Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Failure of Intactivism

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight both my own failings and what I see as some of the areas where the intactivist community could use improvement. The intention is to bring increased awareness to some important issues and to bring attention to aspects of our cause that need more attention.

This Blog

When I first learned of the i2 hashtag, I saw it defined as standing for genital integrity and intactivism. So I thought I was being clever and named this blog an equation with the product of those terms equaling i2. Recently, I have seen i2 defined as integrity (i) for both genders (2). Well I guess I butchered that. Not only do I have an insanely awkward and nerdy name for this blog, but it is incorrect. I fail.

I started this blog to try to give some perspective and insight that I hadn't been seeing. I didn't want to replicate the types of blogs that were already out there—who wants to read the same old thing. I write about topics that are interesting to me or that I think haven't been addressed by other intactivist bloggers.

With exception of Genital integrity advocates: Can't we all just get along?, My Intactivist Journey, and maybe E-mail to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, virtually nobody reads this blog. I'm pretty sure that "My Intactivist Journey" is only popular because I admit to having only one testicle. I get more referrer spam than honest page views. My blog has been a failure. Or should that be fail blog?

Ghost Orchid Pseudonym

I decided to switch to a pseudonym to avoid alienating non-intactivist followers on my real name account and to prevent an issue where this type of creepy, perverted, and weird activism could affect future employment opportunities. My ability to provide for my family comes first. There are some who call this cowardly, but I call it smart and pragmatic. I can't change American culture by myself and I certainly won't be taken down by it's ignorance on this issue.

I chose this name because I like orchids; my wife and I used to be collectors. It turns out that there is an anti-FGM group called The Orchid Project so I guess it fits. I also enjoyed Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief whose story centers around the Florida ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii or the shorthand D. lindenii) which is where my Twitter username is derived. My Twitter username is hard to spell, hard to remember, and too similar to an anti-FGM group. Fail again.

The Kooks

The things I've seen, you people wouldn't believe... fires on attack ships off the belt of Orion —Roy Batty (as played by Rutger Hauer), Blade Runner

I feel like Roy Batty when describing my social networking experiences to others in real life.

It's pretty silly to be against science since science is nothing more than a systematic study of the world around us through empirical observation and experiment. As with any other field, there are good and bad scientists. Some scientists and researchers produce studies that are not scientific. Medicine is an applied science that, in general, incorporates methods and practices that work and rejects those that don't. As with any endeavor, there are good medical practitioners and bad ones. There are good researchers who follow scientific methods in their research, and there are bad ones that produce non-scientific research to support a pre-determined outcome.

Medicine is not perfect, but there is no doubt that medicine has, overall, improved quality of life and health outcomes. Profiteering and agendas occasionally taint medicine with non-scientific methods. A focus on symptoms rather than root causes often results in non-ideal outcomes as well: for example, it's easier for a doctor to prescribe a diet pill than to convince a patient that he needs to use self control to cut down on calories. Patients come to expect the easy solution and doctors are often all to eager to prescribe it. But there is no reason to "throw the baby out with the bath water".

The intactivist community is full of kooks. Intactivism has to do with human rights and genital integrity. Let's not pollute the waters by confounding intactivism with pseudoscientific beliefs, conspiracy theories, and other nonsense. The kooks make intactivists look bad and make our job that much harder by unintentionally harming the credibility of the movement as a whole.

Medicalization of Male Circumcision

The reason why male circumcision (i.e. routine infant circumcision (RIC)) is hard to stop is because of medicalization. Well-meaning parents trust their doctors who have spent many years studying the human body. If their doctor says that cutting the genitals of their son is healthy, they will do it. After all, if leaving this vile, diseased, filthy foreskin on a child will harm him, by all means, remove it.

The human rights and ethics argument carries very little weight with the average American. I've seen this myself among friends, family, and countless people on Twitter. As long as there is a "health benefit", whether it is real or perceived, cutting genitals will be considered the most ethical option: after all, it would be unethical to deprive a child of health benefits. Many intactivists have trouble grasping this concept: they fail to understand that as long as male circumcision is medicalized, the human rights argument will carry very little weight.

