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Why circumcision is good — a historical argument

July 13, 2009

Don’t ask how I came across it, but I came across an essay from a 13th century Jewish scholar living in France, Isaac ben Yedaiah. He proposed a rather interesting argument as to why the Jewish custom of circumcision was superior to the Christian eschewing of that practice. And I guess his argument would’ve made all the sense in the world…but I think now, everyone should recognize several troubling implications of this blast to the past. This is graphic, so I’m warning you now. This essay features sexism, graphic depictions of sex, misogyny, and a clever weightloss scheme.

[A beautiful woman] will court a man who is uncircumcised in the flesh and lie against his breast with great passion, for he thrusts inside her a long time because of the foreskin, which is a barrier against ejaculation in intercourse. Thus she feels pleasure and reaches an orgasm first. When an uncircumcised man sleeps with her and then resolves to return to his home, she brazenly grasps him, holding on to his genitals and says to him, “Come back, make love to me.” This is because of the pleasure that she finds in intercourse with him, from the sinews of his testicles–sinew of iron–and from his ejaculation–that of a horse–which he shoots like an arrow into her womb. They are united without separating and he makes love twice and three times in one night, yet the appetite is not filled. And so he acts with her night after night. The sexual activity emaciates him of his bodily fat and afflicts his flesh and he devotes his brain entirely to women, an evil thing…

But when a circumcised man desires the beauty of a woman, and cleaves to his wife, or to another woman comely in appearance, he will find himself performing his task quickly, emitting his seed as soon as he inserts the crown…He has an orgasm first; he does not hold back his strength. As soon as he begins intercourse with her, he immediately comes to a climax. She has no pleasure from him when she lies down or when she arises and it would be better for her if he had not known her…, for he arouses her passion to no avail and she remains in a state of desire for her husband, ashamed and confounded, while the seed is still in her “reservoir.” She does not have an orgasm once a year, except on rare occasions, because of the great heat and the fire burning within her. Thus he who says “I am the Lord’s” will not empty his brain because of his wife or the wife of his friend. He will find grace and good favor; his heart will be strong to seek out God.

Oh gosh. This was posted here, which appears to be an .edu site (aren’t those credible ones?), but I thought it was kinda ridiculous, so I searched more for Isaac ben Yedaiah, and the story comes up again, and here too.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not really going to make any arguments in this post about if circumcision is better or not. Rather, I’m just commenting on how history has produced some rather strange things. I wonder what, in 800 years from now, our progeny will look back and say about us. Will they have found such sexism and misogyny? Such folklore that you could lose your mind by pleasing a woman in sex?

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13 Comments
  1. Oh hells. That is the most bass ackwards argument I have ever read in my life.

  2. what’s funny is that I hear the same argument these days…but with exactly reversed effects…something about nerve endings, blah blah blah.

    • Yes, they now claim that circumcision will slow a man down – as though that’s always a good thing (it isn’t when you grow old and need all the stimulation you can get).

      But in fact, fewer nerves means less feedback. Cutting off the foreskin is like taking out the accelerator pedal from your car and leaving only an on-off switch. It will still go and still get you there, but you won’t be able to slow down and enjoy the journey.

      The “good reasons for circumcision” are all trivial or bogus, and the overriding consideration should be human rights: whose body is it? Why is the infant male foreskin the only healthy, non-renewable body part it’s even legal to remove without pressing medical need or the owner’s informed consent?

  3. I’ve only ever had sex with one guy who was circumcised at birth, so I don’t consider myself any kind of a [s]expert on this topic, but I really find it hard to believe that foreskin can make that much of a difference one way or the other—except for in the case of medical maladies wherein the foreskin becomes a definite problem.

    As to current arguments, there’s a lot of better ways to treat premature ejaculation than lopping off the foreskin. There’s plenty of good reasons for circumcision, but that’s not one of them.

    BTW, Andrew… where did you dig up this quote? What kind of smut have you been surfing on the Internet, hmm?

  4. I have to keep my sources anonymous, ma’am.

  5. This is hilarious, Andrew. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Frank permalink

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this.

    Figaro

  7. Yeah, that first description (uncirc) sounded pretty AWESOME…

  8. disbelieving permalink

    i’m female. i’ve experienced both. condoms level the playing field.

    without condoms, the difference is that circumcised men thrust harder (presumably because the glans, over time, has become dry and calloused from rubbing against his clothing, and he needs to thrust harder to achieve orgasm), and because of no foreskin, there is very little elasticity. result? bruised cervix and chafed vagina. he BETTER orgasm fast, or he won’t orgasm with me, because there’s only so much of that i can take. meanwhile, an intact man can take all the time he wants :) (varies with mood more than structure).

    sorry so graphic.

  9. Justin permalink

    The mutilation of the genitals of infant boys is never a good thing.

    It’s sad to know that male genital mutilation is common among saints. The paganized practice of Abraham’s ordinance of cutting the foreskin leaves the male in a state that makes him incapable of satiating his wife. This practice is partially to blame for the expansion of the pornography industry.

  10. Michelle permalink

    Something about nerve endings and blah blah? The nerve endings lost to circumcision are called fine touch nerve endings. Circumcised men can feel pressure, pain, vibration, and temperature change. They cannot feel fine or soft touch. It is comparable to the back and palm of your hand. Brush the back of your hand over something with fine detail, such as a piece of fabric. Then brush over the same item with your fingertips. Notice how much more detail can be felt with your fingertips? THAT is fine touch nerve endings. Adults I have known who were circumcised in adulthood say even this is an understatement. It has nothing to do with “coming faster” or slower.. Nobody has claimed that. It has to do with being able to control when you want to come. Those nerve ending enable you to “choose” how long you last. Circumcision causes BOTH the inability to reach orgasm AND premature ejaculation/orgasm. You simply misinterpreted what was said because you do not want to believe it. The comment about the accelerator comment was quite accurate.

    • i can feel fine touch and im circumsized.

      • Not with your glans you can’t. And not with your foreskin, obviously. Your frenulum, maybe (if you’re lucky enough to still have it). If you still had your foreskin it would be like that all the way round the inside, near the tip.

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