Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Changing minds about circumcision: It's possible

Being an intactivist isn't always easy.  I've encountered so much willful ignorance that it is painful.  On the Saving Penises facebook page (become a fan!), I asked members about changing minds about circumcision.  If they had been previously pro-circ, what brought them to be an intactivist?  I also asked about what, in their experience, has helped people they know choose to keep their sons intact.  Their responses proved even further to me that minds can and DO change, and that this is a cause well worth every bit of effort we put into it.  You can read them below, and feel free to add your own via comment.

Please consider donating to the circumcision info pack fund.  It is non-profit, and helps vital information get into the hands of people that would otherwise not have access to it.  The pack includes studies, articles, and 3 dvds with multiple videos on each.  Each pack costs about $10 to make, so every dollar donated helps!  You can help change a baby boy's life just by donating your coffee money for one day.

These packs are created and distributed by Danelle Frisbie from Peaceful Parenting.  You can donate to this cause via paypal to
Visit her site if you'd like to request an info pack.
"I ended up doing a circ on my son, mainly due to the pressures put on me by family and domestic partner. I wish that I would not have done it. I knew when I let them take him back to the nursery, that I was not comfortable with the decision. Turns out, he got an infection. He now has a scar, that is easily irritated and inflamed. I have been told that no permanent damage was caused, but I have little trust in what "experts" know about what side effects there might be. It's just not worth it, these routine procedures are botched more often than any of us know. The more and more mothers that I have talked to since our experience, has really opened my eyes (and also brought my heart much regret)."

"I had both my boys circed. What changed my mind was when we had our 2nd one done, and I waited outside in the waiting room and could hear him screaming, and then when the dr called me in to the room to "see if it was ok" and my poor baby was strapped to a horrible looking contraption with blood everywhere. I would NEVER do that again. Whoever said they sleep through it was full of it!" -Melanie C.

"When pregnant with our first child my husband and I were both pretty much for it, even without reseaching the pros or cons. We were just going on things we had heard, the usual story; cleaner, easier, wouldn't want our son to have to have it done later in life, etc. We had a girl so there was no issue.

When I was pregnant with our second baby we found out the sex and then had to think a lot more about the issue. We were having a boy! We discussed the topic and I read a few threads in parenting forums, both pro and anti. I read up a little about the Plastibell technique and we came to the conclusion that circumsion was the right way to go.We spoke to our doctor and it would be done when our son was about 8 weeks old.

Not a great deal more discussion followed apart from a few relatives asking and one (my male cousin) saying "No don't do it he'll hate you!" So I was swayed and undecided until we brought our precious baby son home. He was so tiny, so perfect, so iinnocent, I just couldn't imagine doing that to him.

I'm a strong believer in "everything happens for a reason" and now I'm a believer in "everything is there for a reason" Why take it away?" -M B, Austraila

"Before having children, my attitude was "Of course we would circumcise a boy! Doesn't everybody?" There were very few boys born in my family, and I had no idea what a foreskin looked like, much less any reasons for leaving it there.

While going through my first pregnancy, I started reading about the various newborn procedures, and when it came to circumcision I thought, "Well, I'm not male, so I'll let my husband decide whether to circ if we have a boy." We had a girl. Decision postponed.

By my second pregnancy three years later, my new parenting lifestyle and philosophies had formed. I had joined LLL and an AP moms group. I became a lactivist, a natural birth advocate and was learning that there was an anti-circ movement with very vocal members. I learned that the foreskin is a functioning part of the penis, that circumcision could reduce male sensation and that leaving boys intact was a human-rights issue.

I agreed. But nothing made such a difference as reading "As Nature Made Him" by John Colapinto. That book changed my world.

I picked it up out of curiosity because of the publicity surrounding its publication. I had read the original Rolling Stone article years back and knew something was important in here. I was horrified by what happened to David and sickened by the fact that ** more innocent baby boys were at risk of similar disfigurement.

That book made me an intactivist. I lobbied my husband's agreement that we would not circ any future baby boys. It's been an interesting debate in our household. We were still not in agreement when our second child was born. What a relief to me that she was a girl.

I am proud to now say that since April 2008, I am the mother of a sweet, perfect, intact little boy." -Doula Michelle, Mesa, AZ

"I had my first son (now 11yrs) circ'd because his dad insisted. He was done at the age of 9 years, the reason given was because of infections/dramas. 

I was 19 years old, he was my first baby.

