This is who I am…

I am a 33 year-old husband, father, student, and activist from the good ole’ US of A. I am your standard issue white male nothing special, however, I do abide by a set of values that go against our genital cutting culture. Make no mistake my fellow Americans, we live in a genital cutting culture. What may come to mind as you read these words are horrid images of young girls being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). When I was younger, the horrors of FGM were the only thing that came to mind when I heard the words genital cutting. But right here at home, we seem to have a giant blind spot for the plight of the newborn baby boy. While we decry FGM and rightly so, we routinely subject our baby boys to the same kind of treatment without most of us thinking twice. We routinely subject our boys to the euphemistically coined term “circumcision,” or in this case specifically Routine Infant Circumcision (RIC). That sounds a lot better than male genital mutilation (MGM) doesn’t it? With the use of this tidy euphemism, you can start to see how our culture bends and contorts itself around this very topic of MGM/RIC. Now I realize right off the bat that some are going to take offense to my comparing FGM to MGM, but hear me out.

I understand completely the level of sheer barbarism perpetrated against little girls in the practice of FGM and I am not saying that MGM and FGM are *exactly* the same, because they are not. We can argue about the level of mutilation or the intent relative to FGM and MGM, and the varying level of severity,  but the fact remains that female genital mutilation and male genital mutilation are both legally and morally indistinguishable. Ask any American mother or father why they circumcised their son and they will tell you that it is more hygienic, better looking, and/or is part of a religious covenant. Ask any Muslim mother or father why they circumcised their daughter and they will tell you **the exact same thing.**

I understand that this sort of realization comes at a cost. Some of you reading this may have already taken a defensive posture and are perhaps offended by what I have said so far. From my experience, the people getting defensive while reading something like this are most likely parents who allowed a doctor or religious figure to cut their child’s genitals and feel the need to justify their decision or are men who were subjected to MGM, but cannot come to grips with the fact that they were mutilated. To the parents I say: I am not out to shame you or make you feel bad. Your decision was born from a best intentions of a genital cutting culture, not from a place of malice, I certainly understand that and would never express or imply otherwise.That is why I am working to end the practice of non-medically indicated circumcision so that parents aren’t faced with this terrible “choice.”

To these men I say: I completely understand the aversion to coming to grips with something like MGM, however I would urge to you keep an open mind  and remember that even though your genitals were cut on, I am sure (I hope!) they are perfectly fine and serve you well. Who on Earth would want to acknowledge that there is something not quite right about their genitals? That is the burden of MGM and one of the main reasons that most men don’t speak out on this topic.

Think about it for a moment, for a man who was subjected to MGM/RIC to be against the practice, he pretty much has to admit to himself that his penis isn’t normal and that the reason that it’s not normal is because his parents allowed doctors or clergy to cut on his genitals. This is heavy stuff, and COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE by simply leaving baby boys intact. If they decide as an adult that they want their genitals cut, by all means they can do that.

That being said though, the intentions behind MGM/RIC don’t change what circumcision is: non-consensual genital cutting. Our culture has normalized the unethical practice of permanently modifying the bodies of children without their consent. That is what makes genital cutting such an uncomfortable topic to talk about. In condemning MGM/RIC, one is in effect telling men who have been circumcised that their genitals aren’t normal, telling parents that they made a huge mistake, and telling doctors that they are performing an unnecessary surgery.

This is a very tough pill to swallow for all parties involved and again I empathize with this completely. No man wants to think his penis has been mutilated, no parent wants to think that they allowed someone to harm their baby, and certainly no doctor wants to think that they harmed a baby due to an unnecessary cosmetic surgery. Do you see what I am up against here? Is it perhaps a bit easier to see that for some reason we give MGM a pass, but we draw the line at FGM?

We clearly have a cultural blind spot for the genital cutting of little boys in the country and I aim to stop it. From things as simple as writing in this blog, to ambitious things like obtaining a law degree so that I may advocate for baby boys in the courts and seek protection for them under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Now if you’ve made it this far, and you’re still reading this, thank you for at least hearing me out. I am sure that many of you reading this have questions so I have compiled a short list of frequently asked questions below.

  • Does the penile foreskin(prepuce) serve a purpose?

Yes it does. The prepuce is part of the penile skin system and contains tens of thousands of nerve endings that once removed can never be replaced. It also has a protective, immunological, and sexual functions (Taylor et al, 1999). In fact the removal of the foreskin results in the removal of the most sensitive part of the penis (Sorrells et al, 2006) The important question is: Were you aware of that?

  • Are there medical benefits to Routine Infant Circumcision/Male Genital Mutilation?

Short answer, yes there are some, but this is an incomplete statement. This is an age old question, and it has been asked before many times since circumcision began as a ritual of the covenant between Jews and God. Since genital cutting has been part of human history for very long time, it is clear, that in attempts to perpetuate the practice and to confirm our genital cutting biases, studies have been commissioned to find reasons justify MGM/RIC. For instance, people will tell you that being circumcised will lower the rate of certain STD’s and UTI’s. These findings are true and can be backed up with peer reviewed studies, however the stats are at best misleading.

