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Voices — M.J.

Editorial note: This insightful letter from a self-identified “prostitute” (sex worker) was sent to the Editor of Penthouse magazine in June 1985, apparently in response to discussion in a prior issue about circumcision. It is still relevant today. Note that frenum is an alternate word for the more commonly used word frenulum. Also, the author repeatedly uses the terms uncut and uncircumcised; the term “intact” had not yet become part of the vernacular. The letter, reproduced in its entirety below, had been preserved by Marilyn Milos, founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Centers (NOCIRC, later renamed Genital Autonomy – America, which merged with Intact America in 2021).

Dear Penthouse,

I’m a prostitute. It paid for my education, provides a good lifestyle, and I enjoy the work. I’m surprised and dismayed by the many misconceptions printed regarding circumcision, in letters by both men and women. My wide experience gives me a perspective to contribute to the discussion.

I didn’t grow up, as many women do, regarding the circumcised penis as “normal”. Helping my mother bathe my two uncircumcised younger brothers showed me that washing the penis is no more of a chore than washing the female genitals, and even simpler, because of fewer folds of skin.

Few uncircumcised penises are dirty. It’s far more common to encounter a man with bad breath, from lack of brushing or a mouthful of cavities, than one with a dirty penis. Yet, nobody suggests that the teeth be routinely extracted for “hygiene”.

Uncut men enjoy sex more because the penis is more sensitive. Uncircumcised males secrete more pre-coital mucus, and it starts flowing sooner, than with circumcised ones. The uncircumcised penis offers more opportunities for foreplay. Stroking the foreskin back and forth, retracting it to touch the corona or pluck the frenum lightly, is very stimulating. Inserting the tongue under the foreskin, or retracting it for easy access to the glans, frenum, and inverted inner lining, are stimulating variants to pumping the foreskin. Many men enjoy a good “hand job”, and the uncut ones can enjoy the full stroke, retracting the foreskin fully, then running it up over the end of the glans. The flow of clear mucus gives lubrication, enhancing the sensations and preventing irritation from dry friction.

The denuded organ requires special manipulation. There’s no foreskin to serve as a natural stimulator, and sometimes the frenum has been removed too, limiting the possibilities. If there’s enough slack, pulling the rest of the skin up over the corona works, although many don’t enjoy dry friction. More often, I have to use lubrication. The cut ones are handicapped from the start.

Some circumcised men are so insensitive that they can’t come to orgasm even after fifteen minutes of a “blow job,” and need to be finished off by hand. This has never, in my experience, happened with an uncircumcised man.

I’ve never noticed a difference in the time required for coital climax between cut and uncut men. Although it seems that circumcision, by removing sensitive tissue, would delay the climax, this isn’t so. Premature ejaculation is common, in our mostly circumcised males. I feel that there are two reasons for this:

The first is that sexual stimulation is not only physical, but mental. Circumcision does not affect this.

The second is that the skin of the uncircumcised penis, more slack during thrusting and withdrawal, tends to give with the friction, gliding up and over the corona. This partly shields the glans from excessive stimulation It also avoids putting tension on the frenum. This happens with a tight circumcision, speeding the man’s climax.

I hope that this is helpful.

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Voices — Eugene Ocasio

The first time I realized there was something wrong with me was in October 1970, I had turned 5 years old and was in kindergarten. I asked the teacher for permission to go to the bathroom.

After I finished urinating, alone in this large and lit bathroom, I looked at my penis and felt it looked odd. Something was telling me I was not right.

My parents did not raise me. I am the result of a mixed marriage; my father is white and my mother is black.

The same year for Christmas day my parents sent for me to spend Christmas with them.  At some point in the afternoon I was ordered to bathe. I recall going into the bathroom and seeing my father stepping out of the shower. I was amazed at his athletic body and the fact that his penis was so big, and very different looking from mine. He was not circumcised. At that moment I thought, being just 5, well that’s how my penis will be when I’m grown up!

I heard my father was quite disappointed he didn’t have a girl. He wanted to have black daughters who looked just like his wife, my mother. But I was born a boy and just as white as him, and as I grew up, I looked like a mini-him.

Eugene Ocasio

Apparently, after my birth, he was approached by some quack doctor in the hospital who convinced him to have me circumcised. My grand-aunt, who was present at the time the mutilation took place was against it, but my father did not listen to her or anyone else.

As a result, I was scared and deformed for life.

Years later I learned no older male member of the family was cut.

Because I wasn’t the baby my parents expected, my paternal grandparents and my grand-aunt took me in and raised me. My father had hardly any involvement in my life after that, except for playing taxi driver and taking me from point A to point B. Essentially, I grew up fatherless.
 
