RITUAL BLOW JOBS

11 April, 2013

Last month The Human Race Theatre in Dayton, Ohio produced a two-week developmental workshop of my new play, Gingerbread Children. It was an extraordinary experience. The play deals with our society’s complicit role in child molestation through an elderly woman’s search for grace. I have written a lot about various children’s issues, but this is a subject that is particularly important to me, and extremely close to my heart. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2009, over six million cases of child abuse were reported. But it is estimated that for every case reported at least two cases are not. It is also estimated that somewhere between one-fifth and one-quarter of all children in the United States will be sexually abused by an adult before turning seventeen. And for the overwhelming majority, the perpetrator will not be some stranger lurking in an alley, it will be a relative, a trusted family friend, teacher or member of the clergy.

How bizarre it was to come home from Dayton and stumble upon an article in The Jewish Daily Forward (not exactly a hotbed for anti-semitism) about the second Jewish newborn baby boy in New York City to contract neo-natal herpes in the past three months, as the result of an ultra-orthodox circumcision that included a “technique” called MBH (metzitzah b’peh) in which the mohel “orally sucks away” the blood from the penis post circumcision. No, I’m not making this up. Apparently New York City recently mandated that mohels who perform MBH must have a consent form signed by the parents of the baby pre-bris. In this case, despite the fact that the parents did not sign a consent form, the City has made the decidedly cavalier decision to not pursue any legal action.

I don’t even know where to begin. Okay, first off, full disclosure… I am not opposed to male circumcision, and in fact both prefer the aesthetic of a circumcised penis, and agree with what Fiona (a character on the Showtime comedy, Shameless) said to her expectant best friends this season on the subject:“If it is a boy you got to circumcise. I mean have you ever seen one that’s uncut? You don’t know what’s going on up in there. It does not make you wanna go downtown. I mean you want your kid to get his share of head, right?” That said, I believe that this surgical procedure, like all surgical procedures, should be done in a hospital, and not in the living room while a boatload of guests, drinks and food in hand, watch. I mean, surgery as dinner theatre? Really? Would anyone think of organizing a brunch to watch a benign polyp being removed from a loved one’s colon?

Still, I understand that for many people ritual is important. And I understand that mohels are trained and licensed to perform circumcisions. And if that is a choice parents feel compelled to make, so be it. But, I’m sorry, in my world, a mohel who places his mouth on a baby’s penis to “suck away the blood” isn’t performing ritual circumcision, he’s performing ritual fellatio. He’s performing an act of pederasty. He is sexually molesting an infant. And in 2013 in New York City legislators and the justice department should have the balls to call it that.

I realize that the religious lobby (and by religious lobby, I’m referring to all religions) is extremely powerful in this city and in this nation. And I realize that anything that smacks of religious persecution, of denying people the right to practice the tenets of their religion can outrage the masses. But while the public and the politicians rally to protect religious freedom, who’s protecting the children being molested? We’re holding priests accountable for molesting the children in their care… they can’t use the defense that by diddling an altar boy they were simply performing a longstanding religious ritual. Why are these mohels not placed in the same category? Why are these babies considered to be any less of a victim? And to anyone who says, the baby won’t remember it, I’d answer, does that excuse the crime? Because if it does, then there’s a whole new line of defense to anyone accused of raping someone who’s unconscious.

That the parents are legally required to sign a consent form is irrelevant. If parents signed a consent form to allow some man to perform oral sex on their six-year old daughter, would society say, “it’s all right, the parents gave their consent?” No, we’d remove the child from their care and prosecute both the man and the parents.

And who are these men who feel the need to suck baby’s penises? I’m sure they would say they are engaging in a God-approved, loving act. Which is basically the same thing that Jerry Sandusky and countless other pedophiles have used as their defense. And though these pedophiles may believe what they say, that doesn’t make it any less heinous. And by allowing it to continue, our entire society becomes equally culpable.

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