Why are Intactivists So Angry? Cloth Diapers & Circumcision
Apparently recently a cloth diaper retailer had an influx of intactivists (people who are highly vocal when speaking out against routine infant circumcision) unleash their fury because the store was giving advice on post surgical care when using cloth diapers. Not all intactivists are the same. Today I’m going to admit something. I’m a closet intactivist. I’m not a good one, because I’m quiet, and I’ve never managed to save a baby, despite my best efforts. I’m so relieved when I find out someone is having a baby girl, because I don’t feel that internal struggle of do I mention it? Do I leave it alone? Am I going to offend her? Will I lose her as a friend? What if I don’t say something, and she later has regret? I am incredibly nervous about this post and I’m trying to write from my heart and be genuine, but not offensive. If you are offended, please know it wasn’t intentional.
I did an interview about 2 years ago for Ivanohoe broadcast news that has been on several news spots but I am generally not vocal unless asked. It made me cringe when my testimony was mashed with a Jewish mother in one spot since I both work with people who are very religious, and have acquaintances who are married to a non-practicing Jew but feel that it’s not an option to skip the cutting. The last thing I want it to be seen as an anti-semite, but there is a movement to ceremonies that don’t include cutting.
So, my story. My daughter was born in 2005. While I was expecting her, the extent of my circumcision research was all the bits & pieces I’d read saying that it reduced the risk of HIV & HPV, it was “just a snip” and “a useless piece of skin.” Like most boys in our area, my husband was circumcised at birth, didn’t know any different and basically shrugged his shoulders when asked. It seemed like a pretty simple decision. Since our daughter’s gender was a surprise, we were asked about our choice when I was sent to the hospital for a scare at 36 weeks and again when I gave birth at 40 weeks. The extent of the “informed consent” was the nurse saying “if it’s a boy, do you want him circumcised” and us saying “yeah, I guess so.” When I read Dirty Diaper Laundry’s story, it read very much like my own. With one exception.
My first child was born a girl, and since 1997, girls have been protected under the law from all forms of female genital cutting, including a ritual pin prick. Over the next 3 years, the circumcision debate came up over and over again in online parenting forums, and each time I sighed and rolled my eyes at the women comparing it to female genital mutilation. After all, it was “just a snip” of skin that served absolutely no purpose (or so I thought.)
For some reason in 2008, I saw yet another argument on Cafemom, but a mom’s words resonated with me, and I clicked her links. It had been more than a year that we’d been trying to conceive our second child and it would be another 6 months before we did. More than a year after that, I would be searching through my Cafemom history so I could send her a thank you note.
I almost passed out when I watched a video of a circumcision. I didn’t realize that the EMLA cream often used wasn’t approved for use in newborns, nor that it took far more time to take effect than was given before the procedure began. I didn’t know that a dorsal nerve block wasn’t totally effective, or that babies who appear to be sleeping are often in shock. I didn’t know that even with the plastibell method, the tightly fused foreskin had to be torn from the glans and slit. I didn’t know about the very real complications, including loss of the penis, and death. I didn’t know what the bloody wound would look like, and I had never imagined how painful it would be to have such a wound in a diaper filled with urine and feces. I didn’t know that many of the “pro-circ” articles you read are written or ghost written by a “circumfetishist.”
Speaking of complications, I had no idea that the glans keratinization, scarring, pitting and skin bridges that American women consider “normal” were actually circumcision complications. I didn’t know that the foreskin contained tens of thousands of nerve endings, and served a very real purpose in intercourse. I didn’t know about Sex as Nature Intended It (NSFW obviously) or what an intact penis actually looked like.
I was horrified and furious at myself for not researching this, and incredibly grateful that my first child was a girl. How in the world could I have considered doing this when I refused to pierce her ears until she was old enough to ask? I researched strollers more than I researched this!
By the time I was expecting our second (we didn’t know the gender again), my husband and I were firm in our decision to leave a baby boy intact. We’d been seeing the same pediatrician for years, and respected him immensely. He supported all 3 of our “not on the growth charts” children and our son’s F.P.I.E.S. We went to whatever office we needed in order to see him, and were delighted to follow him when he started his own practice – to get the personal one on one care missing from the big conglomerate. We asked him an open ended question about his stance on circumcision. Nothing he could have said would have changed our minds, but we wanted to be sure he wouldn’t push us into it, and that he knew how to care for an intact baby. Imagine our shock and surprise to hear that despite 95% of his male patients being circumcised, he was anti-routine infant circumcision. In fact, his own (adult) son was intact, which was highly unheard of in our area, particularly at that time. I totally get why he didn’t share his opinion until asked, but that’s a big reason why I grew the cojones to write this post. Without that brave mom repeating herself over & over in that Cafemom group, my eyes wouldn’t have been opened. If people remain silent, circumcision will continue to be a cultural norm. When I initially wrote my “glitter is for girls” post, I had a remark about male genital cutting in the last paragraph, but I lost my nerve and deleted it before posting.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of men who are angry about what was taken from them. If my sons are angry that I didn’t circumcise them as infants, they can choose to be as adults and receive adequate anesthesia and post operative care. Above all, it would be their choice. The majority of the civilized world doesn’t circumcise, and they don’t have all the medical problems Americans claim come with intact penises. Even as far as UTIs so, they are so rare in general that a hundred baby boys would have to be circumcised to prevent one UTI. I’ve had a UTI and they gave me antibiotics, they didn’t circumcise me. Elderly women have far more folds to clean, and we don’t advocate removing baby girls’ labia to make cleaning them in a nursing home easier.
Everyone seems to have a horror story about someone who “had to” be circumcised later in life. Much of this seems to be based on ignorance of the proper care of an intact penis as well as its normal development. A penis should just be wiped like a finger (“clean what is seen”) and the foreskin should never be retracted by anyone but its owner. It’s not uncommon for a foreskin to not retract until puberty. When it does, the boy can retract, swish with water, then replace. Just as you wouldn’t recommend a girl wash inside her vagina with soap, a boy shouldn’t wash under his foreskin with soap. The foreskin serves as a mucous membrane, much like the eyelid, keeping the glans moist & supple.
If you want to read more about the functions of the foreskin, circumcision and intact care, Dr. Momma has great information.
As I said in the beginning, I’ve tried to very gently share my story, links and info about this issue, but I’ve never been pushy and I’ve never been rude. Honestly, I can’t post on circumcision threads, because I am angry. I am so angry about the misinformation that is repeated over and over, I’m angry at the women who think that a man in his natural state is “gross” or “disgusting.” There’s a joke in the intactivist world that foreskin is “bimbo repellent.” If a woman doesn’t want to be with one of my boys because he is intact, she sure doesn’t deserve him. I’m furious that a man who is upset about what was done to him is told to “shut up” or “man up” and is demeaned and belittled.
At the same time, I understand that people will continue to circumcise because they simply don’t know any better, as I didn’t 9 years ago. My heart breaks for the women who circumcise one boy, then have regret, and perhaps face the decision of whether or not they should circumcise another to “make them match.” Some intactivists point to the 14th amendment to show that technically, male circumcision is illegal. Both sexes are entitled to equal treatment under the law, yet even the most mild form of female circumcision, the ritual pin prick, is illegal.
I cringe every time someone asks about cloth diapers and circumcision care. If it’s already done, there’s no sense in making a mom feel guilty about it. If mom is still expecting, I try to plant a seed and offer to provide links if she hasn’t entirely made up her mind yet. I want everyone to feel welcome here, whether they use cloth full time, use some disposables, have planned c-sections, have unassisted childbirths, breastfeed, formula feed, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, homeschool, public school, un-school or anything in between. I’m not judging anyone for any decisions (short of beating their children).
As much as I’ve tried to make this post about me, I’m sure someone will be angry with me and will boycott the blog. If this post causes just one mother to reconsider circumcision, it’s worth it.
If there is no swaying you, or if you are caring for a circumcision wound now, try using a cosmetic round to protect your cloth diapers from ointments. If you haven’t decided yet, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, or direct you to good resources.
Thanks for writing this! I stumbled across it by doing an image search for “judge judy intactivist.”
I’m a cut dad of two intact teen sons. As time has gone forward and I’ve learned more and more about genital cutting rituals that are performed on children, I have become more and more furious that they are still occurring and less and less “peaceful” about putting an end to them.
