By Marilyn Milos, RN and Georganne Chapin, IA Executive Director
smegma (noun). Pronounced smeg-ma
definition: A whitish sebaceous secretion that collects between the glans penis and foreskin or in the vulva.
Yes! That’s right. Smegma was recognized by the Ancient Greeks (who had a sophisticated understanding of the body and abhorred circumcision) as a beneficial and cleansing substance. That white stuff that builds up in our genitals — under the foreskin in intact males, and around the clitoris in intact females — is as natural as the saliva in your mouth. And just as helpful!
Smegma serves important functions. Fresh smegma is smooth and moist. In adult men, it helps to keep the foreskin and the head of the penis soft, and eases intromission (insertion) during sex. Understanding this makes it easy to see why men who are missing their foreskins need to use lubricants for both masturbation and sex. And it makes it easy to understand why partners of circumcised men sometimes complain of pain and dryness during intercourse.
Circumcision removes nature’s perfect lube — forever!
Smegma also keeps the penis and clitoris from adhering (sticking) to the adjacent skin in a mature adult. Of course, in baby boys, the foreskin is naturally attached to the head of the penis — that’s for protection, too. As the boy grows and the foreskin begins to separate from the glans, smegma sometimes appears in the form of small white lumps (some people call them “smegma pearls”) underneath the foreskin. This is perfectly normal, and no intervention is required. The pearls will be discarded once the foreskin separates from the glans. Smegma will then take over to do its important work!
And remember: Nobody – not a parent or a doctor or a nurse or a babysitter – should EVER forcibly retract a child’s foreskin!
Just as no special care or attention is required for an intact baby, nothing special is needed to keep an adult’s genitals healthy. Again, nature’s best rinsing agent — plain warm water (with a mild unscented soap, if you wish) will take care of any build-up of smegma or any odor you might find offensive.
Here’s something else to think about. A study published in 2016 found that nasal mucous contains a natural antibiotic substance (called lugdunin), which is uniquely effective in fighting drug-resistant staph infections. Another natural substance that fights infection is Lysozyme, a crystalline, basic protein present in human saliva and tears, where it functions as an antibacterial enzyme. Isn’t it likely that smegma also fights infection? Could this help to explain lower rates of STDs in Europe, where relatively few men are circumcised, compared to the United States, where three-quarters of adult men are missing their foreskins and the natural protection this body part offers? Let’s hope that future research will explore this question. Sometimes the facts are right under our noses — or under our foreskins!
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:
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.
By Marilyn Milos, RN
Our bodies are covered with bacteria. Healthy bacteria protect our bodies and live in balance with yeast that also lives on our tissue. But certain substances we use for hygiene and even recreation can kill the good bacteria.
- Certain soaps or shampoos
- Chlorine (including laundry bleach and what’s put into hot tubs and swimming pools)
When bacteria die, yeast can spread, resulting in inflammation and yeast infections characterized by redness, swelling, itching, or burning during urination.
Some doctors mistake yeast overgrowth for a bacterial infection (balanatis) and prescribe antibiotics. This actually makes the problem worse! Even doctors who recognize when inflammation is due to yeast may prescribe an anti-fungal cream; but rather than trying to kill the yeast, I prefer to encourage the return and growth of healthy bacteria through bacterial replacement therapy.
- Buy liquid Acidophilus culture or another probiotic from a local health food store or pharmacy. Apply it to the foreskin of a male or the vulva of a female six times a day. For a baby, pour some of the liquid onto your fingertips and rub it on the foreskin or vulva.
- A male old enough to help himself can pour some of the liquid into his cupped hand and dip the entire foreskin into the liquid culture, covering the entire afflicted area and then letting the tissue drip dry.
- A female old enough to help herself, while sitting on the toilet can apply the culture in her cupped hand onto the vulvar tissue, covering the area with the liquid and letting it drip dry.
Healing usually occurs in three to five days.
If the yeast overgrowth is caused by antibiotics, then Acidophilus culture or other probiotic also should be taken internally two hours after each dose of antibiotic and several times before the next dose. Keep taking the probiotics for 2-3 days after finishing the course of antibiotics. If the foreskin or vulva are also affected by the antibiotic, use the culture externally as described above.
