Some circumcised men are starting to feel like the odd guy out in the proverbial locker room of America. They’re not exactly happy that others have taken notice. Totally understandable, as private parts should be private business — but we do live in the Land of the Free, where private parts are profitable business.
An intact body has “become the normal condition” for the newest generation of boys, says the Centers for Disease Control, which put the national average of cut baby boys at 32.5% for those born in 2009. Though an intact body has in fact always been ‘the normal condition” and 80% of the world’s male population remains intact, the vast majority of adult males living in America are circumcised.
Last Saturday, Intact Texas directors, the Bloodstained Men, and other impassioned local intactivists overtook a popular intersection in the city of Austin during the fifth stop of BSM’s Texas tour promoting genital autonomy. We were there all afternoon, but you know what? We’re still not finished talking about it because newly-born baby boys continue to undergo this forced, purely cosmetic surgery every day.
I myself have a few things left to say, specifically to those of you who flipped us the bird, those who yelled obscenities at us before speeding away in your cars, and those who demanded to know what exactly was our “problem.”
To the circumcised men who hate intactivism,
You exhibit an outrageous defensiveness over what was inflicted upon your hypersensitive, innocently tiny body before you could consent. You do this by sticking out your neck so far to bellow just as loudly for the righteousness of the crime. The echoes of such delusion extend beyond you, effecting a ripple of continued, unquestioned violence through future generations who, you desperately suppose and hope, may finally be successful in getting us to just shut up about this and find something better to talk about.
At BSM’s protest, I overheard the following expressed by you:
“Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Why don’t you fight for something that actually matters?”
“Circumcision is child abuse?? Are you kidding me?!”
“Whatever, I’m circumcised and I’m fine!”
“I had all my sons cut and they’re fine!”
“Have some respect for people!”
“You’re wrong, the foreskin is just vestigial tissue, it’s like the appendix. I studied BIOLOGY, okay?!”
“My girlfriend LOVES my circumcised cock!”
“Suck my circumcised dick!”
After all that you said and did in attempt to incite us, we still weren’t protesting against you. We were protesting FOR you, because you’ve been sorely duped by your own country.
For years, you’ve been silent about a pretty horrific violation of your bodily integrity. Perhaps you’re so oblivious you never knew there was really anything to say about it. Maybe you didn’t know if the right words even existed to effectively start a conversation about the Whats and Whys and Hows of your loss.
Your apprehension to make eye contact with us is perfectly understandable. I can’t blame you for not wanting to cross the street toward a riptide of protesters brandishing signs about protecting your peers and progeny from something that actually happened to you.
I’ll say it again: We did this for you.
I’m sure it feels like we don’t care about your feelings at all. Maybe you even heard one of us call you “a hopeless case” when you refused to agree with the observation that neonatal circumcision is child abuse. I’m sure you of all people can understand how our passion gets the better of us sometimes, and it takes everything we have to not retaliate with a middle finger of our own.
I’m sure that us airing the truth of your experience feels very much like a personal attack. I’m sure it kind of even feels like the morning after a party where you blacked out and now a bunch of strangers are blowing up your phone to inform you of a suspicious rumor that you were raped… as a minor… with a Gomco clamp.
You’re frustrated by our loudness and determination and you let us know by engaging in debate. Still, we’re just as frustrated with you — we can hardly fathom how you can categorize America’s MGM crisis as “debatable.” Sometimes the interactions are hot and prickly and we want to push you into an inescapable corner and quarantine you there forever with your toxic lack of concern for your brethren’s sons and their rights.
But then we see that your perceived incapability of commiserating with babies’ feelings has smacked you in the face with a moment of serious self-reflection, and we all know it: You’re not hopeless, you’re just nowhere near ready for this.
Because somewhere along the way, someone didn’t care about your feelings. At one time, you were that baby we would have tried to save. Maybe you were born into an era when medical study “evidenced” that you were incapable of feeling anything at all in your newborn body. That very first person who didn’t care about your feelings is still out there — maybe it was a doctor blindly following orders, or a parent whose overbearing ego was at stake, or a whole society made up of persons who profit royally from the trauma and de-sexualization of the next generation of men.
