Mother speaking with intactivists at an information booth
A common dismissal to intactivists speaking out against the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors is that we should "mind our own business."
"Parents make all decisions for their children," some say.
"Whether or not a child should be circumcised should be a parent's choice."
In this blog post, I want to address why it is intactivists concern ourselves with the well-being of children, and why some of us may go out of our way to talk to parents about what they perceive to be a so-called "personal choice."
But before I do that, I want to address a few problems with the line of thinking that "I am the parent, therefore I decide," and that "What I do with my child is none of your business."
Parental Prerogative Is Not Absolute
First, while it is true that parents make all decisions concerning a child's well-being, it is also true that being a parent is not the end-all/be-all on whether or not decisions concerning them are justified.
A parent will go to jail if he or she decides to tattoo their child, for example. He or she can also lose their child if they decided to inject botox into her face for a beauty pageant, for another. In some states, parents will face prison if they deny urgent medical care to a child. Female genital cutting is right out, and there is no exempt for religious or cultural practice.
There is also long-standing legal precedent that says parents are not free to do whatever it is with their child by mere virtue that they are parents.
The Prince vs. Massachusetts court decision states:
"The family itself is not beyond regulation in the public interest, as against a claim of religious liberty. And neither the rights of religion nor the rights of parenthood are beyond limitation…The right to practice religion freely does not include the right to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill-health or death...
Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves. Massachusetts has determined that an absolute prohibition, though one limited to streets and public places and to the incidental uses proscribed, is necessary to accomplish its legitimate objectives. Its power to attain them is broad enough to reach these peripheral instances in which the parent's supervision may reduce but cannot eliminate entirely the ill effects of the prohibited conduct. We think that with reference to the public proclaiming of religion, upon the streets and in other similar public places, the power of the state to control the conduct of children reaches beyond the scope of its authority over adults, as is true in the case of other freedoms, and the rightful boundary of its power has not been crossed in this case."
In short, if everything we did with our children were justified by mere virtue of being a parent, we wouldn't need child protective services.
Private Matters Online Become Public
With precedents on MySpace, and even ongoing scandals on Facebook, one would think that people would have learned by now that posting their private lives publicly social media outlets for all to see carries certain risks.
Unless one takes the proper precautions of making their account private and visible only to friends on their list, anyone can see posts to their wall, and even comment on them. When you post to public pages on Facebook, such as parenting or "mommy" sites, everyone is free to see and comment.
So controversial is this issue of male infant genital cutting that a lot of mommy sites warn about bringing up this topic, or even forbid it outright.
The fact is, when you publicly post your private life on the net, you are opening yourself to feedback from others, positive or negative, and you can't call it "people getting in your business" when the feedback you get wasn't the reassuring validation that you were looking for.
In short, if you value your privacy and you don't want people "getting in your business," publicly posting your private parenting matters on Facebook, on a parenting forum where a lot of people are likely to read about and comment on them, is probably not a very good idea.
"No one wants advice - only corroboration."
Parents Don't Own Their Children Forever (AKA, It's Not All About You)
It is the nature of children to grow up, become individuals, and develop beliefs, attitudes and points of view separate from their parents.
Boys grow up to be men, and they have the right to be concerned about what was allowed to happen to their bodies, and they have the right to be happily content, or angrily discontent at the permanent alteration of their most private, most intimate organs which they were forced to undergo.
These men are angry they were forcibly circumcised without their consent as children.
Should they remain silent because it makes parents uncomfortable?
Should they remain silent because it makes parents uncomfortable?
Parents may view older men expressing anger at being circumcised as an encroachment on their parental prerogative, especially parents who have already made this decision for their own children, but the fact is that some men may feel angry about having been circumcised, and this is something that is beyond their control.
I posit that perhaps the reason parents react angrily to grown men protesting their circumcisions is because they do not want to have to face the prospect that one day, their children too may grow up to hate the fact that part of their private organs was cut away without their consent.
So Why Do Intactivists Concern Themselves?
There are a few answers to this question.
First, it could be personal.
People concerning themselves with stopping this practice, going as far as speaking to parents may stem from the fact that they themselves are men who are not happy, perhaps even angry with what has happened to them. They feel it was an encroachment on their rights, and by extension, that it is an encroachment on the rights of others that must be stopped.
Perhaps it's just people who see this as a violation of the most basic of human rights.
I recently saw a video with Bernie Sanders, and it spoke to me. His words are regarding other issues concerning this country, but I think it could apply here as well.
"This is what I believe. Every great religion in the world, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, essentially comes down to do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. And, what I have believed in my whole life, I believed it when I was a 22 year old kid getting arrested in Chicago fighting segregation.
I believed it in my whole life that we are in this together, not just not words. The truth is at some level, when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt. I hurt. And, when my kids hurt, you hurt. And, it's very easy to turn our backs on kids who are hungry, or veterans who are sleeping out in the street, and we can develop a psyche, a psyche that says I don't have to worry about them, all I'm going to worry about myself. I'm going to make another five billion dollars.
