Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision

Director Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon takes a personal – and local – look at the controversy involving infant male circumcision in his documentary, Cut.
A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ungar-Sargon interviews professors from that school and from the University of Chicago as he examines the pros and cons, ethical and physical, of a procedure that, for Jews, has signified the covenant between God and Abraham for centuries.
It’s a relative newcomer in the United States, routinely performed only since the post-Civil War/Victorian period in the belief it discouraged masturbation and prostitution. On-camera experts debunk more recent health benefit claims.
Ungar-Sargon queries his Orthodox Jewish father and brother as he wrestles with his own feelings about the procedure, which some consider a human rights violation; he also calls on mohels and rabbis, mothers and fathers who follow the tradition and men who regret their circumcisions (the footage of the foreskin-regenerating Tugger device alone makes this unsuitable for younger audiences).
Viewers are left with a pretty clear notion of what the Orthodox Ungar-Sargon will do if and when he has a son, but in this informative and thought-provoking film, he gives both sides their say.

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  • oh hai

    I’m not Jewish nor am I familiar with any of their teachings so I would like to offer what it appears to an outsider. No offense meant by my lack of knowledge. To me it seems like the act of circumcision, as it exists for Jews is an act of the father sacrificing his sons sexual pleasure to their god, to follow a pure and religious path and use sex as a creational activity only not recreational. I came to this conclusion as Judaism is a very old religion and other such older religions such as Christianity also put huge significance on sex as being unpure and dirty.

    However I think the modern world realizes that you can be a deeply religious man and give your life to god, whilst also enjoying the wife that god blessed you with. Too many religions seem to treat women as a temptation and a danger, surely to truely respect your god you should treat them the same as you, they were created by Him too afterall, also in His image.

    To me it seems the current reason for Jews to circumcise, other than the fable, is because their father and grandfather had it done. That isn’t enough of a reason to justify it in my head, I think religions are capable of expanding and taking in modern wisdoms and changes without getting weaker or loosing the wonderful message they hold. As to why the general American public decides to circumcise? That seems utterly ridiculous to me, a craze started on false reports of it being a deterrent for HIV etc, the result of parents simply not bothering to look into both sides themselves. 0 respect for those non-Jewish parents (baring a legitimate medical emergency) , at least the Jewish reason is based on thousands of years of tradition and community, even if it appears slightly outdated now.

    • oh hai

      Sorry forgot to also mention religions like Christianity and Judaism were founded at a time when women were cheaper than cattle, couldn’t vote or have any say. If your religion continues to treat women as the weaker sex and an evil temptation, then just think how bad it would be if there was a religion, founded as far back as yours, where blacks being slaves is part of the teachings. You would of course not continue that practice today, even if it was written in your holy books, because you know it to be wrong. The main thing to remember is that God didn’t write the bible/similar holy books, he inspired men to write it, men that lived in an age of ignorance. The message of love and community should stay of course, but I don’t understand how people think it goes against the teachings of those books to change a message that was slipped in by ignorant people that traded women for cattle. It may seem separate but ever since the notion of Eve and Adam, sex being wrong and women being evil for making you enjoy it have been tied in together. If you truly believe in a God than you believe he wanted you to have orgasms and to enjoy your lovemaking, if we can just get over all the sexual hangups than we can stop ritualistically depriving our sons of the pleasure God intended them to have.

  • ProBritMilah

    As an Orthodox Jew, I do not think that this film fully and accurately portrayed the reasons why Jews circumcise their sons. Circumcision is not about denying sexual pleasure. Judaism actually views sex as very positive and even holy (within the context of marriage). In fact in the Jewish marriage contract, the ketuba, the husband is obligated to satisfy his wife’s sexual needs. Indeed is there any way we humans can be closer to the oneness of God and participate in the act of creation more than when we conceive a child?

    here’s a link that explains it better than I can:
    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/160989/jewish/Why-do-we-have-a-Circumcision.htm

    I’d like to note that banning circumcision (I’m looking at you San Francisco) has been a favorite tactic of those trying to annihilate the Jewish people for millenia. And if you want an interesting history lesson go look up how we responded when the Romans tried to ban it.

    Banning circumcision makes about as much sense as banning parents from piercing baby girls’ ears or removing non-medically problematic birthmarks.

    I wish this documentary had also discussed circumcision in Islam as well. I understand that Muslims circumcise their sons at age 13.

  • ProBritMilah

    As an Orthodox Jew, I do not think that this film fully and accurately portrayed the reasons why Jews circumcise their sons. Circumcision is not about denying sexual pleasure. Judaism actually views sex as very positive and even holy (within the context of marriage). In fact in the Jewish marriage contract, the ketuba, the husband is obligated to satisfy his wife’s sexual needs. Indeed is there any way we humans can be closer to the oneness of God and participate in the act of creation more than when we conceive a child?

    here’s a link that explains it better than I can:
    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/160989/jewish/Why-do-we-have-a-Circumcision.htm

    I’d like to note that banning circumcision (I’m looking at you San Francisco) has been a favorite tactic of those trying to annihilate the Jewish people for millenia. And if you want an interesting history lesson go look up how we responded when the Romans tried to ban it.

    Banning circumcision makes about as much sense as banning parents from piercing baby girls’ ears or removing non-medically problematic birthmarks.

    I wish this documentary had also discussed circumcision in Islam as well. I understand that Muslims circumcise their sons at age 13.

