Intact America Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary and Gears Up Two New Initiatives to Fight Baby Boy Circumcision
The New ‘SKIN IN THE GAME’ Storytelling Campaign Will Feature the Victims of Circumcision to Show How ‘Circumcision Cuts Through Us All’
The DoNoHarm.Report Project Will Make It Easy for the Public to Report Circumcision Solicitation, Harm, and More
‘Americans will never think the same thing about circumcision again.’
(Tarrytown, New York—September 29, 2023)…Fifteen years ago, the country’s grassroots anti-circumcision movement founded Intact America, a national, professionally run not-for-profit, to strategically change the way Americans think about the routine circumcision of baby boys. Despite Intact America’s notable progress—today, 22.5 percent of Americans think baby boys should be kept intact (uncircumcised), up from 10 percent in 2014—systemic forces continue to make the United States the only Western developed nation that routinely cuts the genitals of its baby boys, approximately 1.3 million baby boys a year.
One big reason circumcision persists is that, unfortunately, Americans erroneously believe that circumcision is harmless. Intact America plans to upend such thinking by putting a face to circumcision’s victims: parents who cannot forget their babies’ screams, men who live with scarred, desensitized penises, and women who suffer through painful, dry sex, to name only a few of the adverse ways circumcision affects lives.
“If we look at every successful social change movement, from the abolition of slavery, to the fight for women’s suffrage, to the Civil Rights movement, to the LBGTQ and same-sex marriage movements, to the more recent “MeToo” movement, we can see that key to effecting change was making public the personal stories, the voices, and the faces of the victims,” explains Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD, founding executive director of Intact America.
“Intact America’s work has unleashed a groundswell of people aching to tell their stories, and we are going to ensure the public hears their stories,” Chapin adds.
This fall, Intact America will launch SKIN IN THE GAME: Circumcision Cuts Through Us All, a compelling storytelling campaign that uses photography and narratives to put human faces on circumcision victims—men and their partners, parents, and loved ones. The campaign features people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations who are outraged, sad, angry, and determined to end a senseless practice that no medical society in the world—including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)—recommends.
“These stories will hit a nerve with the American public,” Chapin says. “Soon, we will reach a tipping point when popular opinion turns against cutting baby boys’ genitals, just as we currently denounce cutting little girls’ genitals.”
‘This Penis Business’
Chapin will further spread the anti-circumcision message when her memoir, “This Penis Business,” is published in February 2024 by Lucid House Publishing. The book will be released together with “Please Don’t Cut the Baby,” a memoir written by Marilyn Milos, one of the country’s earliest intactivists (or anti-circumcision activists) and currently a member of Intact America’s board of directors.
Holding Doctors Accountable
Intact America also is breaking new ground by developing DoNoHarm.Report, an online tool that will let parents and guardians do three things: (1) report incidents of circumcision harm, such as excessive bleeding, fever, infection, and physical complications; (2) report whether doctors and nurses pressured them to have their sons circumcised; and (3) report that their intact son was a victim of forcible foreskin retraction by a medical professional, a practice that is not condoned by the AAP. Each reported incident will be submitted to both hospital management and the state medical board.
“We must hold doctors and nurses accountable for the harm they inflict on healthy baby boys and intact children,” says Chapin. “Right now, it is an arduous process for any individual to file a complaint with a medical board or society. Whom do they contact? How do they word the complaint? DoNoHarm.Report makes it simple. Parents will fill out a single form and we will direct the complaint to every place it needs to go.”
Chapin notes that no one knows how often circumcisions go awry, but DoNoHarm.Report will make that such information available. “We should know how often routine circumcisions harm boys, even when the procedure is not ‘botched’, but we don’t,” she says. “Hospitals commonly fail to cite circumcision as the cause of infant hemorrhaging or other complications once the child goes home.
“I predict DoNoHarm.Report data will shock the public,” Chapin says. “Americans will never think the same thing about circumcision again.”
About Intact America
Intact America is the largest national advocacy group working to end involuntary child genital cutting in America and to ensure healthy sexual futures for all people. It does this by challenging social and sexual norms and empowering supporters and volunteers through advocacy and education. To learn more about the issues involved in the current conversation about newborn male circumcision, visit IntactAmerica.org and CircumcisionDebate.org, and follow Intact America on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Often Maligned and Mocked by Americans, Foreskin Will Have Its Day, April 4!
