Public Opinion on Circumcision: Can Intactivists Hit A Tipping Point?

Public Opinion on Circumcision: Can Intactivists Hit A Tipping Point?

Few topics spark as much debate as circumcision. This irreversible surgery, with roots deeply embedded in cultural, religious, and medical traditions around the globe, is facing increasing scrutiny. At the heart of this scrutiny is a movement known as “intactivism,” which opposes routine circumcision on the grounds of bodily autonomy and human rights. This article delves into the injustices of circumcision, the rise of the intactivist movement, and whether shifting public opinion can reach a tipping point to influence policy and cultural norms significantly.

Understanding Circumcision

Circumcision’s history spans several cultures and millennia. In some societies, it’s a passage into manhood; in others, it’s viewed as a religious rite. However, the medical community’s stance is nuanced. While some health organizations claim potential benefits, they also recognize that these supposed benefits (even if they were true, which they are not) are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. In fact, the consequences of circumcision vastly outweigh any purported reasons. 

The divergence between circumcision as a medical procedure and a cultural practice is stark. In many Western countries, the procedure has been performed routinely without any legitimate medical rationale, leading to debates about necessity and consent.

The Rise of the Intactivist Movement

The intactivist movement, advocating against non-consensual infant circumcision, has grown from a whisper to a roar over recent decades. Its origins, rooted in advocating for bodily integrity and informed consent, reflect a broader societal shift towards questioning traditional practices and authority. High-profile legal battles, shifts in medical opinion, and the mobilization of communities online have marked the movement’s key successes.

Organizations and activists within this movement have diverse backgrounds but share common goals. They’ve employed education, advocacy, and legal challenges to advance their cause, aiming to shift public opinion and policy on a global scale.

Shifting Public Opinion about Circumcision

Current public opinion on circumcision is influenced by tradition, circumcision misinformation, and evolving attitudes. Surveys and studies indicate a gradual but significant shift, with more parents questioning the necessity of the procedure and opting to leave their children intact. This change is fueled by improved access to information, changing social norms, and the vocal advocacy of intactivist groups.

Personal narratives play a crucial role in this shift. Testimonials from individuals who have been harmed or affected by circumcision or who are grateful for the choice to remain intact resonate deeply, challenging long-held beliefs and sparking conversations about consent, autonomy, and bodily integrity.

The Role of Social Media and Advocacy

Social media has been a double-edged sword for the intactivist movement. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have enabled advocates to spread their message far and wide, connect with like-minded individuals, and organize events with unprecedented efficiency. Successful campaigns have leveraged viral content, hashtags, and online petitions to draw attention to their cause.

However, these platforms also present challenges, including the spread of misinformation and the polarization of discourse. Intactivists have had to navigate these waters carefully, balancing passion with accuracy and openness to dialogue.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

The ethical debate around circumcision centers on the rights of the child versus cultural and parental rights. Intactivists argue that non-consensual infant circumcision violates principles of medical ethics, including autonomy and informed consent. Legal battles in various countries have sought to challenge routine circumcision on these grounds, with varying degrees of success.

Comparing global legal standards reveals a spectrum of approaches, from outright bans in some regions to protected cultural practices in others. These legal battles highlight the tension between respecting traditions and protecting individual rights.

Can Intactivism Reach a Tipping Point?

The concept of a tipping point — a small shift in public opinion that leads to significant societal change — offers a hopeful framework for intactivists. Analysis of social movements suggests that, with sufficient momentum, shifts in public policy and cultural norms are possible. Intactivists are working to build this momentum through education, advocacy, and legal challenges, aiming to create a future where circumcision is performed only with informed consent and for legitimate medical reasons.

“According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national rate of newborn circumcision decreased from 64.5% in 1979 to 58.3% in 2010. However, these rates can vary widely by region, with higher rates in the Midwest and lower rates in the West.”

The journey towards this tipping point is complex, requiring a nuanced understanding of cultural, religious, and ethical considerations. Yet, the potential impact of achieving this goal — protecting bodily autonomy and promoting informed choice — drives the movement forward.