When you read studies about how MGM/RIC reduces the rate of UTI’s in infant boys, you will come to find two important things. First off, compared to girls, incidence of UTI’s in young males is relatively rare. The studies themselves admit this. The other thing you will notice is that these studies use orders of magnitude to explain the benefits of MGM/RIC. For example instead of saying MGM/RIC reduces that rate of UTI’s in young boys from .00000034% to .000000034% (these are made up numbers for demonstrative purposes)  they will use the term “ten-fold” perhaps to mask the absolutely tiny benefit.

***What these studies won’t tell you is that in the majority of cases the most effective treatment of UTI’s is a standard course of antibiotics. I would ask: Why are we cutting genitals when EVERY SINGLE MEDICAL BENEFIT CITED IN DEFENSE OF GENITAL CUTTING CAN BE OBTAINED VIA SAFER LESS INVASIVE METHODS. Let me repeat that folks, every single medical benefit attributed to MGM/RIC can be obtained via safer less invasive methods. Touting the benefits of removing a part of a body of a non-consenting minor without first advocating for less invasive treatment options is quite simply the malpractice of medicine. Medical benefits without medical ethics are not benefits at all.

 MGM/RIC “Protective Benefits” vs. Less Invasive Treatment Options

    • Lower rate of urinary tract infection – Most UTI’s can be treated with antibiotics as opposed to healthy tissue amputation (MGM). If MGM is such a great tool for UTI’s in boys then why aren’t we circumcising our daughters who have a much higher rate of UTI’s? Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should water down the legal protection of girls against FGM in the US. I am saying that boys should be protected under the law from genital cutting in addition to girls despite potential “benefits.”
    • Lower rate of sexually transmitted infections – The most effective protection from STI’s is condom use. In fact, using MGM/RIC as a way to protect against STI’s may actually discourage condom use which has extremely dangerous implications.
    • Lower rate of penile cancer – Stating that MGM/RIC reduces the incidence of Penile cancer is about as disingenuous as saying that removing one of your lungs will reduce your chance of getting lung cancer. Penile cancer is *exceedingly* rare in men with normal penises and men with circumcised penises, and it’s amazing that some doctors actually cite this “benefit” with a straight face.
    • Cosmetic benefit (no teasing, his girlfriends will like it, look like dad, personal preference) – Let me put this as bluntly as I can: Parents making decisions about their  son’s genitals based on their own sexual preferences is downright disgusting. Stop and think about this for a moment. This really underscores that power of our cutting culture. Our cutting culture has normalized the practice of parents imposing **their own sexual preferences** on the bodies of their sons. Can you imagine what our society would say if the genders were reversed? Could you imagine a father posting on Facebook about how he is having his daughter’s genitals cut so her vulva will look like vulvas that he prefers? Seriously folks that double standard here is staggering.
  • Do men really complain about the fact that they were circumcised?

Yes. Many men feel that being subjected to non-consensual genital cutting was a violation of their human rights and right to bodily integrity. I am one of them. I wish desperately that our culture of cutting hadn’t persuaded my parents to allow a doctor to mutilate my genitals. Yes my penis functions just fine, everything seems OK in that department, but I will tell you, there is no feeling in this world like knowing that you have been violated.

I was violated in a way that will prevent me from being able to experience my whole, undiminished body. I was violated in a way that will prevent me from being able to fully experience what was taken from me, from my body. I read things all the time about how men like me have no right to feel violated because I was too young to remember it. What kind of logic is that? So because I was too young to remember being strapped down to a table and having my penis cut I am not entitled to feel violated? If this is what you believe, then is it OK to rape someone who is passed out or drugged. They won’t remember it right?

This is the logic that men like me have to deal with. We are constantly told that we are soft, whiny, entitled, victims, who should worry about more important things in our lives. Well let me tell you something, I lead a pretty great life, and in fact the only thing that I think is missing from my life is part of my penis that was cut off in 1979 and most likely sold to cosmetic companies for face creams. (If you don’t believe me about the face cream, you’d better Google that shit.) I am certainly grateful that I don’t live under a bridge or have some debilitating disease, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to be mad that I live in a culture that holds up female genital cutting as this horrid barbaric practice, yet completely dismisses the genital cutting that was perpetrated against me, without my consent.

There was nothing to gain from the genital cutting that was performed on me, only loss. I lost a part of myself, along with the part of my body removed from me without my consent, and while you may not think this is a big deal, if you’re a parent, I pray your sons don’t grow up to feel this way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mope through life lamenting the loss of my foreskin, but every now and then the weight of a ton of bricks sits right on my chest as I picture my infant self in one of these:

The Circumstraint: A ruthlessly effective way of restraining an infant so that you can cut on their genitals without pain medication or consent.

The Circumstraint: A ruthlessly effective way of restraining an infant so that you can cut on their genitals without pain medication or consent.

