I, like most people around the globe, had no idea that Americans cut their baby boys on this grand scale. I thought it was solely done on occasion for religious reasons or the rare medical need. I remember hearing a couple of things on television (such as on Friends) and wondering about the practice of genital cutting in the U.S., but I didn't have anyone to ask, so put it to the back of my mind.
About 3 and a half years ago I was talking online to a young man from Arkansas. He was only 19 years old and had just realized he was circumcised and told me about what he'd discovered. I asked why he would be circumcised, and he didn't know, so he asked his mother. She told him it prevented STDs and was cleaner and prevented infections. As soon as I heard this, I knew it was obviously nonsense. I had never met anyone in my life who was circumcised and I didn't know any man, anywhere, who had ever had an infection. I also knew that the U.S. had higher rates of STDs than any of the intact nations in the world.
I was pregnant at this time as well. And because of my severe health problems, I had a late term scan to make sure my baby was doing okay. At that time I found out my baby was a boy.
So with this new information about circumcision in the U.S., and I knowing I was having a son, I decided to do some research.
I was already very aware about the ins and outs of female circumcision and had previously campaigned against FGM (female genital mutilation).
I started reading the myths passed around in the United States and I knew it was just silly -- none of it was true. Penises aren't dirty or smelly. Foreskins aren't tight. They don't get in the way during sex. Infections are very rare. I've been with my partner for 14 years now, and never once has any of this applied to him. In addition, I'd never heard of anyone in my lifetime mention 'bad things' happening to them or their intact partners.
I read about the numbers involved in genital cutting the United States and I was pretty taken aback and felt very uneasy about it.
And then I researched the actual practice of circumcision surgeries - how the prepuce is amputated, and I forced myself to watch videos of this practice. I was genuinely horrified. There is simply no other word for it. It was sheer horror. I experienced nightmare after nightmare. I woke up crying. I thought about it constantly. I thought about my son growing warm and safe in my belly and I wanted to hurt anyone who dared try to touch or harm my son like that. I was angry and freaked out and I desperately wanted to do something. I HAD to do something. I wanted to scream from rooftops in America and tell people this was nonsense! I wanted to beg people not to do such things to their newborn sons.
After doing some more research, I found several online groups and began posting prolifically, answering every question, arguing (I'm one hell of a debater), searching out pro-cutting/circumfetish groups and blanketing them with accurate information. I added friends who were intactivists from the groups and started organizing them and encouraging others to research this subject fully.
I compiled a large database of research, articles, facts and figures, and pictures. I would message my intactivist friends whenever I saw a pro-cutting article, blog, group, or comment and we would make sure truths were told.
We worked really hard for about 18 months until I got sick. I still messaged my friends and handed out articles, etc., when they needed it. I linked people from various charities and helped NORM-UK do some work. But I had to stop the constant debating because I was too ill to stay online, let alone have the energy to fight this horrific battle.
In fact, I nearly died last year, and it was a physical and emotional struggle to just stay here, let alone do anything constructive with my time. Being fed through a nose tube, I dropped to waif weight, and had repeat surgeries. I'm still extremely weak and very ill. I need more surgery, and I'm not strong enough to sit up. I shake constantly. I desperately want to keep fighting for this cause and I still answer messages from people looking for help -- usually from parents and men who have been cut. I put them in touch with the right people, give them information to read, and talk them through what they're thinking and doing. But the arguing I can't do anymore. I get upset and focus on it too much - end up losing sleeping and getting sicker and weaker. Right now I must concentrate on getting well, while making attempts at doing what I can for infants in the U.S., because this subject hurts me deeply.
I genuinely wish I could do more. And I wish everyone reading this could have a better idea of who I really am. Right now I may be a rather useless lump... But inside, I am as activist as I've ever been!
Hopefully you'll see me back in the game one day very soon.
For further information, see resources at Are You Fully Informed?
Laura, you are an amazingly strong and passionate person. With all that's going on in your life, you find a way to reach out and advocate for those too young to speak out or defend themselves in a most effective way. You are truly an inspiration to us all.ReplyDelete
You are also the nicest person I've never met! ;-)
Laura- Thank you for speaking up for American babies. Most of the change is going to have to come from within- but a good dose of criticism from the outside goes a long way! My first "lightbulb moment" in intactivism was when I mentioned American circumcision to a British man and his jaw dropped and he turned as white as a sheet- it was the first time I saw the proper level of shock (rather than acceptance) in regards to what Americans do.ReplyDelete
Please take care of yourself and get well soon! Thank you for all you do.
Wow, what an awesome woman. Get well soon, Laura!ReplyDelete
Laura Davidson has lived in Scotland all her life. I would assume that she has never seen a circumcised penis. She learned about American reality on the ground from an Email chat with a 19 year old American man who was struggling to come to terms with what had been done to his body. What she learned from this young man made her life turn a corner.ReplyDelete
What this quiet and well educated woman, tragically burdened with grave health problems, discovered about American routine neonatal circumcision utterly horrified her. She saw its similarity to the female genital cutting of sub-Saharan Africa. She clearly sees how removing the moving bits on the end of the penis is sexually dysfunctional. The claim that the foreskin is potentially unhealthy did not resonate with Scottish reality at all. And so she became disgusted to the very core of her being.
