Saturday, October 21, 2006

What do you *really* know......

about RIC (Routine Infant Circumcision)?

****Before this goes any further it has come to my attention that people are attacking a commenter via private e-mail due to this post.  That is not the point or my intention at all.  Attacking someone for something that occurred years ago isn't going to help anyone.   My point is education, plain and simple.  If you want to copy this information to other people that is fine.  But do not attack.  That is not the way to convince anyone of anything.  Many of the people that read my blog are my friends in real life.  Please do not contribute to intentionally hurting them.

I am very sorry for what has happened.  If it continues I will be pulling this post.****

Ok, ok, I know!  This is a very sensitive subject, and you are becoming more surprised by the day at how much of a crunchy hippie person I have become every time you read my posts where I mention breastfeeding and using cloth diapers.  Now this?   Well, I feel this is a very important subject.  The facts are very rarely presented and quite often the truth is hidden by old-wives tales and misinformation.  Please keep reading, even if you are convinced I am nuts and this is a waste of your time.  I guarantee you will learn something.
I learned about RIC when I was studying midwifery, before I was married and obviously before I had kids.   I decided there was no way I could allow such a procedure on my boys, should I have any.  Since then I have gotten involved with groups that are actively working to end RIC.  I have come to two conclusions on the subject.  First I firmly believe, his body, his decision.  Period.  Second I have discovered that the more you learn about this practice, it's history and the way it is carried out, the worse it gets. 
So, I have compiled this post in the hopes of education.  When you know better you do better, right?  Hopefully the information I can present will help someone preserve the human rights of a boy in their life.
The following information is from a board I post on actively and is reprinted with permission.

What is male circumcision?  Male circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin. In the United States today, all forms of child female circumcision are prohibited under Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Males are not included in that legislation, however, and as a result some 60% of American boys are still circumcised.

What is the function of the male foreskin?  The male foreskin performs a number of functions. First, it directly enhances sexual pleasure via specialized erogenous nerve endings such as the frenulum, the ridged band, and stretch receptors called Meissner's corpuscles. The foreskin also serves to protect the moist, mucous membrane of the glans (the "head" of the penis) and the inner foreskin from outside elements, similar to the way the female foreskin protects the clitoris. When the foreskin is removed, the penis is transformed from an internal organ into an external one, initiating a desensitizing process known as keratinization. Keratin is a tough, skin-like substance similar to a callus that forms on top of the nerve endings of the glans, resulting in significant loss of sexual sensitivity. The foreskin also provides a gliding mechanism during sexual intercourse that reduces friction and locks in moisture, acting as a natural lubricant. The foreskin provides a number of other important functions as well.

Why would anyone cut off such a valuable body part?  The world origins of circumcision are unknown. However, circumcision began in the United States in the late 1800's largely because some doctors thought that it prevented masturbation, which at the time was thought to be harmful. But once that and other myths were proven wrong, new reasons were created to perpetuate circumcision, most notably that a circumcised penis is more "hygienic" than an intact penis. Other reasons that are used to justify circumcision include flawed studies suggesting that it protects against disease, that it makes boys look the same as their fathers or others in their community, and for religious reasons. Medicaid reimbursement for circumcision in thirty-four states also provides financial incentives for circumcision.

Haven’t some newer studies shown that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV and penile cancer?  Although some new studies suggest that circumcision may reduce susceptibility to HIV and penile cancer later in life, those findings are not a valid reason to amputate a healthy, functioning body part of a child. Similar studies show that female circumcision may reduce HIV transmission, but nearly all physicians agree that any type of forced female genital cutting is unethical. Doctors don't cut off the breasts of baby girls to help prevent breast cancer, either, and medical ethicists believe that the male foreskin should be treated no differently. It is also important to note that proponents of female circumcision often use medical reasons to justify cutting off parts of girls' genitals, but those arguments are rightly condemned in most countries.

