Questioning Circumcision

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The Power of Tradition November 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 11:42 pm

 What do you think of when you hear the word, “tradition”?               

I think about family, holidays, familiar recipes, comfort foods,  german chocolate cake on my birthday, opening presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning, and seafood to celebrate New Year’s. 


 This is the preparation for a routine infant circumcision in an American hospital.  

It doesn’t elicit the same fond memories and warm fuzzies as Grandma’s apple pie, does it?   How did circumcision in America get started?  View a slideshow on The Medicalization of Circumcision.  Another interesting read is The Evolution of Childrearing

(to be continued…)           


Who are you?

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 11:09 pm

“When they ask you whether or not you’re going to circumcise your new baby, it’s like a test. Are you going to affirm that he is perfect just the way he was created? Are you going to listen to your instinct that is telling you to shield him from senseless violence? Are you going to trust Nature/the Creator? Or are you going to submit to culture’s absurdities? Are you going to buy into the mentality that it’s proper to cause a child pain now in order to stave off something worse down the road–the same mentality behind crying-it-out, spanking, etc.     

Most of those early choices that we make so much of probably don’t really matter that much to the child years later. My husband was bottle fed and I was breastfed–could anyone tell the difference? Can you meet a first grader and tell whether she was sleep trained or whether she coslept? Can you guess which of your neighbors were spanked? Probably not. But when you’re parenting, every one of your choices reflects who you are deep down, and you should be fully convinced in your own mind of the rightness of everything you do.”    

 SuperPickle, MDC       


Did you circumcise your son?

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 6:45 am


Parents who choose circumcision are doing what they feel is best for their son with the information they have available to them at the time.  Unfortunately, truly informed consent regarding circumcision is rare.  Often when parents learn more about circumcision weeks, months, or years later many experience feelings of anger and guilt.                  


“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”


–Maya Angelou


There’s a wonderful thread on Mothering.Com’s circumcision forum filled with the experiences and stories of parents who came to regret their decision to circumcise.  They all share a deep love for their sons as well as sadness.  Read More                   

More thoughts on circumcision regret…         

Non-consentual, non-medically indicated genital cutting hurts everyone it touches. It causes mothers to set aside their fierce protective instincts, and often also causes intense grief and heartache. It often causes otherwise loving and intelligent fathers to insist their son’s ‘match’. It eats away at the consciences of medical professionals. It irreversibly damages the primary sex organ of over half of male, American babies.           

 A year or so ago I inadvertantly left a spice jar of cayenne pepper out on the counter one night after cooking dinner and didn’t realize it until the next day when my son’s screams caused my body to shudder. He’d found the cayenne pepper, opened it, and poured it into a pile on the kitchen floor and then played with/in it, and you guessed it-rubbed his eyes. I rushed him to the bathroom and rinsed him with water, I was so panicked, I rinsed his entire head and his look of terror from having water sprayed over his head and face as he held his breath still haunts me. I worried I’d damaged him for ever…worried he’d be blind…called the ped, whose nurse was reassuring. He didn’t require a trip to the ER, but he was traumatized by the experience and was fearful of even having his hair washed for many months.

 Fortunately, he’s okay now. I don’t think he consciously remembers it. His vision isn’t effected, and he’s back to loving his baths and usually lets me wash his hair without freaking out. I know what happened was my fault. I acknowledge I was careless, even neglectful to have let him stray from my sight although it only took a moment. I still get a knot in the pit of my stomach thinking about it though. How much worse would I feel if permanent harm-true damage-had come to him? Thankfully, most of us can’t fathom that kind of guilt…but we can try to understand it and be sensitive to it.

 Certainly, the boy is the one who suffered direct physical pain and loss and he deserves our sadness and compassion but there are moments and intensities of remorse, guilt, and grief that can make parents literally sick with heartache. I think they deserve our compassion too. What they didn’t know did hurt their child, and there is no way to turn back time, no way to take it back or reverse it.