During the treatment, use only plain warm water on the skin – no bubble baths, soaps, lotions, and no chlorinated hot tubs or swimming pools. After that, when swimming in highly chlorinated water, you can use a non-petroleum jelly on the foreskin prior to entering the water; wipe it off after showering to remove the chlorine and then the protective substance.
Some other tips:
- Couples often pass yeast to each other, so each partner should begin treatment on the same day and continue together.
- Sweets will exacerbate fungal growth, so cutting down or eliminating sugar intake also will help the body to heal all the faster.
- Washing an intact penis is easy: retract, rinse with fingertips and warm water (NO soap on the mucosal tissue), and replace the foreskin to its forward position.
No one needs to suffer from yeast infections! If you have any questions on the above, you can write to me (Marilyn) at [email protected].
At a time when human dignity is under assault in our nation and institutionally sponsored racial violence is escalating, I want to say that Intact America stands with those fighting for justice. I also want to talk about how racist myths and stigma have been used to justify male genital cutting — male circumcision — both historically and today, in the United States and overseas.
We know that male and female child genital cutting has been a tradition in some cultures for thousands of years. But as a medical practice, it started in English-speaking countries relatively recently. Nineteenth century Victorian-era doctors believed that sex was dirty, and that the male foreskin was the cause of much disease and of out-of-control sexuality. They thought that removing the foreskin would keep boys from masturbating. Doctors also cut off girls’ and women’s clitorises to tame their sexual impulses and to “cure” hysteria and other maladies. No group was exempt, and poor immigrants and others at the bottom of the social scale came to be targeted as needing to be cut in the name of sexual control and “hygiene.”
Black people, especially black men, were (and still are) sexualized in the American imagination, with myths abounding regarding their sexual appetite, dangerousness, and the size of their genitals. Not surprisingly, then, these myths became justifications for making black men a specific target for circumcision by a medical establishment enthusiastic to carry out the practice. (Black women have also been victimized by the medical system for decades, subjected to medical experimentation, sterilization and other abuses.)
In 1891, a prominent physician named Peter Remondino began calling for “the wholesale circumcision of the Negro race.” Remondino described black men’s foreskins as combining “the extra vitality and proliferation of the preputial tissue with the strong animal vitality of the negro,” and proposed foreskin removal as “an efficient remedy in preventing the predisposition to discriminate raping” — in other words, the rape of white women — “so inherent in that race.”
Remondino was not an outlier. He had been a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War and was the first president of the San Diego Board of Public Health. His articles were published in prominent medical journals of the times. His book, “The History of Circumcision from the Earliest Times to the Present,” was published in 1900 and can be found today on Amazon.
And lest you think that circumcising black men as a means of keeping their sexuality under control has died out, look no further than the anti-HIV efforts largely funded by U.S. foundations and carried out by “reputable” American academics to circumcise millions of men in sub-Saharan Africa. (Keep in mind that U.S. cemeteries are full of circumcised men who have died of AIDS since the epidemic started here in the 1980s.) These African campaigns exploit and put at risk whole populations of men who are viewed as so driven by their sexual impulses that they cannot be relied upon to practice safe sex, and also threaten the health of their sex partners.
Most American men alive today were tied down and their foreskins brutally severed when they were babies and unable to resist. The fact that perpetrators of violence may themselves have suffered violence in the past makes our work as human rights advocates both complicated and extremely important. We must break the cycle and fight injustice in every corner, under every rock, of our society.
You cannot compartmentalize justice — you can’t fight to protect babies’ bodies from being placed in four-point restraints and genitally mutilated, but stay silent when you see unresisting men or women held to the ground, kicked and beaten or suffocated to death. You cannot compartmentalize equality. You can’t fight to protect girls and women from genital cutting and rape, but turn the other way when boys and men are assaulted because our social mythology tells us that males (and even more so, black males), cannot be victims or — even worse — that they deserve it.
I am proud to lead Intact America and represent a movement that fights for human rights, personhood, dignity, liberty, and a life free from violence. I hope you will join me in fighting for freedom, exercising compassion, and demanding an end to all forms of injustice and inequality.
Intact America defends the right of every person to bodily autonomy. We deplore all forms of violence inflicted upon people because of their age, their race, their color, their language or culture, their country of origin, their sex or sexual orientation, their mental or physical disabilities, their religion, or any other personal characteristic that makes them convenient targets of oppression.