Does circumcision cause psychological harm?  Many men who are circumcised suffer the same psychological effects found in rape victims. A sense of great loss and feelings of anger, distrust, and grief are common among circumcised men who are aware of the functions that the foreskin performs. Problems with intimacy in adult life, long term post-traumatic stress disorder, and feelings of personal powerlessness are also reported by men when discussing their circumcisions.  (I would like to add to this answer that in my experience the recognition and acknowledgement of these feelings is fairly uncommon when talking to men in real life.  However, on the internet, when you can be faceless, nameless, and honest, it's amazing and saddening what you will hear men say about their feelings on this subject.  ~Alice)

Can circumcision be reversed?  The unique nerve endings that are cut off during circumcision cannot be restored. However, other significant damage from circumcision can be reversed through a method called non-surgical foreskin restoration, which involves stretching the remaining shaft skin over the glans to grow new skin. By keeping the glans and remaining inner foreskin area covered and protected, the keratin that built up over the lifetime of the victim slowly peels away, resulting in a significant improvement to sexual sensitivity. The natural gliding mechanism can also be restored to some extent, provided that enough new skin can be regrown.

Isn't it up to parents to decide what is right for their own child?  Unless there is a compelling medical reason to do so, no one has the right to cut off the working body part of a child. Genital mutilation is done for social, "hygienic", or religious reasons, and no national medical organization in the world supports routine circumcision as a beneficial health measure. We don't allow girls to be circumcised because we know that it is harmful to their physical and mental well being, and boys should be afforded equal protection of the law.

What about misinformed parents who have already had their son(s) circumcised?   Many doctors continue to misinform parents by telling them that circumcision is harmless or even beneficial, so oftentimes parents are not to blame. We suggest that parents take the time to sit down with their son and explain that they never would have agreed to the circumcision procedure had they known it was going to hurt him. Explaining that some damage from circumcision can be reversed through non-surgical foreskin restoration is also good advice.

What about expecting parents who have already circumcised their first son(s)?  Some parents, even those who have newfound doubts about the ethics of circumcision, are tempted to circumcise their new baby boy if their other sons are already circumcised. They may worry that the older boys will resent them for allowing their penises to be cut while leaving their younger brother's penis intact. But continuing the cycle of genital mutilation will not make things better. The best thing for these parents to do is to leave their new son intact and explain to the older sons that when they were born, many people believed that circumcision was a harmless or even beneficial procedure. Now that more is known about circumcision, however, it is no longer routinely done and that is why their younger brother is intact.

What should Jewish parents do if they have a boy?  Some of the most vocal criticism of circumcision comes from within the Jewish community itself. This is because many Jews have actually witnessed the painful cries of baby boys as parts of their penises are cut off in the name of religion. As a peaceful alternative, more and more Jewish parents are calling for a Brit Shalom to replace the Brit Milah. A Brit Shalom is a non-cutting naming ceremony that welcomes baby boys into the world with love, not mutilation. Many celebrants now specialize in performing this non-violent ritual.

What can I do?  Circumcision is perpetuated by silence. When the topic is brought up in conversation, many people react by changing the subject or by making jokes. When you hear circumcision being discussed, don't be afraid to tell others about the negative consequences that it has on each of its victims. In addition, take action by writing your congressional and state officials to voice your support for the bill proposals on this website. Lastly, if your son was circumcised and you feel that you were misled by your doctor, hospital, or religious advisor, you may want to file a lawsuit against them seeking damages. If you yourself are a victim of circumcision, you may want to consider suing the person or organization that circumcised you.

Where can I find more information on circumcision? ... ...


If you're interested in observing a circumcision, here is a video.  It is completely unedited and you can also hear the doctor explaining things to the father who is present in the room.  I highly suggest that someone who is in favor of circumcision watch this video because if you are going to consent to this surgery you should really know exactly what occurs.


This is copied from the Canadian Paediatric Society page on infant circumcision:

Risks and benefits of circumcision

Problems from the surgery are usually minor. Although serious complications are rare, they do occur. Newborn circumcision has been associated with surgical mistakes, such as having too much skin removed.

Of every 1,000 boys who are circumcised:

  • 20 to 30 will have a surgical complication, such as too much bleeding or infection in the area.

  • 2 to 3 will have a more serious complication that needs more treatment. Examples include having too much skin removed or more serious bleeding.

  • 2 will be admitted to hospital for a urinary tract infection (UTI) before they are one year old.

  • About 10 babies may need to have the circumcision done again because of a poor result.

In rare cases, pain relief methods and medicines can cause side effects and complications. You should talk to your baby’s doctor about the possible risks.

Of every 1,000 boys who are not circumcised:

  • 7 will be admitted to hospital for a UTI before they are one year old.