A year after my birth, my parents had another child, I another boy. And eight later, hoping for a daughter, they tried again — and yet another baby boy was born.

Father had them both cut as well.

I did not grow up with my siblings, but my middle brother spent most summer vacations with my grandparents. As children, we sometimes took showers together, and because my brother’s penis was “like” mine I thought that was how all males were supposed to look and be. But he did not have the same scars and deformity I had below the glans.
 
It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I came to terms and realized what has been done to me.

I never got to confront my father about it, as he died suddenly from a heart condition.

I got all the love and care a child could ask for from my grand-aunt and my grandparents. But I will NEVER forgive my father for having my body mutilated the day after I was born. As a result, I feel and look sexually inferior to other males.

I read somewhere that all male mammals have foreskin from the tiniest mouse to the largest whale. If cutting off the foreskin is so important, then why it isn’t being done on all male house pets and farm animals? Because it is NOT a birth defect. It is a natural part of being male, and I wish it had never been taken from me. I find the whole circumcision act disgusting, almost like a perverted form of cannibalism.

I curse the hands of all surgeons who do this to all baby boys everywhere, especially the one who mutilated me.

Eugene Ocasio, resident of Puerto Rico

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Voices — Brad Christensen

Brad Christensen

My story with circumcision began as most did: in infancy, when I was restrained against my will and mutilated. I grew up from that into a difficult child. I was easily angered and I clearly remember the more aggressive version of myself where I would hit people, not with any intention to hurt them, but just as an almost uncontrollable fit of rage. In addition to that, I had an incredible difficulty paying attention and would often get stuck in my learning. I was told I would have to be evaluated and medicated if I were to stay in school, and so, I was taken to doctors, therapists, psychiatrists and put on numerous medications so I would fit into society.

When I was around 5 years old, I found out about male genital mutilation when a friend of mine, who had an intact father, showed me his intact penis. One day, he showed me how he could roll back the foreskin to take out the glans and I instantly knew something was wrong with me since it was a natural-looking function that I could not replicate. Having found my father more difficult to deal with in those years, I went to my mother and confronted her about it. Not knowing what circumcision meant, she had to explain to me rather bluntly that they had the doctors cut off that extra skin and that it was her idea because it was cleaner.

Cut it off? How dare they? It seemed so perfectly suited in both form and function, and the shiny glans in particular looked a lot better than what I had. I asked her if it could grow back and she replied it won’t. I punched her in the shoulder as hard as my little fist could in a fit of rage. This seemed to upset her, but not enough for her to admit she had done anything wrong. Instead, she suggested it was a “boy thing” and that I should speak to my psychiatrist which I didn’t.

Eventually, when I was growing up in middle school, I had yet another problem with my genitals. I had what felt like a bag full of swollen worms drooping down by my left testicle. Not trusting doctors or my parents, I waited a year or two before telling them. When I did finally see a urologist, it turns out I had a varicocele which, if not operated on, might prevent me from having kids by bringing too much heat into the scrotum, crippling production of sperm. To this day, I’m still not sure if there is a correlation between the varicocele and my violent circumcision. Not wanting another doctor near my genitals, but realizing the implications I consented and had a nervous breakdown the day of the procedure, talking a thousand miles per hour until I finally calmed down.

I’ve remained on medication to manage anxiety and depression, have had numerous sleep issues, nausea, and other stomach problems that went with all that, some of which made it difficult if not impossible to perform my job on certain days. Also, I would have existential crises and thought about ending my life more than once so I would be in a better place, or maybe have better luck being reborn into a family that wouldn’t mutilate me so I could experience a proper life as an intact male. I think often of how much more I could be capable of both at work and in my personal life if I didn’t have the internal turmoil to fight with or the drain in self-confidence holding me back.

Circumcised infants create dysfunctional children and adults in more ways than American society and the world realizes. Without a shadow of a doubt, I am sure that my psychological problems were caused in large part by MGM. Nobody should be denied the right to be intact, no matter their race, religion, gender, or country of origin. Right now in the world, being intact is a privilege that comes from the stars aligning to put you in the right family or being born into fortuitous situations that spare you what can be a lifetime of pain. It is my hope in sharing this story that readers can understand just how bad circumcision really is and refuse it for their children so they don’t have to go through the problems I did. Trust me when I say from experience that this procedure often billed as just a quick snip can permanently ruin lives.