 The circumcision issue is wrought with cultural misperceptions, myths, and misinformation. Parents rely on care providers to be honest with them and to provide them with unbiased, balanced, and truthful information. Sure, they could have (and should have) researched the topic independently and more thoroughly…but circumcision is just so d-mn culturally engrained, still so automatic and assumed: “It’s more hygienic. Dad’s circed, baby should be too. Better now than later.”

 Most contemporary pregnancy books have little if anything to say, and if they do they are more often than not moderately pro (written by Americans with circumcised sons themselves, or who actually perform the procedure) or extremely, confusingly wishy-washy. If a parent looks to the internet, they’ll find different types of websites depending on the terms they search for…and could easily end up on Morris’s or Schoen’s websites or Circlist. And, let’s be honest—pregnancy and childbirth are riddled with decisions and choices from what brand of carseat to buy, what interventions to avoid or accept, learning about feeding options, etc. A large percentage of mothers these days also work outside the home and the 40ish weeks of pregnancy can just fly by…

 Consent forms for all sorts of things are thrust on women in the hospital, either during labor or afterwards, when they’re exausted, hormonal, recovering from blood loss and in many cases have pain medications in their systems. Circumcision may not even be presented as an option in some cases, more like, “Sign here for the circumcision.” or, “The circumcision will be done tomorrow morning.” Automatic. Assumed. Expected. Completely routine.

 How many parents consent to allowing their child’s flesh to be punctured and chemicals injected (vaccination) without doing much-if any-research? That’s one routine parenting choice I made without being fully educated myself. When the standard American consensus is that the foreskin is just a tiny flap of skin and circumcision is a quick and virtually painless “little snip” it’s often not even perceived by parents as “surgery”…kwim? On mainstream boards, I’ve seen some ignorant parents go so far as to compare it to trimming fingernails or a haircut.

 Those of us who learned about circumcision before the birth of our son(s) often take our fortune for granted; most parents know disturbingly little about the anatomy & physiology of the foreskin, the mechanics of normal intercourse, the circumcision procedure, it’s risks, and it’s long-term effects. Think back to how you stumbled across the truth. Were you shocked? Horrified? Outraged? Those reactions only result from learning something profoundly disturbing…a surprising, terrible, widespread secret.

 Those of us who learned the truth in time to protect our sons are so, so, so lucky…because it easily could have been one of us who trusted our care provider and circumcised based on inadaquate or inaccurate information or ignorantly succumbed to pressures from other directions.

 When I read the words of a regretful mother who’s hurting, that’s what I think: It could have been me. It could have happened to my son. When I think of it that way, I feel sadness rather than judgment and compassion rather than anger—for everyone, all the way around.

 The entire situation is tragic.

 When I finally came to understand the truth about circumcision-the anatomy & functions of the foreskin, the loss every circumcision entails, and the long-term damage that it causes babies and the men they become-I was angry. I was horrified. I was disgusted. I was outraged! I wanted to tell the world, inform the public, shout the truth from the rooftops until parents knew better and I was completely unprepared for the defensiveness and venom circumcision-minded parents shot back at me. They felt attacked, so they retaliated; it was a defense mechanism. I think the biggest epiphany-major, “uh huh!” moment-came when I stumbled across the Stages of Grief

 Suddenly, I saw all of the emotions being expressed by circumcising parents who had been presented with literally overwhelming information about what they’d robbed their children of for exactly what it was: GRIEF.    

  • Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
  • Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
  • Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  • Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
  • Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
  • Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
  • Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward. 

It’s probably important to note that it isn’t always wise to play the armchair psychologist in these dealings and announce to parents that they’re just grieving, that’s why they’re so angry and defensive; they tend to perceive that as condescending and patronizing, which only results in more anger and defensiveness. It is helpful though, from an intactivist perspective to know that these aren’t generally arrogant, heartless parents no matter how hard the struggle against the truth your sharing. Knowing they’re grieving increases our understanding, patience, and compassion. It helps us keep kind and calm even in the face of those who wish to ‘shoot the messanger’.