I know what I’m about to say is probably going to raise everyone’s eyebrows and get them scratching their heads, but I think I’m the only male to comment on this thread. I know it’s 6 years old and probably dormant, but if anyone is reading this, please listen. I am 61, and yep, because I was born in a US hospital in 1958, I, like 85% of other newborn boys in the US., was circumcised. I don’t know why exactly, but my mother says the doctor probably talked with my father about it (I know this is the reverse of today, where it’s the moms usually being asked). My mom said the OBGYN was very nice, and came highly recommended as being very skilled. She said. „I’m sure he talked to your dad about it, because he certainly wouldn’t have done it without our permission.“ I personally oppose infant circumcision, except in the cases of absolute medical necessity, which is extremely rare. My sons are 26 and both uncircumcised. And, they are fine. The issue was never brought up to me at the hospital. My ex wife was asked, said no, and that was the end of it. We never discussed it beforehand and I didn’t even think it was being done anymore in the US back then. Yes, I was naive. There’s a lot of mythology surrounding this subject and false information, almost exclusively coming from the anti-circ lobby. This is because no one is really „pro-circ“ at all, like no one is „pro-abortion.“ The difference is anti-circ activists want to ban the procedure. No one wants to mandate it be done over the wishes of the parents. That would be „pro-circ.“ No one has ever even alleged this. I’ve studied both sides of this issue for over 22 years (beginning in 1996) and I am very familiar with the „research“ conducted by anti-circ activists. It’s not science. It’s pseudoscience, plain and simple. NEVER go to websites like Intact America, NOCIRC (I think the name has changed now), circumstitions, a horrible site, The Bloodstained Men’s site, or any of the other anti-circ sites like them out there. They are filled with lies, distortions, false anecdotes, poorly researched and flawed medical „studies“, and more misinformation than you could ever imagine. Ever notice the same names pop up repeatedly in those „informational“ sites? Van Howe, Fleiss. Marilyn Milos, Bollinger, Cold. Taylor, Lockwood, etc? There’s a reason for that. These are highly biased „researchers“ who have been part of the anti-circ crusade for decades. Any research article that doesn’t square with their preconceived notions is automatically rejected as „flawed“ and „pro-circ.“ (Like I said, there is no one who is „pro-circ“. The only one who even remotely comes to mind is Brian Morris, PhD of Australia, but he has never said parents shouldn’t have a choice to say NO, but only that fair unbiased evidence should be given them. Again, all I’m saying if never go to biased “intactivist” websites for honest information on circumcision, because you’ll never get it there. The 15 sq. inches of lost penile skin is a complete fabrication and myth. Studies have show the actual amount of skin loss to be less that half that. The “20,000” lost nerve endings argument is complete hogwash and derives from a 1990s era lay magazine by convicted felon and AIDS denialist Paul Fleiss, who is now dead, (and though his AIDS denialism was responsible for the death of two female children in his care.) He just made the figure up. I’ve heard, 20,000, 40,000, 70,000, 100,000 nerve endings lost. It’s all junk science with no basis in fact and has been debunked countlessly.
Like I said, my position may baffle people, but I simply don’t believe circumcision causes any physical harm, if done properly. It could cause psychological harm if a circumcised man goes to an anti-circ website and reads how he was “mutilated” and “sexually diminished”. If he believes their garbage. That’s just body shaming. I refuse to conform my vocabulary to fit a cultish agenda like that, that of the intactivists, and I refuse to call uncircumcised men “intact”. A circumcised penis is also intact. Intact means not-castrated. I had my gallbladder removed a few months ago, so I suppose by intactivist logic I’m not intact for that reason if none either. A women who has had a mastectomy for breast cancer is clearly not intact by that definition either (why would the reason it was done have anything to do with the definition?) The word „intact“ was invented to body shame circumcised men. They claim circumcised men have calloused numb stumps of penises. They supposedly have a „dried keratinized glans“ that’s chaffed, bleeds, is rough as sandpaper. Every sexual problem in the world is blamed on circumcision. When I read these things I wonder what planet these people fell off of, because I’ve never experienced any of these things. Maybe I just got lucky and got a good job done, but I’ve always had plenty of mobile shaft skin. And more sensitivity and sensation than I can imagine. And I’ve never suffered a single one of these „harms“ the anti- circers claim. Never. They talk about loss of sensitivity? How could they possibly know what I feel? Loss of sexual pleasure? Again, how could they possibly know what pleasure I feel? It’s impossible to know. Did someone invent a sexual pleasure machine to hook it up to uncircumcised and circumcised men’s penises and measure how much pleasure they scored? The entire idea is so absurd to be unworthy of comment. Someone said circumcision was illegal under the 14th Amendment. Wrong. I’m a lawyer and I know this is false. The anti-FGM law doesn’t require any male infant to be circumcised. The parents are allowed to chose by law. Hence, none would have standing to challenge the anti-FGM law. Any case brought would be thrown out of court. (This has been tried before and has been lost). Someone said her sons in their 20 and 30s were happy they were uncircumcised. Apart from it being a bit odd to ask a man if he is happy with penis, I can guarantee you the vast majority of men asked, uncircumcised or circumcised, would say yes. Why is that some big surprise? Men don’t stare at each other’s penises in high school or at a gym or pay any attention. This has been studied. About 10% of circumcised men say they wish it had not been done, around 25% of uncircumcised men say they wish it had been done in infancy, and the rest don’t care or are happy the way they are, one way or the other. I know what intactivists will say: I’m in denial. They’ll say „You don’t know what you are missing because you’ve never known any difference.“ That’s one of the most fatuous arguments there is because I can flip it around on them and say the same thing, „And, uncircumcised men don’t know what they’ve gained (or even lost, although I don’t think they’ve lost anything) because all they’ve ever known is being uncircumcised. The argument is no better than that. I’ve know many men circumcised as adults, and all have told me they’ve noticed no difference in sensitivity, sexual pleasure or anything. Before or after their circumcision.
I said at the beginning this viewpoint may confuse people. I’m against infant circumcision except for medical reasons because it should be the child’s choice. It’s a human rights issue. That’s all you have to say and you win the argument. You don’t need to invent harm claims, you don’t need to body shame circumcised men, or try to scare parents with videos of circumcisions being done (all use effective anesthesia now and it does work. I’ve seen those videos of anesthesia being used and it is obviously effective.) The idea of babies going into „shock“ over a circumcision is made up nonsense. Medical professionals laugh at the whole Suggestion. People who say this don’t even know what the word „shock“ from a true medical perspective means.
Leave your babies penises alone. I agree. But be educated about this from unbiased sources, not the rantings of Marilyn Milos, Brother K, Bob Van Howe or all the other intactivists peddling pseudoscience (did you know two of their „16 functions of the Foreskin“ are to protect the glans from sunburn and frostbite.) what a joke.
After reading several comments, I can say for certain that circumcision is an issue based on emotion for intactivists. How is circumcision any different from any other minor surgery? Because you can see it? Humans have things put in and taken out of their bodies all the time to help us function better. If you get tonsillitis your tonsils might be taken out, and you do better afterwards. To me, circumcision is best comparable to getting a shot. Infants get shots without their consent. It permanently changes their immune system as a preventative measure against disease. They may never even get the disease in the future, but shots protect them against it if they would. Besides, all of this misinformation about how it effects men is typically coming from intactivists who keep telling circumcised men that they’re incomplete human beings. Intact? The moment your body is modified by a shot or a scrape on the knee you are no longer intact. It’s wrong to tell people who were circumcised or who choose to be circumcised that they are less of a person and to feel ashamed and degraded. The people who really should be talking about this are men, and studies of men who have gotten circumcised as adults have shown that the majority are fine with the results and even happy with how it turned out. So, whether you agree for it to be done on babies or not, it doesn’t make anyone a terrible person for supporting circumcision or getting it done.
How is circumcision of infants different from other minor surgical procedures you ask? Foreskin is not a birth defect. Foreskin is not a diagnosis. Being born a boy is not a diagnosis. Healthy babies dont need surgical treatment. No diagnosis, no consent, no surgery..or you have no ethics. Their is a long list of circumcision complications on the Stanford school of medicine wen site. An infant circumcised under age 2 has an 11.5% risk for serious complications according to the societies of pediatric urology in 2018 and if you take a peek in mom communities like in fb groups and on cafemom complications seem much more common than that. A healthy baby circumcised with the plastibell can die(there is a case study you can easily find titled “circumcision, a minor procedure?”). Check out the case study. There is research that states 117 circumcision related deaths take place yearly according to American hospitals. That’s more than the rock n play they just banned. Lets stop supporting this unnessary cruel and harmful practice…thanks!
“I don’t want to be seen as an Antisemite,” BUT…. I’m going to use inflammatory words to describe your sacred covenant like “cutting,” and then I’m going to splain Judaism after tokenizing my Jewish friends to you. I’m going to tell you about a ceremony that I know nothing about but “I don’t want to be seen an an AntiSemite.” I’m going to tell you how you can practice your religion better. Good one. Sorry dear, just saying “I don’t want to be seen as an Anti Semite” isn’t enough.
Genital cutting is genital cutting, no matter how you dress it up. It’s not like your child’s prepuce was licked off by kittens. Please.
I don’t shame a mother who didn’t know.
I almost was a mother who didn’t know. It was my husband that said “Please, before we talk more about it…read more. Here’s some links I found.” It also helped that he’s very vocal about blaming his lack of sensitivity on being circumcised as a baby.
I watched a circ video. I read the links, read the stories of grown men who were angry that their choice had been taken from them.
I’m due with my second son, and he’s going to be intact too, just like his brother.
Are therr comments to read from autumn and late 2014, 2015 and 2016?
I haven’t removed any comments so what you see here is all there is. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read.