Becoming a dedicated intactivist at a young age I made a promise to myself to do whatever I could to speak out against this procedure and try and turn the trajectory of a society that had been culturally conditioned against neonatal ethics and male bodily integrity. While I had known about Intact America for a while it was seeing Sarah Zeimet or Mom4Intact as she is known on Twitter coming forward with her story that finally inspired me to have courage to do the same. It is my hope that the United States of America can join Europe and the rest of the intact western world in rejecting circumcision and realizing that knives and surgical instruments have no place near baby boys or young mens’ penises.

Brad Christensen

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Voices — “One Happy Family”

“One Happy Family”, drawn by Robert Johnson

Several years ago a young Hispanic couple moved into temporary housing in our neighbors’ basement in Northern Virginia. Neither my wife nor I had a chance to speak to the couple in the first few days after they moved in, but one morning I noticed that the very pregnant young woman was leaning against their pick-up truck across the street, holding her bulging abdomen as if fearful she might give birth any moment. I decided to introduce myself and asked if she was having a boy or girl. She looked at me sadly and said, “A BOY!” I said “Wonderful! Are you going to have him in a hospital?” She looked at me desperately. “Yes, but I worry because they want him circumcised. My mother says ‘No!’ And I don’t want it too. But nurses at the hospital keep saying ‘He is in America now! You should let a doctor circumcise him to keep him healthy and be like American boys.'”

“You are right to say ‘No!'” I said. “It isn’t necessary to circumcise him and it is harmful. The hospital people are wrong.”

“I would have him with my mother’s help in her trailer,” she said, “but he is so big I worry if there could be a problem with birth!”

“Well, the hospital has to get your informed consent to circumcise. You have the right to say ‘No.’ No one can make you say ‘Yes.’ And circumcision will harm your baby. I know because I’m circumcised and it harmed me. If you could wait a minute, I can get you some information to show the hospital that you have the right to say ‘No!'”

I ran into our house, turned on my computer, looked up Intact America, and found a statement in both English and Spanish explaining that circumcision is unnecessary and harmful to a baby and mustn’t be performed without the parents’ informed consent. I printed the statement, dashed across the street, and gave it to the woman. She read the Spanish version eagerly and said, “Thank you! I will show it to my mother and take this to hospital. Gracias!” She took the paper, eased herself into the driver’s seat, and drove off.

For several days I didn’t see either the woman or her husband. Then one morning I noticed the familiar truck parking across the street. Eager for news, I rushed outside. The young woman, much thinner now, opened the passenger door and got out carrying a large, healthy-looking baby boy. Before I said a word, a short, older woman, who turned out to be the young woman’s mother, scurried around her daughter, beaming, and said, “Thank you, sir! My grandbaby is happy baby boy!” The young mother also thanked me and added, “At hospital they ask me ‘Are you SUUURE you don’t want him circumcised?’ I said, ‘Yes! I am sure!’ They ask this NINE TIMES! And I say, ‘Yes, I am sure!’ nine times. And when we show them the paper you gave me they at last agree not to circumcise my big little boy.” As the mother, grandmother, and baby got back in the truck, I noticed the woman’s husband giving me a thumbs-up and a smile before the family drove off.

I never saw this family again. I learned the next day that they had moved to another temporary home in a different part of the county. Knowing the baby was born in an American hospital and that to some degree my own intervention helped prevent his being circumcised made me happy for a while, but not so happy as to prevent an all-too-familiar, deeper, darker feeling from nudging its way back into consciousness.

I was not so lucky when I was born in Methodist Hospital in Peoria, Illinois in 1945. My father, who knew very well that my mother might be giving birth to a baby boy within a few days, decided to go on a “business trip” to Milwaukee, Wisconsin instead of playing an important supportive role on my mother’s and my behalf. Years later, my mother told me she “never forgave” him for leaving her, forcing her to depend on a neighbor to take her to the hospital when it was time for me to be born. Four years earlier, he’d taken her to the hospital when my brother was born, so why did my father go on a needless business trip on the important occasion of my birth? As it happened, I was born at 3:30 in the morning from a sedated mother, “attended to” by a doctor, then whisked away to a maternity ward. As far as I know, the attending doctor circumcised me that very night, bandaged me up, and sent me to a maternity ward to cry myself to sleep… if I slept at all.

I would say I have no conscious memory of that night, but that is not entirely true. Sixty years later, while practicing primal therapy exercises on my own at home, part of a decades-long quest to uncover the sources of life-long feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, depression, terror, and rage, I suddenly felt a sharp cutting sensation around the shaft of my penis. I stopped the exercise immediately as I realized the sensation was my body’s way of telling me that I was re-experiencing my infant circumcision in 1945.

