Friday, June 24, 2011

Everyone wants to circumcise the world

"Circumcision helps prevent cervical cancer."

Really? This is like telling your friend Jim Bob who lost both hands in a farm accident that at least he'll never have to deal with hangnails again. Or telling your friend, Hank, who lost both feet in a steamroller accident that at least he doesn't have those pesky corns you do.

Statements like this are not even offered as a "reason" to circumcise/cut/mutilate your child. They are instead a pitiful consolation prize for those who have already done so.
E.g.: "Sure I cut Johnny so he'd look like me but hey, I'm also helping lower the cervical cancer rate."

Let's look at it another way: If you could "help prevent" breast cancer by cutting off your child's left ear would you do it? What about helping prevent colon cancer -- big killer by the way-- would you cut off your son's pinkie finger to do that? OF COURSE YOU WOULDN'T! So why should you cut off his foreskin to "help prevent" cervical cancer? See what a bad idea it is? You don't cut off body parts to prevent problems that don't exist. (If we did, doctors would remove the appendix shortly after birth too. After all they don't think it has much of a function and appendicitis can be life threatening.) The truth is people have been circumcising their children for thousands of years for ALL kinds of bizarre reasons. It's only in the last hundred or so years that the American medical profession has decided to try to legitimize it.

If you are circumcised and you somehow find solace in the claim that you are "helping" prevent cervical cancer, more power to you, but please don't tout this as a reason to circumcise. Do you really want to advocate circumcising/mutilating non-consenting children to deal with a public health problem (ie HPV) that is best addressed with condoms and monogamy? Speaking as a partially restored man, it is really quite ludicrous. (For me personally I'd rather have my foreskin and NOT help prevent cervical cancer. After all I'm in a monogamous relationship and thus not at risk of giving HPV to anyone. Sorry, but I've chosen to think highly of my son as well and don't think he will rampantly spread HPV just because he is intact!)

So if you are circumcised and/or have chosen to circumcise your child, STOP throwing out red herrings and face why you did it and/or why it was done to you. Was it a bunch of JAMA articles that made you decide to circumcise Jr. or was it your own fear, your own desire to conform, your own scars?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is Intactivism antisemitic?

Well, the short answer is, no. There is nothing inherently antisemitic about wanting to save innocent babies from having part of their penis chopped off. However, speaking as a man who is recovering from circumcision I can tell you there are a LOT of intense feelings out there about circumcision as well as antisemitism-- both justified-- and that is what has fueled this debate.

For most guys once they realize what they've really lost due to their circumcision, once they stop seeing that poor exposed, desensitized, centurion-shaped glans as the norm, they start to get angry. We start to ask, "Why was this done to me?" or "Who in their right mind could ever think circumcision was a good idea?" or "What gave you the right to decide what parts of my body I got to keep?" and so forth. I personally felt frustrated my parents had not protected me from circumcision, but I also placed some blame on the man that performed the actual removal of my foreskin. I felt a great deal of anger for this man and briefly considered tracking him down to confront him and ask why he thought he had the right to do this and to make sure that he knew I was not happy about it and blamed him. When I asked my mother who performed my circumcision she claimed it was Dr. so and so but he had already passed away. (I don't really see how she could know that. It's not like they exchanged Christmas cards or something. She just wanted to take the wind out of my sails in the hopes I'd just let the whole thing drop. I can understand that I suppose. My mother has a hard time admitted ANYTHING she does wrong so it's important to her to keep circumcision as far as possible outside the realm of potential conversation. But I digress.) The point is I was angry at the guy who cut me without my consent.

