Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Children's Rights

Why it is said that circumcision violates a child's rights?
Circumcision on a healthy child is amputation of a healthy body part. You have to put it in perspective of equality, not normality. That means you ask: could you amputate any other healthy part? (no, they have the right to keep their healthy parts) Could you amputate that same part from a man or a woman without asking [yes women have foreskin]? (no, they have the right to their autonomy) In order to treat the child like an equal, you have to imagine that he is the grown man he will become.

Why is it said that formula feeding violates a child's rights?
The question is what a parent is obligated to provide. When you choose to have a child, you are willingly obligating yourself to protecting all of the child's rights, and providing for all of its needs. If you have a sweater and it's cold out, you are obligated to give the sweater to your child. If you choose to give them a thin t-shirt, you have taken care of a need, but only halfway. This is sort of a murky issue, because people choose to believe that the t-shirt (formula) is just as good as the sweater (breast milk). Will your child die?  Probably not, but the measure of harm isn't the deciding factor. He does have the RIGHT to the best and most appropriate thing you have available.

Why is it said that spanking violates a child's rights?
Any kind of hitting is violence, and violence violates the human right of autonomy. The motive of the hitter cannot change that. This is another issue of equality vs familiarity, so we have to ask: is it appropriate to hit your spouse when they don't do what you say? (no, violence violates their human right) Would you allow your teacher or parent to hit you? (You too, appreciate nonviolence) If I, we or they have a right, I, we and they have it when I, we and they are children.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Giving Thanks

I spent $66.87 on a 12 pound turkey.

My turkey was expensive because it was raised free range with no antibiotics or hormones. It's better for me, better for the earth, and the real reason: better for the bird. I love turkey, and I love turkeys (the live animals).

I don't even like Thanksgiving, and I don't like the way turkeys are raised, so I don't usually "do" turkey dinner, BUT I love to eat turkey, and there it was, not even frozen! I have never even SEEN a free range turkey in a grocery store before.

I think of it like a tennis shoe. I wouldn't buy it if I KNEW someone was being abused during its making. With meat, unless it says "free range" then... =( It doesn't feel like I'm thankful for being able to eat if I'm putting my money vote toward unhappy lives in a cage.

Sorry this isn't a very fun share. I'm not judging, just encouraging. I can't afford it, so I know other people can't afford it, but if we all gave it a shot one year, the price would come down, and we could save the turkeys. (cue sappy music)


I have chosen my gods
one is feminine
she is compassion and generosity
the giver
one is masculine
he is desire and appreciation
the receiver
their name is Love

My Fellow Intactivists

Sharing information about circumcision with someone who believes the old myths is a lot like trying to feed a wild animal. You cannot run up to them screaming EAT THIS! No matter how nutritious and wonderful the food, it's NOT going to work. You must sit calmly, slowly extend the 'food', and if it is not taken, simply leave it there. They might get curious after you're gone and sniff around. Remember that no one likes to be judged, and if you make them defensive of themselves, their children, or their perceived rights, you make them defensive of circumcision, and that's the last thing you want. \ /,,

Is it, or is it not Anti-Semitic?

There's a lot of chatter about the comic Foreskin Man being anti-semitic. Well, it's a lot of anger and name calling actually. This cannot just be a "yes it is", "no it's not" back and forth. This needs to be broken down.
What is anti-semitism? It's hatred of all people who are semites and expressions of that hate. A lot of anti-semites use negative portrayals of jews to express themselves, but that does NOT mean than anything negative associated with Jews comes from hate of Jews as a people.

What exactly is it that is supposedly anti-semitic? The bad guy is Jewish, and particularly gruesome. But that in itself isn't anti-semitic. That's just the point of comics, the good and the bad are exaggerated. He's the bad guy because he wants to cut parts off of the baby's penis and suck on it, NOT because he's Jewish. There also isn't anything that implies in the comic that all Jews are like this. (So there's no bigotry either.) Just as in the first book nothing implied that ALL doctors are horrendous slobbering monsters. The boy's mother is Jewish, and so opposed to circumcision that she tells Foreskin Man to take the baby to another woman.

 It's not meant to be taken literally. I mean, the henchmen had freeking machine guns. Does that mean that all Jews are machine gun carrying murderers or that brises are all carried out by force if someone objects? NO, it's an exaggeration of the bad guy.

