From Indifference to Activism: An Advocate's Journey

By Natalie Wark © 2012

Sculpture representing the Infinite Love between a parent and child.
Available from Ten Thousand Villages.

I never knew much about circumcision or gave it any thought whatsoever until my second pregnancy. My first pregnancy I somehow just 'knew' I was having a daughter, so the topic never crossed my mind. At some point during my second pregnancy, before finding out the sex of our baby, I briefly researched routine infant circumcision. I only did this because I had realized that it was a topic of debate among parents, and didn’t understand why it was such a heated subject - I didn’t really understand what circumcision was. I got the impression that it was not a necessary procedure, so I wanted to do some investigating and find out for myself.

I did not delve much into the details - at this point, I just wanted to know for certain whether or not circumcision was even required. After doing a bit of research, I had learned enough to know that, as I suspected, it was completely unnecessary. I decided right then and there that if the child I was carrying were a baby boy, that alone would be reason enough for me not to do it. Why would anyone put their newborn child through a surgery that offered them no medical benefit? It made no sense.

Weeks later it was revealed via ultrasound that my second child is also a girl. So any thoughts I had on circumcision completely escaped my mind as I began to plan and prepare for the upcoming arrival of my second daughter.

In 2011, during my third pregnancy, I began to look into the subject for a second time - especially after finding out that we were expecting a boy this time! I revisited the topic because the idea of circumcision was still somewhat new to me - I didn’t want to do wrong and I had to be confident in my decision, whatever that would be.

I knew that routine infant circumcision would inevitably become a topic of discussion between my husband and I at some point during the pregnancy, and having learned that it is one subject that frequently turns into a debate, I was not looking forward to it at all. Prior to talking with my husband, I wanted to learn more about reasons not to circumcise, in addition to the one fact I already knew: it is not medically necessary.

When the discussion finally did take place, it didn’t go smoothly. He learned that I was very strongly against having this surgery done on our son and I learned that he (at that time, but not anymore!) was in favor of circumcising our son. At that time, he simply did not realize just how harmful circumcision is, both immediately to an infant, and long-term for an adult.

In an effort for us to both be on the same page, as a team, and as parents making an informed decision, I spent even more time educating myself on the risks of RIC, why it is harmful, how unnecessary it is, and what the long term and short term effects of it are. My goal was to find as much information as I could to share with him. It hurt that we were not in agreement.

The more I learned about this horrific procedure, the more solidified I became in my decision that I would NEVER consent to having our infant son put through such a nightmare. I remember my pregnant self sitting at the computer bawling when I learned exactly what violence newborn baby boys in our country are subjected to every day. It was then that I learned about the procedure itself, and the inadequate (or complete absence of) pain management. Just the thought of this is heartbreaking to me. This disagreement was a very emotional struggle for me because I strongly felt the need to protect our soon to be born infant son from unnecessary surgery and at the same time, to help my husband understand the magnitude of harm that would result from subjecting a newborn to such trauma.

Months later, we had a healthy baby boy, who we kept intact. Despite having made the right decision for my son in protecting him from mutilation, the horror of what I had learned about routine infant circumcision (RIC) was still haunting me, and it did for months. I could not simply forget what I now knew. I wondered how many other parents would take the time to adequately research RIC before making this huge decision for their sons. I wondered if they, too, knew the truths of this painful, unethical surgery, or whether they believed the myths.

I felt that I needed to do something. I could not stand the thought of babies being subjected to such harm. My baby was safe, but what about others? Would their parents protect them, too? Or would they not know any better and be deceived? I then decided that I would do something. I wanted to help share pro-intact information with parents so that they, too, could make an educated decision and protect their babies from harm. I thought of how extremely grateful I felt for those who take the time in making accurate, pro-intact information available for expecting parents to easily find. Knowing what I know now, I am certain that I would not have gotten such honest information from the doctor because so many in the U.S. profit immensely from this procedure and are appallingly uneducated about proper intact care. This made me thankful to have done my research independently as opposed to solely asking a medical professional, who may have given me a very biased and potentially harmful answer. I thought that by becoming an advocate, this could be my way of giving back, of paying it forward, of helping other parents to protect their babies as well. After all, had I remained uninformed, or had I been misinformed, this could very well have been done to my own son and I could not have forgiven myself had I allowed it to happen due to a lack of education on my part.