Each year, the month of June marks the national celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride in the United States. This year’s Pride celebration in New York City is anticipated to be the largest ever, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
Despite how far the LGBTQ+ rights movement has come since the 60s — and the triumph of marriage equality in 2015 — this social change movement is far from over. So often you’ll hear stories from LGBTQ+ people recounting experiences of “hiding” themselves from others or, worse, hiding any trauma they may be carrying.
What’s unique about the Pride celebration is that it empowers millions of people to take a public stand, to be vocal, and to claim their identity. The importance of standing up for those who don’t have a voice, to proclaim the right to bodily autonomy and to healthy sexual futures are just some of the reasons why the LGBTQ+ community embraces the intactivist message — and why Intact America supports Pride.
We understand how powerful and influential a voice can be, especially when lent to a righteous and moral social change movement. This understanding is what motivated the Intact America team to launch our “Voices” series last year.
Just recently, the BBC published an account about a young, intact man who took his own life after being circumcised. Part of what makes this story so tragic is that his family and friends were unaware of his circumcision, and of his suffering.
In the weeks following the article’s publication, men started to comment publicly, sharing their own circumcision experiences.
For some, this was their first time opening-up about their struggles; many said that even their intimate partners don’t know the feelings they’re harboring.
Unfortunately, this paradox is common. So many circumcised American men … and so many others aren’t able to share their feelings about having had their genitals cut when they were children.
If you’re reading this and feel that child genital cutting has negatively impacted your personal life, or your sex life, you are not alone. Every day 3,000 baby boys have their genitals cut in the United States.
Your own experience with child genital cutting is unique to you, but these stories share a common theme. What we want our community to know is that there’s power in your story — power to encourage, power to educate, power to heal, power to influence, power to mobilize — but that power is relinquished once you refuse share it.
We cannot hope to change the way America thinks about child genital cutting — about circumcision — if we’re unwilling to talk about why a change is needed in the first place. Our allies in the LGBTQ+ community would have never claimed their rights if they hadn’t spoken out — loudly.
“Hiding” from our circumcision experience(s)…
• gives this abhorrent practice the appearance of normality/compliance.
• is unhealthy and prevents the healing of emotional trauma.
• will not help the intactivist movement to reach the tipping point.
Without your support and your voice, the intactivist movement will languish. Take pride in your identity and your beliefs. Use the power of your story, the power of your voice.
(If you or someone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal please seek emergency care, consult a licensed therapist, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255)
For the 17th consecutive year, a Gallup Poll for the Most Trusted Professionals found that 84 percent of Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as “very high” or “high.”
Medical doctors and pharmacists were next on the list, rated at 67 percent and 66 percent, respectively.
Of course, being considered trustworthy doesn’t necessarily equate with being knowledgeable. This is especially true when it comes to knowledge about the foreskin.
The pediatric literature is clear: An intact foreskin should never be forcibly retracted. Yet, a national survey conducted in 2018 by Intact America revealed that a staggering 43 percent of intact boys have had their foreskins forcibly retracted by an adult at least once by the age of seven. Close to half of these forcible retractions were done by doctors, and nine percent were done by nurses.
In a medical malpractice suit filed last year against Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta (a large pediatric hospital), it was a nurse who forcibly retracted Leon Parks’ foreskin, and who – when told by his mother not to do that – insisted that she was putting the baby at risk for infection if she did NOT regularly retract his foreskin.
These findings – about the high esteem in which American nurses are held, and the irrefutable fact that nurses are not well-informed about foreskin anatomy and foreskin care – tell us how important it is to get the right information into the hands of the medical professionals who treat our children.
Intact America’s Made to Stick campaign is reaching out to professional medical associations and asking them to educate their membership. We are telling pediatricians and nurses that their ignorance of the facts – and the AAP’s own policy – is harming the very children they take an oath to protect. Further, we are putting them on notice that if they continue to push for forcible retraction of intact boys’ foreskins, they are exposing themselves to the same kind of legal jeopardy currently being faced by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, in the Parks lawsuit.
Stay tuned for more information about our Made to Stick campaign. In the meantime, download our “Foreskin Facts” and “Intact Care Guide” flyers. Bring this information with you to medical appointments and share them with your child’s caregivers.
Let’s help to give nurses (and doctors) the tools they need to truly merit the public’s trust.