For most of my life, circumcision was not an issue. I was circumcised, and I noticed one of my childhood friends was intact, but aside from that I didn’t give it much thought. Sometime in my mid-40s, however, I read an article about the unnecessary circumcision of American baby boys.
Everything changed for me that day. It was like a light had been switched on, and as the thought stayed with me, I became angrier. Foreskins are part of the whole male infant at birth. No parent has any right to clip away a child’s body part unless there is an immediate medical reason to do so. If he wants to have his penis circumcised when he’s 18 years old, that is his decision.
As the years went by, I became more and more upset that I had been robbed of my birthright. When I asked my mother why she had had me circumcised, she said she wanted to make it easier for me to keep my penis clean. I couldn’t believe it. Young boys can’t be taught to clean themselves? Girls are.
Among the benefits of foreskin are the thousands of nerve endings it contains that contribute to sexual pleasure. Studies have shown that the circumcised penis has less sensitivity than one that is intact. I have restored about 80 percent of my foreskin over 15 years, but it will never act the way real foreskin acts. It’s more of a psychological thing for me, although I also feel better physically.
When I broach the subject with others, both women and men give me many reasons they had their sons circumcised. “I don’t want my son looking like he didn’t come from me” is a favorite among fathers. I have had a hard time managing my anger in those moments, and I found out quickly that confrontation only leads to anger on their part. They feel threatened that I am messing with their rights as parents.
I’ve learned to temper my anger during conversations, but I still find it difficult, if not impossible, to bring up the subject with family members and close friends. I don’t mean to blame—I want to educate, open their eyes—but they usually go on the defensive.
I know Intact America’s goal is to change the way Americans think about circumcision. It’s hard for many parents to agree with the case against circumcision if they gave the go-ahead when their sons were born. But even if I can’t convince them that it’s wrong, I can plant a seed of curiosity. Perhaps they’ll explore the topic further on their own and change their minds, persuade their friends, and help to bring an end to the practice of cutting babies.
—Mark Wilder, intactivist from the great state of Washington
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.