ‘targeted young boys and asked them to expose themselves’. On this occasion he was jailed for 2 years and 4 months.

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After hearing of Quaintance’s first conviction on child sex offences, Brian Morris attempted to distance himself from Quaintance and ‘The Gilgal Society’. He changed the name of the publisher of the ‘Circumcision: A guide for parents’ brochure to simply ‘Brian Morris’. He also deleted every reference to Quaintance and Gilgal from his website. This action represented nothing more than a desperate and futile attempt at re-writing history. It represented hopeless and cynical brinkmanship at its finest.

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Great care, consideration and research are required when official documents are produced and published by ‘statutory authorities’. Referencing documents prepared by Brian Morris can never be a good look for any organisation which purports to provide balanced information to the public on the issue of male circumcision. Over many years, Morris has built himself a strong reputation for disseminating one-sided, agenda-driven propaganda on the issue. Professor Basil Donovan, a sexual/public health expert from the University of Sydney, has stated that Morris publishes information which is ‘dangerous’ and ‘amounts to a serious disservice to parents’. What is much more damning in this case however is that the Canadian Paediatric Society has referred to a document which was originally published by a twice convicted child sex offender. As such, the CPS has proven itself to be (at the very least) utterly careless in the preparation of its latest ‘position statement’ on newborn male circumcision.

Image sources:

1. ‘Canadian Paediatric Society’.

http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/circumcision

2 and 6. ‘Circumstitions News’.

http://circumstitionsnews.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/sydney-brian-morris-fails-to-erase.html

3. ‘Response to Ignorance’ Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/responsetoignorance

4. ‘Croydon Advertiser’, April 21st, 2012.

http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Croydon-circumcision-campaigner-caught-child-porn/story-15866127-detail/story.html

5. ‘Croydon Advertiser’, October 3rd, 2013.

http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Upper-Norwood-circumcision-fetishist-jailed/story-23040107-detail/story.html

Dr Andrew Rochford gets closer to the truth on circumcision

Dr Andrew Rochford on circumcisionLast month, Australian doctor, TV medical commentator and former ‘The Block’ winner Dr Andrew Rochford presented a report on circumcision on Channel 7’s news ‘The Healthy Truth’ segment, which was also packaged as a story on ‘Today Tonight’ in Adelaide.

The sentiments expressed in this latest report were significantly different to those expressed in Dr Rochford’s piece on circumcision on Channel 10’s ‘The Project’ in 2010.

This earlier report was in response to the publication of a journal article which suggested that circumcision should be promoted to lower the rate of HIV transmission in Australia. Much of the TV report showed the doctor repeating the opinions expressed by others, with most statements prefaced with phrases such as ‘some people believe’ or ‘some experts claim’.

Comments on the report on the station’s website and social media sites quickly highlighted the fallacies in many of those opinions, including the following:

A number of issues with the African clinical trials which were used to support the claims in the journal article.

Langerhan cells do not only exist in the foreskin.

–  A non-retractile foreskin is normal at birth and remains common until after puberty.

– The questionable credibility of the the authors Alex Wodak and Brian Morris.

– The absurdity of the ‘looking like Dad‘ reason.

– The lack of any discussion on ethical considerations.

This latest Channel 7 report showed a more confident and mature Doctor Rochford, who was unafraid to express his own thoughts, which in general were more strongly against the procedure. It may be that the feedback from the earlier report has shaped his opinion since then, or he may be reflecting the more recent public sentiments on circumcision, which has shifted away from the procedure, possibly due to more recent emphasis on ethical and bodily autonomy considerations.Dr Andrew Rochford on Circumcision Consent

While it’s disappointing that the Australian mainstream media is yet to highlight the functions of the foreskin, we applaud and thank Dr Rochford for bringing the ethical issues to the forefront, and bringing the Australian public one step closer to the truth on circumcision.

60 Minutes segment raises concerns that male circumcision is child sexual abuse

zscreaming babyThe Nine Network’s ‘60 Minutes’ program has tackled the issue of routine infant circumcision again (Sunday March 3rd, 2013). Participants in the segment included former Tasmanian Commissioner for Children, Paul Mason, who made the point that circumcision ‘is child abuse, it’s sexual abuse’ and Elwyn Moir, who highlighted the negative impacts that being subjected to genital cutting as an infant have had on his (and many other men’s) life. Presenting a pro-circumcision opinion (which directly contradicted the stance of Australia’s peak medical bodies) was Brian Morris. 60 Minutes has aired several segments on this issue in the past. Do you think that this latest installment sufficiently took into account the mounting evidence against infant circumcision as an ethical ‘surgical’ procedure?

Click on the link below to see a preview of the segment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_AHvKiKas8

Ryan Fitzgerald wins the inaugural ‘Australian Circumcision Stupidity’ award

In 2009, Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald, now half of the popular ‘Fitzy and Wippa’ team on Sydney’s Nova FM radio station, decided to circumcise his baby boy. Obviously we are against the forced circumcision of children where there is no medical need, but we don’t usually single out the parents who have made this decision for ridicule. Often the decision is made under pressure from family members and doctors, or due to a lack of research and understanding of just how damaging this procedure is. However, while inflicting unneccessary and damaging cosmetic surgery on his defenceless son was bad enough, Ryan’s actions in the days following the operation took the abuse to a whole new level, and so has earnt him our inaugural Australian Circumcision Stupidity award.

Holding down a perfecty healthy newborn and slicing off the most intimate and sensitive part of his body is bad enough. But in a feeble attempt at ‘entertainment’ Ryan took his son’s amputated foreskin into the radio station and passed it around to his then co-presenters, Julian ‘Jules’ Schiller and Claire Murphy, to get their reactions on air.

To see what happened check out the clip below:

On two occasions Ryan seems to gloat about just how much tissue has been removed from his baby. On one of these occasions he quips “That’s a fair bit of skin, hey?” Yes, it is a lot of skin. But what he may fail to realise is that this is only the amount of skin (and other specialised tissue) that is lost to the baby. When his baby grows into a fully developed man he will be missing up to 15 square inches of highly sensitive and functional genital tissue, which is about the size of the palm of your hand.

Ryan’s colleagues appear to be slightly less enthusiastic about the stunt, with Claire commenting “That’s the whole top of a willy. It’s not what I was expecting.” I’m not sure what she was expecting to see. If you cut off the end of someone’s penis, that is exactly what you will get. Perhaps this was a realisation for Claire of the harsh reality of this procedure. It is something that was so readily accepted by our culture until recently that it is difficult to fully comprehend what we have been doing, until coming face to face with the raw results.

The saddest side to this is that this boy will one day grow up and may find this video when looking through his father’s career. How will he feel when he sees that the most intimate part of his body not only taken from him, but then trivialised and disrespected in such a public way by someone who should have protected him?

For this shameful act, Ryan not only takes home the award but also a copy of the book ‘The Joy of Uncircumcising‘, in which he can learn about the functions of the foreskin, and how restoring his own foreskin could improve his sexual experiences. In fact, through reading this book and sharing his experience, Ryan has a chance to redeem himself. We all know people make mistakes. The growing movement against forced infant circumcision is well represented by parents who did not know the truth at the time they made the decision to circumcise their sons. If Ryan takes on the techniques outlined in this book (or more modern techniques from restoration forums) for a period of two months, and then shares his experience with his listeners, in Lance Armstrong style we will re-write history strike his name from the record books.

Who knows, like many men who have restored their foreskins and now understand what they were missing, Ryan too may join us in becoming an Intactivist and help protect the rights of future generations of baby boys.