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Fathers and Sons

June 16, 2013

When I first started speaking out against circumcision, some of my friends were taken aback; they hadn’t ever really thought about it, and they couldn’t understand why I’d devote so much energy and time to this as a cause.  It’s just a flap of skin, isn’t it? Babies don’t feel or remember getting it “snipped off,” right? So what’s the big deal? Men, in particular, rolled their eyes, teased me, and wondered out loud what on earth I was so upset about.

Over the years, as the awareness of circumcision as an issue has grown, many of these same male friends have returned to tell me, upon reflection, that allowing their sons to be circumcised was the worst parenting mistake they’d ever made, the thing they most regret. More men than I can count have told me it’s the one thing they can’t forgive themselves for, even though they’d had no sense of the magnitude of their decision. It breaks my heart every single time I hear, “I had no idea what circumcision really meant, and I had no idea I would regret it.”

Some people, of course, do know, and they make the same terrible mistake. A couple of years ago, columnist Joel Stein wrote an essay for Time magazine in which he questioned whether his son should be circumcised in the Jewish faith. The piece ends with this paragraph:

So in a few weeks, I’m going to buy some bagels, call a mohel who is also a pediatric surgeon and believes in local anesthetic, and do something that I’m pretty sure is wrong. I have a horrible feeling that all of parenthood is like this.”

Well, I don’t believe that “all of parenthood is like this.” Many mistakes we make as parents are unwitting; they don’t involve clear yes-or-no decisions; you just roll with the circumstances and hope for the best. Circumcision, however, is different. It’s a clear yes-or-no situation. And its consequences are utterly irreversible. Given that Stein’s misgivings were pre-recorded, I can’t imagine he will have a lot of credibility with his own son should he one day say, “I’m sorry I allowed this to happen to you.”

It takes a great deal of courage to look back as a parent and say, “I was wrong.” It also takes courage to resist the pressure from families, faith communities, doctors, and society at large to do something that “everybody does”—and is, at the same time, too embarrassing to talk about.  Couple all of this with the fact that many men who regret saying yes are, themselves, victims of parents who were unable to say no.

Bravo to the fathers who have apologized to their sons; and bravo to the fathers who have stopped the cycle of harm, refusing to “consent” to the removal of a part of their sons’ beautiful, normal bodies.

Pass this on, share this post, or just simply start talking about it, because the single most effective way to prevent circumcision is to start the conversation—whether you’re sharing your own experience/pain/regret, or asking pregnant friends if they’ve thought about circumcision. You’ll find that once people really consider it and find out the facts, they’ll realize they are likely to regret it down the road if they allow their sons to be circumcised. (If they’re still on the fence, show them this video by Ryan McAllister, a bioethicist and research professor at Georgetown University. FYI, it includes graphic footage of a circumcision—which is the whole point.)

As parents, we’re often tasked with having to make tough decisions on behalf of our children—but this isn’t one of them. Pass it on.

Georganne Chapin

20 Comments leave one →
  1. A.F. permalink
    August 10, 2013 1:44 am

    My father was a doctor who was cut against his will at the age of six and swore he would never do it to me or have it done and I continue to thank him for his gift. Being born in the 80s, I am definitely in the minority as an intact male in the United States and dealt with a great deal of teasing in school but now, it bothers me none. I am proud of and love my penis, foreskin and all as they are and honestly would not entertain the idea of a circumcision for $100 billion dollars. It’s worth that much to me.

    It pains me to see parents continuing to have their boys circumcised and meaning well but having absolutely no idea what it is that they are removing and the impact it has on sexuality and future relationships. If only they read up on it and if only they were educated and knew what a sublime and beautiful piece of engineering that “little flap of skin” truly is. There is simply no other part of the human body that compares to how it works and what it does. The closest I can relate to it is the finely crafted movement and precision of a Rolex watch.

    I find it horrifying that girls and women are protected from genital mutilation in this country (and rightly so) while it is still routine and encouraged that we cut half of the penis from our boys and nobody even questions why. The way I see it, your body is the greatest machine you will ever own and NOBODY, not even your parents has any right to modify or cut off any part of you. It should be left up to the decision of the person themselves and once they are legally an adult, they can do whatever they want with it. You can bet that if I ever have boys, they will be left intact to make the decision for themselves. It’s not mine or anybody else’s decision to make.

