Effective Intactivism

By Aubrey Taylor © 2010

I have been an intactivist for about 13 years. It has been a long haul, and it is really exciting to see the recent growth of this movement. It warms my heart to see how many new groups are constantly popping up online, and how new individuals everyday are realizing the truth. I wanted to share a couple of thoughts on effective activism.

Have you watched The Secret? It is a video (and book) that was popular a few years ago. Major Life Change type of thing! I do not believe there is one solution for everything, but the ideas within The Secret are actually very sound. In a nut shell: you get what you focus on.

If we really want to make this change, we have to focus on what we want, not what we’re trying to get rid of.

Here's the problem I’m seeing: we are focused on circumcision instead of foreskin. It’s anti-circumcision this, and opposed to circumcision that. What we need to do is abandon the "circumcision" label altogether and consider using "genital integrity" instead. It may be a new term for some, and will make people curious. In addition, we should always use “intact” and “restored” or "restoring" rather than "non and un-circumcised". This simple language change will help us focus on the benefits of intact genitals (what we want), rather than on the harms we wish to eliminate.

When you first stumble upon the realization that there is a heinous violation of human rights going on, your emotions tend to be pretty negative. That is the most humane response a person can have. You see the perpetrators as monsters, and feel the need to scream from the highest rooftops the injustice you see. I know, trust me. I felt like my guts were being ripped out every time I looked at a little boy for a couple of years after I listened to my first circumcision video (I had just gotten dial up, and only the audio would come through).

Unfortunately anger, judgment, and hatred are not productive emotions. People simply do not respond well to them. To be effective, we need to learn to put our negative emotions aside, and come from a better place when we interact with people who are not yet “in the light.” You want what is best for children, and that comes from love. You do not wish to see them hurt, and that comes from compassion.

It will take some processing of our feelings and hardest of all, we will have to find some compassion for the “other side." Ever heard the phrase “know your enemy?” Seeing things from the other side of the glass is a good means in effective argument. As hard as it may be to believe, almost everyone who chooses circumcision does so out of love for their baby, trust in their doctor, or because they do not believe their child will mind, and have NO CLUE of the real danger. It is tough not to imagine that anyone who argues in favor of circumcision is not just a selfish idiot; but we are here to make change, so we need to do what is effective, and not defend the fact that our negative emotions are justified. While they very well may be, there is no productivity in defending them. Remember how you felt about circumcision before you found out the truth? There is no fault in being ignorant. So be patient, and teach.

The genital integrity movement is about to hit mainstream. It is going to be one of the biggest debates in the country, and we need to be ready to say the right things. The biggest danger is for people to be polarized by anger and judgment. No one likes to be judged. The only thing this creates is defensiveness, and that closes minds. Part of the reason that circumcision has lasted this long is that people in general do not want to face the fact that they have been harmed, or that they could be responsible for harming their child. This is why it is better to focus on the benefits of remaining intact, rather than on the damage done by circumcision. I am not saying the damage should not be talked about -- just that it should not be the focus, and that judgment should never accompany it. Remember that when you are commenting online. More people than just that one person you are speaking with are reading your words. If they are hateful, you risk closing an untold number of people’s minds.

I am not anti-circumcision - I am pro-genital integrity - and not just because it sounds better. Circumcision in and of itself is not a good or a bad thing. It is just surgery. When a person gets a nose job, it is good or bad depending on their opinion of the outcome. Circumcision only becomes wrong when it is forced on someone. Trying to insist that circumcision itself is bad can make some people defensive. They may feel you are trying to take their right to their opinion away. It is important to separate the right to have an opinion (which is always valid) from the (non-existent) right to decide for someone else. If someone believes circumcision is a good thing, and you can see you are not going to change their mind, that is okay. The more space you give them, the less defensive they will be. Instead of insisting that it is bad, show them that just as they have the right to have their opinion, so does every baby that will someday be an adult. If you give them their deserved freedom, perhaps they will, in turn, grant it to others.

There WILL be people who test your patience. How you deal with this does not only impact the movement -- you take a hit yourself when getting worked up. There is such a thing as activist burnout. It occurs when an activist can no longer deal with the emotional drain, and as a result, quits altogether. The most passionate of us can have the highest risk of burnout. We do not want to lose you, so do your best to be compassionate, be patient, and do not let all that is *stupid* out there cause anger or hate to bubble up within you.

Best of luck, and thanks for all you do! =)

Aubrey Taylor is an American social activist working for human rights and equality.

Visit Taylor's
YouTube channel here.

For additional informational resources on intact care, the prepuce (foreskin), and circumcision, see Are You Fully Informed?



  1. I'm going to have to read this a few times and do some digesting--this is an article I REALLY need had been hoping for! both for avoiding burnout (and sleepless nights) as well as to figure out how I can influence without having people shut off completely from having the discussion. Thank you!