Because intactivists fixate on the human rights and ethical arguments against RIC, the medical arguments are sorely neglected. Don't get me wrong, the human rights and ethical arguments against RIC should be enough. But they aren't. We're trying to change culture here, not win debate club.

In order to fight medicalization, we have to play the game. The circumfetishists are experts at this. We fail completely. We don't understand how medical research works. We don't fund studies that will convince the medical community. We continue to place human rights up against medicine and we lose time and time again.

Medical research starts with primary studies. These are the ones where researchers analyze data, conduct surveys, and perform experiments. There are lots of primary studies in our favor. Primary studies, however, do not represent the beginning and end of scientific knowledge on a subject. Researchers can make mistakes. Sometimes, results aren't reproducible. Sometimes researchers introduce various types of bias either intentionally or unintentionally. So in comes secondary studies in the form of reviews and meta-analysis. Secondary studies look at a number of primary studies, based on selection criteria, and reach a broader conclusion. Secondary studies do form the basis of scientific fact because their analysis of large data sets allows more concrete conclusions to be drawn from the data. Primary and secondary studies are generally subject to peer review where the researcher's peers review the study for errors before publication; reputable journals have a more stringent peer review process.

In the scientific community, secondary studies are considered the "gold standard" for knowledge on a subject. The problem comes in for topics like circumcision where there are a number of motives (e.g. profit, sexual fetish, culture, jealousy) that overwhelms the truth. The truth becomes distorted. Secondary studies uses selection criteria that typically results in about 10% of the available studies on a subject to be selected. Poor quality studies are omitted. In the case of studies on male circumcision and its effects, unethical researchers such as Brian Morris, carefully choose selection criteria ostensibly to remove poor quality studies from consideration. The reality is that his selection criteria is carefully chosen to remove studies that would disprove his point of view. Morris publishes in respectable peer-reviewed journals. He finds peer reviewers who agree with his point of view and he gets published. Unfortunately, Morris studies are part of the body of scientific evidence.

Intactivists generally publish in fringe journals with lax peer review that aren't indexed in Medline or Pubmed. Many of these are primary studies or poor-quality secondary studies. These studies do not become part of the body of scientific evidence.

It has been fifty years or so since the majority of Americans had foreskins. Americans do not know what is lost to circumcision. Older studies showing the benefits of foreskin and circumcision harm are generally overlooked in favor of newer studies by profiteers, ignorant researchers, and circumfetishists showing no harm from circumcision. These newer studies render the older studies obsolete: knowledge is lost and the circumcised researcher, doctor, and patient are all in the dark.

I have been told by at least one intactivist that there is a wide body of evidence on our side and we can easily defeat the medical argument. I've been involved in the intactivist community for about two years now and I have been searching for quality secondary studies showing circumcision harm and benefits of foreskin. They don't exist. Sure, we can ask questions like "if FGM had benefits, would you support it?" But that doesn't get us anywhere because that would require logic and intelligence. Our detractors generally possess neither so we must bring the battle to them. Although we are losing the medical battle, we can make a comeback. We must play the game and fund some quality studies. This is essential if we are to defeat medicalized RIC in the United States.

Wikipedia

The Problem

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to hone my sources and arguments before editing the circumcision article on Wikipedia. I thought I had a solid case for some changes with Wikipedia and I2. It didn't work. I tried again with Africa HIV Claims. Shot down again. Although it's a violation of Wikipedia policy to recruit others to bolster an argument, I would have liked other intactivists to have joined me in the discussions.

There are some intactivists that tell me that Wikipedia is not important. This is wrong. Wikipedia is one of the top sites on the Internet. It has been shown to be as reliable as Encyclopedia Britannica. It may have its problems, but people do trust it. It is the first link that comes up when you search for circumcision. It is important even if it has huge problems.

