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Voices — Kent Leatham

(image copyright Kent Leatham, 2020)

I’ve been writing public articles about — and against — routine infant circumcision in America for several years now. I primarily tend to focus on my own experiences — questions, regrets, and trauma, along with the more basic physical reductions of having half of my penis suddenly degloved in infancy — but I try to corroborate those personal reflections with plenty of supporting data and collaborative anecdotes from other folks with whom I’ve conversed about this issue.

After chatting recently with Intact America’s executive director, Georganne Chapin, she emphasized that although these sorts of firsthand stories and interpersonal connections will always be essential to the intactivist cause and community, we also need to dramatically increase our emphasis on dismantling the medical for-profit corporate campaign that is at the heart of promoting this ongoing national tragedy against our children. Until we stop the harm where it starts — in the disinformation machine and “pressure-cooker” solicitations that train doctors to view foreskins as malignant and overwhelm parents with the authoritative demand to purchase their removal from newborn children — all we’ll have left are personal stories of loss, like mine.

With this new orientation in mind, therefore, it didn’t take me long to realize a curious coincidence. It is common knowledge (at least among intactivists, who seek out this kind of information) that the average adult foreskin measures approximately fifteen square inches when fully extended. This is precisely the same size as a standard 3×5-inch index card, which is why many intactivist groups often use index cards at rallies and conferences as simple, tangible handouts for educational outreach.

Ironically, however, there’s another common, household item that can provide the same parallel measurements with a more “loaded” message: credit cards. If you line up two typical credit cards side-by-side, you’ll end up with those same fifteen square inches, only this time the emphasis will be on cost as well as size. What is the physiological cost to a penis of being permanently skinned of its most protective part? What is the financial cost to exhausted and distracted parents of paying for this non-medically required violation of their offspring? What is the emotional cost of losing trust in your body, parents, partners, or medical experts because of an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)? What is the ethical cost of legally prohibiting female genital mutilation while allowing male genital mutilation to continue thriving as a billion-dollar industry?

Yes, you heard that right. As explained on IA’s website, “One million circumcisions are performed on boys every year in U.S. hospitals and medical office…. Circumcision today is a $1 billion industry; the cost of repairing complications — both short and long-term — more than doubles that figure.” When you dig deeper to discover that the average price-tag for an infant circumcision ranges from $100-1,000, based on the provider and what the government or insurer (if applicable) will pay, suddenly this number doesn’t seem shocking at all; in fact, it seems low. We all smiled at the unlikely fantasy nightmare of “human batteries” being harvested by hungry machines in 1999’s blockbuster film The Matrix, but why are we ignoring the daily reality of hospitals harvesting major parts of infant penises to keep turning a profit?

Not only that, but routine infant circumcision works on much the same principles as the rest of our unequal economy: the average person loses [capitalists would say “invests”] for an intangible and unverifiable future, while the rich folks make immediate fiscal gains [“profit”]. Did my Penis Reduction Surgery as an infant prevent illness or impairment later in life? I’ll never know. But someone definitely got paid for doing it, and that money, like my healthy stolen foreskin, is never coming back to me.

Nothing happens in fee-for-service medicine unless it ultimately puts money in doctors’ or hospitals’ or drug companies’ coffers. If somebody’s paying, someone else is collecting. So, the next time you pull out a credit card for a purchase, take a moment to remember: you’re holding the physical equivalent of half of someone’s foreskin, and the systemic enabler of its theft.

How much is integrity worth to you?

Kent Leatham

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Voices — Elise Wicklund

Elise Wicklund

I have four children, and two of them are boys. Paxton, who is older, is circumcised; his younger brother, Jaxon, is not. The story behind this is a painful one for me to tell, but it’s also one of hope: Brothers don’t have to “match.”

Before Paxton was born, I knew in my gut I didn’t want to have him circumcised. But everyone around me said it was the right thing to do, including my husband. Finally, I agreed to go with him to talk with our pediatrician, who said it was better for boys to be circumcised. He waved off our concerns about pain, saying it would be just a snip.

But with the first diaper change all my fears were realized. It was no “snip”: It was an open wound. Paxton developed a painful ulcer, adhesions and other complications that lasted a long time. He cried with every diaper change. If I went anywhere near his genitals he would look at me in pure horror. I was sick and heartbroken. I didn’t let anybody change him but me.

I sank into a deep depression. I felt completely alone, isolated from everyone, including my husband. There was a point when I told him I would rather walk in front of a bus right now. It was like a heavy coat. It hurt to breathe.

The darkness began to lift a little when I started connecting on Facebook with other moms going through the same thing. I joined a group of them at a protest in Washington, D.C., during Genital Integrity Awareness Week, and that’s when I met Georganne Chapin from Intact America. Activism was empowering and it drove my healing. And learning just six months after Paxton was born that I was pregnant with his sister felt like a healing miracle.

