According to the World Health Organization, approximately one-third of males around the world are circumcised, primarily for cultural reasons. Despite the commonality of circumcision in the United States—and other countries around the globe—this surgery comes with enormous, downplayed, and outright hidden risks. The purported benefits have been continually debunked and disproven, while the dangers of circumcision are becoming increasingly apparent as victims speak out and new studies prove the consequences are sadly all too real. Whether you’re a parent pondering the decision for your newborn, a medical professional seeking to broaden your understanding, or simply someone curious about this often-debated practice, these statistics about circumcision offer an eye-opening perspective on the risks associated with this age-old practice.
Statistics About The Dangers of Circumcision
1) Higher Pain Response
Circumcision Statistic: “According to one study, circumcised infants have a slightly higher pain response to vaccination 4 to 6 months after circumcision.” — ScienceDirect
The researchers who conducted the study postulate that circumcision may induce long-lasting changes in infant pain behavior because of alterations in the infant’s central neural processing of painful stimuli.
But what does this mean? Essentially, they are suggesting that the experience of circumcision could potentially alter the infant’s neurological development, specifically in terms of how the brain processes painful stimuli. In other words, this early experience of significant pain could rewire the brain’s pain-processing circuits in a way that changes how the child experiences pain in the future.
2) Infant Death
Circumcision Statistic: “Long-time intactivist Dan Bollinger published an estimate that in the year 2010, 117 U.S. infant deaths were attributable to the circumcisions of baby boys — all of which were entirely preventable.” — This Penis Business (Lucid House Publishing, 2024)
While male circumcision affects more than just newborns, when babies first enter the world, they are in an extremely fragile state. Newborns simply cannot afford to lose even a minuscule amount of blood during this cosmetic surgery, or it puts their lives in jeopardy. If circumcision were indeed medically necessary, as the mainstream medical institutions claim, the surgery could be justified; however, it is no secret that circumcision is not medically necessary. Doctors and other medical professionals know this. The vast majority of the world does not circumcise their baby boys and finds it abhorrent that we continue to practice male circumcision in the United States. So if circumcision is not medically necessary, then the risks it poses—including excessive bleeding, which can lead to death—are obviously not worth it.
3) Permanently Cut
Circumcision Stat: Approximately 1.4 million American baby boys lose their foreskins at the hands of medical professionals every year. — This Penis Business
Considering that doctors swear to a Hippocratic Oath that holds them accountable for looking out for their patients to the best of their abilities, it makes the practice of routine male circumcision even more heinous and doubly hypocritical. With the pretense of medical necessity stripped away, millions of boys are put at risk to ensure the profitability of “this penis business” and its various offshoot industries, such as foreskin trafficking.
4) A Disproportionately American Problem
Circumcision Statistic: “Circumcision rates have been decreasing in the United States, falling from 64.5% in 1979 to 58.3% in 2010.” – via Centers for Disease Control
It should be noted that the CDC has not updated the statistics above since 2010, largely because many more circumcisions occur in private offices and other settings, making the precise numbers extremely difficult to track. In comparison to other countries, circumcision is more prevalent in the United States. This is due to various reasons, such as medical advice and social customs. The practice of circumcision has been widespread in the U.S. for many years, which has led to a societal desensitization to the severity and barbarism of the procedure. As a result, some parents may decide to have their sons circumcised so that they can look like other circumcised individuals in their family or peer group.
Additionally, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, circumcision was wrongly advertised as a way to prevent different diseases and conditions and to discourage masturbation, which was considered harmful back then. Though these ideas have been proven incorrect, they may have played a part in the increase in circumcision rates, which made the practice even more prevalent.
5) Loss of Sexual Sensitivity
Circumcision Statistic: “Circumcised men are 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED).” – via International Journal of Men’s Health
Circumcision results in the loss of sexual sensitivity for several reasons, starting with the removal of nerve endings. The foreskin contains a high concentration of specialized nerve endings that sense fine touch, temperature, and positional changes. When the foreskin is removed during circumcision, these nerve endings are lost. Additionally, the glans (or head) of the penis is normally a mucous membrane, similar to the inside of the mouth or eyelid. In a circumcised penis, the glans are exposed to the air and constant friction from clothing. This can lead to keratinization, where a thicker layer of keratin (a protein found in the skin) forms on the surface of the glans. Keratinization can reduce sensitivity because the thicker skin layer can lessen the impact of sensory stimuli. Lastly, male circumcision can cause the loss of the gliding mechanism the penis is intended to have. The foreskin serves a purpose during sexual activity, providing a ‘gliding’ mechanism that reduces friction and enhances sexual sensation for both partners. After circumcision, this gliding mechanism is lost, which can affect sensitivity.
6) Increased Meatitis
Circumcision Statistic: “The rate of meatitis, inflammation of the meatus (the opening of the urethra), is increased in circumcised boys, due to increased exposure of the meatus in the absence of the foreskin.” – via ScienceDirect
Meatitis is inflammation of the meatus, which is the opening at the tip of the penis where urine and semen exit the body. It can cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, discomfort or pain, itching, and sometimes discharge from the penis. Meatitis is more common in circumcised males. After circumcision, the newly exposed glans (or head of the penis) and urinary meatus can become irritated, leading to inflammation and meatitis. This is particularly true in infants, as their diapers can lead to constant exposure to urine and feces, which can irritate the meatus.
7) No Significant Decrease in Penile Cancer
Circumcision Statistic: “There is insufficient data to establish a consistent relationship between circumcision status and the risk of penile cancer.” – via National Institutes of Health
This circumcision statistic is significant when you factor in how often the medical establishment has continuously spread misinformation around this point. For decades, doctors and medical institutions have erroneously claimed that circumcision drastically decreases penile cancer, when the reality is that there is no connection between circumcision and the risk of penile cancer. Additionally, penile cancer is already extraordinarily rare. According to the American Cancer Society, only 1 in 100,000 men in North America and Europe with cancer are affected by penile cancer.