I knew they were going to cut him, but I had no idea of what they were really doing. No one explained it to me, the GP (who we had to seek out to have it done) took him away and told us to go for a walk.

I can still remember being so upset about it, I think I cried a little. I remember being upset that he would have no pain relief.
He had the plasti bell, so I was not to bath him and just leave it alone. There was next to no bleeding, and he didn't fuss any more than he had before. He was 8 days old when we had it done.
I regret it deeply, but I have had to forgive myself and let it go.
My son is on the ASD, I don't know that circ will be an issue he thinks about as he grows.

When I was pregnant with my 3rd (with a different, yet circ'd partner) I researched. At first it was because I just couldn't imagine having someone take my baby away and cut them again.
Then I realised what they had done to my baby :(
We found out that she was a girl, but our next child is a boy.
I told my partner right up, if its a boy, I am not having him cut. He didn't really argue with me, not that I would have listened!
So now I have one son circ'd and one whole.
I am extremely proud of my choice to leave my baby complete. Every time I change his diaper I am so glad I was not ignorant like some people I know who still maintain this crap of 'daddy is done, so we had our boys done to be the same'.
It is something I feel VERY strongly about now and having been there and been misguided and allowed my baby to be altered, I feel I can speak from both points of view with a valid argument." -Becka Hitching

"From the very beginning the one thing that my partner and i always agreed on 100% was that no one would EVER cut our babies! it's a good thing we both feel the same because we both feel it so strongly and good thing for babies too of course! we dn't agrre on so very very many things we are like night & day - but seeing as how be both came into this baby making agreeing on this most important thing - well then we were made to be!

I do have a dear friend who is a pastor. she told me the news she was having a baby boy. the first thing out of my mouth was well trust me, don't circumscise him please. she said she hadn't thought about that but considering that her husband (also a pastor) was then he probably would be, etc.etc. Well i said remember when i was the vegetarian? and then you realized where i was coming from? i said just please look into this. i am pleased to say she called back and said that they did look into it together and both decided it was like cosmetic surgery for babies and that they just really were not into THAT. so maybe she missed out on what circumscision really is. or maybe that is all her husband could see it as - to defend himself from his own pain - and so to preserve his dignity she went with the cosmetic thing. whatever. she said expected her pediatrician might be a bit disapproving or whatever but that he said "it's nice to see some foreskin on a baby!" i am so glad for them!"

"The only memory I have of seeing a baby's penis was right after a circumcision. My mother explained to me that the baby was in pain because all baby boys get circumcised. It never came up again and I thought it was necessary.

When my husband and I started our relationship, he was the first intact man I had ever been with. It obviously didn't change my thought process on circumcision, because I was adamant about it when we found out I was pregnant. My husband fought me - he didn't understand why we needed to. I threw the normal misinformation at him. "It's cleaner" etc. The ultrasound came back and we were having a girl.

A lot of things that happened in my birth with my oldest were fresh in my mind when we got another positive pregnancy test. In researching natural birth and breastfeeding to try and get my ducks in a row, I ran into some intactivists. It may have been that my distrust in the way women and babies are treated near birth led me to think harder, but I clicked on one page. I'll never forget the skin bridges, necrolosis, circumcisions that were botched, too tight, too loose. And then I watched a video of newborn circumcision.

My husband came home and I just apologized. He was right. His penis was perfect, and why would I want to do less than that for our children? We made the vow that day that we would never circumcise a son. We have yet to have that little boy (we're pregnant with #3 whose gender will be a surprise until birth) but I thank God for the women who forced me on to better for that son when he comes to our family."

"Honestly, I never really was totally pro-circ. My brother is seven years younger than I am, so I know that he's not circumcised. When I got pregnant for the second time (my first child was a girl), I was on the fence when I found out that we were having a boy. When I found out that it would be nearly $400 to perform the circumcision and that it couldn't be done in the hospital (had to be done in the pediatrician's office), I guess I just decided it wasn't worth it. Soon after that, I read a lot of information that clearly supported that decision, and I am SO glad that we were kind of forced to keep our son intact. It's worth it, for sure.

