INTACT: Let's use correct terminology

By Danelle Day © 2008

I would like to challenge everyone to start using correct terminology when it comes to the intact boy, intact man, and intact penis.

If you must qualify boys and men based on their genitalia, they are INTACT.

Not uncircumcised.

It is troubling to hear (read) people use the un-word.

We do not call women 'unclitoridectomised' or 'unlabiaplastectomised.' Girls who have not been subject to the hand of a mutilation knife are intact. And so are boys. They come from within fully formed and perfect - all in one piece and made just the way they are meant to be made - intact.

In their most excellent book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision, Drs. Fleiss and Hodges encourage us to call our babies brought home whole exactly what they are - INTACT. "Uncircumcised," they write, "is an unscientific, unhelpful, useless, and confusing term because it uses terminology normally reserved for abnormality to name a natural, normal body part. Let us avoid confusion and stick to science." Yes, let's!

Embarrassingly, I, too, was once guilty of throwing around the term 'uncircumcised.' In fact, while writing my dissertation I used the word before being as informed as I (thankfully) am today on issues of genital autonomy. I cringe when reading over early publications and know that libraries house a document I wrote, but made such a grave mistake within. I suppose it is reflective of the slightly ignorant time in which I began to write and study... And thankfully times are now changing!

So when you are talking about your intact son, or your intact husband, or how you plan to keep your baby boys intact - do just that! You don't need to say, "I am against circumcision" but rather, "I believe in keeping all babies intact at birth." If you work in obstetrics, midwifery, or Labor and Delivery, you can ask, "Do you plan to keep your baby intact?" rather than [oh, how I hate this question] "Would you like your baby circumcised?"

Words have meaning. They hold power. They influence our thinking about the concepts they surround. Just as the intact clitoris is the normal, natural clitoris--the intact penis is the normal, natural penis. We must normalize and naturalize the word 'intact' in the United States.

So, let me hear (and read) you using it!

Additional information on the prepuce, intact care, and circumcision:
Should I Circumcise? The pros and cons

Intact defined

Why not say 'uncircumcised?'


  1. Your chubby boy is adorable! I love to see babies fed human milk who ar sooo chunky! It goes against the myth that somehow babies who are nursed are starving.

  2. What a wonderful post. So thoughtful and I too have been guilty of saying 'uncircumcised' and totally appreciate the correct way to say it...intact.

  3. Great point! I love reading your stuff. I have three INTACT boys myself =o)

  4. This is amazing! Thank you for writing this. I am a mother to an intact boy and am so proud! Love LOVE the t-shirts!

  5. I completely agree!! I blogged on circumcision myself about a month ago and explained why the term "intact" makes much more sense than saying "uncircumcised." Of course these boys are intact... just like they still have arms and aren't "non-amputated," ha ha! It is almost sad that we have to have words defining these differences in the first place.

  6. I'm so glad to see this issue getting more press. I'm an RN, and used to work in NICU. I ALWAYS asked "Have you decided if you are going to leave your son intact or have him circumcised?" If they had already made the decision to have their son circumcised, I said "Another nurse will be in to answer your questions and obtain consent." I never, NEVER, not even once participated in that barbaric custom. I didn't get the consent form signed. I didn't dress the baby. I didn't wheel them to the procedure room. (On the one single occasion that the doctor ordered something pre-operatively for pain, I did give it.) When my boys were born, I left their bodies whole, intact and perfect the way G-d made them. After I gave my notice that I was leaving my job I became a bit more outspoken in my advocacy. Once a father said "Well, I would consider it but I think it'll mess him up if he doesn't look like me." I said "Sir, let me ask you something. How much time do you spend in an average day thinking about your father's penis?" Anyway, love your blog.

  7. Giselle, thank you for your comment!!!!
    I am a nursing student, and I REFUSE to participate in the ritual mutilation of babies. I will not do it. I don't care if they kick me out of nursing school.


  8. @Giselle - Why is it even asked? Isn't it considered unethical to solicit cosmetic surgery?

  9. LOL Giselle--"how long do you think about your father's penis"--TOO funny.

    For what it is worth, my hubby is circumcised, and my boys are intact--6 and 8 years old. I don't think they have noticed that particular difference yet. They don't see my husband's penis often, but then did have "group target practice" session once (and guys make disparaging remarks about women going to the bathroom in groups--at least we all use separate stalls! ;-) ). Hubby said they commented on him having hair, nothing about the foreskin difference.

