Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Raising Intact Sons

[Note: The contributing author to this article is unknown. It was available on the web for several years when I helped to edit the original copy for a human sexuality course, and then the website expired and it was no longer available. I thought it was rather informative and wished to make it available to parents once again. If you are the author of the following excerpts, or know the author, please drop me a note so that I am able to post the correct citation. I have updated the links. Photos are not a part of the original text.]

Photographs: ©2008 Danelle Frisbie
Graphic designs by Hugh available at The Intactivism Shop
Tshirt/Onesies available at MadebyMomma



When you make the choice not to circumcise your newborn son, you are giving him the opportunity to grow up with his God-given sexuality. Unfortunately, many American boys are not given this right because their parents are misinformed into believing circumcision is necessary for health, cleanliness or social reasons. Some parents will honestly admit that they personally prefer a circumcised penis and subject their normal and healthy newborn baby to surgery to have his penis altered to suit their own tastes. Some have their own hang-ups in regards to an intact penis such as the way it looks or the fear that they might actually have to teach their son how to rinse off his penis in the shower. Circumcision has been culturally accepted for newborn boys here in the United States, but the tides are quickly changing. Parents in the new generation are realizing that what they have been told about circumcision was based on myths. They realize that their sons are supposed to have foreskins (a prepuce) just as their daughters are, and more babies every year are being left intact.

Raising an intact son can sometimes be an interesting experience in the midst of a circumcising society. Parents of circumcised sons don't realize how different their sons are from their intact peers. I've heard parents joke about how baby boys pee across the room - or in the parents face! I've since learned that this seems to be related only to circumcised boys and my theory is that the foreskin helps channel the flow of urine downward, the way it is normally supposed to go, rather than straight out like a circumcised boy. With the foreskin removed, the glans (head) becomes callused and the urethral opening narrows slightly contributing to a "squirt gun" type flow of urine in circumcised boys. A foreskin also protects and covers the glans - keeping it the internal organ it was meant to be - so the cool air does not touch it during the diaper changes of an intact boy and there is no urge to pee.

I've also noticed that many parents of intact boys do without the "splatter guard" that can be attached to many potties for potty training. This is also related to the above statements about the squirting effect of circumcised boys.

One common myth of an intact boy is that a parent must retract and clean under his foreskin and then teach their son how to do it when he is old enough (and make sure he does it). This is a very bad myth and a potentially harmful one! Boys are born with their foreskins firmly attached to the glans of their penis, similar to how our fingernails are attached to our fingers. The newborn foreskin does not and should not ever be retracted!! Erections, growth and normal curiosity help dissolve the connecting tissue (synechia) and the foreskin will naturally separate from the glans and become retractable on its own. Care of Intact Boys

NEVER attempt to retract your son's foreskin and NEVER allow anyone else to retract it, including medical professionals. Forced retraction typically causes pain and bleeding as the foreskin is literally torn from the glans. The foreskin will then heal back to the glans and scar tissue can develop. A condition called "acquired phimosis" is caused from forced retraction. With acquired phimosis, the foreskin will have difficulty retracting or will not retract at all. This does NOT mean that circumcision is necessary. There are non-surgical alternatives to help the foreskin retract including steroid creams and manual stretching if it has been damaged due to forced retraction. If your son becomes a victim of forced retraction, leave his penis alone to heal and report the offended to the proper agency so another intact boy is not harmed.

The proper care of an intact child is to simply leave it alone. [Intact = Don't Retract! Only Clean What is Seen!] An intact boy's penis is self-cleaning during infancy and childhood. Nothing gets under the foreskin that isn't supposed to be there and it gets "flushed out" through urination. When taking a bath, you merely need to clean the outside of his penis with plain warm water.

Avoid baby powders or lotions on both baby boys and baby girls since it can irritate their genitals. If your son's foreskin becomes retractable on it's own, just leave it alone. If you find that it has retracted and the glans is exposed (from rubbing on a diaper or playing nude), gently pull the foreskin back over the glans and leave it alone. Some boys with "short" foreskins become retractable before boys with longer foreskins. This is perfectly normal. There is no set age when a foreskin is supposed to retract, though most will become retractable by adolescence. You will probably not know when your son's foreskin becomes fully retractable because he will be at an age when he is caring for his own body.