8) Psychological Trauma
Circumcision Statistic: “Approximately 10% of circumcised males may later in life experience psychological trauma related to their circumcision.” – via ScienceDirect
Infants can display behavioral changes such as altered sleep patterns, feeding difficulties, and increased irritability following circumcision. This early traumatic experience can have long-term psychological effects, potentially influencing responses to pain or stress later in life. Furthermore, some men circumcised as infants or children report feelings of anger, sadness, or distress about the procedure when they are older, particularly because it was performed without their informed consent.
9) Emotional Impairment
Circumcision Statistic: “Research has shown that circumcised men suffer from alexithymia (impaired ability to identify and describe one’s emotions) at rates 20 percent higher than intact men and are up to 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction than their intact peers.” – This Penis Business
Some studies suggest that undergoing such a traumatic experience early in life can influence the brain’s development and response to stress, which may have long-term effects on behavior and emotion. Other research suggests that painful experiences in the early postnatal period can interfere with mother-infant bonding and feeding. This could potentially have downstream effects on emotional development.
10) Complicated Procedures
Circumcision Statistic: “The overall complication rate from circumcision is estimated to be between 2 and 20%.” – via Guttmacher Institute
Part of the reason why the complication rate is so varied in estimates is because of the wide range of what might be considered a complication. But given how frequently the medical establishment downplays circumcision trauma and its consequences, we tend to consider the higher end of the range to be likely closer to the truth.
Even though the intactivist movement has shifted routine infant circumcision from a fringe movement to a mainstream cause, conversations about the downside of male genital mutilation and the upside of retaining the foreskin are still relatively taboo. One positive shift is that numerous intact (uncircumcised) celebrities are beginning to use their platforms to inform and educate the public and end male genital cutting.
“Most of the world does not circumcise. And why would they? Circumcision removes the most pleasure-receptive part of the penis.” – Mario Lopez
The impact of these famous intact men and celebrity intactivists on shaping a more informed society that protects boys and men from the short- and long-term consequences of circumcision cannot be overstated. But how much more quickly would change come if all men were willing to use their influence to challenge the status quo of routine infant circumcision and the medical establishment? With social media, everyone has a platform to motivate change. Check out the contributions of the uncircumcised celebrities below and start encouraging conversations about circumcision, using their quotes as a jumping-off point.
Uncircumcised Celebrities and Famous Intact Men
1) Mario Lopez
Intact, intactivist, or both: Both
Mario Lopez, an American actor and television host, is famous for his role as A.C. Slater in the popular 90s teen sitcom Saved by the Bell and as a television host on Access Hollywood. Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California, he started his career in the entertainment industry as a child. Lopez is well-known in American pop culture for his infectious charisma and diverse talents in acting, dancing, and hosting, and as a proponent of health and fitness. Lopez shared his perspective as a father who would never challenge nature.
Mario Lopez: “So, I said if we were having a boy I didn’t want him to be circumcised. Because I don’t think that God makes mistakes and it’s not an optional part. And I know some of the women are probably like “Oh!” but believe it or not that’s the way a man is naturally born.” – via Babygaga
2) Gerard Butler
Intact, intactivist, or both: Both
Born on November 13, 1969, in Paisley, Scotland, actor Gerard Butler has achieved great success in Hollywood through his impressive performances in dramatic and action films. Some of his famous roles include his role as King Leonidas of Sparta in 300, the Phantom in the 2004 movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, a man bent on revenge (or justice) in Law Abiding Citizen, and most recently as a CIA operative in Kandahar. He is recognized for his physique and Scottish accent, and he has become one of the few Scottish actors to become a leading man in Hollywood. Butler shares his perspective on circumcision as a Scot.
Gerard Butler: “No, we don’t circumcise!” He went on to describe himself as “very sensitive” and to say that being uncircumcised is “an amazing thing.” – via Howard Stern Show
3) Joe Rogan
Intact, intactivist, or both: Intactivist
Joe Rogan is an American who works as a comedian, podcast host, and mixed martial arts commentator. He was born on August 11, 1967, and began his career as a stand-up comedian. He then acted in a successful sitcom called NewsRadio in the 1990s. One of his most famous jobs was hosting the reality game show Fear Factor in the early 2000s. He has also had a big impact as a color commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
In recent years, Joe Rogan has become widely known for hosting and producing “The Joe Rogan Experience,” a highly popular and influential podcast that covers a diverse range of topics. The podcast features in-depth conversations and discussions on themes such as comedy, MMA, psychedelic experiences, and various social and political issues, including circumcision. As a victim of circumcision himself, his perspective reflects his raw authenticity.
Joe Rogan: “It’s one of those things where it was done to us, and women say, ‘It looks gross, so cut it.’ It’s a really f*cked up situation that we still have to deal with this.” And “It’s a dick; it’s not a Jack O’ Lantern. You don’t have to chop parts off of it to make it look better. That’s stupid.” – via Babygaga
4) Russell Crowe
Intact, intactivist, or both: Both
Russell Crowe, a New Zealand-born actor (April 7, 1964, in Wellington), film producer, and musician, became popular in Hollywood and the global film industry after his role in L.A. Confidential (1997). His remarkable performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) won the Academy Award for Best Actor and established his position in the film industry. Famous for his riveting performances and commitment to his characters in movies such as A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Cinderella Man, he has also been in the news for owning a rugby team and is currently touring Europe with his rock band Indoor Garden Party. His perspective on circumcision is blunt and to the point.
Russell Crowe: “Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect.” – via Babygaga
5) Howard Stern
Intact, intactivist, or both: Intactivist
Howard Stern is an American media figure known for his long-running radio show The Howard Stern Show. He was born on January 12, 1954, in Queens, New York, and began his career in radio during the 1970s. His show gained national attention in the 1980s and 1990s due to its provocative content and Stern’s direct interviewing style. Called the “shock jock,” he has often received criticism for pushing boundaries. Stern, who refers to himself as the “King of All Media,” has expanded his career beyond radio and now works in television, films, and books. His books Private Parts and Miss America were both on the New York Times bestseller list.
Circumcised himself, Stern’s perspective on circumcision is that it should be illegal and is mutilation.