Circumcision means that the future sexual pleasure of a man and his eventual partners become the outcome of a gamble. Circumcision without anesthesia is barefaced sexual violence. That a woman who has had no experience whatsoever with a circumcised penis can clearly see all this, moves me to tears.
Sometimes it takes a foreigner to speak Truth to Power. The American penis has found its Joan of Arc.
Women everywhere, help the Americans come to their senses.
Laura - I love you!!! You are amazing!!! Thanks for this article....it is fabulous!ReplyDelete
Awesome article Laura.ReplyDelete
Well done Laura, great article. I wondered why someone outside the USA would be aware of the strange and cruel (and unnecessary) behavior I discovered happening here.ReplyDelete
I agree with her that almost nobody outside the USA knows that MOST adult men in the USA have been circumcised (I hear something like 90% of adults), but even about 50% baby boys have it done today under a plethora of reasons and myths that are believed WILL happen if it's not done... Except everyone outside the USA (i.e. where almost nobody has it done) just don't have these supposed issues that are claimed WILL happen, and rarely know anyone who has had any problem AT ALL!
A lot of people do ask how I got involved. I hope someone reads this and is able to see circumcision from where I'm standing. Horrific and weird as hell is what I first thought.
Bryan, you're right, none of these expected horrible problems happen to men here.
That's why I knew instantly that what my friend told me was nonsense. If people could just see what it's like in the rest of the world, maybe they'd get why circumcision is so wrong.
My dad is from Scotland and my mum is from England. I have always known it was wrong. My dad has had a couple of bladder infections, but I have had more than him and he is in his 40s.ReplyDelete
My mum said she could hear the screams of the babies being done in the hospital when I was born and vowed to never subject her children to that (she had all girls anyway).
I was taught it is cruel and weird.
I live in Canada so it isn't as common as in the US, but still about 20% and done for non-religious reasons.
I really don't understand how anyone can do this. How a doctor, a nurse or a parent can believe this is ok. It breaks my heart. Every instinct I have knows this is just WRONG!ReplyDelete
Puritans sadism and voodoo stories,that's why it continuesReplyDelete
Laura, thank you so much for your wise words! I am an RN and am very strongly opposed to circumcision.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your experience, Laura!ReplyDelete
I've only met 1 cut man in my life (who was living here from the US). And, like Laura and so many others, I've never in my life heard of any man having problems with his intact body. It just doesn't happen -- not any more often than a woman would have problems with her intact body.
It seems quite bizarre that an entire set of dysfunctions could be constructed to fool parents into allowing their newborn babies to be cut apart. How can it be that these issues are believed across an entire nation when the rest of the world can vouch that they are indeed B.S.?!
I think too, that the reason most readers of peaceful parenting in the rest of the world don't get as excited about the circumcision/intact posts is because to us it is just common knowledge. Of course you don't mess with or forcibly retract the foreskin. Of course you just leave it alone. Of course it will be fine. Why would you ever amputate it from a child? So the things that are being done in the U.S. are very odd to the rest of the world and we almost don't even believe it could be happening.
We need more people like Laura who care enough to get involved and share the realities - intact boys and men, just like intact girls and women - pose zero health hazards to anyone (themselves included).
Nature didn't make a mistake in her design.
It seems really clear that forcibly removing a part of someone's body without immediate medical necessity is entirely different from trying to heal the body or save someone's life.ReplyDelete
I was just thinking about this (yet again!) today.--If one were to "circumcise" their dog without so much as a Tylenol to "ease" the pain, they'd be arrested for animal cruelty & locked up & never be allowed to have animals again. Yet it's perfectly acceptable for the same surgery to be performed on newborn baby boys in our country. I'm sorry, but makes no sense to me.ReplyDelete
OMG! That is my son from last year's demonstration [in the picture]!!!! LOVE IT!ReplyDelete
Lol, he's a cutie Karen. I posted him as my profile pic for Genital Integrity week. Hope you don't mind but I think it's a fantastic image.ReplyDelete
adorable Karen! Sorry I missed you this year!!!!ReplyDelete
In Scotland, it's illegal to declaw cats or cut the tails or ears of a dog, and these are always done with anesthetic. It was deemed too cruel and unnecessary so they were all banned.ReplyDelete
It's still legal to cut off a piece of a baby's penis though.
Thankfully it is extremely rare but I still want that law changed. We have a large Muslim population and the message needs to get out about just how damaging and dangerous this procedure is.
I just found this website.ReplyDelete
Danelle--what a wonderful site, I have just added it to my reader!
Laura--wonderful message. I let my son get cut because my husband wanted it, and I regret it. I've just learned that my husband's reasons for doing it were invalid, and that just made me bawl. We let this thing happen to our son for no good reason.
I live in the US and indeed circumcision is so common that I thought everyone was circumcised except for a small percentage. It seems so crazy now. I am discovering that my mindful mama friends have left their sons' penises intact, and I feel embarrassed that we cut our son.
I'm working on a blog post to help inform my readers that circumcision is completely optional and an unnecessary cruelty. I hope you will feel better knowing that you have helped give me a push toward intactivism.