Some parents worry that their son will be teased because he is not circumcised like some other boys may be. There will always be differences among children and always something to tease one another about. If it's not the look of his penis, it will be the color of his hair, his freckles, the size of his ears, his name... If boys are in a locker room situation where they are nude, most will not make comments about another's penis because to make such comments means he had to stare at it...and many boys do not want to admit that they were looking at another boy's penis (that could cause some other kind of teasing all together). Girls are equally at risk for teasing when it comes to breast size. If your daughter has small breasts and is teased about it, should you pay for breast enlargement surgery so she will "fit in" with her peers? No, of course not. To consider genital surgery for your son to make him fit in is equally absurd. The situation today is that your son will be amongst intact and circumcised boys alike - and as we move into the year 2010, the vast majority of boys born today in North America are intact.

By explaining the functions of the foreskin and circumcision to your son, he will be better prepared if he ever faces a situation with other boys when questions about his penis arise. It is not polite to teach your son to tease circumcised boys because they had no choice in the matter of whether they were circumcised or not. Many circumcised boys don't realize that an organ (the prepuce) was amputated from their body at birth. Most parents of circumcised boys do not discuss this issue with their sons, or understand themselves the purposes of the prepuce organ. I know I would much rather explain to my sons why they are intact as they were born, than why I had a large portion of their penis cut off at birth. [The prepuce composes 1/3-3/4 the penis of a newborn baby.]

I do not believe it is healthy to teach your intact sons that they are better than boys who are circumcised. While it may be true that they have the advantage of having their whole penis, circumcised boys are a victim of unnecessary amputative surgery perpetrated upon them when they were a vulnerable baby. It would be unfair and cruel to hold this against them. It's not their fault they are circumcised. If anything, we should teach our sons to have compassion for their circumcised peers.

Circumcised fathers occasionally circumcise their own sons out of ignorance and anger about their own circumcision. Children seem to accept and understand issues sometimes better than adults, so it is important that circumcised boys realize that what happened to them does not have to happen to their own sons if/when they someday become fathers. Many circumcised fathers today are raising intact sons. If a father really desires to have a penis that more closely resembles his son's penis, he (as an adult) can restore! Intact sons have inspired circumcised fathers to begin foreskin restoration to reverse some of the damage that their own neonatal circumcision caused. Men who have restored report vastly improved results, physically and emotionally for themselves and for their partners.

The excuse to circumcise a boy because his father is circumcised is incredibly narcissistic. Whether both father and son are circumcised or intact, there will be many differences merely because of age and development (size, hair, etc). There is also no one look of a circumcised penis and no one look of an intact penis. Everyone is created differently and no two circumcisions look exactly alike. The only similarity a circumcised father and a circumcised son will have is the fact that they both underwent painful unnecessary genital surgery as babies and both are missing their foreskins as a result. Fathers and sons do not stand around comparing penises! If they do, then they have more issues than circumcision to deal with.

If a father is circumcised and his son is intact
, a simple explanation can be provided (if it is every brought up). For example - at the time that "Dad" was born, we thought circumcision was necessary for medical reasons but we now know these were myths used for cutting both girls and boys in the United States. We did not want to put you through unnecessary painful surgery or amputate a healthy, vital body organ from you without your consent. Parents today also make sure their sons understand the purposes of the prepuce so that they are educated on their body in a culture that rarely discusses or teaches this part of the anatomy.

If you are the parent of a circumcised son, you may have feelings of guilt and regret. You were not informed when you made the decision to circumcise your son but now you are. It is time to heal. Apologize to your son and help educate those around you so that other parents will know the facts before any harm comes to their son.

If you are expecting a baby, make sure your midwife, doctor and nurses at the hospital you are going to give birth in know that you wish to keep your son intact. Carefully read any papers you are asked to sign and clearly mark on the paper that you don't want your son circumcised.