I did do some good over there. I got some ridiculous uncited claims removed, and I helped in removing some inaccurate information. Overall, it was a huge waste of time and caused me lots of stress.

Nowadays, the circumcision article at Wikipedia article is getting worse. It is really bad. For example:

  • Claim that circumcision is "elective". For most, it is not.
  • Disproven Africa-HIV claims are featured prominently
  • Claim that male circumcision does not harm male sexuality or affect it in any way
  • Claims of health benefits
  • Consistent de-emphasizing of harm, physiological, or psychological affects

The problem is that, with the exception of the first bullet above, all of these claims and statements are backed up by "reliable" secondary sources. Their favorite trick is college textbooks (which are generally reliable, but, in this case, make claims based on poor quality studies). There really isn't a good way to challenge reliable sources on Wikipedia. The only way to correct the Wikipedia article is to change the game from medical to human rights as is the case with the FGM article. There is very little chance of this happening with the largely pro-circumcision editors and admins running the show.

On Reliability

The following is a quote from an editor who supports intactivism. I replaced his name with "XXX YYY", but his words speak volumes.

(ec) Once more in different words: "Reliable source" is a technical term that is merely meant to exclude forum posts, random blogs, pamphlets distributed by lunatics and self-published books. Being a reliable source does not imply that everything is correct, let alone unbiased. Fox News, for example, is obviously totally biased, yet it's a reliable source. The same is true for the Socialist Worker. If you don't believe me, go to WP:RS/N and ask.

The AAP document is used inappropriately on this article, but you are not going to change this by making unrealistic claims about its (non-)reliability. It's technically reliable but at the same time overused and inappropriately used for questions of weight (i.e. what to include and what not). There is no contradiction between these two statements. XXX YYY

Wikipedia reflects "reliable" information which is not necessarily the truth. See The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia which gives a far better overview of the problem than I ever could. There is no accounting for whether a source is credible and not just "reliable". Another fantastic read is The Decline of Wikipedia.

Next Steps

We need to move beyond rhetoric. We need to make factual claims instead of dubious ones. I firmly believe that the only way we can change the game to a human rights discussion is to compare male circumcision to FGM:

  • Would FGM be OK if it had medical benefits?
  • Would FGM be OK if it didn't harm sexuality?
  • Why is a "ritual nick" that causes virtually no harm FGM but far more invasive male circumcision not harm?

It is imperative that we force our detractors to answer these questions. In my experience on Twitter, I get handwaving and insults. I've never had a single person provide an answer to these questions.

We also must focus on doing quality research. We need someone with a medical background, time, and money to sort through the primary studies and produce quality secondary studies that can disprove Morris and his ilk. It shouldn't be that hard. We have the truth on our side. Morris has to lie and manipulate. We must codify the truth in a way that is accepted by the medical community to un-medicalize male circumcision and restore it to its rightful place as a human rights issue.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We Need More H8

Many of you have probably seen the circumfetishist #NoH8 campaign on Twitter. The intention is to imply that intactivists are full of hate, hate those who are circumcised, and hate parents who circumcise their children.

I hate genital mutilation of any sort. I don't hate those who are circumcised, as the circumfetishists say I do, because they are victims and deserving of pity. I do hate parents who mutilate the genitals of their children if they did so for reasons other than ignorance.

The cultural pendulum of American society has swung from the roaring twenties to the "Leave it to Beaver" 50s to the free love 70s. Now, it is swinging in an orthogonal direction. Americans are obsessed with "not judging" anyone for anything. It is frowned upon to criticize people who behave badly.

We tolerate those who abuse their children, abandon their obligations, or act rude in public. We tolerate pedophile priests. We tolerate sexualization of our children. We tolerate and defend those who leave their kids in hot cars to die.

I say tolerate because there is no real outrage. There is no action—only lip service. We still attend Catholic church and give money at collection time. We back down and fail to speak up when wronged in public. We still buy products advertised or watch shows that feature inappropriate characterizations of children.