  2. Wow! "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!"
    I am brand-new to the movement (though not to the idea) and I have been struggling so much with my guilt and rage over having my first son circumcised 20 years ago.
    So I'm on fire, and I am full of judgment even while I understand logically that that's not the way to go.
    You put words to what I intuitively know - the power of language to help or hurt a cause, the need for proper focus and most of all, compassion for all - not just the babies who are in harm's way.
    Thank you!

  3. How I agree about focussing on intactness! That is the intent of The Intactivism Pages. Circumcision is an anomaly in the world, and part of that anomaly is how it has been normalised in some pockets of it, such as the USA.

    Isn't it extraordinary that we even have to have a movement in favour of doing nothing, just leaving babies' genitals alone! (And we're the ones who are called "obsessed"!)

    But it's true that we are going mainstream. There is the Dutch doctors' policy. There is the AAP's retraction of its "ritual nick" for girls policy, with the admission that that would have been much milder than male genital cutting. And here is a TV sitcom (from Canada) in which someone actually gets to say that "circumcising a baby is brutal, violent and wrong" without contradiction.

  4. Great post. I wholeheartedly agree. I have not seen the movie you mentioned but have seen 'The Cut' and was very moved by it ....especially because it address some of the concerns of Jewish people regarding the procedure. Have you seen it?

  5. What a lovely, and incredibly IMPORTANT article by Aubrey. It should be in the handbook to intactivism. :p

    Also, I think in terms of not burning out, it is important to not push yourself too hard, or allow yourself to feel responsible when you aren't successful in convincing someone. You can only do your best.

    Thank you to everyone who has had the courage to be a part of this genital integrity movement. <3

  6. Great advice, and applicable to so many parenting practices! Extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homebirthing, homeschooling - focus on the positives of what you choose rather than the negatives of what others choose!

  7. This is just wonderful. I'm so grateful for this perspective, as I have struggled so much with how to say the right thing at the right time. Like all intactivists, I'm well-versed on all that is lost to circumcision and I tend to focus on that. I'm going to try much harder to focus on the function of the foreskin and reserve further discussion for those who express a deeper interest in the subject. Thanks for the reminder to stay positive.

  8. This is a great article with great timing. I groan every time I'm reading a board, and pro-intact people are spouting off, flaming, and basically being rude and insulting - trolls. Just the facts should be our mantra any time we post to a pro-GM board. I now have created a paragraph that I like and approve with certain facts that I have placed in a special folder in my email box, so any time I find a board, I can just copy and paste. This keeps me from letting my emotions get the better of me. I highly encourage people who like to post on boards to do the same. Perhaps a sentence or two about your own personal experience, then a few factual sentences on how damaging circ is, and then more factual sentences on what the foreskin does and how positive it is. Keep it polite, simple, and factual, and you will get more people to listen. Stop being trolls - you are hurting our cause.

  9. Thank you so much!!! I needed to hear this to keep me from activist burnout about so many issues--intactivism, breastfeeding awareness, natural immunity, natural birth, legalizing midwifery, and the list goes on! Oh what an uphill battle it is sometimes!

    My question is, how do you keep from being judgmental or angry at the ignorant mothers who "couldn't" breastfeed because she "didn't have enough milk", or who "had to have" a caesarian because "their babies wouldn't fit", or whose doctors "wouldn't let her" go past her due date because the baby "could have died" if she didn't get induced and then have a resulting c-section, or who is circumcising because of "ALL the health benefits"? How do you not get angry or judgmental? I just want to tell them all how it is all their fault because xyz, but I know that is such a horrible attitude to have! Advice???

  10. I’m so happy to be of help, thanks all!
    Sspicy: I recommend watching The Secret, it’s not related to intactivism, but makes a great argument for staying positive. I saw The Cut. I am really glad that people from all arenas are speaking out. The info needs to come from all directions and address every issue.
    Stephanie: I hear you! People don’t usually choose their perspective; they just find themselves there. It’s organic, and it feels right to them. It’s just a symptom of our society having bad information. They aren’t really to blame. You can’t know what you don’t know. You’re stuck approaching the situation from your privileged (informed) position, so you look at others with an expectation. It’s the expectation not being met that causes the negativity. EXPECT people to say stupid things; not because you look down on them, but because they’re like children who have silly ideas. You can’t be mad at a child for thinking something totally absurd, can you? It’s not the people you’re angry at anyway, it’s the stupidity of “I don’t have enough milk” or “my son won’t get UTI if I circ”. They’re trapped in it, help them! =)

  11. Absolutely - I totally agree. The emphasis should be on positive language and education. Although sometimes, just between us intactivists, it does feel good to get mad, you know? :)

  12. I agree completely Aubrey! To create what we desire to achieve,we have to choose our words properly. It's funny, because I was just thinking about the negativity of ANTI-...the other day. It should always be pro-...thanks!

  13. Tru dat.

    I need to calm down in my approach no doubt. lol. I know that their "intentions" aren't anything sinister but when a woman suggests that a baby boy is born with "extra parts" and a girl isn't then i get this feeling that they are arrogant sexists! But that's just what everyone else is telling them to believe.