The Path Forward for Intactivists

For intactivists, the path forward involves several key strategies:

  • Education and Awareness: Continuing to inform the public about the risks of circumcision and the importance of bodily autonomy.
  • Legal Action: Pursuing legal reforms to protect children’s rights and ensure informed consent for circumcision.
  • Advocacy: Building alliances with healthcare professionals, ethicists, and human rights organizations to amplify their message.

The vision for the future is clear: a world where circumcision is a choice made by informed individuals, not a routine procedure imposed on infants. By navigating the challenges of public opinion, social media, and legal systems, intactivists hope to turn this vision into reality, ensuring future generations have the freedom to choose for themselves.

Intact Penis Care: Embracing Natural Well-being

Intact Penis Care: Embracing Natural Well-being

The argument against circumcision is founded on an unwavering commitment to bodily autonomy and the irrefutable benefits of remaining intact. Across cultures and through the annals of history, circumcision has been practiced for a myriad of reasons — yet today’s enlightened understanding of human rights and medical ethics calls for a staunch opposition to this unnecessary procedure. 

Preserving one’s natural anatomy is a stand against an invasive procedure that lacks conclusive medical justification. Studies reveal that over 80% of the world’s male population remains intact, highlighting a global norm that contradicts the pro-circumcision narrative prevalent in the United States. Furthermore, the foreskin is recognized for its functional importance, housing thousands of nerve endings that enhance sexual pleasure, a fact that underscores the loss experienced through circumcision.

Moreover, the historical context of circumcision in various cultures does not diminish the contemporary understanding that every individual has the inherent right to make informed decisions about their own body. It’s high time to discard outdated practices in favor of respecting bodily autonomy and celebrating the human body’s natural state. The movement against circumcision is gaining momentum, fueled by the undeniable evidence of the benefits of staying intact and the growing recognition of the importance of personal choice in matters of health and well-being.

Circumcision Myths vs. Facts: Dispelling the Misconceptions

Intact penis care involves confronting a myriad of myths that obscure the truth, spreading misinformation and unwarranted fears. From exaggerated claims about hygiene difficulties to baseless health risks, these misconceptions perpetuate stigma and undermine the natural advantages of remaining intact. Below, we dismantle these myths with facts, advocating for a well-informed, anti-circumcision stance that celebrates the simplicity and inherent benefits of embracing one’s natural anatomy.

Myth: “Intact Penises are More Difficult to Clean”

  • Fact: The hygiene of an intact penis is straightforward and uncomplicated. Simple, gentle washing with water is sufficient for cleanliness, negating the myth of excessive effort.

Myth: “Circumcision is Necessary to Prevent STDs”

  • Fact: Effective STD prevention hinges on safe sexual practices, not circumcision status. Major health organizations emphasize condoms and safe sex education as the most reliable methods for STD prevention.

Myth: “Phimosis is a Common Problem That Requires Circumcision”

  • Fact: Phimosis, or the inability to retract the foreskin, typically resolves naturally as a child grows. Only in rare cases where phimosis persists and causes issues are treatments required, which often do not involve circumcision.

Myth: “Circumcision Promotes Better Sexual Health”

  • Fact: The foreskin is a highly sensitive part of the male anatomy, contributing to sexual pleasure. Studies have shown that circumcision can reduce sensitivity, arguing against the notion that circumcision offers sexual health benefits.

Myth: “Circumcision is Widely Accepted and Preferred”

  • Fact: Cultural norms vary greatly, and remaining intact in many parts of the world is the standard. The perception of circumcision as the preferred or normative state is culturally specific and not grounded in universal health or hygiene principles.

To learn more about the profit motives behind the deliberate disinformation campaigns and shaming of the intact penis, read our article about the actual costs of adult circumcision

Health and Hygiene: A Gentle Approach

Basic Care Guidelines

The journey of caring for an intact penis spans from infancy through adulthood, requiring nothing more than a gentle and respectful approach. For infants and young boys, the foreskin should not be forcibly retracted. Instead, cleaning should involve only the external parts. As boys grow and the foreskin naturally becomes retractable, a simple rinse with water during regular bathing is sufficient. This respectful, non-invasive approach ensures comfort and prevents potential harm, highlighting the ease of maintaining cleanliness and health without undue stress.