When we found out I was pregnant with Jaxon two years later, there was no debate about circumcision. And we got no pushback from family—I think because for nearly three years I raged against it and told pretty much everybody I knew that circumcision was bullshit. By that time, we had left mainstream care, and Jaxon was born in a hospital with a midwife.

It was really freeing to be able to make a different choice. Jaxon is 2 now, and he has never cried during a single diaper change. But it has also been painful for me. I still deal with PTSD a bit, and changing his diaper literally transported my heart back to a place of pain.

It has taken four or five years to realize that something good came out of this journey: I have found my voice. I have grown into a person who can help other women who are struggling. I had always thought I was this “strong” person, yet I was brought to my knees. But then you say, “No more. I can’t allow this to consume my life and drag me to a dark place,” and you find a voice and you turn it around.

That was the turning point of my life. That’s when I became a totally different person. I am filling my own cup again, going to the gym and taking care of myself. I’m getting ready to rejoin protests when the pandemic restrictions lift. I’ve got an itch to get going again. I’m going to get back out there and hold some signs and make people uncomfortable.

Elise Wicklund

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Georganne Chapin interview on “Sex Out Loud”

Listen to an in-depth discussion about foreskin and circumcision between Intact America’s Georganne Chapin and Sex Out Loud podcast host Tristan Taormino.

“[Georganne Chapin] taught me so much about the foreskin and circumcision that it changed my views permanently, and I have her to thank.”—Tristan Taormino,

Press Release: Having a Baby Boy? Get Ready for the Circumcision Sellers!

Media Contact:
Jeannie Ashford, Harrison Edwards PR
[email protected]
914.242.0010 x 3 (office) or 914.318.1568 (mobile)
 

A Groundbreaking Intact America Survey Finds Doctors, Nurses,
and Midwives Actively Solicit Moms to Have Their Sons Circumcised

 

78% of Mothers Had Their Sons Circumcised if Health Providers Asked,
Compared to Only 45% of Mothers Who Were Not Asked

 

“Doctors Tell Us They Circumcise Boys Only Because Parents Want It. This Survey Proves Otherwise”— Georganne Chapin, Executive Director, Intact America

 

(Tarrytown, New York—November 16, 2020) — A new study released by Intact America reveals that circumcision of baby boys is routinely and often aggressively pushed by physicians, nurses, and midwives, even if parents have not expressed interest in the procedure. Survey results, tabulated by Qualtrics, a widely used survey provider, show that new mothers are solicited eight times on average by health care professionals, “even though no medical society in the world, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends surgically removing the foreskin of healthy baby boys,” said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, the nation’s largest advocacy organization seeking to end routine circumcision in the United States.

The Intact America 2020 survey is the first time researchers have shown the direct correlation between solicitation and an increased circumcision rate. Survey results indicate that solicitation increased circumcisions by 173%. Only 45% of new mothers circumcised their sons without being asked, compared to 78% of new mothers who had been solicited. New mothers agreed to the procedure after only one or two asks. Even a “soft sell,” such as giving the mother a consent form to perform the procedure, increased circumcisions by 137%.

Tellingly, 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,” said Chapin. “The survey shows solicitation directly and dramatically drives up the infant circumcision rate. Soliciting this unnecessary surgery has to end.”

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.”

About the Survey
Intact America worked with Qualtrics to send the circumcision solicitation survey to a national, random sample of 2,519 mothers who had given birth to a boy in the past four years. The survey defined “solicitation” as every time a physician, midwife, or nurse either verbally asked the mother if she wanted to circumcise her son; recommended she circumcise her son; told her that circumcision was required; handed her a circumcision consent form; or assumed (as perceived by the mother) that she wanted to circumcise her son.

Survey results (with a 3% margin of error) revealed numerous noteworthy facts:

  • 94% of mothers were solicited to have their baby boys circumcised.
  • 78% of mothers who were solicited agreed to have their sons circumcised.
  • 45% of mothers who had not been solicited allowed their sons to be circumcised.
  • “Soft sells,” such as being handed a consent form, increased circumcisions by 137%.
  • The average number of solicitations was 8.
  • Solicitation, in all forms, increased circumcisions by 173%.
  • 71% of mothers said they would have asked about circumcision without prompting.
  • 18% of mothers said they would not have thought to ask about circumcision.
  • 21% of mothers who agreed to having their sons circumcised said that they wish they had done more research.
  • 10% of mothers regretted their choice.
  • Physicians were responsible for 3 out of 5 solicitations; nurses and midwives were responsible for the remainder.

Why This Matters
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.

Chapin, an attorney with broad knowledge of health law and bioethics, believes that medical solicitation of infant male circumcision breaches several well-established ethical boundaries (see link) and the goal of health care equity.

