It's a Boy!

A Short Film About Male Circumcision -- in 4 or 5 parts

By Victor Schonfeld

"A personal view of religious circumcision in Britain today, made by Jewish father and filmmaker Victor Schonfeld. The program includes graphic footage of the procedure and images which will inevitably distress some viewers." Also: bris (baby's intact penis, mohel's sharpened pointed thumbnail, mohel forcing baby's foreskin back, slipping shield over foreskin, cutting foreskin off, then sucking blood from screaming baby's penis through a glass tube); the baby's non-Jewish father watching a video of the bris just described; 5-month old smiling intact Jewish baby; segment about pain study; "One Baby's Story" and "The Stories They Fail to Mention." First aired in London, Channel 4, Sept. 9, 1995, despite attempts to suppress it.

41 minutes. VHS. $295 institutions, $195 individuals, $65 rental. Filmmakers Library, 124 E. 40 St., NY, NY 10016. Tel: 212-808-4980. Fax: 212-808-4983.

Some Statements from IT'S A BOY!

Rabbi David Singer: "The last but one [circumcision] that I did, the parents were telling me that before the circumcision the baby was very fractious and was always crying at night and very unsettled, and the night after the brit was done, the baby spent a quiet night, he's sticking to a three-, three-and-a-half, four-hour feeding routine, so they were quite delighted it could be done."

Jewish woman on street: "There's no pain. It's a baby, a week old."

Another Jewish women on street: "I've been at many and not one child has suffered."

Dr. Adrian Lloyd Thomas, Pediatrician (in response to being asked about circumcision without anesthesia): "You can see there a very definite response from the baby as soon the forceps are applied to the foreskin. The baby is holding his breath, shivering. Infants having an operation may actually experience more pain than adults do having the same procedure, and the reason for this is that the control mechanisms, particularly in the spinal cord, which are highly developed to damp down and suppress pain in a mature adult nervous system, are not so well developed in the small baby. So, the pain signals travel through uncontrolled, unsuppressed ... I think it would be unwise to draw that conclusion [that the baby stopped crying because the pain was over]. I'd more prefer to think that the experience had been so overwhelming that the baby can't ... put up a fight anymore ... My personal feeling as a pediatric anesthetist is that it is not ethical to perform circumcisions without some form of topical anesthesia."

Narrator: "[T]he British medical consensus is that newborn circumcision is not medically warranted, that the baby has been made to give up a protective covering of erogenous tissue, and that the glans of his penis, an internal organ biologically, will now be exposed."

Woman pediatric surgeon: "Some other complications ... occur later ... when children have realized that they have been circumcised, they feel psychologically that something is grossly wrong with their sex life."

Man: "My penis, instead of ... hanging straight up and down so that the top faces forwards and the under-neath faces back ... the underneath will face to the right or ... will start facing forwards so it describes a sort of corkscrew twist to the left ... There is an interweaving of the physical mutilation which I've had to live with for nearly 50 years as well as the awareness that I have been deprived of one of life's basic pleasures."

Muslim man: "I can remember ... blissfully flowing along as a happy child when one day my father ... took me over to the hair-dresser ... I was thrust on the table and circumcised .. a big shock ... the psychological pain ... lasted on, the betrayal of trust ... I often have nightmares of a pound of flesh taken off a live horse ... I don't see in any way that my circumcision has contributed to my cultural identity or racial identity. I think it has been just a bit of a blot on my life."

African mother: "He was taken to hospital ... a few minutes later they [told us] that the child is dead."

Jewish woman: "I've never heard of anybody in our family or in our circle of acquaintances who's ever lost a child as a result of bris ... and it's inconceivable that it didn't happen. And of course when you start to look at it and ask for the reasons for that silence, it's obvious. You simply can't coerce somebody into doing some thing ... to their children if [they] know that there is the risk that their child might die or suffer injury."

James Hocksworth (at hospital where his eleven-day-old son, circumcised three days before by Rabbi Singer, had been taken because of a severe infection of his circumcision wound. [Rabbi Singer denied his procedure caused the illness.]): "[W]hen we brought him in he needed oxygen so badly that they ... gave him oxygen immediately and that brought back the color in him. Once he'd been put in the ward ... he turned grayish again ... looked like death warmed up and ... they put him in an intensive care unit ... I had thought it was a ... a qualified doctor who was performing this. I hadn't been consulted by him at all ... I believe he should have had my consent. I'm the boy's father and if you saw him, you would never, ever do this. Nobody could ever do this to their own child. He was in so much pain. He was struggling to breathe ... There's no need to go through that suffering ... he doesn't need to have his penis cut at the end so that it's rubbing around for days on end and he's in pain and screaming ... I think it's disgraceful. He can't speak. He doesn't have the voice to say I don't like this and I don't want it. He didn't have the choice. He was eight days old and he gets thrown on a table and he has the end of his penis cut off. I think it's immoral and I think it's arrogant of the people who do it to presume that they have the right to cut up other people for the sake of religion."

Jewish mother: "I'm a Jewish mother. My son Max is five months old and I refuse to have him circumcised. [I told my mother,] 'I would do anything not to hurt you, my parents, except hurt my child.'"

Dr. Majid Katme, President, Islamic Medical Assoc.: "Is she, the mother or the father, are they really listening and submitting to the teaching of their religion or are they using their mind and questioning things?"

Dr. Morris Sifman, Medical Officer, The Initiation Society (Assoc. Jewish Circumcisers): "They [mohels] don't want it filmed because, frankly, they distrust the media ... we are up against, all the time, the possibility of this kind of thing happening which would damage the attitude of some parents who might be uncertain of what they want to do ... If it would be found that circumcision is positively harmful, perhaps we would think again. But I have no doubt -- I have not the slightest, slightest doubt -- that this will never happen, because a commandment given by God is a good commandment."

Dr. Jenny Goodman, Medical Doctor and Psychotherapist: "None of us do it for medical reasons. We do it because we fear being cast out from the tribe. But after having done it, we comfort ourselves with these medical myths ... If we could progress from sacrifice through castration to circumcision, then we can continue to progress all the way away from any kind of physical injury."

Return to "Videos."

Return to main page.