I am not anti-circumcision.
Really, I’m not. I’m not against any particular type of surgery- that idea is downright silly. Science has allowed us to make huge life saving, comfort-making leaps in how we’re able to respond to and care for our bodies and that fact should be both valued and employed as often as possible; it makes no sense to deny that type of progress. If your body experiences a problem that can be solved by advances in western medicine, by all means, utilize it. (Assuming you have affordable healthcare, but that’s another story altogether)
I am also not anti-tattoo, anti-piercing or anti-augmentation of whatever floats your boat as a consenting adult. Your body, your rights. What I am very strongly against is the routine circumcision of infant males in America and the framing of it as harmless and helpful by professionals and society.
There’s a difference.
We take time to learn about best pregnancy foods and delivery methods, then diapers, breastfeeding, formulas, car seats, cosleeping, immunizations, babywearing, first foods, etc, etc, etc about our babies- but we systematically and casually remove not only something completely functional, but one of the most sensitive parts of our son’s bodies within 72 hours of life with highly questionable anesthetic and without question itself? What?!
It doesn’t make sense not to learn about. If you’ve been holding back from learning about routine infant circumcision (RIC), I encourage to ask yourself why and remind you that there is absolutely no shame in education.
Let me take a minute for people new/hesitant to this subject or who might be afraid of feeling regret– those of you not in that category, feel free to scroll through the starred section and get right to the information.
I get why some may choose not to identify with intactivism or its extremists, truly. I’d have been cut if I were born male in 1980. If my first son’s father wasn’t intact, I may have made a different choice with him that would have impacted my next two boys differently. In allowing my past self space to have possibly made that choice under different circumstances, I have to have empathy for those that have.
A huge amount of compassion is owed to those that didn’t know better sooner and would have chosen differently, which is why I write now. Space is also owed for those that are happily circumcised or would choose to repeat their choice to (be) cut after knowing the facts. The problem is in tacitly avoiding the cognitive dissonance and feelings surrounding the subject. The problem is in making an uninformed, permanent choice for another person’s body.
Avoidance of the discomfort of learning things that challenge our current beliefs is how damage, ignorance and stigma get passed on.
TRUUUUST ME; as a bereaved (SUDC) parent, I know very deeply how it feels to have to address a past that doesn’t make sense and hurts and how hard it can be to find a way to carry it into the future. I don’t have regrets about how I mothered Patrick and I’m grateful surgery was never a part of his life, but learning to hold space for things I don’t want to feel is still something I struggle with daily. I’ve been trying to find ways to reinforce the walls of my own damaged bubble since losing him and only recently in therapy have I learned that not only does that bubble exist, but that I need to step out of it, however painful the process- like a Truman Show my head custom made to distract me.
The point is that we’re all guilty of trying to assuage our hearts and justify our actions in the ways we’ve been taught, so it’s doubly important as parents that we learn and model the most healthy, effective ways to process difficulties and change so that we not only help ourselves, but set the best model possible for the future. It’s also important to learn, to grow, to respond to others and ourselves gently– this is how we allow for carefully changing the world into a more loving, informed place. I love thinking of that ripple effect, especially for my children and grandchildren. They don’t deserve the compulsory societal decisions or mistakes of past generations or of our own… they deserve so much more.
Our job as parents is to provide a youth full of empathy and education for the people we create, and to inflict and pass on as little damage as possible in the process so they’re able to survive their childhoods whole and in body, mind, and spirit alike, having gained the tools and experience to make what decisions they see fit. Their bodies, their lives; I just want them to have the knowledge of how to take care of them as well as the ability and authority to, no matter their gender (identity).
I get to why you don’t deserve shaming in this next part, but it’s located post-stars, because it’s important for everyone to read, not just the people who are new/hesitant to the subject. I love you guys.
Let’s start with the history– this is a super simple video and shouldn’t raise your eyebrows too much.
Most Americans have grown up with circumcision being normalized and even encouraged- many people have never given it a second thought. It’s routine. This means the responsibility of culturally encouraged circumcision doesn’t rest squarely on the parents, which is where I see a divide in the intactivist community. I have seen many women shamed and/or attacked because of their decisions, which rarely procures a positive, more educated outcome. Shaming is a terrible bullying tool that nearly always backfires when attempting to use it to educate our children, ourselves or our peers; acknowledging that it may be present in those who aren’t yet informed requires an empathetic approach.
For those of you struggling with shame for this or any other reason, I encourage you to spend a few minutes here: http://go.ted.com/CE3j.
It’s important for all of us to realize that any implied blame and/or shame of RIC lies in the culture where it’s not “normal” to know or do any better when it comes to routine cosmetic surgery on babies. The blame belongs in the system that encourages ignorance and fear when it comes to circumcision education and that benefits from the cutting of male foreskin. The blame belongs in the society that holds ego over education and in lies in the laps of those that avoid the subject, even for the sake of their sons and of future generations.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou: We do our best, and when we know better, we do better. I want to gently help move the latter along.
So, what makes a foreskin important- and downright awesome?
When a boy is circumcised, so is the man he becomes. Think of the men who are lacking an entire realm of sexual pleasure and function beyond their current magnificent, highly sought after abilities and their partners who could be experiencing that increased pleasure as well. (Seeya, lube! There’s always things things like the TLC Tugger for men who have been cosmetically altered and are interested in foreskin restoration, but I digress…) There is a supportive and informative post for circumcised men and their partners here.
Almost every penis I’ve ever seen in person or on film is cut. (The latter ratios have changed since learning what I’ve shared here, but I digress…) It’s completely normalized in America to have an altered penis. The problem is that it shouldn’t be, and we shouldn’t be afraid of obvious, scientifically and rest-of-the-world backed, much needed change in a first world country that’s supposed to be considered one of the most progressive. Why are we so far behind?
Female genital mutilation is already basically seen as universally barbaric- what is the difference between that and the procedure on a male, and why? I don’t know about you, but my clit is one of my very favorite body parts and I can’t and don’t want to imagine (so I get the difficulty in learning about circumcision as a cut male, absolutely) what my life would be like if I knew what I know now and learned someone had cut it off when I was a few days old- or ever, which is exactly what circumcision is on a female. HAHAHAHHAAAAAAA OMG NO. fucking. way. Literally.
Count me in with Jack Black around the 1:00 mark.
I’m not asking you to think in the same way as me, I’m asking that you think about RIC in the first place. We shouldn’t fear education; letting fear, shame, or extremists hold us back from advancing is the opposite of what I’m -and hopefully you’re- about here. At the bottom of this post are some of the best/most logical and well put together links I’ve seen on the subject, plus the most informational video/talk I’ve found so far. Please remember, if you think you are uncomfortable in simply learning about the procedure and the post-effects, consider the millions of baby boys who have suffered through it because so many feel the same and don’t want to be the one to learn or to speak out.
It is your right and duty to question routine infant circumcision.
How you process the answers that you find, like any other parenting and life decisions, are up to you- but for the sake of future generations, don’t make uninformed ones when it comes to permanently altering a fully functional, useful, sensitive part of your baby’s body.
For further reading:
Thanks to Ruthie Davis for help with links, this pic,
for years of defending the rights of American baby boys
and being my very best friend.