You’re simply behaving as you’ve been primed by early experiences in a cutting culture. This is why, ultimately, we don’t judge you for not giving us a thumbs up, much less standing with us.
Still, if you’d mustered the bravery to peacefully engage with us instead of flip the bird, mutter obscenities, and stomp your foot on the gas pedal, you’d know we want to help you. If anyone gets why you’re so flustered, we do. Many of us have at one point or another shared a similar viewpoint as you.
I know it’s hard to be brave when you’re hurting. You’re a full-grown man raging big and tall against what once struck you up, down, and sideways as a defenseless, raw baby who screamed “No, stop!” with whatever force your immature lungs could manage. And no one bothered to explain a goddamn thing to you about what really happened. It’s as if… it never happened at all. Your circumcision was treated akin to your first fingernail-trim. I’ll bet it didn’t even earn a spot in your baby book.
Please consider this: The vast majority of males who protest among us are cut men just like yourself. Many of the protesters are women who love and respect their cut husbands, fathers, and brothers. Some protesters are “circumcision regret parents” who are raising cut sons. Whatever our own stories may be, we see a bit of ourselves in you.We get why you flipped us the bird from the driver’s seat of your car, face snarled in an angry grimace as if we’d lassoed you with barbed wire from across the street.
Maybe you’d prefer to live blissfully unaware of the trauma you endured as a grand welcome to the world. Maybe you’d rather not think about what it means to say “when you change form, you change function.” Maybe you’d secretly prefer if 80% of the world’s men had altered penises just like you, instead of whole, natural bodies. Maybe you’re angry that now you’re plagued by things you can’t un-see and things you can’t un-know.
Vincent Bach explains in “The Vulnerability of Men“:
“[I]t’s important to acknowledge that it’s perfectly understandable that our circumcised friends react this way. Men who have been circumcised have an extremely difficult dilemma. For them to acknowledge that the practice is unnecessary and harmful means that they must acknowledge a painful personal reality. For that reason circumcised men can be forgiven if they don’t want to lead the parade in the fight against routine infant circumcision. I can empathize, and therefore understand completely, why so many men will voluntarily offer their sons up for the same procedure without giving it a second thought. To do otherwise opens them up to some vulnerable feelings that can be most unpleasant.”
We get why you circled around the block multiple times in your car with your buddies, taking turns mocking us with exaggerated sad faces, trailing fake tears down your cheek with a single finger.
Your vulnerability originates from such a ancient and seemingly unreachable place that it has evolved into something else entirely — a joke, a warrior badge, a macho rite of passage, a spear of ridicule aimed at us soothsayers on the street corner. You simply can’t bring yourself to believe you were ever one of the injured children referenced on our signs.
We understand why you can’t bring yourself to truly feel something resembling compassion for the tragically injured (and dead) children who motivate us, though you boomeranged past our protest repeatedly like a most curious sort of deja vu.
Clearly, you couldn’t get over something printed on our signs… something your brain craved to memorize and chew upon later, something that your deeper psyche couldn’t let go.
We get why you placed your hand over the faces of your young daughter and son and hurried them past the signs above.
You appear to want to shield them from such extreme imagery (a painted red stain accompanying, God forbid, words). Truth be told, we know you hurried your kids past our signs because you feared they might ask what they meant. You were not ready to explain what you’d subjected your son to, or why your daughter was legally protected from the exact same thing happening to her.
“When you first learned of your own circumcision, you were somewhat confused, but came to accept it through the indifferent attitudes of those around you. You considered it an oddity, but believed that your parents would never have done something to you unless it was an indisputably good thing. You remained unsure of precisely what the foreskin was, because no one ever bothered to explain it you; indeed, most of the people you looked up to were unsure of it themselves. You resisted the urge to question the the procedure, and to ask why it was done to you, because you believed that whatever the reasons were, they must have been good ones. You never suspected that your native country, which you had been taught was in many ways an ideal society, would ever have allowed anyone to hurt you – especially when you were an innocent, defenseless newborn.” – Ethan Wright, “To the (Happily) Circumcised American Man“
You didn’t protect your child from circumcision, but you certainly wanted to protect him from knowing too much about it. Why would you, as genital autonomy advocate Marilyn Milos said, “Circumcision is where sex and violence meet for the first time.”
