Do You Know: About harvesting foreskins for commercial use?

Sandra Bullock’s appearance on TheEllenShow in May featured – as “comedy” – the loathsome facts about turning infant foreskins into expensive beauty products designed to make their consumers look more youthful.

This is the latest in a recurring story – which first emerged a few years ago when Oprah Winfrey pushed Skin Medica products also made from infant foreskins. This time, Intact America issued a press release, and Huffington Post published an article about the debacle. Hundreds of people wrote to TheEllenShow to protest, though more than one person felt it necessary to reminded us that “the baby was getting circumcised anyway, or “we shouldn’t forget that foreskin tissue is also used for good causes, like helping burn victims.”

This “good cause” argument doesn’t hold water; remember, stealing a wallet is illegal, even if you donate its contents to charity. Similarly, the baby’s foreskin is not yours to sell or give away.

The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking lists three types of organ trafficking:

  • First, cases where traffickers force or deceive the victims into giving up an organ.
  • Second, cases where victims formally or informally agree to sell an organ, and are cheated by being paid less than the promised price, or being not paid at all.
  • Third, vulnerable persons are treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist, and thereupon organs are removed without the victim’s knowledge.

The non-therapeutic circumcision of infants and children falls into the first and third categories of human organ trafficking.

The next time you hear somebody promoting a “foreskin facial,” be sure to remind that person that she or he is promoting a crime. Explain that because the foreskin was taken from a person who did not consent and who was not compensated (no matter how “small” and how “far away” that person was), he was a victim of human organ trafficking. Use it as an opportunity to promote “His Body, His Rights.”

Do You Know: About Forced Foreskin Retraction – Part 2

Despite the warnings of experts – including the American Academy of Pediatrics – nearly half of intact American boys under 6 years old have had their foreskins forcibly retracted. It’s true. In the Spring of 2018, Intact America conducted a national survey of parents of children under the age of seven, and found that 43% of intact boys had experienced the painful and totally unnecessary forced retraction of their foreskins, most of them at the hands of physicians.

A 2017 brochure published by HealthyChildren, a program of the AAP, states unequivocally: “… foreskin retraction should never be forced. Until the foreskin fully separates, do not try to pull it back. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready can cause severe pain, bleeding, and tears in the skin.” Unfortunately, messing with a boy’s foreskin can also cause infection and scarring, leading too often to doctors suggesting circumcision as a remedy for a problem they themselves created.

As more and more boys are kept intact, it’s critically important that parents, childcare workers, and medical professionals understand that a boy’s foreskin will separate naturally over time (the age of retraction varies considerably), and that only the boy himself should touch his foreskin.

Note: If your son’s foreskin was forcibly retracted, the best advice is to bathe him in plain warm water, to ease his discomfort – especially when he urinates. Do NOT continue to retract his foreskin; let the wound heal over time. A foreskin that cannot be returned to its natural position, however, could constitute a medical emergency, so seek care immediately, and inform any medical provider that you do NOT consider circumcision to be an option.

Watch for details of Intact America’s Foreskin Protection Campaign – to be announced in our July newsletter. In the meantime, if you have a story about forced foreskin retraction – either of your son or another child close to you – you can write to us at [email protected]. Please include details about the age of the child, where the forced retraction occurred, and (if you wish) the name of the medical professional(s) and/or the facility where it took place.

Do You Know: About Intact America’s national surveys?

If you’ve been listening to the news lately, you know that data rules! And Intact America is working hard to get the data we need to change the way America thinks about circumcision.

Intact America conducted its first nationwide opinion survey in 2014. That survey found that only 10 percent of the American public disapproved of “routine” circumcision. The survey also revealed that neither human rights nor children’s rights arguments were persuasive for the vast majority of people surveyed. As a consequence of that survey, we changed our messaging considerably, focusing on the positive aspects of being intact and on the foreskin’s value. Now, Intact America is about to conduct a follow-up survey to measure whether Americans’ attitudes have changed since 2014. We need your help to accomplish that, and, of course, we’ll share the findings with you!

Whether you’re selling a new energy drink, recruiting young people to join the military, or peddling the latest weight-loss fad, having good information about the characteristics of your target audience is all-important. That’s what market research is all about — essentially, surveying the current behavior, thinking and preferences of your target audience.

Market research also is critical when you are “selling” an idea or concept. For instance, when you are trying to change somebody’s beliefs, first, you need to know what they believe NOW, what shapes the decisions they make, and what would motivate them to change their preferences. THEN, based on that research, you can craft persuasive arguments and messaging for that audience.