I began to feel anger toward any doctor who would do this regardless of parental consent. My anger toward doctors who circumcise only intensified when I heard about Doctors Opposing Circumcision and felt vindicated in my belief that physicians ought to be thoughtful enough and ethical enough to refuse to perform such a procedure. Then, eventually, I started to think about a friend of mine, Greg, who is Jewish. I thought of him being circumcised by a mohel and then of arranging his own son's circumcision by a mohel and I felt anger towards, wait for it...the mohel, not Greg or his faith or synagogues or the Old Testament or the Talmud or Passover or the Star of David or anything having to do with Jewishness outside of the circumcision ritual. My anger extended to the mohel alone. Do Greg's parents deserve some responsibility as well? Yes I believe they do, as do my own parents. The fact that they made the decision to circumcise based on religious reasons makes it no more or less defensible than the reasons my parents gave. It's still violence. The cutters likewise bare the same ethical responsibility for their actions be they mohels or MDs or both.

There are two problems I see here:
1) It's dangerous to label an entire movement antisemitic until you know what it's really about. This label can unfortunately become an effective smokescreen to keep people from having to deal with hard facts that people like Jonathan Friedman speak so eloquently about. (please see
The other issue is that I'm guessing mohels have the same inability for self-reflection that doctors who perform circumcisions do. No one wants to look back on their life's work and think, "Wow, I should never have done that. I HARMED all those children." Most of us humans are hard-wired to avoid this kind of internal criticism at all costs. It's part of our innate drive for self-preservation.

2) It's dangerous for people who are angry about their own circumcision to mistakenly believe that all Jewish people believe in circumcision or to believe that antisemitic sentiment (IE Hatred) is a constructive response to circumcision. Such sentiment should and will be rooted out and destroyed within the Intactivist movement in the few, isolated instances where it does exist.

I don't have a crystal ball and maybe this is wishful thinking but I believe that someday circumcision will be outlawed in the US, that religious freedom does not trump the rights of the individual, that babies deserve to be protected by the state, indeed if you ask me the state has a "compelling interest" in the legal sense to do so. These babies can sign up for circumcision at age 18 if at that point they are convinced it is an integral part of being Jewish or Muslim or whatever. The 1st amendment to the US Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." No Intactivist wants to prohibit the free exercise of Judaism or Islam, but dammit, if the Mormons can give up polygamy and still be Mormon, can't the Jews and Muslims still be Jewish and Muslim without circumcision? After all, we're not saying the boys can't sign up for a real bona fide circumcision ritual when they're 18. Is it my fault the mohels are going to have a hard time recruiting people at that point?

Thankfully many Jewish people are speaking out against circumcision and refusing to continue the perpetration of this violence on their own children as are many circumcised non-Jews like myself. The intactivist movement is one of the most welcoming I have ever participated in. Anyone who believes cutting infant penises is wrong is welcome to join regardless of religious, political, or any other affiliation. Besides these babies don't care what kind of God the person cutting them worships. All they know is that it HURTS!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"I'm circumcised and I don't have a problem with it. What's the big deal?"

I'm writing this blog because of an extensive facebook debate with three guys who are "friends of a friend" and didn't like their friend posting a blog about how circumcision hurts babies. Each of the guys attempted to make a point about why he felt the way he did but, interestingly enough, all 3 of them mentioned that they themselves were circumcised and did not think it was a big deal. I admitted that my own feelings of anger and loss about my circumcision came AFTER my wife and I decided to leave my son intact which basically forced me to think about what I was missing every time I changed the little lad's diaper! However, I think it's important to connect with guys who are not yet dads who think circumcision is "not a big deal." If you are one of those guys please read on and follow the instructions carefully so you can be absolutely SURE that you don't mind being circumcised. If you are not one of those guys please read on anyway as you can share this exercise with male friends who report to you that they do not mind being circumcised.

1) Take out your penis and look at it. You know that ring around your penis that is a little darker than the rest of the skin on your penis? Do you ever wonder about what that is? Sadly I used to think that was somehow part of the anatomy of a penis, that it was supposed to look that. Um no. That is a scar from where we were circumcised. Just like any part of you body, making a deep cut and removing tissue creates scar tissue. Don't know about you but I'm not a huge fan of having a scarred penis.

2) Now, grasp the loose skin just below your scar with your thumb and forefinger on either side of your shaft and gently pull the skin over your glans/head. How easy this is for you to do is closely related to how much skin the doctor or mohel cut off of you as an infant during your circumcision.