When I say we need more hate, I am saying that need to stop tolerating abuse of children. We need to hate that abuse to the point where we work to stop it. Forgetfulness is not an excuse for leaving your child to die in a hot car. You don't forget your children. You just don't. You don't cut the genitals of any child: there is not a reason in the world that can justify it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Circumfetishists R Dumb

Claims to Tweet Foreskin Benefits

Last December, @AParentsChoice tweeted "the benefits of circumcision are easy enough to understand". I responded with the following tweet:

He responded with the following tweet:

He said "I do, you choose to ignore those posts." What? Is he saying he does tweet about foreskin benefits? So I asked him where those tweets are. He didn't seem to follow the conversation:

He never responded after that.

Never Denounces Evil

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be associated with evil or people who do evil things. People who condone evil are either too cowardly to stand up against it or support it. The circumfetishists have never denounced circumfetishism, Gilgal, or FGM. It is disgusting.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Penis Sucks

My penis sucks. Sure it can feel good and I can orgasm. But I have no way of achieving the full sexual experience of an intact man. It's more than knowing what I'm missing. As I have gotten older, sex and masturbation have become less pleasurable.

Glans

A lot is made of glans sensitivity. I have no idea what the glans is supposed to feel like, but the skin on mine is dry and leathery. When I rub it dry, it feels quite numb. If I scratch it with my fingernail, I feel that less than if I were to scratch my arm. If I rub it with lubricant, it feels uncomfortably ticklish. Rubbing it along with stimulation of the scar does seem to enhance the sexual experience somewhat, but it is nothing to write home about.

I have read many circumcised men complaining about chafing of the glans. I have never experienced this. I wear briefs, so that may explain it.

The Scar

The scar is the only part that feels good. After a few days without orgasm, it feels more sensitive than with regular sex. With more than daily sex, it tends to feel more numb and the sexual experience is degraded considerably.

The Shaft

The shaft skin doesn't seem to have any erogenous tissue. The shaft skin sliding up and down in combination with stimulation of the scar (and glans) is about as good as it gets for me—and possibly any circumcised man. Vibration and sliding up and down of the shaft skin alone can eventually induce a very lame orgasm. There is clearly more than one mechanism at work in the male sexual experience.

Vaginal Sex

Vaginal sex has never been my favorite. Unlike the claims of many intactivists make about circumcised men liking it "hard and fast", I've never liked that. "Hard and fast" sex feels completely numb to me. I can orgasm, but it's not satisfying and it doesn't feel very good. Slow sex building up to an orgasm feels better. I suppose that is because the few nerves I do have need time to stimulate the right parts in the brain.

My wife, on the other hand likes "hard and fast" sex. The clitoris is a very large organ and virtually all of it is internal. I suppose that, for my wife, "hard and fast" sex is needed to stimulate it. With slower sex, she can hardly feel anything at all. If I were to have sex the way she wanted, I'd last between 30 seconds to a minute. After ten or more minutes of sex with my wife, my penis ends up becoming numb enough that we can do "hard and fast" the way she likes for long enough for her to get close... but not close enough.

Not My Choice

Ignore the propaganda spewing from American medical organizations, Wikipedia, and the circumfetishists. There is overwhelming scientific, anecdotal, and empirical evidence that the foreskin is an essential part of the penis, contains erogenous tissue, and adds to the sexual experience. I resent the fact that mine was taken and it angers me that I do not ever get to experience the most sensitive and good-feeling parts of the penis. Research has shown the the foreskin opening (with nerves similar to those on your fingertips), the ridged band, and the frenulum (among other parts) add to the sexual experience and have tons of nerve receptors.

I've toyed with "foreskin restoration", but haven't attempted it seriously. It is the loss of nerves that bothers me the most and foreskin restoration will not bring that back.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Penis Obsessed Fetishists

Intactivists sometimes get accused of being penis-obsessed fetishists. We are often accused by those who themselves have a fetish for genital cutting.