10 thoughts on “This is who I am…

  1. Thank you for writing this. I don’t know WHAT will finally wake people up and make them realize what a terribly wrong thing this is to do to children. But you have spelled it out completely in the best way of seen thus far. I am so utterly regretful that I am a mother who UNKNOWINGLY let this happen to my boys, and the very second that I saw a video of the actual procedure happening to an infant…I knew it was horrifically wrong. I saw that infant in the video as my own child and it literally BROKE me in that very moment. It forever changed me. And I will NEVER forgive myself. I do what I am capable of at this time to try and make a difference for others. But no matter what I ever do, I will never be able to undo the pain and suffering that my sons had to go through in that moment, nor can I ever undo the permenant change of their bodies and the negative affect that it has had or will have on their lives, but most regretfully I will never be able to undo the loss of themselves that they will never be able to know – which should have been their protected human right to do. Parents who have been affected the way that I have, and there are many like me, have lost a part of themselves as well. Obviously not as great of a loss, or as easily identified, but still a loss that matters. Not all parents of circumcised boys are willing participants, regardless of a simple form with a signature. My boys were violated. I was violated. And there seems to be no justice for it. I look forward to the day you earn your law degree. And I know there are more like you coming up who will be able to start holding people accountable for this.

    • Thank you for your kind words. 🙂 Yes we are all victims of this cutting culture. Parents who have been made to believe that circumcision is necessary and not risky certainly had their trust violated by the doctors of the cutting culture. It is sad all the way around. Thank you for speaking up and speaking out.

    • The villains are the 20th century medical school professors who taught students to circumcise without anesthesia. The professors who teach circumcision yet who refuse to research its long term complications for adult sex life. The professors of pediatric urology who refuse to reveal that 25-40% of their caseloads arise from postop RIC problems.

    • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your sons will make sure your grandsons will remain intact. And thus the Cult of the Bald Penis shall come to an end in your descent. And thus America will fill with little points of light, the light of sexual truth. RIC can thrive only in the dark.

  2. One of the best posts I’ve read. Thank you. I hope all our information spreading will help heal the US’ and this very…odd and barbaric practice. I always thought circumcision was something Jews did. Being European, RIC was completely foreign to me. I was by pure accident I came across it and started learning about it.
    And despite it’s barbaric images (that I will never get out of my head) I am glad I found out about it, so that I too can spread the word and be an intactivist. Because like I said, I thought Jews only did this, but I had no idea how it was performed, and now I know that as well, so I try to reach any Jews out there as well. Let’s keep our boys the way they were created; Perfect in every way!

    I have 2 sons, both obv intact. I have never seen a circ man in RL, only by images, and never was he European. I guess to me, a circumcised penis is as weird and odd looking as a whole penis is to the average american. 😦

    • If you have done foreplay and digital play on a man, you know what lies under the foreskin. Before the internet, tens of millions of Americans had no clue what the foreskin looked like and how it worked. For such people, intact was weirder than cut is for you.
      When I was growing up, I was not afraid that a boy would see me in the showers and say “you’re not circumcised and that is gross.” Rather, I feared that he would say “your dick is totally weird, man. What in the hell is wrong with it??” I never heard a peer speak the word “circumcised” until I was a sophomore in college.

  3. Thank you for speaking out. I am in the same boat as you, and I know how hard it is to say anything when people call you whiny, entitled, and say you are making a big deal over nothing. I think I would have an easier time dealing with my own mutilation if it weren’t still happening to 13 million boys a year. Sometimes I feel very helpless and afraid that I live in a culture where we call strapping defenseless people down and cutting up their genitals “no big deal”. And this is supposedly a progressive culture dedicated to the sanctity of human rights.

  4. Mothers were not informed of what was going on in 1979. A nurse came to take my boy from his in-room crib on the second day after he was born. I asked why and she said the doctor needs to see him. That’s it! That’s all the information given. When he returned to the room he was screaming and inconsolable. The nurse said its okay this is normal after circumcision. I asked what is that and she showed me the bandage on his penis and said its for his own good. I was a young mother and I was trusting the adults around me to show me the right way to care for this bundle of joy. Instead they mutilated him. I felt sick about it at the time but the more I read about this, the worse I feel. I will help to spread the word.

  5. As a gay man, I’ve seen and discussed more penises than your average heterosexual male. I’ve met quite a few circumcised guys who wish it had never been done to them. Interestingly enough, I’ve never met a single uncircumcised guy who wishes his parents did it. I think it’s sad that men don’t get a choice about the part of their body they seem to care about the most.

    • When I was a teen, I wished my parents had cut me so that I would not feel self conscious in locker rooms. So that dating girls would not put me in a dilemma (“do I tell her or not? And if I do, what in the hell do I say? She probably doesn’t even know what circumcision is!”)

      I got over it. I grew a backbone. I eventually met and married a foreskin respecting woman. I discovered the first intactivists in the 1980s. Now thanks to social media, I have met hundreds of intactivists, and dozens of foreskin worshiping women.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s