The Truth About The Case Against Intactivism

I guess it took me until now to understand that people truly do not understand my position.  So I’d like to outline this with as much clarity as possible.

I am against non-religious circumcision of infant boys.  I don’t do it myself.  I want parents to know that it isn’t necessary.  That there are SOME benefits because I think that is the current scientific consensus, but there are also risks, and the benefits are only potential and may never be realized.  That’s true about the risks, as well, yes, but since there are no actualized or guaranteed benefits, only potential benefits, circumcision is unnecessary.  It can wait.  Or never be done.

Intactivism is RUINING a good cause.  What do I mean by that?  Intactivism has only gotten more extreme, and extremism is ruining the movement.  Extremism is what causes people to promote lies and phony statistics.  Extremism is WHY there is so little science regarding this issue.

Extremist intactivists don’t threaten me, or pro-circumcision people.  Nobody is running scared from you.  My blog exists to counter your bullshit because I actually am against circumcision, and people like you are ruining the movement.  No mainstream scientists bother to try to get funding for the issue or bother trying to counter your lies or butt heads with you because you are a joke.  Nobody takes you seriously.  You need to understand that.

I personally believe that parents should be educated about the truth of circumcision.  That there are small benefits, smaller risks and it is unnecessary.  Not that it’s rape or mutilation or whatever other asinine assignation you give it, but rather what the actual facts actually say.

Please, please stop doing this.  Stop making a public spectacle out of this.  Stop doing this because you are doing nothing but setting the movement and the goals back.  By years, if not decades.  Please take it seriously and stop hanging up cabbage patch dolls with hemostats on circumstraints, or painting your damn crotch red and yelling at strangers.

You want circumcision to go away?  Stop screaming at the CDC or the doctors of the AAP.  Quit using your quacks to come up with junk science and torturing bullshit out of data.  Tell your leaders to stop getting arrested, stop encouraging death threats, stop gloating about crashing jets.   Stop doing this.  It doesn’t hurt me, I’m not even your enemy.

I’m shining a light at you, as are others involved with this blog or other movements like this that have recently sprung up.  You obviously misunderstood.  Nobody is running scared.  Nobody is threatened.  Nobody takes you seriously.  Please, understand that.  Nobody takes you seriously because you don’t take this seriously.  Taking something seriously means you respect the topic and yourself enough to know what you’re talking about and tell the truth.  It means you don’t alienate people you claim to want to help.  It means you throw facts, not shit.

If you truly took this seriously, you would work hard to understand how best to accomplish your goals, not jet around the country looking in desperate need of a tampon.  You don’t hold up signs nobody understands and make a public mockery out of something serious.  You don’t come up with labels like intactocop, which prevent self-correction.  You shine that light on yourself, and fix things before they become a problem, not encourage everyone to become more and more extremist.

Take this damn topic seriously.  Stop trying to war on the internet, or perpetuate endless infighting.  You are shooting yourselves in the foot.  Quit labeling and shunning people who are trying to help you by shining a light on your bad behavior.  Stop encouraging attention-seeking behavior under the erroneous belief that any publicity is good publicity.  It’s too easy to counter the idiocy.  It’s too easy to get distracted by the bad behavior and dismiss the message.  It’s too easy because I think even you have started to lose your own thread.

Pick it up and find it again.  You have started to parody yourselves.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.  It’s long past time.

24 responses to “The Truth About The Case Against Intactivism

  • notyourstocut

    “Not that it’s…mutilation”

    In general, the West has collectively defined and prohibited FGM as the excision of tissue–no matter how small–from the female genitals apart from true medical need and apart from the individual’s consent, even if that individual is an infant or child whose parents retain general decision-making power over her. Why, then, in this age when gender equality is so passionately pursued in every sphere, has MGM not likewise been defined and prohibited as the excision of tissue–no matter how small–from the male genitals apart from true medical need and apart from the individual’s consent, even if that individual is an infant or child whose parents retain general decision-making power over him?

    You can’t argue health: the vulva is, statistically-speaking, more of an infection risk than a foreskin, and we banned FGM without any inquiry into the potential health benefits of its lesser forms. And you can’t argue aesthetics since that’s entirely subjective. Likewise, it is entirely arbitrary to argue that religious and cultural support is reason enough to support male cutting but not female cutting. One could just as well argue, equally arbitrarily, that religious and cultural support is reason enough to support female cutting but not male cutting. Isn’t a basic premise of U.S. law EQUAL protection and not ARBITRARY protection?