I started with ordering info cards through Saving Our Sons and carding new baby items at Target and any place that sold baby items. Then I decided I had to do more. I contacted The Intact Network and volunteered to help. I was offered the responsibility of Co-Directing Intact Pennsylvania, which I eagerly accepted. I participated in several small, local protests outside hospitals that routinely circumcise healthy newborn babies - something I had never in my life done before. I was definitely stepping outside my comfort zone! As a new activist and member of the network, I suggested that we organize a carding event at a local maternity and baby expo. At that event, we gave away hundreds of informational cards - many directly into the hands of expecting mothers! There were countless pregnant women there and I hope that the information we shared was helpful to them.

Around this same time, I wrote a letter that I sent via e-mail to the task force members of the AAP’s updated circumcision policy, making them aware of the injustice against newborn babies that would result from their unethical statement. In this letter, I asked that they withdraw their new statement, and in its place, create a new one with accurate, unbiased information acknowledging the risks of RIC, the benefits of keeping babies intact, and that it include proper intact care (i.e. leave the foreskin alone!).

I feel it is also relevant to my story to add that there are a few people in my life who had the courage to approach me with this difficult topic during my pregnancy. Unknown to them, I had already done my research on circumcision - yet I am still grateful that they cared enough to step forward and mention to me the idea of keeping my baby whole. I know that could not have been easy - I myself am still learning, mostly through being around other pro-intact baby-saving advocates, how to broach this subject in such a way as to educate gently, without seeming judgmental, and without leaving the impression of over stepping bounds.

I have to say that it is very encouraging to see an increasing number of activists every day and gives me hope that one day MGM in North America will end. I am extremely grateful to be just a small part of this movement which I believe to be immensely important. I wish to see our country offer our boys the same protection that we offer our girls. All babies deserve to be protected equally, regardless of their sex, the culture they are born into, or the religion of their parents.

My Biblical Journey to Intactivism

By Vivian Jones © 2012

When we had our first son, we did not actually give a whole lot of thought to circumcision. I researched what I could find and what stood out to me was: Not Necessary. That seemed simple enough to me. ‘Not necessary’ was pretty much all the information I needed. I read that circumcision was 'primarily cosmetic.' This also disturbed me. Why should I have a say in how his genitals look?!

I shared with my husband that I’d found circumcision was not necessary. Being the awesome man he is, that was enough for him. Since then I have learned that many fathers who were circumcised at birth feel threatened or insecure at the idea of their son being different. To some men it may feel like an admission that something is somehow wrong with them and that idea is uncomfortable and potentially brings up other underlying issues. I’m very blessed to have a man who does not think this way. Neither of us wanted to do something to our son that would cause physical pain and risk complications if it wasn’t medically necessary. He agreed with me that if a surgery is not necessary for our newborn, why would we do it?!

Our first son was born and we were very pleased to leave his little body as perfect as it was when he arrived. We had no problems whatsoever, and caring for him was a breeze. There is absolutely nothing extra to do when boys are little because the foreskin is literally fused with the glans of the penis so it cannot (and should not) be pulled back for any reason. Cleaning it is as simple as washing his little hands! Only clean what is seen. Nothing more. It naturally takes care of itself! God’s design is truly perfect and works beautifully and easily! No disassembly required. Definitely no more complicated than bathing our daughters. Just sitting him in the bath and letting him splash and kick (as you would allow any baby) was enough to keep him clean, healthy and happy. And we avoided having to care for a recovering newborn with an open, painful surgical wound sitting in a diaper during those crucial first days and weeks. Being a newborn is traumatic enough without having an excruciating, unncessary surgery to deal with on top of everything else. Seemed like a no-brainer to me!

But even at this time I thought circumcision was still a personal parental decision for our babies. A few friends and family members said, “Well hey - God required it of Abraham, so it must not be bad. In fact, it may be good! Why would God require it if it weren’t somehow beneficial?”

This argument seemed valid to me and I had no answer for it.

After thinking about it and seeing how normal and healthy my intact little boy was, it seemed more and more wrong that baby boys are often routinely circumcised as newborns without much of a second thought. It even seemed like a lot of people do it just because 'it’s what you do' not knowing that there’s any other option. Why is the cutting off part of a baby's genitals not considered a bigger deal? Why is it so common and accepted in the United States? In any other situation, it would be considered criminal. It deeply disturbed me. The idea that God required circumcision as a sign of the Covenant in the Old Testament continued to confuse me. The more I knew about circumcision, the more I questioned why.

I started digging deeper. What was the deal with Biblical circumcision in the Old Testament? That’s when I learned the shocking truth. Biblical circumcision is completely different from what modern circumcision is. They are not even remotely comparable. The circumcision that God ordained in the Old Testament as a sign of the covenant was quite simply a 'clip' of the skin meant to shed a few drops of blood as a sign of the Covenant. Very little was actually removed. It left the majority of the foreskin intact and fully functional. Circumcision as it is done today was completely brought about by man. Not God. Had it been done in Biblical times the way it is today, babies would have died of blood loss and infection. They didn’t have the surgical tools and clamps and medicines that have made modern circumcision possible. There are historical and archaeological artifacts on this ritual that can be found in many reference books of ancient culture. This should be common knowledge.