I think a couple of things are going on here. One is that this comic is being taken by itself and not in the context of the overall message. Unfortunately, there are only 2 books out so far, so it's hard to understand the bigger picture; but if you read the first book, you will see the same exaggeration of the bad guy in the white American doctor role. The point of these stories is that men deserve choice. If they were to address all forms of circumcision leaving out the Jewish element, that would be like saying that Jewish babies aren't worth speaking up for. THAT would be anti-semitic.

Second is that many simply WANT to point and cry hate because it's an easy distraction from the point that ALL men deserve the right to refuse unnecessary amputation of their healthy body parts. There is NO argument against that fact, so, distractions are needed. This attack on Foreskin Man comes in direct opposition to the proposed circumcision ban in San Fransisco. It's not just Jews distracting, and it's not just Foreskin Man that is being used. Plenty of people are distracting the argument from one of protecting men's equality, to parental decision making and governmental meddling.

I'm not saying there isn't genuine hurt and misunderstanding for people, but In the end, offense is an interpretation of intent. That means that once you know anti-semitism is NOT the intent, then you don't HAVE to keep being offended.   \ /,,

Even When You Lose, You are Winning

For everyone who spends their precious energy spreading the word about Genital Integrity and the harms of genital mutilation, Attachment Parenting and the harms of spanking or crying it out, or the superiority of mother's milk. Don't get frustrated! Don't give up! Remember: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WIN! The task is NOT to change the mind of the person who happens to choose to argue with you. Those who disagree and spend their time opposing your message may likely never change their mind. They were already the ones most likely to respond negatively to you. You are presenting a perspective for the thousands of others who may never type a single letter about the subject. Use the arguments of your opponent as an opportunity to address the various issues in the minds of those READING. If they never "get it" and go through every argument in the book, GREAT! All that means is that you've managed to get every point out, and they helped you do it. Allow this to help you detach from the frustration of hearing the other side, or thinking you've "lost" because that one didn't change their mind. You're battling an IDEA over and over and it is being witnessed.

Right now, some babies and children will lose, and it may be your unfortunate perspective as a freedom fighter to know about it, but it does not mean you are losing. As long as we are out there, we are being productive and we are going to win, because humanity WANTS to change, even when it doesn't seem like it. We WANT to be kind, loving and respectful to our children and we all want a society that respects human rights equally. We just need the support, and freedom to do it. This is a long term goal, so don't worry about the ups and downs. Cruelness and lack of compassion are just symptoms of cruelness and lack of compassion, NOT innate traits. Let this help you put up your case with a calm and righteous heart, with confidence and compassion, and without insults or belligerence, even when that is what is handed to you.

And THANK YOU for all that you do!


Violence is not defined by cultural perspective to an infant. It is not defined by medical benefit or religious acceptance. It is defined by the pain that they feel. Know that you have not gotten the whole story if you were told that circumcision is not painful, either in infancy, childhood, or as a 40 year old scar.

The Spice of Life

Thank goodness for the extremes beyond my own preference, they make me feel normal.
Thank goodness for the majority who do what I do not, they make me feel unique.
Thank goodness for the people that like what I like, they make me feel included.
Thank goodness for the variety in people and their choices, they make the world.

To My Chains

I love you. Thank you for keeping me safe while I grew. I've got it now. You can let go.

I Think I Finally Get it About Conformity

I’ve always been a fairly stubborn person. Life is tough, and I take it for granted that stubborn people have harder lives. My mail carrier, instead of asking me if someone could cut a path through the plants in my wild lawn, simply stopped delivering my mail without notice. Now, the lawn is my landlord’s neglect. I don’t mind it, so I never bothered to change it. After being given the excuse that the carrier thought the house was empty, I complained. (I didn’t mow, I COMPLAINED) It’s unacceptable that we can collect our mail every day and have drapes that open and close and cars parked there, and have the mail held because someone doesn’t like my lawn. If it were legitimate, they could have just said so, but they didn’t, they used an excuse. I am fully prepared for a fight, and as I drove to work thinking about the trouble that I am willing to go through (because I’m stubborn) the whole world suddenly became a little clearer. If I were less stubborn, the problem would be solved with less trouble on my part, obviously, but it isn’t being stubborn that caused it in the first place. It’s being different.