  • 10 will have a circumcision later in life for medical reasons, such as a condition called phimosis. Phimosis is when the opening of the foreskin is scarred and narrow because of infections in the area that keep coming back. Older children who are circumcised may need a general anesthetic, and may have more complications than newborns.

Circumcision slightly lowers the risk of developing cancer of the penis in later life. However, this form of cancer is very rare. One of every one million men who are circumcised will develop cancer of the penis each year. By comparison, 3 of every one million men who are not circumcised will develop penile cancer each year.


Photos of the various complications due to circumcision.  This link contains links to pictures of male genitalia, some of young babies, some of grown men, all which show what can go wrong with a circumcision.

I was going to post a link about caring for an intact penis, but I decided against it because it is so simple and I have personal experience.  The AAP guideline for parents today is to simply leave it alone.  Wipe it like you would a finger and leave it be.  This is one area that people are the most misinformed about.  Our parents were told caring for an intact penis was hard work.  They were instructed to pull back the foreskin at each diaper change and scrub out whatever you found inside.  That information was completely wrong!!  The male penis is adhered to the foreskin in a baby and retracting it for cleaning or anything else is the equivalent of tearing a nail off your finger!  Today this misinformation is perpetuated by doctors that don't keep up on or refuse to acknowledge AAP guidelines and who sometimes even attempt to retract boys while doing check-ups.  The foreskin will retract sometime between birth and adulthood of it's own accord.  Most of the time this occurs when a boy is young, but it can take as long as late puberty and that is perfectly normal.  At the point a boy is retractable he may retract and rinse while he showers, truly no more work than that.  I'm serious.  Premature retraction can damage the penis and create an environment for infection since there is a wound that is healing. So, please, trust me...... just wipe it off and leave it alone!!!


Now, finally, this is a post written by a guy on a board I frequent.  He was circumcised as an infant.  His words are brutal and honest.  They are the words of a victim.  I want to honor his pain by sharing his feelings.  This is copied here with his permission.

Someone please tell me that I'm not being stupid.

Someone please tell other people to stop blowing me off.

Someone please tell me that I had a right to my foreskin, and that what was done to me was wrong.

Someone please do more than just coldly and intellectually agree that circumcision is wrong. Stop just nodding your head.

Someone please tell me that my anger is justified. Stop reiterating that my parents meant well. I already know that, okay?! Stop it!

Someone please tell me that despite my parent's lack of malice, my anger still makes sense. That it's still justified.

Someone please realize that it's hard to start forgiving someone when no one thinks your anger is justified in the first place.

Someone please *sympathize* with me.

Someone please *hug* me.

Someone please *hold* me.

Someone please tell me that it should have been *my* choice. That it was *my* body, and not my parent's.

Someone please tell me that if you had been there you would have protected me.

Someone please tell me that I'm supposed to have a foreskin.

Someone please tell me that my anger, sadness, and sense of violation is normal. That it's the other guys' *lack* of reaction that's weird.

Someone please tell me that my reaction doesn't need explanation. That it just makes sense.

Someone please make everyone else stop asking me "Why?". For fritz's sake, why doesn't it just *make sense* that I'm angry at having part of my genitals cut off without me having any say in it whatsoever? Why doesn't that just make sense?! Why do I have to explain? How *can* I explain any further than that?

I hate this so much. I want support. I want someone to for once actually sympathize with me. To do more than just agree with me on an intellectual level. For once I want the first thing out of someone else's mouth to *not* be, "But your parent's meant well...". I am so sick of hearing that. I don't want other people to defend my parents. I do that already to myself; I definitely don't want to hear it from anyone else. That's not what I need.

I need sympathy. I need validation. I need to hear someone tell me in emotional earnestness that I was wronged and robbed. I need hugs given in comfort of this. I need someone to listen to me rant without trying to contradict me for once.

I want a complete penis. I want my foreskin back. I want that scar on my penis to vanish. Why on earth is that weird? If I were robbed of a finger or an ear or a nipple, would it be "weird" for me to want that back? No? Then why this?

I love my parents. And there's a part of me that really wants to forgive them. But it's really difficult to do that when I'm floating in this void without support.

I also want to confront my parents about it. But I'm so afraid. What if they can't acknowledge that what they did was wrong? How am I supposed to deal with that and still have any sort of healthy relationship with them?

Arg. I so desperately need support. Someone *please* give it to me.