  10. On behalf of all intact males, I would like to thank all of you for choosing to refer to us as normal, whole individuals, rather than using offensive, biased and discriminatory language (Though my beef is with our culture and not with individuals who just don't know better).

    As far as I am concerned the only TRULY un-circumcised men are the men who have undergone foreskin restoration. They were circumcised and they UN-did it.

    So, Thank you. You're making a big difference!

  11. I'm an RN also - as a nursing student I "got" to go with a baby to his "procedure" and, while I am sorry that it happened to that poor baby, I am glad that I now have witnessed something I will never have done to my son should I be so lucky to have one. It is burned into my memory.
    Also, thanks for this site. I'm relatively new and I appreciate the normalcy it brings to my view of my family (kids in bed and toddlers nursing - or "sipping" as we call it) and all that other "crunchy" stuff that just makes sense, darn it.

  12. I don't know if this comment will be read at this point, but it is funny as I was thinking about this topic today. It is something I harbor great guilt for and feel, certainly judged for in my "counter culture" circle of friends, all with intact boys. I discretely change my boys diapers to hide the fact that they are not. It was a decision I made that was heartbreakingly difficult. I chose to have this surgery done on both my boys because I have a father and 8 first cousins who all needed to be circumsized in later childhood as a result of re-occurring problems. In the waiting room of the hospital where the circumcision took place I was surrounded by parents or aunts of other boys who also had to have a far more invasive and traumatizing operation in early adolescence. They were trying to spare their new babies of such an ordeal if they could.
    I couldn't imagine having the conversation with my son if he too followed the pattern of every male in our family who had issues later on that I could have spared him this when it wasn't quite as intrusive. I did watch videos so I knew what the surgery would entail and I read as much as I could on both sides..knowing that some would say I was butchering and mutilating their genitals white a stranger held them down. I knew this. I felt nauseated at the thought of course. MY second son had a traumatic birth, and invasive blood work done 48 hours after that. It pained me so much to subject him to more pain in his early life BUT I did it anyhow. He is a happy, well adjusted child, he is bright and very attatched to his family. We adore him and delight in him and do not believe this caused him any long term trauma. I do believe I spared him from something worse. But now as we are trying for a third child I am praying for a girl so that I won't have to make this choice again.
    What would you say to someone like me?

    Kindest regards,

  13. Jenn - can you tell us more about the "re-occurring" problems? That is very rare to have so many males in one family needing to be circumcised. Perhaps your family has experienced some doctors who are not very informed on normal male anatomy and perhaps proper care has not been taken of the normal penis.

    Also, infant circumcision is NO LESS intrusive than circumcision at any other point in life. Many would argue that it is in fact MORE intrusive because newborns cannot be safely anesthetized to the pain, their nervous systems are highly sensitive shortly after birth and following the surgery they have an open wound trying to heal amidst urine and feces in their diapers.

    I would tell you to wait, learn proper care, and find a doctor who understands normal male anatomy.

  14. giselle: i wish far more rn's and physicians would follow your example and refuse to perform or participate in circumcision. loved your post

  15. Jenn, I wonder if the men in your family were forcibly retracted. This has and often still is advice given to parents of intact sons. However, this causes injury and can allow problems as a result. The foreskin is fused to the penis, and for anyone (other than the child himself over time) to retract the child will damage the tissues. True problems requiring circumcision are very rare. Most problems arise from forced retraction. If a male does develop a problem, it can almost always be treated in other ways without circumcision being required. Amputation is generally considered a last ditch effort on body parts, but unfortunately, many American doctors are quick to want to amputate foreskins.

    I don't where you live by the way, but in my area, most of the boys are circumcised. No one has ever said a negative word about my sons' intact penises, but I have read online about many other parents being criticized for leaving their child intact. You just can't please everyone no matter what you do.

  16. Great piece. I live on Ontario, Canada, and that question is NEVER asked in the hospital. It's not done in hospitals here. I live in a mid-sized city, and there is ONE (quite old) doctor here who will do it. He has so few that most parents have to wait a couple of months until he holds a clinic to do them.

    When I was pregnant with my first, my OB once asked what I was doing in regards to circumcision. I said "I'm not" and he said "Good." That was that!

    As a NICU nurse, I have had one father ask about it (where to get it done, cost, etc). I basically said we didn't really have any info about it (we don't).



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