    Who are they to tell me that my foreskin was something that ANYONE else had the right to rob from me?

    Then I see people mock men who grieve for the loss of their foreskin, That sets me over the edge.

    It's very infuriating to me. and extremely hard for me to detach myself from those feelings :/

  14. I definitely hear you on the burnout. Good article. Although I think there are many approaches to convincing people, patience and understanding are the methods that work most universally.

  15. Aubrey, this post is right on the money. I've been dealing with so much anger over this issue, i realized it has been causing me significant physical stress. Clearly not sustainable, not healthy, and not productive. At some point you realize that most people are good people who are trying to do what they think is best for their children. It's just so hard not to freak out, though. Going to try meditating or something! :)

  16. Great sentiments, Aubrey. As a subtle and effective strategy to engage people, I reckon it's brilliant and something I'll definitely be keeping in mind before launching into another dead-end debate based on negativity! I'm reminded of "The Optimist’s Creed":-

    As you ramble through life, brother,
    Whatever be your goal.
    Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
    And not upon the hole.

  17. An effective approach can be to present the evidence and viewpoints that originally swayed you, then let the audience make up their own mind.

    That way their ego doesn't get in the way and thinks it worked out the conclusions itself.

  18. I have such anger toward "doctors" who cut babies, it makes it hard to deal with my son's pediatrician. I avoid well child visits. I always put "doctor" in quotes when posting online, to show my disdain and disrespect for the medical profession, AAP, and CDC.

    Now I see my anger is not helping the cause. I am so grateful for this education, because we need to protect the next generation of boys.

  19. Ugh. Thanks for this. I needed it. It's a good reminder, but also good to know I'm not the only one who wants to just reach through the computer screen and *SHAKE* people and scream *WAKE THE EFF UP!* when they explain the reasons they believe its fine and dandy to give their child penis reduction surgery at birth...

    I think I need to formulate a standard paragraph like the pp did so I can keep my own sanity.

  20. I have been groping towards Aubrey's conclusion on my own, and urge everyone to mull over her words very carefully.

    I also cannot stomach criticizing a mother whose sons are circumcised. I always give such mothers the benefit of the doubt: I assume she let it happen to placate her husband or her parents or her in-laws. Because I expect others to respect my own parenting preferences, I am reluctant to take exception with a mother's parenting choices, unless she asks me for my opinion. BTW, I invite mothers who regret having let son(s) be circumcised, to not be too harsh on yourselves. For most of the last century, intact was not at all a supported choice.

    What does disappoint me is insecure fathers, and a male dominated American medical profession that insists on sitting on the fence. The medical professions in the other English-speaking countries have been far more willing to exercise leadership on this tender subject.

    Being intact and married for many years, I can explain, and advocate for, the tender bits sacrificed to circumcision. And it is totally true that focusing on intactness has the virtue of emphasising the positive over bashing the negative.

    But I wish to caution you all that many Americans take offense even when the talk focuses on the virtues of intact. Many younger men say they have no problem with being cut, and I do not challenge that. But they cannot see that the damage of circumcision varies considerably across individuals and over the life cycle, so that not every cut male finds himself in their happy situation. They claim to be unable to imagine sex being even more enjoyable than it already is, forgetting that no pleasure, including sexual ones, is uni-dimensional. Many remain tone deaf to the ample anecdotal evidence that many women prefer intact or are indifferent between the two.

    And when I explain to people, face to face, that I am an intactivist and start to set out the advantages of being intact, I have heard the following priceless remark more than once: "If we have it your way, uncircumcised men can forget about ever getting oral sex." That in our place and time, access to soap and running water can be safely assumed somehow vanishes when the subject is the moving male bits.

  21. To: US Attorney, Southern Dist NY, 1 St. Andrews Plaza, NYC 10007:
    I had filed a Complaint (that circumcisions are unconstitutional and illegal, violating the 9TH & 14TH Bills of Rights Amendments) with your Civil Unit Chief at 86 Chambers St 3rd Fl in February or March.

    The US Attorney may have Jurisdiction to Proceed and Prosecute, since it is the US Constitution, and not just my body's Private parts, that were violated. There is no "Statute of Limitations" regarding this since it has never been tested in the Courts, or Tried.

    When the FGM Bill was Legislated (Clinton Administration 1993-1994 FGM Legislation), it intentionally Excluded males (who have genitals too, who are "cut" en masse, in the USA,) which violates the United States Equal Treatment & Protection, which guarantees INCLUSION regardless of gender, sex, age, race, nationality, religion, & ethnicity. The Bill is unconstitutional.

    There already are City, State, and Federal Laws prohibiting the scarring, cutting, maiming, sexual abuse, sexual battery, molestation, and endangering the welfare of children.

    These Laws do NOT exclude the penis. They do NOT exclude the foreskin.

    I expect my Government to follow the letter of the Law, the US Constitution.

