These are email correspondence between myself and Marilyn Milos, and Marilyn and some other chatters on my lists…concerning circumcision. I thought the information was interesting enough to share.
This response from Marilyn is chopped up into mini responses to a specific post that was posted by a mom that posted about her experience in choosing to circumcise her son. I think Marilyn’s response has a TREMENDOUS amount of very valuable info in it! Read on!
I always appreciate a different opinion. It’s been interesting reading all the arguments against circumcision.
It was a difficult decision to make, but having witnessed the pain/discomfort of 3 12-13 yo boys, we opted to circumcize our DS to save him from that (just like we immunized him against MMR, Polio,
We cannot cut off enough parts off our baby’s body to keep him or her from having problems. You didn’t let a doctor perform a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or appendectomy to prevent future problems. Why the foreskin? And, you witnessed three boys who suffered at ages 12-13 from circumcision, but what you didn’t know is that the pain is even more excruciating for babies. Older boys are given an anesthetic, pain medication following the procedure, and they know what was happening. A baby has none of those advantages. For the baby, circumcision is a primal wound that interferes with maternal/infant bonding, disturbs normal breastfeeding and sleep patterns, and it undermines the baby’s first development task of establishing trust. The baby is left with a scar instead of 20,000 specialized, erogenous nerve endings that allow a male to ride the wave to orgasm, just like an intact woman does. A circumcised man ejaculates, he does not have a full body orgasm –because he doesn’t have a whole body and he can’t.
L wrote: We are quite comfortable with our decision.
Of all the mistakes I made in my years of mothering (my oldest son will be 49-years old this year, the next 46, and the youngest just turned 39), they pale in comparison to not protecting my sons from a painful, harmful traditional practice. I’ll go to my grave knowing my sons will never know the wholeness of their body or the fullness of their sexual experience. Fortunately, we learn, and I now have four intact grandsons. I hope you’ll do more research before you have any more boys. My good friend, Dr. Dean Edell, has three circumcised boys, he met me, and his two youngest are intact. They’re now in their early twenties and grateful to be intact, just as my grandsons are!
L wrote: Who knows in the years ahead, perhaps he will want to have his foreskin replaced for
cosmetic reasons but we made the decisions with the best of intentions at the time.
Yes, of course you did. So did I. I just wish someone had given me this information prior to the mutilation and ablation of my sons’ foreskin, and I wish my doctor hadn’t lied to me about it. As others have said, “When we know better, we do better.”
By the way, you cannot “replace” the foreskin. Men must undergo tedious, time-consuming maneuvers to stretch the amputated stump of their foreskin to recover the glans. More than a million men have already done this in an effort to reclaim their wholeness (and their power over those who subjected them to non-therapeutic surgery when they were too little to consent, resist, or escape) and to regain lost sensitivity of the glans. The 20,000 nerve endings that encircle the
opening of the foreskin are lost forever. Sadly, many of the these men have told me how angry they are with their parents (most often the mother) for allowing someone to cut off the most sensitive part of their body — their manhood! A number of men have asked me to be their adopted mother because I have apologized to my sons when their own mother refused to hear or acknowledge their claim of pain and the harm inflicted upon them, refusing to apologize for not protecting them. As
one Jewish psychologist, Rima Laibow, said, “Circumcision is always perceived by the baby as betrayal by the mother.” She was the one who was supposed to protect her baby. If we were mother lions, we would eat anyone who wanted to cut off any part of our offspring!
L wrote: If I had another son today, I would make the same decision.
I hope, after reading this, you’ll be smarter than I was. I didn’t make the same mistake so that my boys would match, I still hadn’t learned about the harm of circumcision or the pain it caused them
during and afterward — when the baby urinates and defecates into a raw wound until the wound heals. Children can learn to respect individual differences, so differences within the family are an
opportunity for learning and growing.
L wrote: In my informal poll of all my male friends, not one of them cared if they were “in tact”, or had problems with sensitivity (and certainly not one of their SO had any complaints either).
They simply do not know, men and women alike. European women ask me, “How can American women have foreplay without a foreskin to play with?” What’s more important is the way circumcision undermines normal sexual functioning and how it affects the sex life of both males and
females. Interestingly, the majority of college students in human sexuality classes understand the information immediately… Men are relieved to hear that their premature ejaculation isn’t their fault.
Women are relieved to learn that their partner or husband isn’t just inexperienced or not well read, but that he’s just a selfish lover. Rather, someone did something to him that has created a problem for both. One French Canadian woman, who had never been with a circumcised man until she married an American husband said, “I think this information you have given me will save my marriage.” Evidently, it did.