Why had my father, who was born in rural Indiana in 1907 and left intact, chosen to be away on a “business trip” rather than to take steps to protect me from the circumcision that, without strong intervention, was sure to happen to me after I was born in 1945? I could only guess, since my father was no longer living, that it was because he was caught off guard when my older brother was circumcised in a hospital four years earlier. My father was a first-born child when he was born and always seemed, like many fathers of his era, to place special concern on the welfare of his first-born son. I may be wrong, but I strongly suspect he couldn’t allow his second-born son, by NOT being circumcised, to have an advantage in life over his first-born son. Could this explain his mysterious decision to go on a “business trip” at this special time?

Of course, I’ll never know for sure, but I do believe that was the case, and I suspect that my strong feelings about the wrongness of allowing an infant boy to be traumatized and sexually wounded by circumcision may be what prompted me to run out of my family’s house toward a distressed, very pregnant stranger to do whatever I could to help a baby boy have a happier life than mine had been.

Robert Clover Johnson

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Voices — A.L.

I was first introduced to circumcision and became aware that it happened to me when I was almost eleven years old. Immediately, it bothered me that someone changed something about my penis when I was a baby and could not give my permission. I rediscovered the topic years later when I found material on the internet that talked about the horrors of infant circumcision, its impact on sexual pleasure, and its human rights implications.

I feel betrayed by the doctor who mutilated my penis when I was a helpless newborn.

I want to feel complete, and that means living with the genitals I was born with. I shouldn’t have to settle for anything less. No one had the right to take that from me. At twenty years old, I cannot escape this obsessive epiphany.

Circumcision is a lifelong intrusion on my body and an imposition on my sexuality. My foreskin is a permanent loss which I will always grieve. I deal with feelings of brokenness and inadequacy, and I am jealous of those who were fortunate enough to have been spared this disfiguring surgery. Circumcision harmed my body image by limiting my capacity for sexual, emotional and aesthetic satisfaction. My genitals are tainted with feelings of grief, anger, and despair. The missing foreskin and the physical scar on my penis are daily reminders. The mental scar is not as outwardly apparent; yet both will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I cannot see myself other than as being mutilated. The erogenous tissue and its nerve endings will never come back. My sensitive frenar band is almost completely missing. My glans is keratinised and desensitised because my foreskin’s is not there to protect it. Circumcision has created an unnatural need for artificial lubricant. I am not the same person I would have been had my genitals not been cut.

I feel betrayed by the institutions that had a responsibility to protect me. North American regulatory bodies have staved off recognition of the harms of circumcision and the truth about the culturally-biased policies that perpetuate it. Honesty about the problems of neonatal circumcision could threaten the credibility of the medical establishment, by exposing its systemic wrongdoing, the false rationales promoting circumcision, and the stubborn tenacity of the practice that has harmed so many.

The trauma flowing from my forced circumcision has resulted in anxiety, unspecified obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress, and an eating disorder. Obsession and rumination about circumcision causes me uneasiness, intrusive thoughts, irritability, and insomnia. I have an intense discomfort and sensitivity regarding the subject of circumcision, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a problem I cannot fix and it doesn’t fade over time: every time I look down, the circumcision scar is still there and it will never go away.

Regardless of whether a given individual realizes it, the physical harms occur to everyone who is forcibly circumcised as an infant. The psychological harm, though, becomes apparent under certain conditions, depending on the information received and individual’s specific personality traits. For me, perhaps the traits that amplify the intensity of the psychological harm caused by my genital cutting include my pensive and sensitive nature; my concern about injustice; my tendency to feel strongly about sensitive issues; and my perfectionistic disposition. But the problem is not my personality—the problem is what happened to me. The cause of my pain is the injury inflicted on me as a child. From a legal perspective, perpetrators of an assault must “take their victims as they find them”. It is the harmful action, after all, that causes the damage.

A few things help me to cope. I started seeing a counsellor who has understands the harms of genital cutting and is working with me to find healing strategies. I also began seeing a psychiatrist, who has prescribed an anti-anxiety medication that lowers the intensity of my obsessive thoughts and helps me feel less overwhelmed about the problem. It also has been immensely helpful to have a network of trusted friends and intactivists on whom I can lean. Activism is an important avenue of my healing. I speak out about male genital cutting to inform laypeople and the medical community and raise awareness about this medical malpractice.

I filed a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario directed at the doctor who mutilated me, outlining the harms, rights violations, and lack of consent associated with my circumcision. I was met with a lazy dismissal and an ignorance of the problems I presented. The Inquiries Complaints and Reports Committee avoided addressing the harms, ethical problems, and lack of consent on both personal and systemic levels. They relied on fallacious reasoning and deflections, defending circumcision because it is “accepted by many”. The Committee claimed that it satisfies the “standard of care” even though it is absurd to describe forced genital cutting as “care,”. The CPSO is unprepared to face the ugly truth. Instead, it tacitly approves and enables the practice while avoiding accountability.