Intact America’s First-Ever #ForeskinDay Aims to Raise Public Awareness and Appreciation of a Vital Body Part Valued by Intact Men and Their Partners Worldwide
A High-Spirited Celebration Is in Store, Featuring a Live Stream Foreskin Festival, COCKtail Recipes, Interviews, Merch, Videos, and More!
Not surprisingly, Americans know little about the male foreskin, the highly sensitive sheath of muscle, nerves, and blood that provides sexual stimulation and protects the head of the penis. As a result, many people mistakenly believe the foreskin is merely excess, unnecessary skin.
But intact (not circumcised) men and intactivists who are fighting to end routine male child circumcision vehemently disagree. Now, uncut men, cut men who wish they weren’t, and everyone who appreciates foreskin can rejoice! Intact America is raising public awareness and appreciation of the foreskin with a day-long celebration: Foreskin Day on 4/4, April 4th—the FOREth Day of April.
A virtual celebration akin to 4/20, the cannabis holiday, Foreskin Day is sponsored by Intact America, the nation’s largest intactivist (anti-circumcision) organization. The highlight of the day will be the live stream Foreskin Festival on Intact America’s YouTube channel and Facebook and Instagram pages. Hosted by Dragonfly Wilson, a vibrant, funny, sex-positive activist, the Foreskin Festival will feature interviews, videos, and lots of humorous musing on all things penile.
In addition, Intact America is encouraging people to download and post social media memes (hashtag #ForeskinDay) available at ForeskinMoreToLove.com. The site offers facts and “phallacies” about foreskin, special COCKtail recipes, foreskin-positive merch to wear, and more.
“Intact America is sponsoring Foreskin Day to educate the public and to inspire individuals to have healthy, open conversations about the foreskin in a sex-positive way,” explains Georganne Chapin, MPhil, JD, founding executive director of Intact America. “The foreskin is there for a man’s pleasure and the pleasure of his partner. It contains thousands of highly sensitive nerve endings that make sexual intercourse more enjoyable. It also protects the glans, or the head of the penis, from everyday chafing, drying out, and losing sensitivity.”
Watch how Georganne Chapin describes Foreskin Day here.
For more information about foreskin and #ForeskinDay visit www.Foreskin.day
Two recent surveys by Intact America have raised the question by some participants of why we asked the men if their penis looked like A (an intact penis) or B (a circumcised penis), which they found either distasteful or an invasion of privacy. This is the A or B image they were talking about.
The short answer is accuracy. Asking this question improves the quality of the survey results. A lot. The reason is that many men don’t know their penile status! A 2004 study of college-aged men found that 33% were mistaken or unsure of their penile status.[i] This is nothing new, a 1960 study found 14% of men were unsure; their status was confirmed by a physical examination.[ii]
More recently, in Intact America’s three, national random sample surveys (2017, 2018, & 2021) of 3298 Americans, 14% of men were mistaken or unsure of their penile status. See below for my decade-old methodology to determine whether men were mistaken or not. But first, here’s an entertaining anecdote to illustrate the problem.
You may have seen the episode of the Graham Norton Show on BBC in 2017 with guest actor Sir Patrick Stewart. He relayed the funny story about him mentioning in passing to his wife that he was circumcised. According to Stuart, in his 70s at the time, the conversation went something like this:
Stewart: I’m circumcised.
Wife: (laughs) You’re not circumcised.
Stewart: That’s ridiculous! I should know if I’m circumcised! End of conversation.
Stewart: The next day, I happened to be seeing my doctor for my annual physical. When the doc was ‘down there,’ I mentioned my disagreement with my wife, and asked, “I’m circumcised, right?”
Surprisingly, even men who call themselves intactivists, and who are presumably knowledgeable about circumcision and male sexual anatomy, aren’t sure. A survey of intactivists found that 13% of intactivist men are mistaken or unsure.
In 2011, I wanted to learn if newborn circumcision was associated with alexithymia. Alexithymia is the inability to identify and express emotions. It is thought that it is acquired at a very early age. Such people have difficulty in relationships, social interactions, and even in therapy. But I could not examine these men who live across the United States. So, I had to develop a viable validation alternative for that peer-reviewed alexithymia and circumcision study. My solution was to ask their penile status and then compare that with their answer to the A-B image question. Entries that did not match correctly were removed from the dataset.
As it turns out, and unknown to me at the time, I’m not the first researcher to realize that self-report is inaccurate when it comes to penises. In 1992, Schlossberger found that: “Use of visual aids to report circumcision status was more accurate (92%) than self-report (68%).[iii] Wow.
