“Unspeakable Mutilations”

Men are coerced by society to keep silent if they feel damaged by circumcision. A man complaining about what is essentially a sexual assault will be greeted with statements like “Oh you’ve just got a problem” or “You’ve got a bee in your bonnet”. Almost never will they be greeted with sympathy or any understanding. Watson’s book does an enormous amount to break the silence and to encourage a compassionate view of men who have had an unnecessary procedure forced on them.

DSC_0865crop26wWatson’s introduction to the book is a neat summary of the well documented harms caused by male circumcision. The papers published by various academics and scientists working in the fields covered by human biology have all concluded that the foreskin which is removed by the act of circumcision is a functional and specialised component of the male anatomy. Academic papers can be a challenge to digest, Watson’s introduction is easy to comprehend and gives excellent references if the reader wants to study the subject of physical harm further.

The heart of the book is the light it shines onto the psychological damage caused by non-therapeutic male circumcision. Watson examines what little evidence there is in the the academic sphere and goes on to provide the stories of 50 men, from a wide range of cultures and ages, who tell us about their journeys from the discovery of what has been done to them, to the harm it has caused, and their reaction to that harm. Often men who have taken this path arrive at a positive or at least optimistic place.

What can no longer be in doubt, thanks to Watson’s book and the brave men who tell their stories, is that some men do suffer a significant amount of damage as a result of an anachronistic and inappropriate medical practice. Some men may claim to be unharmed and even be happy with their circumcision but the question lingers about how comfortable you are knowing that a large number of men do suffer in silence from the misguided parenting and the unnecessary medical treatment they have received. Surely the prudent course of action is to let the child mature and then make his own decision.

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Denver, Colorado, USA – MDC on tour

Whilst attending the Genital Autonomy Symposium in Boulder, Colorado which spanned the three day period July 24-26, Richard, Logan and Patrick took the opportunity to support US intactivists by participating in some street protests that were being staged in nearby Denver both before and after the symposium. The location (which had been announced in advance on Facebook) was a busy intersection overlooking the Colorado State Capitol. Logan and Patrick surprised the organiser Brother K when they appeared unannounced on the morning of Wednesday 23rd and were warmly welcomed. Brother K later commented on Facebook: “This was his (Patrick’s) first visit to the United States, a surprise he kept from me, so that when he walked up and joined the Bloodstained Men & Their Friends protest in Denver, I just about fell over in astonishment.”

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There was already a group of more than half a dozen gathered there, including Jonathan Friedman, Harry Guiremand, Franny Max, David Hill, David Atkinson, Arlis Quick Feidt, Felicia Jones and Patrick Brown. It was a hot day and the group were located in an exposed position, but thoughtfully the organisers had laid on a plentiful supply of bottled water to counter the effects of dehydration.

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A performance of the routine that Brother K has made his trademark then followed, whereby a procession of intactivists would march onto the pedestrian crossing when the red light halted the traffic and spreadeagle themselves side by side with placards raised above their heads. Just before the lights changed to green they would all retreat again to the sidewalk. The performance was photographed and the pics posted on Facebook by several of the participants and members of the public.

A generally positive response was received from motorists and pedestrians who engaged with the demonstrators. A good supply of professionally produced educational handouts highlighting some headline facts and figures about male genital cutting in the USA was prepared for the occasion, and distributed.

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The day after the symposium Patrick returned to Denver to join Brother K and others for another session of street theatre. This time it was decided to split up into two groups: one remained at the intersection near the Capitol building, whilst the other group positioned themselves half way down the 16th Street Mall. Patrick accompanied Brother K, Jonathan Friedman, Harry Guiremand and James Snyder to the Mall where there were mercifully plenty of trees which provided some welcome shade. They were also joined by Jonathon Conte and Hugh Young. Jonathan Friedman decided to up the ante by boldly chanting some provocative one liners to attract even more attention. The others soon joined in to form a chorus.

The last of the Denver protests was staged on Monday 28th when upwards of 20 intactivists converged on the Mall, Denver. It was the most impressive public display of support for the cause that the UK contingent had ever been involved in.  Brother K was particularly pleased to protest with Richard in his bloody overalls, since it was Richard who played a big part in launching the concept several years ago. The overalls have since become a regular feature of many street protests in the US and the UK. James Loewen was in attendance, as he so often is for major intactivist events, and shot photos and videos of the proceedings, which will in due course be available for viewing on his Bonobo3d YouTube channel.

Thanks to Patrick for this report.

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Doctor brings compassion to medical practice

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Reclaiming My Birth Rights by Adrienne Carmack MD

This is a book that is part autobiography and part thought provoking tour through medicine as it is practiced in America today. Doctor Carmack looks at pregnancy, childbirth, circumcision, unnecessary genital surgery and the early years of parenting with a knowledge of medicine and a compassionate, open mind. I would recommend this book to anyone considering having children. After three different birth experiences Doctor Carmack has a lot of valuable experience to pass on to prospective parents.