    I am challenging the FGM Bill as Discrimination on all grounds, for Excluding boy infants & male minors.

    I have a scar on my private parts.

    I do not care why it was inflicted upon my body. My foreskin, my genitals, should be, & should have been, regarded as Equal to fe-male genitals.

    I only care about the Impact this has had on my life, not the "Intent" (legal definitions.)

    I am Pursuing this as any victim of rape, molestation, or unnecessary surgical procedure (with the Patients consent) would..

    I was the Patient. Doctors violated me, as well as the Laws (itemized in Paragraph 3) and blatantly disregarded their Hippocratic Oath ("First, cause NO injury, No harm"). Scars can only be caused by injury, or harm.

    The United States had, and has, a SWORN DUTY to regard ALL infants, male and female, as Equal, and should have never allowed this non-life saving surgery on ANY infants genitals ("PRIVATE parts").

    Especially when I pledged my UNCONDITIONAL allegiance hundreds of times to the US Flag in Public Schools, while all the while I & millions of other baby boys were actually Excluded from the very Freedoms our "democratic" Flag is supposed to stand for.

    My mother and I have consulted Attorneys with a Law Firm in the Woolworth Building, and I am gearing up to Proceed with these Complaints. Additionally, the FDA had no right to “approve” ANY products derived from the excised foreskins of infants, since the infants never gave consent for “organ donations”. Similarly, SkinMedica Cosmetics, Ortec Labs, Organogenesis, & Advanced Tissue Sciences have Prospectuses showing Billion-Dollar Profits from the sales & uses of infant foreskins, which violates the 13TH Amendments, since these companies had NO clear intention of Sharing these Profits with all of the infants who “volunteered/donated” our foreskins!

    This constitutes a Conspiracy.

    PS-I have NO "health benefits" at all from this, but even if there were, I had a Right to make a choice, Informed Consent, over my own body, esp. my sexual health! {Roe v. Wade, TX, 410 U.S. 113, Jan 22, 1973.} jimmyputput@yahoo.com

  22. @Jimmy. I Completely Agree With you. Well Said!
    Some things in this article are ok but I definitely do NOT agree with a lot of things in this article. To be honest There are some things that I think are just really sick coming from an supposed Intactivist. These are the things that make me disappointed with a lot of Intactivists. There were several things in this article that caught my eye that I didn't like at all. "Circumcision in and of itself is not a good or a bad thing. It is just surgery" What?!?! NO IT IS A BAD THING! PLAIN AND SIMPLE! It is Sexual mutilation. There is NOT ANYTHING good About Male Genital Mutilation (just like there isn't anything good about Female Genital Mutilation). There comes a time where we have to cut the BS and say it like it is because if anything making ignorant statements like that helps out the procircumcision side. If it were done to a girl would this person say the same thing? Circumcision on a girl is not a good or bad thing either then. It's just surgery. Like I said though I agree with some of the things in this article BUT this person chose some very ignorant and bad comments to make about male genital mutilation.

  23. People, in general, are uncomfortable with just about any kind of activism. What they don't realize, is that they are in charge of their emotions and guilt. While your words/actions may be a catalyst for what they are feeling, you didn't give them their feelings of inadequacy, guilt, rage, etc. Those feelings were already there.

  24. I will criticize an intactivist that doesn't care about reaching a given audience. When I see someone throwing around harsh language that is pushing someone away who might otherwise be receptive - YEAH.. it bothers me. What do we accomplish by being overly aggressive and insulting?

    You're allowed to go about your intactivism however you want, but not everyone gets a free pass from me for it. Some ways ARE more appropriate than others.

  25. Has any intactivists ever been criticized by another intactivist, perhaps for their method of delivery? I have been criticized by intactivists and others when I am tactful and sugarcoat and when I am brutally honest. i've also been criticized when I copy and past and share links and when I use my own words. I'm convinced that some people(pro MGMers) don't like the message no matter the delivery but what gives about people who claim to be intactivist trying to silence and criticize other intactivist?

  26. I've never been criticized by another intactivist.... but if I was I'd probably tell them to mind their own. I "speak" in my own words and if someone doesnt' like it, too bad

  27. I learned from Marilyn Milos herself, that reaching people positively & with love & kindness is the best way.

  28. Life isn't sugar-coated, if they don't like it, they don't have to read it.

  29. we can't please everyone, the best we can hope for is to go to bed at night safe in the knowledge that we stayed true to OUR beliefs and morals and were not swayed by the fearful masses.

  30. I think the approach is different when talking to parents who are considering whether or not to circumcise vs. participating in a debate with crazy pro-circumcisers.

  31. I have been criticized for being too harsh. It doesn't sit well with me because I am totally aware that I don't feel anger, am not flinging insults or calling names, I just use honest language regarding genital cutting. For instance, I *don't* call parents who believe in circumcision "pedophiles", as some intactivists do, because it's not rooted in fact. I do, however, call circumcision genital mutilation, because it is. People really hate to hear that but I'm not here to protect the feelings of circumcising parents. I'm here to fight against circumcision.

