Get FREE access to my newsletter, exclusive coupon codes, and links to Mommypotamus recommended products for your health and home!

The Accidental Intactivist

Affiliate Disclosure | in Motherhood | by | with 157 Comments


Scott Cole Likes Saving Penises

This phrase showed up on my Facebook stream a few days ago and gave me a good laugh. Do you wonder what he’s saving them for? Or do you already know? (P.S. I did ask Scott’s permission to use his name)

Saving Penises (now Saving Our Sons) is an intactivist organization. Until recently I didn’t even know what an intactivist was. Then Dr. Momma posted one of my articles on her Facebook page and I found myself discussing human rights with a girl who has more piercings than I have pairs of shoes. You know what? She made a lot of sense.

If you’re not familiar with the term, an intactivist is “someone who loves, honors, respects and protects the rights of the child to an intact body. Someone who sees genital mutilation — of girls or boys — as a contradiction to that fundamental human right.”¹

Some intactivists seem to believe that parents who circumcise their sons are knowingly unleashing violence on them. I disagree, vehemently I might add.  But that’s the fringe. The majority of intactivists are just regular people from all walks of life: doctors, college students, CEO’s and moms. They see circumcision as a human rights issue, which at first seemed like kind of an extreme perspective. Now . . . not so much.

I wanted to stay neutral, I really did. I wanted to be able to say, “It’s not right for our family, but I support a parent’s choice to do it.” That would have been so much easier  . . . but they’ve won me over.

It was an accident, I promise.

Like I said, though, they make some pretty solid points. Here are some myths they broke down for me.

Myth #1:Circumcision is Not Traumatic

Until 1987, doctors routinely performed open-heart surgery on infants without anesthesia because some guy in 1872 postulated that they couldn’t feel pain.² This is medical egoism at its highest. Babies can’t feel pain because their “their nerves are not completely myelinated?” Please.

Thanks to the “babies can’t feel pain” ruse, countless children have been subjected to circumcision without anesthesia for nothing more than cosmetic purposes.

Scientists have now shown that “newborn babies have a ‘unique’ nervous system that makes them respond differently to pain from adults. In research that has far-reaching implications for the medical and surgical treatment of infants, the experts have found that newborn children feel pain longer and more sensitively. And in premature babies, the mechanism that allows older children and adults to “dampen down” the pain messages does not work properly.”³ It’s so sad that we needed studies to tell us what is just common sense.

So, babies can feel pain. But is that a reason not to circumcise? I mean, we have to subject babies to the PKU test when they’re born. Isn’t this about the same intensity? No, it’s not. When I first saw these images of a newborn being circumcised it erased all doubt in my mind that it’s just a simple snip. Everything in that boys expression says to me that he is traumatized. Many experts agree with me, but there are still many doctors who were educated in the “babies don’t feel pain” era promoting this as a painless procedure. Maybe that’s true for a few boys. I’ve heard some women have org*smic births . . . there could be the same kind of rare instance here. But for the majority of newborns, circumcision is excruciatingly painful.

But Even If It Is, They Don’t Remember

Some people believe babies can endure all kinds of unpleasant experiences, like crying it out (CIO) or circumcision, with no lasting effect (because they don’t “remember” it). I have a different opinion, which says,

People cannot consciously recall what they “learned” in the first year of life, because the brain structures that store narrative memory are not yet developed. But neuropsychological research has established that human beings have a far more powerful memory system imprinted in their nervous systems called intrinsic memory. Intrinsic memory encodes the emotional aspects of early experience.”

Article by Dr. Gabor Maté, co-author of Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter Than Peers

So, they DO remember. But if they didn’t would that make it okay? As one blogger wrote, “is ‘not remembering’ what is supposed to make circumcising healthy children OK? If a man uses a drug to have his way with a woman, does it make it OK if she ‘can’t remember?’ Does this rationale work in any other context? . . . Is stealing from a blind man better than stealing from a man that can see because “what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him?” Or is stealing wrong in principle?”

What’s The Big Deal? It’s Just a Little Flesh

The foreskin is not some useless piece of flesh. Megan, mother of Anton, had this to say about what she learned after her son was circumcised:

There is an ACTUAL purpose for the foreskin!!! It is an amazing and miraculous purpose, it does exactly what God designed it for. Every male mammal was born with a foreskin, it’s not useless, it’s also not just a piece of skin to clip off. (which is what I thought, I compared it in my head to a skin tag being removed by scissors so NOT the case)

The foreskin is FUSED to the glans (head) of the penis, like your finger nail is fused to your finger, in order to remove the foreskin you literally have to RIP it from the glans. Rip it, those words just play over and over in my head… I didn’t know at the time that the foreskin is fused to keep out all debris, and to help PREVENT children from getting UTI’s and infections as long as the skin is not forcibly retracted ( this is why there is SO much mis information out there, boys were being forcibly retracted, the foreskin pulled back and being ripped from the glans before it naturally retracted which causes a lot of problems such as UTI’s and um PAIN!!) In fact little girls are way more likely to get a UTI than an intact boy.But we just treat them with antibiotics.

There are A LOT more functions of the foreskin, I encourage you to look them up!! This is just the one that struck me the most!!!

Biggest Regret (emphasis mine)

What Happened To “Do No Harm”?

The first principle of medicine is, “First, do no harm.” What reason does a doctor have to remove healthy, living tissue when no disease is present?

The medical community needs to stop hiding behind myths like “it’s cleaner . . . it prevents transmission of STD’s . . . it prevents penile cancer.” That stuff is bunk and it needs to stop being told to parents in an effort to sell them on circumcision. Cutting off the foreskin is not a risk-free procedure. In an older article from Mothering Magazine these stats were given:

One-month-old Ryleigh Roman Bryan McWillis died in August 2002 after suffering severe hemorrhage from his circumcision. The Canadian-born baby had a normal-term birth, with no complications or problems. In August 2003, a four-week-old Irish infant named Callis Osaghae died of severe blood loss just hours after a routine circumcision. Complications from the circumcision of three-week-old Dustin Evans of Cleveland, Ohio, led his doctors to perform additional surgery to unblock the baby’s urethra. Unfortunately, he never made it to the actual surgery, instead dying as anesthesia was administered.

In a more recently story, Lance’s  mom shares what happened when she returned to the clinic that performed a circumcision on her son just a few hours earlier. His diaper was full of blood:

They sent us across the street directly to another surgeon’s office. He called us back, took off Lance”s diaper and said, “Oh no – they’ve cut all the skin off.” He sent us to the emergency department at the hospital where they performed an emergency surgery to stitch the top of Lantz’s penis to the baby fat around the base to stop the bleeding. The doctor had cut all the skin off the shaft of Lantz’s penis. He bled for eight hours.

Lance’s Story

And of course there’s the story of David Reimer, whose penis was accidentally destroyed during a routine, medically unnecessary circumcision. He was forced to live as a girl throughout his childhood and ultimately committed suicide.

Shouldn’t It Ultimately Be The Parent’s Choice?

Especially for religious reasons, right? I’ll admit, even after I became convinced that circumcision is painful and unnecessary, it was still difficult for me to say that I am categorically against it. It is STILL difficult for me to say, because as a Christian I have deep respect for my Jewish roots and the traditions associated with it. But five things come to mind. First, modern circumcision is far more brutal than the procedure of the Old Testament.

The circumcision that Abraham and his descendants practiced was something entirely different from modern circumcision. It merely involved cutting the tip of the foreskin, not removing it! This is both a historical and an archaeological fact that can be found in any reference book of ancient culture.

What the Bible Really Says About Routine Infant Circumcision

Second, Christians are commanded to refrain from it.

~1 Cor. 7:17 “As God has called each man, in this manner let him walk. And thus I command in all the churches. Was any man called in the circumcision [i.e. Old Covenant]? Let him not try to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in the uncircumcision [i.e. New Covenant]? Let him not be circumcised! Circumcision is nothing. And uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called.

My third point can best be summed up by Joseph GI:

When Did We Decide What Is “Tradition” and What Is “Torture?”

This is where female circumcision comes into the picture, because as a nation, we have decided that in no way shape or form will we tolerate female circumcision, or “female genital mutilation” as we so brazenly call it, in this country. In May of 2010, the AAP tried advocate for a “ritual nick” for girls, on the premise that “it might deter parents from taking their daughters to other countries to have more severe procedures done.” This caused an uproar across the globe.

. . . In countries where girls are circumcised, it is thought of as an important religious and/or cultural “custom.” But isn’t it a double-standard to be advocating for “freedom” for one ethnic group and their traditions, but denying it in another?

. . . Male circumcision may be an important religious tradition for some peoples, but if we respect and protect “religion and culture,” why is it we protect only male circumcision on those grounds? When did we decide that cutting the genitals of one sex was “tradition”, but cutting the genitals of the other sex is “mutilation?” It’s a double-standard that I think this country needs to do some soul-searching on.

Fourth, circumcision for religious reasons would be much more meaningful if the individual being “consecrated” were able to do so of his own volition. Why not wait until he is old enough to choose for himself?

And last, how far do parents rights go? What if I want to give my son a tattoo to consecrate him to God? What if I took Katie to Deep Ellum and asked someone to pierce her belly button? Do you think anyone would do THAT? Making irreversible alterations to children’s bodies without their consent just doesn’t make much sense in that context, does it?

The Faces of Several Dear Friends . . .

Are flashing before my mind right now . . . friends who circumcised and don’t need any more guilt heaped on them. Friends who dread the conversation they will someday have with their boys about why they chose this for them. Many of them have openly expressed their regrets, which in my opinion is one of the most courageous things a parent can do.

I don’t judge anyone for their decision to circumcise. This procedure has been marketed to parents as a cure for bedwetting, clubfoot, epilepsy, a preventative for AIDS, cancer, UTI’s and everything in between. What loving parent wouldn’t want their child to be free from these things?

I am in awe of parents who chose circumcision and are now speaking against it. I have heard them say over and over that they wish they’d been fully informed, and that they’re spreading awareness so that other families don’t have to suffer. Without them I would have walked the same road.

I chose to keep my son intact. Not for religious reasons, or social, or even because I really knew what a foreskin was at the time. It was a choice Daddypotamus and I made because someone had the courage to tell us this was a painful and unnecessary cosmetic procedure. I’m incredibly grateful them for the risk they took in sharing this sensitive info with me, and I’m trying to do the same. I hope you’ve found this post thought provoking and worthwhile. Thanks for sticking through to the end. :)

Circumcision is a solution in search of a problem.” –Edward Wallerstein

What do you think? Should parents be allowed to circumcise their sons? Or should they refrain from doing anything, even for religious reasons, until the individual is old enough to consent?


Dr. Sears Statement on Circumcision


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

157 Responses to The Accidental Intactivist

  1. Julie Sutton Jones via FB says:

    I also tried not to judge other people about it, but I know w/o a doubt we made the right choice and don’t know how anyone could do that to their son. Guess people just don’t understand that it is only a cosmetic procedure. We are blessed to have an AMAZING dr. for our son who even told us it is purely cosmetic so she didn’t think we were crazy at all when we told her we didn’t want it done. Gotta order us some of those shirts from!!!

    • Heather says:

      Julie – I truly believe that most parents have NO IDEA what goes on in a routine circumcision. Even if they’re present the “babies don’t feel pain” dogma is still being used.

  2. Stephanie Spaulding Carruth via FB says:

    Thank you for this, Heather! I know the reasons why we didn’t circ, but it is hard for me to articulate that to others who feel differently. I am so thankful for Donna Ryan’s Bradley class, where she went very in depth about this topic. We had never even considered what we’d do if we had a boy. Thankfully, we learned before we had boys.

  3. Joanna Moore says:

    excellent post, heather. i’ve been thinking about blogging one about this for a while now… which i still may, and link this!

    as you know, i’m one of those parents you mentioned, and let me just say that i don’t feel any guilt coming from you. i made a mistake and i regret it so all i can do now (which i fully intend to) is try to inform other parents of the truth so that hopefully other little boys will be spared this terrible procedure.

    so, i shouldn’t have to say, but i will, that i definitely believe it should only be permitted if it is medically necessary (rare). no parent should have the right to subject their child to cosmetic mutilation. if it ever becomes outlawed (which hopefully it will), men can chose to have it done if they want when they’re of age (but i doubt many will).

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Joanna. You, of course, were one of the people I thought of as I wrote this post. I’ve very glad it did not offend you, and I would love to read your thoughts on the subject if you ever decide to write them.

    • Dave says:

      I am so very happy that my parents had me circumcised as are most friends of mine. That would suck even worse to have to go through it as an adult.

      • Tora Spigner RN says:

        The foreskin is not “extra skin”, it is part of the penis. In a newborn, it is adhered to the glans (head) of the penis like your fingernail to your finger. It protects the glans from drying out and diaper deposits and becomes retractable as the boy gets older. It has 20,000 nerves and is the most sexually sensitive part of a man. Removing it is like being color blind, you can see colors and it is good but you can’t get the full array of sight

      • blondie says:

        Dave, you say you’re ok with your circed penis….good for you. My hubby is more than happy with his whole penis (one that will not be losing sensitivity due to keritinization caused by years of chafing of the glans) and has said he would rather be dead than circumcised. I also enjoy his whole penis….foreskin feels amazing during sex!
        I have to ask, though, in the off chance you see this….what of the rest of your friends? You say ‘most’ are happy with being circed (even though you and they have no idea what having foreskin is even like). Your statement suggests at least some of your friends are UNhappily circed. Many are, and they have a right to be. Also, why would you assume you would ever NEED to be cut as an adult anyways? True medical need for circumcision is way less than .5%. The only number I’ve seen in regards to this is .001%. That is 1 in 10,000 men. I’m sure you’ll know someone who knows someone who ‘had to be circumcised’ for x,y, or z. Most often, the reason is made up, man made (such as phimosis, which is almost always caused by forced retraction, aka ‘pulling back the foreskin to scrub underneath’…the most damaging thing that can be done to an intact foreskin), or it is used as a first option treatment for various conditions,even unrelated ones (like UTIs or kidney diseases). Few circs are done in absolute necessity…many drs simply don’t have any desire to deal with one.

      • Fern says:

        My husband is very unhappy with being circumcised as an infant. He suffered through painful erections and shame that his penis is stuck in his scrotum. However, it took him 33 years to be able to admit this aloud. He kept his same secret and made it known that his sons would be circumcised because it was the best thing for them. There was no way that I would consent to having part of any of my children cut off, so he gave up. However, it took 5 more years of discussing this before he admitted to the physical problems he has with his penis, the shame of having penis problems, and the horror of realizing that his mother had part of his body amputated. There is a lot of shame associated with missing part of one’s sex organs and also horror that one’s parents choose to cut off part of one’s body. It takes great courage to face that and stop the cycle of abuse. The pro-FGM arguments are really the same as the pro-male-infant-circumcission arguments, but it’s difficult to more past our shame, fear, and anger to be able to see that.

  4. Michelle McCoy via FB says:

    What sucks for a mom like me is I let my husband decide because I do not have one and did not feel it was a decision I should make. I never did any research because I figured my husband knew better than I. Now that I know what I know I wish I had done research and informed my husband and discussed it longer as it was a short conversation that will effect my son the rest of his life. You are right seeing articles like this makes the mommy guilt worse. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

    • mare54 says:

      I cried for my son and my ignorance long ago….but I don’t feel guilt anymore. The regret will last a lifetime, but I can live with that because I know that now I am fully informed and try to share that knowledge with others. Ignorance isn’t bliss…’s a pit fall that others will fall into if we do not share the knowledge and experience that we have with others. When we know better…..we do better!!!