Thank you so much for deciding to read this far.  I put a lot of time and thought into this post and I have tried to make it as informative as possible without becoming too long-winded.  If you have any questions about anything here or would like more information I have it.  This is a very abbreviated version of the stuff I have available, believe it or not!


Anonymous said...

I agree totally, and I hope you educate plenty of soon-to-be-parents.

lisajo5 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You've got it all right, though I would add that many other studies have found that there is also the opposite trend with HIV. Other studies have found higher incidence of HIV with circumcised men. And, don't forget, here in the US, the only country where the majority of men are circumcised for social/cosmetic reasons, we also have higher rates of HIV than all of Europe (which doesn't circumcise). Bottom line, use a condom!

What is very disturbing for me, is that I know from experience that circumcised men just don't have the same range/level of sensation that intact men do. They need a lot more rougher stimulation and pounding in order to orgasm. And sadly, they will never know that they actually were ever missing anything as their capacity for full sexual functioning was taken from them as infants. They "think" that they feel everything because they've never known full functioning. So sad.
:( I would never circumcise a child.

Christy said...

Great post. I hope you get the word out to more parents so that they become educated and read up. Once you're educated it is really obvious that it is not only a "cosmetic procedure" but that it permanently alters his future sex life. In our area (Florida) only about 39% of boys are circumcised, and almost all the boys in my playgroup are intact (the two circumcised are from the same Jewish parents). The tide is changing, and I am so happy for it! Every person has a right to an intact body!

Anonymous said...

The post that you copied of your friend mourning and grieving his personal loss really touched my heart and made me weep for him. Of course, I'm a hormonal tidal wave right now...BUT STILL! We went through a similar reaction in our home when we were researching circumcision for Jackson. Once Tim realized what all had been taken away from him without his consent, he was justifiably angry at his parents for a while. That being said, I wish I could hug and comfort your friend because I have seen that kind of pain sitting right in front of me and it's heartbreaking.

Hopefully lots of parents will somehow stumble onto your post and you can help educate them about this. Everyone should know what exactly they're doing to their son before they have them circumcised.

I do not equate the value of life between a human and a pet, but this reminds me of declawing cats. Vets don't tell you what the procedure actually entails (they cut off the fingertip at the first knuckle!) and it is routinely performed. Cats can end up permanently injured as a result of the surgery going wrong, but the vet doesn't tell you that either when you drop Fluffy off to get fixed and declawed. It's something that is so routinely done, it's widely accepted but as more and more responsible, loving people learn what the procedure involves more and more people are choosing to not have it done.

Here's to our sons and our cats being able to keep all of their parts intact. :)

Anonymous said...

Great job on your blog Momma! It really is so simple when you can see circumcision for what it is, damaging cosmetic surgery on an unconsenting baby. I am sure you will reach plenty of other parents and help to stop these sweet little babes from being put through this totally unnecessary torture.

Thank-you for doing this!

Taylor said...

You're awesome! RIC (routine infant circumcision) *IS* MGM (male genital mutilation)

Intact 31 years w/ nooooooo "problems" and severely attached to my foreskin

Anonymous said...

IMO, there are only two reasons why people circumcise their babies. Ignorance or selfishness.

They either do it because they don't know the whole "story" of circ.(The damage, pain, risk, foreskin benefits ect.) Or they do it to make themselves happy. Whether it be they like the way it looks better or they want him to match Daddy, brother, ect.

It is time to start considering the happiness of the babies and leave them intact....the way they have a right to be!

Good for you for speaking out on this!

Anonymous said...

What male would honestly say that they would want to lose the most erogenous part of their body? Well, I don't know any. That's why cut men prefer to think that the foreskin doesn't have a function/doesn't give pleasure. Boy are they are wrong, utterly and completely. When I hear about what still happens here in the US I thank God that my mom had enough sense not to cut me, and someday your son will thank you as well. I am proud to be whole. Great job to you Mom!

Kaitlyn said...

Awesome post! I may be too young to have children yet, but I know a lot of things I want for my children, and also, I love living in a place where RIC is not happening. My little brother is not circ'd, and never once have I ever encountered a man who was! It's nice to know that people are standing up for their children in places where they aren't as lucky.

Anonymous said...

The 13minute full version with optional captions of the circumcision video you posted is available here:

Thank you for sharing on this matter; it is deeply appreciated.