L wrote: people needed justification of their action or inaction. Given that most of the “performance” enhancing drugs don’t work, according to reports I had read. The whole “performance” problem, seemed manufactured.
You cannot cut off a part of the penis and have more. Circumcision reduces penile size and sensitivity. The “performance” enhancing drugs don’t work because they’re trying to fix a penis that can’t be fixed or function properly because it’s been altered.
L wrote: On another site that I am on, some argued that cut men were less likely to transfer some diseases to their partners – apparently there is some supporting studies for that work.
Every study done to validate medical excuses was debunked in 1999 by the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force Committee on Circumcision. Not one national or international medical association in the world recommends circumcision. Some now, recognizing the harm and the ethics of cutting off a normal part of the body of a non-consenting minor, have begun to recommend against it.
L wrote: But aside from a sex is better one way or other – just doesn’t make the decision cut and dried (pun intended).
It is cut and dried. Parents do not have a right to consent to the amputation of normal body parts of a baby. That body belongs to the baby. Parents don’t own their child. They are supposed to love,
respect, and protect them — all of them, not just this part or that…depending upon their whim or cultural fancy.
L wrote: I am constantly offended that there is an equation of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) to circumcision. It isn’t the same thing nor are the reasons to do so even remotely the same, that is a ridiculous stretch to make an argument.
Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, who has written three books on female genital mutilation, has created a list of excuses used to promote genital cutting of infants and children. They are identical: it’s cleaner,
healthier, will prevent infections or other problems, will allow the person to be marriageable, etc., etc. Circumcision of children is always fear-based and it’s basically done to control sexuality,
whether the perpetrators (uninformed doctors or parents) realize it or not.
The World Health Organization has categorized female genital mutilation into four types. Type I is sunna circumcision, the excision of the clitoral hood, which is equivalent to male genital mutilation.
Granted, many of the more severe types of FGM are more serious and have more serious consequences than male genital mutilation. However, the screams of boys and girls undergoing the cut are genderless. Both genders die from genital cutting. So, this is not an issue of competitive suffering. Just how much of my little finger can you cut off before it is a human rights violation? That’s what this issue is about: human rights. Does a person have a right to the body into which
he or she was born or not? The Constitution of the United States and many universal human rights documents are on the side of individual rights. Sadly, where FGM and MGM are traditional practices, the laws are not implemented because a society is duped by its own cultural
L wrote: Unless someone can come up with a scientific reason better than cosmetic reasons, or for sex, I will remain comfortable that DH and I made the best decision for our lovely little boy!
If, what I’ve already said, haven’t been enough to at least persuade you to continue researching the subject, perhaps the following are points you have not yet considered:
Circumcision is where sex and violence meet for the first time, and it imprints the connection between the brain and penis with pain instead of the pleasure that organ is meant to experience.
- The foreskin is a normal, protective, sexually functioning organ.
- Circumcision is an amputative surgery with inherent risks, including
hemorrhage, infection, surgical mishap, and death.
- Circumcision is painful — even when analgesia is used, and a baby is
left to urinate and defecate into a raw wound while the wound heals.
- Circumcision leaves both physical and psychological scars that last a
lifetime, even if a man doesn’t recognize the consequences.
- Circumcision denies a male’s right to a fully functioning penis and
leaves him with decreased sensitivity, pleasure, and sexual fulfillment.
- Circumcision denies a male’s right to genital integrity and
Basically, circumcision is not a nice thing to do to a baby, or the man he becomes.
Karl Meninger said, “What we do to children, they will do to society.”
Gandhi said, “If we ever are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.”
I know that none of this is easy to hear or accept. However, since 85% of the males in the world have all the penis they were born with without drastic consequences and circumcision is a
billion-dollar-a-year industry — and those who are profiting from it are not educating the consumer/parents, we should at least be suspicious. Then, when we learn about the important protective functions (keeping the urinary tract sterile and the glans soft and moist) and sexual functions (providing the tissue to accommodate a full erection and the nerve endings for full enjoyment and satisfaction) of the foreskin, we should reconsider a surgery that has only be in style for the majority of males since WWII. For how many millenia were boys left intact? How would we have evolved had there been something wrong with this part of the body?