I’m different. I’ve always been different. I like being different. I wouldn’t say that I am purposefully different just for the sake of it, though, because being different is often a gigantic pain in the ass.

Plenty of people do not like it when other people do things differently. They make it hard for those who do. They ostracize, neglect, and argue, even when they are wrong. I’m a fighter, so, when someone wants to be an ass about me being different, I give it right back. In fact, sometimes even the law is not on my side. Somehow the idea of being like everyone else just because that’s the way other people want it aggravates me, and so I stick with it on principle. I never cared that life would be easier if I weren’t different. We’re not talking pick something up on the way home instead of cooking “easier”. Being different can make people hate you.

So what about people who aren’t stubborn fighters? I of all people need to understand that not everyone is like me. What about people who are perfectly fine being the same, and if they are different in any way, the ensuing strife is something they would be more than willing to change themselves to avoid. Realizing just how much trouble being different causes has made the “locker room” excuse for circumcising a little clearer to me. If stubbornness doesn’t accompany your difference, life could be even harder than it is for me, especially if it’s not something you can easily change. It’s a fight you didn’t sign up for, and have no easy way out of.

So I get it.

There are a couple of things to remember when trying to decide if you should cut your son to save him the strife of being different. One is that you don’t know if he’ll be a fighter or not. You don’t know if he will even mind being different. On top of that, if everyone were given their own choice, no one would be different, not their foreskins anyway. Better to respect everyone to avoid this issue than violate everyone to avoid it. Human rights do matter, after all. Also, the locker room is a temporary place. My high school years were spent being very unpopular, but it’s over now and as an adult, I realize it was a very small part of my life.

Don’t underestimate your abilities! As a parent, you have a lot of influence over how your child copes with his differences. Simple explanation and preparation (not to mention love and acceptance) go a long way, as I’m sure you’ll find out if your child ends up heavy, with glasses, freckles, braces, or without the coolest shoes.

Everybody is different in some way, and really, differences are good. How can we teach our children to accept and love themselves and others (and therefore change the world) if we are willing to surgically modify them without their consent just to fit in? All that does is support the idea that being different is undesirable, and that fosters bigoted thinking. Differences between people will ALWAYS be there, so for the peace of the future, we need to raise tolerant children. Let’s celebrate individuality and individual autonomy. We can start by leaving our sons intact even though their daddies or older brothers might be circumcised.

One other important factor is that times are changing. Likely only 40% of babies are getting cut right now, and that’s dropping fast. If you cut your son today, chances are he will be outnumbered by foreskins. It’s a whole lot easier to explain why you left a body part on, than it is to explain why something’s missing.

\ /,,

I Fell in Love with a Tree and He Gave Me a Poem

Imagine if you really really loved the earth.
The way you loved your child.
If you had to see her pain in your child’s eyes.
Your heart would break everyday.
Imagine if you could feel the imbalance of her health.
The way you feel your own.
If you had to see it in the mirror.
Would you fear death?

Premature and Forced Retraction of the Foreskin

I wanted to point something out that seems to be missing in the conversations about intact boys and their penile care.

The bonding membrane between the foreskin and the glans (synechia, or preputial lamina) needs to naturally separate before the foreskin can retract. Retraction prior to this time is "forced" and causes many issues like infection, tearing, bleeding, adhesions, scarring, phimosis; not to mention the boy having anxiety or worse in regard to his penis.

What I've seen from some is that they feel hygiene is still so important that whenever this finally occurs it's ok retract and rinse.
Here's the thing: the ridged band (elastic tissue that makes the opening of the foreskin narrow, yet can still open for the glans) needs time to mature as well. Just because the synechia is released, doesn't mean the ridged band is ready to be constantly expanded. Children's bodies grow in a pretty sporadic way, and all the parts as they're growing change in size relative to each other. Ya know, they have big ears, then grow into them... The foreskin and penis can go through this too. At some stages, the foreskin is tighter, and sometimes it's looser. So what this means is that by "premature" retraction you still risk over stretching the ridged band which can still cause minute scarring and possible later phimosis without even knowing it. If the boy is instructed to retract rather than finding it out himself (which personally I think is a little sad, because he's being denied a 'personal discovery') then he may cause himself to get paraphimosis: where the foreskin is gets stuck in the retracted position, which can be painful, or even cut off blood supply. He may start retracting when his foreskin is looser, and because he was instructed, do it when it's tighter, as opposed to only doing it when nature tells him to. Puberty takes care of the penis with a lot of hormones, which help in penile development and skin elasticity, and the urge to "stretch" the foreskin pretty regularly.