But, I believe what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can't even understand. It's beyond intellect. It's a spiritual, emotional thing. So, I believe that when we do the right thing, when we try to treat people with respect and dignity, when we say that that child who is hungry is my child, I think we are more human when we do that than when we say, "Hey this world, I need more and more. I don't care about anybody else."
That's my religion, that's what I believe in. And, I think most people around the world, whatever their religion, their color, share that belief that we are in it together as human beings. And, it becomes more and more practical.
If we destroy the planet because we don't deal with climate change, trust me. We are all in it together, alright?
So, we have got to work together, and that is what my spirituality is about."
So I believe that this is is the true reason why any of us, if not all of us are concerned.
It all comes down to doing unto others as we would like done to ourselves.
At some level, when you hurt, when your children hurt, we hurt.
It's very easy to turn our backs on kids who aren't our own.
It's real easy to say "I don't have to worry about those other kids who aren't mine. I'm going to worry about my own kids, and that's it."
I believe we're doing the right thing, and when we try to treat others with respect and dignity, especially those people who are too young and small to speak for themselves, I think we're being more human than when we say "I don't care about other people's children."
Why do we concern ourselves?
Because of this.
Parents wouldn't know about these risks and complications unless someone showed them.
Doctors will not show them.
This will not show up in their news feed.
Unless we warn parents, they would never know.
Male infant circumcision has risks that doctors have vested interest in minimizing, if not omitting completely from information they give parents.
The risks of circumcision include infection, partial or full ablation, hemorrhage and even death.
We're just messengers.
Yes, we know that normally we shouldn't encroach on other parents, but we feel this information is that important that this protocol be breached.
Lives are at stake here, not to mention the harms children who do survive have to endure.
This is the body a child has to live with for the rest of his life.
Given that circumcision is not medically necessary, how is putting a child at these risks conscionable?
Why aren't parents being told about these risks?
Information is being withheld from parents.
This results in needless injury and death, not to mention the violation of basic human rights in "successful" surgeries.
That is why we do what we do.
This isn't meant to be judgemental toward anyone, so mothers, or fathers, need not take this personally.
I think most intactivists understand that parents made the best decision for their children based on the information they had at the time.
This is new information, so perhaps parents didn't know.
I know this is hard for parents to wrap their heads around, because many have made a decision, a decision they can't readily take back.
People make mistakes.
All any of us wants to do is give information. It is up parents to decide what they want to do with that information.
No one, at least I, am not accusing, or judging or calling names.
Your blogger is also a parent, and I can assume that as parents, all we want is the best for our children.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You
No doubt parents are told about the "benefits" of circumcision. But how many have been properly informed about the risks?
Financial Incentive to Minimize or Hide the Truth
Doctors, at least American doctors, have incentive to paint for parents a very favorable picture of circumcision; they make a hefty stipend from this relatively simple procedure which takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
A single circumcision can cost from $100 to $400 dollars to perform out of pocket.
A single circumcision could cost as much as $2,000 in hospital fees, so hospitals want their doctors and nurses to push circumcision on you as much as possible.
Cases have been known where nurses confess that they have been told that a parent is not to leave the hospital until they sign the consent form for their child's circumcision.
Some hospitals list anatomically correct male genitals as an actual problem that needs to be fixed.
In some cases, parents have refused circumcision for their children, and were still billed for it after they left the hospital!
Still in others, parents have been given their child to them already circumcised, prompting lawsuits, including lawsuits that were lost.
$2000 may not sound like much, but consider that in America alone, 1.3 million babies are circumcised annually.
That makes male infant circumcision a 2.6 billion dollar a year industry.
And that's not even including the cost of circumcision equipment, such as circumstraints, circumcision kits, clamps, anesthetics, etc.
Because there is money to lose, in case you say "no," doctors and nurses will more than likely tell you all the good things about circumcision, minimizing all the bad, if not omitting it altogether.
What are the "benefits?"
The "benefits" often sold to parents, even if they can be called that, are "hygiene," supposed "protection" from STDs, and a better "appearance." (Better according to whom?)
Any "benefit" your doctor will tell you about in their sell can already be achieved by simpler, more effective means.
Hygiene can already easily be taken care of with soap and water, just like in girls.
The "protection" against STDs circumcision supposedly offers is speculative, and circumcised males and their partners must still be urged to wear condoms anyway, because circumcision fails.
What is "good appearance" is based on the eye of the beholder. In cultures where women are circumcised, labia and the presence of a clitoris are seen as "unsightly." (Since when was "better appearance" a "medical benefit?")
The bottom line is that not a single respected medical organization recommends male infant circumcision based on the current body of medical literature concerning the matter. Not a single one, not even the AAP in their latest statement, found the "benefits" so compelling that they committed to a recommendation.
In fact, other medical organizations have come out *against* it.
Only the AAP tries to remain "neutral," leaving the "choice" to be "up to the parents," presumably because coming out and saying that circumcision is not beneficial would disenfranchise members of the AAP who do reap profit from male infant circumcision, and leave them open to lawsuits. (The AAP is a trade organization whose main interest is the welfare of their members, your child actually comes second or third.)
In the real world
The fact of the matter is that 70% of the world's men aren't circumcised, and there simply isn't an epidemic of "problems" in those countries where circumcision is rare or not practiced.