While there is plenty of evidence that circumfetishists exist and get a sexual thrill from talking about, promoting, and participating in male circumcision, there has never been a shred of evidence to suggest any intactivist is aroused by the foreskin.

A well known circumfetishist accused me of having an "intactifetish". I asked what that was and the response was "You amuse us. It is someone against circumcision." Not even the circumfetishists accuse us of being anything other than what we are.

Would you say that the anti-FGM activists are vulva (or clitoris or labia or vagina) obsessed? Would you say that those who are fighting for gay rights are obsessed with gay sex? Would you say that those who participate in breast cancer awareness are "breast obsessed"? Would you call those who raise awareness for prostate cancer penis obsessed? The answer is no to all of these questions.

Intactivists are knowledgeable about the penis and the functions of the foreskin for the purpose of ending routine infant (male) circumcision and adult circumcisions performed without information. We would also like to see the evil practice of FGM end. Beyond that, we want the penis left alone. We want everyone to leave the penis alone! It's the opposite of being obsessed with it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Male vs. Female Foolishness

Far too frequently, I read and hear silly and inaccurate statements pitting men against women and women against men. These statements are bathed in misogyny, misandry, radical feminism, or foolishness.

Cure for Cancer

If men got breast cancer, we would have a cure by now

One in six men get prostate cancer and it kills almost 30,000 in the US. One in eight women get breast cancer and it kills almost 40,000 in the US.

Men who do not die from prostate cancer may suffer uncomfortable and life-changing side effects. Women who do not die from breast cancer may suffer uncomfortable and life-changing side effects.

The effects of these two cancers are on the same order of magnitude. There is not a "cure" for either.

Genital Mutilation

If FGM were done to men, it would be illegal everywhere and not practiced

Genital mutilation is done every day to men and it is called male circumcision. There are more MGM victims than FGM victims and the most common forms of FGM are roughly equivalent to male circumcision.

Male circumcision supporters (and even some anti-FGM advocates) compare FGM (what form they don't specify since they know very little about FGM) to cutting off the whole penis. Forms of FGM that cut the clitoral glans leave the 9cm of clitoris that exists inside the body. FGM victims experience sexual enjoyment and pleasure from sex as do MGM victims. Cutting off the entire penis would leave a man with no erogenous tissue & no means to reproduce—worse off than the most extreme forms of FGM which still leave internal clitoral structures.

Conclusion

In order to counteract the diarrhea of ignorance, we must provide a deluge of information. Those who choose to remain ignorant are fools & should be shunned.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Talk About Hygiene

Someone on Twitter today proclaimed that all forms of FGM are mutilation but, when done properly, male circumcision isn't. I asked him to justify this point of view. The response was hygiene. What a laughable, ignorant, and untenable point of view!

This viewpoint is so ridiculous, it seems silly that I have to blog about it. As long as people continue to hang onto silly beliefs, I will shed light on the issues.

Women have internal genitals covered by the labia. We've all heard the silly & sexist references to female odors. The toiletries market produces feminine deoderant products. Women are advised to wash with water and, if necessary, mild soap (so as to avoid irritation of sensitive tissues). Surgery to obviate women from the need to perform this simple hygiene measure is never suggested (in the West, anyway).

An intact man has a much smaller internal area than what the labia covers. Sliding the foreskin back behind the glans is easy. In boys, no retraction is necessary because it is not possible (how easy!). Adult men, like women, should use water or mild soap to avoid irritation. Yet, somehow, male hygiene is so tedious and arduous that it justifies complete removal of the foreskin (and all the benefits foreskin provides)—even if from a non-consenting infant. Hygiene alone transforms what would otherwise be mutilation into a beneficial procedure!

What absurd poppycock!

Before folks start running their mouths on Twitter or any other social network, they need to "check themselves before they wreck themselves" (as the classic Hip-Hop lyric goes). Make sure your point of view makes logical sense. Check your facts by doing at least rudimentary research.