Please read the information at:
As a regretful mother of three circumcised boys, as an educated nurse who understands the importance of the functions of the foreskin and it’s impact on normal sex for males and their partners, and as an avid activist for genital integrity who has listened to the sadness and depression of thousands of circumcised men who wish they had had the choice, I ask you to please continue to read about the subject until you come to understand why it is crucial for us to respect the body and rights of our precious sons. We need to leave this very personal decision with them.
Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN, Executive Director
National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers
This from a chatter on one of my groups:
I think you’re right we need to learn about the effects of circumcision and that parents need to make informed decisions. I just have to say I need to point out your statement though “That’s the legacy of what we’ve done to our precious husbands, brothers, and sons…” I think we need to recognize this isn’t about what mothers have done to their children. I think your statement perpetuates mother blame and we need to be very careful of that. Just like many other things that have been done to in the name of ‘health’, circumcision is another medical intervention. Many people were told that men that weren’t circumcised were ‘not clean’ or if we didn’t have them circumcised as infants they would only have to have it done as adults because the likelihood of infections and how much more painful that would be. I think we need to realize also that sometimes this procedure was done out of religious beliefs or
pressures from partners that their son look like them. I am very much in support of looking all the ‘medical’ practices that are done in the name of ‘better’ health and I think all parents need to educate themselves on all areas and this is just one. But
lets be careful not to now lay the blame of “our” father, sons, brothers on the shoulders of women, let’s put it where it belongs on the medicalization of childbirth and child rearing.
(NOTE: It was Marilyn’s comment, not mine, that she was referring to.)
My comment, “That’s the legacy of what we’ve done to our precious husbands, brothers, and sons…” was not meant to reflect back on women or mothers as a source of blame. The “we’ve” was meant to refer to us as a “society” not us as a “person.”
As I’ve so often said before, when I first began my work, after the trauma of witnessing a circumcision, I told everyone I knew what I’d seen. And, I soon realized that this is a message no one wants to hear. What man wants to learn that the best part of his penis was amputated, probably without analgesia, when he was too little to consent, resist, or escape, and thrown into the trash? What mother wants to learn her son suffered needlessly? And, what doctor wants to admit he’s got blood on his hands? I couldn’t think of how to tell people what was being done to babies behind closed doors without upsetting them. Finally, I realized that being upset is the right response! The only way we can bring an end to the atrocity is to name it, talk about it, and condemn it! We need to do this without blame and/or shame, but, because we have been raised in a shame-based society, people will still feel guilty, no matter how the information is presented. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m a good person to do the work. I didn’t know enough to protect my own sons. I trusted my doctor — who lied to me! So, it wouldn’t behoove me to sit in judgment. And, perhaps, because I was lied to, that’s why I was so shocked when I witnessed a circumcision. After all, I’d been told it “didn’t hurt, only took a minute, would protect” my sons from a myriad of ills that would befall them if they weren’t circumcised. I began telling parents, or anyone else who would listen, because I didn’t want one more boy to suffer. I didn’t want one more mother to feel like I did!
What most people (certainly, many feminists) don’t realize is that, in a dominator/patriarchal society, the male often is the first victim. As Miriam Pollack says, circumcision disempowers the mother when her maternal/protective instincts are paramount because the males take her precious baby to “perfect” him — as if she hasn’t made a perfect baby, and it disempowers and victimizes the male baby by the violence of the act, both aspects providing the perfect foundation for a dominator society.
When we, as women, are empowered to protect our babies, even from their wounded fathers, we are teaching our husbands about their role as protectors of their family and, by loving, respecting, and protecting our sons, they will grow up to be gentle, loving, protecting men.
So, as gently as we can, we must bear witness to the truth of pain and harm inherent in circumcision, which itself is anything but gentle. We must comfort those parents who didn’t know enough to protect their infants and children, and we must comfort those men who were victimized by a senseless, brutal act.
We stand alone, those of us living today with the profound realization about the torture and mutilation inherent in circumcision. We — males and females alike — must live with the lifelong consequences of an unnecessary atrocity. However, we are also blessed because we are the ones who can transform our pain of this truth by bringing this harmful traditional practice to an end.
So, please keep talking. We are making a difference!
In response to this article, which I asked Marilyn to comment on:
The North American researchers who began promoting the studies and got others on board with their “scientific theories” were circumcision advocates before they used HIV/AIDS as their latest excuse to promote circumcision.
The studies themselves are questionable. Stopping the studies early is an old ploy to get the statistics that one wants to attain.