Dealing with Phimosis and Balanitis

Phimosis and balanitis are conditions often cited in arguments for circumcision. However, understanding these conditions reveals that non-invasive treatments are effective and preferable. Phimosis, a condition where the foreskin cannot be fully retracted over the glans, often resolves naturally over time. In cases where intervention is needed, topical treatments and gentle stretching exercises are successful alternatives. Balanitis, inflammation of the glans, is usually a result of poor hygiene or infection and can be treated with proper cleaning and medication. When understood and addressed with care, these conditions do not necessitate circumcision.

The Truth about UTIs and STDs

While proper hygiene is indeed crucial, the actual risk difference between circumcised and intact individuals is minimal when good hygiene practices are followed. Emphasizing cleanliness and safe sexual practices offers effective risk mitigation, presenting a strong case for the natural approach to health and well-being without the need for surgical intervention.

The Benefits of Remaining Intact

Sexual Health and Pleasure

The foreskin is rich in nerve endings, contributing significantly to sexual sensitivity and pleasure for both the individual and their partner. Its natural lubrication and motion during intercourse enhance the sexual experience, illustrating one of the key benefits of remaining intact. The impact of foreskin on sexual health and satisfaction is a testament to the advantages of embracing one’s natural anatomy.

Psychological Well-being

Choosing to remain intact also supports psychological well-being and body positivity. In a world where body image issues are rampant, embracing natural bodily autonomy fosters self-esteem and confidence. The decision to stay intact, supported by informed care practices, champions the right to personal choice and respect for one’s body.

Medical Perspectives

Healthcare professionals increasingly recognize the advantages of non-circumcision, advocating for informed choice and respecting bodily autonomy. The medical community’s insight underscores the importance of education and understanding in making care decisions that prioritize the individual’s well-being and rights.

Intactivism and Education

Global recognition and appreciation of genital autonomy are fundamentally rooted in education. The enlightenment process involves personal understanding, sharing knowledge about the intrinsic benefits of remaining intact, and advocating for gentle, respectful care practices. By breaking down the facts, debunking myths, and presenting clear, evidence-based information, we foster a culture of informed decision-making that places personal choice and bodily autonomy at its core.

However, the mission doesn’t end with individual enlightenment; it’s about creating ripples across communities, societies, and the world. This is where organizations like Intact America play a pivotal role. Intact America is at the forefront of advocating for genital autonomy, working tirelessly to change societal norms, challenge harmful traditions, and end unnecessary genital surgeries on minors who cannot consent. Our efforts are crucial in amplifying the message that every person has the right to make informed choices about their bodies.

Become an Intactivist: Support Intact America

  • Educate Yourself and Others: Leverage the wealth of resources provided by Intact America to deepen your understanding of genital autonomy and the benefits of remaining intact. Knowledge is power, and sharing this knowledge is instrumental in shifting societal perspectives.
  • Advocate for Change: Use your voice, whether in conversations with friends and family, social media, or community gatherings, to spread the word about the importance of bodily autonomy and the critical work being done by Intact America.
  • Donate or Volunteer: Consider supporting Intact America or volunteering your time. Your contribution can significantly impact the fight for genital autonomy, supporting educational campaigns, legal efforts, and outreach programs.
  • Stay Informed and Engaged: Follow Intact America on social media, subscribe to our newsletter, and stay engaged with our latest campaigns and initiatives. Staying informed about ongoing efforts and successes maintains momentum and inspires continued advocacy.

By aligning with organizations like Intact America, you’re championing a cause that seeks to protect future generations from unwarranted medical interventions. Join us in this vital mission: educate, advocate, and support. Together, we can make a difference, ensuring that personal choice and bodily autonomy are honored and celebrated.


What Do The Eyelids, Lips, Fingertips & The Intact Penis Have in Common?

What Do The Eyelids, Lips, Fingertips & The Intact Penis Have in Common?

Take a moment to imagine the gentle flutter of eyelids in the soft, warm morning light as the sunlight filters through. Picture the tender press of soft lips in a loving kiss, a moment filled with warmth and affection.

Visualize the skillful dance of nimble fingertips on a keyboard, effortlessly gliding across the keys, creating a symphony of words and ideas.