Until puberty there is REALLY nothing going on under the foreskin that needs to be dealt with. If you instruct your child (like you would with a girl) to wash hands after touching the bum or mouth, and before touching the genitals or mouth, the rest should take care of itself. Cut down on sugar and soaps if there's irritation and deal with a problem IF it comes up. Trust nature =) ~ there is such a thing as too much prevention. 

Pitted Glans ~Skin Bridges/Adhesions

As the penis develops in-utero, the foreskin and the head of the penis develop with a bonding membrane between them called synechia. This membrane will not release for many years. As it does, the foreskin becomes retractable. This could happen anytime up to even the teen years (everybody is different). At birth, this membrane helps keep the foreskin forward to protect not only the urethra (where pee comes out) but also the still developing glans penis (head).

Prior to the excision (cutting off) of the foreskin, it and the glans must be separated. This is accomplished by inserting a blunt probe, usually forceps, under the foreskin, tearing it out and away from the glans. This would be as painful as shoving something under your fingernail to tear your nail away from the bed, accept, on the penis, a much more sensitive organ. As a result, the head of the penis itself is left a raw wound.

A complication of this step is that the two structures may not separate evenly. Just like when you peel a sticker from paper, sometimes the paper comes up too. Occasionally, some of the surface skin of the glans may be torn, leaving a pitted, or scarred area.

When the foreskin is finally removed there is a ring of tissue around the penis that is also a raw wound. Because everyone's penis and circumcision are different, the amount of skin left, and the looseness of that skin will vary. When the two raw wounds (glans and circumcision ring) touch each other, the body does not know the difference, and they attempt to heal together. This causes a variation of severity in deformation of the penis, from a simple skin bridge, where a spot of the shaft is attached to the glans, to major adhesions that cover the corona (ridge on the head).

To see other examples of this type of circumcision damage, please visit and click on Education - Photographs - Skin bridges.This is the shaft skin healing to the glans.

Damage Assessment

In my time of circumcision education I occasionally run across people that are certain that forced circumcision does not violate anyone’s rights. They always say the same basic thing: circumcision is not a violation of human rights because it is not “damaging”. They go on and on about how the foreskin is dirty and the cut penis is clean, and the foreskin isn’t a sexual organ (has no nerves) and the cut penis feels the best, etc. Even if you tell them that the foreskin has sexually responsive nerves or that the glans keratinizes after circumcision it won’t matter one bit, because it doesn’t fit with the opinion they have formed. (Their reasons for being so adamant are another story.)

What this argument is really saying is that their own priority structure is the decider of where other people’s rights begin and end. It’s like saying “I don’t value the foreskin, therefore no one has the right to keep theirs”. Imagine if the ruling powers felt this way about the eyebrows. Would it be right to say “The eyebrows are totally worthless, a lot of people look stupid when they’re too bushy, and it’s no big deal to cut them off of babies?”

Everybody has a different idea of what is or is not valuable, and what is or is not harm. One opinion cannot be taken as the rule for all. If human rights are decided by a damage assessment, then whose idea of damage do you use? Imagine this eyebrow-less society where it’s not a violation to remove eyebrows from a baby. If the baby cannot stop the procedure, being too young, then no individual’s opinion is ever taken into account. No one would be supported if they said they were violated. This is what happens when a violation happens to everyone, it isn’t seen as a violation, it’s seen as ‘normal’.

The fact is that is doesn’t matter if circumcision is damaging or not. What matters is that the individual has the right to decide if a part of his body is to be removed. Opinions are a right as well. If a circumcised man says he isn’t damaged, then he’s not, and if a circumcised man says the forced removal of his foreskin harmed and damaged him, then it did.

This is a fistula, caused by the circumcision clamp.

Drugs are Bad

DRUGS. I bet the first thing that comes to mind for most people is “street” or illegal drugs, and then maybe pharmaceuticals. But drugs are EVERYWHERE and in LOTS of things. Caffeine is a drug. Nicotine is a drug. Alcohol is a drug. We have a very messed up perception of drugs in the U.S., and we let the government tell us which ones are ok and which ones deserve social ostracism and penalty with almost no resistance or thought.