Howard Stern: “Most men want their sons to look like themselves. So, this keeps going. It is so barbaric…if I had a son, I would never allow him to be circumcised. Never!” – via Babygaga
6) John Leguizamo
Intact, intactivist, or both: Both
Actor, comedian, producer, and screenwriter John Leguizamo was born July 22, 1960, in Bogota, Columbia. He has appeared in more than 100 films, on TV shows, and on Broadway, and is known as a passionate activist in many arenas.
His perspective on circumcision reflects his background as an uncut Latin man.
John Leguizamo: “Actually, from what I’ve read, guys lose feeling by doing that. I want my son to have all the feeling he can have. Growing up in New York City, a lot of my friends weren’t circumcised, and my dad’s not circumcised and none of my family members are circumcised, so to me that was normal. When I saw some white kids circumcised, it looked like a mutilated monster. I thought someone had done a Frankensteinian surgery. It was weird to me…it was really bizarre.” – Playboy interview.
7) Ben Affleck
Intact, intactivist, or both: Intact
Ben Affleck is an accomplished American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter who has been a well-known figure in Hollywood since the mid-1990s. Born on August 15, 1972, in Berkeley, California, he rose to fame alongside his friend Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting, which earned them the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1997. Affleck’s acting career includes dramas like Gone Girl and the superhero movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which he played Batman. In addition to acting, Affleck has demonstrated his talent as a filmmaker, earning an Academy Award for Best Picture for Argo.
Affleck may not be an intactivist, but his perspective on circumcision was made clear in an interview with Jon Stewart, on September 19, 2006, when he responded to a New York Post headline, “Frappuccino Fueled Ben Affleck Goes on Anti-Circumcision Rant.”
Ben Affleck: “I hate circumcisions! Get enough in me, and I’ll tell you how much I hate them.”
https://www.cc.com/video/qp9oou/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-ben-affleck @ 5:17
8) Colin Farrell
Intact, intactivist, or both: Both
Irish actor Colin Farrell was born on May 31, 1976, in Dublin. Besides excelling as an actor in international, Hollywood, and independent films for the last three decades—starring as Alexander the Great, and most recently in Banshees of Inisherin—he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in its April 13, 2023 issue.
We know he is intact because, in a Playboy interview from March 2003, he tells the story of how, when an agent joined about 20 people discussing circumcision with him at a party, she said, “I just don’t understand a foreskin. I’ve never seen one,” he whipped out and showed her what it was all about.
Colin Farrell: “People say it’s much cleaner to have no foreskin. What, have you never heard of a f-ing shower?” – Mothering
Forcible foreskin retraction, which is the practice of pulling back a child’s foreskin to any degree, is an issue in the United States. At Intact America, most of the complaints we have received about this practice come from parents of boys who have suffered from the irreversible harm caused by forcible foreskin retraction. Regrettably, these incidents often take place during regular check-ups for infants and children. Countless more incidents go unreported because many parents are not informed about the negative effects and long-term damage caused by forced foreskin retraction. Many of these attacks against the natural penis occur without warning, without a parent’s consent, and during routine well-baby visits and pediatric appointments. Some of the most horrific incidents of forcible foreskin retraction have happened when a parent has brought their child into an emergency room for a completely unrelated accident or illness.
“Early one morning, I received a phone call from a distraught mother, who had brought her intact 2-year-old son into the ER with a 104-degree temperature because she suspected he had COVID-19. The nurse opened his diaper and began messing with his penis. The mother realized she was trying to retract his foreskin and told her to stop. The nurse ignored her and continued to yank on the tender skin. The mother’s instincts proved correct on both fronts. Her son did have COVID-19 and the nurse had done considerable damage to her child. Heartbreakingly, the mother told her on the way home he was pointing to his diaper and crying ‘mommy, owee, owee.'”
– Georganne Chapin, Founding Executive Director of Intact America and Author of This Penis Business (Lucid House Publishing, 2024)
An intact baby’s foreskin naturally adheres to the penis, will retract in time with no force, and requires no treatment. This is called “physiological phimosis.” Although it is common for parents and even healthcare providers to be concerned about a tight foreskin, it is normal in babies and young boys. Foreskins will retract naturally, and almost all do so by the age of 17 (1). It is the natural covering of the highly sensitive head of the penis.
When the skin is forcibly retracted, “pathological phimosis” can occur, which can lead to bleeding, scarring, and psychological trauma for the child and parent. Because American culture has been underexposed to intact penises with foreskins, even healthcare providers sometimes do not know that a non-retractable foreskin is natural and normal in childhood, and they often force retraction, leading to pathological phimosis issues.
Is there a difference between forced retraction, foreskin retraction, and forcible retraction?
The answer is no. Forcing the foreskin of the penis to retract abruptly or excessively—separating the foreskin from the glans or head of the penis to expose it—goes against the natural development and anatomical state of the foreskin and can cause several complications.
Why is it done? Pure ignorance.
By whom? Parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers, including doctors and nurses. Many healthcare professionals are foreskin phobic and even medical textbooks often fail to show an intact penis.
Solution? Know the anatomical function of the foreskin and its characteristics, and inform everyone not to retract their baby’s foreskin.
Risks of Forcible Foreskin Retraction
1. Pain and Discomfort: Forcing the retraction of the foreskin can cause the foreskin’s delicate tissues to tear or become irritated, leading to inflammation, pain, and possible injury.
2. Infection: The foreskin provides natural protection to the penis from harmful bacteria and pathogens. When it is forcefully retracted, this natural protection is compromised, making the penis more vulnerable to inflammation, and urinary tract infections.
3. Balanitis (inflammation of the head of the penis): The balano-preputial lamina is a protective membrane that may be attached to the foreskin at birth acting like a “male hymen” to keep the sensitive area clean and safe. This will gradually recede and disappear.
4. Scarring and adhesions: Retracting the foreskin forcefully may result in scarring and adhesions that cause discomfort, limit movement, and make it hard for the foreskin to naturally retract later on.
5. Psychological impact: The experience of having the foreskin forcibly retracted is the same as any reaction to an aggressive assault on the body: fear, shock, and pain.
