There is a striking contrast between treatment of the foreskin in intact and cutting cultures.
Where foreskins are normal, they are treated light-heartedly, as something everyone has, something that is good to have.
Before the Australian film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert begins, a character called Trumpet has died, and it opens with his funeral, where a trumpet is played. It turns out that his nickname had nothing to do with music but was given because "Trumpet had an unusually large foreskin. So large that he could wrap the entire thing around a Monte Carlo biscuit."
(A Monte Carlo biscuit is 6cm x 4.6cm x 2.3cm / 2.4" x 1.8" x 0.9")
Where foreskins are rare, the prevailing view is that they are problematic, disgusting and abnormal.
A common way of comically denigrating the foreskin in genital-cutting cultures is to compare it with an animal body part, such as an elephant's trunk or an anteater. It doesn't seem to matter that elephants are noted for their great size (hence "elephantine") or that anteaters, though unfamiliar, are quite appealing animals.
As with TV sitcoms, the prevailing mood when jokes are made about infant genital cutting is one of unease (hat-tip to Leonard Glick for this insight).
A whole episode of South Park, "Ike's Wee-Wee" was reportedly written by one scriptwriter (Trey Parker) to console the other (Matt Stone) over his anxiety about his son's (Jewish ritual) circumcision.
Also as with TV sitcoms, many jokes rely on the assumption that only Jews are circumcised and/or all Jews are circumcised
"His pants were so tight you could tell his religion."
Humorous disconnect: tightness of pants / religion
Unstated presupposition: "All and only circumcised men are Jewish."
The rabbi (mohel) took no fees. He just worked for tips.
Humorous disconnect: "tip" = foreskin vs "tip" = gratuity
Unstated presupposition (Mild antisemitism): "It is unusual for a Jew to forego money." This joke is never told about doctors, though 96.5% of US circumcision is non-religious.
Why do Jewish women like circumcised men?
They can't resist something with 15 percent off.
Did you hear about the rabbi (mohel) who collected the foreskins he cut off and made them into a wallet?
When you rub it, it turns into a suitcase.
Humorous disconnect: The dead foreskin unexpectedly retains a function it would have had in life.
Unstated presupposition: the foreskin is erogenous tissue (contra most discussions of it in genital-cutting cultures)
A pastor, a priest and a rabbi are riding together in a car, when it breaks down. The pastor prays over the engine, without success. The priest sprinkles holy water over it, with the same result. The rabbi takes a hacksaw and cuts an inch off the exhaust pipe, and the engine roars into life.
The Emperor of Japan advertises for a new bodygaurd. Three swordsmen apply: one is Japanese, one is Chinese, and one is Jewish.
To test them, the Emperor lets a fly loose in the room and tells them to kill it.
The Chinese swordsman sweeps down his blade and chops the fly in two.
The Japanese swordsman swings his sword twice and manages to cut the fly into quarters before it hits the ground.
The Jewish swordsman chases it around the room, swings his sword a few times, then sits down with the fly buzzing around his head.
"Why have you stopped?" asks the Emperor. "The fly is still alive."
"Yes," replies the Jewish swordsman. "But now it's circumcised."
Humorous disconnect: Circumcising a fly (assuming it had a penis) would be a much harder task than halving or quartering it.
Humorous presupposition: Any Jew may be an expert circumciser.
The groan factor in this joke is almost deliberate. It is hard not to see what is coming after the words "swordsman" and "Jewish" have been uttered.
A man passed a store window with nothing in it but a clock, stepped inside, and asked, 'How long would it take to fix my watch?'
'How should I know?" shrugged the baleboss [shopowner]. ' I don't fix watches. I'm a mohel.'
'But - in your window - you have a clock!'
'So what would you put in the window?'
Leo Rosen, The Joys of Yiddish.
1. Mohelim do not generally have or need a shop. They can carry the tools of their trade in a small bag.
2. Shop signs commonly use the tools of a trade, not the thing that is dealt with. Clocks are a rare exception.
Humorous disconnect: We are made to think of, and immediately discount, the idea of putting a penis - baby or adult, cut or intact - in a shop window. This joke is uncommonly hard work for the humorous mileage it gives.
I was circumcised when I was two days old.
I couldn't walk for a year.
Unexpected disconnect: inability to walk due to pain of surgery vs due to age
Humorous presupposition: Circumcision is not very painful.
This joke has a popularity far beyond its worth, but in the 1999 film "Resurrection" it is called "the worst fucking joke I ever heard".
What happened to the short-sighted circumcisor? He got the sack.
When they circumcised him, they threw away the wrong bit.
Humorous disconnect: the "right bit" is the worthless man
Unstated assumption: the foreskin is usually the "right" bit to throw away. (implying "Circumcision is good.")
... They just take a bit off the top.
Humorous disconnect: genital cutting is compared hair cutting
"A bit off the top" is a minimal haircut, therefore circumcision is minimal.
Why couldn't they circumcise Muldoon [an unpopular politician]?
Because there's no end to the prick.
Wordplay: end of the penis : end of his faults | "prick" = penis : "prick" = undesirable person
This joke, heard in New Zealand where circumcision is obsolete, is uncharacteristically neutral about circumcision.
The Brian Morris website - where humour went to die
On his website for several years, Brian Morris had a page of "circumcision humor". He removed it belatedly, shortly before Vernon Quaintance was convicted for offences against boys. It is striking for the lack of humour of many of the entries, and the complete irrelevance of some of them to circumcision.