Now, consider the natural function of the intact penis, a marvel of nature’s design, with its intricate network of blood vessels and sensitive nerve endings, providing pleasure and serving an essential role in reproduction. These body parts, seemingly distinct in purpose, are interconnected through fascinating physiological characteristics of sensitivity, protection, and intricate structural complexity.

In this article, you will discover:

  • The remarkable sensitivity shared by these body parts and their importance.
  • How they play a protective role in human physiology.
  • The unique structural adaptations that enhance their functions.

Let us explore the shared attributes of these body parts and uncover the significance behind their similarities.

1) Exquisite Sensitivity: A Symphony of Nerve Endings

One of the major similarities among these body parts is their concentration of nerve endings, giving them an extraordinary sensitivity to touch. This sensitivity is critically essential. For instance, the fingertips, with their abundance of nerve endings, enable us to manipulate objects and discern textures with finesse, facilitating skills ranging from typing to tactile recognition. 

Moreover, the lips and foreskin, exquisitely sensitive, contribute to an array of intimate sensations, heightening sexual pleasure and forging deeper emotional bonds. Meanwhile, the vigilant reflexes of the eyelids protect our eyes, reacting swiftly to the faintest hint of potential harm, ensuring their safety and well-being.

The eyelids, lips, fingertips, and intact penis are all covered in Meissner’s corpuscles, which are specialized nerve endings that serve as the gatekeepers of touch, allowing us to discern the gentlest caress or the slightest variation in texture. These microscopic sensors heighten the sensitivity of the fingertips, lips, and other touch-sensitive regions while enriching our tactile interaction with the world.

“The ridged band on the male foreskin (removed during circumcision) contains thousands of Meissner’s corpuscules, special light-touch nerve endings, located in glabrous (hairless) skin in other areas of the body, including the eyelids, lips, fingertips, and palm of the hand. During sex or masturbation, these nerve endings give a man feedback about where he is in the ejaculatory process. The frenulum (“little bridle”), the structure on the underside of the penis that keeps the foreskin in place (much as the frenulum under your tongue keeps it from flopping around inside your mouth) also contains Meissner’s corpuscules.” 

— Georganne Chapin, Founding Executive Director of Intact America and author of “This Penis Business

This Penis Business, by Georganne Chapin

2) Guardians of the Body: A Protective Role

Beyond their sensitivity, each delicate area fulfills a vital protective function. The eyelids function as stalwart shields for our precious eyes, shielding them from harmful debris and excessive light that could cause damage. As guardians of the gateway to our digestive system, the lips possess temperature and texture sensitivity, preventing harm before it can breach our bodies. 

Fingertips, despite their sensitivity, possess a resilient layer of skin that shields us from physical injury, allowing us to explore and interact with the world fearlessly. Likewise, the foreskin assumes a pivotal role in safeguarding the glans penis, preserving its sensitivity, cleanliness, and overall integrity, and ensuring optimal sexual function and well-being.

3) Unparalleled Structure: Adaptations for Excellence

In addition to their sensitivity and protective functions, these body parts showcase unique structural adaptations that enhance their capabilities. The eyelids can blink reflexively, an indispensable response to potential eye damage, ensuring our delicate ocular organs’ continuous and uninterrupted protection. The lips exhibit astonishing flexibility, essential for speech and nourishment consumption; their movements can express many emotions, fostering effective communication and connection with others. Fingertips, distinguished by their distinctive fingerprints, enhance our grip and tactile interaction with the world, allowing us to navigate objects and surfaces with precision and skill. As for the foreskin, its retractability supports optimal hygiene and sexual function.

4) Abundant in Blood Vessels: The Essence of Life

These regions, whether the fingertips tingling with sensation or the lips feeling the warmth of a smile, share a trait of being abundantly supplied with intricate networks of blood vessels. This rich vascular bed enhances its sensitivity to the world around us. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining our body’s equilibrium by regulating temperature and aiding in healing. These vessels also allow for swift adaptation to the changing environment, unveiling the body’s awe-inspiring capacity for defense and rejuvenation.

5) Mucous Membranes: The Barrier Against Pathogens

Except for the fingertips, these body parts are distinguished by mucous membranes, delicate linings that stand as the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens. These moisture-rich barriers, distinct from the protective outer skin layer, act as vigilant shields, fortifying the body’s immune system against external threats. From the tender inner surfaces of the eyelids to the supple texture of the lips and the protective folds of the inner foreskin, mucous membranes envelop these regions, underscoring their indispensable role in shielding the body from harm.

