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Keeping Your Son’s Penis Intact: A Guide for Parents

Keeping Your Son’s Penis Intact: A Guide for Parents

Discussions of whether or not to keep your son’s penis intact have been gaining increasing momentum. With the intactivist movement calling for a comprehensive understanding of the dangers and consequences of circumcision, what was once regarded as a customary minor medical procedure has become controversial, with passionate discussions about the physical, emotional, psychological, and ethical issues surrounding the practice. Intact America can provide a forum for you to learn about how to protect your son’s right to bodily autonomy and keep him intact and natural. 

Medical Perspective on Circumcision

In recent years, the medical perspective on circumcision has undergone a remarkable transformation. Once touted for its purported health benefits, now debunked, challenges to the efficacy of circumcision have caused medical experts to offer a more nuanced view. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, no longer promotes this unnecessary surgery on infants as a given, handing over the responsibility of the decision to parents. However, there is still a lack of focus on the importance of carefully weighing the risks and ethical considerations of circumcision. It is essential to recognize the extreme dangers and complications that accompany any surgical procedure as opposed to buying into the social, cultural, and medical conditioning that has convinced the public that this elective surgery is essential.

Moreover, the impact of circumcision on sexual sensitivity and function later in life has become a focal point of contemporary discussions. As parents navigate this decision, it is crucial to understand the evolving medical landscape, which now emphasizes individual choice and comprehensive, informed consent. Since comprehensive information is not always available in your doctor’s office before birth and consent forms provided by hospitals vary in the information given to parents, it is essential to inform yourself. Intact America’s goal is to ensure that parents are empowered to make informed decisions for their sons while advocating for awareness and understanding within our society.

Psychological and Ethical Considerations of Circumcision

As individuals who were circumcised as infants grow older and become more aware of the procedure, they may grapple with complex emotions. The alteration of one’s body without personal consent can sometimes evoke feelings of violation, loss, or resentment. These emotional aspects highlight the need for parents to engage in open and empathetic discussions with their children about choices regarding their bodies. As Marilyn Milos pointed out in her memoir Please Don’t Cut the Baby!What I learned from the men who shared their experiences with me was that every man who has a scar on his penis also has a scar on his psyche.” 

The ethical debate surrounding circumcision centers on the concept of informed consent. Infants cannot provide informed consent for medical procedures, raising ethical concerns about performing circumcision on those unable to express their preferences. This ethical dilemma has sparked discussions about whether circumcision should be postponed until individuals can make informed decisions about their bodies, which gives parents and our society the right to make irreversible choices for children before they can fully comprehend the full spectrum of implications for their bodies. Thus, the ethical considerations surrounding circumcision emphasize the importance of respecting bodily autonomy and making decisions that prioritize an individual’s right to self-determination.

Caring for an Intact Penis

Caring for an intact penis is a straightforward and essential aspect of maintaining good genital health. Unlike circumcision, which may involve specific post-operative care, an intact penis requires no special maintenance during infancy or childhood. The primary rule for basic hygiene is to gently clean the external area of the penis, known as the glans, with warm water and mild soap during a child’s bath. There is no need to retract the foreskin forcefully, as it naturally separates from the glans over time. Forcing retraction can cause pain, injury, and potential scarring. As children mature, they can be taught to retract and clean under the foreskin themselves once it separates naturally, typically by adolescence. This simple hygiene routine helps prevent irritation and infection while maintaining the penis’s natural function.

It’s important to address common misconceptions and myths surrounding intact penises. One prevalent misconception is that an intact penis is inherently less hygienic than a circumcised one. In reality, proper hygiene for an intact penis is easy to achieve with regular washing, and there is no increased risk of infection or odor. Another myth is that circumcision is necessary to prevent certain medical conditions, like urinary tract infections. Medical organizations, however, stress that these risks are relatively low and can be mitigated with good hygiene practices. Understanding these misconceptions is crucial for parents and individuals alike to make an informed decision regarding the care of intact penises.