  5. Michelle Mccoy says:

    This made me cry for my son.

    • Heather says:

      Michelle – That breaks my heart to hear. Although someone warned me about this pitfall, please know that II have made huge, HUGE mistakes with my children. All I can say is that I love them with all my heart and I did the best I knew at the time, which I’m absolutely positive is true for you also. Is there a way I could have shared this information that would have been better?

      • Michelle Mccoy says:

        No not really. I think I am just emotional about it since recently he has had a penile adhesion. It is better now and the doctor says it is fine but it was very stressful for us. I know pull his penis back daily in the shower and hope I am not doing any long term damage to his self image of his penis. The doctor assures me he will be fine and wont remember but I can’t help but feel I have wronged him.

        • Michelle McCoy says:

          *now, not know sorry silly smart phone is not that smart sometimes lol

        • Heather says:

          Michelle, I am so sorry! That much be be very difficult. Your son is very blessed to have a mom so sensitive to and concerned for his well being.Please know that while I disagree with this procedure I also believe that love heals all kinds of mistakes, including the MANY I am guilty of with my own children.

  6. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @Michelle Oh, I wish I could say something to soothe your heart! Ignorance can be bliss :(

  7. The Table of Promise says:

    I can’t help but feel that I have stumbled into the Twilight Zone.
    I have heard all of this before. And I appreciate that you have titled your post The ACCIDENTAL Intactivist. But it isn’t enough to help me swallow the bitter truths that you have laid out here.

    I have two boys and a husband. They are all circumcised. I do not dispute anything that you have written here, except possibly that whole thing about the children remembering it. If somehow someone is going to say that there is a chance that my sons will have repressed mental issues as a result of being circumcised, well I’d say that would be a stretch. I am open to being proved wrong (I really am, I promise), but seeing as how I know dozens and dozens of adult men who are most likely circumcised who do not have repressed emotional problems, I kind of doubt it.

    Perhaps I would make a different decision now than I did several years ago when my children were born. But I wanted my kids to look like their father, and that was the reason I chose it. Did I mutilate my children? I certainly don’t think so. I feel horribly for those children and their parents that had circumcisions gone wrong. But what about the MILLIONS of circumcisions where things go right? You don’t actually give the actual statistics of how many circumcisions have complications.

    Your article gives some great information for mothers choosing whether to circumcise their unborn children. And thank you for that. But for those of us who didn’t get crunchy until after we had our kids—what do you offer us? One sentence about how you don’t judge us, and two paragraphs about other parents who have also chosen not to circumcise, and who also don’t judge me. I think I might actually feel more judged (and maybe slightly insulted) as a result of your letter to parents of circumcised boys.

    You’re right, I DON’T need more guilt piled on me. This post made me feel completely alienated.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for your honest response. The potential to heap grief and regret on parents have made this choice has been a huge deterrent for me when writing about this issue. However, I think the main reason this practice continues is that there is so much misinformation out there, and the only way to dispel it is to speak up. Even so, I’m sorry for the way my words have hurt you. I truly am.

      Regarding whether or not they remember, I did run across a study indicating that boys who were circumcised demonstrate lower pain tolerances throughout life, so it seems to have some kind of lasting effect. Another study suggests some boys exhibit signs of PTSD following the procedure. I chose not to put this information in the post, but I don’t want you to think I am drawing conclusions from nowhere.

      Regarding the millions that have been circumcised: Unfortunately most complications are not detected until puberty or even after that, and by that point people rarely think to connect the problem with circumcision.

      I deeply regret my failings in this article, which you have accurately pointed out. I truly hurt for parents who now regret their decision, but it’s so difficult to express with words alone. I am so sorry that you feel alienated, insulted and judged. I wish I had done better.

      • mare54 says:

        Honestly…. I don’t agree. Any parent who allowed this to happen to their baby should come to grips with it and try to heal, not make excuses. Saying you feel alienated, insulted or judged…..are just excuses to make yourself feel less responsible, I should know! The only way to heal is to set aside the excuses and look at the facts and acknowledge what was done and make a commitment to do better in the future.

        • Sarah says:

          My husband did have issues that are from being circumcised (physical and emotional), which he recognized after doing research into keeping our son intact. We are Jewish and it was a huge deal for us to refuse circumcision. My husband was forced to confront his mother as an adult about her decision to circumcise him and why he didn’t make that same one for his son. It was painful, but their relationship is probably stronger now. The thing is, if a truthful, heartfelt presentation of the viewpoint of an intactivist can make you as a mother feel guilty then that guilt is really coming from you and is something you should deal with, rather than denying that harm has occurred to your son, even if it’s not something you ever intended or were informed would happen. Maybe you will be the one making a difference in another boys life or in offering your son(s) support to heal when they learn what was done to them.

    • Clara says:

      I completely agree with this. I, too, did not become “crunchy” until after I met my son. I have been searching for the word to describe how I feel living somewhere in the middle of this whole debate, but the word alienated seems to describe it well. So many different influences and people telling us how we should feel, when all we need to do is make peace with the fact that a decision was made, that we would make a different one next time, and shut off all the voices and distractors and concentrate on loving our WHOLE and wonderful boys just the way they are. Maybe questions will arise, maybe they won’t, but if we let this one issue define us as mothers, we will miss out on everything else.
      It is a long road for me and a work in progress… I’m taking baby steps each day.

    • mare54 says:

      I don’t agree that ANY circumcision goes “right”……. circumcision is a surgical procedure that alters nature, plain and simple. You cannot alter “form” and not affect “function” to one degree or another….but the good thing is that neither your husband or your sons will know any different. What they have is what they have, and there is no changing that. Think of how excited people were to have a little black and white tv set and they thought it was the greatest thing……and what do we have now? Giant flat screen color tv’s with all the bells and whistles. Who do you know would go back to little black and white tv’s and say……well I was quite happy with that one, so no giant flatscreen color tv for me? I don’t know anyone who would say that. Lucky for the circumcised guys….they will never know the giant flat screen tv of their natural genitals, so they can be very happy with their little black and white tv that they have always known. I don’t say this to be sarcastic, but it is a really good comparison to this situation. Are they happy with what they have? Sure, maybe, I hope so. Would they have been even happier having the whole body that nature gave them at birth? I think that would be a resounding YES. Nature doesn’t send baby boys into the world with a defective penis, nor does nature send them into the world with “parts” that are needless and unnecessary. This is what people really must come to terms with. When parents make a decision on behalf of their child to cut off a healthy functioning part of their natural anatomy and that procedure is totally permanent…..they are making a decision they have NO right to make! The penis belongs to the baby, not to the parents. We do not have to continue this cycle of abuse. This is coming from the wife of a circumcised (at birth) husband and who allowed the father to make the decision to do it to his child, knowing in my inner most mama bear heart that is was gravely wrong. I am not married to the father of that child any longer. I am now married to a man who understands what was done to him as an infant and knows it was wrong, and would never to that to a child of his and repeat that cycle. We have both done our research and try to share our experience and knowledge with others so they might be able to break the cycle in their families. NO, we shouldn’t feel guilty, what is the point of that? But we should be regretting such decisions (and not justifying them) and sharing that reality with others.

    • mare54 says:

      The problem is that not a single infant circumcision is done “right”. Non therapeutic surgical alterations to the genitals of normal healthy infants can never be done “right’. I did the same as you did and caved in to my ex husbands nonsensical demands that his son look like him (he actually looks exactly like my father if you want to know the truth……..)….but I knew instinctively that agreeing to have that done to my baby was way wrong, but I did it anyway. I apologized to my son every time I changed his diaper and I will always regret that decision I had no right to make for his body. No one could judge me more than I have always judged myself….BUT I know the truth now, so I can come to terms with the whole thing and know that I was not informed. If just one person would have shared information with me, I have no doubt that it would have been enough for me to trust my inner mama instincts. My husband is also circumcised (born in the fifties…..) and it hurts me to realize that he went through the same thing as a baby, most likely without any pain relief. He believes that it is wrong to circumcise baby boys, but he doesn’t hate his mother for it since she was also a victim of false information.

  8. Jessica Wells via FB says:

    Exactly why we left our son intact. I am so glad I was informed. And I truly feel for those mothers and fathers who now regret their decision. Parents have enough guilt. We all make the best decision we can based on the information and knowledge that we have at the time.

  9. Jennifer Buckles Fam via FB says:

    I was just assuming we would circ when we found out we were preg (if it was a boy) When my midwife asked if we would be circ’ing and I said yes, she sort of grimaced….that is when I set off on my research….it didn’t take me long to change my mind! So grateful that she couldn’t hide the fact that she doesn’t agree with circ!

    • Abby says:

      That is terrible. A midwife or obstetrician is supposed to support parents-to-be through the pregnancy, birth, delivery, and new parenting experience with respect. People choose midwives because midwives are supposed to be less invasive and more respectful in their methods. The fact that she “grimaced” when you said you said you would choose to circumcise is absolutely shameful and completely discredits her as a professional. You may have been glad that she didn’t hide her feelings, but I would have thought it as a show of her character and would not have felt comfortable discussing any more intimate issues, or giving birth, with her.

      • circesadreim says:

        So if the parent said they would ‘choose’ to circumcise their daughter, you expect that the midwife shouldn’t have grimaced? Or if the parent said they would ‘choose’ to tattoo their child? Or remove their breast buds? Or have an arm amputated? You truly think it would be ‘shameful’ and a discredit to her profession if she expressed her feelings about those non-therapeutic bodily violations through facial expression? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d applaud her for making some sort of outwards stand for human rights.

        This is the problem with infant circ. Our society has been so conditioned to think it’s acceptable or even qualifies as a parental ‘right’ that when a person rightly indicates otherwise, it is somehow offensive.

        Shame on us for putting up with this barbarity for so long.

      • Dolores RN says:

        “Discredited her as a professional”??!! How about a doctor who cuts apart the genitals of helpless newborn baby boys? Is this not “discrediting”– to perform unnecessary and risky surgery on a person, permanently altering their sexual sensitivity and function? So this midwife was supposed to disconnect from her heart and feelings…so she would be more “professional”? Yikes. Anyone who is connected to their soul cringes at the very thought of circumcision…hiding is not an option.

      • mare54 says:

        I don’t agree. I would hold much more trust and confidence in a midwife who is completely honest with me. Especially where my unborn child is concerned and his welfare. If a midwife is not honest with her client….that is where her professionalism ends! Honestly, if I were in this situation I would be asking a million questions……and a reputable midwife would steer her client in the direction of further information so an informed decision could be made. Now that’s professionalism at it’s finest!!!!

      • Tora Spigner RN says:

        As a labor and delivery nurse, I often question people who tell me they want to circumcise. So many Moms do not know the functions of the foreskin or what circumcision entails so it is my part of advocacy for her son that I tell them the truth. I encourage them to do research (most people do more research on what kind of car seat to buy than circumcision). It is hard to keep that “grimace” off your face because we know what circumcision entails. We know that babies die from circumcision. We know that most circumcisions are done with No anesthesia and rarely analgesia. I always try to educate and inform my patients and give them factual information. That is my job.

        • Robert says:

          Thank you for advocating and educate on behalf of babies, Tora. You are a credit to your profession. (My mom is a nurse too, so I appreciate your code of ethics and dedication to your patients.)

  10. Alina says:

    I feel sooo sad right now. I was like you Michelle, who although I did some research and presented it to my husband, let him make the ultimate decision because I am not a man and do not have a penis. Of course since he was circumsized he wanted our son to be. Used all the classic reasons for doing it…” he’ll get made fun of in the locker room, I had friends who weren’t and they were so embarrassed, I know people who got it done when they were older” etc. However, circs are on the decrease so now our son “who went through the pain” so he wouldn’t get fun of in the locker room (according to my husband) will now be in the minority. Everytime I see these pictures and do my own research my eyes fill up with tears. I feel so bad. I cried my eyes out the day my son was circumsized in our home as we used a jewish mohel (which I did think was better than a hospital). I couldn’t even be in the room, it broke my heart. And he was definitely distraught afterwards. So sad :(

    • Michelle McCoy says:

      Well i am not sure if your husband is right just yet. According to one website I found, “If the population of the US grows in line with projections by the US Census Bureau, and current rates of newborn and non-newborn circumcision do not change, there will be 166 million newborn circumcisions and 40 million non-newborn circumcisions in the US in the 21st century.” Of course I have not done a lot of research either and the one and only “friend” my son has right now is intact. I guess there is always foreskin restoration if when he gets older he decides to go that route. :(

      • Michelle McCoy says:

        I wish there was an edit button as I read your reply wrong and thought you meant that your husband says that now our sons will be in the minority. I don’t think they will be the minority yet but if the current trend continues then one day they might be.

  11. Thia says:

    Unfortunately, back in ’82, the hospital we used didn’t ask! Even though I had already decided to leave him intact. :( I was so furious when they brought him to the room & it had been done, but it was too late to do a thing about it.

    • Heather says:

      That’s awful! I heard of another instance in which that happened this year. :(

    • Robert says:

      That is horrendous.

      And, by the way, a crime.

      There happens to be an advocate attorney who specializes in cases of this sort, as well as advocacy in general.

      And don’t worry about the statute of limitations. A grown man recently won a suit against his doctor.

  12. Caroline says:

    So I’m curious… Is there a difference between a hospital procedure within days of birth and having a mohel doing the circumcision 8 days later? I mean, is there a difference in the method and in the (for lack of a better term) end product? The friends I have who have use a mohel have said that there baby doesn’t cry, start to finish. He’s really quick, the parents hold the baby the whole time… What do you think?

    • Alina says:

      I’m no expert on the subject, but I am glad that when my husband made the decision that he wanted our son circumsized that we went with a mohel. He had years of watching and training. From what I’ve been told the problem with the hospital is that often it is the interns, who have never had much let alone any experience doing this procedure that often wind up doing them. I have a sister who works in a city hospital on the postpartum floor and she told me there are some doctors that line the boy babies up in the nursery and try to get them done as quickly as possible. Like I said I’m no expert, but I have heard numerous stories of hospitals that have ruined a boys penis with this procedure. I have been told mohels take pride in their work, but I’m sure there are instances of them making mistakes too.

    • Nara says:

      We chose to use a Mohel for our first son’s circumcision and were so glad we did. He was never separated from us, was in no distress, and nursed immediately afterward.

      For anyone here who is looking for a site supportive of circumcision you can find it at: I know intimately how hard it can be to support and chose circumcision with all the intactivist rhetoric and have really appreciated that at least there is one safe, supportive place online to have discussions with others who have had circumcisions or have chosen to circumcise their sons.

      • mare54 says:

        I have to disagree. One persons religion ends where another human beings body begins…..plain and simple. No one should feel “safe’ when it comes to genital cutting on infants, no one. Many Jewish people (despite the religious pressure….) do their research and choose to do a Brit Milah which is a welcoming ceremony for boys and girls that does NOT involve cutting the normal healthy genitals of their infant boys. There are Jewish groups that are very much against this outdated practice and are making much better choices for their sons. JewsAgainstCircumcision and Beyond The Bris…..are two excellent information sites for accurate information about infant genital cutting.