Another thing that helped influence our decision even before we started having kids was the Penn and Teller episode about circumcision. It's really good - you can check it out.  And my blog is here:" - Tiffany Jordan

"I was pro-circ before I had a son. I knew nothing about it except (growing up in the Midwest) that, you have a son, you circ. What changed my mind so drastically was when I saw a video of one. I watched Penn and Teller's Bullshit as my very first exposure to anti-circ information and I was immediately a changed woman. I became sort of obsessed with finding information about circs and the benefits of being intact vs. circumcised. One VERY informative video that I love is, "Whose Body, Whose Rights" since instead of addressing mainly the medical aspect, it addresses the personal rights aspects which have given me alot of ammo to use against pro-circ arguments that include "everyone does it and circs are preferred."

Basically being informed as a whole as to WHAT exactly is involved in the procedure, the risks, the benefits of staying intact and testimonies of men who ARE intact is what I have used to educate others (my sister) and persuaded them to be pro-intact. This is also an excellent site with in-depth intact information:"

"I wouldn't say I was pro-circ; I was apathetic about it. When I was pregnant with my first I was very sure she was a girl (we didn't find out ahead of time), and I just decided that whatever my husband wanted was fine. It was the standard, "He's the one with the penis" line of thought. He is circumcised, and he said he thought we should do it. Fortunately, I was right and she was a girl.

Between my first and second, I researched circumcision a lot as part of becoming a childbirth educator and doula, and what I realized was that there was simply no excuse or valid reason for doing it. I was more relieved than ever that my first had been a girl, since I had given it so little thought. I showed my husband a video of a circumcision being performed, and he was horrified.

I've changed lots of minds in my classes. Reasonable people tend to decide against it when they see the actual facts about it. The ones who haven't changed their minds usually have done it for emotional reasons; I think for some men, it is just impossible to admit something important was taken from them. It's easier for them to perpetuate the violation than admit they were violated themselves."

"My three year old is circumcised. At the time, we had literally *just* had to have my 86 year old grandfather circumcised because of chronic UTIs. (As it was, that was a misdiagnoses. He actually had end stage renal failure..) I was terrified of my son ever having to go through it as an adult. I regretted it less than an hour later.. I regretted it more so a week later when we had to have it redone & I cried everytime I had to clean it. I still feel ashamed and sad for him when I'm giving him a bath and looking at the scar.
My 1 year old is NOT circumcised & I am thinking of ordering a TLC tugger for Luke for when he is older, incase they arent available in years."

"When I became pregnant for the first time, I really didn't have an opinion about circ. I thought I would have it done if my child was a boy, not bc I was pro-circ, I just thought you had to for hygiene. During my pregnancy, I began to research every aspect of birth. When I came to the circ decision, my husband and I watched a video of a circ being done, and that was all I needed to see to make my decision to leave any son that I have intact. I then began reading about the benefits of being intact which solidified our decision. I've since had 2 sons, both fully whole! :) My advice is: Watch a video of circumcision!" -Jill

"I was not going to circumcise my son anyway, but the video they showed us in childbirth class made me feel confident in my decision! The video displayed the tool they use to do it and a before and after pic of a baby that had it done. Awful! Had I been pro-circ I would have definitely changed my mind. "

"My first assignment out of nursing school was in the Newborn Nursery in a tiny (23-bed) rural hospital in Death Valley. I was 19. I was all the way across the country from my home. This was a true introduction to the circumcision question.

I'd never dated or been intimate with anyone who had the "turtle neck," so I only really only knew the "crew neck" look. I didn't realize that there was a question -- to cut or not to cut-- involved. I think I just took for granted that it was done for all newborn boys. I had to give the same speech to brand new parents: "It's cleaner." "It's safer." "Less STD risk." "He'll match his dad." "It's easier because you don't have to teach him how to do all the cleaning." Oh, and I kid you not: "Most people just go ahead and get it done." And this particular hospital being on a military base, the average maternal age was *significantly* lower than the national average. (Not a diss; just the facts, y'all.) Not to mention the amount of women delivering their little male bundles of joy while their Sailor or Marine was deployed. This meant many more impressionable, often frightened and/or overwhelmed new mommies.

During my assignment in the Newborn Nursery, I assisted with Gomco circumcisions and Plasti-bell circumcisions. I prepped tables with knives, clamping devices, and other instruments. I strapped baby boys in to the restraints for pediatricians and family practitioners. I stood by when a pediatric urologist had to be called from the local teaching hospital because "something went wrong." I had to tell countless parents that under NO circumstance were they allowed to be present in the room to comfort their son during the procedure and then return to them a traumatized, screaming precious baby.

