The circumcised with regrets, and Christians without vaginas
Rachel Held Evans has written another book, this one entitled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master.
It’s a play, of sorts, on The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs. And both books, hers and his, are serious plays at living literally by the Bible.
Both have humor. Just the titles are humorous.
And Jacobs, for example, recalls funny anatomical situations that the literal biblical rules caused him to discuss, such as his encounter with a circumcision support group and his thoughts around that whole topic (page 318):
They called themselves RECAP, short for Recover A Penis (a rival group was called BUFF–Brothers United for Future Foreskins).
The meeting was held in the basement of a church–either an extremely liberal church or a church that didn’t know to whom it was renting space. A dozen men sat in folding chairs arranged in a circle. Some were ponytailed hippies, some resembled the Leather Dude in the Village People, a few were just plain vanilla guys who looked like they could have worked in the loan department at Citibank.
“I don’t feel whole,” said one. “I want to feel whole again.”
Another asked: “Can you imagine what it’s like to have sex with a foreskin? It must be like watching color TV.” (I never was able to confirm this, but the claim is that circumcision blunts the sensation.)
Most of the time was spent discussing homespun methods that would allow the men to regrow their foreskins. I’ll spare you the details. I’m sure the internet has plenty more information for those who are interested.
Sexual sensitivity aside, the medical aspect of circumcision remains a matter of debate. The American Academy of Pediatrics makes no recommendation either way. Circumcision may reduce penile cancer, and there’s now compelling evidence it lowers men’s susceptibility to AIDS. (After my biblical year ended, the World Heath Organization recommended medical circumcision be practiced in high-risk locales.)
So when our first son, Jasper, was born, I had mixed feelings about circumcising him. I didn’t think he’d end up in a San Francisco basement venting his anger, but why put him through the pain? There’s no rational reason for it.
It seems that Held Evans is necessarily doing things differently in her book, since she’s having to follow not only the Jewish laws, but also the Christian ones, for a year, and for a year as a Jewish and also as a Christian woman.
Blogging today she tells blog readers how she in her book wanted to “use the anatomically correct term to describe the female anatomy” in some literally biblically appropriate context. But her publisher told her “to take the word ‘vagina’ out of [her] manuscript for A Year of Biblical Womanhood in deference to the general preferences of Christian bookstores.” She then tells of the revolt and now of the reversal (her bold font and italics, for emphases):
Well, good news— last week my editor informed me that “vagina” was a go. The word is back in the book! I’m not sure how this will affect purchases from Christian bookstores, but it doesn’t really matter to me anymore. You guys have reminded me that we have more power than we think, that writers in this industry need not accept the status quo, especially when their readers really care about their work.
If you keep reading the blog post, you’ll see there’s still some questions, about sales, about Christian publishers and readers and words and biblical literality and such. The book will be out for purchase and reading soon. The blog post “A small, strange victory for vaginas everywhere…” is here.
(Oh, I just made up the phrase biblical literality; sometimes you have to get creative around taboo topics and terms.)