I care about infant circumcision - and I'm not ashamed to say it.
The great state of Florida has issued an arrest warrant for a mom who refuses to circumcise her son. Heather Hieronimus, in a parenting settlement with her ex-husband, originally agreed to have her son Chase circumcised. Now she’s changed her mind. And Hieronimus is on the run with now 4-year-old Chase, who “is aware of what is happening and is terrified by the procedure.” The court has agreed to rescind the arrest order if Chase’s mother will sign the consent form for circumcision.
And so America has discovered the world of “intactivism”: the movement against routine infant circumcision.
I’d call myself an intactivist. That means that yes, I take an active interest in the state of your infant’s penis. In my view, chopping off your new baby’s foreskin is on par with female genital mutilation. This doesn’t mean I stand on street corners with graphic signs and blood-stained pants (the world of intactivism gets pretty militant). Nor do I check diapers and harangue parents who choose to, in intactivist parlance, circumcise their sons. I’m friends with some of them. But they know how I feel: that infant circumcision is a barbaric, outdated practice that scars baby boys for life.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. I believe this practice is unjust and performed on people who can’t consent so I have to speak out. Baby boys can’t speak for themselves; their parents have to make the circ decision on their behalf.
2. This country is rife with misinformation about the male foreskin. It might not retract fully until a boy is in his teens. You don’t pull it back when you change a diaper; that’s like peeling back your fingernail to clean underneath. The foreskin is designed to protect the sensitive glans underneath. It’s safer to leave the foreskin where it’s supposed to be.
Complications abound, from hemorrhaging to the need to “repair” or redo the surgery. Out of 100 intact boys, only one will have a UTI — one cited need for infant circumcision — and one more will elect to get cut later in life (less if he’s not forcibly retracted). Only 45 percent of circumcised boys get anesthesia during the operation, and an intact penis is as clean as a circ’d one if taken care of properly later in life.
Because parents don’t understand basic information about circumcision, it’s up to others to help them make truly informed decisions. As someone who knows about intact care, I feel that burden.
3. I want foreskins to be the norm. Like other mothers of intact sons, I want my sons to fit in. Right now, the US circumcision rate hovers around 77 percent, and changes based on region, with the West having the lowest rate of newborn circumcision. I don’t want outliers. I asked my husband what his all-boy school would have done had a peer been uncut. He admitted they’d have made fun of him — or at least given him a foreskin-related nickname.
4. I want to prevent unnecessary deaths. The journal Thymos found that over 100 baby boys die as a result of routine infant circumcision, mostly from blood loss and stroke.* This is roughly analogous to the number of babies lost to SIDS every year. If you know kids die like this, in a preventable manner, you have the obligation to speak.
5. I care about sex. Chopping off a foreskin is analogous to removing the hood of the clitoris. Pleasure Mechanics details how much desensitization this might cause, not to mention a loss of lubrication and friction during sex. There’s evidence that sex without a foreskin just isn’t as good as sex with one. Your kid has the right to the best sex possible.
6. I also care about female pleasure. Dr. Momma has a lot of NSFW details about thrusting, angles, clitoral stimulation, and more. Science says women are more likely to experience orgasm with an intact partner, more likely to enjoy sex more, and less likely to need additional lubrication. Women have the right to good sex — and it seems intact sex is better.
I wouldn’t circumcise my daughter. No medical society on earth recommends removing all or part of the clitoral hood. In fact, female circumcision — known as female genital mutilation — is illegal in most places, including the United States. This is sexist and unjust.
So yes, I care about little Chase’s foreskin. I care about a little boy scared they’ll cut off the most sensitive part of his body. I’m not the diaper police. But infant circumcision, a life-altering surgery performed on infants who can’t consent — and which the rest of the world considers unnecessary — needs to end. So keep running, mama. Don’t let them take Chase’s foreskin.