Why Is Forced Foreskin Retraction Still Happening?
“If we look at a penis with its prepuce intact and discard the myths we’ve been told (e.g. the foreskin is “dirty” and “extra skin”), we see that it is an integral part of the penis…The foreskin functions throughout a male’s life to protect the glans (head of the penis) from abrasion and other damage. Once the foreskin becomes retractable, its loose skin provides mobility and stretches to accommodate a full erection. Finally, an intact penis is a bit longer and chubbier than a circumcised penis.”
– Georganne Chapin, Founding Executive Director of Intact America and Author of This Penis Business
1. Lack of education: Insufficient education about normal foreskin development and care has resulted in misguided practices among parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers. This is a culture-wide problem in the United States due to unfamiliarity with the natural intact penis.
2. Cultural and social influences: The beliefs and norms of a culture or society regarding hygiene, cleanliness, and the appearance of the genitals have contributed to forcible retraction. The presence, particularly, of “smegma,” a harmless combination of oils, skin cells, sweat, and other fluids that can accumulate around the penis, and which can have a foul odor, can freak out parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers. The best way to prevent and treat it is to wash the area with warm water and to teach the child to do the same, from the base out, like washing a finger.
3. Outdated or inaccurate information: Outdated or inaccurate information about foreskin care and hygiene can still be a problem despite the progress made in medical knowledge and understanding. Some outdated medical literature and cultural beliefs may suggest forced retraction as necessary or helpful, contributing to its practice in areas with limited access to up-to-date information.
Important Definition: IATROGENESIS
Caused by the medical system, iatrogenesis refers to any effect on a person resulting from any activity of one or more persons acting as healthcare professionals or promoting products or services as beneficial to health that does not support the goal of the person affected.
How You Can Prevent Forcible Foreskin Retraction
1. Gentle cleaning practices: Gently clean the external area with soap and water to keep the genital area hygienic in infants and young children. During regular bathing, clean the outside of the foreskin with warm water without trying to retract it.
2. Allow natural development: Let the foreskin develop naturally. As a child grows, the foreskin will become retractable on its own. Allow the foreskin to separate from the glans and become retractable at its own pace.
3. Promote body autonomy and consent: Teach children about their bodies and stress the significance of consent. Encourage them to communicate any discomfort or concerns with how someone has touched them, and make sure they understand that their bodies belong to them.
4. Education and awareness: Spread the truth to parents, caregivers, and health professionals. Refer them to intactamerica.org and other websites with accurate information regarding the physiology of the intact foreskin and forced retraction. SPEAK!
Why Is Forced Foreskin Retraction a Human Rights Issue?
In the Spring of 2018, Intact America conducted a national survey of parents of children under the age of seven and found that 43 percent of intact boys had experienced the painful and unnecessary forced retraction of their foreskins, most of them at the hands of physicians.
A 2017 brochure published by HealthyChildren, a program of the AAP, states unequivocally:
“… foreskin retraction should never be forced. Until the foreskin fully separates, do not try to pull it back. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready can cause severe pain, bleeding, and tears in the skin.”
Unfortunately, messing with a boy’s foreskin can also cause infection and scarring, leading too often to doctors suggesting circumcision as a remedy for a problem they created.
As more and more boys are kept intact, it’s critically important that parents, childcare workers, and medical professionals understand that a boy’s foreskin will naturally separate over time (the age of retraction varies considerably) and that only the boy himself should touch his foreskin. Whether in the “service” of medicine or not, we believe any other approach should be considered an unnecessary and willful assault and violation of a child’s human rights.
1. See this free article in the National Library of Medicine Archives, an elegant cohort study published in 1968 by a Jakob Øster, a Danish medical officer, who conducted a longitudinal study with nearly 10,000 observations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2019851/?page=1Oster. In addition, Marilyn Fayre Milos and Donna Macris addressed this issue in their journal article “Circumcision: A Medical or a Human Rights Issue” in the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery (37, 2:87S-96S) March/April 1992,
A birth plan checklist is a written document that states what you want and expect during your baby’s birth and post-delivery. It helps your medical team, partner, family, and friends understand your preferences and is your key to creating a personalized birthing experience. Working on a birth plan checklist will help you define and solidify your intentions for your child’s birth and your beliefs about what is best for you and your baby.
Even if unexpected issues interfere with your birth plan, knowing what is important to you will help you deal with whatever changes occur during or after the birth process. If you specify no medication and are given drugs to speed up labor or dull pain, for instance, your team can still follow everything else on your checklist. If you must have an emergency cesarean delivery (c-section) rather than a vaginal delivery, other items on your checklist may provide relief and comfort on the day of birth and in the days to come as you welcome your baby into the world.
A birth plan checklist offers parents, especially mothers, a sense of empowerment regarding the birth process and a feeling of confidence in knowing they have communicated what they want for their child to others involved in the birth process. Make sure to distribute copies of your birth plan well in advance of entering the delivery room.
Items to Consider for Your Birth Plan Checklist
- Where do you want to give birth—hospital, birthing center, home?
- Who will assist with the delivery—obstetrician, obstetrical nurse, midwife, and/or doula?
- Are there medical risk factors for the mother or baby that need to be considered?
- What non-medical pain relief methods do you want to use—breathing, massage, hydrotherapy?
- Who will decide on drug intervention for pain or any other medical intervention, including inducing labor, rupture of membranes, fetal heart monitoring, pain medication, or pain management after delivery?
- Who do you want to be present during your labor and delivery?
- What are your preferences for lighting, sound, and temperature?
- Do you want an epidural? Or, for example, do you want to avoid an episiotomy?
- Who will cut the umbilical cord, and will you save the cord blood and stem cells?
- What do you want done with the placenta?
- Who can hold the baby after delivery?
- Do you want to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby?
- Will the baby sleep in your room or the nursery?
- Do you want your male baby kept intact?
Why Does Intact America Care About Your Birth Plan Checklist?
One of the most overlooked parts of a parent’s birth plan checklist or birth plan template is attention to whether or not a baby boy will be circumcised. If this decision is not made before the birth of a baby, other factors can create additional pressure to circumcise rather than to keep your son intact.
