The man in a white van had slowed down to read our signs, then circled back around to park next to us. It was a week ago when Intact Houston and other Texas advocates gathered in the Houston Med Center for a demonstration to spread awareness for the landmark Chase Nebus-Hironimus case.
I felt excited that he was interested in our demonstration enough to come all the way back, but my optimism evaporated as soon as he opened his mouth.
He said a boy’s circumcision should be the business of no one except his father.
I responded, “So what about the owner of the affected body?”
“It doesn’t matter because he’s not at the age of consent,” he said. “No one wants a foreskin. I’m glad my parents did it for me!”
I told him that not only are all men born with foreskin but so are all women, and many American men who were circumcised are currently restoring what was forcibly taken from them. Ignoring these facts, he said foreskin isn’t clean and it causes disease. Growing suspicious about his level of education, I asked if he even knew what foreskin is and what it does. He said “I know all about the foreskin, it’s useless! AND it produces smegma!“
Hold up, cowboy — not quite. Human foreskin has at least a dozen unique functions. Women produce much more smegma than intact or circumcised men, but we don’t condone amputating their foreskin or labia. Also, smegma production is a natural mechanism of the body’s self-cleansing process, normally an indication of healthy hygiene rather than a medical problem.
Ignoring this logic, he said, “Whatever, it’s dirty! Diseased! I’m glad I don’t have nasty foreskin! I’m glad my parents did this to me!”
Ah, there we go. Within two minutes of speaking to us he altered the wording of his only argument so slightly, yet tellingly, and probably without realizing it: “I’m glad my parents did it FOR me” became “I’m glad my parents did this TO me.” You see, the conscious brain may shut down in the face of circumcision reality but the subconscious brain does cling to its past traumas.
I felt deeply sad for this man. I imagined him strapped down to a cold table as a tiny baby, attacked with sharp metal probes far too slowly, screaming with tiny lungs that begged to leave his poor body alone. His attackers had refused to listen to him, and now he refused to listen to us. He shouted that he didn’t need to hear anything else, and stormed off.
He may live the rest of his days saying he’s “glad” to miss a piece of his natural body he never got to experience at its full potential, but after our encounter I guarantee he’ll no longer say the thing was done for him.
The thirty-something-year-old man was still a baby in the face of this issue. His overblown reaction, selfishness in conversation, inability to apply much logic — he was in this instance once again the baby that someone, or perhaps no one, had tried to save. I wanted to reach out and put my hand on his shoulder, tell him things would be okay and that his anger was understandable. He was so deeply wounded that he would support bad things happening to weaker beings because bad things happened to him when he was weak too, and that wounded part was not able to grow up.
Now his compassion center was stunted and atrophied, his denial thick… and where did it stem from? Well, all the things Americans love to say about circumcision, of course, in order to cover up the “something” that happened to him and most other American men his age.
Other Things Americans Love To Say About Circumcision
1). “I’m pro-life/pro-choice because it’s my baby’s right to his body/my right to my body! And I’m submitting my child to unnecessary amputative surgery as soon as he leaves my womb.”
Let’s get this one out of the way first. It’s our job as parents to protect our children. And no one owns our bodies or the bodies of our children — no one except the resident of said respective body. Taking a knife to anyone else’s body for one’s own personal reasons is not okay no matter what side of the abortion debate one calls home. It’s interesting, however, that it seems some of the loudest on either side are also the strongest proponents of infant circumcision.
2). “I think it looks prettier.”
How important is it to a man that he matches his parents’ aesthetic preference for genitalia? The construction of modern American cutting culture by consumer-driven ideals — and the greedy encouragement of objectifying bodies to increase its profitability — suggest that, without influence of such brainwashing messages, normally such a thing wouldn’t exactly top a person’s list of interests.
- Cutting Culture examples – Saving Our Sons photo album
3). “FGM cannot be compared to male circumcision.”