    I think intactivists need to be allowed space to convey their point however they see fit. The first time I posted anti-circ stuff on facebook, some of my super-small town, super-closed-minded family members came at it with the "it's cleaner/prevents STDs" garbage. To this one of my new intactivist friends responded with a long "I know you feel guilty for mutilating your sons & you should think about apologizing to them," etc. statement. It was AWESOME. Sure, it totally freaked my relatives out but it also showed them that there are fierce intactivists in the world which is something they were utterly unaware of. It may have been off target for how these relatives communicate, but it was still awesome.

    I was really unimpressed with some of the comments regarding the intactivist article I wrote for Mothering on the link provided by Mothering Magazine. Some people actually said "This article seems really intolerant of people who choose to circumcise. . ." Uh, yeah, totally. I suppose I am not intolerant of the *people* who choose to circ, but rather the mutilation itself, to a certain point. When a parent mostly innocently says "But isn't it cleaner?" I respond with gentle informative language. But when they, as so often happens, eventually settle on the admission that even though it is traumatizing, painful, dangerous, & permanently harmful, they would still cut for entirely aesthetic reasons, I lose respect for them. I honestly do. I cannot even begin to understand how a parent can read the facts about the harm in circumcising & still do it. So then, a statement like this usually comes out: "Are you seriously advocating for causing pain & long-lasting harm to an infant because you want their penis to look better?" at which point people, intactivists & pro-circ, turn the issue to tearing apart how intactivists are allowed to communicate, which I think is ridiculous & harmful. I will let intactivists communicate in whatever way they think is appropriate for getting the message across, whether it is sugar-coated or not.

    Those are my thoughts, sorry for the ling-windedness!

  32. Kristen's article in Mothering (mentioned above):


  33. What people don't seem to realize is that there is a huge a difference between talking to people and posting a comment or sending an email.

    You might be happy, calm, and comforting in person, but it may come across as attacking in text. There are no facial expressions, changes in tone or inflection, hand movements, and there is no body language.

    Communication is so much more than words. I think we have to choose our words carefully depending on the audience.

    In my case, I know how to talk to my close friends and family. I know how to interest them in a topic, and how to open them up for conversation. I know with my friends I have to put the research out there and let them come to me (especially if they have no sons and aren't getting pregnant any time soon) I know that this is the best approach. They will read what I post and they will come to me with questions, or make jokes that will lead to a serious conversation. I'm the same way. If people had bombarded me with quotes and information about my decision to circumcise my son, he would not be intact today. It can be off-putting if you feel attacked. A little tact, patience, and leaving the information out there can go a long way.

    Also, telling a personal story while you subtly drop statistics and resources can go a long way. That's what worked for me. I've said a million times, and I'll say it here once more...

    I kept seeing people write about how they weren't going to circ because their little boys were perfect just the way they were born. This is while I waited for my sons appointment with a pediatric surgeon, for his circ. And I thought, my baby is perfect too. But having grown up in the US, where circ is prevalent I thought it was the right thing to do, and I did the research it all said that circ would help keep my son and his future partners safe; that he would never remember the procedure. Still that thought of perfection, and the pain I would subject him to lingered as I kept reading.

    I found Peaceful Parenting and I found posts about moms who regretted circing their sons. I read everything DrMomma.org has on the site, all of the circ resources and my decision was easy.

    There's no way I'll cut my perfect baby boy.

    So I passed it on to my husband, and said I would appreciate it if you read this before we go see that doctor. The day of his appointment came and my hubs hadn't read the info, so I send him downstairs and asked him to do it now. Within five minutes he was upstairs telling me to cancel the consult.

    I know it's important to educate people, I've sent info packs, I've given monetary donations, I've sent people to all the sights and I post everything I can on my facebook page. I also comment on boards and at Yahoo questions, but I talk about my experience and interlace it with the resources. I find that when trying to change someone's mind it's better to be subtle, especially if there's time to change their mind. Sorry this was so long...

  34. I am with Kristen here. I used to be very worried about offending or having someone mad at me, so I kept quiet when my sister in law circ'ed her boys, and just politely said that I wouldn't circ if I had a son (and I didn't when he came along :)

    But what if I could have said something to change her mind or at least get her questioning her decision. Her reason would have been easy for me to shoot down: it was so that her sons would resemble their father. I was way too polite back then (of course I was only 19 and 22 when my nephews were born).

    Sure, it is important to know your audience and if you are speaking with one individual and trying to convince them of something, it would generally be a good idea to be sensitive and not too aggressive.

    However, when making a post or speaking to a person(s) who is more-or-less set in their ways, especially when they are championing wrong information (and advertising this to others, who may not do their own research), I think that all cards should be laid on the table (except for juvenile mudslinging).

