As more and more boys were routinely circumcised to prevent masturbation, this painful practice spread and so for millions of boys across the world in the late 19th and 20th century, circumcision was imposed on them by the ideology of that time. Since World War II, baby boys in the English speaking western world (with the exception of the United Kingdom) have been held down or bound whilst their foreskin was severed. Health and hygiene reasons superceded the masturbation deterrent for circumcision and thus the foreskin continued to be subject to negative propaganda. English speaking Canada, U.S.A, Australia and New Zealand, up until relatively recently all advocated and practised male neonate circumcision, with rates as high as 90%.
The United Kingdom had generally rejected circumcision as a medical procedure in the earlier part of the 20th century and abandoned it totally after the 2nd World War when the National Health Service was introduced. New Zealand was next to follow suit and its rate is now down to around 5%. The Australian circumcision rate has reduced to around 14% of neonates circumcised, but there appears to be a residual resistance from a minority of old guard parents to leave their sons intact. The rate of circumcision in Canada has also decreased to around 25% of neonates, with still some way to go, but the message seems to be getting through. However, the U.S still has much to do to reduce its high rate of routine neonate circumcision which is around 58%. Although this has reduced from an almost universal 90%, there remains great resistance particularly in the North East and Mid West regions to preserve the foreskins of their baby boys. This is most probably due to a combination of factors such as fear of change, social pressures and misinformation . Up until very recently, information about the foreskin itself was missing from medical literature and from discussions about circumcision. Also the U.S.A has a well established multi Billion Dollar Foreskin industry which requires neonate foreskins to be circumcised for their ‘raw’ material. So this entrenched system makes for long term perseverance from Intactivists to make a difference to reduce the rate of neonate circumcisions in America.
In an interview by ‘Intact’, an organization that seeks to end non-therapeutic male infant circumcision, Dr John Taylor was quoted as stating, “I think if you remove the vast bulk of the software from your penis, then you’re going to suffer. If you lose all your specialized sensory nerve endings, and then the mechanism, the skin, and the rest of the penis that makes these nerve endings work, during sexual intercourse, or whatever, then you’ll suffer. Obviously people who are circumcised don’t miss what they’ve never had. It’s like someone who was born blind, I guess. Now whether that’s because they compensate, or do it in some different way, I don’t know. No one knows.” While most people think of the foreskin as a fairly small section of skin, Dr. Taylor’s research indicates that the proportion is relatively large for a baby. In a female, the equivalent would be about the same as removing the clitoral hood and labia, a practice that most of the westernized world openly abhors. There are no Medical bodies or Paediatric Associations in the civilized world which recommend neonate circumcision, although there remains ambiguity with American medical bodies to outrightly recommend against it, most likely because of the vast amounts of money which is generated from circumcising neonate boys in the U.S.A.
A restraining device called a circumstraint was invented to securely restrain a baby boy whilst his penis is cut. Obviously it does require that the baby can’t be thrashing around whilst his penis is ‘interfered’ with and so this device at least prevents any other injuries from being inflicted onto the child. So what does a little newborn boy (usually 1 to 3 days old) get for sacrificing part of his manhood? Simply excruciating pain, then more excruciating pain, then discomfort for weeks if not months and then a lifetime without a foreskin. To ‘rub salt into the wound’ metaphorically speaking, his foreskin is then sold off to bio-engineering and cosmetic companies (who make ludicrous profits from it) as the ultimate indignity to this poor baby’s most precious erogenous tissue (see The Foreskin Industry page). Studies of cortisol levels in infants during circumcision suggest that the pain would make adults go comatose. In fact, some infants do slip into comas. Newborn males respond to circumcision with a marked reduction in oxygenation during the procedure, a cortisol surge, decreased wakefulness, increased vagal tone (vagus nerve supplies heart, lungs and abdominal cavity) and less interaction with their environment following the procedure. The only response available to the infant is shock, wherein the central nervous system is overwhelmed by pain, followed by numbing, paralysis, and dissociation. This is likely to be a result from the traumatic experience and emotional pain, and it may be employed by the infant as a psychological defence. While some babies have been described as being “quiet” after circumcision, it’s been concluded that the observed stillness most likely represents a state of this dissociation or shock in response to the overwhelming trauma and pain.
The pain that is apparent in circumcised neonates is intensified by their lack of coping mechanisms. Severe pain during infancy may permanently and irreversibly alter neurological circuitry responsible for pain perception and memory functioning prior to and immediately after birth. An adverse painful peri-natal event like circumcision, through the process of classical conditioning, may sensitise the infant to pain later in life. Circumcised boys displayed heightened physiological pain responses to vaccinations four to six months after circumcision, suggestive of an infant comparison of post-traumatic stress disorder, as compared with genitally intact children. An infant does retain significant memory traces of traumatic events. When a child is subjected to unbearable, overwhelming pain, it conceptualizes the mother as both participatory and responsible, regardless of the mother’s intent. When the mother is, in fact, truly complicit, as in giving permission for circumcision surgery, the infant’s perception of her culpability and willingness to have him harmed is fixed indelibly.
