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Why we stop circumcising baby boys and start viewing it as mutilation.
It’s not my charming accent or dapper dress-sense that sets me apart as an Englishman in America: It’s my foreskin. Let’s talk about it.
My uncircumcised penis provides quite the social lubricant at after-work drinks, because when it comes to American guys, I’m the minority. ‘EW’, ‘that’s disgusting’ and ‘you know, I have the name of a great doctor who’d be happy to take care of it for you’, are just a few of the reactions I’ve had. And don’t get me started on the ladies. Many have told me — with hardcore grimace — that they’d leave the bed if they discovered their date was carrying a little extra tackle down there.
Someone please tell me what America’s problem is. ‘Because the circumcised penis is still the norm among adult American men, a good number of men and women in this country have never seen an intact penis,’ said Georganne Chapin, founding executive director of Intact America — an organization changing the way Americans think about the snip. Georganne, founder of Intact America stands with pro-foreskin campaigners. She told Metro US: ‘Stigma and bias – about any topic – are the results of unfamiliarity and misinformation. ‘Further, most Americans don’t know much about circumcision. What they have heard is that “it’s cleaner”. This is absurd, of course, but like a lot of cultural myths, it’s accepted unquestioningly, and the intact guy is viewed as weird or unclean. Crazy, right? Like the average guy isn’t just as capable of washing his genitals as the average woman is.’
The idea that uncircumcised schlongs are dirtier than those cut is an insidious ruse. Look, I’m not going to lie; sometimes there’s a little extra cheese on the taco, but it’s nothing a two-minute shower can’t fix. In fact, Georganne says it’s actually cleaner for baby boys to have a foreskin. ‘It keeps the glans from coming in contact with urine and feces in the diaper,’ she explained. ‘Most people aren’t aware that circumcised toddlers often experience urinary complications in childhood and as adults because the glans of their penises were exposed and irritated when they were in diapers.’ Intact America was out and about at this year’s Gay Pride event in New York.
Circumcision usually takes place within ten days after birth, but most get cut before 48 hours. Reasons for circumcision? Well, it can be for religious beliefs, but it’s mainly a cultural thing. Around 75 percent of American men have been circumcised, according to an independent study by Dan Bollinger, strategic adviser at Intact America. This compares to 32 percent in Canada, ten to 20 percent in Australia and seven percent in New Zealand. In the UK it’s extremely rare, at less than one percent. That explains my pride and joy over here. Fears for girl, 16, who ‘flew to London after texting older British man’ In a separate study, the same author found that more than 100 infants die in American every year due to circumcision-related incidents. However, the circumcision rate in the US has dropped from 81 percent in 1981 to 55 percent. So the trend is shifting.
A big part of the pro-foreskin movement is Intact America. The cause has exploded since the organization was founded in 2008. Graphic shows how common circumcision in newborn boys is in America. But what about the supposed link between circumcision and HIV? This is a huge topic of contention. Various studies by medical experts suggest that circumcision helps reduce the risk of HIV and other STDs. The World Health Organization (WHO) state on its website that controlled trials have found that those with the snip are 60 percent less likely to contract heterosexual HIV. It said: ‘WHO/UNAIDS recommendations emphasize that male circumcision should be considered an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence.’ Africa is attacking groups like UNICEF for its voluntary circumcision program. These groups, along with UNICEF, push for voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in such countries. However, one African empowerment organization issued a letter to UNICEF this month, raising concerns about mass circumcision propaganda being spread and how the procedure seems to be viewed as some sort of ‘surgical condom’. The VMMC Project claims western public health agencies are ‘actively misinforming Africans that circumcision is protective against HIV’. Its website states: ‘This false security is a leading contributor to the HIV epidemic today. In Malawi, the national HIV rate is reported to have doubled from ten to 20 percent in the first year VMMC was implemented.
In Uganda where we conducted our investigation, Ministry of Health statistics show higher HIV rates now than before VMMC implementation.’ Furthermore, the group say their investigation revealed less-than-voluntary recruitment methods for circumcision, including $3 vouchers to impoverished men and the targeting of schoolboys without their parents’ consent. Campaigner say Africa is being fed false information from western health agencies.
When it comes to circumcision and the supposed medical benefits on our home turf, however, Georganne has very strong views. She explained: ‘Since circumcision began as a medical procedure (i.e., carried out by doctors), its promoters have been searching for rationales. ‘Over many decades, new “benefits” have been proposed, only to be discredited and then replaced by a subsequent one. The conditions that circumcision has been proposed to prevent or cure have, without exception, been the confounding or misunderstood maladies of a given time. ‘Of course, one needs to look no further than to the fact that the HIV epidemic got rolling in the United States at a time when (conservatively) three-quarters of American men were circumcised.
American cemeteries are full of circumcised men who died of AIDS. And the prevalence of HIV throughout Western Europe, where most men are intact, is lower than the prevalence in the United States, where most men are circumcised.’ Intact America is the first group in the States to solely focus on this one cause every day. It has a meticulous content strategy, and is reaching more and more people every day thanks to the power of social media. Their end goal is to completely halt circumcision in America, and ‘ensure a healthy sexual future for all people’. They’re doing this — with success, btw — by changing the way people think about circumcision.
For Georganne, circumcision is much more than a standard procedure — it’s mutilation. She said: ‘Most people don’t question it because they are uninformed or don’t want to confront their own feelings about mutilating babies or having been mutilated themselves. ‘It just always seemed wrong to me. It makes no sense that half of the world’s population would need corrective surgery in their first few days of life. It’s nonsensical.
When I first learned about female genital mutilation, my initial reaction was, “but isn’t this what we do to little boys?”. ‘We don’t amputate any other healthy body part, and never when someone is not capable of giving his or her consent. Circumcising babies is a violation of human rights, bioethics, and the Hippocratic oath doctors take to “Do No Harm”.’ But she says the mood is changing quickly. Now, a lot more Americans are keeping their sons intact.
Georganne thinks this is the result of people coming into contact with other cultures through TV and the internet. ‘Americans are becoming aware that intact penises are actually nice and sexy,’ she continued, explaining how her 36-year-old son and his intact friends have never felt their foreskins to be an obstacle in their love lives.’ On a personal note, I can 100 percent vouch for that. And as for the squeamish, Georganne has this message: ‘I say that if any man or woman doesn’t like an intact man’s penis, it’s a good indication that the person is shallow. An intact man should be grateful for the heads-up — so to speak — and move on.’