Legal and Human Rights Perspective on Circumcision

The legal status of circumcision varies significantly across countries. While some nations have stringent laws governing circumcision, others prioritize individual choice. In certain countries, circumcision is performed for medical or religious reasons, while in others, it is subject to specific circumstances or parental consent. As awareness grows about bodily autonomy and informed decision-making, many countries are moving towards stricter regulations on non-consensual circumcision. This shift reflects a deeper understanding of and respect for individual rights. Advocates are working tirelessly to raise awareness and promote informed choices regarding circumcision. The legal landscape surrounding circumcision is complex, and it is important to stay informed about the various cultural, medical, and legal aspects involved. 

While some individuals have taken legal action against hospitals, healthcare providers, or individuals involved in circumcisions, the outcomes have been mixed. Here are a few notable cases:

  • David J. Llewellyn v. Greater Baltimore Medical Center: In 2006, a Maryland man filed a lawsuit against the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and a doctor for circumcising him as a baby without his parents’ consent. The case alleged that the circumcision was performed negligently, and the plaintiff sought damages. The lawsuit was initially dismissed, but the Maryland Court of Special Appeals later revived it. Ultimately, the case settled out of court in 2012, with the terms remaining confidential.
  • Doctor Accused of Wrongful Circumcision in Florida: In 2018, a Florida family sued a doctor and his practice for performing a circumcision on their son without proper consent. The family alleged negligence and emotional distress. The case resulted in a confidential settlement.
  • Maimonides Medical Center Circumcision Controversy: In 2013, a controversy arose at Maimonides Medical Center in New York when it was revealed that some infants had contracted herpes following circumcisions. The practice involved a specific form of Jewish ritual circumcision called metzitzah b’peh. This led to a public health debate and discussions about regulating the practice more closely, but it did not result in a legal case.

From a human rights standpoint, the circumcision of infants and children brings forth significant ethical considerations. Human rights organizations strongly emphasize the principle of bodily autonomy, asserting that individuals should have the right to decide about their bodies when they can give informed consent. This perspective calls into question the practice of circumcising infants who are unable to provide such consent and brings attention to the ethical concerns surrounding the procedure. While we value and respect cultural and religious traditions, it is important to strike a balance with an individual’s fundamental human rights, including the right to choose what happens to their own body. 

Birth Plan Checklist (Specify “Do Not Circumcise”)

Medical professionals undoubtedly have a critical role in childbirth, but it is equally important for parents to actively engage in discussions about circumcision and assert their preferences directly. Relying solely on trust in healthcare providers can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or assumptions. Open and respectful communication is the key to ensuring that the medical team acknowledges the parents’ decision not to circumcise their child. This dialogue also presents an opportunity to address any queries or concerns, fostering a collaborative and well-informed approach to care.

When crafting a birth plan, expecting parents have a unique opportunity to express their preferences and desires for their child’s birth and care. For those who opt not to proceed with circumcision, it is crucial to explicitly state “Do Not Circumcise” in the birth plan. This direct and unequivocal communication with healthcare providers ensures that the medical team fully documents and comprehends the decision. A meticulously structured birth plan empowers parents to be staunch advocates for their child’s rights and choices right from the moment of birth, underscoring their unwavering commitment to upholding the child’s bodily autonomy.

Key Authority Figures and Forces Pressuring Circumcision

Navigating the social and cultural pressures surrounding the decision of circumcision can pose a significant challenge for parents. In specific communities or cultural traditions, circumcision is profoundly ingrained and regarded as a rite of passage or cultural norm. These expectations can exert considerable pressure on parents to conform to established practices. However, parents must remember that their decisions must prioritize the well-being and autonomy of their child. It is perfectly acceptable for parents to make choices that align with their values, beliefs, and desire to keep their son intact, above all else.

Having effective strategies for engaging in conversations about the circumcision decision is crucial for maintaining open and respectful dialogue with family members, friends, and healthcare providers. Providing educational resources and credible information can help dispel misconceptions and foster informed discussions. Encouraging open communication with healthcare providers is also paramount, including giving them a copy of your birthing preferences, such as clearly stating that your son will remain intact. Ultimately, navigating social and cultural pressures requires balancing respecting tradition and making decisions that prioritize the child’s best interests.