An anecdotal account from a nurse with several decades of experience with nursing mothers recounts…”Breastfeeding is often irreparably damaged by circumcision. At the time of most circumcisions, many mothers and babies are barely getting the hang of breast feeding and the baby is sometimes literally torn off the breast for his journey to the circumcision room. When he comes back, he is often in shock, in a deep sleep, and un-arousable, or so irritable that he is inconsolable and will not take the breast. The main thing with getting breastfeeding going is uninterrupted exposure of baby to mother. They are one. Anything not crucial to sustaining life should be avoided. This is a huge concern in the pro-breastfeeding community”. Breastfeeding newborns required supplementation due to the mother’s perception that the baby could not breastfeed or had true difficulties with feeding. Early supplementation before the onset of lactogenesis is known to be associated with breastfeeding failure. Given the strong arguments for protecting calm, safe, pain-free environment for the newborn to transition to life outside the warmth and cushion of the uterus, successful breastfeeding should be given absolute priority over neonatal circumcision. Circumcision is sometimes extreme enough to impede the maternal-infant bonding.
The severing of children’s foreskins seems such an important need in humans that it’s mandatory for several religions and societies to uphold this practice. Yet when scholars attempt to explain why almost everyone since the beginning of recorded history has assaulted the genitals of their children, they assiduously deny that it is a sexual perversion or that those who do it ever mean any harm to the children. In his publication called ‘The Darker Regions of the Human Mind: Some Statements about Circumcisers’, Dr John Foley recounts anecdotal episodes from his experience saying that “circumcision provides a convenient and socially acceptable outlet for the perverted component of the circumciser’s libido….I have had personal experience with the psychopathology that underlies the wish to circumcise. The pitiful wails of the suffering infant are all too often the background for lewd and obscene commentary by the obstetrician to his audience of nurses. Several years ago I saw an infant born with multiple deformities. He could not live more than a few months at most, but to add to his miseries, this unfortunate bit of humanity had to undergo a thorough circumcision…I have seen two medical students fight over the privilege of doing circumcisions on the newborn, although these same students showed neither interest nor aptitude for opening boils or doing other surgical tasks… And I say that one of the reasons why circumcision is so common in this country stems from the sadism of the crypto-pervert.”
Whereas a neonate does not require any explanation to circumcise, a pre-pubescent boy on the other hand will indeed require a large amount of brainwashing, lying, cajoling, manipulation and ultimately deception to amputate his foreskin, as surely happens in religious and cultural circumcisions. The preparations by parents would seem in many situations to be most likely covert or clandestine affairs and what a lot of parents do not think through is the aftermath of their decision. The violation of trust must surely cause a lot of damage to their relationship and the likely resentment by the child towards the parents for causing so much pain, discomfort and the permanent loss of their foreskin. Many adult men who were circumcised as neonates say that the trust in their parents was affected by the decision to have their foreskins cut off.
The United Nation’s ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child states the following in Article 19
“1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.” Clearly neonate circumcision violates these rights because it does not protect the child from the two categories of physical and sexual violence, which are the categories which circumcision falls under.
There are thankfully a dedicated number of anti-circumcision activists (intactivists) who are working very hard to change the current ignorance, prejudice and hostility surrounding the intact male penis which have been so prevalent for so long. Marilyn Milos who was a nurse in California, sacked for speaking out against neonate circumcision went on to establish NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centres) which has been an incredibly important information and education dissemination resource for promoting genital integrity. The website address for this organisation is nocirc.org. She was recognised in 2001 with an award for patient advocacy by Nurseweek, an American nursing publication (not that neonate baby boys are ‘patients’ as such, but after their circumcisions they are certainly in need of nursing care).
Experimentation on children is normally governed by rigorous rules and painful experimentation is especially restricted, except it seems, when it involves circumcision, when doctors inflict major pain on neonate boys with impunity. Targeting the sex and pleasure centres IS unacceptable and interference by genital cutting is abhorrent, abusive and criminal. All parents must know that when they consent to having their children circumcised they are subjected to genital torture and are placing the physical and psychological well-being and even the lives of their children at risk. The annual 1.25 million assembly line circumcisions in the U.S continues to be a testament to the conditioning or brainwashing that the American public have been subjected to. There can no longer be any excuses for ignorance and misinformation because the facts are now available…and they speak very loudly and clearly. Thus there are never any reasons whatsoever to circumcise neonates, toddlers and children of either gender ever. Physical integrity and self-determination are basic and universal rights recognized by numerous international human rights treaties, so for this practice to continue is baffling, perplexing and frustrating, and makes a mockery of these rights and treaties.
George Denniston, M.D., M.P.H., president of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, discusses the issue of circumcision and why ethical doctors oppose genital cutting of children.
Marilyn Milos, the compassionate nurse who founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centres) speaks of her early motivations, influences, and remembers what led her to do what she did.
Chelsi Williams takes her profound experience with circumcision regret to the streets of San Francisco for the Bay Area Intactivists protest of the ACOG Conference (The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.)