 Anyway, I’ve shared all this because we all journey through these feelings-even as intactivists-at different pace and in our own time. It’s okay to be angry! It really, really is. Circumcision is a terrible thing, an awful, damaging practice that permanently harms vulnerable, unconsenting, defenseless children. It’s that horror, outrage, love of babies and the men they become and desire to protect them that fuels our passion and revitalizes our efforts. It’s not just okay-but essential-that we stay in touch with that and tap into it from time to time.

 The challenge is to do our best to not alienate those who are truly ignorant or who are processing grief. We’re planting seeds, even when we don’t see the fruits and may never reap the harvest. Parents who circumcised and later learn the truth and process the guilt and grief make some of the most experienced, passionate, and effective intactivists.



What does normal look like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 4:01 am


Here are two pictures of a different baby boy.  The first is BEFORE circumcision.  The second is AFTER.


Why mess with perfection? 


Like Father, Like Son?

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 3:52 am

Circumcision in America is perpetuated by a misguided notion of “tradition”. Expectant dad’s frequently make the case that junior should be circumcised to “match dad”, but is the arguement logical? Here’s a great new gift idea to get him thinking…  

“Like Father, Like Son” Kit   




Advanced technology!  Now, father and son can match without surgery.  Stops painful tradition in it’s tracks while eliminating the risk of paternal inadequacy syndrome and potential neonatal circumcision complications such as hemorrhage, infection, and death.  A must have for the arrival of your 21st century blue bundle!  




(1) pair of novelty glasses, with fake nose and mustache


(1) adult novelty bib, blue bonnet, or pacifier


(1) pair of adult Depends briefs


(1) reusable ice pack (for minimizing penile size difference)


(1) 1 oz. baggy of faux pubic/armpit hair and tube of superglue 


(1) artificial umbilical cord stump (to avoid confusing during those early days)


(1) bottle of Nair hair removal cream -0r- hair dye -or- miniature wig/toupe


(4) grease pencils in black, brown, red, and white for realistic mimicking of freckles, birthmarks, age spots, moles, stretch marks,  scars, ‘storkbites’, and more


(1) bottle of tooth paint -or- container of tooth wax (for realistic toothless look for Dad)


(1) packet of information on foreskin restoration options


For more thoughts on why circumcised men so frequently insist on circumcising their sons, read Vincent Bach’s essay, “The Vulnerability of Men“. 



Are foreskins really gross?

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 3:21 am

What stunned me about this piece, artistically, colorfully portraying the beauty of normal, healthy male anatomy was how incredibly similar it looks compared to a woman’s petal-like folds. 

Paul Davis Jones          







Paintings by Paul Davis Jones


Complete, as Nature Intended

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 2:56 am


I was reading a Mother Chronicle article this evening titled, “Complete, as Nature Intended” by Karen Squires.  She explains how her first son-adopted-was circumcised, and she never thought much of it.  Years later, when she was pregnant with her biological son she researched the issue thoroughly and concluded her newborn would not be circumcised.  She lists common concerns and shares her reasoning supported by an impressive list of references.  


At the very end is this poem:



The precious babe lay at my breast.  

“Shall we cut him?” 

they ask. 

You shall not. 

I would sooner give you a part of me 

to cut off. 

We shall leave him to be 



As God made him. 

Rachel Hyde, NY, May 1999



Talk about it!

Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 2:32 am


Mothering.Com: The Case Against Circumcision (forum)  

Read the posting guidelines, here: LINK  

***PLEASE NOTE: This is not a debate board.***



Filed under: Uncategorized — intactivist @ 1:57 am

Welcome to the Questioning Circumcision Weblog.

If this is your first visit, please begin by reviewing the videos & articles accessible in the upper right corner.  

Circumcision is making headlines this month…

TIME: The Backlash Against Circumcision

TIME: The Great Uncircumcision Debate

TimesOnline: Cutting Comments: the foreskin debate

NPR: Oregon Court Hears Circumcision Dispute (w/audio)