Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

First Times

I often wonder who was the first person to think of performing certain activities or, rather, not so much who thought of them, but why they did. I also wonder who first thought of some products, but I’ll save that discussion for another day.

I’m not thinking of activities that make perfect sense now and that would always have made perfect sense even to people exposed to them for the first time. I’m thinking of stuff that have come to be accepted as normal, but if intelligent space aliens with a perfect command of the English language visited our planet and watched us carrying out these practices they’d immediately shriek, “Are you out of your fucking minds?” But on further reflection they pensively ask, “Are you out of your fucking minds?”

The following are some of the things I had in mind. I’ll talk about only five because this post will be long with even just that few. Maybe I’ll do another post later with more. Or maybe not. You never can tell.

Piercing

I’ve written about the logic or, more accurately, illogic of body piercing before. In fact, it was one of my early blog posts way back in 2006, so I’ll start my list here. What the hell deranged stream of consciousness would lead someone to intentionally pierce a hole in his or her body soley for decorative purposes when nobody had done so before?

Did someone wake up in the morning, perform his or her daily ablutions, look at his or her reflection in a mirror or, if there weren’t any mirrors, in a pool of water, and decide, “You know, I don’t think I have enough holes in my body. I’m going to make another one. And, for good measure, I’ll hang a possibly infection-laden decoration from it. Yeah, that’s a totally awesome idea! I can hardly wait!”

Really, can you think of anything stupider? And yet today we accept it as a normal human activity. And some people pierce themselves in what seem to be the most masochistic of places. Go figure.

We’re supposed to be an intelligent species. I don’t see any gerbils with earrings, or any other body piercings for that matter. So, I ask you, which is the smarter species?

Tattoos

If you believe Wikipedia, people have been tattooing themselves since at least the fourth or fifth millennium BC. How did this practice start?

I picture two ancients, Ötzi and Itzö, having the following conversation:

Ötzi: I’m bored. What do you want to do today?

Itzö: I don’t know. What do you want to do?

Ötzi: I don’t know. What do you w … wait a short time interval that won’t be defined for another few millennia! I’ve got it! Let’s take a needle and use it to push some indelible colored substance under our skin! Maybe we could even make a super cool pattern!

Itzö: Ötzi, you’re a genius!!! I guess that’s why we made you chief.

And the tradition continues today.

It’s crazy. Why didn’t they rub coloration on their skin rather than poking it below the surface? That would have been less painful, imposed less risk of infection, and, if they changed their minds, they could have let it fade away or create a new decoration when the first one wore or washed off. Tattoos, on the other hand? Not so much.

Breast Augmentation

I admit that I find large breasts to be sexually attractive and downright mesmerizing. I don’t know why that is. Am I socially conditioned to be attracted to big boobs or is there an evolutionary reason why men tend to find huge hooters to be a turn-on?

I could believe either explanation. Maybe in the distant past an alliteration-loving, macho guy started bragging about all of the bodacious bulbous boobs he bagged. Then all of the macho wannabes mimicked him. After hundreds of years of this, guys might have been conditioned to prefer big busts, but they no longer remembered why.

Or maybe it’s evolutionary. I haven’t researched this, so don’t know if it’s true, but perhaps women who have big breasts even before they start lactating are better milk producers. If that’s the case, men who chase only women with humongous hooters would have had an evolutionary advantage in a time before artificial baby formulas had been invented, which includes all but a rounding error’s worth of the time our species has been evolving. Why? If big-breasted women are better milk producers, then natural selection would favor men who mate with them because their offspring would be more likely to survive and go on to produce more generations.

Wherever the truth may lie, whether social or evolutionary, despite it being politically incorrect to say so, I am more sexually aroused by big breasts than flat chests. Show me some cleavage and I have trouble focusing on anything else.