Later, to know if you’re making a difference, you can look at any number of indicators. In the commercial world, you’d look at sales numbers: did the sales of your energy drink increase since you started your advertising campaign? For military recruiting, you’d look at enlistment trends — but you might also want to know whether your campaign changed people’s minds about serving in the military; after all, potential recruits will be influenced by their families and friends opinions, too. For an idea or concept — like Intactivism for example, you will want to know what your audience thinks about circumcision and the intact male penis — and you’ll want to compare those results since the last time you conducted your survey.

The goal? We are aiming to reach a tipping point — that time when a critical mass (20-25 percent) of Americans believe that the intact male body is normal, and that keeping babies intact is normal and desirable.

But survey research is expensive, and we need your help. Please support Intact America’s survey initiative. Help us shape and measure intactivism’s progress toward the tipping point!

Do You Know: About Forced Foreskin Retraction? – Part 1

Unfortunately, parents who have taken a stand and said NO to the circumcision of their baby boys now have another worry: an iatrogenic* epidemic of Forced Foreskin Retraction (FFR), fueled by the same ignorance and phobias that have perpetrated the uniquely American infant circumcision industry. (I talked about forced foreskin retraction in Intact America’s October-November newsletter.) Preliminary results of a new national survey commissioned by Intact America, and conducted by the reputable polling firm Qualtrics, show that at least one out of three intact boys under the age of six years has had his foreskin forcibly retracted.

As part of our ongoing work, Intact America has been fighting this epidemic, publishing information about care of the intact penis, and answering personal inquiries from parents whose sons have been victims of over-zealous doctors or nurses. Another intactivist organization, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, has filed numerous official complaints on behalf of parents and their sons to state medical boards.

Now, the battle is escalating. In January 2018, Atlanta attorney David Llewellyn filed an important lawsuit against a major pediatric hospital in that city, describing that organization’s defiance of current pediatric care guidelines, and its nursing staff’s systematic violation of patients’ rights.

Alleging battery; nursing malpractice; intentional infliction of emotional distress; willful, wanton and reckless misconduct; and negligent failure to protect a patient, Park v. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta details the actions of a nurse at Children’s, who – without conversation or warning – ripped away the foreskin of an intact toddler in order to insert a urinary catheter, causing him severe pain, bleeding and emotional distress. The complaint also describes the defiant attitude taken by other hospital staff, who insisted that the hospital’s protocol calling for nurses and doctors to forcibly retract all intact boys’ foreskins was derived from current established medical recommendations, erroneously claimed that the child’s foreskin put him at risk of disease, and shamed his parents for not having had their son circumcised.

The medical literature, including guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is clear: An intact boy’s foreskin should NEVER be forcibly retracted.

If your son has been a victim of forced foreskin retraction at the hands of medical professionals, we encourage you to complain in writing to the doctor who performed the retraction and the facility where this took place. At a minimum, you should provide them with factual information, such as this article by Carmack and Milos and this information sheet. You should also file a complaint with your state’s medical board or office of professional discipline. Finally, you may wish to file a lawsuit. Should you choose to do so, Intact America can help you or your attorney with the pertinent resources. Contact us at [email protected] or write to Georganne Chapin directly at [email protected]

* Caused by the medical system. Iatrogenesis refers to any effect on a person, resulting from any activity of one or more persons acting as healthcare professionals or promoting products or services as beneficial to health that does not support a goal of the person affected.

Do You Know: How to protect your son from forced foreskin retraction?

Congratulations! You gave birth to a baby boy, you protected him from circumcision, and you took him home whole, happy and peaceful!

So – we’re good! That should be the end of it, right?

Unfortunately, too often that’s NOT the end of it. Most North American health care professionals are woefully uninformed about the anatomy, functions, development, and care of the normal penis. And, also unfortunately, many of them are ready, willing – and even insistent – on trying to turn your boy’s healthy, normal foreskin into a problem.

Every few days, either via Facebook or email, Intact America hears from a parent who’s taken their baby to the doctor for a well-child visit, and encountered unexpected trouble.

Before I knew it, she grabbed my son’s penis and forced his foreskin back. It’s swollen and raw, and he’s been crying for hours. What do I do?

My son’s pediatrician has diagnosed our 2.5 year old with Phimosis and performed a retraction. I feel very uneasy about this…

We also hear from parents who have taken their baby to the Emergency Room with a fever and have faced a doctor or nurse who zeroed in on his foreskin as the culprit – insisting that it needs to be retracted to insert a catheter for a urine sample.

My son was at the ER and they wanted to cath him. [They told my wife] they couldn’t do a clean catch because he had foreskin and his foreskin cells would interfere and eventually threatened to call CPS [Child Protective Services] because she refused to forcibly retract him.