A groundbreaking Intact America survey found that 94% of mothers were solicited to have their baby circumcised, and 78% of mothers had their sons circumcised if actively solicited to do so by doctors, nurses, and midwives, compared to 45% of mothers who were not asked. The survey, tabulated by Qualtrics, revealed that the circumcision of baby boys was routinely and often aggressively pushed by physicians, nurses, and midwives, even if parents or guardians had not expressed interest in the unnecessary surgery. This egregious (and illegal) level of solicitation increased circumcisions by 173%. Even a “soft sell,” such as giving the mother a consent form to perform the procedure, increased circumcisions by 137%.
Expectant mothers were asked an average of eight times to circumcise their sons.
The survey also found that 21% of mothers who agreed to allow their sons to be circumcised wished they had done more research on the topic, and 10% regretted their choice.
“For years, we’ve heard from parents, especially mothers, about having been pressured or coerced by doctors and nurses to circumcise their sons, but the impact and scope of solicitation has never been measured before. The survey shows solicitation directly and dramatically drives up the infant circumcision rate. Soliciting this unnecessary surgery has to end.”
– Georganne Chapin, author of This Penis Business
Chapin continued, “Doctors tell us they circumcise boys only because parents want it, but this survey proves otherwise. Both doctors and nurses (including nurse midwives) give mothers the impression that circumcision is, if not necessary, ‘normal’ or desirable, so parents agree to permanently alter their sons’ genitals. But they don’t tell parents the whole story: that circumcision is painful, reduces sexual sensitivity for the man the baby will become, and can lead to lifelong trauma.”
In other words, it is up to parents to educate themselves about circumcision before their child’s birth and to stick to it.
Yet most parents do not know what the reality of what circumcision looks like, how it feels to the baby, or the repercussions of this surgery (often referred to as a procedure) on a tiny baby. Most parents do not know that their baby’s foreskin will be pinched and crushed as it is torn from the glans, clamped and cut as it is amputated from the penis. Nor do they know the risks of circumcision. The American Academy of Pediatricians admitted in their 1999 Task Force on Circumcision report that:
“Documented complications include bleeding, infection, recurrent phimosis, wound separation, concealed penis, skin bridges, meatal stenosis, inclusion cysts, retained Plastibell device, sepsis, partial amputation of the glans, and penile necrosis,” as cited by Marilyn Fayre Milos in her book Please Don’t Cut the Baby!
Why This Matters
“The glans at birth is delicate and easily irritated by urine and feces. The foreskin shields the glans; with circumcision, this protection is lost. In such cases, the glans and especially the urinary opening (meatus) may become irritated or infected, causing ulcers, meatitis (inflammation of the meatus), and meatal stenosis (a narrowing of the urinary opening). Such problems virtually never occur in uncircumcised penises. The foreskin protects the glans throughout life.”
From Please Don’t Cut the Baby! by Marilyn Fayre Milos, quoting Edward Wallerstein, author of Circumcision: An American Fallacy
Each year, an estimated 1.5 million baby boys are circumcised in American medical settings. Intact America estimates that if circumcision solicitations were to cease, 600,000 boys—and the men they will become—would be spared every year from the trauma and lifelong consequences of the procedure.
Intact America urges expectant parents, guardians, new parents, and their close relatives and friends to think about circumcision before the baby is born. Once in the hospital, it may be too late to make an informed decision due to the solicitation to circumcise and the lack of information about this harmful, irreversible surgery.
Being proactive will allow you to inform your doctor, support person, and birth team ahead of time about your decision, address any concerns they may have, and find a foreskin-friendly pediatrician. It will also prepare you to answer questions from friends and relatives.
Once your child’s birth is imminent or right after, you will likely be presented with a consent form enabling the hospital to circumcise your son. If you are not presented with a consent form at all – which has happened – before or after birth, something is seriously amiss, so be sure to ask about the form. Check the box for “no” on the form, or make it clear that you do not consent to circumcision. Sign and print your name and ask for a copy of the form for your files. If you are friends with or relatives of someone whose first language is not English or could potentially face translation issues, make certain they are aware of what is at risk.
An Intact America Voices Story About Circumcision Solicitation
(The following personal story was originally published in our voices column)
Hello my name is Sarah, I am 29 years old, I have 2 healthy children (2 & 4), and I was born and raised in Wisconsin which is where we currently reside.
Both of my pregnancies were healthy and full-term, my second was a boy. We didn’t find out gender until birth so when I saw an “anti circumcision” post on Facebook, the question arose in my head if we had a boy; would we be circumcising?
At this point in time, I had thought it was just something you do, I didn’t know why, but instincts were telling me no. I had no hesitation to ask my husband, I was assuming the answer would be yes and I would maybe ignorantly forget about it like most do. However, when I asked him “if we have a boy, will we circumcise him?” and the answer was a quick and simple “no, not necessary,” I felt a great relief. But little did I know the obstacles we would face in the process of bringing home an intact newborn boy in America.
In the following weeks until our green-gendered-baby-turned-blue was earthside, I did a lot of research on circumcision, the foreskin, and the intact penis in general. We were asked by family if we would be circumcising him, and when our answer was no, we faced a lot of backlash. I was asked by my ob/gyn if we would circumcise if it were a boy, and I said no. No further questions were asked.
It wasn’t until our perfect baby boy was born on March 19th, 2020, that I would I be asked no fewer than four times in a single day if we had “decided on circumcision.” Nobody offered any explanation further of the procedure, or any information on leaving my son whole. Although I had just learned about all of this 6 weeks prior and I was still unsure, my answer was repeatedly no, only to hear a mumbling reply about cleanliness, parental preference, and UTI prevention.
The last time they came in looking to take our son, instead of asking they barged in and exclaimed “Okay and it looks like he’s ready for his circumcision!” I banged back with “I SAID NO THANK YOU!” and the nurse turned around and walked out of the room. If I hadn’t been on guard, they would have tricked me into it.
We made it home with our son in one piece, but the way the hospital harassed me about circumcision made me feel bad about my whole birthing experience. I spent the whole time watching my son like a hawk, terrified they were going to sneak my baby to a circumstraint board.