Exploring the connections between the eyelids, lips, fingertips, and intact penis reveals their shared attributes of sensitivity, protective functions, unique structures, rich vascularization, and the presence of mucous membranes. Our bodies showcase marvels of natural design, with each part playing a critical role in our interactions and connections with the world.

Recognizing these similarities deepens our admiration for the human body’s complexity and emphasizes the importance of preserving its natural state and functions. The foreskin, akin to the eyelids, lips, and fingertips, is a vital component of this beautifully complex system, serving to protect, sense, and engage with the environment uniquely.

Why Intactivism Matters

As a pioneer in advocating for all individuals’ bodily autonomy and integrity, Intact America urges you to support our mission to protect and honor the natural human form. Understanding the significance of each body part in our health, sensation, and well-being empowers us to make informed choices that uphold our body’s natural design.

Join forces with Intact America

Embrace the body’s natural design and champion efforts to preserve bodily integrity. Whether you seek information, wish to contribute, or aim to participate, explore Intact America’s website today. Let’s unite to raise awareness and champion a world where every individual’s bodily autonomy and human rights are respected and fiercely defended.

Join Intact America in our mission.


Intactivism 101: An Anti-Circumcision Guide for Foreskin Activism

Intactivism 101: An Anti-Circumcision Guide for Foreskin Activism

Driven by a fervent commitment to bodily autonomy and human rights, pioneers of the movement to end circumcision coined the dynamic terms “intactivist” and ‘intactivism” to describe the actions and mobilization of those who advocate for the preservation of the male foreskin and oppose the practice of medically unnecessary circumcision. This article presents practical ways to engage in foreskin activism, which champions the rights of every individual to bodily autonomy and a common-sense approach to welcoming baby boys into the world as we welcome baby girls—as nature made them.

What is Intactivism?

The terms ”intactivism” and “intactivist”—a powerful blend of “intact” and “activism/activist”—represent a vibrant social movement and its participants who advocate for preserving the natural state of the human body, specifically concerning male circumcision. Originating as a direct response to the widespread practice of medically unnecessary routine infant circumcision, the goal of intactivism and intactivists was to shed light on the health risks associated with the removal of the foreskin from baby boys’ penises and the benefits of retaining the foreskin. Research by the pioneers of this movement into the history and reasons for this pervasive practice in the United States revealed that the supposed health benefits of circumcision were based on medical myths and cultural conditioning outside of religious tradition and ritual as opposed to any reasonable scientific or medical basis. As information was available and knowledge was accumulated, the core of intactivism embraced the fundamental right to bodily autonomy. By challenging societal norms and fostering critical dialogue, intactivism seeks to ignite a transformative shift in public perception and discourse surrounding circumcision to spare male babies, children, and adults the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma associated with medically unnecessary surgery on a sensitive sexual organ. 

Intactivists and Arguments Against Circumcision

Arguments against circumcision may have started with the fact that it is medically unnecessary. Once that issue was proven (as a uniquely American fallacy) and information was available for dissemination on websites, videos, interviews with intactivists, and re-educating medical and health personnel through the NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Research Centers) sponsored symposia all over the world, the ethical and human rights issue gained attention. Removing a natural functional body part (the foreskin) from an organ as sensitive as a baby’s penis brings up a wide range of concerns.  Intactivists working to end circumcision represent the interests of non-consenting infants, who are unable to voice their decision on removing a body part (other than through their screams of pain and apparent emotional trauma) and cannot provide informed consent.  The intactivism movement believes that the decision to circumcise a baby or child should be deferred until individuals are of an age where they can make choices about their own bodies based on the short- and long-term consequences of circumcision.

Intactivist Strategies and Initiatives

Intactivists employ a range of strategies and initiatives to raise awareness and advocate for the importance of genital integrity and informed consent. Through public protests, the distribution of educational materials, and outreach programs, they tirelessly educate parents and healthcare providers about the potential risks and ethical considerations surrounding circumcision. 

