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The Irrefutable Truth About Circumcision
There is an increasingly vocal group of nutjobs floating around who call themselves "Intactivists". Intactivists are anit-circumcision proponents who aren't just content with making the personal decision not to circumcise their own children, but make it their mission in life to degrade and ridicule those people who do choose circumcision as the best thing for their child. Intactivists claim to have facts on their side and they act as though they are speaking from a moral high ground. They liken circumcision of male infants to genital mutilation of females, which in and of itself is offensive and ignorant. There are legitimate medical benefits to circumcision that genital mutilation of females can't claim to have. To compare circumcision with female genital mutilation is disingenuous and disgusting. This isn't just a scathing condemnation against intactivists, however, this is meant to present the true facts about circumcision and to help parents who truly want to make the best and most informed decision for their children do that. And I will also be condemning intactivists along the way.
If you've done any research on the topic of circumcision, odds are you've probably come across a website called Intact America, and you've probably read their "Ten Reasons NOT To Circumcise Your Baby Boy", but what you may not realize is that the ten reasons listed are mostly based on lies and twisting of the truth. Intact America deliberately misrepresents the truth about circumcision to suit their ideology, instead of just presenting the facts and allowing people to make their own informed decisions as to what might be best for their children and their families. Any time you have to lie to someone to get them to agree with you, you're wrong.
The Center for Disease Control cites three separate Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials, in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, that demonstrates a considerably lower risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in circumcised men. According to the CDC, "In these studies, men who had been randomly assigned to the circumcision group had a 60% (South Africa), 53% (Kenya), and 51% (Uganda) lower incidence of HIV infection compared with men assigned to the wait-list group to be circumcised at the end of the study. In all three studies, a small number of men who had been assigned to be circumcised did not undergo the procedure; likewise, a small number of men assigned to the control groups did undergo circumcision. When the data were reanalyzed to account for these occurrences, men who had been circumcised had a 76% (South Africa), 60% (Kenya), and 55% (Uganda) reduction in risk for HIV infection compared with those who were not circumcised."
Now, the risks of contracting HIV is considerably lower in the United States than in the African countries cited in the studies anyway, and even so, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases in general is almost completely done away with by using condoms and practicing safe sex, to say that there is no medical evidence that circumcision does reduce the risk of disease transmission is just not true.
Another disingenuous tactic that Intact America uses is stating that "No professional medical association in the United States or anywhere else in the world recommends routine circumcision as medically necessary." While this statement is technically true, it leaves out a considerable amount of information important to the validity of that statement. For instance, most medical facilities do not go so far as to recommend circumcision, but they will tell you rather matter-of-factly that the benefits absolutely do outweigh the risks. However, they will also tell you that while the risks are minimal, the benefits are also very minimal. So the procedure is beneficial, however not by a large enough margin to recommend the procedure. And because of that, it is basically a matter of personal preference whether or not you circumcise your child. So no, circumcision is not medically necessary, but it is medically beneficial and Intact America aren't presenting whole facts in their argument.
Intact America also states on their website, "In infant boys, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis (glans), protects it from urine, feces, and irritation, and keeps contaminants from entering the urinary tract." Again, this statement is completely contrary to facts. In fact, circumcision decreases the risk of contracting urinary tract infections, especially in infants. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "It is known that there is bacterial colonization of the foreskin during the first 6 months of life that may be an important risk factor for the development of UTIs." While these bacterial colonies are greatly reduced after six months, they do not disappear and urinary tract infections and other hygiene concerns remain prevalent in uncircumcised men to the point where there are adult men in many parts of the world that decide to undergo circumcision as adults for these reasons, and the risks and discomfort increase exponentially for adults compared to infants. The entire procedure in a male infant only takes about ten minutes, whereas in an adult it takes over an hour. Circumcision also helps to decrease incidences of penile and cervical cancer, although in America we really don't have too many cases of penile cancers diagnoses, it has been noted in countries where penile cancer is an issue that it occurs far more in uncircumcised men than circumcised men.
Misinformation is Rampant
I find it funny that many intactivists claim that they have done extensive research on the subject, yet they still don't know anything. Just once I would like to meet someone who says, "I did my research on the subject. I know that the benefits outweigh the risks, but I didn't feel that there were significant benefits to justify the procedure, so I elected not to circumcise my children." That would be a fantastic reason not to circumcise. Simply because you didn't want to. And that's ok. As I said earlier, circumcision is not necessary. Beneficial does not mean necessary. However, you don't ever see anyone who is anti-circumcision make this statement. Instead, all you hear is emotionally charged arguments and efforts to condemn you as being a "baby cutter" or child abuser. But they did research into the subject. I'm sure they visited Intact America and then they were done.