  2. JayTuohey permalink
    July 2, 2013 7:28 pm

    Another excellent post Georganne.
    And again we read about babies being mutilated on a daily basis,being robbed of their birth right to have their bodies left intact.Being from the UK where this absurd,disturbing and disgraceful “tradition” isn’t even an issue in most births makes me as a man,a father of two perfectly perfect boys and a human being sad beyond knowing.
    I think the main reason why the AAP still supports this awful violation of a human being is damage limitation.I imagine the numbers guys have estimated that if the AAP admit that what they have been doing for so long is a terrible mistake,they will open up the floodgates for about 100 million lawsuits against them and the US government for causing actual bodily harm to so many innocent,perfectly formed baby boys….Just a thought!!

  3. Gianluca permalink
    June 24, 2013 12:14 am

    Sometimes I get to see little mutilated baby boys. I feel sorry for them. Circumcision makes their winnies look smaller and vulnerable.

  4. June 21, 2013 10:02 am

    All I can add is Amen and Amen!! Beautiful message!!

  5. June 20, 2013 11:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Oregon Intactivist.

  6. Shteln permalink
    June 19, 2013 1:48 am

    Good message, Georganne. My own father, when asked ‘why did you sign that consent form’ replied with all the usual nonsense of ‘trusting the doctor'(without thinking), ‘hygene’ and ‘protecting’ me from future ‘illness’. I addresses every trope of his and he still has not responded after 7 months. Maybe the wheels are ticking in his head, absorbing some of the anatomical facts and ‘circ’ procedural facts I’ve given him. I made it quite clear I was empathetic with his situation of being forcibly cut by the one you love but also that my empathy is limited since he then facilitated my own mutilation.
    So I’m still waiting for a show of empathy from the man who signed away my human rights. Until then, though, he’s dead to me. I can quite frankly do without both Mother’s day AND Father’s day.

  7. June 18, 2013 4:14 am

    Science has proven no such thing.

    There is not a single researcher who can produce a causal link between the circumcision and the reduction of any disease.

    There is not a single STD that an intact male can transmit that a circumcised male can’t.

    This is why even the most avid circumcision promoter cannot overstate condoms enough.

    Circumcision FAILS to prevent anything.

    And there is not a single doctor, researcher or scientist that can deny this fact.

    Go ahead.

    Deny it.

  8. June 16, 2013 8:33 pm

    Thank you, Georganne, for your powerful voice in defense of the rights of infants and children…and for your encouragement of those fathers who are able to overcome their own experience and to protect their sons from the trauma and mutilation they endured and continue to suffer.

    • June 16, 2013 8:35 pm

      I meant to add, blessing to all those fathers who recognize the harm of circumcision and are willing to protect their sons. You give me hope for the world!

  9. margaret permalink
    June 16, 2013 7:23 pm

    I love this beautiful father’s day message!

  10. June 16, 2013 6:59 pm

    NOTE: Intact America has removed, and will continue to remove, comments determined to be inappropriate and/or disrespectful. Repeated abuse of this policy will result in blocking and reporting. Thank you.

  11. Christy Summerfield permalink
    June 16, 2013 5:32 pm

    I will forever be grateful to my son’s father who made the decision not to have our son circumcised. It wouldn’t have occurred to me. My beautiful, healthy intact son is now 34 and the father of a beautiful intact one-year-old son of his own. I stand firmly with this cause.

  12. Jack permalink
    June 16, 2013 3:28 pm

    Thanks Georganne. And thank you to all those cut fathers that have decided to not cut their sons. Cut men, that break the cycle by leaving their sons natural, are Real heroes.

  13. June 16, 2013 1:43 pm

    if you really want to talk “science” can you explain why is it that ALL human beings are born with a foreskin, indeed ALL mammals? is nature just fucking up here? you talk science but clearly lack a basic understanding of the human anatomy. millions of years of evolution have fashioned the human body into a model of refinement and efficiency with every part having a function and purpose. all mammals have their genitals encased in a protective multipurpose foreskin. in females, the clitoral hood is their foreskin, in males it protects the glans of the penis. the foreskin is an essential part of the human sexual anatomy. ashamed? i don’t think so. my 22 year old intact jewish son is very happy to have his foreskin and is thankful and grateful that his mother protected him from the KNIFE and the sadistic cutters who profit from mutilating our newborns. do you know that the sale of foreskins in big business in this country? foreskins are sold and used in many products. if the foreskin is such a maligned, malfunctioning, disease-causing organ, why are they so in demand? go ahead, google sale of foreskins, it’s all there for people like you to see. and how is it that the majority of the world’s male population, except for jews and muslims, are intact and do just fine with their foreskins, somehow they’re not dropping like flies from all these so called health risks. are american penises’ inherently defective, that they need surgical correction at birth? or is it due to the fact that genital cutting is a billion dollar industry in this country and that’s why this barbaric assault on our precious newborns continues. you sir, are in denial.

  14. Fred Hayward permalink
    June 16, 2013 1:32 pm

    Beautiful message, Georganne!

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