Today our son is 2 years old and perfectly healthy. He has never had a single foreskin problem to-date, and I have never been prouder of not only a parenting decision but for my husband coming forward and making sure we broke the cycle with our son. Intact America is just one of the many fantastic organizations that I have been honored to come across in my journey to help educate others about the harms of circumcision, the benefits of staying intact, and the importance of bodily autonomy.
— Sarah Zeimet
Your search led you here to read about the pros and cons of circumcision, but the truth is, you’ve likely been lied to about the purported pros. Circumcision supporters claim that there are health benefits to this invasive, irreversible surgical procedure, but these have all been debunked. On the other hand, intactivists (advocates for keeping the foreskin), point out the proven risks and ethical implications of circumcising a child, along with the lack of medical necessity.
Understanding Circumcision: A Historical and Cultural Perspective
Circumcision is an ancient practice that has historically been used as a rite of passage, a symbol of identity, and a religious rite. For example, in Judaism, it is performed on the eighth day of a male child’s life to signify the covenant between God and Abraham from the Torah — however, alternatives to physical circumcision for those who practice Judaism are becoming more widely accepted and adopted.
Infant circumcision in the U.S. is widely practiced across the entire population; however, it is often associated with a rite of Judaism. Intact America Founding Executive Director Georganne Chapin notes in her intactivist memoir This Penis Business (Lucid House Publishing, 2024) that today many Jews have their sons circumcised in hospitals by doctors within the first 48 hours, which has no religious significance. Others have opted for an alternative to the traditional brit milah (or bris) cutting ceremony called a brit shalom (covenant of peace). Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald noted in an article for Intact America (https://intactamerica.org/dyk_about-brit-shalom/) that:
“Brit shalom is an uplifting, celebratory baby-naming ceremony specifically designed for non-circumcising families. It’s an affirmation that despite what may be seen by others as a radical choice, the family still considers themselves to be Jewish. And it’s a beautiful symbolic acknowledgment of the ancient Abrahamic covenant.”
Judaism is associated so closely with the rite of circumcision that post-World War II studies in the United States often cited the low rate of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in Jews as an argument for the benefits of circumcision. What the studies did not take into account, as Edward Wallerstein pointed out in his groundbreaking book, Circumcision: An American Fallacy, (1980) is that the low rate of STDs in circumcised Jewish men was because Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, tended to live insular lives within a structured family and social network that discouraged contact with women outside the religion and thus were more likely to be protected from contracting an STD. Being circumcised had nothing to do with it. However, Wallerstein reveals the junk science behind many of the conclusions drawn by early studies due to the lack of context in the lifestyles of the study subjects.
Cons of Circumcision
Immediate physical trauma
Infant circumcision is far from risk-free and complications include pain, bleeding, infection, and even death. The pain associated with circumcision is often overlooked. Up to 96 percent of babies in the United States and Canada receive no anesthesia when they are circumcised, according to a report from the University of Alberta in Edmonton published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) in 1997. The study found circumcision so traumatic that doctors ended the study early rather than subject any more babies to the operation without anesthesia.
According to a study published by the Pediatric Surgery International on February 14, 2019:
“The vast majority of circumcisions are performed by pediatric and obstetric providers in the newborn nursery under local anesthesia, but most pediatric and obstetric providers do not offer circumcision after 1 month of age, or for infants over 10 pounds. Conversely, most pediatric general surgeons and pediatric urologists do not perform circumcisions without general anesthesia, and therefore, do not offer circumcision before 6 months of age, presumably to mitigate anesthetic risks. These risks include apnea and bradycardia in children under 6 months of age, laryngospasm in children under 1 year of age, and the concern for long-term effects on brain development in children under 3 years of age.”
Historically, one of the reasons anesthesia of any kind was not used on tiny infants was the mistaken belief that infants feel little or no pain from the surgery and that infants would not remember the pain even if they did feel the cutting and tearing of tissue on one of the most sensitive body parts of a human. However, researchers discovered what most mothers have known instinctively: that for those babies circumcised without anesthesia, there was not only severe pain but also an increased risk of choking and difficulty breathing, as well as increased heart rates. Some babies go into shock, and this interruption of mother-infant bonding can disrupt breastfeeding.
The infant’s open wound in proximity to urine and feces in a diaper can become severely infected if not carefully monitored. Bleeding can also be significant and require further intervention. Absorbent diapers often hide the fact that the infant is losing a dangerous amount of blood. The accidental removal of too much foreskin can lead to a tight or short penile shaft or damage to the urethra.
But one of the biggest immediate risks of circumcision is damage or deformity of the penis itself due to an inexperienced physician, medical student, or faulty equipment. In some cases, major children’s hospitals or individual practitioners have been sued because they have damaged the penis so severely that complete amputations were necessary.
Long-term physical consequences
For starters, an adult male foreskin left intact and stretched out would be roughly the size of a 3×5 index card. Depending on who performs the infant circumcision, the foreskin removal would decrease the size of what would have been the adult male penis by approximately 20–50 percent. The foreskin plays an important role in sexual pleasure by contributing to overall sensitivity through its high concentration of nerve endings. Studies show that removing it could result in a decrease in sexual pleasure or sensitivity.
Additionally, circumcision can cause the glans to become dry and more exposed, which can cause discomfort, especially during sexual activity or prolonged friction. Sometimes, complications from the initial circumcision procedure, such as uneven foreskin removal or skin bridges, may require medical intervention or further surgeries. In severe cases, surgical correction may be necessary.
Meatal stenosis, a condition where the urethral opening narrows, causing problems such as painful urination and difficulty emptying the bladder, is more common in circumcised males, which underscores the importance of carefully considering and fully understanding the long-term impact of circumcision before making a decision.
In the United States, a large percentage of men suffer from erectile dysfunction as a result of circumcision due to the lifelong lack of the natural covering of the penis. In turn, they experience reduced sensitivity and pleasure.