One only believes this if he or she does not know that circumcision is a euphemism for MGM (male genital mutilation/cutting). We tend to think of FGM (female genital mutilation/cutting) in its most severe form, practiced in the least sterile and least safe conditions (in the bush with crude tools and no pain relief). We tend to think of MGM in what we consider its most mild form (total foreskin removal is described as “just a snip”), practiced in the most sterile and safest conditions (an operating room with an experienced surgeon and presumably a type of anesthesia). When we discover the truth, we understand that FGM and MGM are not only comparable procedures/rites, but that the associated attitudes echo each other.
Let’s take the fact that an estimated 97% of Egyptian women are circumcised. 82% claim they like being circumcised, support the practice, and do not want the tradition to stop. Many times it’s the women rather than the men who most passionately support the surgery for their daughters. They maintain that it’s cleaner, healthier, results in a better sex life and social status. Flip the sexes and we have a situation that reflects attitudes about male circumcision in America. It’s really as simple as replacing the sex-specific pronouns.
“Denial of harm is a classic coping mechanism in response to trauma, especially when it occurs in early childhood or the pre-verbal stage. Unresolved trauma among both women and men whose genitals were cut at an early age, combined with ignorance of the functions and benefits of intact genitals, underpin their ardent support for continuation of the ‘gift’ passed down to them by their parents.” – CircumcisionHarm.org
- History of MGM and FGM
- FGM/MGM: Similar Attitudes & Misconceptions
- Boys and Girls Alike
- Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch!
- To the (Happily) Circumcised American Man
- Women’s attitudes towards discontinuation of FGM in Egypt
- History has Been Made. Female Genital Mutilation Banned in Nigeria
- Woman and Girls at Risk of FGM/C in United States
- VIDEO: Sunnet (Female)
- VIDEO: Sunnet (Male)
- VIDEO: “Circumcision is OK” say women and men
4). “I did my research. I have my own facts.”
First, that’s not how facts work. More than one set of facts is not possible. One cannot pick and choose which facts are true and which are not. This is the very nature of a fact. Second, actual research does not include mining sources with a clear bias or position to profit, polling friends about their anecdote-based experiences, or referring to a dusty medical textbook published in 1940.
- I Researched Circumcision!… Did You Really? (Quiz)
- Routine Infant Toe Removal Has Health Benefits (the same “benefits” of circumcision)
5). “I don’t want an episiotomy because I’m not okay with unconsented cutting of my genitals. On an unrelated note, circumcision is also in my birth plan.”
We know instinctively that there is something deeply unethical about violating the body of another, especially when he or she is too vulnerable to protest. Rightly so, women in labor don’t much appreciate routine cutting of their genitalia for long-disproven “medical” reasons, while supine, with restricted mobility, at the mercy of those controlling her sacred birth space.
“Birth rape happens when any medical doctor, nurse or other personnel insert anything into or cut into any part of women in labor, delivering a baby, or after birth against her wishes. Even administering an enema to a laboring mother against her will can be birth rape. Birth rape happens when mothers are laboring and weak and either not able to say ‘NO,’ or sometimes even when she says ‘Don’t!’ … Of course, the well trained medic has ‘their good reason,’ citing the ‘need’ of the patient, all the while causing pain, shock and suffering with their attacks into the body. Medical birth rape is rationalized as ‘for her own good’ and these body invasions can cause painful trauma and long lasting harm to both mother and child.” – Craig Stellpflug, Natural News
Birth rape is now seen as a form of sexual assault. Comparatively, how do we see routine infant circumcision, which also typically takes place around the birth period? The person performing the circumcision will manually induce an erection in the baby (usually with a Betadyne swab) to avoid cutting into a flaccid newborn penis, which could result in horrific botching. Then the baby is inflicted with pain, shock, and suffering that will cause permanent harm. Is circumcision not a form of sexual assault — is it not another form of birth rape?
As Marilyn Milos once said, “Circumcision is where sex and violence first meet.” Alas, we must seriously consider the psychological implication of a painful attack associated with the sexual center of one’s body before it was granted a chance to safely and naturally mature.
6). “My brother’s aunt’s neighbor’s grandpa had to get circumcised because he got infections all the time.”
