May is Masturbation Month. If you missed it, you can always indulge belatedly!
Intact America followers probably know that circumcising boys (and even girls) by doctors began around 150 years ago as a “remedy” for masturbation. Victorian era doctors believed that onanism (another term for masturbation) could cause lunacy and many other diseases, both moral and physical.
Journalist David Gollaher, in his book Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery, writes about how cereal magnate John Harvey Kellogg “recommended performing circumcision ‘without administering an anesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if connected with the idea of punishment.” Other doctors in the late 19th century advocated for the use of blistering fluids on the genitals (of boys as well as girls) to both deter and punish self-pleasuring.
Amazing, isn’t it, that this history has been lost on those who deny that circumcision harms boys and men?
If you’re over 50, you probably remember the brouhaha when Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders in 1994 talked publicly about masturbation as a natural and positive human behavior. She was ridiculed and eventually resigned from her post, but not without removing some of the stigma surrounding the subject. A year later, the sex shop Good Vibrations declared May National Masturbation Month. Put it on your calendar, but no need to wait until next year to celebrate!
Many people believe that parents should be free to make any decision for their children whatsoever. However, there ARE limits to parental decision-making, and many of these are inscribed in law.
· It is illegal to tattoo a child, whether the child’s parent approves or not.
· Parents cannot force their minor children to go to work instead of going to school.
· Parents cannot consent to a neighbor having sexual relations with their minor sons or daughters.
In medicine, parental consent is valid only for the treatment of conditions that threaten the life or health of the child.
· Parents cannot ask a doctor to amputate a healthy finger or leg from their child, so he will “look like” a parent who lost a limb in an accident.
· Parents cannot ask for or consent to the removal of their child’s healthy teeth to prevent dental caries.
· Parents cannot consent to the amputation or reduction of their daughter’s genital labia or clitoris.
Routine male child genital cutting (circumcision), which permanently removes a boy’s healthy, normal foreskin, occupies a strange place in American medicine: Because of the power of both religion and the medical industry, it is allowed to continue with de facto legal status so long as a child’s parents consent to it.
There is growing recognition that this exception makes no sense and violates children’s basic human rights. Feel free to use this information as talking points, or to refute anybody who tells you that “circumcising a baby is the parents’ choice.” Working together, we can change the way America thinks about circumcision.
By Marilyn Milos, RN
Sometimes the retractable foreskin of an adult male will close down; this condition is called “pathological phimosis.” Too often, when men who have developed pathological phimosis consult with a urologist or other physician, they are told that the only cure is circumcision. This is incorrect in most cases.
The word phimosis means muzzling, to indicate that the glans (head of the penis) is muzzled by the foreskin. At birth, most babies have “physiological phimosis,” a normal condition because the glans and foreskin have not yet separated. The foreskin separates from the glans over time, usually by adolescence.
But even after the foreskin becomes mobile and retractable, it is possible that a man will one day begin to have trouble retracting it, and be diagnosed with pathological phimosis.
Here are a few possible causes for pathological phimosis, along with cures that you can pursue in order to avoid the loss of your foreskin.
1. Yeast imbalance. Exposure to soap, shampoos, and chlorinated water in swimming pools or hot tubs can kill normal, beneficial bacteria on the foreskin. This can result in yeast overgrowth, inflammation, itching, and stinging with urination; it can also make the foreskin close down. A yeast imbalance can be corrected by eliminating soap and shampoo, or by using a barrier cream on the foreskin before swimming. To help the healing process. Liquid Acidophilus culture purchased from the health food store or pharmacy can also be applied to the foreskin by pouring some of the liquid into the palm of the hand, dipping the foreskin into the solution, and letting it drip dry; do this six times a day for 3 or 4 days.
2. Vigorous sexual activity. Sometimes the foreskin will close down if a male has been too vigorous sexually, which can cause small tears in the foreskin. The opening will become tight while the tissue heals. Time and gentleness are the cure for this.
3. “Lichen sclerosus” (formerly called “BXO”), is another condition that can cause the foreskin to become too tight. Lichen sclerosus is characterized by the presence of small, shiny, and smooth white patches on the foreskin. These patches may become larger, and the skin may become itchy, thin, and wrinkled, and may tear easily and bleed. A dermatologist can diagnose lichen sclerosus, which is commonly treated with two creams, Clotrimazole and hydrocortisone, both available over the counter at your local pharmacy, or by prescription, depending upon the desired strength.