Chapin said that Intact America will use the survey’s findings to mount a major campaign to halt the solicitation of circumcision by U.S. medical professionals, end public and private insurance payments for the procedure, and create an intact-informed society that is foreskin-positive and educated about the male genitalia.

“Instead of handing out consent forms, medical professionals should distribute educational materials on how to care for a baby’s intact penis,” Chapin said. “It’s so easy. Leave it alone and wash his penis like you do his fingers. His foreskin will retract in its own good time, by late puberty, if not before.”

The public is invited to begin its research into circumcision by visiting CircumcisionDebate.org, a companion site of IntactAmerica.org.

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 us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Voices — Lawn Griffiths

Lawn Griffiths
I crossed the threshold of awareness that I had been circumcised when I was about 12. Running naked on the farm driveway was a second cousin, who was about 6. His penis was remarkably pointed and tubelike, yet somehow covered. I learned he and his brothers were not circumcised. I largely just left it at that until I was in graduate school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1971 when I came across the Gore Vidal novel, “Myra Breckinridge.”

When I got to chapter 22, I was convicted by words spread across a mere two pages. Myra started out, “Just as I expected, seventy-two per cent of the male students are circumcised. At Clem’s party, I had been reminded of the promiscuous way in which American doctors circumcise males in childhood, a practice I highly disapproved of, agreeing with that publisher who is forever advertising in the New York Times Book Review, a work which proves that circumcision in necessary for only a very few men. For the rest, it constitutes in the advertiser’s phrase, ‘a rape of the penis.’” Myra later states, “Today only the poor Boston Irish, the Midwestern Poles and Appalachian Southerners can be counted upon to be complete.”

There was that word – complete. I was not complete. My penis had been raped. What would I have looked like whole? What would it have felt like? So began years of personal research, saving articles and assuring myself that should I have a son or grandson, they would remain whole.

Years later, while cleaning my parents’ vacant house, I found the Des Moines hospital-issued receipt for my mother’s stay. The entire bill for her hospitalization in 1946 was $83. “Other charges: Twin baby boys – $10.” My foreskin was zipped off for a mere $5! What a rip-off!

So when our son was born in 1975, I made it clear again and again to hospital staff that our son was NOT to be circumcised. We had the same success when both of our children had sons. Our grandsons were spared. And a nephew and his wife took the same route with their two sons. Friends have credited me for the information they needed to keep new sons intact.

I had a 40-year daily newspaper career as a reporter, editor and columnist. In 1987, I interviewed a nurse from the group, “Nurses for the Rights of the Child,” based in Santa Fe, N.M. I wrote an article for my daily paper, but a senior editor “spiked” it (killed it from publication), claiming circumcision was a non-issue and such an article was inappropriate.

A few years later, when I was religion editor, I wrote a column that pointed out that Congress had outlawed female genital mutilation, and asked why the hypocrisy and a double standard? Why was it legal for males’ genitals to be cut, but illegal when done to females? I also wrote an editorial page column regarding Arizona health officials ending Medicare coverage for circumcisions, determining it was not essential medical care. The state became the seventh state in 2002 to do so.

With the arrival of social media, I wrote numerous commentaries and blog posts, and have fired off countless letters to hospitals and doctors. I have given formal talks. I own 40 books on circumcision and have many file drawers filled with materials. I wrote and published a novel in which circumcision is a key topic. In 1998, I joined a Phoenix-area NOCIRC/NORM group, whose men meet on alternate months to discuss circumcision issues and support each other in foreskin restoration. Both my twin and I have completed restoration, but we know we can never recover the specialized tissue long removed. For years, we have tabled at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day at a Phoenix park where we engage the public about circumcision issues. I have taken part in demonstrations and often carry a sign that says, “Informed Parents Reject Circumcision.”

I have come to know many of the giants in the intactivist movement through writings and attending the International Symposia on Genital Integrity and Children’s Rights – those held in Seattle, Boulder and San Francisco. Intact America, co-sponsor of those gatherings, has given such new energy, resources and force to the cause, under the keen professional leadership of Georganne Chapin. At the 13th Symposium in Boulder in 2014, Marilyn Milos recognized me as one of about 35 “pioneers” of the Intactivist movement, and each of us got to address the conference briefly.

I have an Arizona personalized license plate (NOCIRCM) displayed on the child abuse prevention plate series carrying the words, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” My truck carries six provocative bumper stickers, including one that reads, “Forced Circumcision is Sexual Assault.” When I look in my rear-view mirror, I am heartened by the fingers pointed to those messages. Drivers and passengers behind me then launch into conversations and often take cellphone pictures. It hopefully plants seeds in their minds that forced circumcision is wrong.

Lawn Griffiths

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