They're Gonna Do What?
Two little kids are in a hospital, ... "Whoa! I
had that done when I was born. I couldn't walk for a year!"
Wolfberg's disquiet with the whole idea of circumcision is palpable.
Back in the time of the Samurai there was a powerful
emperor who needed a new head Samurai, ... "After all of that, why is the fly not dead?" The Jewish Samurai
smiled, "If you look closely, you'll see that the fly has now been
And, of course, it's well known that the Jews are
considered the most optomistic [sic] people in the world--- they cut off a bit
even before they know how long it's going to be!"
Of the many stereotypes about Jews, "optimistic" is not one.
The Retired Mohel
Rabbi Meir Leib, a well known and respected Mohel,
decided to finally retire ...
As the Rabbi opens the box, his small tired eyes
suddenly grew large and he shouted, "VAT IS DIS? TEN BAGS OF FORESKINS I
BRING TO YOU, AND ALL I GET OUT OF IT IS A SMALL VALLET? HOW CAN YOU DO
DIS TO ME??", tears began forming in the Rabbi's eyes.
"Take it easy Rabbi, Please! It may look like a wallet, but if you stroke it, it turns into a suitcase"
The number and unlikelihood of presuppositions required (a horrendous number of circumcisions, offal left in an uncovered garbage can overnight, tramps who can't tell the difference) is far out of proportion to the resulting laugh-value.
Apart from the truth of circumcision spoiling the moment, the wit of this cartoon is elusive. The second speech is false. It should read, "Even without a foreskin, the only safe sex is condomed sex." The fourth frame might well end with the pink-faced man being punched in the nose. The word "Bris" and the saw on the side of the truck add to the incoherence. The feelings of the woman about being treated as a risk, but not worth protecting, are disregarded.
Pinnochio: "Of course I'm circumcised .... with a pencil sharpener!"
A 19th century Italian character, Pinocchio [sic] has no reason to be circumcised. The pencil sharpener implies Pinocchio is small.
This photo of a baby with his acroposthion painlessly caught in a clamshell cellphone has attracted considerable negative comment about Morris's motivation. It was presumably posted by a parent with no thought of circumcision or anything sexual. Why Prof. Morris thinks it is "circumcision humor" is baffling.
Some people claim that foreskins are fun
And keep the 'muzzle' on the gun.
But many doctors do declare:
'It's healthier with the glans laid bare'
So, mum & dad, we say to you,
You must decide what's best to do,
Your son will benefit throughout his life,
As, incidentally, will his wife;
If you make the choice that's always wise
and do decide to circumcise.
by Vernon Quantance [sic]
This verse remained on the page long after all other traces of Vernon Quaintance were removed from Professor Morris's website, following Quaintance's first conviction, for child pornography. The whole page was removed shortly before his second conviction, for offences against children. Its claim to humour remains obscure.
Drawing by Tony Ainley
This drawing is apparently intended solely as an illustration to the Quaintance verse.
Body painting of this kind is commonplace where nudity is taken for granted. Circumcision is not an issue. (Professor Morris apparently thinks it is.) It became one at the AIDS conference of 2009 in Atlanta when the picture had a speech balloon saying "CIRCUMCISE ME PLEASE" added.
A teacher noticed that a little boy at the back of
the class was squirming around, scratching his crotch, and not paying
attention. She went back to find out what was going on. He was quite
embarrassed and whispered that he had just recently been circumcised and
he was quite itchy.
The teacher told him to go down to the principal's
office. He was to telephone his mother and ask her what he should do
about it. He did it and returned to his class.
Suddenly, there was a commotion at the back of the
room. She went back to investigate only to find him sitting at his desk
with his penis hanging out. "I thought I told you to call your mom!" she
said. "I did," he said, "And she told me that if I could stick it
out till noon, she'd come and pick me up from school."
Professor Morris fails to notice that this illustrates another downside of infant genital cutting.
At the end of the tax year, the Tax Office sent an
inspector to audit the books of a synagogue. While he was checking the
books he turned to the Rabbi and said: "I notice you buy a lot of
candles. What do you do with the candle drippings?"
"Good question", noted the Rabbi. "We save them up
and send them back to the candle makers, and every now and then they
send us a free box of candles."
"Oh", replied the auditor, somewhat disappointed
that his unusual question had a practical answer. But on he went, in his
obnoxious way: "What about all these biscuit purchases? What do you do
with the crumbs?"
"Ah, yes", replied the Rabbi, realizing that the
inspector was trying to trap him with an unanswerable question. "We
collect them and send them back to the manufacturers, and every now and
then they send a free box of holy biscuits."
"I see!" replied the auditor, thinking hard about
how he could fluster the know-it-all Rabbi. "Well, Rabbi", he went on,
"What do you do with all the leftover foreskins from the circumcisions
"Here, too, we do not waste", answered the Rabbi.
"What we do is save up all the foreskins and send them
to the Tax Office and about once a year they send us a complete dick."
Professor Morris fails to notice that this underlines that genital cutting results in an incomplete dick.
Conclusion: For the most part, jokes about the foreskin denigrate it. Jokes about male genital cutting promote it. Together they feed into the circumcision memplex to ensure that genital cutting continues.