    • Ashley says:

      I wondered the same thing about the difference with a Mohel. We had our son circumsized in the hospital… and I always wished that we had used a Mohel… the idea of not circumcizing never even crossed my mind… but this article really makes me want to look into the research on it. I’d love to hear a response to this. Is this research strictly with hospital circumcisions?

    • Heather says:

      Caroline – Sadly, people often think that because they don’t cry that it doesn’t hurt. Although I cannot speak to every circumstance the most likely explanation is that the baby is in shock as depicted in this video –

      Of course I could be wrong. Not all women experience childbirth as painful, so perhaps not all babies experience circumcision as painful. However, the vast majority do. So even if one baby has a decent experience, for the most part babies seem to suffer intensely during circumcision. Since no one knows how their baby will react, why put them through it? That’s sort of a secondary question in my mind, though. I think the most important question is: Does this boy want his foreskin? I know my husband wishes he had his . . . so why not just leave it there until the boy can voice his opinion on the matter?

      One last thing: Most Mohel’s remove the whole foreskin, but there is a small percentage that just does the “ritual nick” of ancient times. So in terms of method and result there can be a difference.

  13. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Stephanie Spaulding Carruth ~ I feel exactly the same way about Dr. Cindy. We were already leaning toward keeping any son’s we had intact, but the information she shared with us cinched it. I’m sure it’s difficult to share this kind of info with clients because some will choose to do it and that could be awkward, which makes my gratitude that they are speaking up even deeper.

  14. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @Jessica I totally agree. I really struggled with whether or not to write this post because adding guilt is NOT at all what I want to do. My heart hurts for them.

  15. Whittney says:

    I loved this article. Shortly after Henry’s birth, I had a conversation online stating that very thing – “It isn’t for my family, but I support a parent’s choice to do it.” But recently, I have strongly turned into what you might call a “kinda inactivist.” Some people call it being “radical” and “extreme,” but those of you who know me, know that I’m neither and systematically think through everything! If female circumcision is considered mutilation, then male circumcision is no different. Both are surgical alterations/amputations of a child’s body part. Some might still argue health benefits, but I agree that the health benefits are practically zero.

    I become most flabbergasted when men choose to circumcise so their son will look like them and not be ridiculed among his peers, both are vain. Thankfully, my husband only cares about what is best for Henry, not about them having matching body parts. He also refused to make a decision based on how Henry’s peers might react. As Christ-followers, we are called to “not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

    At the end of the day, these are only my strong beliefs and I don’t claim to know what God speaks to everyone else in their private prayer time. I too fear that dear friends will feel judged by me, but that is not the case. We just strongly disagree!

  16. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    @Jennifer I’m really glad to hear that.

  17. Robert says:

    I think I may be the only guy to comment here so far.

    I was circumcised, and I regret that it was forced upon me for a number of reasons. My father made the decision, and his motive was that so I wouldn’t be made fun of in the locker room.

    Ahhh … wonderful rationale. Fear of potential peer ridicule. As if being circumcised make you somehow impervious to mean people.

    But one of the main problems with circumcision — trauma aside — is loss of tactile and sexual sensation.

    Judaic customs aside, the roots of America’s widespread circumcision extend to Victorian times.
    Victorian doctors — and society at large — were obsessed with reducing masturbation, which, they thought, led to paralysis, heart disease, insanity, suicide, etc.

    Here’s what good old Dr. John Harvey Kellogg advocated:

    “The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment.”

    He wasn’t done yet:

    “In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.”

    So to them, the best way to reduce masturbation was to reduce sexual pleasure.

    And that’s something that hasn’t been mentioned yet, so I’ll bring it up.

    In my own case, I have lost a great deal of sensation due to nerve damage. There are many regions where I feel literally nothing. A touch goes completely unfelt. So for me, there’s also a loss of intimacy when I’m with a woman. Touches that should be special are completely unnoticed. There’s a tiny voice of regret — knowing that I’m missing part of the experience.

    The foreskin itself also delivers sexual stimulation, as it has the highest concentration of nerve endings in the penis. Removing it also means removing all that sensation its designed to perceive.

    The head of the penis is designed to be an internal organ, covered by the foreskin, which is a mucous membrane, much the same as the labia. When removed, the head of the penis, now no longer protected, develops extra layers of skin — a process called keratinization, which further reduces sensation.

    See for pictures (some disturbing) and more info

    The same thing would happen if the clitoris were constantly exposed to the outside world. Instead, it is covered, protected, and highly sensitive during arousal. Which is how it’s supposed to work for the head of the penis as well.

    I think of women who have had clitorectomies (forced genital mutilation), and who also are forced to live with reduced sensation. They feel something, but not everything. And to me that’s very sad.
    Our sexuality is a gift – one that should be honored and cherished.

    Many men don’t even realize they have a loss of sensation because it’s all they’ve ever known.

    I hope that people who are considering circumcision for their kids will at least take some time to research the reasons to leave their kids intact. (Some links are included at the end of this post.)

    I almost hesitate to write this … and mean no offense to any parents who chose circumcision … but if I have a son, and if he ever asks me why he looks different than me, I’ll tell him, “Because I love you.”

    I certainly am not implying a lack of love from parents who choose circumcision. Of course they love their kids. They may advocate circumcision specifically out of love. Or perhaps a lack of information. Or deferring to someone else’s wishes.

    For example, my mother deferred to my father.

    I wish she hadn’t.

    I wish one of them had advocated for a helpless infant who had no voice to speak out, to say no to the unnecessary and destructive procedure about to be forced upon him.

    If I could speak now, I would say no.

    But for me it’s too late.

    It’s high time we in America finally break the cultural MEME that dictates we continue this procedure simply because that’s how it’s always been done.

    And hey … if a grown man decides he would like to be circumcised, there’s always that option for him. But that’s a decision he has a right to make for himself. It’s his body, and he came into the world pretty well-designed.

    I should also probably mention that circumcision can also result in unnatural skin tightness, and even tearing. When I was growing up, I experienced chronic pain during erections.

    Dr. Kellogg would have been thrilled.

    And for the record … that naked locker room scenario never even came up.

    A few sites with further information:

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Robert. I was horrified when I learned the true history of Dr. Kellogg and modern circumcision (which I wrote about in my original post My husband also deeply regrets his parents choice to circumcise him, although we both know they did it because they believed it was best for him.

    • Vivienne says:

      Thanks to your comment Robert, my husband & I didn’t circumcise our newborn. It was my idea not to do it but I shared research as I came across it and, once I asked my husband to read your comment, his mind was changed. Not only did we not circumcise our baby, but my husband has since said how glad he is that we didn’t do it. Me too! I went against the grain for sure (mid-western family with all males circed) and I am so relieved for the baby that he didn’t experience it. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment.

  18. Ashley Ann Eubanks says:

    Well-written and informative. I started to comment here, but ended up writing a blog post of my own. :)

    • Heather says:

      Ashley – I left a comment on your site with my response but it appears to have been deleted, so I’ll post it here. I do consider haircuts, makeup and clothing to be on a different spectrum because they are not permanent. I do, however, agree with you on piercings. In considering your arguments I found this response from Jenifer on my previous circumcision post to be enlightening:

      “so, this is always such an interesting read.

      for those of us far outside the primary monotheistic religions, none of this is at issue, and yet the american culture just seeps right into the question. how does a non-religious person deal with the cultural force of this process? including, btw, talking with religious people who are actively choosing this process that — in my own opinion — whether done in the “old” way or the “new” with or without pain killers or whatever, is absolutely unnecessary and done to a minor?

      in our modern context, we have moved to a concept that each individual is the sovereign of their own body, and as such should be able to make decisions about that body. This idea is what keeps certain activities happening to minors–including female circumcision.

      But some things seem to be excluded from this idea: male circumcision and female infant ear piercing.

      for me, the process was simple: my son’s body is not my body. i cannot just do with it what i want. I am his caregiver, and it is my job to care for and protect his body. When he is an adult, he may choose to have any number of body modifications of his choosing. After all, i have my ears pierced, my nose pierced twice (nostril and septum), my nipples (which were removed for breastfeeding and will be redone when my son weans, as we will not likely have another child), and my clitoral hood (appointment in January). I also have a tattoo. I did all of these things after age 18.

      Certainly, I am not adverse to body modification for any number of reasons–including my own spiritual ones And with this, I am not adverse to an individual choosing amputation as part of that process, should s/he wish it. This includes, btw, amputations around the genitals.

      But, I am adverse to taking my son to my body piercer and giving him a prince albert piercing at age 2 years old.

      Like many people who choose to circumcise–for religious or cultural reasons–I love the look of such a piercing, honestly, and it is safe and healthy, supposedly makes sex better when he’s an adult, and i could probably come up with some prayerful, thoughtful reason to get such a piercing for him, and *heck* my piercer is one amazing guy who does amazing work and is all about it NOT being painful, healing quickly, and so on. his technique is impeccable. Any pain my son might suffer for such a modification would be minimal, honestly.

      But, that’s not really the point. The point is that it is *still* my son’s body, and what if he doesn’t want such a piercing? a retired prince albert doesn’t close, just like a foreskin will not grow back should a man decides he no longer wants the modification given to him as an infant.

      And more ironic, in my opinion is that should I go forward and pierce my son’s penis, there would be a *massive* public outcry. In fact, many of you who chose to circumcise your sons might consider me an insane, abusive woman who mutilated and violated my son. And even more ironically, my son might even be taken from me and into protective custody.

      Why? it’s considered “mutilation” and a violation of his little body. But had i circumcised him, if i circumcised him now, it would not be. Why is this?

      Somehow, we find it easy to say “this is a parent’s choice” with circumcision, particularly when we wrap it in religion/religious-cultural tradition, but the fact is that we really aren’t that culturally comfortable with other forms of body modifications on children. More and more people are becoming uncomfortable with infant ear piercing, for example. I know I am uncomfortable with it, and have been for a long time.

      So, how is it that one modification is “ok” but another modification is not ok?

      This really comes down to *culture* not religion, not prayerful or thoughtfulness, but the conditionings of our culture.

      Sure, you might be “at peace” with the decision, but i’m still curious as to why circumcision–in it’s various forms–is more acceptable than piercings, tattooing, other amputations? anything that would be “permanent.”

      And, i’m just “begging” this question, not actually asking. Just posing it–even to myself. Why do i accept things in some ways but not accept them in others. :)

      • Ashley Ann Eubanks says:

        I haven’t deleted any of your comments. I did start using Disqus yesterday; I’ll have to see if it altered the previous posts on my blog in some way.

        To answer your question, though, it is because ear piercing hasn’t been shown or suggested to treat or prevent any illnesses. I know that you’ve prevented information here that would seem to suggest a lack of medical benefits to circumcision, but there is ample research on both sides of the discussion. Research, I know, can be swayed to show anything, so I agree with your main point of wanting parents to arm themselves with knowledge and information before making the decision.

        • Heather says:

          Oh that makes sense! If you’re following the comments I think Craig provides some insight into the medical benefit aspect.

          • Ashley Ann Eubanks says:

            Okay, I was able to figure out what happened to your comment. Apparently I had to import and auto-sync my blog with Disqus in order to have comments show up that were on there before I got Disqus on there. It’s all showing up now, but since I responded to you here, is it okay if don’t there? :) I have been following all of the other commentary on this thread, but I think I’m going to unsubscribe because this is a very active discussion and it’s filling up my inbox rather quickly. :)

          • Heather says:

            No problem. And I’m sorry about your inbox. If it makes you feel better a friend of mine sub’d to one of my giveaways on accident. You can imagine her horror when she opened her inbox!

  19. Hannah R says:

    I have to give you credit for writing a post like this. It really is hard to know how to approach this topic without being controversial and looked upon as judgmental.

    I read most of your post. Although, I was so taken back by those pictures that I didn’t get to the very end. And, you weren’t really trying to convince me, obviously! :) In my humble opinion I honestly believe it is a human right for the boy/man to make his own choice and not the parents.

  20. Tana says:

    Heather, thank you for the gracious and yet very informative way you handled this topic. It is one that I feel quite strongly about and sometimes just have to bite my tongue over. My four sons, aged 23, 17, 10, and 1 are all intact. My older sons have NEVER had any problems with being questioned or teased about their intact-ness in the locker room or anywhere else. I just couldn’t bear the thought of the surgery when I was pregnant with my first son, and when my pastor assured me it was absolutely not required biblically for Christians, I was so relieved. I am sure that if my first child had been a boy, though, I would not have had the courage to be so radical at the time. It took me being a mother for a couple of years and finding that following my own instincts and heart would lead me down a far more accurate path of mothering than following the standard advice at the time (26 years ago). I have to be careful when I speak to someone though, because I am more than a little passionate about this subject, kind of like I am about cry-it-out (poor babies AND mommies) and choosing to not breastfeed (????). You did a GREAT job, Heather. Accurate information just hurts some people but you wrote with love and compassion, and with care for all the future boys that may be intact because of the courage to speak. Thank you for writing.

  21. Leah says:

    This post was so timely, as I was just starting to research this for the first time last night. My husband and I aren’t pregnant yet :), but we are already starting to make decisions and changes in our lives that will benefit our little ones. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  22. Andi says:

    You are very brave posting this and you are very gently and kind. I’ve always wanted to post something like this but I don’t have the words or grace.
    I’m a registered nurse and a wife of a circumcised man, mom of an intact son. I’ve been a nurse (and a nurse’s aide before that) for almost 20 years. I’ve seen countless circumcisions and I knew with the first round of circs I saw in nursing school that it would never be an option for any child of mine. Someone posted that interns often do circs and that is especially true in large, teaching hospitals. But I’ve seen plenty of circs by older and experienced OB/Gyns and even a few by pediatricians. I’ve seen several major mishaps, including hemorrhage and partial amputation of the glans (head). These mistakes all happened at the hands of experienced doctors, not interns. I’ve also seen circs with and without pain relief (sugar coated pacifiers are NOT pain relief). But I’ve never seen a baby not cry during a circ. I’ve never seen a first hand bris by a Mohel but there are tons of bris videos uploaded by parents online. Those babies always seem to cry, too.
    In my opinion, there is no way to do a wrong thing. And in my opinion, it’s wrong to perform a surgical procedure on a child in the absence of disease. I hope nobody takes offense at that (I’m sure someone will). It’s just that any procedure carries risk, and I’ve taken care of infants who have suffered some of those risks. I don’t think it’s a good idea to expose children to unnecessary surgical risk without dire medical need.
    I don’t judge those parents who have circed their boys. I know they love them dearly and I know people will not always agree when it comes to parenting decisions. However, I’m not sure why circumcision needs to be a parenting decision. I’m not anti-circumcision. I think if a man, or even an older teen, wants to get a circumcision, or if a child really needs a medical circumcision (rare, but it does happen), then fine. I would hope a doctor would do his duty to fully explain risk vs benefit and offer superior pain relief before, during and after. I hope my son chooses to remain intact but if he doesn’t, it’s his penis and his choice.
    At this point in my life, I’d be happy just to know parents KNOW they have the option not to circ. I’d be happy to know that parents know dads and sons don’t have to match and that having a foreskin requires no special care. Blogs like yours help make this possible through information and sharing of comments. Thank you so much for posting about this.

