AIDS & Penises: The Dudes Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Call it a-few-inches-below-your-navel-gazing: Protesting male circumcision in Africa to battle a very real AIDS crisis

In Reykjavik, Iceland there is the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of penises. For around $20 you can gawk at the members of many different species: some human. Most in jars. Some more jarring than others.

In Lima, Peru, the Museo de Larco has an enormous collection of pre-Columbian pottery. One section is devoted solely to “erotic pottery” some pre-dating the Inca and others pre-dating Christ. I’m not spoiling anything here: There are a lot of clay pots representing the male anatomy. In Bhutan, it’s a custom to paint a phallus on the front of your home for fertility.

Peru Erotic Pottery, AIDS
Erotic pottery in the Museo de Larco, Lima, Peru.

Lest we think for a moment we are somehow beyond Freud’s third stage of psychosexual development, look no further than the gazillions of dollars made off of Viagra and Cialis in this country. Not to mention all the coy commercials with sexy-seeming middle-aged dudes we’re now all subjected to.

I relay this because I’ve traveled, I’m married to a dude and I leave my apartment occasionally, so I therefore realize and am sensitive to the preoccupation the men of our species have with their manhood. I understand.

But last Tuesday when anti-male-circumcision activists from a group called Intaction (you’d be forgiven for guessing they were called U.S. Uncut), interrupted President Clinton at a Clinton Foundation Millennium Network talk in New York, someone had to take umbrage with the outrage.

They were there, eight members strong, to protest Clinton’s support for male circumcision in Africa to battle their very real AIDS crisis.

That’s right, someone is trying to do something about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and there’s a group unrelated to anyone dying of AIDS in Africa protesting one of the tactics. Not because those tactics don’t work (there’s a lot of evidence that they do), but because they personally don’t like them.

I also want to mention that I am very sympathetic to activists. I’ve spent a lot of time with activists. They believe they can change the world because other activists have done just that. They are more sensitive than the rest of us, that’s what makes them activists. In that way they’re our conscience, screaming at us to do the right thing. Even if I vehemently disagree with the cause, I respect taking a stand.

With that being said: Really? Male circumcision?

On Intaction’s website there’s a woman holding a picket sign that reads: “Circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the penis.” Like I said, I’m married, to a dude—therefore (very) skeptical of that claim. There’s really no evidence of that being true in any study (funded or anecdotal).

But my main issue is: of all the things that one can choose as the evil they must devote their lives to stamping out … this is it? Not famine, war, disease, poverty, pollution, corruption, child abuse, slavery, exploited sex workers, exploited children, sweatshops, union busting, soda size-shrinking, forest razing, coal mining, whaling, shark finning, the prison industrial complex, the death penalty, illiteracy, female genital mutilation, AIDS in Africa, being Jamie Dimon, bullying, disenfranchisement, predatory lending, being Walmart, being Monsanto, being any subject of any documentary on Netflix, being Netflix, pornography, child pornography, United Airlines (I don’t forget), censorship, racism, sexism, classism, high taxes, low taxes, handicap access and any land use issue within 10 miles of your home? Not one of those is more important than the extreme ick factor (because it’s not supported by data) of a ubiquitous snip on your extremity?

Not to trivialize anyone’s personal connection—no actually I do want to trivialize it. It seems rather shortsighted to dedicate a bunch of one’s time to being that self-righteous about something that myopic.

What’s really disingenuous about this “cause” is the claim that men are the victims of what they call mutilation. They equate male circumcision with female circumcision, which is false. They also have the gall to compare themselves to the Jews during WWII.

Men have more power than women; historically, currently and otherwise. It’s creepy to have superiority and be a crybaby. It’s like Kim Jong Un feeling sorry for himself.

Call it a-few-inches-below-your-navel-gazing. It’s called junk. It’s just not more important than the estimated 22 million people with HIV/AIDS—70 percent of the world’s cases—in Africa.