Please read my Letter From the Editor in the 2007 NOCIRC Annual Newsletter to see what I said about curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS. It’s been done successfully in Thailand, Senegal, and Eastern Uganda without circumcision, which is more expensive and less effective than existing interventions.
The excuses for circumcision always have been consistent with the dreaded disease of the time: fear of masturbation, germs, being dirty, penile cancer, cervical cancer, and spreading STDs. When all those excuses were debunked by the 1970s, and people began challenging routine medical procedures, e.g., radical mastectomy, routine tonsillectomy, episiotomy, and circumcision, the next excuse was emotional, “You don’t want him to look different in the locker room, do you?” No one suggested that excuse when circumcision infiltrated western medicine in the mid-1800s to prevent masturbation and fathers were intact while sons were circumcised. It was simply the latest excuse to promote what had become a billion-dollar-a-year industry. (Watch out! The price tag just went up as this folly — which never worked in the USA to prevent HIV/AIDS — is being exported to Africa.) During the 1980s, the excuse for circumcision was that it would prevent UTIs, which happen to less than 2% of infants and, when a girl gets a UTI, she’s treated with antibiotics, but, when a boy gets a UTI, they want to cut off the protective, sensual, and sexual part of his penis. Why? Finally, today, the greatest fear is HIV/AIDS, so it has become our excuse to perpetuate the practice — and, now, it’s on unsuspecting African men. It’s an easy sell when you’re afraid, and what could be more scary than the AIDS pandemic in Africa?
Sadly, circumcision will not prevent HIV/AIDS, but how many men will suffer, be maimed, or die because of this unconscionable push to satisfy the agenda of white, circumcised males who are busy banking their research funding? Additionally, following circumcision and the desensitization of the penis that results from it, condom use will be resisted. How long will it take Africans to realize that circumcision won’t prevent HIV/AIDS in Africa any more than it did in the USA? And, once Africans realize they’ve been hood-winked (so to speak), will they ever accept help from the west again? This is a very serious, if not deadly, situation! It’s all the more disturbing when we recognize that, by the time babies who are circumcised today to prevent AIDS become sexually active, there will be a vaccine…and their sex life will have been compromised for naught.
I received this email from someone on one of my groups that I posted the recent penile desensitivity study on:
I just want to say that it is completely false any studies that show that circumcision causes problems with sensitivity or sex in any way. For every study that shows it does there are three that are from more reputable groups that disagree. The sad fact is that parents are more worried about sex problems in their sons than the fact that you are by choice mutilating your son when you agree to a circumcision. If women had a partial labial circumcision we could do studies that show we would be less likely to get yeast infections because of more air. Would that be a good reason to chop up your daughter? NO. Please continue to speak out about this hypocrisy. But the facts are that men who can’t perform in bed have other issues. Many countries where circumcision is quite rare have the same complaints about men that women do here in the US. It is very simple. Cosmetic, elective surgery on infant males should be banned.
To which I asked Marilyn to respond, and here it is:
Yes, of course, the bottom-line of the issue is human rights. The question being: Do parents have a right to consent to the amputation of a part of their son’s normal body, or does his body belong to the boy himself?
That being said, it is impossible to cut off normal, sexually functioning tissue without interfering with normal sexual functioning. You cannot cut off part of a penis and have more. Circumcision decreases the penis in size and sensitivity.
Yes, of course, these are not the basic reasons for protecting a boy from genital cutting but the studies we did are accurate. Dr. Dean Edell called it “…the best study ever done…” The study demonstrates that the circumcised penis has less sensitivity than the intact penis. Of course it does, it has fewer nerve endings. That’s a no brainer — fewer nerve endings, less feeling — and the study was an exercise in proving what common sense makes so obvious.
What is left — the remnant — of the foreskin is more sensitive than the whole of the glans (the sensitivity of which is likened, by researchers Taylor and Cold, to be about the same sensitivity as the heel of the foot).
In most countries of the world, the attributes of the foreskin are not mentioned, it is simply a protective and sensual organ that gets normal use. In just the same way, we don’t have to defend and describe the eye lid — exalting it’s attributes, it’s double-sided structure, its epiderm and mucosal tissues, and its immunological functions. However, because we live in a sexually repressed, foreskin-phobic society, we must illustrate the advantageous functions of the foreskin, which are little-known in a society where males have a scar instead of a foreskin.
So, yes, the reason we are defending the rights of baby boys is because it is their right to have a whole body. And, following 150 years of the maligning and amputation of an important genital structure, we also have to describe the structures, functions, development, and care of that structure – in other words, educate.