To quote my favorite article on this topic:
God never ordained that the foreskin or any other part of the human body should be amputated (i.e. his creation destroyed), unless it became diseased. Our modern invention of foreskin amputation (modern circumcision) took place in Victorian times when several doctors and psychiatrists came up with the idea in hopes of discouraging self-stimulation. It didn't work, but the practice soon became ingrained as ‘tradition.’ And there are few things so safely guarded as tradition.
After this discovery, I became livid that such a tradition is so misunderstood, falsely protected by religion, and still so common in this day and age. Prior to this discovery I hesitated to compare male circumcision to female circumcision. Prior to this discovery I hesitated to call it 'genital mutilation.' Prior to this discovery, I hesitated to call circumcision a human rights issue. Now that I know the truth? There is NO MORE hesitation.

I also learned that because the foreskin of an infant is fused to the glans of the penis, to remove it from a newborn requires being forcibly ripped away - very similarly to how a fingernail would be ripped off your nail bed. Sounds painful, right? Yet this is traditionally and routinely subjected upon our smallest and most defenseless - newborn babies! And it’s being done to their GENITALS. Horrifying. Not only that, but the foreskin has purpose and function. It is a blessing and a gift from God. His creation is perfect and beautiful. Why would I rob my sons (and their potential future wives!) of a healthy and vital body part?

Once I understood the invention of modern circumcision was merely to curtail sexual pleasure and that it was completely different from the sign of God’s covenant in the Old Testament, I started seeing it for what it really is. A human rights violation. Genital mutilation. Barbaric. Abuse. And yes, even comparable to female circumcision. It’s alarming to say the least to look at all the claimed 'benefits' and arguments made for female circumcision because they are eerily similar to the claimed 'benefits' and arguments made for male circumcision.

After all I’ve learned about circumcision historically and Biblically, in my mind I can no longer tolerate this topic as 'controversial.' The cutting of a newborn’s genitals (regardless of sex) should be the LEAST controversial thing in the world. It simply should not happen.

Related Information:

Georgetown lecture by Dr. Ryan McAllister, Ph.D. "Child Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital"

Snippity Snip - Or is Circumcision That Simple?

Circumcision Information Resource Pages: Information for Parents

Faith Considerations on Circumcision

Are You Fully Informed?

Vivian Jones is a homebirth mom to 6 little ones and wife to a man she says is "the most supportive, intelligent, and loving man who adores his children." Over the years that as she has gained experience as a mother, she has grown to be more of an advocate for breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth-diapering, milk-sharing, natural childbirth, natural family living and genital autonomy. 


Believing Circumcision Prevents HIV, Malawi Men Go on 'Sex Spree'

By Danelle Frisbie

Adult man reads about the 'benefits' of circumcision while undergoing the surgery with local anesthesia.
Photo by Amnon Gutman.

According to news out of Malawi, men who undergo circumcision are buying into the myth that they are now protected from HIV. As a result, many of the local men in Mangochi have gone on 'sex sprees,' participating in sexual intercourse with multiple partners, without condoms, all the while claiming they are now immune to HIV. 

The Malawi Voice reports that Dickens Mahwayo of Given Secrets Consultants detests the misinformation being given to men across Malawi. This past weekend at the College of Medicine (COM) Research Conference, Mahwayo told colleagues that he has found most men believe circumcision to be a license to have unprotected sex with anyone they choose. "What is most saddening is that most circumcised men are now engaging in unprotected sex, claiming they are immune to HIV." 

Mahwayo's research demonstrates that the vast majority, 74% of men, state that they no longer use any form of protection after being circumcised. In addition, 58% of female sex workers do not require their male partners to use condoms if they have been circumcised. 

Compounding the problem already in epidemic proportions is that circumcised men now pay significantly less for services from sex workers. "Circumcised men are now charged peanuts for sex compared to [intact] men," stated Mahwayo. Believed to be 'less of a risk' and easier to deal with, men who have undergone circumcision are given a break on cost. This spurs more men to sign up for circumcision under the guise that it will equal more sex, without any risk. 

The rate of intercourse with multiple partners is increasing, as is the rate of intercourse without any form of protection. This false sense of 'HIV prevention' that current campaigns to cut in Africa pose are bringing about greater rates of the virus now spreading at an alarming rate due to these cultural myths and practices. 


Related reading can be found at and in resources linked at the end of this article

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