We’re conditioned to think of illegal drugs as the most dangerous and damaging. We’re conditioned to look down on people who choose an illegal drug for recreation, even though drinking alcohol every weekend is a perfectly legitimate pastime. We accept that someone can use legal drugs and not have a “problem”, but immediately associate any illegal drug use with abuse or addiction. We imprison thousands of people for “crimes” that violate no one’s rights. But what’s really behind the decisions the government makes when it comes to these restrictions? The accepted assumption is that “they” have weighed carefully which drugs are most harmful and addictive and restricted them, while allowing us to freely consume those that are most benign. But is this the truth?

So is the government looking after our health? Are they responsibly making the deadly illegal, while allowing the freedom to partake in the safe? If you ate enough artificial sweetener you’d surely get cancer, and you can if you want to, because it doesn’t get you high. So the difference there is the nature of the experience, not health. Drano is deadly if swallowed, but you don’t get arrested unless you have fun while you’re damaging yourself. The difference between death by Drano and death by recreational drugs is that Drano only takes once, there’s no repeat sale, there’s no ongoing demand; that’s a money issue, not health. Cigarettes have lots of toxins in them that have NOTHING to do with the nicotine people are addicted to, and that everyone knows bring a horrible, expensive demise; yet for the most part, the government does nothing about it filling the air of public places. I’m legally restricted from sniffing a natural, unadulterated coca extract when I’m out on the town for a little buzz, but free to give myself Alzheimer’s or a heart attack by eating msg or hydrogenated oils. Almost every time I read some snippet of health advice for just about any ailment, among the suggestions I see “reduce your intake of caffeine”. Cramps, heart disease, sleep disorder, you name it. Ever see that drug induced spider web thing? Caffeine was the worst.

So what danger are we really being protected from? It doesn’t appear to be the danger of addiction “they” are trying to prevent, after all, we’re free to be addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. Why is it exactly that marijuana is illegal, but “they” make and sell (at a pretty penny) a synthetic THC? I’ve seen statistics that show more people addicted to legal pharmaceuticals than street drugs, so regulation is doing less than nothing to prevent addiction. Antacids can cause your body to start needing them on a constant basis. (Lip balm too…. bastards)

And don’t even get me started on the cost! It will have to suffice to say: $22BILLION and counting in 2009 alone, otherwise I’ll go on for pages. Just imagine what could be done with that money.

The government tells us that it’s ok to drink as long as you’re 21, not pregnant (by suggestion, not enforcement), and pay the taxes. Pharmaceuticals are ok as long as you pay a professional for the freedom to buy them. You can smoke a cigar as long as it doesn’t come from a country that the US is trying to economically harm. (Record screeching…) How do we know that marijuana and cocaine aren’t illegal for that very reason? If it isn’t a resource that belongs to the U.S., the U.S. economy doesn’t benefit as much as the country where it’s grown, and if it’s illegal, it can be easily stolen, uh, I mean “confiscated”. And we all know that “confiscations” happen a lot, and that includes drug money, lots of it. “They” tell you not to buy illegal drugs because you fund armies of bad guys in foreign countries, but you rarely hear that you run the same risk when you buy diamonds. …or gas.

The bottom line is that it’s about money and control, and politics too convoluted and behind the scenes to even dream of understanding. …and maybe some seriously misplaced religious values and the necessary accompanying hypocrisy.

Why is it that the government has any power at all to tell us what we can put into our own bodies and why? I don’t think I’ve heard an actual argument about why it’s ok to restrict the free will of a competent adult in this way. Just: “drugs are bad, um k”. The illegality of having, selling, or doing drugs is a violation of every individual (of mature decision making capacity)’s right to autonomy of their body.

I’m not saying let’s all go hog wild on drugs, actually, to me there’s no difference between drugs and the potential to hurt ourselves with addictions to everything from shopping to TV or pizza. We have lots of problems, and we all deal with it in our own way, and everyone has a different idea of fun. But there are some real benefits society could gain by treating all drugs, and truly all addictions, equally. For a start, eliminating an inappropriate social judgmentalism could only help us get along. The best benefit though would be having informed consent.