Submit a birth plan to your doctor and the hospital and be sure to verbally remind them at the time of delivery. It would be wise to arrange for someone to be present to advocate for you if you cannot and to make sure the baby is not "accidentally" circumcised, especially in larger teaching hospitals where "assembly line" circumcisions occur and circumcision is considered routine. In this setting, foreskins are used for research and/or sold to cosmetic companies and the more circumcisions that take place, the more $$$ is brought in. There ARE cases where babies were circumcised AGAINST the wishes of his parents. Room-in with your baby if possible. If your baby must be taken to the nursery, make sure someone who knows about the care of an intact infant accompanies him. Accidents do happen and it would be very unfortunate for it to happen to your son. Be sure to remind everyone not to retract his foreskin as well. Intact Care Agreement

If you are the parent of an intact son, congratulations! Whether you realize it or not, you have spared your son from the pain and trauma of an amputative circumcision surgery and the post-surgical healing period and have allowed him to enjoy his body, his babyhood, and his development the way it was intended to be.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this article. We recently took my intact son to the ER because of a high fever. The DR. thought my son may have a urinary tract infection (he did not) because his foreskin would not retract. He started pulling at it right in front of us and my husband and I had to ask him to stop and quickly left before he could torture our child anymore. We went to our pediatrician the next day and asked him again about the care of our son's penis, making sure that we were supposed to clean it yet. He wasn't sure and said that maybe he had been wrong to tell us to leave it alone. I'm so sick of having to defend my choice to leave my son intact and suffering through dr after dr that doesn't know what to do with an intact penis. I pray that soon intact will be the norm!

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  2. It was very interesting for me to read that article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

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  3. I created the images "A foreskin is a hug...", "A boy should look like his father" and "May the foreskin..." (though mine was in colour). They are on products at The Intactivism Shop, selling with minimal profit margins. Thanks for publicising them!

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  4. Wow Im still learning more every day! When my oldest child was born 30 yrs ago I was adamant about no circumcision as I had seen so many boys be tortured while in nurses training that I would never knowingly do that! Well as God saw fit that baby was a girl and her sister behind her. I am so proud to say thet my 3 mo old grandson is intact! As was my husband!

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  5. I have a son that is cir'd (8 years old) and a 6 1/2 month old that is not. Even before the birth of my baby or even knowing I was pregnant I apologized to my oldest. It breaks my heart that I put him through what I did and can only hope he will not to the same to his sons one day. Thank you for this article.

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  6. i had no clue about the no=splatter thing. my parents keep telling me to soon by a splatter guard since my son will be potty training soon. they raised 2 circ'd sons. hmmmmm....

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  7. one question - my brother is intact and my mom said that he had an infection on his penis when he was a baby because she didnt know to clean under it. and you are saying not to retract it. how then do you prevent infection? (im not being mean, merely curious since you said "An intact boy's penis is self-cleaning during infancy and childhood. Nothing gets under the foreskin that isn't supposed to be there and it gets "flushed out" through urination. When taking a bath, you merely need to clean the outside of his penis with plain warm water.")

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  8. Amy Jo,
    My guess is that your brother's infection was caused by a doctor or someone else forcibly retracting the foreskin. That's how most infections are caused on uncirc'd penises. Forcible retraction leaves the area raw, and often it's done by an ungloved doctor, which is an infection waiting to happen.

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  9. Great post! Though I will say that my first son was intact and we still got peed on at almost every single diaper change in those early months. ; ) This does help answer why my second son (also intact, currently just 12 days old) hasn't done the same. Maybe it just varies by kid...

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  10. My son is intact and he used to pee on us during every diaper change his first month. And now he's currently potty training and just last week even his foreskin has gotten folded upwards in his pants and when I put him on the potty he managed to get urine over the splash guard and got me in the face (I was kneeling in front of him). He also likes to lean back and pee on top of the seat... so I'd have to disagree with that part of this article. They very much still need a splash guard and caution during diaper changes! LOL.

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  11. I have taught postnatal classes for mom/baby pairs for the last 10 years and EVERY class have a mom tell me that her PEDIATRICIAN has told her that her son's "tight foreskin" is a pathology in need of remedy - this has always caused me to wonder, what else are pediatricians so totally un/miseducated about?