    • paper0airplane

      The basic premise of equal protection under the law unfortunately doesn’t apply to gender. Take that up with Phyllis Schlafly. I didn’t make the rules. Yes I agree that on the surface it’s asinine.

      That being said, your actual assertions in this comment are a bit more complicated. For example, UTIs in infant males tend to get missed more frequently, making ascending UTIs a bigger issue, which are much more dangerous. In normal populations, that’s no issue, but certain populations may want to consider it. I do see you say for medical indications it’s acceptable, but what those indications are is often varied.

      Also as I said in another comment, the cultural revulsion for FGM is what happens when advocates use over emotionally evocative rhetoric and people end up convinced of things that really make no sense…like a pinprick to a girls vulva is more damaging and disgusting than male infant circumcision is.

      I agree there are things that make no sense at all.

      Consider another thing that makes no sense: ignoring the very real and glaring problems in this advocacy.

    • Collin Merenoff

      Because the only way to establish equality is to get rid of unfair advantage. And that’s what a foreskin is. Nature drives all beings to “be fruitful and multiply”, but people are not ruled by nature. We have already filled the earth (over-filled, actually), and sex now has a new meaning, which a foreskin only detracts from.

  • Taylor

    I love your blog! I am sickened by the tactics (or intatics…heh) of these crazy, righteous “activists” and their constant hatemongering! Personally, I am against circumcision as well but I believe that it is a personal choice for every set of parents to decide for themselves! It’s also pretty insulting as a survivor of sexual assault that they constantly compare circumcision to rape and molestation…but I digress, you are a very smart person with incredible writing skills and I hope you keep this blog going!!

    • subfindertaipei

      Same here. I have a bachelor’s in writing, but my words seem so clumsy by comparison. It’s like reading my own thoughts, but polished and organized.

      • paper0airplane

        I appreciate the compliment. I don’t get them often here, and truth be told, my breaks are getting longer and longer because it just seems more and more pointless. Some of the loudest voices in the movement are also some of the most damaging.

        • subfindertaipei

          The loudest voices are always the most damaging, but there are people out there who will get passed the crazy people and find answers. Which is I why I wanted to ask you about the long term effects of circumcision. I liked the way you summed up the medical benefits as few and only potential, but the risks are fewer and it is unnecessary. To me, that’s a great conclusion, but I was wondering about when those babies grow up. I haven’t been able to find any statistics regard how many circumcised men wish they weren’t and how many uncircumcised men have to or want to be circumcised as adults. I’ve seen testimony from both, but I can’t figure out which is more likely.

          • paper0airplane

            Complete agreement. There needs to be far far more study on the issue. It shouldn’t have been retroactively justified. It should have a clear, extant medical need to even happen. I regard the foreskin as a body part like any other. No better or worse, and just as prone to disease or injury. But in the absence of such, and with such flimsy evidence of protective benefit (unless you are one of the few with renal impairment requiring the 90% reduction in UTI), I don’t think it should be offered at all. At the least. And America needs to be educated away from the practice…but right now we just have a bunch of people yelling at each other. You can’t even correct erroneous information without the foul attacks and pile ons. And God forbid you criticize the movement.