When you see a commercial for the next big laboratory medicinal breakthrough you hear “side effects may include headache, nausea, blurred vision, loose stool, dry mouth… if you have a history of liver problems…” etc. You have the right to know everything about a drug and its impact on your health when it is for medical use, and it is only our double standard about recreational drug use that prevents us from being equally informed. Research, and information help people make informed decisions about what they do to their bodies, and so far, it’s mainly only available for drugs controlled by pharmaceutical companies, or long-standing legal drugs. A large part of what makes illegal drugs so dangerous is that there’s no accountability for quality or adulteration. Ecstasy is a great example. People die from taking what they think is MDMA, which turns out to be some heinous concoction of chemicals they never would have taken if they had known what it was.

Another benefit would be a reduction of crime. Without getting into the years of debate over this I’ll just say: If someone hurts you while you’re doing something illegal, and you can’t ask the law to hold them accountable without incriminating yourself, they know it too. So who’s going to help?

People will always use drugs, or whatever, to change the way they feel when they want to. For fun, to alleviate stress, even for spirituality. The point isn’t about the damage or danger associated with drug use, because that’s everywhere; the point is that the only person who has the right to say if that damage or danger is ok is the individual. That’s why skydiving is legal, you just have to sign a waver. (adrenaline is a drug) If we ever want to become responsible as a society, we have to allow ourselves the freedom. It would be healthier, safer, and most importantly more appropriate, if politics and money were lower on our government’s priority list than protecting social rights, proper information and education.

To read all the things about our costly and immoral drug war that I didn’t say, go to Check out while you’re at it.

A Healthy Dose of Doubt

Circumcision is becoming a hot topic for today’s expecting parents. Word is out that not only has circumcision been considered medically unnecessary since the 70’s , (even though it hasn’t been common knowledge) but also that it’s damaging! Delving into this country’s circumcision past is a disturbing enough journey; but what’s most surprising is that the cruelty and racism that seem to surround the promotion of this controversial surgery aren’t only buried in the past, but are still alive today.

There’s more to know about circumcision than most people would guess. After hearing that it’s quick, painless, and beneficial for so long, it seems at first like there wouldn’t be much there if you went digging. Parents are taking a much more active roll in this decision than ever before, and discovering for themselves just how much has been kept out of sight. Like the protective and sexual value of the foreskin, the damage that occurs from a “proper” circumcision, or the horrific disfigurement when something goes wrong . In addition to the many reasons to leave our sons intact, we are finding out about the surprising number of men who are restoring their foreskin naturally, in an attempt to get back what they feel was wrongfully taken from them .

But let’s start at the beginning. A little over 100 years ago, scientists knew little about the nervous system, and thought that nervous tension from masturbation would have negative health consequences . Because of this, coupled with the accepted social idea that masturbation was an evil, they began circumcising young boys (not babies) as a punishment for, or prophylactic against it. They would even refuse to use pain relief, so that the “…pain attending the operation will have a salut[a]ry effect upon the mind, especially, if it is connected with the idea of punishment…” . They knew that the foreskin was a sensitive part of the penis, and felt that society as a whole would benefit from males being less sexually stimulated . As more and more doctors began doing circumcision, the claims of its benefits grew wilder and wilder, they even alleged that it would cure diseases like tuberculosis and epilepsy .

Some racist doctors promoting circumcision attempted to use it to further the oppression of African Americans by insisting that circumcision should be forced upon all black males because they were rapists of white women. “…we feel fully warranted in suggesting the wholesale circumcision of the Negro race as an efficient remedy in preventing the predisposition to discriminate raping so inherent in that race.” . At the time, racism was so commonplace that it could be spouted by professionals, and without a second thought, accepted by the public.

The original claimed benefits of circumcision were not based on scientific research. They were based on assumptions, and racial and social profiling. It was said many times that the Jewish population was immune to, or nearly free of different diseases, and that circumcision must be the key . During those times, and even for years to come, it seems it wasn’t necessary to prove anything or do research first. If you were a doctor and you saw a pattern in your clientele, you could publish your hunch, and it became fact . People obviously put a tremendous amount of trust in the medical community, even to the point of abandoning their own rationale, in order to believe that cutting off a part of the penis would cure a lung disease or brain problem.