Key authority figures and forces that may exert pressure or influence regarding circumcision include:

Medical Professionals:

  • Pediatricians: Pediatricians often provide information about circumcision and may recommend it based on their medical expertise.
  • Obstetricians: Obstetricians may discuss circumcision options with parents during pregnancy or childbirth.

Religious Leaders:

  • Rabbis: In Jewish communities, rabbis play a central role in promoting and performing circumcision (bris or brit milah) on male infants as a religious covenant.
  • Imams: In Islamic traditions, imams or religious leaders may advocate for male circumcision as a religious practice (sunnah).

Family and Cultural Expectations:

  • Grandparents: Older generations within a family may strongly advocate for circumcision based on cultural or traditional beliefs.
  • Cultural Norms: Communities with deep-rooted circumcision traditions may place significant cultural pressure on parents to conform.

Peer Influence:

  • Friends and Relatives: Circumcision choices made by friends or relatives who have circumcised their sons can influence parental decisions.

Circumcision Misconceptions:

  • Health Benefits Misconceptions: Parents may be influenced by misconceptions about circumcision, such as the belief that it reduces the risk of certain diseases or infections.

Medical Institutions:

  • Hospital Policies: Some hospitals may have policies that present circumcision as a routine procedure, potentially influencing parental decisions.

Media and Information Sources:

  • Internet and Social Media: Online sources and social media platforms can disseminate information and opinions about circumcision, impacting parents’ perceptions.

Protecting Your Son from Circumcision 

To protect your son from such pressures, prioritize open and respectful communication. Engage in sincere conversations with your family, expressing your reasons for choosing not to opt for circumcision and seeking their understanding and support. Education plays a crucial role in this regard; provide them with reliable information about the pros and cons of circumcision, emphasizing your unwavering dedication to your child’s well-being and autonomy.

When faced with cultural or religious pressures, seek guidance from community leaders or members who share your perspective or advocate for individual choice. You can connect with like-minded individuals facing similar pressures by joining support groups or organizations championing bodily autonomy. Lastly, ensure that your healthcare provider is fully aware of your decision by explicitly stating it in your birth plan and discussing it during prenatal visits. Choose a provider who respects your choices and prioritizes informed consent, and be prepared to seek a second opinion if necessary. Ultimately, protecting your son from circumcision pressure requires the establishment of a robust support system, staying well-informed, and advocating for your child’s rights and choices.

Parenthood is a remarkable journey filled with choices that shape your child’s well-being and autonomy. When it comes to circumcision, it’s a deeply personal decision that requires thoughtful consideration. Remember that you can prioritize your child’s welfare despite cultural, medical, and societal pressures.

Seek knowledge, engage in open dialogue, and advocate for your child’s rights. The discourse around circumcision highlights the importance of individual choice, informed consent, and respecting bodily autonomy. By staying informed and standing up for your beliefs, you can protect your son and keep his body whole and his penis in its natural state. 

To learn more and join the conversation for change, explore the resources provided by Intact America, an organization dedicated to protecting children’s rights to make decisions about their bodies.

The 4 Authority Figures and Groups Who Will Pressure You to Circumcise (and What You Can Do)

The 4 Authority Figures and Groups Who Will Pressure You to Circumcise (and What You Can Do)

For centuries, the act of circumcision has been woven into the fabric of various cultures as a rite of passage, a religious edict, or a perceived medical necessity. Suppose you take a closer look at its history. In that case, it becomes evident that this practice, which involves the surgical removal of the foreskin from the male penis, has evolved in its justifications over time. Yet, as with many age-old customs, we are starting to witness this practice challenged on a larger scale. Today, more than ever, the debate around circumcision is not merely about its historical significance but also about the influential figures and authorities who fervently advocate for it. This article will explore the voices behind the push for circumcision and how to combat them to keep your child intact. 