Uncorroborated anecdotes can get carried away pretty easily, huh? Interesting how other countries with virtually no circumcised males don’t suffer from epidemics of “infected foreskins.” Imagine that. Populations of men living perfectly healthy sex lives with no dramatic, serious or fatal issues, all with foreskin intact.
The “infected foreskin” is a known American problem, and most American men no longer have their foreskin. So what’s going on here exactly?
The number one cause of infections in intact males is premature forcible retraction — which is, now that I’ve mentioned epidemics, a terrific oversight in American medical know-how. I cannot tell you how frequently I receive messages asking for advice about what to do now that one’s baby has been retracted by a medical practitioner as if they “knew” it to be science-based protocol.
*Pause to cry*
The United States has both the highest rate of HIV infection and the highest rate of male circumcision in the industrialized world.
- HIV in the Circumcised United States Up to 500% Higher than Intact Nations
- Doctors Reject Circumcision as HIV Prevention
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is not a life-threatening diagnosis (as all lades know) and it can be treated quickly and successfully with antibiotics. It’s a far more rare condition in males than in females.
Concerned about yeast? No reason to cut off part of a child’s genitals as a preventative measure. Yeast infections are far more rare in males, however the condition may have similar cause (diapering habit or antibiotic use) and can be treated in kind. There’s an entire aisle in every grocery store and pharmacy dedicated to feminine hygiene, including over-the-counter anti-fungal yeast treatments.
Maybe you’ve heard stories about elderly men in nursing homes who suffered from multiple infections and “should’ve been circumcised.” There are a few things we need to remember as we approach this.
- Everyone’s body begins to break down as it accelerates in age. Bowels become sluggish, skin loses elasticity, and yes, the immune system stops working as efficiently as it used to, leaving an older person of any foreskin status or sex more susceptible to infections.
- The human body is designed to fight infections on its own. If it’s attempts are unsuccessful, the problem is likely one of improper diet and hygiene, not whether an important part of it has been cut off.
- If nursing staff members find it so difficult to keep an intact male resident clean, they aren’t sufficiently trained to do their job. Do they also recommend circumcision for their yeast-afflicted female residents? How frequently do they publicly discuss and complain about the task of caring for them?
- Also, in the matter of catheterization, caring for an intact male in a nursing home is much simpler. (See picture below).
7). “It’s easier to keep a circumcised penis clean.”
Really think this one through.
After an infant’s circumcision, his diaper regularly fills with urine and feces. The waste sits on a raw, bloody wound until it stops bleeding and the skin begins to keratinize to protect itself from further assault by the elements and stinging excrement. Parents are told to apply petroleum jelly to the glans at every diaper change. If they forget, the wound will stick to the diaper and need to be ripped off. They must also take special care to keep the wound dry and avoid soaking in the bath until it heals.
The steps for keeping an intact baby clean: Clean what is seen; wipe like you would a finger; outside only. Rinse the outside during bath time.
By the time an intact male becomes naturally retractible when he’s older, he can gently pull back his foreskin and rinse. I’ll bet any man with “more” penis would be perfectly grateful for a reason to touch it for a few extra seconds in the shower.
8). “Hey, leave me alone! It’s a personal preference. Not your business.”
No, it’s not YOUR business. It is HIS personal preference, and we cannot assume to know what it is. There are no “take-backs” with circumcision. Keeping a child intact doesn’t remove a parent’s choice, it gives a child the option to make his own choice.
9). “As the woman, I don’t have as much right to make a decision about whether to have our son circumcised. His father should get more of a say because he has a penis.”
If the woman is an intact female, by that logic she should have more say because she’s the only one with an intact foreskin. If she’s ever had sex with an intact partner, then she has even more experience with foreskin than the circumcised partner. “Penis or not” is irrelevant because circumcision removes the foreskin, not the whole penis.
10). “But… he should match his father.”
Let’s discuss all those labia-comparing parties we have with our mothers (except, we don’t). How many penis-matching memories does your baby’s father have with his own dad?
If still concerned about matching, please remember that no matter what they will never match. Adult penises have hair and are much bigger that a child’s. Foreskin is not the first thing a child will notice is different.