Here and there I think so deeply about this topic and issue; I dwell on how parenting and mom decisions and pregnancy things are “so superficial” or inadequate or just skim the surface of what’s truly important body-wise, medically, and holistically.
I cringe too at many things, boil, anger, and get filled with sadness.
I think about surface things like, will my friends slowly reject me? Will they find conversations with me crass?
I am thinking about suggestions and/or what I would like to see and to read. I wonder about more articles from moms and first time moms, and even first time bloggers about HOW and WHY male circumcision is hard to talk about among expectant parents and trying-to-conceive couples. Is it challenging, awkward, unconventional, about private parts and we can’t meet eye contact, and we cringe? What about mentioning a boy’s penis is “not okay” to talk about? We feel that parents have control and should keep control. Is that it? I would love to come across frequent articles about why it’s hard to talk about crucial and essential things for our soon to be newborns and THEN also to talk about things to regret mamas. I just learned that term & descriptor from your comments section here. How do we make up the harm, make up the time we spent SO unwisely, NOT researching male circumcision and newborn boy abuse. How do mamas of boys continue with their memories and lives knowing just one or two key conversations with other women could have majorly changed their mind, brain, heart, and decision. There are so many and too many mom sites and pregnancy pages, do these pages on circumcision get lost? Are they written too generally and written as to not lose followers and subscribers? I hurt so much for babies in excruciating pain – their first day on the world one of unbearable pain – no wonder the moments and hours afterward may be filled with complications or trauma related cries and fussing while latching. Why are boys not embraced fully and solely by mama (or completely adequate, loving midwife or nurse) for days upon days instead of under the knife, apart from mama, and apart from information, facts, and education to mama?
I am puzzled by many things including people and society’s cares when it comes to mom being pregnant. The most detailed question I ever got was if I’d get an epidural, or when, if I’d get drugs during labor — no one asked me about my knowledge about circumcision.
What about a mom shirt during pregnancy that says “It’s Gonna Be a Boy. Ask me about non-circumcision.” I care so much about this topic and am so sad for boys feeling the intense, unnumbed pain. rather than asking mamas if they want newborn, in-hospital pictures, or if she wants balloons to welcome her baby, ask her ahead of time if she wants information about foreskin, glans, nerves, intact adult sex, etc.
Why is it hard to talk about medical care, doctor care, genitals care?
[…] much as I hope to share my experience with circumcision when I can, shaming moms does not help. What’s done is done. How do you know the mom with the […]
I was like you- I researched everything before the birth of my first child, except circumsicion. Unlike you, I had a boy first, and 2 years later I had another boy. I handed them over both times to be strapped down and have their forskins removed. My second son had his newborn pictures done right after and his little hands are clenched until they white and he had little tears in his eyes. I keep them to remind me of what I did, of what I regret more than anything.
Between the births of my second son and my third child I was kindly educated by women in my birth group. My third son is wonderfully intact, and my 4th child (should be be a boy) will also be left perfect.
Being a regret mama is hard, but I hope that my pain saves other women from becoming one. When we know better, we do better <3
Thank you for your story. <3 hugs
inhope this saves some boys. My son is adopted. We had 5 weeks to prepare, and about 3 weeks before he was born birth mom ask “you are going to circumcise him, right?”. I had never thought about it. All the immediate info on issues were with traditional. I was told by multiple moms that the plasti bell was non surgical. Because of him being adopted and born on a holiday week it could not happen while in hospital. I took him for the procedure when he was 2 weeks old, and was in the room. It was the most horrific thing I have witnessed and It still kills me that I sat there through it (it was too late to stop once the screaming started). Turns out none of my friends had witnessed it because I the hospital they take the baby away for the procedure.
I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing your story. *hugs*
I remember a conversation I had with my dad once way back when. I don’t even remember how the subject came up (probably in a theological discussion on whether the Old Testament command applied to Christians). He told me that he was circumcised but if he’d had sons (I only have sisters) he wouldn’t have circumcised them. Now that I know more I wonder if he was unhappy over his parents (quite normal for late 40’s America) choice. My oldest son was born in 94 before the internet and I had only the doctors on the military base as sources of information. Fortunately, my dh is not circumcised so I was open to not doing it. When I asked if there was a solid medical reason to do it the Dr said no and that was it. Decision made. It certainly has been a whole lot easier to care for then all the follow up required for a circumcised baby.
Thank you for bravely speaking up! At 1.5 thousand likes, plus however many people read and didn’t like, I’d say your article has made a huge difference. Of course, with this work to save future sons’ genital autonomy, we never truly know how many seeds we plant actually grow. But public opinion is shifting due to all our efforts and people waking up. May ALL children have equal genital protection and enjoy life with their complete sexual function and pleasure.
I got cut a few months ago after bad advice from a doctor. I am a 33 year adult and know exactly what has been taken from me and it has been devastating. Thousands and thousands of nerve endings have been taken away, thus affecting my brain that have been so used to them there. Dysfunction and reduced length are just two of the problems i have suffered. It was not until after I was operated on that I realised what had been taken from me. I went there believing 1 cm would be taken off the tip, instead he took everything. There are hundreds and thousands of men attempting to regrow their foreskins, it takes years and never replaces the nerve endings or blood vessels and so many other parts that makes the penis the finely tuned organ that nature intended for us. Please oh please if you are in the position of deciding to do it to your child, let he decision be his. There is an Organisation called FORGEN, That is aiming to regenerate the foreskin and give us back what we were born with. This objective and goal of FOREGEN is bringing hope to millions who have been devastated due to this mutilation. We need to raise awareness, gain supporters and educate others as to the effects of this barbaric procedure.
Please visit the site http://www.foregen.org
Tell your friends, family about it and if you can contribute that really would be great. This is a project aiming to improve humanity. Circumcision affects both male and female and is not what nature intended.
I am so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for speaking out.
1. Some men are damaged for life by their infant circumcisions. Their anger is very easy to understand.
2. Some women who have had multiple sexual partners have discovered that intact works well for them, and circumcised does not. Their anger is easy to understand.
3. Most USA doctors still refuse to use lidocaine when doing a RIC. This strikes many lay people as utterly barbaric. More justified anger.
4. There is a growing sense among under 40s that “the human penis comes with a long sleeve for valid biological and sexual reasons. Instead of cutting that sleeve off, we should instead find out why it is there.”
5. A growing number of younger women have concluded that American circumcises its boys primarily for reasons of shallow conformity. Women, who struggle all the time, with the tempation of shallow conformity, do not like baby boys being caught in that trap.
I am angry about circumcision because I was circumcised. It violated my human rights, and circumcision makes me feel like a piece of meat.
I had both my son’s circumcised and I wish I wouldn’t have. They both had problems (skin around it trying to grow back it seemed) for months after it was done and the Dr just kept saying yeah it happens. I don’t think a social norm like circumcision is worth the risks involved. No one told me any risks but I was terrified when my second son kept having issues as a toddler with his penis. It was miserable. Anyway if i have any more boys I won’t do it this time. It’s not worth the fears and infections.
Having had lovers who were both cut and uncut, I can only refer to sex with circumcised men as “Concussion Sex” — because the stroke is so forceful, I ended up with a concussion from hitting the headboard.
Thank you for speaking out in such a respectful way, Maria. I am another gentile advocate for genital integrity. A lot of the very vocal internet intactivists are dealing with a lot of crudeness and ignorance and I think a lot of them have become jaded, in a sense. It is very different when you speak mostly with other thinking moms (like the ones who cloth diaper) who actually want to research. There are also some intactivists who feel that being blunt and using harsh language is what was needed to get through to *them* about it, so they are willing to be harsh as well. That isn’t me, and I can see it isn’t you. I think posts like this will reach a lot of people and encourage them to do more research. Another excellent evidence-based website is http://www.thewholenetwork.org.
Another point to be aware of is that the medical institution in America is biased, because doctors who do them make a profit off both the procedure and the sale of the tissue that is removed (crazy, but true). This bias influences the research that is done and the statements that are made by our medical organizations. Medical organizations in other countries (where infant circumcision is almost unheard of) strongly discourage circumcision and say that the benefits do not outweigh the risks.
To me, circumcision is not “just another parenting choice.” I have studied the history of circumcision, and concluded that our society went very wrong in making this a widespread practice. Historically, the “benefits” keep getting disproven and people have to keep finding new ones. Society having gone wrong in the past is not a parent’s fault, and parents are not to be blamed. Thank you for being part of the solution by sharing your story and information.
this is such a great post. you put into words the exact reasons that circumcision always unsettled me: I would never do it to my daughters, and I won’t make a permanent change to my daughter’s body via piercings unless she asks for it…but yet we routinely offer up sons without thinking about it? I don’t want to make this decision for any other parent, but we are really happy we said no.
Thank you for posting this! I wish more people would research things before making a decision.
Well consider it a success. I had already decided not to at birth but in my husbands culture it’s done at @11ish. Just before puberty. So the discussion on: to do it or not, was postponed to later. Tnx for the info and I don’t see how you posibly can insult people with your story 🙂 It was very honest and open. So tnx from this momma!