    Two more things if I may…circumcision is a HUGE money making business in the U.S. Many parents believe it’s a good thing because their doctor recommends, or even mentions it. The doctor profits from removing your child’s foreskin. Why is this not questioned by more people? In countries where insurance doesn’t pay for circ, doctors don’t recommend/perform it and those babies grow into old men who never have foreskin issues. I wonder why that is?
    Also, I don’t remember a thing before I was 4 or 5. When I was 2, I was in an accident and my arm was shattered. Despite the fact that I don’t recall the incident, I’m sad it happened and I know it altered my body. I don’t remember the pain but if I could go back in time and somehow prevent it, I would. As a nation I hope we can lose the idea that it’s okay to do or not do something to/for a baby because he won’t remember it.

    Have a lovely day!

    • Heather says:

      Andi – Thank you so much for adding your experience and insight here. That was INCREDIBLY informative. It’s going to take awhile for me to process. Thanks again.

  23. Heather says:

    Great post! And blog! I met you last Friday at Playscape… I appologize for not being more social as I was busy chasing my ‘busy’ children. I’m sure you understand. It isn’t likely we’ll meet again face to face as we are in the process of moving to Kansas City for my husband’s job, but I am always grateful to meet someone (however brief) that shares so many of my views. Thank you for putting it out there! And now that I’ve found your blog, I’ll be forever a supporter.

  24. Sara Cahill, RN says:

    I became concerned as I read your blog about the misrepresentation of current research surrounding circumcision and the promotion of false information.
    I am a student nurse midwife currently in my second year of graduate school. I am in full support of the education and informed consent of parents regarding controversial topics such as circumcision, immunizations, the administration of erythromycin eye ointment, and Vitamin K injections at birth (to list a few). But, I also have an appreciation for understanding and accurately interpreting the available data on the subject. Now, while I support leaving the penis intact (and will most likely do this for my own son), I do believe that the “Intactivist” community often and regularly presents false or misinterpreted information on the subject (and trust me, I have visited and read through MANY of their sites.)

    I recently presented a review of the current research on circumcision in class in addition to developing a website on circumcision. I would encourage you and your readers to go to that website, as it presents unbiased information about circumcision as well as a summary of the current research surrounding it.

    There are a few things I do want to address though in this post that I feel are important to correct:
    First, DO NOT assume that male circumcision is equivalent to female mutilation. There are four types of female mutilation and ALL of them involve the removal of female genital organs including the clitorus, labia minora, labia majora, and/or the vaginal opening itself. There is NO documented benefit to female mutilation and there are MANY strongly documented long-term risks associated with it. The WHO (World Health Organization) does a good job describing and addressing this subject:
    Male circumcision involves only the removal of the foreskin, which is a functioning human body part but is NOT equivalent to the genital organs removed in a female circumcision. There ARE documented medical benefits to male circumcision (medical treatment for phimosis, paraphimosis, and balanitis; prevention of penile cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, and prevention of phimosis) though some of these are small; and the RISKS associated with circumcision are extremely rare (1 in 500 is the most recent report) and most commonly associated with untrained medical providers.
    It is now well documented that babies feel pain and many STRONG studies (randomized controlled trials, considered LEVEL I evidence) support this. A recent COCHRANE review (2009) of these studies supported that oral sucrose and topical analgesics (such as EMLA cream) are NOT sufficient in preventing pain. Local nerve blocks have shown to be the most effective.
    I don’t think the argument that babies remember pain & suffer long-term psychological effects is an appropriate argument to make the case against circumcisions. I work at Childrens Medical Center in Dallas on a surgical floor and MANY babies and children undergo surgery every day. These children are AMAZING in their ability to come through this, especially with great support systems. Now, “unnecessary pain”? That’s an argument. But, not the pain itself. PAIN is a part of life and should not be avoided, instead it should be seen as something to investigate. Not all pain is bad. During labor, pain is involved in the body working to move the baby through the birth canal. Sadly, our society has taught us that pain is bad and should be avoided and now most women want to go through labor pain free and I’m afraid we have lost something natural and beautiful and we have developed a culture of WEAK women who do not trust in the strength of their own body to do this amazing act of giving birth. (Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now).
    Another thing. The evidence is VERY strong for circumcision preventing the transmission of HIV, herpes, Chlamydia, HPV, trichomonas, and even bacterial vaginosis. In the past 5 years, there were 3 LARGE randomized controlled trials conducted in Africa. These trials found that circumcision reduced the transmission of HIV in heterosexual men by 50-60%. More information on these trials can be found on my website. These trials were stopped early to offer circumcision to men in the control group because it would have been UNETHICAL to continue to withhold it from them. Now, do these trials mean I should circumcise my son? Maybe not. But should it be considered as a public health measure to help prevent the spread of HIV among men? Espcially since most HIV in the US is among African American men and the route of transmission is changing from homosexual males to heterosexual males with rates similar to Africa?
    Just some things to think about.
    And the human rights issue is something you should be careful with. If we argue the right of the baby to make this decision himself, should this also apply to vaccinations? When arguing that paretns should wait until the child is older, please consider – a child who chooses to be circumcised as an older child or adult faces a HIGHER risk for complications and FEWER protective effects (according the best current data).
    I hope I haven’t come across as too strong in my arguments or judgmental in any way.
    I just want an accurate interpretation of the evidence to be presented to your readers. And I don’t think women should be made to feel guilty for choosing to circumcise their son because they were misinformed, under-informed, or just held the belief that this was the right thing to do.

    And finally, as a fellow Christian, I would caution you to beware of taking scripture out of context. That verse in 1 Corinthians is not a command against circumcision. It is a command against Jews & Gentiles attempting to change their physical appearance in order to be accepted by their Christian brothers who “looked” differently. The covenant of circumcision is no longer active since Christ came and died to establish a new covenant with us; but it doesn’t mean someone is “sinning” if they have their son circumcised.
    I appreciate what you are doing with your blog and hope you will continue. I hope you will take my comments into consideration and check out my website.
    God bless,

    • Heather says:

      Hi Sarah – I am not attempting to draw an exact correlation between FGM and circumcision. My only point in bringing that up is that one of the main reasons routine newborn circumcision is still legal in the U.S. is the “religious” issue. Different religions have different traditions. Why protect one and not the other?

      Regarding the “medical benefits” of circumcision you listed . . . most of those have to do with removing a defective or inflamed foreskin. Obviously in those cases there would be a benefit, but that has nothing to do with the vast majority of the population in which perfectly functional pieces of an organ are removed. And regarding the STD prevention . . . I have to say I’m just not convinced. Studies can be skewed in all kinds of ways. Is promiscuous sex risky? Yes. Should we cut off part of an organ because it’s owner MAY or MAY NOT be promiscuous someday? I don’t think so.

      I agree with you that not all pain is bad. I have birthed two babies without pain medication. My son had to undergo a painful procedure at 5 months because he was tongue-tied. In necessary instances children must sometimes be subjected to pain. But circumcision is not necessary, and I do believe that being strapped to a circ board and having a piece of one’s body cut off without anesthesia can cause unnecessary trauma.

      I have not read anything to the effect that adult undergoing circumcision have more complications. My guess is that if that is what the data says it’s probably only because botched newborn circs are underreported. Babies are tiny and intricate . . . a larger, sedated man would seem to be a much more simple affair. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s a thought.

    • Nara says:

      Thank you so much for presenting a more unbiased and less harsh review of circumcision, Sara. I wanted to provide the same information but was glad to see that you had already done so.

      To Heather –
      I must say that I find it sad that although Hannah could commit her son to God as a Nazarite (yes, I know this is NOT the same as circumcision) before his conception, that Intactivists cannot accept that modern day parents may be called by God to set aside their sons through circumcision.

      Overall, I must say I was saddened by the rhetoric of the blog and the insensitivity to persons who were called to circumcise their sons and do not regret it.

      • Daniel says:

        Nara, I think your comment complete ignores the content about how different circumcision is now to back in the time of Moses, Abraham, David, and the rest.

        To put in plain English, if circumcision were a mere slit in the foreskin rather than a removal, then the common modern day practice bears no similarity. And IF it bears no similarity, then it is not biblical.

      • CircEsAdreim says:

        “Intactivists cannot accept that modern day parents may be called by God to set aside their sons through circumcision.

        Overall, I must say I was saddened by the rhetoric of the blog and the insensitivity to persons who were called to circumcise their sons and do not regret it.”

        Our sensitivity is with the victim on the cutting table. Religion isn’t a valid excuse to inflict genital cutting on someone who has not consented. Doing so is a violation of his religious freedom.

    • PunkinheadDelux says:

      Sara, you claim your website is “unbiased” yet you repeatedly quoted from Brian Morris, a well-known circumcision advocate. He believes circumcision should be mandatory (“a biomedical imperative”) and equates it to a vaccine against “a wide variety of infections.” As a vaccine, circumcision has failed miserably. The US has had a circumcision rate of at least 80% in past decades, and yet still has the highest rate of HIV and STDs in the industrialized world.

      You then go on to erroneously state that ALL four types of female genital mutilation/cutting involve “the removal of female genital organs including the clitoris (sic), labia minora, labia majora, and/or the vaginal opening itself.” This is false. The WHO classifies Type IV FGC as procedures that include pricking, piercing, etc. A committee of the AAP recently recommended that its members be allowed to perform a “clitoral nick” for patients belonging to ethnic communities that practice FGC. Their statement even said “Some forms of FGC are less extensive than the newborn male circumcision commonly performed in the West.” So yes, it is entirely valid and even necessary to demonstrate a comparison between the two.

      And your documented medical benefits are also wildly overstated. Phimosis is not a disease. It’s a condition that can often be corrected by simple stretching. Sure, you can “prevent” phimosis by removing the foreskin, but this would be akin to removing the toes in order to prevent ingrown toenails. The suggestion is simply ludicrous. Other than that, circumcision doesn’t “prevent” anything. Have you really never seen, as a nurse, a circumcised man with an STD? And even the American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend circumcision as a preventive measure for penile cancer.

      Regarding risks, given the number of circumcisions in the US each year, do you really think 1 in 500 is acceptable? Especially when the risk includes death? A recent study found that approximately 117 male neonates die each year from circumcision complications. Exactly how many deaths do you find acceptable?

      • Cyn says:

        Not only is Morris a well-known circumcision advocate, he’s a circumfetishist. All sites associated with him should be viewed with this in mind. Further info:

        There are a few sick people out there who derive sexual pleasure from the sight and thought of a person being circumcised (even children in pain). Those people are known as circumfetishists – and they make it their mission to promote genital cutting to as many people as possible. Some known circumfetishists operate websites that many parents turn to for help/guidance on this issue. Beware anyone by the name of Brian Morris, Jake Waskett, or sites like:**

        *NOT to be confused with the reputable site

        These circumfetishists falsely cloak themselves as people/groups who only have a desire to provide ‘accurate’ info to parents. This is merely their cover. Many unsuspecting people are clueless as to the underlying motivations of people like Brian Morris, Jake Waskett, and others associated with CircInfo and Gilgal. But those sexual fetish motivations have *everything* to do with their active promotion of circumcision in various arenas.

        • Robert says:


          I had no idea about any of this.

          But it is apparently true.

          These people advocate circumcision for seemingly benign reasons … but then you look a little deeper and uncover some pretty disturbing things.

          I looked around the circlist website mentioned in the previous post and was shocked, to say the least.

          Looking at — the second “story” is simply outrageous.

          These people eroticize circumcision, blend it with incest, and all kinds of twisted stuff.

          Makes you look at their “advocacy” in a very different light.

          • mare54 says:

            A few of Brian Morris’s cohorts were arrested for child pornography……he keeps some really quality company. Anyone using his sites for information, BEWARE!!!! I found one linked to his that had photos of nude teenage boys!!!! Yikes!

    • KK says:

      Sara, I have to dispute your dismissal of similarities between FGM and male circumcision. Surely, you are aware of how much research is out there regarding the correlation? Indeed, most FGM researchers conclude that the rationale behind the two surgeries is identical and that FGM can be done in an anatomically identical way. Sure, type 4 FGM is more like penile bifurcation than foreskin removal, but that’s comparing one end of the spectrum to the opposite end, not comparing apples to apples. Indeed, the same medical arguments are made, and it is no surprise, as removing surface area from either organ will dry them out and trivially reduce some medical conditions. I use the word “trivial” reduction deliberately, as scientific studies consistently show that in whole population scenarios, prevalent male circumcision is not correlated with a decrease in STIs. Studies showing an effect are short-term studies evaluating adult men soon after circumcision. For instance, in the African Orange Farm studies, male circumcision reduced HIV prevalence from roughly 3% of uncircumcised men to roughly 1.5% of circumcised men over 18 months. Ignoring technical issues, such as a lack of the ability to determine who in the study was actually exposed to HIV or how many exposures occured, and ignoring the fact that some celibate men became positive, I have to mention that this is statistical significance, but is it biological significance? That’s a pretty small decrease, and only present acutely. Over a lifetime of exposures in an endemic region such as this, what kind of protection is circumcision offering a man? Are you aware of studies showing that circumcised men spread HIV to women more readily? Desperation for a solution to the HIV epidemic doesn’t justify invasive surgery for limited benefit, and it certainly doesn’t justify circumcision of infants in non-HIV endemic areas like the USA.

      Acquisition of STIs is dependent on many factors, which is why circumcision rates don’t correlate well with STI prevalence and the United States has such a higher rate of STIs than most non-circumcising countries. The only effective ways of reducing STIs are education-based (knowing how they are spread, knowing one’s status), behavioral (abstinence, careful selection of partners), and condom use. In the future, there might be an effective topical gel or vaccine. Researchers are definitely working on that.

      I see that you are pro-infant circumcision, but I don’t truly believe it is rooted in the fact that you are a nurse and somehow know more about circumcision than those who are opposed to circumcision. I am a hard scientist (molecular biology Ph.D., working with infectious diseases for years), so should I get to claim extra weight for my anti-circumcision stance? In truth, medical professionals in the USA are often pro or neutral about infant circumcision, while medical professionals in other countries where circumcision is not common tend to be opposed to it, even when looking at the same data, as shown in their medical association statements. That’s because circumcision is not truly being done for medical reasons. It’s cultural. It’s based on misconceptions about the uncircumcised penis being weird or hard to care for and on the pressure to make a boy match his father or peers to avoid having to discuss the difference or causing the father to question the decision his parents made on his behalf. If people are used to the idea of circumcision and grew up with it, then they are subject to the same biases and misconceptions about the foreskin that anyone might have, and that goes for a physician or a janitor.

      • Robert says:

        Thank you, KK, for the mindful and scientifically-reasoned response.

        I’d also like to ask Sara … who presents herself as an RN … as a graduate of two graduate programs myself, including UCLA, and the son of an actual RN, I’m pretty sure that you don’t get to call yourself an RN until you actually graduate and are licensed as an RN.

        Unless, of course, you’re trying to persuade people into believing you based on a degree you haven’t yet actually earned.

    • craig says:

      sara read my longer posts below.

      We would have plenty of alleged benefits for FGM if it was a popular ritual in our culture. Those complications you mention are only rely valid for infibulation (the least common procedure). These are solutions in search of problems.