Of course, there are limits. If the boobs are so large as to cause balance problems for the women who bear them, or if their boobs make it difficult for them to squeeze through a door sideways, that tends to be more of a turn-off than a turn-on for me

All this talk about big boobs does not really advance what I want to talk about in this section, but I’m hoping to capture some of the search engine traffic from people looking for large breasts. I’d probably have done better by referring to them as big tits a few dozen times, but I’ve never been very good at this search engine optimization thing.

The point I want to make here is I don’t understand why women would voluntarily have themselves cut open in order to have foreign objects stuffed into their breasts, for the sole purpose of making them bigger. Sure, I might find you more sexually exciting, but I haven’t encountered many women who are the least bit interested in having me find them sexually exciting. But maybe that’s only me.

To get back to my original question, who first thought of breast augmentation surgery? This might be just me projecting, but I bet it was a guy. He probably, cackled in a lascivious, mad scientist sort of way, “More big boobs! I want to fill the world with mammoth melons!”

Circumcision

“Hey, look at look at that flap of skin down there! It doesn’t seem do be serving any useful purpose. I’m going to slice it off.” What sort of maniac thinks like that?

As it happens, male circumcision may be a good idea. There is some debate, but from what I’ve read, the balance of evidence suggests that circumcised men are less likely to contract some sexually transmitted diseases, such as genital herpes and, particularly, HIV, than uncircumcised men. (See here and here, or Google “circumcision sexually transmitted diseases”, (without the quotes) to find a bunch more.)

However, no one would have known that when they started chopping and chucking foreskin. They knew nothing of how infections worked and, by definition, before the first circumcision there were no circumcised men to serve as a scientific sample. Besides, HIV was millennia away from entering the population at that point. So who was the maniac who first thought to do this?

I was circumcised when I was a few days old. I’m sure it hurt at the time, but I’m still alive and I have zero recollection of it, so it couldn’t have been all that traumatic. Nonetheless, if I had language and speech faculties back then and if I hadn’t had any of the data on disease prevention—or probably even if I had—and someone asked me, “Would it be alright if we sliced off a piece of your pecker?” I’m pretty sure that I would have screamed “NO!” and cursed the fact that my legs weren’t yet able to get me the hell out of there.

If you believe in the Old Testament, male circumcision started when God told Abraham to circumcise himself, all male members of his household, his descendants and slaves in an everlasting covenant. His slaves? What the heck!? God sanctioned slavery? Well, never mind that. It’s not part of this discussion. Even ignoring the slave part, this still doesn’t sound right to me.

If you believe the bible (I don’t, but maybe you do) then you believe that God created man. So, in essence, God told Abraham, “Hey, you know that little piece of skin I put on the end of your penis? That was a design flaw. Cut it off. Tell all of the other guys you know to cut it off too. That will be your sign to me that you are my people, because otherwise I’d have no way of knowing.”

Female circumcision, on the other hand, is just plain barbarous and evil, with no redeeming factors. The best I can figure is that some incredibly stupid, cruel people, whom I’m ashamed to say were undoubtably of my sex, decided it was a bad idea to let women enjoy sex because they might, well, enjoy sex.

Shaving

I shave my face every morning. Don’t ask me why. I just do.

In my few rational, lucid moments I think it’s ridiculous. Those moments often occur just before I begin to scrape off the shaving cream already slathered on my face and the offending stubble below. Yet, I complete this unproductive exercise nonetheless.

Who first declared that men look better or less threatening with hairless faces rather than hairy faces and then proceeded to drag a sharp blade (flint?) across his face to get rid of his facial hair? I don’t know but, whoever it was, I continue to be a slave to him and a loyal customer of the razor blade and shaving cream companies.

I can understand trimming your beard when it interferes with eating or when you start tripping on it, but why do I feel compelled to shave every day? I don’t know.

In some religions, it’s considered to be sinful for men to shave off their facial hair. I can understand this. Beyond not wasting time shaving, which gives them more time to waste praying, shaving seems to me to be an offense to most Western religions’ concepts of God. If you believe that God created man, then you believe that God gave him facial hair. Isn’t it then an insult to God to shave off what he’s graciously given us? That’s a terrific excuse for not shaving, but not enough to make me start believing in God.