Granted, the best way to determine penile status would be a physical examination. But this is so problematic on so many levels that it would be all but impossible to survey. You’d have to pass certain standards using human subjects, hire medical staff, obtain liability insurance, and of course get permission from the men to disrobe. (By the way, the proper way to determine if a man is circumcised isn’t to look for the lack of a foreskin, but the presence of a circumcision scar.)
The solution that I came up with, and one I’ve used many times since, is a three-part survey-question method. The questioning goes something like this:
Are you circumcised or intact (not circumcised)?
Which one of these images most looks like your flaccid (not erect) penis?
Are you restoring your foreskin?
I don’t know what this is
As you can see, this method results in much more accurate answers, and provides trustworthy data. Nevertheless, some men are not comfortable answering these questions, even to an anonymous researcher. I can appreciate that. That’s why I’ve taken steps to avoid their discomfort: 1) I inform participants that they’ll be asked personal, sexual questions, 2) tell them they can opt out now, 3) tell them they can opt out at any time, 4) mention that this data will only be used in aggregate form, and that at no time will their identity be revealed, and 5) use the image shown above obtained from a medical illustration stock image source instead of using a photo of real penises.
A study I recently conducted, and now in-press, titled “Adverse Childhood Experiences, Dysfunctional Households, and Circumcision,” also employed this method. None of the journal reviewers mentioned a problem with using this image.
So, not using this tripartite image question would make the results skewed, if not unusable, and therefore unpublishable.
Sadly, many circumcision studies being published since I created this method continue to just ask the men if they are circumcised or not, leaving us unsure of what to make of their conclusions. As scientists like to say: “Junk in, junk out.” (no pun intended!)
[i] Risser JMH, Risser WL, Eissa MA, Cromwell PF, Barratt MS, Bortot A. Self-assessment of circumcision status by adolescents. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;159:1095–1097.
[ii] Wynder EL, Licklider, SD. The question of circumcision. Cancer. 1960;13(3):442 5. 14.
[iii] Schlossberger N, Turne R & Irwin C (1992) Early adolescent knowledge and attitudes about circumcision: methods and implications for research. J Adolesc Health 13(4): 293-297.
Intact America interviewed Dusty Drake (they/she) following her heartwarming and open TikTok account of their circumcision complications. A transcript of the interview and her video follows.
How did you discover Intact America and what does the intactivist movement mean to you?
I first discovered Intact America a few years ago on Instagram. Back in 2011 however was the first time that I heard the term intactivist. Without knowing the word though, it is something I advocated against within my social circle even before that because of my own experience. To me, the intactivist movement is about bodily autonomy more than anything else. It’s giving the right to make cosmetic decisions about one’s body to the individual themself. It seems to be a controversial opinion in North America, but I don’t think that parents should be allowed to alter their child’s body for cosmetic purposes just because it’s their child. That child is an autonomous human being and will grow into an adult who can consent to those procedures if they decide they want them.
What encouraged you to share your story, and why now?
I was encouraged to share my story when I saw a prompt posted on September 22nd to Instagram by Intact America. The prompt simply said “Robbed of your foreskin? Tell us your story.” Their email was written below and I thought to myself, “I should email them. I’m shut down so often when I bring up the problems with cosmetic infant circumcision so I’m terrified to share my story but at least they are willing to be a listening ear.” After composing the email though I had a spark of inspiration and decided that I wasn’t going to send it. I have a following on TikTok and though even though I’ve been harassed and shut down before while speaking against cosmetic infant circumcision, this is still something that people need to hear even if they aren’t ready. So I decided to record and post my story instead. I can’t begin to tell you how extremely nervous I was to talk about my own personal experience with having been circumcised as an infant and the issues I experienced during puberty because of it. While recording, it felt just as nerve wracking as if I was speaking to a room full of strangers who had no interest in what I had to say. But I continued, because if my voice can help one parent reconsider their entitlement over their child’s body and prevent them from taking away their child’s bodily autonomy then it was worth the temporary discomfort I felt while recording.
What are some of the reactions to your TikTok video and how do they make you feel?
A majority of the reactions from my TikTok on my own experience have been overwhelmingly positive which I was honestly surprised about. I have posted content against cosmetic infant circumcision in the past and have been met with a lot of hate, harassment, and even bullying. So I was understandably nervous to share my own story, but I am so glad I did. I think the biggest reward from posting about my own experience is the new and expecting parents posting that they are reconsidering doing this to their child, have now made the decision not to, or feel more reassured that they made the right decision by leaving the choice up to their child.