What you need to know:

  • A baby’s foreskin should NEVER be forcibly retracted! “Phimosis” (a tight or adherent foreskin) is normal in babies and boys, and the foreskin will loosen and separate naturally from the head of his penis over time. The average age of spontaneous foreskin retraction is actually around 10 years of age, which means that many boys’ foreskins separate sooner, and many separate later. Forcibly pulling back a boy’s foreskin is painful, and can cause swelling, bleeding and infection. Nobody but the boy himself should handle his foreskin.
  • “Catheterization is an intervention that carries risks…, [including] discomfort and introduction of bacteria into the urinary tract, which could actually lead to infection…,” as pointed out in this recent article by experts Adrienne Carmack, MD and Marilyn Milos,RN.
  • Absent other symptoms (smelly, bloody or cloudy urine; pain while urinating), suspecting a urinary tract infection (UTI) simply because a boy is intact and has a fever makes no sense. And even if the child has symptoms of a UTI, various methods exist to obtain a clean urine sample without inserting a catheter.
  • Finally, if catheterization is truly called for, it is NOT necessary to retract a boy’s attached foreskin to accomplish the insertion. (Again, see this article by Carmack and Milos detailing gentle methods for inserting a catheter without retracting the foreskin.)

You have the right as your child’s parent to refuse to allow a doctor, nurse or – of course – anybody else to forcibly retract your intact son’s foreskin. If you believe that your child is at risk of forcible retraction, state calmly and clearly that you do NOT give the clinician permission to handle your son’s penis and foreskin. Make a point of telling your pediatrician this up-front, and providing this information in his medical chart. If you do have to take your intact boy to an emergency room, let the provider(s) know that foreskin retraction is off-limits.

If your son’s foreskin has been forcibly retracted by a health care professional, here is what you can do.

For your baby: If his penis is swollen and sore, it is likely this will resolve on its own. Watchful waiting, and bathing him in plain warm water (no soap or bubble baths), are your best recourse for healing. If it does not improve, or if you see pus or smelly discharge, seek medical help – preferably from a foreskin-knowledgeable physician. At a minimum, let the new doctor know that you will not tolerate further tampering with his intact foreskin.

Official actions: You are entitled (and we encourage you) to complain in writing to the doctor who performed the retraction and the facility where this took place. At a minimum, you should provide them with factual information, such as the article by Carmack and Milos and this information sheet. You can also file a complaint with your state’s medical board or office of professional discipline.

Do You Know: About circumcision revision surgery?

We know the rate of neonatal circumcision in the United States is slowly falling. In the meantime, the rate of circumcision “re-do’s” — referred to in the medical literature as “circumcision revisions” — is rising. A lot.

Circumcision revision surgery is both highly unfortunate — and unsurprising.

Conversations about penises — how they function and what people think they should look like — were not commonplace just a decade ago. Now, as circumcision rates continue to decline, the practice is being widely discussed and debated. Almost daily, news articles, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, and the growth of new support and advocacy groups show the growing discussion and, in turn, contribute to growing awareness.

With all this penis talk, American parents are paying a lot of attention (sometimes, it seems, way too much attention) to their sons’ penises. On social media and in direct inquiries to Intact America, parents frequently write that their son’s circumcision “doesn’t look right,” and they want to know how to get it “fixed.” Our network of pediatric urologists report that the number of parents seeking circumcision “revisions” is growing, and the academic literature seems to support this.

The authors of a 2013 article published in Clinical Pediatrics reviewed five years of data from freestanding children’s hospitals affiliated with the Child Health Corporation of America. After excluding patients with other penile pathologies, they found that the rate of circumcision revision procedures increased significantly over the 5-year period when compared to the rate of neonatal circumcision, and suggest that the main reason for the increase was “changing standards of satisfaction” among parents of circumcised boys. In other words, parents take their sons for a second surgery — this one requiring risky general anesthesia — because they aren’t happy with the handiwork of the original circumcising doctor or mohel. Some of the complaints from parents seeking a “penile touch-up” (not to be confused with surgeries required to repair circumcision-related functional impairments) for their sons include too little foreskin removed; “uneven” appearance of the remaining foreskin; or the child’s penis pulling to one side. While the repair might make the parent feel better, it exposes the child to additional risks, both physical and psychological, and it can never restore the sensitive tissue removed in the circumcision.

The most unfortunate thing, though, about circumcision revision surgery in a child is that it is the result of a harmful procedure that was NOT necessary in the first place. And that just as the child was forced to endure a primal wound that he could neither consent to nor understand, he is now being forced to undergo a second surgery — more painful and more risky than the first.

Based on social change theory and examples of past movements for social equality and human rights, the United States is moving toward a tipping point — that point at which a critical mass of Americans will have come to believe that keeping boys intact is the normal, desirable thing to do. This means more and more baby boys will be kept intact, and babies who are kept intact will never need their penises to be “revised.”