The reality is this: There is VERY seldom any numbing agent used. There is ALWAYS restraint of the baby on a hard plastic "baby mold" with velcro wrist and ankle straps. There is ALWAYS bleeding. There is ALWAYS pain. There is a NEVER a choice given to that little man on whether or not he wants to be mutilated. Just as you teach your daughter about hygiene related to menstrual cycles, there is ALWAYS a way for you to teach your son how to care for his body without removing a portion of it.

You asked what made me change my mind? Answer: Assisting with hundreds of infant-mutilations just for the sake of convenience so you don't have to teach little boys to clean their gear or father & son matching wangs." -Amazing Amanda

"In all the time I spent as a teenager and young adult in my early 20's babysitting and working in daycare, the "normal" penis I saw was circumcised. There was one boy that wasn't, and even though I wasn't used to it, I never saw anything wrong with him. I never had any brothers growing up, so the topic was really non-existant to me. It was when my twin sister and I were older, married and starting to have our own babies that I became more aware of it. When she announced her first pregnancy, I was surprised that along with "Congratulations", the next thing I thought to say was "I hope it's a girl so you don't have to think about the circumcision". She did have a girl. Then, I had a girl, she had two more girls, and I then in April 2008, I found out that the baby I was carrying was a little boy!! I cried on the table when the ultrasonagrapher told me. She said "You're so happy about it being a boy", and I replied "Yes, I am. But now I have to think about the circumcision". 

I happily made the phone calls informing friends and relatives that we were having a boy. About a week later, I was taking my daughter for our normal morning walk and I ran into a neighbor who had delivered her son two months earlier, and I told her that I was also expecting a boy. I decided to ask her about her decision, and she told me that she did circ him, and that he was just fine. She said that they used "some kind of laser", and that the baby slept through it all. Well, I knew that there was no way a baby would or could sleep through a circ, regardless of the method that was used. I am also a stickler for information, and I started doing an immense amount of research about how it's done. I was surprised that she didn't have more information to offer me. It felt to me that she didn't care enough to be informed one way or another, and that bothered me.

After about 2 hours of research, I nearly puked. I was so upset and horrified about what I had read and watched (the newborn video). I was even more upset that I hadn't educated myself about it earlier, just because I hadn't needed to, feeling "blessed" over having had only a daughter and nieces up to this point. How selfish of me! I already knew that there was no way I could do that to a baby, and I immediately told my husband how I felt. We hadn't talked about it either way until then, but he was NOT happy with me. He gave me all of the usual arguements which just irritated me, but I tried not to fault him. He didn't know any other way and hadn't really thought about it. So, I simply showed him the video, and we never had to discuss it again.

Our son was born in August 2008, and he is perfectly intact! I have prided myself in learning all I can about how to care for him, and even told his pediatrician to not retract his foreskin during his well-baby visits. I was also very relieved when my sister called me before my son was born and said "I have all girls, so I have no right to ask you this, but PLEASE don't circumcise your baby"! I told her she had every right to ask me not to mutilate her nephew! LOL

I find myself getting really mad at people who still circ their sons, even after I inform them that there is no medical reason to do it, it hurts, any numbing meds that MIGHT be administered don't work 100% and that the baby is traumatized. Not to mention all of the complications, including amputation and death that can occur! I have had a few freinds have baby boys after me, and I know that I have to respect their decision. It sickens me that people buy into the "They said he didn't cry", "he slept so well afterward" or "they said he only made a tiny peep". I think that if a parent decides to go ahead with a circ that they should watch the video of one being done first. I'm sure that most Doctors wouldn't show that because it would sway most parents not to do it and they'd lose alot of money. If it could be shown as informational, I don't know. I just don't see how anyone in the medical profession can find it in their soul to strap a baby down and do this. Do they just become desensitized to the screams?

I find myself seeking out my son to hold him after I talk with expectant friends about not circumcising their sons, or just after doing more research. I still feel fear over the fact that people wanted that to happen to him. I just hold him, hug him and love the fact that I have no regret!" -April Braman


SherwooD said...

One friend of mine who had two sons, 13 and 15, mentioned that both times they were circ'd the nurses/ doctors commented on how large their penises were. It's so bizarre to me, first that we are already measuring their "manhood" as soon as their born (leading up to us altering nb's penises to look like erect adult penises), and second that we appreciate big penises, but we chop off so much off immediately after birth. Plus I've seen the too much skin removed botches and I feel really sorry for these guys.