    As someone mentioned above, people are generally a bit uncomfortable with activism - especially when it is in their face. They would rather be cut off from the world and have everyone gently tip-toe around each other and never discuss important (and always controversial) issues. And this is why more people vote for American Idol than on elections or initiatives. This does not sit well with me and I think that we should be vocal and loud and even provocative and, if anything is ever to get done; if the rate of circumcising non-consenting babies is going to keep dropping, we need to ruffle some feathers

  35. I think it is valid to wonder if parents are really "allowed" to make their own decisions for their children, especially where female genital mutilation & male genital mutilation cross paths.

    It is illegal to circumcise a female here, but not a male, which is clearly unethical & unconstitutional. Should a parent be allowed to circumcise their baby girl? No. Then why do we have to act like they are allowed to circumcise a baby boy? Just because there is a glaring flaw in the law?

    I have this issue with corporal punishment too, since the line that is drawn is so abstract. It is technically a parent's right to spank their child, but only on their butt? They can't "spank" their child on the face, because that is then defined as a slap, which is abuse. The whole thing is just ridiculous to me, which is why I don't bother recognizing a parent's right to do whatever they want to their child if it includes harming them. Children have rights too.

  36. But as a parent, I am entrusted to make decisions for my child that my child cannot otherwise make for themselves, with whatever information and experience I have.

  37. @Anon - I understand that, but that statement could easily be coming from a parent who circumcised their baby girl, believes in arranged marriages for 12 year old girls, beats their children into submission, etc. Some things are just plain wrong & when it's clear to me that a tactic is wrong, I don't dismiss it by assuming it's the parent's "right." Too dangerous.

  38. Right, and we are not talking about what to feed your child or how to potty train them; what family traditions to pass on or establish; what to name your kid or how to dress them; what school to send them to; when to allow them to date or how to discipline when they back talk or hit their sister.

    We are talking about cutting a baby's (or older child's) genitals.

    There is a big difference between parental choices in how a child is raised and a parent 'choosing' to mutilate their child's genitals.

    The point is that children have rights as well - especially when it comes to their bodies. Circumcision is not like removing a cancerous tumor or correcting a deformity. It is not a ticking time bomb or a life threatening piece of skin. It is the child's prepuce that he NEEDS and all children, regardless of what their parents think, should have a right to intact genitals...but that is just my opinion.

    P.S. I concur with the whole spanking hypocrisy as well. It doesn't make any sense to me either...

  39. I believe it takes intactivists of ALL kinds - using their own unique methods and means and talents - to win this battle.

    It does us a disservice to pit intactivists against each other. When there is in-fighting (just as within the feminist movement, or among women in general) it distracts from the overall goal.

    So we have to recognize and accept that people are all unique - individuals - coming at this with their own backgrounds, experiences, ideas, methods, and allow everyone to speak up in their own way.

    This battle - MGM - cannot be bigger than we are, or it will destroy so many more along the way.

    That said, I also agree with what several of you have said: we have to be aware of our audience. AND we have to always speak up (not remain silent).

    I speak differently when I am teaching a college class of undergraduates vs. when I am teaching a class of expecting parents. I use different terminology when I am talking with a group of intactivists vs. when I am talking with a group of students who have never heard of circumcision called anything other than circumcision.

    I hate sugar coating things (and choose not to do so on my own private page/personal life), however when it comes to speaking with those who will either shut you out for being 'radical' or listen and engage in meaningful conversation if you are gentle in your approach (and there is a baby boy's future on the line) then I will step back from my true feelings (MGM is rape) and talk about the issue calmly and matter of factly, answering questions and listening for what his parents real misconceptions and beliefs are. Address those - and speak from a research-based foundation rather than an emotionally charged one.

    By simply looking at the literature, we can see that there is never - never - a reason to amputate the prepuce organ.

    So I can set my feelings (about how much of a human rights violation MGM/FGM truly is) aside and discuss the facts of the matter with those who really need to understand all the ins-and-outs of this issue before their little one slides into this world.

  40. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you so much for writing. What I need to explain is the difference between what I said, and what you interpreted it to mean. I was not referring to forced circumcision when I said that it is not good or bad. I wasn't referring to elective surgery either, I was referring to it WITHOUT any qualifiers. [[So, NOT on a baby.]] A breast job is just surgery. But if it were forced on a 16 year old girl, it becomes a bad thing. I do not differentiate between the two to give any implication that breaching autonomy is ok. I do it to help people who can't see why circumcision is wrong for an infant (because they are too focused on seeing it as ok for themselves as competent adults) to see that line. Once they realize they can have two opinions, they don't have to give up their opinion that circ is good in order to agree that it shouldn't be done on a baby. And, they don't have to be wrong.

    I can see from your somewhat hostile approach that this issue is burning you up. If I could give all intactivists one realization, it would be that you are NOT surrounded by monsters, even though it might seem like it. They are just the wounded children of a sick society that you would have saved if you could have. I know you can't see it now, but if you try to let the anger go and come from a place of compassion, you WILL be much happier, and who can know how many times more effective!