If none of these conditions is present, and your foreskin is simply too tight for comfortable retraction, before considering circumcision, ask your urologist about a Y-V- or Z-plasty. These are surgical techniques in which small slits are cut in the foreskin, and then sewn together in a way that widens the opening. This surgery saves the foreskin and its specialized nerve endings that allow for full sexual sensations and enjoyment.
As you can see, finding the reason for your phimosis is a critical step to solving the problem and avoiding the loss of your foreskin.
If you have questions not covered here about problems with your foreskin, you may write to us at: [email protected].
It seems so clear, right? Cutting a boy’s genitals violates the U.S. Constitution, state and federal laws against sex-based discrimination, and statutes and regulations regarding the use of government funding for medically unnecessary services. It also meets definitions of assault and battery — because the child cannot consent — and the surgery serves no therapeutic purpose. And, as we know, both short- and long-term consequences are not uncommon, and some are severe.
So… Sue the bastards!! Right? Over recent months, I have reached out to personal injury attorneys from nearly a dozen states, including those with laws that most liberally favor malpractice cases. I told them that Intact America (as well as other intactivist organizations) are receiving more and more complaints from parents of boys with significant injuries that occurred either during circumcision, as a result of forcible foreskin retraction, or that appeared later. It was our hope, given the limited bandwidth (and resources) of our fellow intactivist who are lawyers, that we could identify a larger group of practitioners who would be willing to review and take on lawsuits from individuals wanting to sue.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple My conversations were uniformly sobering. Here are some of the comments from the lawyers I spoke with:
- The standard for evaluating a case is whether any other doctor would have done the same thing. Circumcision is so common, it’s almost impossible to find a situation that’s so unusual as to make one stand out.
- If we think the dollar value of the recovery is under $250,000, we can’t even consider taking it on. The expenses of preparing a case include research, hiring experts, taking depositions… It can take up to two years. And even though most cases settle, it’s the night before trial, so you’ve already invested all this money.
- Circumcision is considered normal in this country. It’s unremarkable. And a certain number of complications is normal. So…, you rarely have the facts needed for a lawsuit. [This same attorney let me know he is personally opposed to circumcision.]
But what about bodily autonomy and the child’s consent? When I asked about cases involving aggressive “selling” of the procedure to parents, misleading claims as to its benefits, and lack of informed consent, the lawyers brushed these facts aside with the same explanation. Ultimately, if nearly every hospital is circumcising, and if the parent signs a consent form, then there is no cause of action egregious enough to mount a lawsuit.
So, what now? At this point, as painful as it is to hear this message, counting on the courts to punish the participants in the circumcision machine is wishful thinking.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that we need to sit still as American boys are systematically violated. No, in fact, we need to document every case that comes to us and help the parties who were harmed by filing complaints with the physicians themselves, the hospital or other facility where the event took place (I call this “the scene of the crime”) and the professional (mis)conduct board of the state where it occurred. This is a massive task, but if we are able to amass and track enough cases, physicians will find it increasingly uncomfortable to continue to violate children by cutting off their foreskins and the promiscuous promotion of circumcision will decline.
If you would like to volunteer to help Intact America with this project, please write to us at [email protected]. Tell us what state you live in, and what (if any) experience you have with legal issues, customer service, or other activities that would help you to help us do this work.
In advance, thank you.
By James Snyder, MD
As a preface, I should mention that Routine Infant Circumcision (RIC) is the reason/cause of some penile curvature in adult men (which is distinct from Peyronie’s Disease or Chordee — see below). The operators in this procedure may be medical students, nurses/midwives, obstetricians, pediatricians, or anyone who is being taught to do a “simple” infant circumcision. The fact is this procedure is often underestimated in terms of risk, and it is delegated to the least experienced operator. Removal of skin from the penis to reveal the Glans Penis is the primary goal, but the results/complications/mistakes of the operator may become evident only after years have passed and the subject is unable to obtain redress of grievances. The most careful RIC removes up to 1/3 to 2/3 of the skin of the normal penis. This skin does not regenerate as the child becomes an adult; the results can be tragic when the removal of skin leaves behind shortening, unequal and asymmetric coverage, curvature, and sexual crippling. Now I will proceed to a discussion of two well-known natural causes of penile deformities – Peyronie’s Disease and Chordee.