  • Sarah

    I think it is a shame you’ve named your blog: the case against intactivism. You are an intactivist whether you like that term or not. It’s like a Republican writing a blog called “the case against Republicanism” just because they don’t like the extreme Tea Party. Intactivism is a broad movement and everyone has their way of dealing with it. You are wasting a lot of energy getting angry at people who aren’t doing it “your way” and your energy (and excellent writing and attention for detail) could be better employed elsewhere educating parents and putting pressure on the US medical establishment to come clean that they should not be doing circumcisions – because they are harmful, medically unnecessary and unethical. Just because you don’t like the way some people campaign on this subject does not mean they are destroying the movement. There are many ways to get a message across. Everyone has the right to free speech and to say how circumcision makes them feel – particularly men who have suffered and feel violated. I understand that many people will see men in white suits with blood stained crotches as shocking, disturbing and will turn their faces away but these men feel violated and they are entitled to those feelings and to express them. Too bad if people are offended or even if you think it is counter-productive. If nothing else if refutes the “I’ve never heard a man complain he was circumcised” sentence that I hear all the time from people! It is hard for victims of anything to speak up. Many men stay silent because it has been such a taboo subject for so long. Would you say that victims of e.g sexual abuse by Catholic priests, should not stand outside Churches with angry signs and pictures, shouting out the names of the guilty abusers and those who have covered it up? Of course, they might offend parishioners who might think they could campaign in a less “in your face” way. Indeed some of those parishioners who are supportive of the victims of abuse might lose sympathy for the victims because they dislike their “way” of getting the truth out. My point is it took years for the victims of sexual abuse by priests to speak out and come forward and many were dismissed and not believed. Gradually, after years, the victims were listened to but the Catholic church has by no means come clean about the situation. I think the way that men who speak out about their anger and shame and suffering because of circumcision are similarly dismissed – or they are criticized by people like you because of the way they are expressing themselves. Trying to silence victims is, in the end, counter productive – you deter others from speaking out. You keep railing against what you call “extremists” but your own position seems to be extreme in the restrictive way you say people are allowed to talk about the subject. There should be no censorship about circumcision. You say above “That isn’t how things are done in science and medicine” when criticizing people for holding signs and screaming. Well, isn’t “science and medicine” how we got into this RIC mess in the first place? It’s the doctors who promoted it as a cure for god knows how many ailments including masturbation and who continue to promote so called health benefits to justify its continued existence. You didn’t circumcise your own sons because you were not convinced so why do you continue to keep these doctors and scientists on their pedestal? Why do you fail to mention that doctors in the rest of the civilized world condemn the procedure as unethical? Science and medicine does not preclude ethics. Circumcision is about human rights – and everyone has a right to voice their view on human rights – not just doctors and scientists. Human rights activists are never popular in the country they are campaigning in – until a certain tipping point is reached. Such a shame that you are wasting your energy criticizing and trying to marginalize human rights activists when you say you actually support the cause. Get over your superior attitude, stop calling people “idiots”, get off your science and medicine high horse, and try having some empathy for the victims of circumcision. There’s room for everyone in this movement.

    • paper0airplane

      Sorry I sorta phased out reading your long no-breaks comment but I’ll try to address it.

      1) you say it’s not appropriate to call my blog what I called it
      Answer – I disagree, obviously. I am anti circumcision, not an intactivist. You may like that label and find them to be one and the same, but I do not. So my blogs name is entirely appropriate.

      2) you equivocate men who have been circumcised and victims of molestation and sexual abuse.
      Answer – I’m afraid I don’t think they’re equivalent. Unless their circumcision is botched, there’s no science to support any claim of loss of sensitivity or erectile dysfunction or anything of the sort. Though in a way I suppose I agree that those men have been groomed to be very angry by intactivists, being told day in and day out that they’re broken and sex is awful and so on. Told constantly they have stubby wubby’s and penile remnants. If you support such intactivism, as I suspect based on your comment, then frankly you have no right to lecture me. You don’t anyway, but you especially don’t if so.

      3) you believe that me speaking out against extremism stops “victims” from speaking out
      answer – once again, since I only believe there are any victims under very specific circumstances, well, I’m fine with that. I’d hate to see even more men convinced they’re broken when they aren’t. Regardless, neither my blog nor opinion stop anyone from doing anything.

      4) you think I should stop blogging because you support extremism.
      Answer – well that’s nice but sorry. Not happening. I don’t support extremism, and I can tell you that I think it very unlikely that intactivism will end circumcision in the US, but certainly not the currently popular form of extremism. And very very unlikely without at least some scientific backing. If you don’t like my blog, don’t read it, but I’m not going to stop telling intactivists that threatening rape, mutilation and death on people just because they disagree with them is wrong. As a matter of fact, it’s just that sort of “anything goes, as long as they support intactivism” attitude that makes these things acceptable in the first place. So if you’re not telling new mom’s that you hope their child dies, you might as well be.


