Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My response to Mark Joseph Stern - How Circumcision Broke the Internet - Slate

Mark Joseph Stern published in Slate an article called "How Circumcision Broke the Internet"

Mark Joseph Stern

This is my response:

Mark, you are wrong in your appreciation of intactivism and its timeline.

Intactivism can be traced at least to 1900 when AP Morgan Vance, M.D. from Louisville, KY, wrote an article on "Surgical Fanaticism".  Joseph Lewis, American freethinker and author, published "In the name of humanity" in 1949. William Keith C. Morgan, MD, wrote an article called "The rape of the phallus" in 1965. Douglas Gairdner, DM, MRCP, published "The fate of the foreskin" in 1949. American Jewish scientist and Nobel Prize award George Wald wrote an essay on circumcision in 1975 (but could not get it published during his life). Jewish author Edward Wallerstein published in 1980 a book called "Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy".

More recently a group of 38 non-U.S. physicians, heads or spokespeople for the paediatric associations of Austria, Britain, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and by senior paediatricians in Canada, the Czech Republic, France and Poland, published an article denouncing the Cultural Bias in the AAP's Policy statement on circumcision.

Circumcisions used to be funded in England, Canada and Australia, but England stopped funding it in 1949 due to lack of consensus over its benefits and growing awareness of morbidity and mortality. Canada and Australia also stopped funding infant circumcisions. The only country where infant circumcisions are performed with a pretense of health benefits is the U.S.

Activism from lay people against circumcision in the United States has occurred at least since 1970 with Van and Benjamin Lewis in Florida. Citizens Against Ritual Violence (CARV) in California in 1980. 1986 saw the appearance of NOCIRC, funded by Marilyn Milos. Tim Hammond and Wayne Griffiths funded NORM - National Organization of Restoring Men, in 1989.

Intact America was founded in 2008 and is presently the most well known intactivist organization with a strong presence in the media.

I wouldn't qualify those groups and individuals as being fringe groups. Foreigners coming to the U.S. (as myself) are usually shocked to learn about the practice of infant circumcision, which we find cruel and barbaric.

Circumcision has subsisted in the U.S. due to that veil of secrecy and taboo. People do it and don't speak about it. Males often grow up ignorant to their own circumcision status. Yet, when objectively evaluated, infant circumcision is nothing but a residual of the Victorian era.

The San Francisco initiative to vote on age-restriction of circumcision did not collapse due to its own weirdness, like you said. Reality is even stranger: it collapsed because a judge used a law that was originally created to allow veterinarians to declaw cats without intervention of municipalities! But the threat of this initiative was scary enough for religious groups that an "urgent" bill was presented (without public vote) to protect circumcision from municipal rulings in the state of California by Democrat Mike Gatto (A.B. 768)

Those interested in perpetuating circumcision because of their personal bias or financial greed seem more desperate nowadays to try to find elusive "health benefits" to justify the billion-dollar-year industry which  provides supplies for biomedical research and makeup manufacturing, fresh newborn foreskins used for fibroblasts, collagen and stem cells.

Absent from the debate is the fact that circumcision has verifiable harms which the benefits and risks fail to balance. But the AAP and other promoters do not mention these harms - or even discuss the anatomy and functions of the foreskin. Shouldn't it be a red flag to advocate the excision of normal tissue without discussing its functions?

A person subjected to surgery to remove a finger knows that there is a loss of the functions of that finger, that is an obvious fact and needs no study to prove it. The loss of the foreskin to circumcision also implies the loss of its functions and structures: loss or damage to the frenulum, loss of the ridged band, restriction of the skin mobility and progressive keratinization of the glans.

Regarding HIV, recent news have shown that new infections during 2010-2011 in Zimbabwe were more prevalent among circumcised males, and that the increasing rate of circumcision in Nyanza has failed to curb the new HIV infections, further proving that the presence or absence of foreskin has nothing to do with HIV infection, and behavior and safe sex practices have everything to do with it.

Foreskin restoration can be done for a price like you said - and the price of the common devices is less than the cost of an infant circumcision at the local hospital, and there are no doctors involved in the process. But foreskin restoration can also be done at no cost, through manual tugging or using Do It Yourself methods involving common household items. After all, shouldn't we males be entitled to our own bodies? Isn't it true that many women procure breast reconstruction after mastectomies? So why do we have to agree with a forced prepucectomy that we never wanted in the first place?


  1. Beautifully written. Thank you. <3

  2. Well done, thank you for addressing the willfully ignorant Mark Joseph Stern.

  3. So well stated. Only someone who has no idea how good foreskin feels and no sense of human rights could have written Stern's piece.

  4. Bravo! This is why we're winning, as Mr. Stern so generously pointed out.

  5. Love this!! Articles like the one this is responding to are just evidence that we are winning :) Keep spreading the truth and saving babies!!

  6. Keep fighting the good fight, Intactivists will win eventually... just a matter of time.

    Non-consensual genital cutting of male, female and intersex infants violates Medical ethics (Do No Harm), and Human Rights under the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5) and the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 13).

    It is medically unethical to cut a healthy body part off a non consenting individual, Doctors have known this since the 1950's but some continue to ignore it.

    Genital cutting is risky, painful and unnecessary, and there are modern alternatives to circumcision in most cases but a lot of Doctors are oblivious to them.

    Religious freedom ends where someone else's body begins, the law banning Female Genital Mutilation proves this.

  7. I simply can not understand how any one thinks that perpetrating that horribly inhumane, sadistic, and disfiguring procedure on a precious baby boy is a good idea.

  8. I have written a number of blog articles concerning this issue. Perhaps folks reading this excellent blog would also enjoy reading the essays I've written as well?