      Female circumcision can logically be used to prevent and treat any of these aliments:
      HIV( if a reduction in cd4 and langerhans cells works for men it would also work for women) ,ADHESION’S AND SMEGMA, clitorism, Vestibulitus, Vulvar Dystrophy, Melanoma cancer of the vulva, Adenocarcinoma of the vulva(4-8 times more likely then foreskin cancer), Hyperplasia, Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, Paget’s disease, Aphthous ulcers, Behçet’s disease??? this one could KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!! , Eczema, Tinea, Hidradenitis suppurativa, Bacterial vaginosis, and Lichen sclerosus et atrophicus. Why do people not manipulate fears of these diseases to promote FGM?

    • craig says:

      HIV, herpes, Chlamydia, HPV, trichomonas, and even bacterial vaginosis. Thier is no strong evidence for any of these acquisitions leveled against the human foreskin as this data is from inapplicable places in Africa. I have plenty of contrary academic literature on my site( In fact a myriad of rigorously controlled studies performed by objective researchers among racially and socioeconomically homogeneous study groups in developed urban settings have shown that circumcision is either often associated with an increased risk of bacterial infections, viral infections, and major STD’s, or no significant difference

    • Andrea says:

      Heather, the studies on circumcision and STD’s in Africa that I read about were inaccurate in several ways. The most obvious inaccuracy is that the men who were circumcised had to refrain from sexual activity for at least 6 weeks, thereby significantly reducing the number of partners in a six month period. Also, many of these men were not accurately tested for STD’s before the operation. Here is a page with facts and figures for several circumcision/STD studies

    • Jo says:

      Thank you, Sara, for a well-stated, un-biased approach to this controversial topic.

      • Wendy, DC says:

        While stated in dispassionate language, Sara’s views are hardly unbiased. The sources she quoted, and the conclusions she reaches, demonstrate a gross bias.

        Many posters have already pointed out the errors in her logic, as well as the facts she seems to have missed in her supposed research. I suggest you see these posts and educate yourself in this subject.

    • mary lanser says:

      That should read “Brit Shalom”……not Brit Milah which is the cutting ceremony……soory!

  25. Maggie S. says:

    With our first son we didn’t research anything. We were talked into being induced, I had an epidural, delivered our son and two days later they circ’d him in the nursery. I never even met the doctor who performed the procedure. I was handed some literature on how to keep it dry and clean and that was that. With our second son we had a home birth and it was a completely different experience from our first sons birth. We had the most awful experience with the doctors, nurses and other staff. I tore pretty bad with #1 and my doctor did a horrible job at fixing me up. To say we hated the way we brought #1 in this world is an understatement. We decided to do things different with #2 and had such a wonderful experience that I still beat myself up for not at least exploring different options with #1. With that said, we still had #2 circ’d by a Mohel two weeks after his birth. Even though I had done my research the second time and I felt well-read on every subject, I couldn’t imagine looking at boy #1 and saying “your birth was a complete disaster and I wish I had done XYZ differently'” and then looking at #2 and saying, “your birth was the most amazing experience of my life, and momma finally did her research so you’re still intact.” I couldn’t bear the thought of them being different due to my ignorance and lack of research. I love them both more than life and there is no favoritism in my home so there was no way I could favor one boy over the other. I hope that made sense. If I could go back in time and change things I would, but I can’t. The only we can do is inform people WITH LOVE and let them make the decision for themselves.

  26. Maggie S. says:

    I forgot to add that I held our second son while he was being circ’d while my husband and our first son looked on. I prayed over that baby and the Mohel’s hands like I’ve never prayed before. It was hard hearing my sweet baby cry but as soon as he was dressed and nursing he never whimpered again, even when I changed his dressings. The thought of my first son experiencing that without his momma holding him makes me want to vomit. I can’t believe I let a stranger, a man that I never knew his name, strap my son to a table and cut on him like he was just a another number. I hate how ignorant I was, how I assumed that the hospital had my sons best interests in mind. I hate that I didn’t demand to be present or at least meet the doctor who cut my son.

    I am interested to hear your thoughts, and the thoughts of others, on having a little girls ears pierced and if you feel this is the same type of thing.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Maggie! Thank you for sharing in such a candid and thoughtful way. This post was not intended to stir up any regrets, but to try to create an atmosphere of informed consent going forward. I hope it came across that way. :) In answer to your question, I do feel the same way about piercing an infants ears. When they can give consent around the preteen years I think it’s fine.

      • Maggie S. says:


        Yes, I do believe this post was informative and helpful for parents expecting a boy. For those of us who choose to circ our son(s), I pray that judgment and criticism doesn’t keep any one from respecting that decision. I pray that friendships can still flourish despite differences in the choices they make. I find it extremely difficult to not judge my sisters who choose a planned c-section over a natural birth BUT that is their decision and the Lord loves that baby no matter how it is brought in to this world. So I can understand how passionate one can be about circ’s if they are vehemently against them. I tell all my new mommy friends, “read, study and listen to other mom’s. Take every morsel of information in, pray about it, weed out the crazy stuff and apply what is right for you and your family.”

        • Heather says:

          I wanted to be on the fence about this issue, but unfortunately I really do believe boys should have the same legal standard applied to them that girls do in this country. However, it has never occurred to me to ask my friends if their boys are circumcised, because I love them no matter what. I have WAY TOO MANY personal flaws to act as judge over anyone else.

          I have been in many awkward situations, such as the time I changed a diaper on a newborn boy and learned that his circ had “complications.” I really struggled with whether to tell this mom that the procedure had been totally unnecessary. In that case I said nothing, because she didn’t seem ready to hear it and I try not to deal in guilt. I guess what I’m saying is that I am against circumcision in general but I am not against any parent that has circumcised.

          Also, because I write about mothering, sometimes people think I’m an exceptional mother. I’M NOT. One of my biggest fears is that when the meet me in person they’ll realize that and be disappointed. Thankfully my real life friends are very gracious toward me in all of my failings, and I try to do the same when they’re having one of those spectacular moments we all dread (massive meltdown in Target, toddler peeing on the floor of a nice restaurant, etc).

    • craig says:

      unlike reversible ear piercings, circumcision permanently denudes desensitizes and immobilizes the penis. This is the purpose and intended point.Im plying that female ear piercing= male genital cutting is quite sexist.

      • Heather says:

        Hi Craig – I wasn’t trying to imply that they are the same, only that I think informed consent should be required for all body modifications.

        • craig says:

          I agree. I mean are children just cosmetic accessory’s that can be modified. But there are some clear differences.

  27. Kelly F. says:

    Hi, Heather, just wanted to present a different point of view, from a “natural mama”, I guess. :) There are a lot of natural community type things that we do that I really can not understand how it wouldn’t be right for everyone. Like eating a healthy diet?! Breastfeeding (unless you can’t in extreme cases)! But because God told the Jews to circumcise (and on the eighth day of life!), I can’t imagine that it is inherently bad, like that God would tell them to do something that wasn’t for their good in the long run. So, I tend to believe that it must be OK, at least for some people. Is circumcision required for salvation? NO! And I think Paul addressed this quite well, as you’ve quoted. But for us, we feel like that it is still an issue of obedience, even when we don’t always understand the reasons. Is keeping the law a prerequisite for salvation? Again, NO! But Jesus still said, if you love me, you will keep my commands. So, while I do respect my friends who have chosen NOT to circumcise, and understand that they are doing it out of the best interest of their child and a heart that wants to obey God, I just wanted to share that we ALSO are making our choice out of the best interest of our child and a heart that wants to obey God. We just see things differently. :) Anyway, hope I didn’t offend in the way I stated my position, as you are truly a friend, Heather!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Kelly! I understand where you’re coming from as it’s almost exactly what I felt when I began to look at this issue. However, the more I learned about modern circumcision the more distinct it became from the “cutting of the blessing” of history. One involves a small nick and a few drops of blood . . . the other is the removal of a very significant part of an organ with the risk of substantial bleeding and sometimes life-threatening complications. Here’s an analogy that comes to mind: If God had commanded us to cut a baby’s toenail to the quick as a way of foreshadowing the shedding of blood by Jesus, would it be more honoring to cut off the whole toe? Of course not! This is just how see things. If you have another perspective I’d love to hear it! I, too, hope I have not offended, because I do value your friendship and am enjoying following your journey in the country!

  28. KK says:

    For those who feel that circumcision is done for religious reasons in Christianity, I would also ask why only it is Christians in the USA who claim it. Why don’t the Christians in Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean, etc., circumcise for religious reasons?

    I would argue that it’s because circumcision is really being done for cultural reasons, but parents in the USA who grew up in a circumcising culture feel better thinking they are doing it for religious reasons.

    On that note, circumcision was the topic of Catholic mass several years ago. The gist of it was that circumcision is not a religious act for Christians and that Catholics should not claim it.

  29. craig says:

    its also very important to mention that Brian Morris mis-quotes and is a verifiable circumfetishist.

    Please read the site i am working on. Don’t bother with the HIV section, i dident write that but it is under construction. I summarize every thing in this article:

    Circumcision in Christianity

    If you are a Christian, you are entirely free of any religious reasons for circumcision. In fact, historically, Christians have been specifically forbidden to practice circumcision. I suspect that when some misinformed Christians imagine they have a religious reason for circumcision their children, they are really just grasping for additional excuses to follow the false medical indoctrination they have received their entire lives.
    Christians who mistakenly think that they have religious justification for circumcision ought to read the new testament. Here it is clear that the early Christian church, under the guidance of ST. Paul, abolished circumcision. Throughout his epistles, St. Paul took every opportunity to condemn circumcision, as the following quotations prove:

    “Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you be circumcised, Christ will be of no advantage to you.(Galatians 5:2)

    And even those who advocate circumcision don’t really keep the whole law. They only want you to be circumcised so that can brag about it and claim you as their disciples. (Galatians 6:13)

    For there are many who rebel against right teaching; they engage in useless talk and deceive people. This especially true for those who insist on circumcision for salvation. They must be silenced. By their wrong teaching, they have already turned whole families away from the truth. Such teachers only want your money(Titus 1:10-11)”

    It is true that Jesus was probably circumcised, but this is because his parents were Jews. Jesus was denied any choice in the matter. Besides, Christians are hardly required to copy every thing that happened to Jesus. Jesus never advocated circumcision. After, all the earliest Christians– ones who actually walked with Jesus– abolished circumcision:

    “His disciples said to him: is circumcision useful or not? He said to them: If it were useful, their father would beget them from the mother (already) circumcised. But the true circumcision in the Spirit has proved useful in every way.(2)”

    The founders of Christianity believed that God himself condemned circumcision as a blasphemy invented by foolish men. The New Testament Apocryphal Book of Esra reports the word of God, which came to Esra, the son of Chusis, I the days of Nebuchadnezzar thus:

    “when you bring offerings to me, I will turn my face from you; for your feasts and new moons and circumcisions of the flesh I have not asked(3)”

    Early Christians took the abolition of circumcision very seriously, and the early Church quickly passed laws banning circumcision under the penalty of death. The original church laws against circumcision read:

    “Roman citizens, who suffer that they themselves of their slaves be circumcised in accordance with Jewish custom, are exiled perpetually to an island and their property confiscated; the doctors suffer capital punishment. If Jews shall circumcise purchased slaves of another nation, they shall be banished or duffer capital punishment(4)”

    The Church was also very concerned about Jews circumcising Christians or citizens of any other sect. Consequently, they passed laws protecting people from such an assault. The Church law states:

    “Jews who circumcise a Christian or commit him to be circumcised, their property shall be confiscated and they shall be perpetually banished.(5).

    All forms of sexual mutilation– both circumcision and castration– have been banned by the Church as insults to God. According to the teachings of the early church, circumcision is blasphemy because it implies that God made a mistake when he created the human body. The Apostolical Cannons of the Church state

    “Canon XXII
    He who has mutilated himself, cannot become a clergy man, for he is a self-murder, and enemy to the workmanship of god.

    Canon XXIV
    If a layman mutilate himself, Let him be excommunicates for three years, as practicing against his own life.(6)”

    The enlightened holy men who worked hard to establish, spread and safeguard Christianity strongly condemned circumcision. There where the early Fathers of the Church, such as St. Augustine, who wrote:

    “Accordingly, when you ask why a Christian is not circumcised if Christ came not to destroy the lay, but to fulfill it, my reply is that a Christian is not circumcised precisely for this reason, that what was prefigured by circumcision is fulfilled in Christ. Circumcision was the type of removal of our fleshy nature, which was fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, and which the sacrament of baptism teaches us to look forward to in our own resurrection. The sacrament of the new life is not wholly discontinued, for our resurrection from the dead is still to come; but this sacrament been improved by the substitution of baptism for circumcision, because now a pattern of the eternal life which is to come is afforded us in the resurrection of Christ, wear as formerly there was noting of the kind.(7)”

    The other great Church Fathers, Such as St. Cyril(8), St. Jerome(9), John Chrysostom(10), St John of Damascus(11), St. Justin Martyr(12), Lectantius(13), Origen(14), Tertullian(15), and St. Ambrose(16), Reaffirmed the ban on circumcision for Christians. Origen said quite plainly:

    “The rite of circumcision… which began with Abraham.. was discontinued by Jesus who desired that His Disciples should not practice it(17).”

    Speaking of circumcision, St. Ambrose wisely observed:

    “Nature has created nothing imperfect in man, nor has she bade it be removed as unnecessary(18).”

    Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has passes many laws banning circumcision of children and adults(19). Martin Luther Preached against circumcision on many occasions(20). Even more recent branches of Christianity have taken a firm stand against circumcision. For instance, the holiest scriptures of the Mormons, the Book of Mormon(21) and the Doctrine and Covenants(22), both condemn and forbid circumcision. Thus, the traditional Christian response to circumcision has been to reject it as an insult to the wisdom of God in designing the human body.

    Further Regarding Judaism

    If a Jew was circumcised in a hospital as many are today: do you think they should be denied the right to a religious circumcision? A consenting adult who has reviewed their faith could make this decision on their own giving both religious freedom or the freedom to genital intactness for the individual. Would it not be better to discourage non consenting infant circumcision in a non religious hospital setting?

    Further more some research I have come across seems to question the tradition of circumcision as a tenant of Judaism.
    Most people assume that circumcision has always been a part of Jewish life. In Genesis 17, we read that the Lord appeared to Abraham when he was ninety-nine years old and made a covenant with him, agreeing that he would be the God of the Jews and the Jews would worship no other god but him. To Seal the bargain. Jehovah is reported to have said to Abraham:

    “For Your part, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after your, generation by generation. This is how you shall keep my covenant between myself and your descendants after you: circumcise yourselves every male among you. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between us. Every male among you in every generation shall be circumcised on the eighth day, both those born in your house and any foreigner, not of your blood but bought with your money. Circumcise both those born in your house ans bought with your money.”(genesis 17:9-19)

    Biblical scholars, however, have known for a long time that this passage was never in the original Bible. It was added about 500 B.C., over one thousand years after the time of Abraham. Scholars David Rosenberg and Harold Bloom have published a full translation of the original version of Genesis, which dates from about 950 B.C. Here, Chapter 17 is conspicuously absent. All we read is that

    “it was that day Yahweh cut a covenant with Abram:”I gave this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, Euphrates—of the Kenite, and Kenizzite, the Kadmonite; of Hittite, the Perizzite, the Rephaim; of the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Girashite, the Jubisite(23)”

    As you can see, there is no mention of circumcision as a sign of this bargain. Along with biblical scholars, the only conclusion is that circumcision was never originally part of Judaism. Why, then, was circumcision incorporated into priestly Judaism?
    Rabbi and historian Lawrence A. Hoffman explains that by the late fifth century B.C., at the time of the Jews from Babylonian captivity, the priest hood tried to confirm their status as the dominant political force among the Israelites. (24) they did this by instituting a temple-centerd sacrificial cult into which newborn males were initiated by circumcision. They created the Abrahamic circumcision myth and inserted it into the most important part of Genesis, pretending that it had been there all along. The priesthood maintained their grip on power until about A.D. 71, when they were overthrown. Circumcision has remained a Hebrew practice ever since.