  • Rood

    Male Genital Mutilation, which is what the euphemistic term “circumcision” really is about … is not and never has been a “religious” rite, neither for Jews, for Muslims, or for anyone else.   From the very first the procedure has been a political act, only.  The Biblical entry (Genesis 17) which makes a stab at legitimizing the procedure wasn’t slipped into the Biblical narrative until the time of the Babylonian Captivity … some thousand years after the putative life of Abram.  The procedure was instituted by Jewish Priests to help differentiate Captive Jews from their Captors, and was designed to establish Priestly control over their increasingly wayward flock.

    To paraphrase Victor Hugo, it’s another case of the Book Killing the Edifice.

    What could they do?  It had become all but impossible for them to continue honouring Genesis 15 … the actual, original “Covenant”.   And after conditions changed, after the Captivity ended, you would think they would no longer ignore Genesis 15.  Having found another meal ticket, perhaps the Priests found it easier to sacrifice little boys than to slice open and eviscerate animals …

    Nevertheless, mutilating boys has never been a religious act … The child feel no religious ecstasy, no uplifting moral or ethical insight, when his body is violated … all he feel is excruciating pain, pain dampened somewhat by liquor.

  • Rood

    Male Genital Mutilation, which is what the euphemistic term “circumcision” really is about … is not and never has been a “religious” rite, neither for Jews, for Muslims, or for anyone else.   From the very first the procedure has been a political act, only.  The Biblical entry (Genesis 17) which makes a stab at legitimizing the procedure wasn’t slipped into the Biblical narrative until the time of the Babylonian Captivity … some thousand years after the putative life of Abram.  The procedure was instituted by Jewish Priests to help differentiate Captive Jews from their Captors, and was designed to establish Priestly control over their increasingly wayward flock.

    To paraphrase Victor Hugo, it’s another case of the Book Killing the Edifice.

    What could they do?  It had become all but impossible for them to continue honouring Genesis 15 … the actual, original “Covenant”.   And after conditions changed, after the Captivity ended, you would think they would no longer ignore Genesis 15.  Having found another meal ticket, perhaps the Priests found it easier to sacrifice little boys than to slice open and eviscerate animals …

    Nevertheless, mutilating boys has never been a religious act … The child feel no religious ecstasy, no uplifting moral or ethical insight, when his body is violated … all he feel is excruciating pain, pain dampened somewhat by liquor.

  • tartals

    As a circumcised non-Jewish male, I am glad my parents had me cut at birth, for reasons of asthetics and functionality. It may be because it is what I am used to, and might feel different if I had not been circumcised. t seems that most of the men that regret the descision of their parents to have had the operation done had issues with the actual product of the operation, as it was performed poorly and was left “mutilated” in the eyes of the now grown child. I am happy with mine and am glad the operation was performed at a time in my development when I would not retain any memories of the procedure. And studies have shown that women prefer the “cleaner” appearance.

    • Rood

      As a non-Jewish male, I am glad my parents had me mutilated at birth, for perceived reasons of aesthetics and functionality.  Mostly it’s because I’m used to having a mutilated penis.    It seems that most men who regret the decision of their parents to mutilate them had issues with the operation.  In some cases I suppose  they weren’t mutilated to their satisfaction.   I’m happy with the way I was mutilated, because I don’t remember the feelings of shock and pain which i experienced when my penis was mutilated, and, as an adult,  I’m too much of a chicken to undergo a procedure which can easily be forced on a helpless, unsuspecting infant. Also, a study of women unfamiliar with the natural, normal appearance of the penis (which is a characteristic of the great majority of  men in this world) …these women frequently prefer the appearance of the mutilated penis, because they are familiar with them, and they don’t know how the natural, normal intact penis works or how it benefits them … See

      http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com

    • Rood

      As a non-Jewish male, I am glad my parents had me mutilated at birth, for perceived reasons of aesthetics and functionality.  Mostly it’s because I’m used to having a mutilated penis.    It seems that most men who regret the decision of their parents to mutilate them had issues with the operation.  In some cases I suppose  they weren’t mutilated to their satisfaction.   I’m happy with the way I was mutilated, because I don’t remember the feelings of shock and pain which i experienced when my penis was mutilated, and, as an adult,  I’m too much of a chicken to undergo a procedure which can easily be forced on a helpless, unsuspecting infant. Also, a study of women unfamiliar with the natural, normal appearance of the penis (which is a characteristic of the great majority of  men in this world) …these women frequently prefer the appearance of the mutilated penis, because they are familiar with them, and they don’t know how the natural, normal intact penis works or how it benefits them … See

      http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com

    • Rood

      As a non-Jewish male, I am glad my parents had me mutilated at birth, for perceived reasons of aesthetics and functionality.  Mostly it’s because I’m used to having a mutilated penis.    It seems that most men who regret the decision of their parents to mutilate them had issues with the operation.  In some cases I suppose  they weren’t mutilated to their satisfaction.   I’m happy with the way I was mutilated, because I don’t remember the feelings of shock and pain which i experienced when my penis was mutilated, and, as an adult,  I’m too much of a chicken to undergo a procedure which can easily be forced on a helpless, unsuspecting infant. Also, a study of women unfamiliar with the natural, normal appearance of the penis (which is a characteristic of the great majority of  men in this world) …these women frequently prefer the appearance of the mutilated penis, because they are familiar with them, and they don’t know how the natural, normal intact penis works or how it benefits them … See

      http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ryuus-Wardrobe/189604487801509 Andrea E.

    Circumcision is barbaric. I think that an uncut penis is much prettier… Contrary to popular belief, they don’t always numb it before they start cutting away the skin. And I know for a fact that its not any less or any more harder to keep clean. (I’ve actually asked people who still have their foreskin so i’m not just talking nonsense) It should be the man’s decision whether to cut of his OWN foreskin. That decision shouldn’t be made for him!