I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to my first real attempt to explain to my family and friends and the world my very negative feelings about the fact that as a newborn, I was subjected to male genital mutilation (MGM).
Oddly enough, the most push back I’ve received has been from my own family. Maybe this is the first time that they’ve come to grips with the fact that their sons may grow up to feel that they were violated by MGM.
I sure hope that no one grows up to feel like they were violated, but I am not the first to feel this way about the fact that I was subjected to MGM, and until the practice is stopped, I will not be the last.
My family’s reaction has very clearly exposed several examples of how America’s culture of genital cutting makes people blind to the very real harm that can result from MGM. If you haven’t read my piece explaining how MGM harmed me and violated me, the main thrust of the piece was to explain to people that I advocate against MGM so that no more boys will have to grow up to feel the way that I feel about what was done to me in the name of a completely avoidable, elective surgery.
Nowhere in my piece do I shame or judge men who have been mutilated or parents who allowed a doctor or clergy member to mutilate their boys. In fact I go to great lengths to point out that it is the culture of genital cutting that helps perpetuate the practice of MGM and this twisted aspect of our culture shapes our thoughts and perspectives about MGM and is not the fault of the parents. Whether we want to admit it or not, we Americans live in a genital cutting culture.
Here is how you can tell:
- When a man comes forward to express his sincere feelings on the fact that he lost his right to his bodily integrity within days of being born, he is often met with scorn and derision. What other context can you imagine where a person expressing their most private and intimate feelings about *something done to them* that they believe harmed them is subjected to such flippancy? Can you imagine someone dismissing the feelings of someone who was sexually abused as a child? Can you imagine telling a rape survivor that they are “going overboard” when they express their grief and dismay about what was done to them? This my friends is the genital cutting culture.
- In my experience, pro-MGM people tend to want to talk about MGM in the abstract. Perhaps it makes it easier to excuse the pain and violation imposed on baby boys when people can talk about nameless and faceless MGM studies and statistics. It is when MGM takes a name and bears a face that these people tend to clam-up and tell you that the matter is private and personal. To me this suggests that most people instinctively view MGM as wrong, but go along with it out of cultural/social pressure (whether real or imagined). This is due to our genital cutting culture.
- Common reasons cited for subjecting baby boys to MGM are so that “he will look like dad,” or “I prefer circumcised penises.” These reasons are perhaps the most glaring example of the sheer power of our genital cutting culture. It is nothing short of reprehensible to even think about wanting to modify your child’s body to suit your own personal sexual preferences. However, it happens every day in our culture. Every damn day you come across Facebook threads or posts about how parents subjected their sons to MGM for these very reasons. If I told you that I wanted to pierce my little girl’s clitoris because I prefer to have sex with women with a pierced clitoris what would you think of me? Our genital cutting culture is the only explanation for this, and it’s highly offensive and terribly disgusting to even think about.
- The very fact that the foreskin itself is thought to have no purpose is another indicator of our genital cutting culture. Other than foreskin (prepuce organ), what other organ can you think of that it’s very presence in or on the body warrants its removal? Before you answer, “the appendix,” or “the tonsils,” I would argue that even these perceived “unneeded” organs, are *only* removed when some medical indication warrants it. Why is OK to perform surgery to remove the prepuce organ from baby boys and not OK to remove their tonsils and appendix? The answer (other than being absurd): our genital cutting culture. We ALL know it’s wrong to subject a baby boy to unnecessary organ removal surgery, yet our genital cutting culture exempts the removal of the foreskin as something we should consider morally and ethically wrong.
- Despite the fact that the study of human anatomy has been around since around 1600 BCE, somehow American doctors are completely ignorant to the purpose and function of the human male prepuce. How can this be? How can 3600 years of basic foundational knowledge of the workings of the human body be lost on American doctors? Our genital cutting culture, that’s how.
- The fact that our textbooks and our public health literature all depict the circumcised penis as normal is proof of our genital cutting culture. The language used to describe MGM is also an indicator of our genital cutting culture. Our culture uses terms like “circumcised” and “uncircumcised” when indicating a male’s MGM status. What other part of the body can you think of where medically modified version of that organ is the touted as the norm? When we talk about someone who has had one leg amputated, we don’t refer to their intact leg as their un-ampuatated leg, we refer to it as their leg, because that’s what it is. This shift in the language is due to our genital cutting culture.
- When a group of doctors and scientists (American Academy of Pediatrics) publish a report aimed directly at parents and insurance companies that claims on one hand that the risks of circumcision are not well known, and then on the other hand claims that the “benefits” of MGM outweigh the risks, you can see our genital cutting culture at work. The report is right here if you want to read it, and that is exactly what they claim. Again, one part of the report states that the risks are circumcision are not well known, yet the benefits outweigh the risks. This is completely absurd and once again a textbook example of genital cutting culture.
- More proof of our genital cutting culture and the real harm it brings upon our boys lies in the fact that the very doctors performing MGM on most boys in the US are Obstetricians/Gynecologists. That’s right people. Doctors trained to help support the reproductive and genital health of *women* are the most common perpetrators (profiteers) of MGM. Take a moment to process that. An OB/GYN, whose only training in matters of penile health consist of it’s partial amputation are the ones taking the knives to our little boys. We don’t let dentists perform LASIK and we don’t let anesthesiologists perform surgery. So why do we let OB/GYN’s who know *NOTHING* about penile health perform painful, harmful, penis tissue removal surgery? You guessed it, our genital cutting culture.
- The fact that boys are subjected to MGM during the neonatal period is not because it is safer or less painful. MGM is in fact fraught with many severe risks and is immensely painful. One main reason cited in subjecting baby boys to MGM as opposed to older boys or adults is that baby boys can easily be restrained and cannot express their wishes. Like most of what I have written here, this bears repeating. MGM is perpetrated against newborn baby boys for the very fact that they cannot object and can be easily strapped to a circumstraint. This to me is diabolical. If you don’t believe me and want to read perhaps the most brazen example of our genital cutting culture, please read this study. It clearly states that since neonates are easily restrained and unaware of the fact that they are going to be subjected to a very painful surgery that it is advisable to subject baby boys to MGM. This is not medicine, this is malice.
Our genital cutting culture makes us do terrible, terrible things to our boys and I am sure by now you can see that I am belaboring this point on purpose. I am trying desperately to spark something in the minds of those who read this, and to provoke thoughtful consideration about something that is both truly barbaric and shockingly common.
One of my favorite sayings is: “When you know better, you do better,” and as more people know better, they will do better. It is my mission to expose and condemn our genital cutting culture. If you are reading this and feel shamed and/or judged, please read it again. That is not what I have implied or expressed. Our boys deserve nothing less than full bodily integrity and full bodily autonomy and I won’t stop advocating until our boys are afforded this right.