    2. Gospel of Thomas 53. In: Schneemelcher W, Wilson R. Mcl (eds). 2 vols. New Testament Apocrypha. Chambridge: J. Clkarke& Co; louisville, Ky: Westminister/John Knox Press. 1992-1992. Vol.2, pp.125
    3. Esra 5:30-31. The Fifth and Sixth Books of Esra 5:30-31. The Fifth and Sixth Books of Esra. In: Schneemelcher W, Wilson R. Mcl (eds). 2 vols. New Testament Apocrypha. Chambridge: J. Clkarke& Co; Louisville, Ky: Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992-1992. Vol.2, pp.125
    4. Paulus, Sententiar 5:22:3-4. In: Linder A. (ed). The Jews in roman Imperial legislation. Detroit: Wayne State University press; 1987. pp. 117-20.
    5. Collectio Tripartita, book 1: from the codex. Title 9, translation 70. Linder A (ed). The Jews in the Legal Sources of the Early Middle Ages. Detroit: Wayne State University Press; 1997. p.49.
    6. The canons of the holy and altogether august apostles. In: percival HR (ed). The seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church. Vol.14 of: A select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers of the Christian Church 2nd series. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1900. p.595.
    7. St. Augustine. Reply to Faustus the Manichaean. Book XIX. Paragraph 9. In: Dods M (ed). The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop pf Hippo. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark. 1872. vol. 15, p. 334
    8. St. Cyril. The Catechetical Lectures. In: Schaff P. Wace H (eds). A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers of the Christian Church. Second Series. 14 vols. New york: the Christian Literature Company. 1894. vol. 7 p. 30
    9. St. Jerome. Epistola XIX: De vera circumcisions. In: Migne JP (ed). S. Eusebii Hieronymi, Opera omnia. Petrologiae cursus completes. Paris: n.p.; 1846. vol. 11 , pp. 188-210
    10. St. John Chrysostom. Discourses Against Judaizing Christians Translated by Paul W. Harkins. Washington, DC; The Catholic University of America Press; 1979.
    11. John of Damascus. Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. Chapter XXV. Concerning the Circumcision. In: Watson, Pullan L (eds). A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers of the Christian Church. 2nd series. 14 vols. New York: The Christian Literature Company. 1894. vol 9, p 97.
    12. St. Justin Martyr. Dialogue with trypho. In:Falls TB (ed). Writings of Saint Justin Martyr. New York: Christian heritage; 1948. pp. 147-368[here, pp. 171-84,212-9]
    13. Lactantius. The Dicine Institutes, XVII. Of the superstisions of Jews, and their hatred aganst Jesus. In: Roberts A, Donaldson J (eds). The Ante-Nicene fathers. 10 vols. Buffalo: The Christian Literature Company; 1886. vol. 7 , pp.118-9.
    14. Origen. De Principiis, 4.3 In: Butterworth GW (ed). Origen on First Principals. London: Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. 1936. p 293.
    15. Tertullian. Adversus Iudaeous II, 13-III. In: Quinti Septimi Florentis Tertulliani Opera, Paris II. Opera Montantistica. Turnholti: Typographi Brepols; 1954. pp. 1344-9.
    16. St. Ambrose. Ambrose to Constantius. In: Beyenka MM (trans). Saint Ambrose Letters. New York: Fathers of the Church. 1954. pp. 90-100.
    Saint Ambrose. Ambrose to Horontianus. In: Beyenka MM (trans). Saint Ambrose Letters.New York: Fathers of the Church. 1954. pp. 251-4.
    17. Origen. Against Celsus 22. In: the Ante-Nicene fathers. 10 vols. Buffalo: The Christian Literature Company, 1886. vol. 4, p. 405.
    18. St. Ambrose. Ambrose to Clementianus. In: Beyenka MM (trans). Saint Ambrose letters. New York: Fathers of the Church. 1954. pp. 405-9[here, p. 407].
    19. Grayzel S. The Church and the Jews in the XIIth Century. Vol. 2, ed K.R Stow. Detroit, Mi: Wayne State University press; 1989. pp. 246-7.
    Linder A (ed). The Jews in the Legal Sources of the early Middle Ages. Detroit: Wayne State University press; 1997. pp. 28, 35, 38, 49, 52-8, 73, 84, 87, 104, 106, 119-9, 127, 133-6, 141-4, 147, 155-8, 170, 172, 213, 214, 226, 233, 238, 242-4, 248-53, 257, 260, 264, 268, 270, 274, 278, 285, 290, 295, 314, 351, 406, 409, 413, 416, 485, 488, 499, 519, 543, 576-7, 583, 587, 612-3, 617, 619-20, 636, 656, 658, 669, 670, 679.
    20. see: Pelikan J, Oswald HC, Grimm HJ, Lehmann HT (eds). Luthers Works. 55 vols. Philadelphia: Fortress press; 1971. vol. 2, p. 361; vol. 47, pp. 88, 152-9; vol. 54, p. 239.
    21. Moroni 8:8. The Book of Mormon. Translated by Joseph Smith First published in 1830. Salt Lake City: the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1921. p516.
    22. Section 74:2-7. Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: Desert News Company; 1880. pp. 260-1
    23. Rosenberg D, Bloom H (trans and eds). The Book of J. New York: Grove Weidenfeld;1990. p.79.
    24. Hoffman LA. Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press; 1996.

  30. craig says:

    Sara, Types of FGM vary widely. The most common FGM is a “sunat” removal of the clitoral hood (female circumcision), which removes less tissue then male circumcision. infibulation or sewing the vagina shut is uncommon(1). I find it interesting that infibulation is usually the first thing that is mentioned when discussing FGM in America.

    One myth that is often stated by misinformed feminist is that removing the exposed portion of the clitoris is like “removing a whole penis”. Most of the clitoris is internal and it actually rivals the penis in size. The dorsal portion of the vaginal wall is actually the clitoris as its erectile tissue runs along it. (2) Hence this myth is a gross exaggeration.

    It is not necessarily done with the sole intent of removing pleasure, as it very well may be in some cultures. It is often done for “hygiene”, rite of passage from girl to woman, culture, tradition, religion, cosmetics, and conformity. For instance in Sierra Leone, where almost all women are circumcised with a clitoridectomy(removal of the exposed portion of the clitoris); the circumciser is always a women, It is a feminine matter, and it is governed by the women of the tribe.(3) Most circumcised women exhibit the same behavior as circumcised men including the denial of loss, and the compulsion to repeat the trauma. Myths generated by western feminism grossly over exaggerate the harms, understate the “benefits”,effectively over simplifying this very complex issue which demonstrates their true lack of knowledge regarding the issue. Truth is they do it for all the same myths and misconceptions that we use to circumcise males. No mother says, “OK, time to mutilate my daughter” if they knew it was harmful they would not do it. FGM victims often do not think of them selves as mutilated or dysfunctional. The victim defines the level of damage. Some of these women, some of which are even doctors, write articles where they claim the clitoris has no proven function, and that it looks much better with out one, and that it prevents HIV, and so on and so fourth.

    In a well publicized statement ,that I encourage you to read, entitled a Statement by African Women Are Free to Choose made many interesting remarks. One of these went like this:

    “That FC was designed by men to control women’s sexuality is a western feminist myth constructed in a disturbing dismissal of African gender models of male and female complementarity and of our own creativity, power and agency as adult women in the social world.”(3)

    One study that was published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, appeared in an issue of newscientist. It states:

    “Circumcised women experience sexual arousal and orgasm as frequently as uncircumcised women… according to a study of 1836 women…The results show female circumcision cannot be denied by arguments that suggest it reduces sexual activity in women”(4)

    Some studies seem to suggest that circumcised women are less prone to HIV due to the reduction in the number of Langerhans and CD4 cells. An argument that is also used to claim that male circumcision prevents HIV. But as you can see the same biologic plausibility claim that exist for MGM also exists for FGM. Langerhands cells actually play a protective role against HIV by the secretion of langerin.

    One study concluded:
    “Risk of HIV among women who had undergone Female Circumcision is roughly half that of women who had not. Association remained significant after adjusting for region, household wealth, age, lifetime partners, and union status.”(5)

    Another study concluded:
    “Women who have undergone Female Circumcision have a significantly decreased risk of HIV-2 infection when compared to those who had not.”(6)

    One you tube user and FGM victim who hosts a channel and goes by the name of CleanSexy experiences a strong emotional compulsion to promote FGM.(7) She is a Muslim and in her culture she has been subjected to all the same health rationalizations for FGM as we have been for MGM. Here we can observe that the same results of cultural indoctrination are applicable to both men and women. She has managed to find all the rationalizing literature she needs to back her assertions. She has been endorsing several academic publications including the ones I mentioned above. She was circumcised in a sterile hospital setting. Below is some of her quotes.

    “Calling female circumcision “mutilation” only strengthens the movement for more circumcision, because nobody likes propagandistic hyperbole rhetoric. i.e., you only make it more obvious that anyone who is against circumcision is an irrational radical.

    Don’t feel sorry for me, my bits are improved and enhanced. Sex is better, I’m cleaner, and I’m safer. Your jealousy is overwhelming.

    Yes, I was circumcised, and I’m glad. If I wasn’t circumcised, I would get circumcised. The clitoris is a disgusting piece of flesh, and the labia only serves to hold in bacteria and yeast.

    Why wait when you know it’s better to be circumcised? I’ve yet to talk to a woman who was circumcised that wasn’t glad she was circumcised. The only women I hear who are against female circumcision haven’t been circumcised. How would they know if they haven’t had it both ways? I was 12 when I was circumcised…
    and no, it didn’t hurt much, some people make a big deal out of nothing. The bottom line is, female circumcision reduces your risk of contracting HIV by at least 50%. Circumcision saves lives… MILLIONS of lives. It’s irrational not to support it.

    In a particular you-tube video, a supporter of legalizing FGM in America has reasoned that the same health,cosmetic, and hygienic myths Americans have regarding MGM can be logically applied to FGM as well.(8)


    (1)World Health Organization. (2010). Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement. World Health Organization.
    (2)Sharon Mascall. Time for rethink on the clitoris. BBC News. June 2006
    (3)Statement by African Women Are Free to Choose (AWA-FC), Washington DC, USA February 20, 2009
    (4)Journal ref: BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (vol 109, p 1089) NewScientist (Sep 2002)
    (5)Stallings et al. Female circumcision and HIV infection in Tanzania: For better or for worse? 3rd IAS conference on HIV pathogenesis and treatment International AIDS Society. 2009
    (6) Kanki P, M’Boup S, Marlink R, et al. “Prevalence & risk determinants of HIV type 2 (HIV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in west African female prostitutes Am. J. Epidemiol. 136 (7): 895-90

  31. Angelica says:

    My husband hates the fact he was circumcised. He’s had issues regarding pain since he was born. Apparently his circumcision is considered a successful one with no issues but it certainly had issues in the end for him. And my 3 year old son is beginning to have the same issues. Now that I’m pregnant with our next son, I know I won’t be circumcising him too. At least I can save one of my boys from the pain of living with their circumcision.

  32. Abby says:

    “I don’t judge anyone for their decision to circumcise. This procedure has been marketed to parents as a cure for bedwetting, clubfoot, epilepsy, a preventative for AIDS, cancer, UTI’s and everything in between. What loving parent wouldn’t want their child to be free from these things?”
    Again, it is a terrible myth that parents who circumcise their sons are doing so out of ignorance. You may disagree with someone who maybe doesn’t read the same blogs and biased website that you read, but that in no way means that they are just being duped into myths, and ignorantly thinking that they are doing the right thing for their kids when in fact, they aren’t. They are responsible, intelligent people who do their homework just as much as you do, and confide in reliable sources (i.e. their Rabbi knows more about their religion than, say, some website that you found, and the AAP isn’t exactly run by a bunch of dummies). I believe you, and others, when you say that you have no intention to judge, but you are perpetuating beliefs about circumcision and those who practice it, and these beliefs are fueling and justifying anti-semitism and even potentially laws that forbid this religious practice.

    • circesadreim says:

      “these beliefs are fueling and justifying anti-semitism and even potentially laws that forbid this religious practice.”

      Well, yeah – there *should* be a law that recognizes equal protection for male babies! Religion is not a valid excuse for violating the rights of a non-consenting human being. And the child isn’t religious at that point in his life anyway; he doesn’t even understand the concept of such a thing. To permanently mark him in the name of religion violates HIS freedom of religion.

      BTW – it isn’t a myth that many/most people who cut their babies don’t do their research. After years speaking out against this procedure, it is clear to me – and probably all other intactivists out there – that most people are decidedly ignorant about the issue and cut their baby for no other reason than ‘just because’. I should know. I would have done it to my own son for the same reason if someone hadn’t talked sense into me beforehand. My experience was not an anomaly. It happens All.The.Time.

      • Abby says:

        You speak of a Brit Milah like it is no big deal at all, but itsa HUGE deal in the practicing Jewish community. It’s a requirement to have ones son circumcised in a religious context. They don’t even name their sons until the bris, as a show of how spiritually significant this is. I would like to see you approach an Orthodox rabbi and tell him that you know more about this than he does. You may not believe that religious scripture came from a true God, but many people do, and it’s their right to practice what is written and to raise their families in accordance with it.

        Above all, I get very frustrated with people who have no understanding of what a “right” is in this country. Our constitution’s Bill of Rights states that Congress may not pass any law that prohibits freedom of religion. It does not say “everyone has right to choose religion.” Only that the government cannot restrict religious practices. And religious practices always involve some degree of indoctrination of children. It is 100 percent clear to anyOne who understands our laws that the government has no right to pass a law to prohibit circumcision in religious contexts, and that there is no freedom of religion issue between a parent and a child when it comes to the law.

        One more thing. If religion isn’t relevant to a baby, then why do Christians bother baptizing them?

        • mare54 says:

          I don’t agree. Carving your religion into your sons genitals does not respect the right of that baby boy to choose his religion (or choose no religion….)…..there is NO respect for the baby and his rights. I don’t see how that is spiritual…….and genital cutting is definitely NOT spiritual….it is a barbaric ritual that needs to be re evaluated and stopped. There are other ceremonies that are peaceful, respectful celebrations, like the Brit Milah which does NOT involve cutting the genitals of normal healthy infants.

        • Robert says:

          Religious indoctrination of children is one thing.
          Permanent physical alteration (at best) or mutilation (at worst) to an infant with no voice is a completely different matter.

          Let me ask you this.

          Let’s say a long lost Jewish child were found. Maybe he was given up for adoption at birth. Maybe he was separated from his family during some disaster or time of war.

          In any case, after many years, the child, now grown, is reunited with his family.

          His parents learn he was never circumcised. They tell him he must be. He asks what it means. They tell him the religious meaning and describe the procedure.

