INTACT: Let's use correct terminology

By Danelle Frisbie © 2008
Intact onesie from Made By Momma

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

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

Not uncircumcised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional information on the prepuce, intact care, and circumcision:


Plastibell Infant Circumcision

It is terribly troubling that a lot of parents are told that the Plastibell form of circumcision is "less painful" or "less traumatic" for a newborn. For this surgery, a Plastibell is used rather than a Gomco Clamp or Mogen Clamp. "Plastibell" may sound like a more inviting tool to use on a highly sensitive penis than "Clamp." The reality, however, is that all forms of genital cutting are equally excruciating for a newborn. All forms amputate the purposeful prepuce organ which serves many important functions in infancy, childhood, and adulthood. If you are considering having your baby circumcised using the Plastibell method, here is one video to witness this particular surgical procedure.

Note that this video was made by a pro-cutting doctor and his assistant, so the baby's screaming is muted and words are instead placed on the screen describing what is being done. Not all of the information they post is entirely accurate -- NO health or medical organization in the entire world recommends circumcision on infants. No health or medical organization in the entire world recommends that anyone other than the young boy himself 'mess with' his foreskin. While the average age of retraction is 10.6 years of age, sometimes this natural retraction does not occur until the hormones of puberty naturally loosen the prepuce. The problems that have arisen for a minority of intact babies, boys, or men, in the U.S. occur because someone forcibly retracted or attempted to 'clean' between their foreskin and penis glans (head) before it was retracting fully on its own. This is the same as if we pulled back the fingernails of a newborn baby to 'clean' between their fingernails and fingers, or if we scrubbed out the area between the eyelids and eyeballs. The prepuce is tightly adhered to the glans (head) of the penis. There is zero care needed for an intact baby boy. The prepuce is a self-cleaning, self-sustaining, remarkable and necessary organ.

Additional video examples of Plastibell circumcision surgery:

For promotion of his practice, this Australian physician (who profits on the sale of circumcision surgery) uses a large amount of anesthesia - both topically before injection, and local anesthesia in three locations, pressing deep into the penile tissues to reach the dorsal nerve running to the base of the frenulum. He also waits adequate amount of time for the anesthesia to kick in. Rarely is this practice (either the heavy amount of anesthesia, placement, or time in waiting for it to take effect) carried through as such in the United States or Canada. This video is a rare one in which the baby has adequate local anesthesia to dull the pain of the surgery, and the process - the amputation of the prepuce by Plastibell - can be seen clearly. Unfortunately, the physician fails to discuss the monumental pain that will ensue when this local anesthesia wears off, or all the many purposes of the prepuce organ that have now been forever removed from this baby. Anesthesia is counter-indicated for newborns by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is one reason the majority of hospitals conducting genital cutting do not utilize it in their newborn circumcision surgeries. Another reason, as one U.S. physician recently stated is because, "I can get the job done much faster without having to wait 10 minutes for anesthesia to kick in."

Aside from the Plastibell, the Gomco is the other most commonly performed method of prepuce amputation in the United States. When a parent decides against keeping their child intact, one of these two methods of circumcision surgery will almost always take place in the U.S. As a result, we include one example of the Gomco here as well:


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

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