We get why you jeered about “infected anteaters” when you caught your female companion staring at the sign above too uncomfortably long.
Sexuality is a huge part of our identity as individual human beings, which is in part why the MGM crisis is kind of a huge deal.
An important element of our cause is educating about the functional and aesthetic differences between natural, intact genitals and those altered with surgical tools.This knowledge greatly benefits new parents who struggle to decide whether or not to pay someone to mutilate and remove their son’s foreskin (definition of “mutilate” here).
We inform people that natural, intact genitalia is designed to serve all sexual and reproductive purposes in the biologically normal way, and surgically-altered genitalia must individually adapt to compensate for 16+ lost functions. In doing so, we aren’t projecting that you, as a man without a foreskin, must have a terrible sex life, that you’re doomed to one, or that you’re an inadequate lover by necessary default.
There are many factors to consider when determining what makes a quality sex life. However, one cannot deny the inevitability of chronic functional abnormalities in an organ that lost a potential 10-20 square inches of specialized erogenous tissue before sexual maturity had even been reached.
If you’d have given us a chance, we’d have pulled you aside and talked to you about foreskin restoration, which can help heal the the small or wide range of damage incurred by EVERY circumcised penis. We’d have assured you that you can reclaim at least some of the 16+ sexually, hormonally, and immunologically important foreskin functions lost due to your circumcision (check out the restoration resources at the bottom).
“[C]ircumcised men are cornered on this issue. They were circumcised without their consent and have no inherent knowledge of what being intact is like. Even though they rarely will discuss the issue, they are keenly aware that they have been surgically altered in a very private way. There are several ways for a man to deal with this issue but the safest way, psychologically speaking, is to believe at all cost that the surgery performed on them was an enhancement and is preferred by women. Confirmation of this belief is essential to their sexual self-image. Do I need to tell you that sexual self-image is a major issue for men? Didn’t think so.” – Vincent Bach, “The Vulnerability of Men“:
The pro-intact movement aims to empower all men (even you, Circumcised Man Who Hates Our Cause), not tear them down (you can thank the tearing away of healthy genital parts for that).
Advice from “This is who I am” at Stopthecutting blog:
“I completely understand the aversion to coming to grips with something like MGM [male genital mutilation], however I would urge to you keep an open mind and remember that even though your genitals were cut on, I am sure (I hope!) they are perfectly fine and serve you well. Who on Earth would want to acknowledge that there is something not quite right about their genitals? That is the burden of MGM and one of the main reasons that most men don’t speak out on this topic.”
As a woman, what do I even know about male sexuality? Well, feel free to discredit anything I’ve said about it that you feel is ignorant, but it’s worth considering this with an open mind: Though American women get to keep their whole foreskin (as protected by federal law since 1997), is there a common consequence when the majority of our sex partners are missing the same vital organ?
We get why you’re so angry at us, even though we’re simply the messengers.
We know our emotionally-prude society has discouraged you from contemplating (much less talking about) your true feelings publicly. Perhaps no one in your life has acknowledged your anger for what it truly is, and this has persisted for so long that the very people who finally lifted the veil became the easiest to unload upon.
It may seem that your freshly-erupted pain was provoked by the sight of red-stained pants and brutally honest signs, and the “supposed” pain inflicted upon your onetime infant body was somehow less severe and threatening. But we know the experience settled neatly into your subconscious, somewhere in the unseen memory programs that run in the back of your head, leaving behind no tangible evidence other than a strange scar (it’s easier to think of your circumcision in terms of “what it gave you” rather than “what it took away”).