  • stevem660

    I like the expression “torturing bullshit out of data”. That sums up the quack intactivists so well. (I’m thinking of one paediatrician in particular with a shocking track record of data manipulation, selectivity and ignoring critiques of his work). My own position is as follows: I support medical circumcision, including of infants, in the context of high-HIV countries where it is being rolled out by the WHO and others. But am more ambivalent about it in low-HIV countries. There is a case to be made for it even there, but it does not seem obvious enough for me to feel comfortable about getting on a soap-box and advocating for it, so I don’t. But equally I will not opposite it either provided it is done to a high medical standard. (Truth be told, I don’t really care if parents get their baby boy circumcised or not). In fact I would not even be getting involved in the debate were it not for the behaviour of intactivists (which you so eloquently condemn). Instead I would just leave it to the medics to battle out. But, as a scientist and skeptic of all manner of pseudoscience and woo, the intactivists really annoy me. Their lack of concern for the facts, their cherry-picking, their parroting of urban myths (e.g. 20,000 nerves) that a little fact-checking would quickly refute, their elevation of anecdote way above peer-reviewed science, their passing off of speculation as fact, their love of ad hominem attacks because they can’t address the technical evidence, and so on, all are typical of pseudoscience. Intactivism is as much pseudoscience as anti-vaccinationism and HIV/AIDS denialism (with which intactivism overlaps). And, like these other pseudosciences, intactivism is pernicious. Medical circumcision is a very important public health initiative that is set to avert millions of new infections, and save billions of $ in health care costs in Africa. Yet intacivists are stuck in denial about it, and continue to peddle bogus arguments that have been debunked ad nauseam, in their determination to undermine this drive and to sacrifice African lives on the altar of “genital integrity”. That disgusts me. It is dishonest, immoral and reprehensible. They expend great energies on extolling the supposed merits of the foreskin, and harm of circumcision. But it is all bullshit aimed at making circumcised men miserable, and at scaring parents into not doing it. That too is dishonest and immoral. It is this dishonest and damaging behaviour that drew me into the debate. I had had enough. So there you have it. I am not particularly pro-circumcision. But I sure am very strongly anti-intactivism, and the intactivists have only themselves to blame.

    • paper0airplane

      I understand exactly what you mean. Hilarious and sad all at the same time. If you need to do mental gymnastics to validate your position (117 deaths every year and that number doesn’t add up because those in the circumcision industry [the what??] are suppressing evidence and working together in a conspiracy of vast proportions in order to protect their money, just like the doctors lying about vaccine injury and death) then you should examine those particular beliefs. That’s as true for trying to validate Bollinger’s embarrassingly miscalculated death numbers as it is for non-medically/religiously indicated circumcision.
      I am a strongly evidence based person. some may not like my evidence and they are free to provide new evidence. I examine each and every thing provided me and things not provided. I go in with an open mind every time. I truly fall in the middle on this issue while leaning toward anti. Because my honest opinion is that is where the evidence lies. truthfully if extremist intactivists (and honestly I feel the name is so tainted I personally wouldn’t use it and find the two to be too much one-in-the-same, and would look for an alternative name to identify myself by) actually wanted to be taken seriously they wouldn’t be extremist. It’s not like you see “extremist” oncologists forcing their good cancer treatment on everyone while wearing odd suits and holding signs and screaming. That isn’t how things are done in science or medicine.

      That’s how idiots do things.

    • oogenhand

      “There is a case to be made for it even there”

      It would strengthen the case in high-HIV countries. Africans are suspicious of Europeans and Americans telling how to run their lives.

      • paper0airplane

        Understandably so. In the case of HIV/AIDS in Africa, though, no matter how unethical intactivists think circ is to prevent HIV, it’s way too large an epidemic there.

        • oogenhand

          YESSS!!! Of course universal circumcision of all boys and men has to be made compulsory in Africa. Special attention must be paid to the inner foreskin, which is thin, and full or Langerhans cells.

          HOWEVER, as I said, it isn’t the regular intactivist crowd, but the Africans themselves who are, for obvious historical reasons, very wary of non-Africans pointing sharp things to their genitals.This has nothing to with ethics in the individualistic, humanistic sense of the word, but everything with sheer survival as a people. Bill Gates openly brags about using vaccinations to cull world population. Such people do the cause of circumcision a lot of harm.

          That is why Edgar Schoen is right if he says that Europe has to adopt universal circumcision to save Africa from AIDS. Of course, we then run into the opposite problem, Europeans not wanting to sacrifice their foreskins for Africa.

          The best way it seems is to point out that you cannot call circumcision mutilation and at the same time complain about circumcised immigrant men having way too much fun with non-immigrant women. Either circumcised men have too much fun, or too little.

          • paper0airplane

            I don’t agree with mandatory circumcision anymore than I do with legislating it to be illegal. And besides, circumcision is only one tool and not nearly the most efficient. Further still, the practice of circumcision in Africa has risen greatly in response to the HIV research.

          • oogenhand

            Yes, the practice has risen greatly, and that is why many women like it and want to take the next step and make it mandatory. Unethical? Disease has to be stopped.

          • paper0airplane

            Yes, and disease can be stopped in a myriad of ways. Circumcision isn’t even the most effective by far. Education is the number 1 thing, condom use, reducing poverty and war, adding medical infrastructure, and HIV treatment are ALL more effective.

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