In Europe, East Asia, not to mention Australia, circumcision is rare or not practiced, and it is actually being circumcised that has a "strange appearance."
With 80% of American men circumcised from birth, one would expect to observe a lower rate of STDs; higher rates are actually observed in the US, with lower rates being observed in countries where circumcision is rare or not practiced.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the US has a higher HIV prevalence than 53 countries where circumcision is rare or not practiced.
We have more HIV than Mexico.
So what are the risks?
The risks include infection, partial or full ablation, hemorrhaging, and even death.
The risks change depending on the method the doctor uses.
Galloping gangrene and complications of necrosis are more common with the Plastibell technique, and higher pain levels are observed using the Gomco clamp.
The Mogen clamp is notorious for glans amputations, so notorious that, in fact, the Mogen manufacturing company has been put out of business by the numerous lawsuits brought against it involving children whose glans was partially or fully amputated by the device.
Parents, do you know what method your doctor will be using? Has your doctor fully disclosed the risks to you? This is information the doctor should be making clear to you, and/or you need to question him or her if she isn't, as a responsible parent.
Still, other doctors or nurses may give misinformation outright. Misinformation, such as "advice" to forcibly retract a child for cleaning. Or that if the child hasn't retracted by 3 years there's a problem. (The AAP actually says that the foreskin should never be forcibly retracted, and rightfully advises that this happens on its own.)
This misinformation often results in the necessity for surgery becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is a parent's responsibility to make *informed* decisions for their children
This is your child we're talking about, and he will undergo life-altering surgery.
As responsible parents being asked to make a decision, you need to know these things.
Parents, you may not hear about the complications that have resulted from circumcision, because they rarely make the news, and I'm almost certain you are not involved in intactivism, where we keep an eye out on the news outlets and social media.
Circumcision complications are more common than American doctors and their trade organizations would like you to believe.
On Facebook alone, it is not uncommon to see posts by parents who are asking for prayers for their children, because there were complications and their child is in grave danger.
Typically the child won't stop bleeding (hemorrhage) or the doctor cut off the head of the penis, and they don't know if reattaching it will work.
In other cases, sadly, babies and older children have died.
Sadly, oftentimes parents are still not receptive to information we give after this, and still believe circumcision is "necessary" and it would have all worked out "if only the doctor hadn't screwed it up."
You have to remember, circumcision is not a necessary procedure.
Your child is not sick, and will not suffer from having the parts god gave him.
Is putting your child through these risks worth it?
For non-medical surgery?
Your healthy child with whom nothing is wrong?
I'm not sure about everyone else, but for me, just knowing that death is one of the risks was enough for me to say, HELL, NO.
Not my kids.
I look into my son's eyes, and it breaks my heart to imagine his lifeless body in my arms.
Ask Yourself, "Why?"
Boys and men in the rest of the world aren't circumcised.
Why is America the only English-speaking country where boys are circumcised routinely?
If infant circumcision is "so effective" at preventing disease, why can't a single respected medical organization commit to a recommendation?
What are other respected medical organizations around the world saying about the matter?
Why aren't reductions in STDs and other diseases circumcision is supposed to "prevent," observed in real-world data?
If circumcision is supposed to prevent STDs, why isn't this observable in our own country, where 80% of all men are circumcised from birth?
These are questions that, I think, parents ought to be asking themselves.
I can't say who is a good or bad parent, but what I can say is that a good parent researches everything.
A good parent tries to find everything there is to know about something before making a decision.
This is permanent cosmetic surgery on your child we are talking about here.
This is an irrevocable decision that will affect your child for the rest of his life as a man on earth.
Do you want to ruin it for him?
What if he doesn't like it?
You will have taken away his choice.
And there is nothing you can do to give it back.
This is why some men are angry about this and protest. A good parent makes decisions for their children.
It is the responsibility of parents to make decisions for their children.
Hopefully, as parents, we want to make informed decisions, especially with permanent ones like this, with which the child has to learn to live with for the rest of his life.
You may be his parent now, but you are not going to be there in the room when he masturbates or has sex with his partner.
This is his body we are talking about, the body he will have for the duration of his life on earth, and one of the biggest reasons I oppose this is because circumcising a healthy, non-consenting child violates his most basic of human rights; the right to his own body, the violation of his most private, most intimate organs.
Circumcision is a personal choice.
A private and intimate, if not *the* most private and intimate choice.
A choice that rightfully belongs to the person whose body is in question.
Human rights are everyone's business.
I close with this:
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair or fingernails.
The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy functioning tissue, present in all males at birth; it is as intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.
Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a health, non-consenting individual is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.
Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents.
Under any other circumstance, reaping profit from performing non-medical surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals constitutes medical fraud. In children, it is clear abuse.
Doctors who engage in this practice are engaging in charlatanism and abuse. Abuse of parental trust, and ultimately, abuse of the child himself.
The day is coming when male infant circumcision will be seen for what it is, and doctors will be held accountable for their actions.
Peace to all.
"I Did My Research" - The Quest for Scientific Vindication
Phony Phimosis: How American Doctors Get Away With Medical Fraud