The psychological impact of circumcision
Psychological consequences can vary from short-term trauma following the procedure that is visible in changes in behavior to long-term issues with self-esteem and relationships. Circumcised men may experience negative emotional responses such as feelings of loss, resentment, or anger. In addition, some men may experience a sense of violation or powerlessness.
On top of these devastating psychological effects of circumcision, taking away a part of a child’s body for cultural or religious reasons without their consent is viewed as a violation of our human right to autonomy over our body.
Ethical and human rights considerations
The debate surrounding circumcision, especially for infant boys, includes discussions about ethical considerations such as bodily integrity, autonomy, informed consent, and comparison with female genital mutilation (FGM).
Circumcision is a human rights violation because it involves removing a healthy part of a child’s body without their consent. When a parent signs a consent form for circumcision, they are making a lifelong decision for their child that will impact their immediate and future physical and psychological well-being, in addition to their sexual health. The decision to circumcise should be made by the individual when they are old enough to fully comprehend the implications.
Although the motivations and extent of physical alteration differ, male circumcision without consent is comparable to female genital mutilation, which is considered illegal and a violation of human rights in many countries, including the U.S. The same standards should apply to both male and female genital mutilation.
Pros of Circumcision
There are none that we know of. All of the supposed medical benefits that were touted for years have been debunked. As Marilyn Milos says in her intactamerica.org column Ask Marilyn, under Falsehoods & Facts (June 18, 2018):
“The truth is no medical society in the world recommends it.”
Let’s consider two of the most common medical “benefit” claims.
Protection against STDs (sometimes called STIs) and lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs): False.
The sexual transmission of diseases does not happen unless a baby or child is assaulted or their sexual organs come into contact with someone who is infected. A study on sexually transmitted infections and circumcised men that appeared in ISRN Urology in 2013 concluded that the prevention of sexually transmitted infections cannot rationally be interpreted as a benefit of circumcision, and any policy of newborn circumcision for the general population to prevent sexually transmitted infections is not supported by any evidence in the medical literature.
The risk of an intact (uncircumcised) baby developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) is less than 1 percent. Female infants are more likely to develop a UTI because the urethra is shorter and germs from the bowel can pass more easily into the bladder. Yet no one suggests amputating a part of their sexual organs. Infant boys, like infant girls, can be treated with hydration and an antibiotic. As for STDs, when a boy becomes sexually active, the best protection for both intact and circumcised boys is a condom.
A circumcised penis is more hygienic. False. A natural penis can be easily cleaned, from the base to the tip of the penis, like a finger. Georganne Chapin was confronted during an MSNBC TV interview by Nancy Snyderman with the notion that boys simply will not keep their bodies clean. Chapin responded by saying:
“Easy, Dr. Snyderman! We teach our children how to brush their teeth and how to clean their ears, and we certainly teach our girls how to wash their genitals. There’s no reason we can’t teach our boys the same thing.”
The biggest advance in the prevention of hygiene diseases is the availability of warm or hot water. Preventing foreskin infections is a basic hygienic practice like any other.
Real Life Stories: A Victim of Circumcision
Many men have shared their negative circumcision experiences with Intact America. They feel violated and angry towards the adults who decided for them. Their stories illustrate the long-lasting psychological effects of circumcision, including feelings of loss, violation, and anger. Many also complain about the reduced sensitivity and ongoing discomfort they experience as adults.
Brad Christensen (read Brad’s full story here), for example, was circumcised as an infant and grew up with aggression and attention difficulties, leading to various psychiatric interventions. At age five, after learning about foreskin function from an intact friend, Brad confronted his mother about his circumcision, expressing anger upon learning the foreskin could not regrow. Later, during adolescence, he developed a varicocele, a condition involving swollen veins in the scrotum potentially affecting fertility, causing further distress and uncertainty about the impact of their earlier circumcision.
Brad has struggled with anxiety, depression, sleep issues, stomach problems, and thoughts of suicide, attributing much of this mental health strain to the trauma of circumcision. These issues highlight the broader societal implications that circumcision contributes to dysfunction in children and adults.
Brad has become an intactivist, advocating against circumcision and for neonatal ethics and bodily integrity. Inspired by other activists sharing their experiences, Brad urges the rejection of circumcision because it can cause irreversible harm.
Read more stories in our Voices column at https://www.intactamerica.org.
Botched circumcisions can have both serious immediate negative effects—blood loss and infection, for instance—and long-term devastating consequences, like gender reassignment and death. How often does this happen? We don’t know.
Intact America Founding Executive Director Georganne Chapin reports in her book This Penis Business (Lucid House Publishing, 2024) that the 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on Circumcision stated:
1. “The true incidence of complications after newborn circumcision is unknown, in part due to differing definitions of ‘complication’ and differing standards for determining the timing of when a complication has occurred…”; and 2. “Based on the data reviewed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to adequately assess the total impact of complications because the data are scant and inconsistent regarding the severity of complications.”
A New York Times article in 2012 stated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted the agency did not keep track of deaths from infant circumcision because they are exceedingly rare. The same article featuring Dan Bollinger, Board Member of Intact America and a long-time intactivist, estimated that more than 100 baby boys die from circumcision complications every year in the U.S. (1)
There are no recent figures, but it is logical to assume that many infant deaths from circumcision are attributed to other causes—stroke, blood loss, reaction to anesthesia, and infection, for example—without the caveat that those causes were due to complications caused by a botched circumcision.
Short-term Consequences of Circumcision Gone Wrong
1. Pain and discomfort: Swelling and inflammation around the surgical site are logical results of a surgical assault on the tiny penis of the perfect body of a 2-day-old infant. In addition, inadequate or incorrect administration of anesthesia during circumcision will cause intense pain, leading to significant distress and discomfort.
2. Excessive bleeding: If the person performing the circumcision cuts deeply, takes too much tissue, and/or doesn’t control bleeding, a newborn may lose too much blood and need emergency intervention to try to stop the bleeding. Most newborns are born with slight anemia. Even just losing a small amount of blood can cause shock or death in an infant. Absorbent diapers can hide the fact that a newly circumcised baby is losing a dangerous amount of blood, yet parents and guardians are rarely warned about this possibility on the so-called “informed” consent forms, which are supposed to list the risks associated with this surgery but rarely do.