As time went by circumcision was said to cure or prevent each new scary disease as it gained popularity. Doctors found a reason to circumcise in everything from cervical cancer, down to the simplest things that we would never perform surgery on a girl for: diaper rash. As recently as 2005, one self named circumcision expert, Dr. E. Schoen even gives bigotry along class and nationality lines as a valid reason to circumcise: "The American public doesn't take well to the idea of using the rest of the world as a model. U.S[sic] parents don't want to follow the health practices of millions of 'intact' Hindus in the ghettos of India, or of the hordes of uncircumcised peasants in China." Today, however, doubting what doctors have to say when they sound ridiculous isn’t looked at with scorn; getting a second opinion is considered an intelligent thing to do.

So what are we finding out? The American Cancer Society states: “Most experts agree that circumcision should not be recommended as a way to prevent penile cancer.” Using what we know about other cancers: that behavior and environment often play the biggest roles, we can see for ourselves that cutting off a body part to prevent cancer is silly. We don’t cut the breast tissue from our infant girls even though breast cancer is about twenty times more likely than penile cancer. Believing that circumcision prevents penile cancer could even be detrimental to a man’s health if it allowed him to ignore the real risk factors, like smoking and promiscuous behavior.

The American Academy of Pediatrics casts doubt on studies showing a lower incidence of urinary tract infection among circumcised boys because of unaccounted for confounding factors . (These are things that have an effect, but weren’t studied.) Again, once we think about the fact that UTI is much more common in women than in men, we can rely on our common sense to see that surgical amputation prior to an actual infection (or even for one) is overkill. Especially when UTIs are easily treated with antibiotics. After all, what do we do for a circumcised boy who gets a UTI? Compared with the conservative medical treatment that women receive, circumcision promotion starts to look pretty sexist.

Currently, there is no national or international medical organization that recommends the routine circumcision of infants.

So we are learning that this simple painless surgery is unnecessary, and what’s more, that it is not simple, and it is far from painless. Back when doctors began to perform circumcision on infants instead of children, they assumed the differences they found in infant nerves meant that they were incapable of feeling pain. They would go so far as to perform open-heart surgery with nothing but a paralyzing drug . And so circumcisions were performed without anesthesia for years. The tradition of ignoring the cries of an infant being circumcised has continued, regardless of the discovery that infants in fact feel more intense pain than adults do , and that the pain has a lasting effect, rather than being forgotten . Even though pain relief is recommended, many circumcisions are still performed without it. If there is a topical pain reliever, i.e. EMLA cream, it may not penetrate through both folds of foreskin and the glans (penis head) where it is needed. This is where the membrane connecting the foreskin to the glans is torn away with a blunt probe. Other pain relief requires one or more injections in the groin. I have a hunch that this would be painful too.

The worst of what we’re learning though, is that circumcision carries damages even if it is not considered botched. Once we believed that the foreskin was just a useless flap of skin, so if a baby was lucky enough not to have one or more of the dozens of complications, like bleeding, infection, loss of other structures or entire penis, skin bridges, meatal stenosis, death, etc., then he made out okay. But now we know what the doctors of the past were trying to deny us. Not only does new research out there show us a desensitization of the glans in circumcised males , and the presence of thousands of sexually responsive nerve endings and specialized structures in the foreskin , but we are stopping to think for ourselves: if it’s part of a sex organ, perhaps it has a sexual purpose. If it’s not a birth defect, and surgery has risks, perhaps it’s ok to leave it alone. And if it’s on someone else’s body, perhaps we should let them decide for themselves. We don’t need scientists to tell us that.

Some people out there still promote medical benefits from circumcision regardless of the damage, common sense, ethical issues, and, as it turns out, international statistics. Some would have you believe that circumcision will prevent the contraction of HIV. A quick look at a UNAIDS map shows that the UK, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, China, Japan, and more nations that do not circumcise have a lower rate of HIV than the U.S.

Most men in this country, I would wager, if told: “congratulations, your circumcision is going to keep you from getting AIDS” would still adamantly refuse to engage in unprotected sex with someone they knew was HIV positive. Women as well, would have the common sense not to believe that a man was a “safe bet” just because he had been circumcised. There are, after all, plenty of men, circumcised at birth, who contracted HIV from heterosexual intercourse, and who have died of AIDS. But that’s us, we’re savvy, ready to doubt, ready to check facts, with a common sense that has been developed and nurtured in the prosperous U.S.A.