The painful truth of our signs and the Bloodstained Men’s red-crotched suits hit you like the lucid memory of a sledgehammer to the gut; you actually felt it there like a phantom injury and this is what made you want to get away from us as quickly as possible, evidenced both by the screeching of your tires, and your traversing a wide berth around us on the sidewalk after (not so gently) suggesting that we suck your circumcised cock.
Activist David Wilson of Stop Infant Circumcision can help you understand why honest signs like ours are crucial:
“For the longest time after learning the truth I did not want to look at the pictures. I did not want to watch the videos. But as time went on, I realized people need to see this. And as a result, some of the signs used in our demonstrations have become more graphic…The old saying, ‘the truth hurts’ is applicable here… This is the truth, and it does hurt, and it cannot remain hidden any longer.”
Seeing the signs and hearing the discussions with passersby, full of triggering questions and shocking answers that you can’t un-hear, you were afraid to relive a piece of that pain all over again. The circumcision pain that undoubtedly rocked your newborn self to sleep for a full day afterward when you were biologically programmed to be rocked to sleep by your mother’s heartbeat instead.
Ethan Wright advises:
“If you choose to face this reality, life is soon going to become nearly unbearable. As the days, weeks, and months go by, you will feel overwhelmed with painful emotions, including denial, anger, sadness, resentment, embarrassment, and disbelief. You may feel the need to confront your parents about what they did to you, and your parents may not want to hear it. Be prepared for all of this. Be prepared to spend some time mourning for what was taken from you, something beyond a piece of flesh; a piece of your humanity was stolen, and you can never get it back. This is as brutal as it gets. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. Don’t allow anybody to tell you that you were not violated. They are wrong, and you are right. If you believe in your pain, and allow yourself to experience it fully, you will find your way back to sanity. Keep sharing your feelings with everybody, including those who ridicule you. Don’t be afraid of the backlash. It will get better.”
Don’t you get that we were protesting for your own experience to be taken seriously, once and for all?
I know by the way you laughed and snickered derisively at our demonstration that you take our message more gravely than you wish to admit, and it scares you. You choose to say obnoxious, nonsensical things to downplay how deeply horrified you feel that this could possibly be the truth.
So you get angry at us for forever ruining all the great jokes — now you’ll never laugh at the story of your circumcision quite the same way again. The puns about your doctor “working for tips,” about how “you didn’t walk for a year after your surgery!”; how “you were such a trooper, such a little ladies’ man!”…
…suddenly they don’t seem so funny anymore, and with time, you’ll be pissed off that they were ever presented with nostalgic humor in the first place.
Do you get it now? We were protesting about how you were wronged, not that you are wrong.
Circumcised men, we love you as much as intact men — but we hate what was inflicted upon you without your consent, and we suspect you secretly hate it too. We’re also concerned that you don’t feel empowered enough to contribute to the vital legislative voice that will forever ban this customary torture for future generations.
We want you to have compassion for your future sons, as well as any sons you already have who weren’t lucky enough to escape America’s pointless (please overlook the pun) cutting culture tradition. We want you to have compassion for yourself, too.
Don’t you know that we stood for the rights of future babies to keep their whole bodies (your sons and grandsons!), and for the mandating of proper education and enforcement of the “Do No Harm” clause for medical practitioners (your doctors!), and for the support of new parents who want to do the best thing for their sons but are terribly confused (your friends and peers!)?
Don’t you know, Circumcised Men Who Hate Our Cause, we did this for you.
Whether you’re angry at us for promoting this cause or completely supportive, we give the same message:
We’re sorry for the loss endured by the majority of our American male loved ones. We’re sorry you were lab rats in this sick experiment that’s gone on far too long. No one deserves to painfully lose the most sensitive part of their body, not even if that person is, well, kind of a dick.
You’re welcome to join us any time, because we’ll still be here.. protesting against a practice that stole a piece of you.
Holly M., Intactivist
Resources For/By Men (courtesy Saving Our Sons):
“This is who I am” at Stopthecutting blog
Circumcised Men Do Complain
Beginner’s Guide to Restoring Foreskin