Of all things that need to “match,” why the genitals? We’ve normalized permanent disfiguring surgery on babies’ genitalia so they’ll match the parent of the same sex. Wouldn’t we abhor a parent’s decision to dye a child’s hair or skin to match them, or to sign a child up for plastic surgery? Yet it’s important for us to carry on our good family name and image in the appearance of our offspring’s reproductive parts. A sign of ownership. A family brand of matching “machismo,” as it were. Think about this.
11). “But… God says so, and I’m offended by your flagrant anti-Semitism/anti-Christianity/religious oppression.”
“Do not be afraid of divine punishment. God did not mandate circumcision. In the original version of the Torah, the book of J, circumcision is not even mentioned. Fallible men devised circumcision as a way to curb masturbation. Even Rabbi Maimonides acknowledged this fact.”
From Rebecca Wald, publisher of Beyond the Bris:
(1) Not all Jewish people circumcise; it’s a choice. (2) The movement to question Jewish circumcision goes back a long time and includes many notable Jewish people. (3) Brit shalom exists as an alternative to brit milah (religious circumcision). (4) Infant circumcision actually conflicts with many aspects of traditional Jewish ethics and practice. (5) Jewish ritual practice is diverse. Just because a family opts out of one aspect of it doesn’t mean they’re any less Jewish—or less valuable to the Jewish community. (6) There are now many rabbis and other officiants who are willing to perform bris without circumcision (brit shalom). (7) Some of today’s most vocal members of the genital autonomy movement are, in fact, Jewish.
“At the time of Abraham, circumcision was established as a covenant between God and the Hebrew people. (Genesis 17: 10-14) There are many speculations as to the reasons and background of this particular practice. Many historians believe that the early Hebrews practiced a simple gashing of the foreskin rather than the more drastic and traumatic practice that is done today with clamps and scalpels. Circumcision was also practiced by many other primitive tribes, well before the time of Abraham. Its actual beginnings were Pagan in origin. Most observant Jews (who accept only the Old Testament as part of their faith) still circumcise their baby boys for this reason.” – NOHARMM
A few excerpts here (find more here):
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” – Galatians 5:1-6
“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.” – Galatians 6:12-16.
“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” – Philippians 3:2-3.
- Jews Opposing Circumcision
- Jews For the Rights of the Child
- More Judaism & Circumcision Resources
- Biblical Circumcision Information
- Circumcision and the Christian Parent
- The Truth About Circumcision Within Christianity
- More Christianity & Circumcision Resources
12). “My child didn’t cry during his circumcision. He had anesthesia and it went fine, he felt nothing. Stop exaggerating.”
Many doctors and nurses tell parents that their son received anesthesia. What they don’t tell them is the “anesthesia” may have just been a lollipop dipped in sugar water (sucrose solution) and an infant Tylenol.
From Intact Indiana:
“Most newborn babies do not receive adequate anesthesia, if any at all. Only 45% of physicians who perform circumcision surgery use any anesthesia at all. Obstetricians perform circumcision 70% of the time and are the least likely to use anesthesia – only 25% do. The most common reasons for not using anesthesia? 1) The belief that circumcision surgery does not justify anesthesia. 2) The belief that anesthesia takes too long to become effective. When used, anesthesia takes at least 30 minutes to become adequate for pain relief. Most circumcision surgeries are performed within 20 minutes, in less time than it would take for the anesthesia to become effective.”
A pediatric nurse speaks out:
“Parents are told that the babies barely notice and sometimes don’t cry at all – this is an absolute blatant lie. They are also told that pain relief will be provided, but are never informed that all the ‘pain relief’ babies receive is an infant’s Tylenol and a pacifier dipped in sugar water.
An hour before circumcision, babies are denied any breastfeeding (or formula) so they do not vomit and choke when they scream. So sometimes they are already crying and upset before they are taken to be cut because they are so hungry. Babies are returned to their parents when they have passed out and they will not wake up to eat for many hours after circumcision. When they do wake, they are immensely hungry and in terrible pain. I could go on and on… It is the worst part of my job as a pediatric nurse by far. And it happens every single morning.“
13). “It’s just a snip.”