Thanks so much for the comment Lev!
Thank you for this post. I was very much set in that my child would not be circumcised. Unfortunately, I never mentioned it to my husband. I thought it was a non-issue that wouldn’t need discussion. After all, who would WANT to cut part of their child’s penis off!? Surely a MALE would totally understand! Well, I meant to mention it as we neared the end of the pregnancy when, SURPRISE! Water broke a month early. My son was here early, and my husband rushed home to work on the (very much under construction) baby room (that the baby ended up not using because we coslept instead). We had briefly discussed it after he was born and he didn’t know any reason NOT to circumcise. I told him I read a lot about it and thought it would be best not to due to complications and what not. He didn’t read any of what I read. He was gone, and the doctor came in with paper work for a circumcision. I wanted to say no. I wanted to not do it. I wanted so badly not to sign. I felt guilty, however, as my husband really did want it.
I signed those bloody papers, and I regret it every day.
My poor, preemie son was cut…. all because my husband wanted it and I was too exhausted (very traumatic birth, actually) to even feel like I could provide an acceptable argument.
I told my husband if we ever had more children, they were not getting cut. He said we better have a girl, then. We had another child, and she was a girl. I want more, he doesn’t. Either way, I will never sign those papers again. I will educate my son on circumcision (and being intact), and let him know that we really didn’t know any better when he was born. I sort of did, but not enough to present the information confidently, so I just shut up and signed. Never again.
Hi, I don’t want to be attacked and I am hesitant to post. I am guilty of not researching circ. it seemed so normal to me during my first pregnancy. We had a boy and we had it done. I have been more informed since entering the world of cloth diapering, which wasn’t until my son was 10 months old. I now have so much information that I never had before in all areas of being natural and green. I was totally mainstream before my adventures into cloth diapers. Nothing in my house was all natural or chemical free. I have made a lot of changes in my life due to this new information. I may not have circed my son had I had this information and I may have still. I do not know and I do not have to sit and ponder this question as we have already had our second, a girl. I can say that I do not regret what I did. My son had no troubles and never seemed in pain. My pediatrician witnessed the circ and even told us it was super quick and not at all traumatizing like she thought. She doesn’t normally witness or attend them. My son came back to us alert and acting as normal as when he left. Maybe I should have researched more. Maybe I should not have circumsized him. But what can I do now. I do not regret what I did. And I do not like it when I read things where people are trying to call me a monster for what I did. You did a wonderful job writing this Maria and had I seen it before I had children it may have changed the way I went about things. But I will not let anyone make me feel like a horrible person b/c of what I did. I do not think my son suffered because of it and I do not think he will be mad at me or upset about it later in life. It healed right up quickly and with no problem. I may have made a different decision had I been armed with the proper information but I will not have regret over this. I am a good mom and I try to do what is best for my happy, healthy kids. I love them with all of my heart and would give my life for them. I wish parenting was not such a battle over who is right and who is wrong all the time. I love having access to information to help me make big decisions for my family but I do not like when people try and make me feel bad for a decision I made. Let’s support each other and have love for each other and be understanding that parenting is hard. Thank U Maria for being that way! I have plenty of friends who’s boys r intact and plenty who circ and no one cares. We are there for each other not there to judge each other. Thank u for sharing all the information you do in the manner that you do, as a lot of it has helped me in many areas of my life.
I think the problem is that one assumes that a person who has chosen to circumcise their son is ignorant, This arrogance is cultural, it comes from being sure that the choice one has made or would make is for some reason (for any reason) superior to the choices of another. In many cases it is that one is passionate about some persons child on facebook that you will never even see. It is the same with Antivaccers, Breast vs Bottle and SAHM vs Work away from home people. I know I get the same way when I tell people about cloth diapers. I assume they are ignorant of the modern cloth diaper market and unlike in the a fore mentioned topics many people are unaware that cloth diapers exist in their current form, If they are not then they become immediately defensive but unlike another persons kids penis, the waste generated by billions of babies using a thousand billion nappies will impact my daily life. Perhaps instead of being so concerned with a person who you dont even know and calling them a child abuser or a cruel or unusual person you can just say “many people are now choosing not to circumcise their children and the AAP no longer recommends it” here is a website where you can read more”
No man wants to say, “my parents were cruel morons who had me maimed for the sake of cosmetics!”
I personally have both of my son’s circumcised. It was an educated decision I made for reason that I have no intention of getting into. I am an Atheist and it wasnt done for religious reasons nor was it done for the sake of an attractive member. Not every person who makes a parenting decision different than the ones you would have made is uneducated on the topic. I am sure all of this comes from the idea “how could they know this and make a different decision than I made” well easily because there are mitigating factors that are not addressed in every single circumstance. I enjoyed and agree with your points in this post. I am sure if I have more children and they are boys that they will also be circumcised, I also am quick to refer my friends to articles like this when they have a father who wants their kid to look like them in the shower. I also recommend that they visit the CDC and WHO and AAP websites before making any medical decisions about their child. and not to read facebook threads on subjects that their kids will have to live with. Please no one threaten me with death this time, its annoying!! LOL
No death threats from me. 🙂 Unfortunately there are no facts in your post. This topic isn’t about opinions or parenting choices. It’s one of facts, logic, and ethics. Cutting a baby without a pressing medical need is a human rights violation, and THAT is why we care, why we speak out. http://Www.cirp.org is a fantastic resource.
I am a Humanist, but the genital cutting of children is still immoral.
So, my SIL shared a link to this blog on FB. I am not familiar, really, with how blogs work, or how to get responses to comments, so I hope this works the way I think it will.
Anyway, I am currently pregnant with my first child, a boy. He is due September 3rd. I have tried to research circumcision from a completely neutral standpoint, and it is nearly impossible. Everything I’ve come across is either “You are a complete moron if you don’t circumcise your baby” or “You are an evil monster troll if you mutilate your child”. As I can honestly say I am no moron, nor do I think I’m a monster (as long as you are not standing between me and my one cup of coffee a day), it has made things really difficult for me. I like to think of myself as a relativelh well informed and rational woman, but this debate has me stymied. Seeing as my best reason to have my baby circumcised is because my dad, brothers, and boyfriend all did, I would really like to find some info on keeping him intact that doesn’t make me feel like a piece of garbage if we do decide to circumcise.
So, very long story still long and rambling, your blog has been the only thing I’ve read that makes me think you really are supportive of all mamas, despite what they decide to do, even though you are for keeping boys intact. That being said, can you point me toward resources that aren’t so heavily weighted pro or con? I just want basic facts. I am leaning toward keeping baby boy intact, but I want to have info to show his dad that won’t just completely tick him off.
I hope all of that makes sense. I have been more than a little scatter brained during this pregnancy. Any help you could provide, though, would be enormously appreciated.
I really recommend showing your significant other the Penn & Teller Bullsh*t episode. I found this very insightful as well: http://www.circumstitions.com/men-vuln.html The Elephant in the Hospital video on YouTube was great, but it’s been a while since I’ve watched it, so I honestly can’t recall if there was anything in it that would be hurtful.
Do YOU have particular questions? It can really be tough to find neutral info so if there’s something in particular you’re wondering, I’ll look for a link about just that.
Something to remember is that if you leave him intact, he can always be circumcised later. 🙂
This is exactly why the genital cutting of all children must cease, regardless of gender.
This video is very informative. The speaker is attempting to answer these questions:
What is infant circumcision? Why is the practice common in U.S. hospitals and not in other countries? What does it remove and how does that affect the child? Does scientific data suggest that circumcision has benefits? What are the potential complications? How does it affect sexuality? Is it a medical procedure or a social surgery? If it’s unnecessary surgery, what about contemporary bioethics principles?
I could have written your post word for word…except I did have a boy first, and although my gut told me not to, I agreed to have him circ’d. It was only after that I learned more about it and what I had allowed to be done to my son, and it is the one thing in life that I wish I could change. Unfortunately, I can’t unring that bell, but I know that if I ever have more children, any boys will remain intact.
Fantastic post Maria! Thank you!
That was an awesome post… I’m a L&D nurse, and circs are considered so routine in my area that I never considered not doing it. (Unlike the nurse up above, until the last year, it was NOT routine to use lidocaine at our hospital for the procedure, and physicians rarely speak to the parents before.). But then my first son came back with sutures from excessive bleeding. I thought it must have been a fluke. And then we had our second, and he just kept having trouble with adhesions. At that point, I started realizing something wasn’t right… When we discovered our third was a boy I had so many tears, so much anxiety, and spoke with our physician about it. She, like me, wished that she’d never circ’ed her 1st, but felt bad leaving her second looking different than his dad and brother. We ended up circ’ing our 3rd, but I hired a doctor with meticulous plastic surgery and pain management experience that I knew would do the best job of anyone local. I was caught in that horrible place of regret, indecision, and feelings of failure as a mom. And I knew I was pretty much trying to appease my own conscience, which made it worse. As I know we’ll one day try again, I sincerely pray that baby #4 will be a girl so I’ll never face that decision and regret of what’s happened. So I think this is such a wonderful article for those first time parents of boys, and I sure wish I would have read it 5 years ago. It would have opened my eyes and saved me a lifetime of regret and my boys an alteration of their body that was completely unnecessary. Up until now I’ve absolutely hated reading anything from intactivists as all they have done is make me feel like the worst parent ever, and I’ve got more guilt from myself than they’d ever know. So thank you for this. Truly.