Jill said...

When I was pregnant with my first, a boy, I never really gave much thought to circumcision. I just figured, that's what you do. An online friend, who incidentally is a well-known intactivist, asked me if I was going to circumcise. I said yes, and cited all the bullshit reasons: it's cleaner, it looks better, bla bla bla. He then proceeded to barrage me with information. At first I was defensive, in an "OMG, get your agenda off me, you bully!" kind of way. But the more he persisted, the more I realized what he was saying made sense. When I looked at the pros and cons on each side, the "reasons" for circumcision just looked so...stupid. Keeping him intact just seemed like such a better choice.

I'm glad now that my friend didn't just pat me on the head and go, "Whatever you feel is best, dear," like so many people do because they're afraid to offend a new mom. I say forget being PC. Speak the truth. You just might change someone's mind, like mine was changed.

Anonymous said...

I come from an intact family. I had a general idea about circumcision and that it was lame, as in cosmetic, but I had never delved into anything deeper than that impression.

So when we started dating as teens(I married my highschool sweetheart)he was actually the one to bring it up. He was cut as a baby and had stumbled across circumcision sites as a young teen. It helped him put a lot of things together (nightmares, odd fears such as a fear of hospitals and being restrained, etc). He was absolutely adamant that he would never let one of his children be mutilated.

I of course had no problems with this and as we continued into marriage and pregnancy, I began researching it more and now consider myself a flaming intactivist.

Infant circumcision is a form of rape, it is clearly mutilation even by the very definition, it is harmful and has no reason whatsoever to be in our society at all.


Anonymous said...

A reason I've heard a lot for having boys cut is "so he'll look like Daddy."

The thing is, a baby boy's penis just doesn't look like an adult's penis. There's hair, for one thing.

Anonymous said...

My son is 11 and we kept him intact because his father insisted. (And we live in ultra-conservative Utah, where this issue isn't usually even brought up.) I probably would have gone along with the crowd and had him circumcised. I'm glad my husband had the guts to bring it up with me and with the doctor. What a guy :)

Anonymous said...

I had my son circ and I don't regret it. There is nothing wrong with it. If they get it done as a baby they don't even remember it. Just like when they get vaccinations, they cry, then forget. I think that everybody has there own opinion and is entitled to it. And I don't think that in-activists should try to shove their opinion down other peoples throats.

Jennifer W. said...

I *do* feel bad about having my oldest circ'd. And even when I did learn about the truth about it, it was difficult to convince my otherwise supportive in all things husband that is was ok for Little Two to look different from his daddy and brother. Things have to change somewhere. When people ask how I will explain their differences, I have 2 in mind. When they are younger, something as simple as "Everybody's body is different." As they get older, "We make it our goal to learn everyday. I learned a great deal in the time between your births, and one thing I learned was that it wasn't necessary as I had thought it was." Of course, their transition earth-side was SO different from each other (c-section followed by HBAC!), this is just one more thing to add to the list.

Lauren said...

Anonymous...your post regarding not regretting cutting your son is ludicrous!! Not remembering being cut does NOT make it okay! RIC is cosmetic surgery and has no medical benefits! By your "logic," I should then be able to give my baby girls nose jobs or breast enhancements, since they won't remember it. *pfffffft*
Opinions on RIC don't matter in the slightest, since it's a FACTUAL issue. The facts say that circ is painful, has no medical benefits, and carries the risk of MRSA, hemorrhage, and penile loss, to name a FEW. Congratulations on mutiliating your perfect little boy.
And don't even start on vaccines here. Many of us do NOT vaccinate, since we believe they do more harm than good. Even those of us who do shots are doing it for a MEDICAL purpose....not cosmetic!

Jennifer Wege said...

When I first got married, I thought, "Of course we'll circumcise our sons. Isn't that what you do when you have a boy?"

Not long after, I joined Facebook and was eventually led, through a friend, to Crunchy Domestic Goddess. From there I found Woman, Uncensored and Peaceful Parenting. As I read through the archived articles, I discovered that not everyone in the US circumcises their sons. I'd had no idea.

I can't say exactly what changed my mind but now I am no longer ignorant of such an important topic. I am glad that I got the information and that I was able to see a video of what actually occurs during a circumcision. Seeing that poor baby scream broke my heart. I am now a very vocal intactivist and I am working on convincing my husband, as well. We don't have any children yet but, I want him to have his mind made up against cutting before we do.

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