What is lost due to male circumcision?
“The foreskin comprises roughly 50% (and sometimes more) of the mobile skin system of the penis. If unfolded and spread out flat, the average adult foreskin would measure about 15 square inches – the size of a three-by-five index card. This highly specialized tissue normally covers the glans and protects it from abrasion, drying, callusing (also called keratinization), and contaminants of all kinds.” – NORM.org
“The Lost List” covers permanently lost elements such as: frenar/ridged band, fine-touch receptors called Meissner’s corpuscles, frenulum, smooth muscle sheath called Dartos Fascia, immunological defense system, lymphatic vessels, estrogen receptors, Apocrine glands, sebaceous glands, Langerhans cells, blood vessels, dorsal nerves, plus…
“Circumcision performed during infancy disrupts the bonding process between child and mother. There are indications that the innate sense of trust in intimate human contact is inhibited or lost. It can also have significant adverse effects on neurological development. Additionally, an infant’s self-confidence and hardiness is diminished by forcing the newborn victim into a defensive psychological state of “learned helplessness” or “acquired passivity” to cope with the excruciating pain which he can neither fight nor flee. The trauma of this early pain lowers a circumcised boy’s pain threshold below that of intact boys and girls” – adapted from R. Goldman, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma (Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997), 139-175, and A. Taddio et al., “Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Responses during Vaccination in Boys,” Lancet 345 (1995): 291-292.
…as well as potential loss of glans, entire penis, or life itself.
The list also covers restorable elements once lost to circumcision, such as: the foreskin itself, gliding action, and natural glans coloration.
Clearly, circumcision is more than just a snip.
14). “What’s the best way to do crunchy, natural parenting things like babywear and cloth diaper for my circumcised baby?”
Peaceful parenting ends where violation of bodily integrity begins. What kind of priorities do we have as protectors of our children if we put more energy into researching how to preserve our cloth diaper stash from a circumcision blood stain than the cause of the blood itself?
15). “Circumcision makes ‘it’ look bigger.”
The belief that circumcision will necessarily make it “look bigger” is a myth. Most erect penises look alike, whether circumcised or not. So what circumcision actually does is cause a penis to look permanently aroused, as the glans is not normally visible in the flaccid state of an intact penis.
Though a circumcised penis is missing between 12 and 16 square inches of skin (about the size of a 3” by 5” index card), it’s likely not affected much one way or the other in regard to a difference in overall size. That said, it is thought by some that the lack of sufficient skin can “tether” a circumcised penis during erections, resulting in reduction of length while erect (girth may also be affected).
In any case, commentary about sexual endowment has no place in discussion of a child’s genitalia. It’s not a parent’s right to decide how a baby’s penis should look when he becomes an adult or to involve themselves in control of his future intimate life.
16). “If a boy is intact he needs to be retracted all the time to clean underneath.”
Boys should retract on their own when they feel physically ready (the average age is ten but earlier or much later is normal too) and NO ONE (not a parent, doctor, a babysitter, etc) should attempt to push it back other than him. Not a millimeter!
Parents of intact children: Wipe like a finger; clean only what is seen — outside only!
17). “I’ve never heard a circumcised man complain.”
This man drove nearly three hours to attend last week’s demonstration in support of genital integrity rights. He is a real person who, along with thousands of other men who feel violated, deserves to be treated as such. Their voices matter.
18). “There’s no risk as long as you pick an experienced surgeon and don’t get it done ‘in the bush.'”
Many babies are practiced upon by residents, nurses, or students. A far cry from an obstetric gynecologist (OB/GYN), much less a pediatric surgeon. Keep in mind that an OB/GYN’s specialty is female reproductive health and birth, NOT male anatomy.
Pediatric urologists often perform circumcision revisions (“re-circumcising”) — in fact, many claim that half their patients are referred to them to fix circumcision errors.
19). “He got the no-cutting kind of circumcision.”/”We asked for a holistic circumcision.”