Excellent post!!! While I agree with not wanting to make a mama feel bad for already chosing circumcision, I have started to gently inquire and offer info to friends that are expecting babies…. Recently, a friend and my sister both said they would NOT be circumcisions if they had boys!! I’m so glad I brought ip the subject with them and I am so proud that they stood firm in their decision!
I wish my husband agreed to leave my son intact. It breaks my heart thinking of it. Hopefully, if we have another boy someday I can convince him. Hopefully, my son will forgive me .
You gained a reader here! Great post!
I used to be a closet intactivist as well, especially since I have family members who are very pro-circumcision. I was initially considering it with my first but then I started doing my research. I’m glad that all four of my sons are intact. In fact, all three of my brothers are intact, & none of them have ever had any problems. My oldest brother is 31. It was very common to circumcise when he was born. My mom had him in an Army hospital in Germany though, & it wasn’t normal over there, so she left him intact. I know he’s happy she did!
I don’t ever attack pro-cutters or those who have circumcised sons. I do however, present them with facts. I didn’t even know how passionate I was about the subject until more recently when I’ve had the chance to share my views with others. Breastfeeding? I knew I was passionate about that. Being anti-vaccine? I also know that I’m passionate about that. I’m glad that I’m finally voicing my opinions on circumcision as well. If my family doesn’t agree, oh well. I’m very confident in my choice to leave my sons intact. If I can convince a mother to leave her son intact through my shared research & knowledge, I’ll be happy.
I realize you didn’t write this article for me. You wrote it for people who feel exactly like you do. Then you can commend each other on how you feel. However, not everyone feels as you do and I think it is pretty sad that this topic is made to shame families, that are different then you. I would never tell someone they are against the constitution or say they are uneducated because they want their child to be circumcised. This article is very outdated, in it’s information about circumcision.
As a neonatal nurse I am educated about circumcisions. I have NEVER ONCE seen EMLA cream used on a baby, injections of Lidocaine are used and if done correctly are very effective. Most babies loose a few drops (much less than they would lose for a routine lab draw such as a PKU). And informed consent IS NOT a nurse asking you if you wanted a circumcision. A nurse will ask you that and if you said yes she would send a physician in to discuss in detail the research, pros/cons, and risks associated with the procedure. After this if you still wished to have the procedure you would have to sign that you received that information in the presence of a witness. You said no, so you never got to this step.
Your opinion is your opinion. There is very little fact in this article. Differences are what make our society unique and you ARE NOT A BAD PARENT because you make an INFORMED DECISION on circumcision! You are also not a bad parent if you don’t circumcise, I have discussed pros/cons with other parents and have friends that have gone both ways with this decision. But trying to control others by putting them down is sad. If this was an informational article, than that would have been helpful. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the health benefits outweigh the risks of circumcision but the decision should be by the parents in context of their own situation (cultural and religious beliefs etc). To read more scientific opinion from the AAP visit http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Newborn-Male-Circumcision.aspx.
People are mostly concerned with the human rights issue and why it’s unethical for somebody else to make a decision on how much of his penis a baby gets to keep in the absence of clear medical indication for an amputation. Even AAP states that the decision should be left to the family. That doesn’t sound very convincing to me that there is indeed a very strong medical indication for it. Family decision is not a medical indication, so I don’t know why they would even mention that. In the absence of clear medical indication for an amputation it should be up to the owner to decide what to do with his penis when he reaches the age of consent.
Oh, the AAP, you say? Same ones who advocated–in 2010, mind you–cutting the genitals of little girls? The ones whose most recent statement on male forced genital cutting says they don’t know all the risks, but that they’ve somehow managed to calculate that the “benefits” outweigh the risks? The ones who are most preoccupied with receiving reimbursement for forced genital cutting? Yeah, I’d definitely listen to them.
Do you know what the 16 functions of the foreskin are? Do you know why circumcision is done? Did you know that the benefits of circumcising an infant are almost nonexistent? What is the point of circumcision? Why is the US the only country in the world that recommends it? Why do textbooks in medical school show penises that are altered instead of in their natural state? What do doctors and nurses learn about the foreskin in school, other than how to cut it off?
When my son was circumsized they asked us if we were, we said yes. Then they told us the doctor couldn’t do it until the day we left. No one talked about risks or benefits, I may have signed something, I don’t remember, but the only other thing they told us was to out vasaline on it so it wouldn’t stick to the diaper.
I thought all health practitioners swore to “do no harm”? Circumcision is removing a normal, healthy body part and is by default harmful.
If you are a parent that feels strongly that circumcision is the right decision, simply save the debate until your son or daughter is the age of majority and let him or her make their own choice about mutilating their genitals.
Well said. Like you, when my first was in utero, we had to have the discussion. For me, it was a no-brainer – why remove something that is part of the body naturally? My circumcised husband was worried, using the old “won’t he feel weird that he doesn’t look like me?” I countered that he probably won’t be hanging out naked and comparing genitalia with his dad. Funny enough, a few years ago, my husband found out that his father had never been circumcised! He had never seen his father’s penis, or at least it never permanently registered that it looked different. Anyway, thanks for sharing about such an important human rights issue – yes, it IS about human rights.
I’ve never understood the “looks like” argument. It’s very strange to me that people never worry about the son noticing tattoos or body hair or eye colour but insist on matching a normally hidden body part. You handled his argument beautifully!
Wonderfully well stated and I completely applaud everything you have said here! And, I’m pretty sure that you can say you’ve saved a baby..every time we share information, there’s a chance that it is that seed that grows into the decision to leave a baby whole. <3
I hope so! Thanks Naji.
Nice post, but I was sort of shocked at how hesitant you were to talk about circumcision. Here in California the rate is only about 27% so intact is the normal choice, cut children being the odd ones out. My three sons (26, 29 & 32) are intact & very pleased about it. One of my objections to circumcision is it’s misogynistic. Patriarchy requires that women surrender their newborns to receive its cultish mark. That doesn’t sit well with me. Women make men. Our work does not need correcting or “finishing”.
Where I am, it’s about 95% – it’s very unusual to even question it. :-/ Maybe I belong in California. 🙂
You’d be more than welcome 🙂
I live in Northern California, and I don’t know of anyone who has circumcised their boy (or admitted it). You could be run out of Berkeley for something like that. 😀
This subject really upsets me. Not because I disagree with you but because I was in the same boat as you with my first but he IS a boy. I didn’t know. I didn’t give much thought to it. I thought it was medically important for hygiene and my husband thought the same. My second child is a girl and I am secretly terrified to have another boy because I don’t want to circumcise him knowing what I know but that means that I will someday have to explain to my son what I have done to him and why I didn’t do it to his brother. 🙁
Brit, there are resources and support groups for moms in that very situation. Don’t let the fear of having one who is and one who isn’t, cause you to circ if you don’t feel right about it (it sounds like you don’t.)
I wasn’t told why my penis looked different to my brothers, until a schoolfriend told me my foreskin had been cut off, but sex wasn’t mentioned in the family (1920s vintage).
Thank you for sharing information about routine infant circumcision in a kind and forthright manner. I am a “regret Mom”, my first son was circumcised due to our ignorance of the procedure. By the time my second son was born we had learned the truth and my husband and I vowed to never circumcise another child we had. We also explained circumcision and apologized the our oldest son for our uninformed ignorant mistake. He has become quite the young intactivist as well.
When you know better, you do better. *hugs*
I’ve been a reader for awhile now and I want you to know that you’ve helped me make my decision like no intactivist ever has. Any time you accuse someone of the horrible things that have been thrown around by intactivists, you alienate people. I’ve been on the fence about this for years but never had to make the decision since have two girls. You catch many more flies with honey and you caught me. My sons will be left intact. Thank you!
Also, I’m dying of curiosity about who the retailer was!!
Thank you Megan!
As a mother of two boys, I can not read this blog post.
As a mother of two boys with defects, I can not read this blog post.
As a mother of two boys, one circumcised for medical reasons, one were desperately praying will not require the same, I can not read this blog post.
I’m sure I will be bullied, as I usually am. “You must not have done research.” “How could you circumcise one and no the other?”
People need to take into consideration that someone can never accurately know what drives a person to the decisions they make. I do not agree with elective circumcision, but I have been slammed none the less, even though there was nothing elective about my eldest’s circumcision.
I do talk to my friends about elective circumcision, but in a gentle manner. No mother wants to feel like she’s being attacked. I truly believe that most mothers just want what is absolutely best for their child. No one, contrary to some belief, looks at their newborn son and says, “Oh no, that has to go immediately”.