Marilyn Milos, in Please Don’t Cut the Baby!, which chronicles the growth of the movement from the 1970s to today, writes about several early efforts to end circumcision that raised awareness in both the health community and the public. Notably, the “Bloodstained Men” movement utilized striking visuals and street theater to capture attention and ignite discussions on the ethical implications of circumcision. The men would appear at demonstrations in white outfits with red paint on the crotch, symbolizing the bloody wound of circumcision. Another robust response to ending circumcision was when a group of nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe refused to participate in infant circumcisions, declaring themselves conscientious objectors—a brave move considering they could have all lost their jobs, as Marilyn did when she began to educate parents at Marin General Hospital. 

Marilyn points out that the most straightforward thing anyone can do to end circumcision is to spread evidence-based information about both the risks of circumcision and the human rights violations of a child’s body.

“Those who market anything and everything know that consumers trust personal recommendations above all other sources of information.”

Word-of-mouth can make a tremendous difference to individuals on the fence or simply clueless about circumcision. 

However, the advent of social media and online communities has played a pivotal role in amplifying intactivist voices, facilitating the sharing of information, stories, and resources, and connecting like-minded individuals who share concerns. These digital platforms, like intactamerica.com, have become epicenters for constructive dialogue on the issues surrounding circumcision.

Chapin and Milos memoirs

Intact America’s latest intactivism outreach campaign, Skin in the Game (skininthegame.org) features images of people of every race, ethnicity, sex, and body type who share their interest in the topic of circumcision and how the practice of circumcision has affected them. What it shows is that circumcision cuts through all of us. It has both short-term and long-term physical, psychological, and emotional consequences for male infants, children, and adults. But it also affects relationships and family dynamics. A wife or partner may not understand the sexual repercussions of a circumcision gone wrong. Children may be angry at their parents for allowing them to be circumcised. Parents may feel guilty about a decision made before they are fully informed.   

Intact America Founding Executive Director Georganne Chapin reveals in the epilogue to her book This Penis Business that the intactivist organization, in tandem with the group Doctors Opposing Circumcision, is “on the cusp of signing off on a custom-developed consumer-facing electronic system called DoNoHarm.report” that will be launched state by state in 2024. The program will consist of standardized forms that collect complaints from parents and others who were pressured by doctors or hospital personnel to circumcise their sons, who experienced any aspect of circumcision complications, or who have been victims of forcible foreskin retraction, a common issue that both parents and medical personnel misunderstand. With this information, doctors and medical organizations can no longer claim they have not heard of any complaints about circumcision or have no access to records of complaints.

How to Get Involved in Intactivism

Anyone can become an intactivist in word and deed by recognizing that boys, like girls, are born perfect and that the foreskin is a functional body part with thousands of nerve endings that serve no one but the medical industry when they are amputated. 

  • Inform yourself and educate others by visiting intactamerica.org regularly (and supporting it with donations if possible) and other intactivist organizations, googling podcasts and listening to interviews on the subject, reviewing articles and videos, and asking questions and requiring answers.
  • Hold healthcare providers at all levels accountable for providing you with information about circumcision. Do not rely on any one medical organization to do so, as they represent stakeholders in promoting circumcision because doctors and hospitals are paid for each circumcision they perform.
  • Lobby lawmakers to make legal changes that support the rights of a child to genital autonomy and bodily integrity. If you can’t do that, support those doing so by publicizing their efforts through word-of-mouth or social media platforms.
  • Initiate or participate in community events like Pride celebrations that highlight circumcision education and promote intactivism.
  • Speak out about your own or your family’s experiences with circumcision complications.
  • Buy or borrow the memoirs This Penis Business by Georganne Chapin and Please Don’t Cut the Baby! by Marilyn Milos, or listen to the audio versions of the books.

We outline practical steps for those interested in becoming intactivists and emphasize the significance of education, advocacy, and outreach. By responding to common counterarguments, intactivists seek to foster constructive dialogue and present evidence-based perspectives. Intactivism thrives through diverse strategies and initiatives, often aided by social media and online communities. As we conclude, we reiterate the paramount importance of informed decision-making, respect for bodily autonomy, and the ongoing dialogue surrounding circumcision and foreskin activism. We encourage readers to explore this critical subject further, engage in open conversations, and contribute to the broader discussion on the rights and choices surrounding circumcision.  Engaging in respectful discussions and presenting evidence-based counterpoints allows for a comprehensive exploration of the topic, ultimately promoting informed decision-making and emphasizing the significance of consent in matters of personal health.