    This public debate that we're forming cannot be about OUR pain, because there is not compensation to be had. You may get some personal closure, but society cannot give you back what was taken. Hanging onto personal grievances only gets in the way of what CAN be gotten: autonomy for the children of the future. If you want it for them, there will be no room left in your heart for unproductive anger.

    I wish you the best.

  41. Aubrey makes a strong case but I disagree with it. I do not agree that public expression of anger about genital mutilaiton is always unproductive or counterproductive. Sometimes it can be very productive. I believe it is a great mistake to try to conceal from the public the fact that this gross human rights violation stimulates intense rage in many, many people. The number of enraged people is growing every day. That fact must become known to the public. It is becoming known to the public. There is no way to prevent it from becoming known to the public. The process of making it known is a very important part of bringing about the change that must come. I think it is an important part of intactivism's job to make it known. I didn't say and I do not believe that it is an important part of every intactivist's job to make the facts about rage against genital mutilation known. I think it is an important part of some intactivists' job, those who feel it to be, who know it to be. Yes, sometimes it can be done clumsily, nonproductively, counterproductively. Mistakes can and will be and are being made in intactivism every day. Sometimes it's a mistake NOT to express anger or rage about genital mutilation. Anyone who takes on any difficult work is likely to make mistakes, many mistakes. If we want to end genital mutilation we will have to make a lot of mistakes to do it. One mistake is to believe that we can't learn and grow from them and find out better when and where and how to make the rage known to the public in productive ways. Another is to try to keep the public in the dark about the rage this madness generates. Another is to think that people who shut down can never open back up. Some people will shut down the first time they hear the slightest suggestion that circ might not be the best thing that ever happened to a man or woman. We can't keep them from shutting down, no matter HOW we couch the message. Why not? Because they're ALREADY shut down. Circ and growing up in this culture shut them down decades back. Their shut-downness must be made overt, conscious, public, expressed, before they will ever be able to see it in themselves and question it. I am not arguing against compassion and care, especially one-on-one. I am arguing for the public becoming aware of the facts about genital mutilation, all of them, including the inevitable rage. We hate genital assault against and unnecessary damage of babies and children. We detest it. More and more of us every day find it incomprehensible and inconceivable. The public needs to know that. They're learning. Thank goodness. The sooner the better.

  42. Great post. I agree with you; we must be more concerned with doing what is effective. Expressing anger and insulting people is not effective. However, I'm not sure what to do about the extreme anger many men (and women) feel towards circumcision. I am extremely angry about it myself, even though I am intact. Emotionally, nonconsensual circumcision feels like fundamentally disrespect of my masculinity. I have compassion for the men who feel violated, but I do not feel that their emotions are recognized or respected, except by intactivists. Society sympathizes with women who have been victims of sexual abuse, but not with men with have been victims of institutionalized sexual abuse. This makes me very angry. But I agree with you, Aubrey, I must channel that anger into effective action. Thank you for your work.

  43. @VanLewis.You speak the truth which most people(even Intactivists) cannot take sometimes. Really The Oppression and Silence of Male Genital Mutilation is so extreme that even Intactivists don't get it sometimes.

  44. Van,
    Thank you so much for your valuable input. I know that you have been trying to reach people about genital autonomy for far longer than I! I first want to say that you and I do not actually disagree. =) I don't care for words like ALWAYS and NEVER. But I do believe in the general context to the lay, negative emotions are less productive than compassion. However, that doesn't mean that they are never productive in any situation.

    It takes all kinds, and the truth is vital.

    A young mother who was raised never to question authority doesn't deserve anger and judgment, and truly, may carry her defenses to her grave. YET, a doctor who has been cutting for years despite tortured screams might think twice if he knew how drastically hostile a man can become toward his circumciser. So, yes, of course there's a place for the anger. I just don't think that the general anger against the situation will serve the general debate.

    I don’t think emotions caused by this crime should be stored away as if they don’t exist, or hidden from sight. It is an important fact that this practice causes a lot of pain, and everyone should know it. If it’s going to be productive, anger should be specific. Hell, I'M ANGRY! But I have no one specific to be angry toward, so it won't serve me in debate with random people. If you're angry, feel free to tell people, but don't DIRECT it at them (unless they were involved in your circumcision or the circumcision of another that you are affected by). There's a big, very important difference.

    And, as I mentioned, I also don’t want people to burn up in this negativity. There’s more to be lost to negative emotions than just intactivism.

    Also, for whomever, please don’t think that I don’t get it. I do.

  45. Every now and then I take a break of a week or two when I can't handle it anymore and feel overwhelmed. But I always come back.

    Sometimes, hard questions have to be asked of people who are stubborn to change. Not angrily - but directly. I feel men whose bodily rights have been violated have much more of a right to anger than I do.

    There are people I've advised to tone it down, and there are times myself I should have done the same thing. However, I also believe that having MANY different voices to our side shows our strength. No one can say that we're half a dozen people with two much time on our hands (as the pro-circ movement has been found to be).