          He tells them he doesn’t want the procedure done to him. He may even tell them that he is not interested in being a practicing Jew. But he is very clear that he wants his body to remain intact.

          They tell him that despite his wishes, this procedure must be performed.

          So they grab him and hold him while other members of the community pour into the room and tie ropes to his arms and legs. They strap him to a table. They tear off his clothes.

          A rabbi appears with a bag, opens the bag, and removes a scalpel. He cuts into the flesh of the child.

          The child screams in protest, begging them to stop.

          The family and the rabbi and the community smile.

          The child looks at his father and says “Why are you doing this to me?”

          The father bends close and says “Because It was done to me.”

          The child says “Why was it done to you?”

          The response: “Because it was done to my father. And to his father. And to his father. All the way back through time to the very first boy to have it done to him. You are the next in line. And I pray when you have a son you will do this to him as well.”

          The child says, “But I don’t want this done to my body.”

          The rabbi bends down and says:

          “Even though you don’t want this to happen to you, it is our religious right to do this to you. You have no voice. You can cry, but you cannot speak. Be silent and let us practice our religion.”

      • Abby says:

        You tell me where in the Constitution it says that a parent may not indoctrinate his or her own child into their religion. Read the 1st ammendment and tell me that the government has the right to restrict our freedoms. And if you think babies are too young and irrevelant to be included in religious practices, tell me why Christians baptize their babies.

        As a somewhat religious Jewish person with many family and friends who identify the same way (some even more strongly than I), I completely resent being told by know-it-alls on the Internet that they know my religion better than I do, that well respected rabbis are just as brainwashed and clueless, and that we circumcise out of ignorance “just because.” Just because you were an idiot with your son doesn’t mean that we are.

        • circesadreim says:

          “You tell me where in the Constitution it says that a parent may not indoctrinate his or her own child into their religion.”

          You tell me where in the Constitution it says that a parent may inflict permanent, harmful, painful, non-therapeutic amputation on the body of a non-consenting human being in the name of religion.

          You tell me where in the Constitution it says that boys are less worthy of equal protection from religious cutting than girls.


          “Read the 1st ammendment and tell me that the government has the right to restrict our freedoms.”

          Read the 1st amendment and tell me that one human being has the right to mutilate the body of another.


          “And if you think babies are too young and irrevelant to be included in religious practices, tell me why Christians baptize their babies.”

          Explain to me how sprinkling water onto a baby causes amputation of a body part, irreversible damage, pain, trauma, loss of full functionality of their genitalia, and death.


          “As a somewhat religious Jewish person with many family and friends who identify the same way (some even more strongly than I), I completely resent being told by know-it-alls on the Internet that they know my religion better than I do, that well respected rabbis are just as brainwashed and clueless,”

          One person’s religion ends where another person’s body begins.

          Thank goodness not all Jews agree with your ‘respected rabbis’.


          “Just because you were an idiot with your son doesn’t mean that we are.”

          Anyone who thinks they’ve got a ‘right’ to mutilate the genitals of their child as if they are a piece of property is acting on an idiotic compunction and has no respect for the child’s inherent human right to bodily integrity.

        • Dolores RN says:

          this site has beautiful and tender information and stories for and about Jewish parents.

    • mary lanser says:

      I don’t agree. no one is justifying anti-Semitism …… and when this is used as a defense of non therapeutic infant circumcision, it’s is a sad smoke screen for what is really going on here. Too often the “anti-Semitism” card is pulled and this is not the point here. One persons religion ends where another persons body begins, plain and simple. It’s not about religion, it’s about human rights.

  33. Nicole says:

    There is a ton of hate on this board. Heather, I appreciate your post. I must stay to others though, circumcision is a completely holy and sacred thing for Jews and Muslims throughout the world. There seem to be many comments who are completely insensitive to this. This should stay legal in America. But not covered in insurance as to the secular world, it has not medical reason to occur. It is our right to practice our religion in peace. Please honor that.

    • circesadreim says:

      There’s is nothing ‘peaceful’ about mutilating the genitals of a non-consenting human being. Religion is not a valid excuse for such a human rights violation and we will continue to speak out against this barbarity whenever we have the chance. Shame on any society – or religion – that continues to condone something so heinous.

    • mary lanser says:

      Please allow your child to have freedom of religion too. Female circumcision is considered a sacred thing for Muslims too, but it’s illegal in the U.S. Why shouldn’t boys have the same protection for their bodies????

  34. Robert says:

    There are many things which are considered religiously sacred, including female circumcision. That doesn’t make them right.

    An old man marrying and impregnating an 11 year old girl is a dearly held aspect of certain religious/cultural belief systems. That doesn’t make it right.

    The extremist jihadist who kills an innocent civilian also feels his action is sacred and religiously justified. That doesn’t make it right.

    Human sacrifice has also been practiced for thousands of years across many cultures for religious reasons. That didn’t make it right. Even if those people were to say “it is our right to practice our religion in peace.”

    Circumcision is certainly not the same as human sacrifice. But both are religiously motivated. Just because it is considered sacred by the believers of the system, doesn’t make it right.

    No one today would think that human sacrifice is acceptable. But to those who practiced it, human sacrifice made sense, was sacred, was part of their religion.

    That doesn’t make human sacrifice right.

    Likewise, a religious belief in circumcision — the sexual alteration or mutilation of either males or females too young to have a voice — doesn’t make circumcision right.

    Just because someone believes something is right doesn’t make it right.

    Just because someone WANTS to do something to someone else, doesn’t mean that that action is right.

    The Unabomber thought his actions were justified. Same for 9/11, Hitler, Stalin, etc. Just because they thought their actions were justified didn’t automatically make those actions actions justified.

    Again, I am not equating those deeds or people with circumcision or the people who believe in circumcision. They are not equivalent.

    I am purposefully choosing extreme examples to illustrate that just because someone believes something, no matter how close that belief rests to their heart, No matter how well-intended, doesn’t make the belief right.

    While it may be your right to practice your religion — don’t you practice it with free will? What right do you have to force your religious practice on a child with no voice who has not even decided to join your religion?

    You also suggest that circumcision is ok because it falls in your religious belief system. Does this mean you think that circumcision for other reasons is wrong?

    When we speak out in defense of children, we have one concern — the health and well-being of the child. We do not seek to insult your religious beliefs. Frankly it doesn’t matter WHY you think circumcision is good — religious reasons, tradition, appearance, etc. We do not denigrate your religion.

    We say only that a child has the right to the body he or she was born with, and that circumcision should be chosen by the recipient when they are of an age to make that choice for themselves.

  35. Suzanne says:

    I still have not come to a conclusion on which side I agree with on this. I do not agree with parents circumcising their kids just because they don’t want them to be different. But I have heard a lot of men say that they (even cleaning it and taking care of it) had so many issues had to get circumcised later in life which was harder. I would NOT want that for my child if I could prevent it. I have heard enough evidence for both sides to be a valid choice. Health is why I would choose or not choose it.

    • Mare54 says:

      Honestly….I cannot understand why anyone would make a decision on whether to keep their baby boy whole because of something supposedly “a lot” of men have said negative things about their genitals! I mean, women have way more folds of skin to take care of and are MUCH more prone to problems and infections than men are…..BUT no one is advocating to be cutting off any part of their genitals, in fact, it’s illegal to cut the genitals of infant girls in the U.S. but boys seem to be left out of that protection! Yes, body modifications can be painful later on when an informed adult makes a decision to have one done, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s not painful for a newborn to undergo an unnecessary genital alteration surgery! If you can prevent your infant from having to go through a traumatic surgical procedure to unnecessarily modify his genitals……then here is your chance! The health myths are just that, myths. Babies are born with foreskin for good reasons, healthy reasons…..and it is NOT a birth defect that is in need of amputation. Protect your baby now……and let him decide if he wants to alter his genitals when he is old enough to make such a decision for his OWN body. It’s the sensible thing to do!

    • Robert says:

      Mare said it very well.

      This is a decision that each boy should be able to make for themselves.

      As a circumcised male, I honestly resent the fact that this decision was made for me just so that I would look “the same” in the locker room — a situation which never even came up in my whole life.

      I also resent the fact that my sensation has been vastly reduced. I even have areas where I feel literally nothing. Dead zones. Completely numb due to nerves being severed during the procedure. You know what this has meant to my life? Vastly reduced sexual pleasure. I know your baby is just a baby now. But one day this stuff will matter to him, and matter for the rest of his life. This is something that an never be undone. I would have it undone if I could.

      You know what’s important to a man? Sexual function. Far more important than any minor inconvenience of added hygiene.

      For crying out loud, we all have to spend several minutes a day brushing and flossing our teeth, right? And I’m pretty sure no one is advocating having all their teeth removed and replaced with dentures to eliminate the hassles of brushing and dental care.

      When you own a car, there is the added inconvenience of having it serviced, buying gas, wsshing it, etc.

      Yes, almost all good things in life require some sort of attention to keep them in good order.

      Even loving relationships require work — but are worth the work.

      A foreskin, as Mare so well puts it, is not a defect. Please don’t be pressured to think it should be removed for “health” reasons.

    • Circesadreim says:

      “But I have heard a lot of men say that they (even cleaning it and taking care of it) had so many issues had to get circumcised later in life which was harder.”

      That is most likely due to forcible retraction when they were younger and/or repeated washing the genitals with soap. Both are huge no-no’s and contribute to many of the supposed ‘foreskin problems’ men experience in America. The real culprit is ignorance, not foreskin. No other body part would we try to justify cutting off of someone without their consent. It shouldn’t be any different for the penis. It’s a human rights violation and medically unethical to perform non-therapeutically on the body of someone against their will.

  36. Jo says:

    Two of my sons are teens and one is 7. All have been circumcised, because both my husband and I absolutely believe it is the healthiest thing we could do for our sons at an age when it would be the least traumatic. Both my husband and I have friends and family who had to undergo circumcision later in life due to a variety of reasons (none cosmetic) and it was these experiences (not religion at all) that influenced our choices. (Yes. I was there for each circumcision. If you choose to circ, I highly recommend local anesthesia and a practitioner willing to be patient and efficient.) We also have very open conversations with our kids, so even when circumcision became a bigger deal (anti-circ), it was a comfortable conversation to have with our boys. Previously, the boys have gone to private school and then we homeschooled, but, at the time of this particular conversation, they had been attending a public school for about two years. As a result: gym class and athletics = locker rooms. Our oldest, almost 17, was concerned about a classmate who had repeated infections and who was quite upset with his parents for not circumcising him as an infant, when it would have been less of a surgical procedure. Our boys also identified that they felt absolutely NO trauma, emotional or otherwise, at having been circ’ed as infants. Being exposed to what they’re exposed to (seeing others, hearing other’s tales, etc), they are grateful we made the choice we made. Not because of comparison (do I look like so-and-so? Does so-and-so look like me?), but because of health issues they’re grateful not to have to face.

    I appreciate that people want to deny health issues, but the truth is that I personally know too many individuals who have faced real health issues due to not being circumcised for the anti-argument to hold much sway. Truth is, where there is an opinion, facts will be found to support it and this is true of the pro/anti arguments. I full support each parent’s right to make their choices, whatever it may be. No guilt, no consternation, no superiority on my part. I feel the ultimate mark of a good parent is one who does their very best with the information, beliefs, education, etc they have in the moment.

    • Jo says:

      I’d also like to add that I birthed all three boys at home with a midwife, breastfed, eat primarily organic, and don’t vaccinate.

    • mare54 says:

      Wow….all of that….and you still cut the normal healthy genitals of your little boys. How disheartening to say the least!

    • Circesadreim says:

      “I appreciate that people want to deny health issues, but the truth is that I personally know too many individuals who have faced real health issues due to not being circumcised for the anti-argument to hold much sway.”

      That is most likely due to forcible retraction when they were younger and/or repeated washing the genitals with soap. Both are huge no-no’s and contribute to many of the supposed ‘foreskin problems’ men experience in America. The real culprit is ignorance, not foreskin. No other body part would we try to justify cutting off of someone without their consent. It shouldn’t be any different for the penis. It’s a human rights violation and medically unethical to perform non-therapeutically on the body of someone against their will.

    • Wendy says:

      How in hell is it less traumatic to have a proportionately large piece of your genitals sliced off when you can’t be properly anaesthetised? That is so incredibly ridiculous it almost made me laugh. Except that it’s so sad to hear this kind of nonsense spouted by someone who obviously did a lot of research on every other aspect of birth and infant care.

      Yes, yes, I know you did LOTS of research on circumcision. That’s why you made the decision based on the “many men” you’ve known who “had to be circumcised as adults”, rather than on the indisputable fact that some 90% of the world’s men are intact (there’s no such thing as “uncircumcised”), with about 1% ever needing to be circumcised.

      Doctors in the U.S. are notoriously ignorant of the care of the intact male genitals. New parents are routinely told that they must retract their child’s penis to clean “under” the foreskin. The problem is that there’s no “under” the foreskin until it’s retractable- usually around the age of 10 YEARS (not hours, days, weeks, or months). It’s fused to the head of the penis like your fingernail is fused to your finger. If you continually peeled back your children’s fingernails to clean under them, don’t you think eventually they’d need to be removed, too? Therefore, it’s not the foreskin that’s the issue, it’s the poor care of the foreskin, based on bad advice.

  37. Jo says:

    “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anais Nin

    Your judgments of me mean nothing to me. An FYI, though . . . you might find more people open to your view of things if you didn’t present it with all the aplomb of a bully.

    • mare54 says:

      I don’t have to judge you… are already judged by your actions. Someday you will be explaining to your boys why they weren’t perfect enough for you as nature created them. That should be an interesting explanation! I’m not a bully but you might want to take a look in the mirror.

      • Jo says:

        I support your right to make parental choices for your children . . . whether that be to vaccinate, or not. To home birth, or not. To naturally birth, or not. To circ, or not. To eat/feed nutritious, or not. And I don’t judge you for your choices, for that is your path and your consequences. I don’t feel that you are any more or less trying to do what you believe is right for you, simply because it is not what I believe is right for me. This is what saddens me about society today . . . that we attach so much import and meaning to “right” and “wrong” that we do not realize there is mostly just “different”. And that’s as it should be.

        Your guilt tactics will not work with me. I do find it interesting that you would choose that manipulative path, though. Didn’t you read where I’ve been talking to my boys all along about my parental choices (circ, vaccine, diet, etc)? They are more than fine. I believe that has everything to do with open communication and robust physical/mental/emotional/spiritual health.

  38. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Thank you so much. There are few posts that mean as much to me as that one, and I’m glad that it is sparking some conversation!

    • Jo says:

      Conversation . . . opinions . . . accusations. Sadly, there is little live-and-let-live in this hyperoffended society of premature opinionation.

  39. mare54 says:

    Talking to them about circumcision is a little different than explaining to them why they were not perfect in your eyes as nature created them. Too bad you don’t understand that although you might think your boys are “just fine”….. they may not be… you can’t change form without changing function to some extent and they won’t know to what extent that is, until they become sexually active. Unfortunately for them, you won’t be included in this part of their lives, yet you made a very permanent decision to alter their natural bodies at birth. Such a “natural” mom, yet nature just wasn’t good enough for you. You are right about one thing, though, “live and let live” is a good motto to live by, however you didn’t follow it when you opted to cut and alter a normal natural healthy part of your boys bodies. Maybe you live by the selective, “live and let live”…..only when it appeals to you personally. Body alteration is a very personal choice and it should always be left up to the person to whom the body belongs……which sadly many parents seem to think they own their children’s bodies. Why else would a parent make such a permanent body alteration on another persons body that is not their own??? Now that would be a good example of “opinionation”……as you put it. No one is guilting you… are guilting yourself, stop trying to blame it on someone else.