Authority Figures and Groups That Will Pressure You to Circumcise

1) Medical Professionals

Historically, the medical community has been a significant proponent of circumcision. For many decades, medical professionals in various parts of the world, but especially in the United States, have recommended circumcision, emphasizing a blend of historical precedence and alleged health benefits. Traditionally, these perceived advantages ranged from hygienic reasons to preventing various infections and diseases.

Yet, underlying these medical endorsements, there are roots in historical and cultural biases. In the 19th century, for instance, circumcision was recommended as a preventative measure against masturbation, which was wrongly believed to lead to a long list of physical and psychological ailments. Over time, as this belief was debunked, the medical community shifted its focus to other potential benefits, such as a reduced risk of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and the transmission of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

These claims have been almost entirely disproven, and any risk has been revealed as statistically insignificant. Numerous studies have shown that, with proper hygiene and safe sexual practices, the medical benefits of circumcision do not outweigh the risks. Moreover, the ethical concerns associated with performing a non-consensual procedure on an infant have been brought to the forefront of the debate. If you find yourself in a position where a medical professional is advocating for circumcision, it’s crucial to be informed and prepared to discuss the topic. Here are some ways to approach this conversation:

  • Seek Clarification: Politely ask the doctor to elaborate on the specific medical reasons they believe circumcision is necessary for your child. 
  • Present Counter-Evidence: If you’ve done your research, share studies or medical opinions that challenge the traditional stance on circumcision. The medical community is vast, and views on this subject vary.
  • Ask About Alternatives: If the reasoning is centered on hygiene or the prevention of infections, ask about alternative methods to achieve the same results without resorting to surgery.
  • Express Your Ethical Concerns: It’s okay to discuss the ethical implications of circumcision, emphasizing the child’s lack of consent and potential long-term consequences. This will help you be more than capable of protecting your son from circumcision.
  • Seek a Second Opinion: If you’re feeling pressured or unsure, there’s no harm in consulting another medical professional to get a broader perspective on the issue. Always be firm, and remember, you can say “no.”

2) Religious Leaders

Various religions, including Judaism and Islam, have practiced ritual circumcision for millennia. In Judaism, the “brit milah” (covenant of circumcision) is performed on the eighth day of a male infant’s life, signifying the child’s entrance into the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Similarly, in Islam, circumcision is viewed as an act of cleanliness, often linked to the Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) covenant with God. However, there are alternatives to physical circumcision that can keep your son intact and still align with your religion. We’ve examined several of them in our article, Circumcision in The Bible if you want to learn more. 

Many religious followers are wrestling with the intersection of ancient traditions and contemporary ethical and medical considerations. If you’re among those questioning the religious imperative of circumcision within your faith community, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Educate Yourself on Religious Texts: Delve into your religious scriptures and teachings to understand the origins and significance of circumcision within your faith. Understanding the scriptural basis can provide a foundation for your conversations.
  • Seek Progressive Voices within Your Faith: Some progressive voices or subgroups might hold different views on traditional practices in many religions. Connect with such groups or individuals who offer alternative perspectives or interpretations.
  • Explore Ritual Alternatives: Some faith-based communities have started embracing symbolic ceremonies that honor the essence of the ritual without involving the physical act of circumcision. Research and propose such alternatives within your community.
  • Engage in Community Discussions: Foster an environment where members of your faith community can openly discuss the dangers and cons of circumcision, sharing personal experiences, medical evidence, and ethical considerations.

3) Family Members

The familial unit often carries its own beliefs and traditions, steeped in generations of practice and unspoken expectations. Circumcision, for many families, is one such tradition—a ritual passed down from fathers to sons, grandfathers to grandsons. 