    You have some great points there, Aubrey. Sometimes, why intact may be thought of as preferable needs to be stated - because if someone believes a practice to be unquestionably beneficial and the results desirable, they think leaving it for their poor son to endure in adulthood is barbaric. They need to hear the voices of men, both cut and intact.

    I often call the intact penis the 'normal' penis. Anything else is a cultural deviation.

  46. I needed to read this today. Just a few hours ago I told my husband I was going to try to back away from the organization I work with. I simply do not want to hear about mutilated babies all day, every day. It has become draining, and mostly I just feel like I'm preaching to the choir or fending off trolls. I see so many attacks from intactivists where they accuse people of basically being pedophiles for caring what their sons' genitals look like, or where they are behaving trollishly themselves, and it really makes me not want to be involved. The final straw, for me, was receiving a Facebook list that "outed" people who planned to circumcise their babies. It's stated purpose was to publicly shame them. When I saw that, I felt like everything I have done has just been a waste of time. People are going to see things like that, become defensive, view me as being some kind of insane intactivist, and then no one is ever going to listen to a word I have to say.

  47. I am a very happy 30 something male that lives in North Carolina and has a intact penis.... I grew-up in/around boys my age that are about 50/50 "Cut & Uncut".... My son is intact and my wife comes from a family that wants to even cir their dog, if they could! I am serious when I make that statement! My wife's mother came unglued when she learned that we are not cutting our sweet baby boy! Also we had a call from another member of my wife's family and she said why are you not cir your son? I said because it is simply wrong and if you would "OPEN" your closed mind and get educated on the subject you too would be sorry for cir your 2 sons! She paused and I we ended the call. I have never heard anything about cir again from her! As a matter of fact, one of her own son's has some doubts about cir... Keep up the good work and I feel the intact movement is getting stronger everyday! I hope one day that we have educated parents in the USA and they "Think" before they sign the paper in the hospital that allows the doctor to harm their happy and sweet baby!

  48. This is a really great blog post. Such an important topic because this topic is so emotional and it's easy for someone on the other end to stop listening and shut down.

    But I have a slightly different perspective. I a mother who has two circumcised sons. The only thing that convinced me to change was when I FINALLY heard someone say that infant circumcision is HARMFUL and a VIOLATION of human rights. No other argument got through to me. I thought, why did no one tell me this before????? That's all it would have taken and two babies could have been saved.

    That part needs to be a part of the discussion, IMO. But I do totally agree that it's best to focus on the foreskin and not circumcision itself. As someone who allowed this, I can tell you that I had no idea what I was removing. I had surgery performed on two of my newborn sons to remove a part of their body that I knew almost nothing about. That's crazy and it's hard to believe, looking back. But I believe that's the truth for most parents who do this.

  49. What a fantastic article! I absolutely LOVE The Secret and have incorporated its philosophies into my life. I have often thought of the genital integrity movement in regards to this movie. I decided a while back to make myself PRO-intact instead of ANTI-circumcision as a result. I think that any time you can focus on the POSITIVE then only good can come of it, versus focusing on the negative.

  50. This should be a must read for all beginning intactivists. I.me relatively new to the movement, although I've been pro-intact for years now, only 9 months ago did I start really researching circumcision and omgoodness, the horror that so many peole do not know! I've been on my fair share of threads to see how defensive parents can get and how heated comments can become. I knew there had to be a more effective way to get through to people. Thank you so much for this. It is something I will definately start living by more and more when I find myself defending a boy's right to their whole body.

  51. A must read for beginning intactivists or anyone at all interested in genital integrity. The focus should be on the foreskin, indeed. Bravo!

  52. Great article - I have been urging this nomenclature for many years. Unless it fits in context (the AAP Circumcision Policy, for example), I do not use the "c" word. I typically use the phrase "genital cutting," but there are times when the term "mutilation" is appropriate. In general, a focus on education about prepuce function is a great approach. You really need to know your target audience to choose the best wording.

  53. Hmmm. Good article, and I agree with it for the most part. I find most pro-circ people are too easily offended by two main points, however: the term, "mutilation", and any sort of comparison to FGM. I've come to realize that pro-circ people refuse to admit that circumcision is mutilation. REFUSE. The sword of truth cuts too deep for them. When an intactivist talks about FGM, we aren't comparing what/how much is removed...we are affirming that both male and female circumcision is, in fact, mutilation of the genitals. Since they cannot deny that, they get very offended and start comparing severity themselves. Oh, so less is removed...your penis is still (semi) functional...and so what they're saying is, that makes it OK? WTF? NO, it doesn't! BTW...there's plenty of circumcised women in Africa who aren't complaining, and in fact they think it's benificial and say their sex lives are FINE. You can look it up if you like. They use the exact same arguments the American pro-male circ people use. Oh...it's cleaner....women like it better...it prevents diseases...yadda-yadda. All pro-circ arguments are BS. ALL. The truth hurts.



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