By Cat Saunders
There are few things I hate, but involuntary circumcision is one of them. The crusade against involuntary circumcision is one of my passions and I’ve been writing about it since the late 1980s. In fact, the first piece of my writing to hit the Internet was an interview-essay against circumcision. It was first published by The New Times and was later made available on the website of Genital Autonomy America (formerly NOCIRC).
Genital Autonomy America was founded by Marilyn Milos, R.N., whose personal story about her own sons is enough to break the hardest of hearts. Out of ignorance, before she knew any better, Marilyn had her three sons circumcised. Later, as a nursing student, she witnessed the horror of infant circumcision for the first time. It changed her life, and she went on to found NOCIRC, which now has more than 50 centers in the United States as well as centers in 14 other countries.
The U.S. is the last country in the world that routinely circumcises the majority of its male infants for “medical reasons,” despite the fact that this surgery has been proven to be unnecessary. Many physicians, including the late Dr. Benjamin Spock, have publicly denounced this inhumane practice.
I don’t know what it will take for this country to wake up. Our hypocrisy about human rights astonishes me. Many Americans recoil in horror when they hear about female circumcision but they don’t extend the same compassion to baby boys. They discount the pain of infant male circumcision, and they deny its long-term physical and psychological effects. To me, this is the worst kind of ignorance, because it fosters cruelty.
Think about it. We take helpless baby boys, strap them down to a board (or hold them down, in the case of certain religious rituals), and then we slice off the most exquisitely sensitive part of their sexual organs. This “expendable” piece of foreskin would become 15 square inches (when erect) of pleasure-stimulating penile tissue if the boy was allowed to reach adulthood intact. In circumcision, this multi-purpose protective tissue is cut off without the baby’s permission and typically, without anesthesia. If this isn’t horrific, I don’t know what is.
If you have even an inkling of confusion about this brutal and unnecessary practice, I encourage you to explore the information and/or videos available through Genital Autonomy America. If you are already against circumcision, perhaps you have friends or family who are not knowledgeable about it despite a coming child. If so, I urge you to respectfully discuss the matter, so they can make a more informed decision if their baby turns out to be a boy.
If you do discuss circumcision with expectant parents, you may encounter resistance, denial, or outright indignation. Many parents believe it’s their right to have their son’s genitals altered according to parental preferences.
Such parents may become incensed if anyone questions the humanity of their choices. However, someone has to advocate for the rights of helpless infants who cannot speak up for themselves. If that someone is you, GAA can help you know what to say. Check out their website for information and inspiration. Every baby matters!
Cat Saunders, Ph.D., is a counselor in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Dr. Cat’s Helping Handbook: A Compassionate Guide for Being Human (available through Amazon). Contact Cat by emailing her or by calling 206-329-0125 (24-hour voicemail).