Would you consider sharing more about your experience, or discuss circumcision in future TikTok videos?
If the right inspiration strikes, I will continue to talk about my experience. I absolutely intend to continue making content against cosmetic infant circumcision because the right to bodily autonomy is a human rights issue.
Dusty’s TikTok Transcript:
When I was a baby, only a few days old, a doctor had convinced my parents that there was something wrong with my body and that immediate surgical intervention was needed. There was no infection, no birth defect, and there were no adverse effects that could come from leaving my body in its natural state. Yet despite this, my parents had been convinced that to be good parents and do what was best for their first born child, that immediate surgery was necessary. They hadn’t been properly educated on the surgery, and they had have been given information on the benefits of leaving my perfectly healthy body alone. So they followed through with the doctor’s recommendation.
When I began puberty at around 10 or 11-years-old, my body began to grow quickly, so quickly, in fact that the incision from the surgery that I was unnecessarily forced to undergo as an infant began to tear. The scar tissue began stretching beyond its limits. This increased tension led to years of bleeding and scabbing along the incision line from the scar, not to mention the pain that this caused me during this whole time. But I was scared and ashamed of what was happening to me. I had believed that I had done something wrong, or worse, that there was something intrinsically wrong with me and that this was a punishment for it, and this made sense to me. After all, I was a young closeted queer kid who was being bullied every single day by my peers. Heck, I didn’t even know what queer or gay or any of that was, but I knew that that was something I didn’t wanna be and that it was bad, because that’s what my peers and society had taught me.
So it made sense to me that on top of being bullied every day, that life would just punish me in this way, despite the fact that I hadn’t done anything except for show kindness to others. So I never told anybody what I was going through and I just suffered through it alone. But when I was an adult, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who had gone through this. There were doctors all over convincing parents to perform these unnecessary surgeries on their children, their newborn children. After I realized that I wasn’t alone in this, I got the courage to speak to my parents about it. They didn’t know what to say at the time, and they were clearly processing the information I was giving them, but they did look really remorseful.
Just last month, I was hanging out with my mom and she came up to me on her own, she sat next to me on the couch and just gave me a big old hug. She looked me in the eyes and she said, “I am so sorry. I would never crop a dog’s ears or tail, but for some reason, I never gave a second thought to mutilating my own newborn baby. I wish I could go back and make an informed decision with the knowledge I have today. I’m so sorry that we circumcised you.”
I have read that the foreskin produces anti-microbial agents, including Langerhans cells. Is that true? What are Langerhans cells?
—Richard in Virginia
Yes, Richard, Langerhans cells have important immunological properties.
Langerhans cells reside in the epidermis of the foreskin, the body’s outermost and thinnest layer of skin and the layer responsible for protecting you from the outside world. Langerhans cells determine the appropriate adaptive immune response (inflammation or tolerance) by interpreting the microenvironmental context in which they encounter foreign substances. In a normal physiological, “non-dangerous” situation, Langerhans cells coordinate a continuous state of immune tolerance, preventing unnecessary and harmful immune activation. But when they sense a danger signal, for example during infection or when the physical integrity of skin has been compromised as a result of a trauma, they instruct T lymphocytes of the adaptive immune system to mount efficient responses against the danger.
Thus, Langerhans cells in the foreskin play an important role in fighting infections and protecting the rest of the penis.
—Marilyn Milos, RN
My almost 5 year old keeps having erections and is complaining that it’s hurting. Is that normal for an intact kiddo? My oldest is circed as is hubby so this is new to me and hubby. What can I do to help him?
—Emily in Indiana
How does your son’s penis look? Are there any changes in his foreskin? Is it red or swollen? If not, then your son’s painful erections may need to be directly addressed. Erections are normal and begin in babies in utero. If your son’s erections are painful, then the development of his penis needs to be explained to him. When he understands that at birth the foreskin is usually non-retractile because the foreskin and glans (head of the penis) are attached when they develop. These two structures will separate over time. Once the foreskin and glans separate, the foreskin becomes retractable. As the foreskin becomes retractable, erections may cause sensations as the foreskin separates from the glans or because the opening of the foreskin is not yet large enough to accommodate retraction of the glans. Discussion of these aspects of his penile development should help determine where the pain is coming from so that your son can consider and accept the sensations as a part of the developmental process or something that needs to be addressed.