Voices — Kay Zugar

There’s a piece of my body missing. That’s a big deal.

You wouldn’t have known this growing up in my family. Circumcision was a laughable topic and only regarded as a joke; never in a serious tone, and certainly never condescended upon. Like if we were having hotdogs for dinner, the crude comments would inevitably come up. My older relatives thought it was very funny for some reason, and I could not understand. My mom might wrinkle her nose and softly say something like “That’s nasty.”

Through gritted teeth, I tried not hearing the words—blocking them out as a chilling cocktail of disgust, horror and disbelief coursed through the back of my head and down my spine, seeking refuge from the words that the Grown Ups were saying. How could they not see that this is wrong?

I was circumcised as an infant in a routine hospital procedure. If they had done the right thing and left me alone when I was a baby, I certainly believe I would be a better version of myself than how I actually ended up. Things like trimming my nails bother me to this day; my best friend who trims and styles my long, golden hair probably doesn’t know why I wince at the metallic sound of her scissors.

When I was young, I had a recurring traumatic dream. It’s like I’m watching the scene from above. I’m a baby and something disturbing, something painful is happening to my body “down there,” and I don’t know what it is. I see a blue cloth and a lot of blood. I see me being passed around by family members, presumably at a table, in a room in a house. I’m swaddled up in a blanket and I’m screaming my lungs out and they are saying to each other, he’s just cranky. The same things always happened in the dream.

I don’t know what this means. I find it hard to believe I can remember something that’s impossible to remember, but having that dream over and over when I was little seems significant. I do know the dreams stopped after I figured out what had happened to me.

I didn’t know what circumcision was until I was 13 or 14, when I saw the word in the Bible that my parents had given me. I looked it up in the dictionary because I’ve always been bookish. I told my parents, “Please not to do this to me,” and their answer was something like, “Well, don’t worry, we already did,” followed by a blind parroting of the same shallow arguments of hygiene and tradition that my frantic and terrified reading through medical almanacs and Bible footnotes had yielded. Dad got angry shortly after he realized I wouldn’t back down. Mom sat in front of the computer searching for a web page that would prove her right with little original thought on her part.

I have my own theories about why my family always joked about it and got defensive when I objected. Everybody deals with pain in their own way. For me, the pain of circumcision and then being ridiculed in my own family for speaking up has shaped my life in profound ways. I’m 30 now. For years I had pickled my thoughts and feelings with alcohol and drugs (mostly alcohol) so I didn’t have to think about that part of my body. If that thing hadn’t happened to me, hadn’t been done to me, I might have been able to stay away from it.

I sought out therapists and told them my struggles stem from circumcision trauma, and they just wrote it off. “Deep down, you’re hurt by something else,” “You can’t be that upset about a piece of skin,” “Don’t you understand they just wanted to help you?” Always being met with resistance by people you trust, starting with your parents and just going forward—that does something to you. It makes you doubt yourself. How could I be wrong for wanting to keep my body the way it was designed? How does someone inflict such harm and horror on their child, and claim it to be an act of love?

Luckily, I’m surrounded by so many friends who are also against cutting baby boys. We’re a very close-knit group. I don’t talk about my feelings or experiences with most of them, but we have a mutual understanding that circumcision is wrong. I was happy when a friend who recently had a baby boy kept him intact.

I want that for every boy. No one should grow up thinking that they’re somebody’s property, or that their wishes for their body don’t matter. Think about it: If boys don’t understand that, when they start dating, they’re not going to understand consent, and a lot of bad is going to happen out of that. Teaching our boys consent starts with protecting their rights to their body.

In our family, I was told there was something wrong with me for wanting to be left whole and being outspoken about it. I was supposed to stay in line and be OK with being cut. But harm is harm, no matter what twisted motivation is used to justify it. People need to remember that whatever they do to a child, they’re not the one who has to live with that. The child is, and they’re going to be an adult one day…still having to live with someone else’s decision.

Kay Zugar

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