That medicine is a practice with it’s own culture should come as no surprise. What is surprising is Carmack’s exposition of the extent to which that medical culture as opposed to medical science influences the practice of medicine. Drug companies and the influence they exert on medicine are insightfully analysed and criticised. The overuse of antibiotics and the misuse of vaccinations is clearly explained. The companies that market baby formula obviously don’t market breast feeding but the importance of breast feeding and co-sleeping with your children is quite rightly stressed, by Carmack, as being both natural and safe.

The encouraging aspect of this book is that there are people questioning cultural norms such as our over reliance on the medical profession, when a visit to an osteopath, physiotherapist or other alternative practitioner may be all that is necessary. The core of this book is how to achieve the balance between living and growing in society rather than just existing in society and letting life take it’s toll on our health. Carmack views health as not just the absence of illness but the total wellbeing that is achievable with a balanced life.

My own journey towards a balanced life has been very different to the author’s but it is progressing. As a person who has made the change from victim of male genital cutting to activist opposing non-therapeutic genital surgery I applaud Doctor Carmack’s realisation that non-therapeutic genital surgery on males and intersex children is inherently harmful and her robust rejection of the practice is most welcome.

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Stop the chop

To mark the second Worldwide Day of Genital Autonomy, May 7th, a demonstration was staged in Parliament Square, London. The day was the 2nd anniversary of the Cologne Court’s ruling [11] on the circumcision of a young boy for religious reasons. The Court found that circumcision was not in the child’s best interests and that circumcision caused bodily harm.

 

Thanks to all those who turned out and to our photographer, there were also a great many photos taken of the demo by the public. Thanks to Glen for coming up with the slogan “Stop the chop”. The facts of circumcision are encapsulated in the slogan, about half the skin on the penis is removed by a circumcision.

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Non-therapeutic circumcision is not a “snip” it is a damaging mutilation of an otherwise healthy child. The most sensitive part of the penis, the ridged band, [3] is always amputated. Nerves are severed and they never rejoin across the scar that the man will grow up with. Blood vessels are also cut leaving the circulation to and from the penis compromised. This is not a complete list of losses to circumcision, so join our stop the chop campaign.

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Pro circumcision views challenged

The mainstream media sadly keeps disseminating the steady output of pro circumcision writing that comes from a very few authors who swamp publications with promotional material. One such example is below from The New York Times

Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks, Study Reports.
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR

A review of studies has found that the health benefits of infant male circumcision vastly outweigh the risks involved in the procedure.

But the study, published online in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, also found that while the prevalence of circumcision among American men ages 14 to 59 increased to 81 percent from 79 percent over the past decade, the rate of newborn circumcision has declined by 6 percentage points, to 77 percent, since the 1960s.

The authors conclude that the benefits — among them reduced risks of urinary tract infection, prostate cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and, in female partners, cervical cancer — outweigh the risks of local infection or bleeding. Several studies, including two randomized clinical trials, found no long-term adverse effects of circumcision on sexual performance or pleasure.

One cost-benefit analysis that considered infant urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases found that if circumcision rates were decreased to the 10 percent typical in European countries, the additional direct medical costs over 10 years of births would be more than $4.4 billion.

“Male circumcision is in principle equivalent to childhood vaccination,” said the lead author, Brian J. Morris, emeritus professor of medical sciences at the University of Sydney. “Just as there are opponents of vaccination, there are opponents of circumcision. But their arguments are emotional and unscientific, and should be disregarded.”

DSC_0018-crop219wAn excellent letter in response has been written by Steven Svoboda (left),  Attorneys for the Rights of the Child.

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Dear Editor:
We were disappointed to see the New York Times publish an article (“Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks, Study Reports,” by Nicholas Bakalar; April 8, 2014) so strongly at odds with the Times’ generally high standards.  A team of mostly European physicians recently concluded that the only arguable medical benefit of male circumcision is a slight reduction in urinary tract infections, but these can more cheaply and less painfully be treated with antibiotics.

Claims regarding prostate cancer and cervical cancer were disproven decades ago.  Studies have suggested that female circumcision may help prevent HIV but everyone correctly avoids proposing this on grounds of medical ethics and physical integrity.  The same principles bar male circumcision, as has been recently concluded by the Council of Europe and the Royal Dutch Medical Association.

No objective person could seriously question what the vast majority of studies have documented, that removal of half the surface skin of the penis seriously impacts sexuality.  The vaccination analogy is incoherent as unlike circumcision, vaccination doesn’t remove functional tissue.
The New York Times should know better.

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