3. Infection: Failure to follow appropriate sterilization methods or insufficient wound care post-operation can heighten the chances of urological and other infections. The baby now has an open wound where he is urinating (and urine is acidic, which causes burning and irritation) and having bowel movements in his diaper. A moist, unsanitary environment is a breeding ground for infections that can result in discomfort, inflammation, and potentially severe issues if left untreated.
4. Trauma: While we do not know the long-term effects of trauma from ritual circumcision other than anecdotally, we do know just from looking at an infant how distressed he is when taken away from his mother, restrained, immobilized, and cut. Mothers are aware when their babies are returned to them that their babies are different than before they left. Studies show that birth bonding is one of the most important tasks between mother (and father) and infant in the early days, and circumcision interrupts this bonding time.
5. Deformity of sexual organs: Why risk deformity or loss of a sexual organ due to purely cosmetic, unnecessary surgery on an infant? A story published in The Palm Beach Post in 2021 revealed a doctor who botched two circumcisions—one resulting in the amputation of the infant’s penis in 2017 and the other in the loss of a third of the infant’s penis in 2021—had been allowed to continue to practice even after being named in four disciplinary cases and nine malpractice actions previously. With this lax attitude toward the health of our country’s most helpless humans, how can parents know for sure that their decision to have voluntary surgery on their infant will not result in loss of or damage to his penis?2
6. Death: As stated above, we don’t know how many babies die as a result of the unnecessary medical intervention of circumcision, but Dan Bollinger of Intact America estimated that more than 100 baby boys die from circumcision complications every year in the U.S. in his article “Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths” in the journal Boyhood Studies. (3)
From Marilyn Fayre Milos’ Please Don’t Cut the Baby! A Nurse’s Memoir (2024), Lucid House Publishing:
“Nearly 200 people attended NOCIRC’s 2nd International Symposium on Circumcision, held at the Miyako Hotel in San Francisco, April 30-May 3, 1991. Both anthropologist Ashley Montagu, who gave the keynote address, and Michel Odent, who closed the symposium, acknowledged our international symposia as the crux of the human rights movement. They emphasized the importance of accepting every new human being into the world with respect, dignity, compassion, and love—and recognized that acts of violence against newborns and children have a shattering effect upon all of humanity.”
Long-Term Consequences of Botched Circumcisions
1. Skin adhesions: If the circumcision wound doesn’t heal well enough, adhesions may form where the remaining foreskin sticks to the head of the penis. This may cause discomfort and may need extra health care and medical treatments to fix.
2. Skin bridges: Sometimes, when skin is cut, scar tissue can grow between the cut edges and form a skin bridge. This can cause problems with cleanliness, and discomfort and may result in complications and pain during sexual activity.
3. Uneven or excessive skin removal: Uneven or excessive removal of skin during circumcision may cause discomfort and potentially affect sexual function due to an uneven or tight appearance. Because circumcision is done by a variety of practitioners and isn’t regulated, there may be someone inexperienced amputating the foreskin of the baby’s penis. For example, at teaching colleges, a first-year medical student may perform the surgery. When you are removing the sensitive tissue that would have comprised 30-40 percent of the adult male’s penis (if you laid out the adult foreskin, it would be about the size of a 3 x 5-inch index card) from an infant’s tiny penis, millimeters count. Many men, who are cut “too tight,” suffer from bleeding and pain when they have an erection. When the foreskin (prepuce) is removed unevenly, the erect penis may hook to one side or the other.
4. Nerve damage: Nerve damage occurs with every circumcision because the operation removes the most important sensory component of the foreskin—thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors called Meissner’s corpuscles. Also lost are branches of the dorsal nerve and specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types.
5. Difficulty with urination and meatal stenosis: A study in Denmark that followed intact and circumcised boys over many years found that somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of circumcised boys will develop a pathological narrowing of the urinary opening and urethra as a late result of their circumcision. (4)
6. Psychological impact: Supporting our belief that every circumcision is a botched circumcision, Intact America’s Voices section relays many stories of emotional distress and concerns later in life about body image due to circumcision. Many adult men report having traumatic memories of their circumcisions and struggle with anger over being robbed of their ability to feel more sensation due to the removal of their foreskin. Read a few of their stories here: Eugenio Ocasio; Brad Christensen; A.L. These are the people, as well as newborn infants, for whom we are fighting to end circumcision and to enforce human rights for all.
7. Suicide: Death from circumcision can occur many years later in the form of suicide. Marilyn Milos writes in her memoir Please Don’t Cut the Baby! about Jonathon Conte, one of the leaders of the Bay Area Intactivists. He made the sign below for Mother’s Day 2014. That night Marilyn received a call that he had taken his own life. When he finally had the courage to tell his mother he disliked being circumcised, rather than discussing it with him in a loving manner, she told him to “get over it.” For some men, circumcision is a primal psychological wound. Intactivists went on to celebrate Jonathon’s life every year with a memorial luncheon following their World Wide Day of Genital Autonomy demonstration in Washington DC.
“In 1966, after an 8-month-old named Bruce Reimer lost his penis to a horribly botched circumcision, doctors persuaded his family to allow gender-reassignment surgery and raise him as a girl. Reimer later re-declared himself male, and eventually took his own life, at 38, in 2004.” — New York Magazine
Are we just being pessimistic when we suggest parents consider the negative consequences of circumcision before signing a consent form? Not at all. Information on Stanford Medical’s Newborn Nursery page lists these complications of circumcision to consider: bleeding, infection, insufficient or excessive foreskin removed, adhesions, skin bridges, inclusion cysts, meatitis, meatal stenosis, urinary retention, stenosis, chordee, hypospadias, epispadias, urethrocutaneous fistula, necrosis of the penis, amputation of the glans, and death.
Holly Baltz, “5 Takeaways: Palm Beach Post Investigation into Florida OB-GYN and Babies, Moms Who Died Under His Care.” Palm Beach Post, September 23, 2021
Dan Bollinger, “Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths.” Boyhood Studies (4:10, March 1, 2010).