Talking Points – I

Talking Points is a three-part compilation by Georganne Chapin of what she learned firsthand and also from experiences other intactivists have shared with her. 

By now, I truly have no problem talking about foreskins, penises, smegma, circumcision complications, sex with intact or circumcised partners, docking, foreskin restoration, female genital mutilation, or pretty much any related topic you can throw my way. But I remember well how difficult it was at the beginning of my intactivist “career” when somebody would challenge me with arguments I knew were wrong-headed but didn’t know how to answer without sputtering, rolling my eyes, cursing or crying. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years—I hope they’ll be useful to you.

First, it’s important to find your own voice in talking about why you believe that boys (and all children) should be able to keep their natural genitals. Telling your personal story is always the most effective way to reach others, as nobody can argue with your experience or your true feelings.

My story: “I first learned about circumcision when my baby brother came home from the hospital and his penis was swollen and bloody. After that, I started wondering how it could be that all baby boys were born needing surgery. It just didn’t make sense to me.”

If my conversation mate wants to hear more, I might tell them some facts—for example, that meatal stenosis (closing of the urinary opening in the penis, something that also happened to my brother) is a complication that ONLY occurs in boys who’ve been circumcised.

Second, it’s always helpful to find some common ground, but without crossing into your conversation mate’s personal space. Keep it general and open-ended.

I’ve been surprised many times, in both directions—people I felt would agree that cutting a child’s genitals was a problem actually defended the practice, while people I thought would be in favor of circumcision turned out to think it’s strange and barbaric.

In a first-time conversation, I’ll often say, “You know, most Americans don’t give circumcision a thought; they don’t realize that we’re the only country in the world where doctors routinely cut off the ends of baby boys’ penises.” The person you’re talking with might not know this either; but now s/he’s learned something important, without being called (or having to admit to being) ignorant.

[Talking Points – II]