There are many types of circumcisions, but the sales pitch of a “holistic” or “gentle” circumcision is a seriously misleading one. There are a few different tools and methods used to circumcise, but ALL of them involve cutting and NONE are gentle or holistic — including Plastibell (read about that here). Let’s see if the definitions prove an inherent contrariness to circumcision.
- Considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable and tender.
- Not harsh or severe; mild and soft. a gentle scolding; a gentle tapping at the window.
- Easily managed or handled; docile.
- Of or relating to holism.
- Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.
- Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts.
- To penetrate with a sharp edge; strike a narrow opening in.
- To separate into parts with or as if with a sharp-edged instrument; sever. cut cloth with scissors.
- To sever the edges or ends of; shorten.
20). “My newborn baby just got done with his circumcision and thankfully there were no complications!”
The human body recognizes circumcision itself as a complication, evidenced in part by the common consequence of adhesions and skin bridges that form when the skin desperately tries to reattach. (If this happens to a baby, these adhesions are usually forcibly ripped apart at a future pediatric appointment).
21). “Sex is better when circumcised.” / “Circumcision doesn’t affect sex.”
The value of aesthetics and feel of surgically altered genitalia are personal preferences acquired by an adult on his or her own accord. Though sex can be great and orgasm is entirely possible without a foreskin, one simply cannot deny that sex would be different with genitalia functioning in its full form as nature designed.
Sensation and pleasure during sex is a rather subjective matter; we cannot assume every person prefers a certain amount of sensitivity, friction, and so on. Still, there are a few things we do know objectively as far as what nature biologically intended.
First, the male foreskin contains a rich network of thousands of sensitive nerve endings — in fact, more than double those found in the clitoris, by some estimations.
Natural lubricant produced by the foreskin contains bonding hormones for a more intimate sexual experience. The lubricant also helps provide easier entry into a partner and prevents the partner from needing to provide all the moisture during intercourse.
1 in 3 women in the United States undergoes a total hysterectomy by age 50. One of the most common causes is vaginal erosion, which, incidentally, is a side effect of regular sexual intercourse with a circumcised male partner.
Intact men are more likely to achieve multiple orgasms just like women. Circumcised men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction when they’re older due to sensation loss over time and build-up of scar tissue on the unprotected glans. A study found that circumcised men are 4.5 times more likely than intact men to suffer from erectile dysfunction by the time they’re older. While the United States represents 5% of the global population, it also accounts for 46% of Viagra sales.
Clearly, the foreskin isn’t so “useless” after all.
- Functions of the Foreskin
- How Male Circumcision Impacts Your Love Life
- How Male Circumcision Harms Women
- Male Circumcision and Women’s Health
- A Change in How Intercourse Works
- Sex As Nature Intended It
22). “It’s better to get out of the way as a newborn because babies don’t remember.”
If we know the procedure is so painful as an adult, why has it taken so long to accept it may be just as (and likely more) painful as a newborn?
Cut babies DO remember. They grow up into adults who live without a piece of themselves, every day and forever. The memory is a tangible one.
Routine Infant Circumcision (RIC) vs. Adult Circumcision (AC)
RIC: Inadequate pain relief before, during, or after surgery.
AC: General anesthesia before and during surgery; pain relief during healing period.
RIC: Foreskin must be forcibly torn from glans before circumcision.
AC: Foreskin has already naturally separated from glans so this step is skipped.
RIC: Foreskin remnants may re-adhere, which doctors usually advise to rip apart daily.
AC: No remnants will adhere as the shared membrane has long dissolved.
RIC: Open wound is exposed to feces and urine.
AC: Protective apparatuses are provided to protect against further irritation.
RIC: Penis is underdeveloped, therefore a doctor cannot accurately predict how much skin should be removed from an individual.
AC: Penis is fully developed so a doctor can determine exactly how much skin to remove and can preserve the frenulum.
RIC: Infant will not understand why he is going through this traumatic procedure.
AC: Adult has full understanding about why he’s undergoing the procedure and knows what to expect.
RIC: No infant can consent to the procedure; the decision is always made for him.
AC: An adult can give his informed consent; it is his own free will.