Peyronie’s Disease or the “Bent Spike Syndrome” begins as a thickening of the fibrous sheaths which surround the two erectile bodies of the penis. These erectile bodies are attached to the bony pelvis and continue through the length of the penis to attach to the Glans Penis. During sexual arousal, these bodies fill with blood to the limits of the fibrous sheaths which define the size and shape of the penis. At the same time, the urethra, a tube which conducts urine and semen from the bladder and prostate, also engorges with blood. These structures and their various functions are most easily understood by consulting books of Anatomy, such as Grey’s Anatomy or Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy, found in most libraries.
Peyronie’s affects the erectile bodies of middle-aged men, causing painful erections with curvature and distortions of the shape of the penis, which may prevent normal sexual intercourse. The condition is sometimes associated with Dupuytren’s contracture of the tendons on the palm of the hand. The cause of these conditions is poorly understood, and various treatments have resulted in incomplete cure of the disease which usually worsens over time.
Urologic specialists at the Mayo Clinic see about 700 patients yearly with this condition and have developed appropriate medical and surgical treatments which may include injections, traction, and surgery.
Chordee (pronounced Cor-DEE) is a curvature of the penis toward the feet (ventral or ventrally). This is a normal condition after conception when the embryo develops all the essential organs to support life and becomes a fetus. Early in this process, the sexual organs begin to develop and differentiate between males and females. At first, the phallus is curved ventrally in both sexes. The secretion of the male sex hormone, testosterone, by the fetal gonads causes the male phallus to enlarge, unwind, and take a more nearly straight form. Later, the skin which will become the scrotum folds to the midline and encloses the testicles, continuing this process and forming the tube which conducts urine, the urethra, similar to the action of a zipper until the distal end of the penis is reached.
The condition known as Hypospadias is a failure of this process to complete any or all of these described formations. In the most severe forms, the Chordee fails to resolve, and the distal penis remains close to its original form. More commonly, the penis is completely formed except for the ventral curvature, which may be more or less severe. In the milder forms, the curvature can be surgically corrected when the Urologic Surgeon makes a skin incision along the length of the penis on the dorsal or upper surface and removes or cuts out a series of wedges from the fibrous sheath of the erectile bodies. This may improve the shape or curvature of the penis to allow normal sexual function.
This is an abbreviated discussion of these conditions, which, fortunately for humanity, are not common. In my experience as a Urologic Surgeon, I have encountered these conditions only a few times. The best treatment options are available from experienced surgeons working at university medical centers.
James L Snyder, MD
Fellow, American College of Surgeons
Diplomate, American Board of Urology
Persons interested in learning more about Peyronie’s Disease and its treatment, including surgery and the use of injectable medication, may consult the Mayo Clinic website.
by Lisa Braver Moss & Rebecca WaldIn many cases, Jewish families who opt out of circumcision make a decision of omission — circumcision is simply skipped. But more and more parents are choosing an alternative ceremony known as brit shalom (“covenant of peace” in Hebrew) as opposed to brit milah (“covenant of circumcision”).
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.
Brit shalom ceremonies can be tailored to what’s meaningful to the family. Its liturgy may be modeled after that of brit milah, with the circumcision being replaced by a symbolic act such as the cutting of a pomegranate.
Throughout Jewish history, there have been those who didn’t circumcise, but alternative ceremonies for traditional brit milah are relatively new. We believe one of the earliest such ceremonies was officiated by Rabbi Nathan Segal (1949-2019) in the mid-1980s. The movement grew from there.
Various naming ceremonies for intact babies came into being—for example, “brit ben” (covenant for a boy) and “brit b’lee milah” (covenant without circumcision). The ceremony known as brit shalom has become the most common. Since the etymological root of “shalom” in Hebrew can mean both “peace” and “wholeness,” there is perhaps no better name.
At first, it was difficult to find officiants to lead brit shalom ceremonies, and families often created and led their own, culling liturgy from various Jewish sources (or borrowing from Jewish naming ceremonies for girls). Over time, an underground grass-roots movement evolved, with names of willing officiants shared informally and photocopied pages of newly-created ceremonies stapled together and distributed as needed. Until our book Celebrating Brit Shalom came out in 2015, there was no published resource specifically designed for these families.
Thanks to Dr. Mark Reiss, who, over a period of years, painstakingly amassed a list of officiants willing to lead brit shaloms, more non-circumcising families began to hold ceremonies. In more recent times, many progressive rabbis, such as those from the Reform movement, will also officiate if asked.
Brit shalom is an expression of pride in both being Jewish, and deciding not to circumcise. We hope more and more families will choose this option.
Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald are the authors of Celebrating Brit Shalom and the co-founders of Bruchim, a new Jewish nonprofit advocating for the open inclusion of non-circumcising families in Jewish spaces.