Consequently, the decision to break away from this tradition can lead to familial tension, especially when older generations view circumcision as an unquestionable norm. Here are strategies to approach and discuss your anti-circumcision, pro-intact stance with family members:

  • Empathy First: Understand that for many older family members, circumcision is deeply intertwined with their cultural, religious, or personal beliefs. However, in the end, you have to be firm to protect your child and keep your son intact.
  • Share Personal Research: Provide well-researched information on the risks, dangers, and concerns surrounding circumcision.
  • Personalize the Discussion: Sharing your reasons and feelings can often be more effective than cold facts. Express your concerns, fears, and hopes for your child’s well-being. Help them see the issue through your eyes.
  • Find Common Ground: Establish shared values and concerns. For instance, you and your family want the best for your child. Use this as a starting point for the discussion.
  • Stay Calm and Avoid Confrontation: Heated arguments rarely lead to understanding. Even if faced with resistance, try to keep the conversation calm, respectful, and constructive.
  • Seek Support: If there are family members who share your views or are open-minded, engage them in the conversation. They can offer support and provide a different voice that resonates with the older generation.
  • Agree to Disagree: There might be instances where no amount of discussion will change deeply entrenched beliefs. In such cases, it’s essential to set boundaries respectfully and make choices that align with your convictions, even if they diverge from family traditions.

4) Mainstream Media

In the internet age, information is abundant but not consistently accurate. The topic of circumcision, too, is not immune to skewed representations, particularly in mainstream media. From movies that trivialize the procedure to news articles that selectively highlight purported “benefits” without providing a holistic view, misinformation is rife. This portrayal often serves to perpetuate the normalization of circumcision, obscuring the controversies and concerns surrounding the practice.

Here’s how to approach the media’s representation of circumcision and discern reliable information from biased narratives:

  • Recognize Stereotyping: Media, especially entertainment, often resorts to stereotypes. A circumcised penis might be presented as the “norm” or more “clean,” further perpetuating misconceptions. Recognize these instances for what they are: fictional representations and not factual endorsements.
  • Look Beyond Headlines: Sensational headlines are designed to grab attention, not to inform. Delve deeper into the article or news piece to understand the nuances of the discussed topic.
  • Diversify Your Sources: Relying on a single source or type of media can provide a narrow view of the subject. Expand your horizons by seeking information from both mainstream and alternative outlets.
  • Check for Citations: Reliable articles or news stories cite studies, experts, or research. Take the time to verify these sources independently to ensure they are credible.
  • Beware of Confirmation Bias: Media consumers often gravitate towards news and information that aligns with our beliefs. However, it’s crucial to challenge ourselves and seek diverse viewpoints to understand the topic comprehensively.
  • Educate and Share: As you gather accurate information and insights, consider sharing them within your network. Counteracting misinformation begins with informed individuals taking the lead.

The Path to Informed Decision-Making

In a world of conflicting viewpoints and powerful voices vying for your attention, it is essential to ground oneself in well-researched, unbiased knowledge, especially on topics as personal, significant, and life-changing as circumcision. Being informed provides clarity and equips parents with the tools to confidently navigate external pressures and make choices that align with their child’s values and best interests.

The advantages of being well-informed are manifold:

  • Confidence in Decision-Making: Understanding the intricacies of circumcision, its history, the dangers of circumcision, and the surgical risks of circumcision gives parents the confidence to make decisions free from external pressures or emotional manipulation.
  • Ability to Engage in Constructive Dialogue: When confronted with strong opinions, being knowledgeable allows parents to engage in productive conversations, provide counterarguments, and potentially enlighten others about their findings.
  • Emotional Preparedness: Making decisions about circumcision can be emotional. Being informed allows parents to feel a sense of peace with their choices, knowing they acted based on sound knowledge rather than fleeting emotions or pressure.
  • Protection Against Manipulation: An informed individual is less susceptible to being swayed by misleading narratives or biased information.

To learn more about how to protect your child from circumcision, take a look at Georganne Chapin’s memoir,  This Penis Business. Besides highlighting the path that led to her becoming executive director of Intact America and a leader in the intactivist movement, Chapin clarifies the commercial and historical motivations behind circumcision while highlighting its lasting physical, sexual, and psychological repercussions. Revealing shocking practices like the commercial repurposing of foreskins and the pressures placed upon expectant mothers, this book serves as a powerful wake-up call, challenging readers to question and confront the enduring impacts of the multi-billion-dollar circumcision industry.