The complaint process was worth it, however. Every complaint matters in the fight for bodily integrity for all. I am escalating my complaint to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board. I don’t expect responsiveness, yet I will do my best to confront them with the necessity of decisive action. I also plan to approach the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada about infant genital cutting in Canada.

Finally, I have initiated a lawsuit against the doctor and hospital responsible for my mutilation. It will be a long, uphill battle but I have confidence in the merits of my case and my quest for justice. I am glad for the opportunity to demonstrate to the Canadian court that infant male genital cutting is a rights violation and that doctors should be held accountable for performing harmful, unnecessary surgeries on children and took seriously their obligation to act only in the best interests of their infant patients.

Readers wishing to know more about A.L.’s pursuit of institutional and legal remedies may contact him at [email protected].

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Do You Know: About Planned Giving?

By Georganne Chapin, IA Executive Director

This past year has made me acutely aware of the fragility of life, all that I’m grateful for — and the type of world I want to secure for the future. In that world, no child will ever be subjected to medically unnecessary surgery without their consent.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a growing number of Intact America donors are asking how they can continue to support Intact America’s mission beyond their own lifetimes.

One of these donors was Gene Burkett, a man I came to know well.

Gene’s journey with Intact America began in 2015 when he came upon us while researching circumcision. As Gene later wrote to me, “While other websites had useful information, it appeared that Intact America was the only one that had an active advocacy component. It also was one with the most educational material on the story of circumcision, especially in the United States.”

Over the years as our friendship evolved, I much appreciated the counsel that Gene, who was a finance professional, gave me. He understood Intact America’s challenges and saw his way clear to support us.

In January 2021, a few weeks before he passed away, Gene informed me he had made Intact America the sole beneficiary of two IRA accounts, representing the bulk of his assets.

Here is what he said:

“I am 100% confident that I am doing the right thing with these funds. My willingness to do this, with no strings attached, is the direct result of my faith in your integrity, abilities, and dedication to this cause. I trust that you, or whoever succeeds you, will use this money wisely to be able to fulfill my hopes and dreams.”

I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed by both Gene’s gift – the largest Intact America has ever received – and his faith in us. To honor Gene, his values, and his dreams, we’ve created the Gene Burkett Legacy Circle for supporters who include IA in their estate planning.

If, like Gene, you would like to build a legacy that protects every child’s right to bodily integrity, I would welcome a conversation. You can contact me at 914.400.1909 or [email protected]. If you have already included Intact America in your estate plans, I would love to know that so I can personally thank you and welcome you into the Gene Burkett Legacy Circle.

Below is some information about legacy giving.
Gift options include:

Bequests
Making a gift through your will is the simplest way to create a legacy of protecting children’s rights. To do so, add this sentence to your existing will: “I give and bequeath (dollar amount, or percentage of residuary estate, etc.) to: Intact America (Tax ID #81-2887457), located at 303 South Broadway, Suite 420 (PO Box 8516), Tarrytown, NY 10591.” To create your will in 20 minutes, free of charge, visit our partner FreeWill.com. (Please consult your attorney and/or tax advisor before adding this language to your will to determine the best method for including Intact America in your estate planning.)

Gifts by Beneficiary Designation
Naming Intact America as a beneficiary of your retirement account, life insurance plan, bank account, donor advised fund, real estate, or other assets is another convenient way to give. It doesn’t require an estate plan or lawyer, and you can change your beneficiary choice at any time. You can note Intact America’s Tax ID number (81-2887457) on the beneficiary designation form.

Retirement Plan Gifts
There are excellent tax benefits to reap from donating retirement plan assets in an IRA, 401(K), 403(B), or qualified pension to Intact America. IA will receive the full value of the distributions tax-free. The assets designated to use this way will not be a part of your taxable estate, potentially lowering estate taxes owed. As noted above, you can note Intact America’s Tax ID number (81-2887457) on the form provided to you by your financial institution or pension fund.

By including Intact America in your estate planning, you will become a member of the Gene Burkett Legacy Circle in recognition of your visionary generosity. In addition to knowing that you are protecting future boys and men from harm, as a member you will receive:

– Recognition in select Intact America publications and on our website.
– Exclusive “State of the Organization” Zoom calls or webinars with Intact America leadership.
– Personal invitations to Intact America events.

For more information about legacy giving, contact Georganne Chapin, Founding Executive Director, Intact America, at [email protected] or 914.400.1909.