Women shave too. They usually don’t have much facial hair to speak of, although when they do it might be spoken of, but they eliminate hair in places where most men don’t bother shaving.

I have to admit that I find armpit hair and dark, furry legs to be unattractive on a woman. Why is that?

Unlike the attraction to big breasts, I think it must be entirely social conditioning. I’m reasonably certain that women have had hair on their legs and under their arms ever since our species evolved into existence—and, considering the species we likely evolved from, a common ancestor that we shared with chimpanzees and bonobos, women probably used to have more hair there than they do now—but they didn’t start shaving until relatively recently. Yet natural selection didn’t kill them off due to their hair, so the preference for hairless legs and pits must have resulted from more recent social conditioning.

Why do I prefer women who shave their legs and armpits or who get rid of the hair there by other means? I don’t know. It seems terribly unfair of me to expect them to do that. I don’t bother shaving in either of those places. So why should I expect women to shave there? It’s clearly male chauvinism and I should probably try to reprogram my tastes, but, shamefully, I don’t.

Some women also shave in an other place that usually isn’t discussed in polite public forums. I have no moral or etiquette issues with talking respectfully about vaginas, but I get depressed when I’m reminded how infrequently I get to see them up close and personal, so I won’t discuss this aspect of shaving any further here.

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6 Comments

  1. Of the five things listed, the one I have the hardest time understanding is circumcision. How anyone thought it’d be a good idea to lop off one’s foreskin is beyond me. The issue of circumcision, specifically on male urological and sexual health, has gone back and forth for decades, and the arguments for it really aren’t convincing. Enough on that. Here’s a funny…one night when I was on call, we got a young female patient who needed emergent surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. First, she had these crazy red contact lenses with slits for pupils that had to come out. Once we got her off to sleep and started the business of positioning her legs in the stirrups, we were all stunned by her “junk.” Aside from her shaved crotch, she had a tattoo of a cat with big red eyes, staring up from her mons pubis…it was pussy, squared.

    • The studies that I found on circumcision’s reduction in infection rates for a few sexually transmitted diseases looked to me to be fairly reliable and statistically significant, but I have no medical training so it’s entirely possible and probably likely that I missed something.

      Re that woman: What possesses people?

  2. Yun Yi says:

    i totally forgot about “female circumcision”. it is barbaric.
    personally, i would never change myself as i am. i think we should simply respect mother nature. sadly, human beings often think they are smarter than mother nature, so they do lots of “modifying”, intent to make it “better”, but the consequence always proved them wrong. no need to mention not long ago, chinese women practiced foot-binding, and emperors hired hundreds of eunuchs. they call that “culture” or “tradition”.

    • As to not changing yourself, I think that’s wise.

      Although, I think that it comes down to cost/benefit, which isn’t always measured in dollars. For example, clipping your fingernails and toenails incurs little cost in terms of dollars, effort or your health, but can deliver some benefits. So, I’d recommend clipping your nails every once in a while even though it is altering the natural course of nature.

      On the other hand, having a doctor slice you open to shove some stuff into your breasts for the sole purpose of making them larger, for example, incurs much higher costs — including financial, inconvenience, and health risk costs. So that requires much higher rewards before it makes sense.

  3. My grandfather got an infection that required circumcision in his thirties (or so I was told) so my non-Jewish family has always circumcised their boys. There’s also a physical anomaly (said to have afflicted Louis XIV) that might be precluded with circumcision.

    I can think of rationales for shaving and tattoos. Breast augmentation,too.

    Things I don’t get, include those tribe people who put rings around their necks and make them longer, gauging (making pierced holes larger, often ridiculously), foot wrapping, and high heels.

    • Thank goodness your grandfather didn’t have a religious (Jewish) circumcision in his thirties. There’s no anesthetic involved. The circumcisee (to coin a word) is usually given one drop of wine (I imagine he could have more if he is older than the traditional eight days old), but that’s it.

      And re those other things you mentioned, yeah, I don’t get them either.

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