I have severe anxiety when it comes to mothering. Be it their births, how I handled the decision on their circumcision, how I feed them. I am always hiding because I know how hurtful people can be about this. Please, stop attacking mothers.
If you would read the blog post, you would see that it’s not attacking anyone.
Oh no, I’m not saying it is. The comments show that.
I just have regret as a mom. Even though, genetically, there’s nothing I could have done for my
boys, I still feel so much pain and regret about the situation. I wish I could have done things differently.
However, my toddler is happy and healthy,
My infant, we won’t know if he’ll need surgical reconstruction until he’s older. We decided to put off on having him circumcised because the only way to check would be to preform the circumcision.
I agree with above commentors. This should not be an easy decision. It is something you really need to think about. You are affecting another human being’s life.
I just can’t read it because I still haven’t gotten over it myself, if that makes any sense.
You won’t be attacked by me, I promise. Here’s a virtual *hug.* You are a good Mom.
Than you so very much! That’s very kind of you!
B, I hope that you will please read these articles. I wonder if maybe your son’s doctor is mistaken (far too many of them are not educated on both the normal development of the foreskin and on conservative treatments for problems with it). All too often I hear of boys being circumcised because they have “phimosis” or an infection. The articles are very informative and will help you make the best decision you can.
Normal development of the prepuce: Birth through age 18
Conservative non-surgical treatment of penile problems
Ballooning in the intact child
The Phony Phimosis Diagnosis
My Doctor Says My Son Needs to be Circumcised
You may also want to get in touch with Doctors Opposing Circumcision (http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/) Don’t be scared off by the name, they are only against non-medically necessary circumcisions, but they also know that there are often lots of other options and they may be able to help you.
Please let me know if I can be of any further help.
I forgot to give you some links about hypospadias.
More links here:
I should preface my comments by sharing my four sons are no longer intact. Of all the “intactivist” posts I’ve read, I think yours was one of the best. You gently shared your beliefs and backed them up with links for those trying to learn more about circumcision. I love that you don’t judge those who have circed their sons. Far too many intactivists come across mean spirited. I didn’t have that feeling at all when reading this post. Like others, I left this decision to my husband. Only in recent years have I heard many of the points you shared. I wish I had had more information years ago. With my new knowledge I can feel more comfortable in suggesting my children do their research before automatically circumsizimg any sons they may have down the line. It’s never too late for gentle education and it’s a loving act to offer assistance to those who have already elected to circ their sons. People are more apt to listen to and take the advice of someone who comes across in a gentle fashion and doesn’t pound their belief system down another person’s throat. 🙂 I love that you took the time to write this post Maria. It was truly well done.
Thanks Trisha, that means a lot.
I honestly regret getting my son circumcised. I wish I would of read more on it. I honestly didn’t. After they brought him back and the nurse showed me how to take care of him. I cried, a lot. I felt so bad for doing it to him. It looked horrible. I still regret it.
I learned about FGM in college. It’s used to destroy women. Torn apart, sewn shut, torn apart with intercourse, sewn shut. As many times as her husband wants. To control. To have power. In some instances, it seems like it would be continual rape. So women can’t choose. So they have no say. So they have no pleasure and won’t ‘stray’. Their ‘stuff’ is thrown to chickens to eat. Done with dirty razor blades or dull scissors. Infections, etc. abound.
To me it doesn’t seem a fair comparison since modern male circ. doesn’t cause any of the above and is done in a sterilized setting. Not being a hater. I’ve informed my spouse about the info and he insists if we have a boy that we’d still circ. So far we haven’t had to choose. But I will pass the info on. I have done research since starting our family so I’m informed, but like many as a FTM had no clue.
I suggest researching the functions of the foreskin and why male circumcision was introduced in the US (hint: as a punishment and preventative for masturbation). You can debate which is worse, but both impair function and violate human rights.
Js – There are many types of female genital cutting. Some forms are also performed in sterilized settings with few risks long or short term complications. Where it is practiced, it is not always perceived to be harmful, regardless of how it is defined or what it is called in the West. It is not always botched or seen as having negative impact. Even the reasons you listed are often believed to be qualities that are “beneficial”. That is why it persists and is so difficult to eradicate.
Genital cutting culture is driven by the same deeply rooted beliefs wherever it is established and practiced.
“This means that even if parents understand the dangers and negative health impacts of cutting their daughter, they may still choose to do so because they perceive the benefits as outweighing the disadvantages. Those who support female genital cutting often believe that it is closely linked to cleanliness, virginity, healthiness, beauty and morality.” The Orchid Project org, Why FGC happens.
“Parents who continue this practice are compassionate and loving. They believe that they are protecting their daughters from harm.” Female Genital Cutting: A Persisting Practice, Nawal M Nour.
Some forms of FGC are less extensive than the newborn male circumcision commonly performed in the West. In addition, mutilation is an inflammatory term that tends to foreclose communication and that fails to respect the experience of the many women who have had their genitals altered and who do not perceive themselves as mutilated.” Ritual Cutting of Female Minors, American Academy of Pediatrics.
Traditional male circumcision can be just as devastating, you are just less likely to hear about it in the West. For example Google Ulwalko to learn more. The same thing happens to boys in the rest of Africa, Philippines etc.
I was shocked at how the comments of circumcised women could be swapped nearly word for word with those of circumcised men. You did an excellent job of summing up what I read in many articles!
Most female genital cutting isn’t the full infibulation that you cite, it’s removal of the clitoral hood and labia minora, which is exactly the same as the removal of the male foreskin, except the male foreskin contains roughly 3x the number of nerve endings and the glans penis is much larger than the clitoris, leaving a much larger area exposed (and even the clitoris when exposed is still protected by the labia majora).
They are very much similar, and the reason that male circumcision became prevalent in the USA is because it was used as a way to stop boys and men from masturbating.
Foreskins are sold. It’s a multi-billion-dollar business which is why it continues. Like many injustices, just “Follow the Money”.
Thank you, Maria, for your honest and revealing story. The woman in the link below was like you, in that she, too, was slow to realize the extensive harm of male circumcision. But now she is an intactivist who’s in the process of writing a book that could have an important impact on ending RIC. I think you’ll enjoy reading her entertaining and enlightening story.
Strange to see people ask for a reasonable debate about this topic, or to first evaluate information and facts about male circumcision, but those same people simply use their common sense when they have a girl. No “facts” or “research” needed. Why cant boys be treated with the same respect for their bodies and personal rights? Why is it harmful for a girl to even recieve a pinprick to the genitals, but the loss of the male foreskin in itself is perceived as harmless?
Guess it is to be expected in places where genital cutting habits have become well established, and driven by deeply rooted beliefs in its proposed health, hygiene and social “benefits”. Parents are unable to see the wood for the trees when genital cutting has evolved to resemble a more sophisticated “medical procedure”. Even the opinions of medical professionals, journalists and law makers are products of this culture.
Since I’ve had my boys, I’ve noticed how they get the short end of the stick. We’re all about women’s rights, and their right to reproductive and sexual choice & freedom. I think men should be afforded the same rights. Men should be able to decide at age 18 if the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s just my opinion. I’m hoping that with more conversation like this one, we can shift the culture. I dream of my grandchildren being born in a time when they say “PEOPLE DID WHAT?!”
Great post. I left my son intact. Initially it was because we planned a home birth and would have to go to the hospital to have it done. We didn’t really care either way. My husband is circumcised, but he didn’t mind if our son was or was not. My midwife gave me some information and I started to look up more on my own. I watched the Penn and Teller video about it and was pretty horrified. Especially how the babies were “sleeping” when actually their cortizol levels were sky high indicating they were in a catatonic state–in shock.
Now my biggest fear is leaving my son in someone else’s care. I always leave a note about it. “DO NO RETRACT FORESKIN wipe only what you can see! and gently!”
I think parents who have or have been circumcised want to defend that choice. It’s more of an identity thing, an egocentric mindset, rather than an informed and rational decision. Not being mean or anything, we all have a tendency to be selfish and irrationally defend our own ideas.
I read an explanation about cognitive dissonance and the reason that circumcised men have such a difficult time breaking the cycle. It was eye opening and has made me think about what I say & how I say it around my husband.
I had no difficulty rejecting genital cutting for my son, born 1984, because it was done to me and I know the effects of not having the foreskin I was born with.
I am so glad you are breaking the cycle! Way to go, you’re an awesome Dad.
I don’t know if I’m angry, sad, or both when I find out someone has circumcised yet another baby boy. It shouldn’t be a parent’s choice since it isn’t their penis. It should be the baby’s choice when he gets older. I am so glad that more and more people are leaving it up to their sons now and then the locker room argument (which doesn’t make ANY sense to me) will go away. The reason that makes me most angry is that they want him to be like dad. So if a baby has mom’s nose would they give him unnecessary surgery to make it like dad’s? Of course not! So why is it okay for the most personal part of a male? Yup…I’m angry. And sad.
