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
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,
was reportedly written by one scriptwriter (Trey Parker) to console the
other (Matt Stone) over his anxiety about his son's (Jewish ritual)
Also as with TV sitcoms, many jokes rely on the
assumption that only Jews are circumcised and/or all Jews are
"His pants were so tight you could tell his
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
Humorous disconnect: "tip" = foreskin vs "tip" =
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. As if medical genital cutting does not exist, one version
begins: "My mate's just started a peculiar job..."
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
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
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
'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
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.
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.
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
Humorous disconnect: the "right bit" is the worthless
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
"A bit off the top" is a minimal haircut, therefore circumcision is
Why couldn't they circumcise Muldoon [an unpopular
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
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,
I had that done when I was born. I couldn't walk for a year!"
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
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"
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.
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
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
A 19th century
Italian character, Pinocchio [sic] has no reason to
be circumcised. The pencil sharpener implies Pinocchio is small.
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.
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]
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.
This drawing is
apparently intended solely as an illustration to the Quaintance verse.
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."
fails to notice that this illustrates another downside of infant
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."
fails to notice that this underlines that genital cutting results in an
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.