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  12. i am the mother of two intact sons, now nearing their 20th and 12th birthdays. i agree with pretty much everything you said here, BUT: my intact sons could definitely pee straight up into the air during a diaper change! LOL

    keep spreading the word.

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  13. you are so awesome, and your son is so lucky. Keep fighting the good fight :)

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  14. Great read! Thanks! I do have a question.... my son is "intact" and just this morning (that's why I've been reading) he had an erection and the foreskin was all the way back. My concern is that he is only three years old. And everything I have so far read said that this doesn't occur until about age 10. Should I be concerned?

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  15. Amy ~

    10.6 years is the average age of retraction. For some boys this happens later, for other boys it happens much earlier. You may just have a three year old who retracted early, and there is nothing wrong with this. Care for him should be in the same manner - no messing/pulling/pushing/stretching/trying to 'clean' by anyone other than he himself.

    He can take an occasional warm-water-only soak in the tub and this is sufficient cleaning for a 3 year old boy who retract with erections.

    The only time that "rinsing" needs to take place (i.e. a man rinses his penis off in the shower) is after puberty sets in and hormones begin to increase sweat glands, hair growth, and a variety of other factors. At that point he can rinse with warm water in the shower just as any other woman or man does - intact or not.

    Long story short: No, you should not be concerned. He is normal - just on the early end of normal. Keeping other people's hands away from him (including doctors who may unknowingly tell you they need to "check him") is what matters most at this point.

    If irritation were to arise at any point for your son, the best item to use is called Calmoseptine - something you can request at your local pharmacy. It does not interfere with a child's body's pH or healthy microflora and is very soothing and healing.

    Their site so you know what to get should this ever be needed:
    http://www.calmoseptineointment.com/

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  16. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AS A RETIRED CPS SOCIAL WORKER,ROUTINE INFANT CIRCUMCISION IS DEFINITELY CHILD ABUSE,WHETHER ITS LEGAL IN AMERICA OR NOT,AKIN TO SHAKING BABY SYNDROME ETC.
    YOUR WORK AND NO CIRCS A SHINING SPOT ON FACEBOOK,BLESS ALL 'OF YOU,
    REX BULLINGTON,BSW,F.B.
    STOP CIRCUMCISION

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  17. I have a five year old son who is intact. Just not to long ago, about a few months ago after having a very bad fall on the monkey bars, he hurt in penis. Shortly after this incidence, there was a little blood in his urine which wasn't continuous and then at times when he urinated he would complain about pain or mild burning. from time to time he still complains about mild burning or pain upon urination. I took him to the doctors and the doctor and urologist without giving much examination or consideration to what may have occurred during my sons fall, claims he has phimosis. They said my sons foreskin being to tight is what is causing the pain/burning when he urinates. Has anyone had a similar issue or know what might be going on with my son. I would greatly appreciate your help. Thanks in advance!

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    1. I have read that phimosis is not possible in children, that it only occurs in adults after puberty hits! I can't remember where I read it, you could probably google phimosis and find the information about it. I don't think it has anything to do with the foreskin, he very well could have just ruptured a blood vessel when he fell, which would explain the blood in his urine, as for the pain maybe the blood vessel is close to the top which could explain the pain from urination. It is acidic so it would hurt to get on a 'scratch' I'd go talk to another doctor about it!

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  18. This is a very interesting article for me, we are from the UK and I have to say that circumcision is definitely not the norm here most people don't have their boys circumcised and I didn't realise how common it is in other countries. My son is not circumcised and it never even crossed my mind or anybody else's for that matter. Most of my old boyfriends, husband, brother, father etc. etc. are not circumcised and it is definitely the exception in the UK. How interesting!

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  19. Just to add to my earlier point, circumcision is not actually offered by the NHS in the UK only in very rare cases so you would have to pay for it privately if you wanted to circumcise your boy even if you do it for religious reasons. Most health professionals here agree that the risks far outweigh the benefits so this may be why circumcision is not widespread here.

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