(Karen saying)I love that he is in a picture for such an important issue. It's just amazing to be there and talk with people. The range of responses is really as varied as you can possibly imagine. Many of the foreign visitors are appalled that this happens here. Some think it's a joke that we are there because we have freedom of speech in America, they think we are just taking our right to speak to outlandish lengths just because we can...and when informed that this is actually a real issue happening to boys as we speak - well, they are shocked. It's very hard getting through to a circumcised man (and you know immediately who they are by the dialog they start "My penis works just fine." "If I were any more sensitive I couldn't handle it" Mothers who have requested circumcision are often a lost cause in the immediate moment but we've planted seeds with these people. The teens often get how it's wrong after a few moments of discussion. It's really wonderful to talk to people face to face! And I have a picture of my son in front of that banner again this year too!ReplyDelete
Sorry for the intrusion, but your post gives me courage to share! im 28 now and ive just discovered that i have a female genital cutting... I am not American. I am Asian from Singapore and i think this is a world problem not just in the states alone... WE have to fight this all together, its time for a revolution!!
I wish I had been given more information when my sons were born.ReplyDelete
Thank you for all of the encouraging comments.ReplyDelete
Try not to feel so much guilt Lollie, you didn't know how wrong it was at the time but you can teach your sons how important body integrity is and you can share all of this information with your friends and family.
To the anonymous woman who has been circumcised, I am sorry you have been through this, I'm sure you are feeling betrayed and upset but I hope you can get the help you need to deal with what has happened and that you can go on to protect children from going through this.
This is such an important issue, a huge human rights violation of our time and everyone who can must speak out against it.
I'm an American who had her newborn son circumsized. At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing, basing my decision on a doctor's (a doctor!) advice. He had told me the same thing you mentioned in your article: that circumsizing reduces infections and lowers the risk of STDs.ReplyDelete
If only I were a little older (I was 17 at the time) and had thought to do some research beforehand, I would not have circumsized him.
You're doing good work in letting others know!
My oldest son was circumsised because i believe all the myths and was just soooooooo niave. HE had some complications too. My second son is not. BUt i will tell you, i too have almost become obessed with this issue. I want so hard to help people realize what they are doing to their sons. I want someone to realize how bad it can be BEFOREHAND. I scream and i cry and i get so pissed about this sujbect, that i just have to step away sometimes tooReplyDelete
Can you tell me where you got the "Who on Earth still circumcises baby boys?" graph? I may link to it on my blog in a future post.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for providing this information!
What a great post. I think it's so cool that someone in another country is speaking up for American boys like this. It really needs to be done. We always talk about how people in other countries don't circ, and don't have issues, but it's better coming from someone in a country like that directly.ReplyDelete
I am an American mom, and my son is intact. I have a small advantage compared to lot of American moms when it comes to this issue, though. My husband is from a country in southeast Asia where circumcision is unheard of, and as if that wasn't enough, my aunt is an intactivist!! I have always known that this procedure is cruel and wrong. I've been spreading the word, too.
I know for a fact that I've helped at least one little boy to be spared this injustice. He is my friend's son, a 32 week premie who was too small and too deathly ill to be cut at birth. When I was teaching his mom how to cloth diaper him (with prefolds) when he was 6 months old, I noticed that he was intact just like my son, and complimented her on her great decision. She said her husband wanted to have him circumcised soon but she wasn't sure. I showed her a video of of a circumcision, told her about the health benefits of leaving him intact, and since she asked, I even told her what it's like to have an intact husband (I think she was afraid being intact would make her son unpopular with the ladies when he grows up. I let her know that was definitely not the case.) That little boy is 2 1/2 years old today, and intact!! Armed with knowledge, my friend stood up for her son, and made sure he kept the perfect body he was born with.
We can't save them all, but it's awesome knowing that I helped make a difference for that one. That's how it happens. One at a time. Keep plugging away at it, and that goes for ALL us intactivists! Keep up the great work! What we are doing is so important, especially to the babies. 10 out of 10 babies oppose circumcision!
I hope you get better really soon Laura.. You are such an inspiration and are so Loved withing the movement and outside of it.. Thank you for everything you have done and all the light you have brought upon this human rights violation. You are one Amazing woman!ReplyDelete
I'm glad that you are speaking out for the baby boys who's parents are receiving horrible misinformation. The fact that you are from an intact country should speak volumes to parents considering this procedure.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately, even though I live in Canada, when I posted the link to this article I received some major backlash from two of my "friends". It didn't seem like either one of them really read the article at all. One of them had no reasons whatsoever for cutting her sons genitals, just that it's done, and plans to mutilate her next baby boy. The other, while not having any future children, firmly believes the "medical" excuses, no matter what I showed her to the contrary.
I hope you are affecting more people than I am:)
I,as an Englishman am still amazed and dumbfounded that this archaic and cruel practice still continues in the US.
But it's wonderful to hear how so many are now rejecting this ridiculous procedure and are now leaving their perfect boys the way nature intended.
Good Work Laura!..
And thank you, the great American people for making a stand against this wholly awful tradition.