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Archive for June, 2011

Both male and female genital mutilation (circumcision) is as prevalent as it is, in part, due to a desire to restrict sexual activity via a reduction in sexual pleasure.  For example, Dr John Kellogg (the cereal guy) recommended male circumcision as a remedy for masturbation; female circumcision is often performed to increase the chances of fidelity.

In the US there has generally been greater social pressure on girls to remain ‘pure’ and not express themselves sexually.  Promiscuous women (“sluts”) have been treated much more harshly than promiscuous males (“players/studs”).

So, we might expect circumcision rates to be much higher for girls compared to boys.  Instead, female circumcision is illegal and male circumcision is the norm (75% prevalence).   What’s going on here?

I suspect that circumcision rates would plummet if we just dropped the euphemism.  If doctors’ asked “have you decided if you want to mutilate [name of your baby boy]’s genitals?” instead of “have you decided if you want to have [name of your baby boy] circumcised?”, they probably would get a different response.

Dropping a euphemism can be seen as having an agenda.  Nearly everyone is fine with calling female circumcision ‘genital mutilation,’ because we’re horrified by the practice (probably in part because we associate it with developing nations).  However, if a doctor referred to male circumcision as mutilation, I suspect that some people would say the doctor has a liberal agenda.

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We seem to restrict or ban activities based on the likelihood of innocent victims and on the potential for addiction.

Necessarily innocent victims

Some activities will always have victims, such as theft, murder, assault and child porn.  For example, there is no way to gain something through theft without causing someone to lose something.  These activities tend to be banned, regardless of whether they are addictive.

Possibly addictive with possible victims

Some activities can be addictive, and that addiction could lead to innocent victims. Gambling and drug use are two examples.  Someone could occasionally gamble, enjoy it, and not harm anyone.  Alternatively, they could become addicted and lose their family’s life savings, harming their spouse and kids.  We tend to restrict these activities.  Gambling is banned or heavily regulated in most states; marijuana, cocaine and many other drugs are illegal; alcohol sales and advertising is restricted.

Many sex-related activities also fall into this category.  In most states it’s illegal to purchase sex.  Many cities effectively prohibit strip clubs.

However, we do not place restrictions on all activities that fall into this category.  People can become addicted to shopping, the internet and food, for example.

Why are some potentially addictive activities considered worse than others?

Gambling versus shopping

Arguments that extreme gambling is a bigger concern than extreme shopping might include the following:

  1. “gambling is more addictive than shopping”
  2. “nothing good comes from gambling; at least with shopping you get something out of it”
  3. “god says gambling is a sin”
  4. “gambling is bad for the economy; shopping is good for the economy”

My responses to these:

  1. Is gambling more addictive than shopping?  do we have good data on this?
  2. Compulsive shoppers often spend most of their money, not on necessities for survival, but on things like new shoes and handbags every week.  Is that really more useful than money spent gambling?
  3. bad argument
  4. I don’t buy the argument that shopping is always good for the economy, particularly when shopping involves using high interest credit

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If we choose to create a life — a life that is capable of both joy and suffering — then it is our obligation as parents to help our offspring have happy, fulfilling lives.  Our children do not owe us.  They did not choose to be brought into the world.

Not surprisingly, when a parent makes a child feel unworthy of love, society thinks poorly of that parent.  One example of this is perfectionist parents, who pressure their kids and set unreachable standards.  The general consensus is that children who feel undeserving of love need therapy to learn to love and accept themselves.

I have noticed that many people who believe in God feel unworthy of the love that they believe God has for them.   Religious folks often say things such as “what did I do to deserve God’s love?”

So, is God like a perfectionist parent to them? Is God raising or lowering their self esteem?

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