SLATE: How the Internet Broke Circumcision

This week, one Mark Joseph Stern went on a rant in, accusing intactivists of being a “fringe group” that is “drowning out any discussion of facts.” His piece is titled “How Circumcision Broke the Internet.”

Of course, the reality is just the opposite. The internet, in fact, broke circumcision.

The freedom to talk frankly and the ability to find the alternative narrative online is what has so spooked Mr. Stern. His panic leaps off the page at the prospect that circumcision in fact may be seen in the very near future much more widely as the invasive practice that it is.

He clearly fears that the 100 year narrative that circumcision improves the social and physical hygiene of its victims will be overturned as the anti-choice, anti-freedom, useless, harmful, and paternal imposition that it is. I, for one, found his palpable fear and anger refreshing.

For a century, men who have been harmed by circumcision imposed in infancy have suffered the same sense of powerlessness in the face of these “for his own good” attitudes. Mr. Stern’s reaction is the other side.

Thankfully, there are others writing in the media that have something else to say about genital cutting of infant boys. Andrew Sullivan responded to Stern in some detail, but one paragraph stands out.

What Stern has to address – and, despite fulminations and aspersions and disparagement of those seeking to leave infants alone, he never does – is why on earth are we even talking about this? What could possibly justify a horrible, traumatic procedure removing part of an infant boy’s body? Those who favor doing something seem to me to be the ones who need to make the case. The default doesn’t need to be defended. What has to be defended is such an intervention – which is irreversible and which is done without the consent of the infant. If you are concerned about future health hazards, why not remove the tonsils or the appendix after birth? The only reason this barbaric practice endures is religious fundamentalism.


The last point that needs to be made regarding Mr. Stern is that he cannot hold the views that he does about circumcision and honestly support the freedom and openness that he espouses regarding gay rights. The principles supporting gay rights and forced circumcision of infant boys are polar opposites. Such cognitive dissonance is jarring enough for his readers. I hope one day Mr. Stern can right himself and bring his contradictory belief system back into balance.

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CANADA: Vancouver Pride Society refuses to allow intactivists to march in parade

The Vancouver Pride Society has withdrawn its permission to allow intactivists to occupy a slot in this year’s parade. At the official unveiling of a city resolution in recognition of the Pride celebration, intactivists showed up to demonstrate and demand reinstatement.

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Change Again

I’m starting a “best of” effort to import old posts from

Scroll down for posts in the order they were originally published.

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This blog, Male Circumcision and HIV, is going on hiatus indefinitely.

The way the world interacts on issues of public health and culture is changing. This blog was started before twitter and facebook and the social revolution that characterizes online interaction and activism. The voices being heard today on this issue are more varied, more active and much less constrained to a given form. Therefore, I feel that it is time to move on from blogging, perhaps only occasionally coming back when I need to say something.

The nearly 600 prior posts from the old blog have been preserved. However, importing them to from will be a mess that I may or may not get to at some point.  As most of it was opinion, I feel that the factual info necessary for effective activism regarding “genital integrity, HIV prevention and informed consent” can be found elsewhere.

[EDIT: The switch from Typepad to WordPress was an economic decision. WordPress has a free version. Typepad does not.]

Thanks for following this blog while it was active.

– David Wilton

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Thinking Aloud about the Bay Area Intactivists

In the kaleidiscope of pro-intact, anti-circumcision activism, or intactivism, the opportunities to influence the debate, the community and the parents of the children we are trying to protect are varied and straightforward. However, there can be perils, too.

Whenever one of the many groups who plan and stage protests, actions and initiatives steps out on its own without consulting either its vested members or the wider community who may support it, it runs the risk of losing support and participation – not to mention credibility. Simply doing something (as opposed to nothing) doesn’t mean all that much unless it is thoughtful, considered and planned smartly. There are ways to do this efficiently. There are ways to make stuff happen sooner rather than later. But the planning and consultation phase to assess impact (internal and external) of any action cannot be skipped.

It is with these principles as a backdrop that I have withdrawn from the work of the Bay Area Intactivists. The group does not work smartly, but operates from a place of rage against the culture that condones circumcision, and anger at the community of opposition who, as they see it, is ineffectual and insufficiently, well, angry. Hence, they do things without consultation or considered preparation and planning.

It’s important to take the long view at certain stages. It is also important to seize the moment. But it is unquestionably important to have all the troops on board whenever the moment comes to carry out that long-planned, carefully orchestrated effort, like getting new laws on the books, or scrambling the membership to carry out a last minute protest, for instance, when a particularly loathsome opponent is in town on short notice.

To the leadership of the [San Francisco] Bay Area Intactivists, I say, also, pick your fights, guys. Don’t be reckless. Above all, don’t overlook your allies in your zealous effort to make a point.

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