IAS 2011: Delegate Interactions with Intact America

I perceived our interaction with the delegates who chose to come by our booth as mostly positive. A few wanted to argue. A few said they agreed with us, but felt powerless to oppose the juggernaut. Almost none knew anything about foreskin anatomy or the purpose of the foreskin. Those who said they agreed with us were from non-circumcising countries, including Cambodia, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, Italy, South Africans descended from non-South African tribes, Australians, and really anyone who has had or experienced a foreskin outside of Africa.

The ones who know what a foreskin is and how it impacts comfort, health, and sexual pleasure were with us. Those who did not have this experience or knowledge were skeptical. I concluded somewhere through the middle of the four days of the conference that our message was not going to succeed on refuting the risk reduction impact of circumcision, but on informing about the benefits of the foreskin. Ignorant people, including Auvert, Piot, Fauci, Bailey, Westercamp, Gray, Weiss, and others, cannot be expected to provide informed consent in their circumcision consent generating interviews when they know little about the appendage they propose to cut off – and couldn’t care less anyway.

Worse still is the possibility that the information told to circumcision candidates is inaccurate or may trivialize foreskin anatomy and function. One argument that came up with a group of Ugandans was that a little bit of pleasure was worth losing for the benefit gained. Clearly, this common counter-argument had been subsumed in the discussion and discounted long before IAS 2011. Not once but often we heard the refrain, do you have any evidence to support your position? Our answer was to refer to the myriad published studies that support our contentions usually through reinterpretation. This was not often convincing to a skeptical scientific audience.

The question is how can we provide any plausible counter-arguments if we are not in Africa, not doing the research, not involved in the roll out or planning phases of circumcision campaigns, and generally confined behind our screens and keyboards. At the very least, we need to present something even if it is only within our booth and not part of the official program. We either get involved or sit it out and let the circumcisers continue to drive developments. This conference clarified this for me.

I call on the community of intactivists to think this through and come up with a strategy that will arm us with better information and counter-arguments to face this threat to genital integrity and informed consent in Africa and ultimately the United States.

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4 Responses to IAS 2011: Delegate Interactions with Intact America

  1. Herein lies the answer:

    A few said they agreed with us, but felt powerless to oppose the juggernaut… Those who said they agreed with us were from non-circumcising countries, including Cambodia, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, Italy, South Africans descended from non-South African tribes, Australians, and really anyone who has had or experienced a foreskin outside of Africa.

    How can we get these people to speak up?

  2. This is the kind of thing where our efforts would pay off:

    South African Medical Association denounces circumcision of infants

    The South African Medical Association sent a letter response last week to NOCIRC-SA—the South African chapter of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers— denouncing male infant circumcision as “unethical”and “illegal.”

    The South Africa Medical Association (SAMA) letter was in response to a February letter sent from NOCIRC-SA to the Kwa-Zulu Natal Health Department to try and stop the new mass infant circumcision programs.

    After all, our goal is to protect people (children in particular) from forcible circumcision; we should perhaps concentrate on the message that even if circumcision actually were to provide appreciable health benefits, they are not enough to warrant a violation of human rights.

  3. Thanks for reporting back on your trip, and presenting a nuanced report of the experience. I feel that, just by showing up and presenting a contrary message, you were likely to have counterbalanced the overwhelming pro-circumcision pressure many of these folks are probably facing — it’s easier to say no to something when at least one other party is doing the same!
    Overall, my tentative perspective is that there is a lot we can do to decrease the cultural normalization of circumcision in the US, and in doing so, affect popular opinion in other parts of the word via example.
    -Alex

  4. One of the things that’s ‘new’ is the invention of not needing to do it to infants. At one point, and still persisting actually, was this belief that if you wanted to get circumcised—it should be done in infancy.
    With the ‘prepex’ (prepex.com) and ‘shang ring’ and I’m sure a bunch of other clamps—it’s actually harder and more complicated to do in infancy than it is in adulthood. It’s a very good selling point to new parents that the complications of getting it done in adulthood are far easier to deal with than adhesions, infections, and just the overall annoyance of an infant circumcision.
    What I also think needs to be stated, is that you don’t need to do ANYTHING with an intact baby. It’s actually easier to deal with than circumcision.
    I guess, way too often the debate gets off into the weeds of parenting decisions and comparisons to female circumcision and “is it barbaric”. It’s not barbaric, inasmuch as it’s freaking stupid.

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