The problem with the anti-circumcision argument is that it has no basis in fact. At least, not in the way that the intactivists want it to be. Most intactivists, as I've stated, are arguing from emotion, and where emotion is present logic is usually lost. Intactivists rarely ever present facts to back up their argument, because there aren't any. Yes, there are plenty of facts to support the practice of not circumcising a child, but this isn't the intactivist argument. The intactivist argument is that circumcision is the same as female genital mutilation, that it is harmful psychologically and physically to men and that you are a monster for doing this to your children. There is even a sub-group within the intactivist group of people who regret having circumcised their children. This group is comprised of usually women and they refer to themselves as Regret Moms. Listen to me, there is absolutely no reason to regret having had a circumcision performed on your child. What is actually psychologically harmful, to both circumcised men and to mothers who have had their children circumcised isn't the circumcision itself, it's the reprehensible way that intactivists try to make them feel as though they were assaulted (in the case of circumcised men) or that they perpetrated a monstrous act on their child (in the case of mothers).
There is an effort by intactivists across the nation to get circumcision made illegal for people under the age of 18 in different states and municipalities, such as in San Francisco and Massachusetts. This is wrong because you are at this point taking away a parent's right to choose what is best for their child, based on medical studies and reliable information, based on arguments that have no medically reliable information to back them up. It is always, always, always wrong to try to take away someone's choice to do something, even if that something involves the health and well-being of their own child, if you have no credible medical evidence to prove that it is harmful. Did I mention that it is always wrong to do this? If not, it is not sometimes, but ALWAYS wrong to do this. It is never ok to force your own individual morality on someone else, without evidence that their own personal morality is harmful to someone else or to society. What we have with this movement of the intactivists to outlaw circumcisions is nothing more than an example of the minority trying to run the lives of the majority.
Many intactivists tell you that removal of the foreskin causes a decrease in sexual pleasure for the circumcised man. That the various nerve endings and the increased sensitivity of the lubricated penile glans (the head of the penis) increase the sexual pleasure of men that circumcised men have been unjustly robbed of. Unfortunately, there is no scientific or medical information to back up this claim. The US National Library of Medicine conducted a study in which they administered a survey entitled the Brief Male Sexual Function Inventory to 15 sexually active pre-circumcised men over the age of 18. They did a follow up BMSFI with all 15 men after a minimum interval of 12 weeks after their circumcision surgeries. The study showed, "There was no statistically significant difference in the BMFSI composite scores of reported sexual drive (p >0.68), erection (p >0.96), ejaculation (p >0.48), problem assessment (p >0.53) or overall satisfaction (p >0.72)." The conclusion was that circumcision was shown to have no adverse, clinically important effects on male sexual function in sexually active males who undergo the procedure.
At every level, the intactivist argument falls apart when someone looks at the actual, provable, medical information available. While the medical benefits are minuscule, there are benefits that do exist. It is more convenient for the parents of the infant as well as for the man as he grows into adulthood as far as maintaining proper hygiene, it helps to prevent the spread of disease and cancer, it prevents infection, and has no effect at all on the sexual stimulation of men. Intactivists spread lies, not information. The anti-circumcision population is growing, and growing much more vocal and outraged, but they are using false science and bad facts, as well as bold faced lies, to sway the populace of the country on their side. I encourage anyone reading this who is struggling with whether or not to circumcise a child to do actual research. Look at the actual, provable evidence, and not just what the intactivists are telling you. Cross-reference everything. Look at the facts objectively. You will come to the same conclusion that the medical community of the country as come to: Circumcision is beneficial but not necessary and it is easier and there are fewer risks of complications having the procedure performed on a newborn than waiting for the child to grow up and decide to have the procedure done as an adult. And there are benefits to circumcision that only benefit the child in infancy. You don't have to do it, and choosing not to is a completely valid decision to make, however if you are going to do it, have it done in infancy. And those are the irrefutable facts on circumcision.
What Do Doctors Say?
The video below, while being from the same television show as the one above, The Doctors, it does have some counter-arguments superimposed over the arguments. Again, most of the points made by the actual medical professionals in this clip are in sync with the other evidence I've cited in the body of the article above, and most of the counter arguments are the same emotional, non-fact-based arguments that most intactivists have. I tried to find this clip without the counter arguments superimposed over it, but this was the only version available. As I have addressed these concerns anyway, and refuted them with facts, it makes no difference that they are there, I just wanted a clean video to enhance the viewing pleasure of my readership. As I have already stated, I encourage people to look open-mindedly at both sides of the argument and make the best, most informed decision possible for their children and their families