3) Still grasping the skin, use one of your middle fingers to gently press down on the glans. Again, depending on how much skin you have you may be able to almost completely cover your glans with skin.

4) Look down at your covered glans. This is how you were born. This is how your body was created by your DNA, or God if you are religious. It's not gross or weird though many people try to described intact penises this way. It's kind of like a sheathe for your mighty sword.

5) If you were intact and had that skin covering your glans, your glans would be MUCH more sensitive. Without that foreskin your glans is left to chafe on your diaper, pants, etc. your entire life until the poor thing has about as much sensation as your elbow. Touch your glans, erect or not doesn't matter. Now touch the middle of the arch on your bare foot. Doesn't it seem odd your foot is more sensitive than your sex organ? For intact men this is NOT the case.

6) Do you use lubricant, saliva, etc to masturbate? Most circumcised men do. If you were intact not only would your glans be more sensitive but your penis would secrete natural lubricant to help with sex and masturbation. Also, the extra skin would provide you with additional "rolling" stimulation of your glans. Unfortunately for us who are circumcised our glans only understands THRUST, REMOVE, now repeat. Most intact guys don't use/need lubricant for vaginal sex and masturbation.

If you've done/thought about all this and STILL feel like circumcision was a "good thing" for you, that's great (I guess) but before you go removing part of your son's body without his consent review the above list again and consider whether you are comfortable altering your son's anatomy and future sexual experiences for the sake of cultural tradition, to look like you, or to supposedly prevent diseases he will STILL need a condom to protect himself from.

If you've done these exercises and are now pissed this was done to you without your consent, don't dispair. You can, eventually, restore your foreskin if you want to. Stay tuned for future blogs or check out

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Ten Reasons not to circumcise

#10: Circumcision removes healthy tissue that is attached to your child's penis for a variety of damn good reasons including creating lubrication during sex, protecting the ever-so-sensitive glans thus keeping it sensitive, and MORE...

#9: Circumcision hurts your child. If you don't believe me watch a video of one. By the way this hurt goes on for a long time after the actual circumcision. I'm still hurting, personally.

#8: Your infant son cannot give his consent for this surgery you are considering performing. Surgery, particularly one that removes healthy body parts, ought to have consent from the person on the table.

#7: Fewer and fewer people are choosing to circumcise their sons in the United States. Yes, we're finally catching up with the rest of the world on that one. So even if you're worried about Jr. "fitting in" in the locker room (which I sure the hell am not) you may want to think twice before you sign off on genital cutting.

#6: If you think Female genital mutilation is wrong you will want to do some brief study of anatomy 101 before removing your son's foreskin which serves many of the same functions as a woman's labia. All forms of circumcision are wrong and hurtful to children and adults.

#5: Circumcision harms your son's sex life. Message me or others who are in process of restoring if you don't believe me. Better yet talk to someone who signed off on a circumcision late in life. There are some dramatic, um, changes to your ability to experience pleasure without your foreskin.

#4: Circumcision is not medically necessary. Shouldn't we keep the body parts we're born with? Whether you believe in God or not you have to admit that the human body is a pretty amazing thing. I'm just not a big fan of cutting off parts of it willy nilly.

#3: Circumcision does not prevent AIDS. This is just a bald-faced lie. Millions of circumcised Americans are living with AIDS right now. I'm related to one of them. Condoms and monogamy prevent AIDS. Circumcision does not.

#2: Does circumcision prevent penile cancer? Hmmm. Do I really care? Penile cancer is extremely rare and besides we don't remove breasts, colons, ovaries, or prostates to prevent cancer even though those cancers are MUCH more common and deadly than penile cancer.

and the #1 reason not to circumcise your child is (drumroll)

Circumcision is morally and ethically wrong. You run the risk of your children not being happy with your decision when he grows up. Are you prepared to explain to him why you felt you had the right to sign off on cutting part of his penis off? No one has the right to alter/mutilate someone else's body without their consent. Circumcision will continue to decline and will someday become illegal. Consider being a force for change instead of a someone fighting it.