I didn’t leave my full name because I don’t want my son finding this some day and feeling awkward that I told “everyone” what his penis looks like. But I did want to comment because I am a faithful follower of this blog and really respect Maria (who will be able to see my email and know who I am). My son is circumcised. My husband and I made the decision together. And I have no regrets. But I really appreciate that people are talking about this. Parents that don’t feel comfortable with circumcision need more information so that they can make an educated decision. Keep up the respectful conversation!
But will your son have regrets? That’s the important question. (Unless you plan to urinate, masturbate, or have sex with HIS penis…)
Thank you for writing the above. I have not read any part of, much less took part in, the cloth diaper controversy. I agree that some intactivists have bad manners.
Routine infant circumcision (RIC) is the most commonly performed surgery in the USA, the most controversial aspect of American pediatric medicine, and the biggest open problem in the social psychology of American sexuality. RIC is a material alteration of the most sexual part of the male body, the tip of the penis. Yet before 1985 or so, Americans surrounded RIC with a vast prudish silence. The boys among whom I grew up were 99% circumcised, and never talked or joked about the fact. I now suspect that parents seldom mentioned the fact to their sons, in good part because last century, RIC was often performed without the prior consent of the mother. This prudish silence has come to an end, in good part because of the rise of social media and the circulation of explicit images via the internet.
People, do not blame parents for this bizarre compulsion to alter the natural American penis. Parents are held prisoner by a defective sexual culture, and a regrettable but understandable desire to conform to prevailing norms. The typical obgyn is held prisoner by the same things. I blame American medical schools and American sex researchers, for being unable to think clearly about how nature intended intimacy to work. A horrible prospect is that the American intellectual elite cannot think clearly about RIC, because that elite is made up of circumcised men or the spouses thereof. At any rate, the intactivist position receives little support from university professors, medical researchers, and even the Christian clergy. Intactivism is a grass roots movement, most of whose members are mothers of childbearing age, often lacking college degrees.
The intactivist position IS quietly agreed to in Europe and Australasia. Only three advanced nations circumcise most boys: South Korea (in adolescence), Israel (for religious reasons), and the USA. RIC was once common in the UK and New Zealand, but has now ceased there. It was once a majority practice in Australia and Canada, but is now a minority one. I am sceptical of claims that this is something that the USA gets right, and the rest of the OECD gets wrong. No one has ever written a study showing that in advanced nations with a good standard of health care, circumcision materially lowers rates of STDs and urological problems.
South Korean circumcision is a result of the Korean war. The US had a huge influence there.
This nice, thoughtful article mentions a study showing 1/3 of Jewish Israelis would prefer not to circ. However many, but not all, are overwhelmed by societal pressures:
More info if Jewish friends want support re leaving their sons intact:
Thanks for the links, I haven’t seen the first one. My cousins were adopted from S. Korea and I’ve often wondered if my male cousin was circ’ed. Creepy as that sounds, I just wondered after MY boys were born. He was a preemie with health issues, in an orphanage as an infant before he was adopted. What a slap in the face if he was circumcised as well.
Thank you for the reply. You seem like such a nice person.
HIV has been mentioned on this page. May I leave this link that refutes the circumcision claims?
Good post. Shared.
I am pro parents’ choice, but it should be a choice primarily to DECLINE procedures they feel are harmful. This is more a cultural thing…I honestly can’t say I support the right to circumcise any more than I support the right to have a pinky toe or earlobe removed as part of a cultural rite.
I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch one of the youtube videos, but I WILL suggest it to anyone who brings it up to me and wants to circumcise, and I should’ve suggested that the relative who wanted us to do it watch youtube videos and then tell us which type she felt was “humane.”
She asked our almost-newborn, in order to indirectly ask us, “Are you going to get your little weiner fixed?” (at his checkup).
First, um, ew. Use the real word, even if it’s awkward. Second, IT WASN’T BROKEN! So no, we did not have it “fixed.”
Thanks to all who have been bold enough to shed light on the subject.
Very nice story of your personal journey.
Thank you, mama.
It takes courage to say what you said. Thank you for sharing what you know.
Thanks so much for your story. I especially love the part where you say it is better for a child to be mad he wasn’t circumcised, than the alternative. Only one is irreversible. I want to help your business. I have liked and shared your page. Anything else suggested, I will follow. 🙂
Thanks for the post. I’m one of the moms who let her husband decide on that one, and didn’t research like I should have. My husband just felt it was the norm. Our baby boy is now a year and a half. I do realize that if we have another boy, we shouldn’t circumcise just because the first had it done, but it will be difficult! It makes me sad just to think about it now.
I had tears reading this. This is pretty much my exact story. My first was a girl. With my second we found out our insurance didn’t cover it. That lead me to the research that turned me into an inactivist. I’m not an extreme one. I usually only speak when its asked. I hope this saves some boys!
Well done! Thank you for speaking out. My children were spared bc of another mom who said something to me. I would have done it if I didn’t learn better before. I think of her often and I’m so glad she said something
Thank you for speaking out about this. I will promote your business to everyone I can.
I am not against that website providing information to parents asking abouy circumcision care and cloth diapers. I am against volunteering the article on their facebook page openly. With about half of parents choosing to circumcise in the u.s. now (and most not using cloth diapers), how many emails about care could they possibly get per day. It won’t hurt them to make a cookie cutter email response to email to those parents and send that to inquiring parents. Volunteering information and such a controversial issue on their fb page was a stupid business move.
Great post!!! I used to be a closet intactivist, but then something was said one day that angered me too much to stay silent. I’ve lost friends and family over it. While I don’t hold it against women who did it out of ignorance, I do not tolerate anyone doing it after I’ve attempted to educate him/her on how horrible RIC is. And as bad as intactivists can get over this topic, pro-cutters can be far more vicious in their vile defense of this barbaric practice.
I saw the original post and the apology post that inspired this blog. I think the real issue was so many people got nasty, critical and said some down right horrible things. The diaper company said in their original post that they don’t feel it’s appropriate for them to take a side, essentially they support their consumers reguardless of their choice, but they often get questions about cloth diapers care for baby boys who were circumcised so they wanted to share information with those who need it.
I understand feeling passionate about this topic but I think the comments actually hurt the anti circumcision cause with people like me, who had never really thought about the down sides because we are having a girl. If something is posted online, it’s fair game for opinion, but it would have been so much better to see information and people encouraging others to really research the options, talk to doctors, etc. vs the horrible comments that were actually left. Moms need support, whether they use cloth or disposable diapers, formula or breastfeed, circumcise or don’t circumcise their son. It’s a shame when we tear each other down.
I didn’t see any of the things that were said, I just heard (briefly) what happened.
It was nasty! Curse words were used. Derogatory language was used. Name calling. It was beyond nasty! And way out of control! The retailer was not nasty and never said they were for circumcision. They stood they support all moms! That’s all that was said and the anti circumcision group blew up and got nasty! I agree with that these people did more harm then they did good. I don’t think I saw ANYONE that was against circumcision that was posting anything kind or encouraging or anything like your post. They said things like “you deserve to have your diapers ruined”
There were some terrible comments left on that thread, I do agree. But I and many other intactivists stated facts in a civil tone, yet we were still banned from the page. I refuse to shop there again, after years of being a loyal customer and referring many friends.
I was one of the ones being attacked personally by some of these people. Its unfortunate, but association is huge. They weren’t banning people, they set a filter. I don’t know what the filtered words were (it certainly wasn’t just the word “circumcision” because there are plenty of comments with that word in it) but it is easy to deduce the ones whose comments were filtered had off-collar language in it somehow. My personal experience with a few of the intactivists was horrible. They were calling me the most horrible names, using the most awful language I’ve ever read, posted terribly graphic memes… And not once did they ever ask me my stance. IF I was undecided (and yes, there is such a thing as being undecided or neutral on this subject.. I’ll get to that later) it would completely turn me away from the cause. Why on earth would I want to associate myself with a group of people like that? While its very, VERY unfortunate some of you tried to convey your message in a polite and civil way… Most did not. It was ugly and hurtful and did not help your cause whatsoever.
I am not undecided. I believe someone who is not well read or studied on the matter has the right to be undecided or neutral. It is ignorant and downright irresponsible to take a stance for or against something without being completely educated about a subject. No one ever mentioned that. I am anti-circ but I am not an “intactivist”. I don’t TELL people how to parent their children. And unfortunately choosing to circ your child is still a LEGAL (whether the 14th amendment doesn’t specify gender or not) parental choice that many parents still make. Until the day a parent can be arrested for illegally circumcising their son it is still 100% legal practice and a parent’s choice. I worry about my own child. I take care of my children. I pour my heart and soul into them and raise them up the best I can.
And then there comes the even deeper and more discouraging dilemma that *I* have… Which this ENTIRE situation has completely thrown me through a loop because now I don’t know WHERE to go because “you” (not you personally but the group you associate yourself with) people are vile and completely lack any compassion…. I am pregnant. Possibly with a boy. I’ve always been against circumcision. I find it pointless and cosmetic. However my husband is cut and is adamant he wants his son(s) cut. We’ve been married almost 4 years, been together since high school… Trust me we’ve had many, many arguments and discussions about it and it always ends up in the same place. How do you think he would respond to the kind of language I encountered the other night? Positively? Do you think he would pay it 5 minutes? Not at all! It would probably convince him more that his choice is right and mine (and yours) is wrong. He doesn’t respond to graphic images and language. And personally neither do I. So where am I supposed to find support, hmm? Not with people who are as hateful as those people… No way.