    • Robert says:

      Well stated Mare, as always.

      This is not about bullying. It’s about being protective.

      As a man who has been circumcised without my consent — and who now suffers the effects of that — yes, there are erects — I resent that it was done to me. If I had ever decided to have it done, it would have been my choice.

      Moms may view their little babies as just cute bundles. Which they are. But when they grow up, enter intimate relationships, let me tell you — it absolutely SUCKS to have completely numb and dead zones where you should be feeling SOMETHING – ANYTHING – but instead get NOTHING.

      As loving and as well-intentioned as arenas may be, none has the “right” to lessen another person’s sensual perception.

      You know. There is a great documentary called Sound and Fury. It’s about the deaf community grappling with their culture eroding because of cochlear implants. Fewer and fewer children are deaf because of them. And there is a strong push to keep kids deaf so that deaf culture survives.

      I would ask parents considering circumcision this: if your child were born deaf, would you allow them to hear? Even if you were deaf? Or would you deny them the pleasure of music, laughter, speech, theater, so that you could propagate your culture?

      I bet you’d slap that implant on in a heart beat.

      But if you were deaf and loved your culture … You might hesitate as much as these deaf parents.

      Are they evil? Of course not. But they have a mindset that it is not wrong to deny their children sound. That it is in effect a good thing.

      To them, it’s not “wrong.” Its just “different.” And they feel they have a right to make this decision for their children.

      There are parallels to circumcision.

      But in the case of circumcision — it’s not like the child was born without a foreskin and the parents had to decide if they were going to have their child undergo a procedure to grow one.

      Instead, the child is born fully functional — fully FEELING — and the parents decide to take that feeling and reduce it for cosmetic / religious / social / traditional / “different” motivations.

      This is not a question of let and let live, c’est la vie, six of one half a dozen of another.

      This procedure reduces sensation. Period. As the nurse so eloquently stated, you are removing the vast majority of your child’s serve endings. That is a FACT. It’s not an opinion.

      There are plenty of places in society where there is room for opinion.

      But when people begin to omit FACTS that are contrary to their opinions, just do they can continue to justify their opinions, their actions, it’s a problem.

      One of my best friends is Jewish. I asked him what he thought. He wishes it hasn’t been done to him. Just as I do. It was done to both of us by loving and well meaning parents — who were also wrong.

      They were WRONG to do it.

      Many men may never be aware of the full range of sensation they were designed to experience. If a man is bade colorblind at birth, he will never miss blue because he will never know blue. If blue is never discussed, if society is largely silent, and perhaps even supportive of color blindness — perhaps it makes men look more appealing to some — then these men will never know any different. But if they were given their sight again … They would know the difference. And they would want to see color.

      If nothing else — please take my words as the future version of a baby who was once helpless and at the mercy of his parents’ decision.

      I truly wish they had chosen differently.

      Because that one moment of decision was theirs. But the consequences of that decision are mine to bear for the rest of my life — every single day.

      • mare54 says:

        Wow Robert……you have me in tears! May I use your comment (anonymously of course…) to help enlighten other mothers on this topic? Thank you.

  40. Robert says:

    Sorry — I meant to write that yes, there are EFFECTS. Not erects. Lol.

    I’m on an iPad and it auto corrected and I didn’t catch it.

    A pretty apropo typo though. :-)

  41. Jo says:

    My entire life, I’ve never personally met a circ’d man who regretted being circ’d (only read those stories online). I HAVE personally met many who regretted their parents didn’t circ them as infants. I personally know the stories (from firsthand sharing) of at least two men who were sexually active before circ became a necessity for them . . . one said sex felt no different without his foreskin and the other said it felt better without the foreskin. My PERSONAL experiences, and those of my husband, have been the deciding factor for me and mine. That a person would try to convince healthy individuals they have an issue they don’t have is just twisted. That a person would try to manipulate a healthy mom/son interaction with unnecessary guilt is just twisted. You know NOTHING about me, my situation, the experiences I use to inform my choices, my children, etc, etc.. WTH, people???

    I initially commented here for those moms and dads still trying to make this decision. I wanted to let them know that there is no “right” or “wrong”, just different on this (and many other) topic. And, whichever way you choose, there should be no guilt or fear. If you’re choosing out of guilt or fear, you’re not making the best choice for you. There will be horror stories from either side of this choice (and many others) . . . such is life. Make the best choice for you and yours (without guilt and fear) and distance yourself from anyone who would judge you, label you, degrade you for that choice.

    There’s a quote: “Sometimes you can do everything right and still lose.” So true. I know humans crave certainty, perhaps above all (which is why when a person makes a choice, they try to goad others into making the same choice . . . so that they feel “certain” they are “right”). Certainty is an illusion. There is far less “right” and “wrong” and so much “different”. And that’s okay.

    And this is my last post here. I find what passes for conversation on this blog to be quite antagonistic and not in the least accepting of differences. I choose not to further this expression of unconsciousness with my time and energies.

    • Wendy says:

      You must be an awkward person to be friends with, if you talk to all of your male acquaintances about their circumcision status. Somehow I think this is not really the case, despite (well, actually due to) your contention that you don’t know any men who resent being circumcised.

      Like it or not, you removed a functional part of your son’s anatomy without his consent. A part that many men find to be the most sensitive and useful part of their bodies. A part that functions in protection, as well as sensation. A part that, based on real-world statistics and experiences is not fraught with danger and disease.

      You also carelessly disregard the opinions and experiences of a man who’s mother ostensibly believed she was making the best decision for him. He is not happy. He’s had very bad outcomes because of his circumcision. Tell me, if a woman posted about resenting her parents for having her clitoral hood removed (the most common form of FGM) would you disregard her, too? I think not.

      Something I neglected to say in my previous post. Many, many, many victims of FGM are “happy” that they had it done. They state that they feel “just as much sensation” as women who haven’t been circumcised. They perpetuate that atrocity because they feel they are “just fine”. Sound familiar?

  42. Mare54 says:

    I think therein lies the problem….making permanent decisions about your child’s body based on so called “experiences”. And “here say” rather than using basic common sense. Basic common sense should tell an otherwise seemingly intelligent person that surgically altering the normal natural body of an infant who was born normal and healthy is WRONG…. And definitely NOT a case of “differences” of opinion! Claiming merely differences of opinion is a real cop-out when this is clearly an issue that has a right or wrong side of it. Wrong…. Because it robs your child of his body integrity…. Wrong because it violates his human rights….wrong because its not medically necessary….and wrong because its HIS body and not yours! The worst part is that you claim to have done all this research and claim to be such a “natural” mom…. And then you refuse to take responsibility for your actions. That is the real shame.

  43. CircEsAdreim says:

    Jo – nothing you said is a validation for mutilating the healthy genitalia of a human being without their consent.

  44. Rachel says:

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that circumcision has medical benefits and advantages, as well as risks. A recent analysis by the AAP concluded that the medical Benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. We recommend that the decision to circumcise is one best made by parents in consultation with their pediatrician, taking into account what is in the best interests of the child, including medical, religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions and personal beliefs. I dont think you should have stated your opinion as many moms will probably do as you did without looking at the pros and cons. And its not mutilating people its forskin for crying out loud it’s not actually cutting a membrane!!!!!

    • Wendy says:

      I’ll address the AAP statement first.

      Did you even read what the task force put out on this subject? If so, did you happen to notice that, while they “decided” that the benefits of RIC outweigh the risks, they went on to admit that they didn’t study the risks.

      If you ask me, that’s like saying A>B. But we never figured out what B is. But A>B. Because we say it is. Because we do. Believe us.

      Secondly, foreskin (prepuce) is NOT a membrane! It’s a good-sized piece (on an adult male it’s approximately 3×5 inches) of SKIN! *Attached to the penis by a membrane*. I think you got confused there. Did you actually study anatomy? Seriously? If so, did your textbooks tell you anything about the prepuce besides how to remove it? Oh, and convince parents to pay you to do so?

    • mary Lanser says:

      Really????? “its not mutilating people its forskin for crying out loud it’s not actually cutting a membrane!!!!!”….. someone has not become educated on natural normal male anatomy! Foreskin is NORMAL……and I don’t know how many times it has to be said….it’s NORMAL……and because it’s normal and natural and NOT some kind of birth defect in dire need of amputation…by cutting it off of a healthy child with normal genitals, it does meet the criteria for “mutilation”. That said….NO ONE likes to hear that word, but it is the reality of it. Did you even pay attention to the medical benefits that apply to a healthy infant with normal genitalia? Right….there are NONE! Even the AAP can’t list a single valid medical reason to cut a normal healthy functional part of an infant boys genitals and if you read farther down, you will also find that they DO NOT recommend routine infant circumcision! That’s right…..they can’t recommend unnecessary genital alteration surgery for healthy infants with normal genitals…..or they will be held responsible for recommending unnecessary surgery on infants…of course they don’t want this responsibility! That doesn’t stop them from advocating for it to be “funded” though……and why wouldn’t they? It’s an easy cash cow for doctors who perform it on babies and let’s not forget that hospitals also sell neonatal foreskin to research and cosmetic/anti aging companies! Unethical much????????????

    • CircEsAdreim says:

      The members on the AAP Task force on Circumcision were pro-cutting advocates that based their ‘stance’ on flawed studies. But if you look closely, you’ll discover that they still don’t recommend infant genital mutilation outright. No medical organization in the world recommends routine infant genital mutilation.

      And it IS mutilation, even if your culturally blinded sensitivities won’t all you to see that at the moment.

      Mutilate: to cut up, destroy, or alter radically – in the case of circumcision, the foreskin is cut up/destroyed, and the man’s penis is radically altered from its natural state;

      Mutilation: an injury that causes disfigurement or that deprives you of a limb or other important body part – in the case of circumcision, the penis is disfigured from its natural state, it has been partially amputated, and it will never have its full functionality, as nature intended.

  45. Kari says:

    I was going to be quiet on this, but I find I cannot. I find irony in the “intactivist” positions.

    1. Though I’ve seen no stats, it’s probable that a ton of intactivists who scream about pain in circumcision vaccinate their children against their wills (which also carries research that renders the benefits controversial at best).
    2. People who scream about human rights very often endorse abortion, which seems to me to be a much worse treatment of a child even than cutting some skin. Sure, a mother has the right to mutilate her child’s body, but no she doesn’t have that right. Make a decision, people.
    3. People reference the foreskin being created by God for specific purposes and then demonize the same God for commanding it to be cut off.

    You know, nowadays, laws are being considered that are “protecting” children of farmers from working on their families’ farms. Children, screaming while roughhousing, are being picked up by CPS because the neighbors accused their parents of abuse. Our children are not our own anymore, and it’s because other people think they can parent our children better than we can. It’s wrong, and it’s completely baseless. What human can prove to love a child more than their own parent? How many women cry for weeks and months and years because they can’t have a child of their own, when there are thousands of children ready for adoption each day? How many women have lost their husbands because they wanted to find women that could birth babies for them? Are there the exceptions, the truly abusive parent? Yes. Is that the norm? No.

    People who scorn, mock, accuse, judge and otherwise abuse parents for loving their children are proud, arrogant, ignorant of their own disgusting behavior, and they degrade our society. I believe in circumcision and I would NEVER treat any parents who don’t in the way that I’ve seen parents who do be treated. A parent who doesn’t circumcise their child is refusing out of love for their child. A parent who chooses to circumcise their child is doing so out of love for their child. The same goes for vaccination, ear piercing, etc. Are they all the same procedure? No. Is it all the same motivation? Absolutely. Parental love is one of the most demonized objects in our society nowadays which is a disgrace and will be a major reason of our demise if we don’t reverse it. What happened to voicing your opinion without condemnation? What happened to informing out of love and leaving the choice to the deciding party?

    On religion, Paul is not superior to Jesus. Paul was a prophet. Jesus is the Messiah. Paul was speaking to grown men, not fathers considering circumcising their sons. The command from God is to the parents about their sons, not to the men about their own circs. Again, Paul does not overrule his God. His writings would have to be removed from canonization if he tried. Also, I’ve asked this question twice and have never been answered: if the Hebrew doesn’t mean to actually remove anything, what did Zipporah throw at Moses’ feet when their sons were circumcised?

    It is not my job to convince anyone of anything, and I will not try to do so. However, the disrespect, the accusation, the downright conceited ego of some intactivists is disgusting at the very least. It’s like some of you never grew past high school.

    • Kari says:

      I forgot to include this: I do agree that the modern hospital version of circumcision should be done away with. It is not the same as the historical procedure mentioned in the Bible.

      • CircEsAdreim says:

        ALL versions of genital cutting that are inflicted on someone by force without an immediate medical need should be done away with. That includes the ‘historical procedure mentioned in the Bible.’

    • CircEsAdreim says:

      Aaaaaaaand …. none of that blather justifies the genital mutilation of human beings without their consent.

    • mary Lanser says:

      What a bunch of red herrings to cloud the issue of unnecessary genital cutting on children! Some people will go to great lengths to cloud this issue…….of course, we KNOW why. There is NO justification to cut the normal genitals of children and no contrived argument can cloud that fact. Good try though!

  46. Vesper says:

    I have nothing against either side. I spent the time to research it and found that there was slightly more evidence in favor medically than against. We make choices for our children all the time, this is no different. We choose whether or not they will be vaccinated… based on available medical evidence. We chose whether or not they are tested for various diseases when recommended but not required. We choose a lot of things for children.. this is why we are not only parents but legal guardians, entrusted with the ability to choose according to our best knowledge and beliefs. I don’t think any parent, whether they choose to keep intact, or whether they circumcise is doing so out of anything but a desire to do the best they can by their child.

    The idea that all circumcisions are done painfully and with no pain treatment is utterly false. In all three of my son’s cases they were numbed topically and then numbed via local anesthetic and remained calm without crying through the procedure. I’m not a fan of lies or exaggeration (such as all circumcisions are traumatic, painful, and torturous… or all intactivist parents are snobs and purists).

    I understand the arguments for this side, but I have not changed my mind despite the various attempts to “educate” or rather shove name calling and shaming down my throat. The logical ones I simply agree to disagree with because it’s not what we felt was best for our family.. but that might not be the same for every family. Unlike many religions – ours is truly and completely neutral on this topic.. but religiously speaking if God asked the Jews to do it.. it wasn’t harmful to them. If God created little boys the way they are – obviously neither is that harmful or wrong.

    I always love hearing about good conversations between people though… and this article was refreshing because it was very civil in regards to how it was approached and about the description of the conversation that took place. I love that kind of thing.. that’s what real education looks like rather than the shaming and bullying I see far too often. I don’t see the world as an either/or place. I think there is room enough in it for all.

  47. Mary Lanser says:

    There is NEVER room for medically UNNECESSARY genital cutting on perfectly normal children with healthy genitals. Any excuses tha parents give…… Are just that…. EXCUSES! There are no medical benefits to cutting the normal functional genitals of children… Not one. No medical organization in the world tecommends doing such a barbaric thing to a child.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

« »