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Voices – Lew Rose

A couple of years before our 35-year-old son’s accidental death, he challenged me with the question of why he was circumcised at birth. I was a bit taken aback but apologized profusely, while stammering something about how we thought we were doing what was best for him and that infant circumcision was at that time considered routine. He didn’t pursue the topic, but I sensed my response did not totally satisfy him. I suspect he never fully forgave us.

The truth is that I was a cocky, ill-informed 25-year-old when I made that decision. (His mom left the decision to me.) I focused on such things as his potential acceptance in the locker rooms of his life rather than honoring and respecting him as a beautifully formed, embodied being.

Ironically, I am intact. I was never teased about it in locker rooms and am very pleased with my foreskin. However, growing up I felt somewhat self-conscious about not being like “all the other guys.” I somehow made the assumptions that others regarded being intact as suggesting an unsophisticated family background and that an uncircumcised penis was less attractive to women.

I was obviously uncomfortable about my decision because, while my son was a young lad, I kept my foreskin retracted—pretty uncomfortable—for a few years, so that when he saw me naked it would not be as obvious that he and I were different. (Then I could avoid actually having to talk with him about why he was circumcised.) I never told him all this and suspect he assumed I was circumcised too.

What possible ethical justification was there for me to commit to permanently surgically removing healthy tissue from another person’s body without his permission? Being born with a functional foreskin is not a medical emergency, and therefore is not justification for surgical intervention initiated by me as a parent, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies or anyone else.

I have reflected on his disappointment over the loss of his foreskin many times over the years. My shame was that my first official act as a parent had been deep disrespect of our first-born child. I had totally taken away his right to make an informed decision about an important part of his body.

Over time I did come to forgive myself. I have also become more informed about the fabulous foreskin, its lack of respect by the medical community and, sadly, that genital pleasure sensors are removed with circumcision. I offer my sincere posthumous apology to you, my son, and my compassion goes out to all the other men and boys who have been cut without their consent.

I am committed to being an intactivist, and I hope my story will inspire others to defend the right of all males to remain intact until they are of an age to make informed decisions about their own bodies.

—Lew Rose

Interested in lending your voice? Send an email to [email protected], giving us a brief summary of what you would like to write about, and we will get back to you.



Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.