So maybe anyone of you intactivists who are reading this could learn something from my unfortunate situation and experience. You ARE hurting your cause by talking to people like that. Although I worry that you don’t even care. You’ll probably continue calling me vile, disgusting, immature names. Accusing me of being part of the problem. My HOPE is that you will rethink your tactics. Realize someone may be in a seemingly hopeless situation with a husband who is ALSO A PARENT feels very strongly one way and the wife feels very strongly the other. Support the person on your side, don’t scare them away. My two dollars and 50 cents worth.
And for what its worth…. I don’t think Kelly’s Closet did anything wrong with providing information for parents who have already made a decision that can’t be undone. They aren’t “more worried about their cloth diapers”… They just want to care for their child. Giving them anti-circ information when asked questions about that isn’t going to do any good if they have already made the decision. And besides… Their response was a bottled response that ANY retailer would have given. They are a business after all. They aren’t a not-for-profit, they are for-profit. Just like any other major business. Ask Cotton Babies their stance on circumcision. Ask Diaper Junction. Ask Abby’s Lane. Shoot ask StarBucks and Costco while you’re at it. I’m willing to bet 9 times out of 10 they will give the exact same answer “we are neutral”. I dare you. Or they won’t respond at all. They are in the business of making money, not hurting their customers. Get over it. Its the way it works.
@Kayla, it would be very irresponsible of you to totally shut out all intactivists because a few vocal ones say vile things, but you have no idea what it’s like on the other side of the fence. Cutters can be even more vile, and we’ve been called every bad name in the book. But ignoring all that, if you only want to deal with those of the anti-circ cause that are “nice”, look up groups like the “gentle intactivist” or “peaceful intactivist” or the like. They believe as you that only the gentle approach will work to sway the ignorant. There is a whole spectrum of people on the planet and in this cause. But I would hope if you’re truly anti-circ, you can find a way to convince your stubborn hubby that it won’t be done to your son. Good luck!
What reasons does your husband want to have your son circumcised (if it’s a boy)? When I try to educate a father who is in that position, I try to find out WHY first, and go from there. If it’s something simple like “he has to look like me” remind him that he is most likely not going to be comparing penises with his son, and if he does, they aren’t going to look alike anyway!
If’ it’s the “potential benefits” then perhaps information on the risks of the procedure and the fact that the risks outweigh any potential benefits, since the ultimate risk is death and the ultimate risk is maybe an increased chance of some std’s or urinary tract infection…
Those are just a couple of the reasons, but it’s a good starting point to use to keep the dialogue going. Maybe even introduce him to discussion and stories by regret parents who wish they could go back and not make that decision.
There are a lot of us intactivists who are outright nasty, but the majority if us really do just plain want to save babies and parents..no parent deserves to regret making a choice like this, and no parent deserves to lose a child or have their child permanently harmed..that is what we are generally fighting against, and I really do hope that you can come to an agreement with your husband about it..maybe just talk him into waiting until the child is potty trained and go from there.
How far does this blind “support” reach? Properly use a car seat or just lay them in the seat? Feed them daily or when the parent feels like it? Acceptable if parent cuts off last knuckles of fingers and toes to avoid trimming nails and scratches and possible ingrown nails or infections?
I know those sound like inflammatory examples, but I am simply trying to reach past cultural conditioning. For those of us with intact husbands and sons, cutting off part of a baby’s penis is much more inflammatory than anything we can imagine! Our culture tries to say it is an acceptable “choice” for a paret to make about how much penis to allow a son to keep, but I will say that cultural conditioning that leads loving parents to think that is powerful indeed. We must realize that, just like slavery was always wrong, even when it was legal and socially acceptable, so too is forced genital cutting.
I pray that you will learn about the 16+ functions of the foreskin, so that you can confidently say, ” my future sons will be born perfect with no need for cosmetic amputation.”
Good luck with your daughter! It is an amazing ride!
The diaper company does not “take a side”. There are no “sides” to forced genital cutting, a practice which diminishes a male’s sexual response and experience FOR LIFE. Carving apart the genitals of a helpless human being is the definition of “downright horrible”. The diaper company, in supporting consumers who cut up their children, is essentially refusing to take a stand against a very evil practice, and thus they condone that practice as an acceptable “choice”.
No comment made on any thread anywhere ever “hurt” the intactivist movement. No comment on any thread anywhere made by an intactivist have ever CAUSED a circumcision.
Talking to doctors is pointless, as it is medical greed, eclipsing medical ethics, that allows the monster of forced genital cutting to live in our culture.
Moms who willfully harm their children do not get support. Companies that support cutters get called out…and boycotted. This is the next frontier of human rights and sexual autonomy, and if you are not on the right side of this issue, you better get there soon.
It is a much bigger shame to cut, rip, scrape and tear apart the sex organs of a precious baby, than it is to comment (for adults) about the horror of it all.
Shame on the cutters, shame on anyone who defends the cutters, and yes shame on the acceptance of child rape-by-object.
All companies who wish to have thriving businesses had best hurry over to the side of truth and human rights. History will not look kindly upon the folks who pretend that circumcision does a boy a favor.
Frame this conversation in another time in history……another human-rights issue perhaps:
“Well, if you whip your slave, make sure you grease up his back so he doesn’t ruin the shirt you gave him.”
“After force-feeding the hunger-striking suffragists, be sure to provide them with a towel in case they vomit later.”
“If a civil rights demonstration turns bloody, please make sure the demonstrators have access to first aid. In separate tents, of course, one for blacks and one for whites.”
These are great tips for caring for someone after you violate them! Helpful information!
Give me a break. Circumcision is a sex crime, the people who do it are sex criminals for hire, and the people who condone it are accomplices to sexual assault of a child. ALL forced genital cutting is ALWAYS wrong, period. Please stop pretending and defending the indefensible.
No diaper has ever been ruined by an intact baby. People are more important than things…a human being’s right to an intact body and the entirety of his sexual response and expression is more important than any diaper, or any business.
OK, but we’re trying to be effective, not just right, right?
I’m a vegan as well as being an intactivist. Are you a meat-eater? If I angrily shared my genuine horror & disgust at the practice would you stop or just brush me off as a deranged looney?
Great article. I’d have circumcised my first daughter. My second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh daughters would have remained intact. I convinced two husbands against their wills to not circumcise our future unknown gender babies, which included fighting. Obviously, it was never an issue after they were born without foreskins, but now I have four intact grandsons, so my research went somewhere. I’m confident that any future grandsons will also remain intact!
I love how many people are passing their knowledge down to their children about how normal and not scary intact genitals are. But I wanted to point out that girls are born with foreskins, too. They are also called the “clitoral hood”. Keep speaking out to protect future babies!
This was a nice, respectful post on the issue. However, the type of hate and vitriol spread on the retailer’s site was inappropriate and hurtful to this cause. All it does is heighten the idea that intactivists are extremists.
When I was researching circumcision for my boy, I didn’t get very far in before encountering such intense levels of hate that I just stopped looking. My husband was even worse, dismissing it all as emotional overreaction. He was very pro-circumcision, so we had it done. We both regretted it almost immediately after, but it’s not like we can go back in time.
But this post…I could have shown my husband this well-reasoned post, and it probably would have helped change his mind. I appreciate that you didn’t get into extremism or shaming. Thanks for such a thoughtful post!
Thank you so much for this post! I too am a closet intactivist and feel like you were writing about me. I am also so glad that my first was a girl and that I had fully researched everything about circumcision before my son arrived. This is a really hard subject to talk about and I think you did a great job with it!
Thank you! Thank you for sharing your story! Thank you for taking about circumcision. It is such a difficult thing to talk about and I think you did an excellent job!
Thank you for this post. If it has lost you followers because of your courage to speak out against MGM, than it has GAINED you followers. I have never read your blog before, but this was posted in an intactivist group. I was involved in the chaos on that cloth diaper page, and you bet we were furious. Mostly because every pro-intact person was banned from that page, whether they were rude or angry, or calm and informative. Every one. And all reviews were banned. You bet it pissed us off. To remain neutral on the issue of child abuse is the same as condoning it.
Please keep speaking up.
I also find it so hard to talk about, with casual friends and close friends, but I have never regretted doing it. Writing this post as well as the in person advocacy you are doing, you certainly will save boys. Feel good about it! Thank you!
Wonderful post. As parents we question almost everything we do. I never once questioned my decision to leave my son intact. Thank you Maria, for approaching this subject with compassion and honesty.
Great post. There are so many people who view circumcision as a non-decision, it’s just what you do, etc. I thought that, too, until I got pregnant. I’ve never regretted leaving my son intact.