Now what is interesting isn’t what the circumcision advocates are saying, because that’s really the same, but who they’re saying it to. Far away from the educated patients of the wealthy United States, in a place where the threat of contracting HIV is a looming everyday reality shrouded in ignorance, foreign doctors with big money are being trusted, just as the doctors of our past were trusted by us. I’m referring to the scientists in Africa trying to prove that circumcision prevents HIV infection. There are programs already in place attempting to circumcise as many men as possible despite the fact that there has been very little research done, and that it has received a great deal of professional criticism . With the zealous help of the media, circumcision is once again believed to be the newest medical miracle, and stories of a new AIDS prevention has spread like wildfire. Now these poor, uneducated people, desperate for hope, are hearing dangerous rumors and believing them to be fact.

This irresponsible and unfounded touting of circumcision as an AIDS prevention is causing trouble for Africans. A recent article from Swaziland quotes a local doctor: “Many of the men I speak with think circumcision is like an AIDS vaccine.” With less sexual sensation, and belief of immunity, men are refusing to wear condoms, as one wife attests: "He [my husband] was circumcised and felt he didn't have to wear a condom. When we found we had HIV after testing, he blamed me.” Women are abused if not abandoned in this scenario. An HIV support group founder is quoted as well: "Families blame women when HIV comes into the house, and it results in all sorts of abuse, from physical abuse to denial of spousal and child support, and loss of property rights."

Risky behavior that leads to more infection, beliefs that lead to abuse and the destruction of the family; it all renders the supposed protection of circumcision moot. Just like the loss of sexual sensation only to wear a condom anyway renders all the expense and risk of surgery moot. Speaking of expense, is it really worth the money being spent? It brings me back to my point about common sense. I don’t need to see graphs or reports for something that obvious: condoms are cheaper, safer, and more effective than surgery. Just imagine the amount of condoms and education that could be bought with all the money spent on this ‘research’ and surgical intervention.

Circumcision promotion seems to be carrying on a tradition of bad science, the disregard of the value of people’s lives, rights, and bodies, and the vilifying of a natural body part and all those who have it. We’re getting wiser to it by the day, and by the time all of the real care for Africa takes effect, reducing HIV/AIDS, and the pushers come back to us trying to say it was circumcision that did it, we’ll be ready to call it what it is.

sorry, my footnote numbers don't show up.

A.A.P., Committee on Fetus and Newborn. Standards and Recommendation for Hospital Care of Newborn infants. 5th ed. Evanston, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics: 1971. Page 110.
Doctors Re-examine Circumcision, Thomas J. Ritter, M.D., George C. Denniston, M.D. 1992, 1996, 2002. Section 5.
Angel Money. Treatment of Disease In Children. Philidelphia: P. Blakiston, 1887. p.421.
John Harvey Kellog, Treatment for Self-Abuse and Its Effects… Burlington, Iowa: P. Segner & Co. 1888, p. 295.
Editor, Medical News. Our London Letter. Medical World,(1900).vol.77:pp.707-8
Editor, Medical Record, Circumscisus, Medical Record, vol. 49 (1896): p.430.
P.C. Remondino MD, "Questions of the day: Negro rapes and their social problems", National Popular Review, Vol. 4, January 1894, p. 3-6.
S. G. A. Brown, A Plea for Circumcision, Medical World, vol. 15 (1897): pp/124-125.
Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Legal, and Ethical Considerations in Pediatric Practice, By Denniston, Hodges, Milos, 1999 pp. 226-227.
Schoen, E., Ed Schoen, MD on Circumcisioin: Timely Information for Parents and Professionals from America's #1 Expert on Circumcision (RDR Books, Berkeley, CA: 2005). P.112
American Cancer Society, ( Can Penile Cancer Be Prevented? Last Revised 10/07/08
PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 3 March 1999, pp. 686-693. Reaffirmed 9/1/05
Cope DK. Neonatal Pain: The Evolution of an Idea. The American Association of Anesthesiologists Newsletter, September 1998.
Fitzgerald M. The birth of pain. MRC News (London) 1998; Summer: p. 20-23.
Chamberlain, D.B. (1989) Babies Remember Pain. Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology 3(4): 297-310.
Sorrells ML, et al. Fine-touch Pressure Thresholds in the Adult Penis, BJU International Volume 99: Pages 864-869, April 2007
Cold CJ, Taylor JR. The prepuce. BJU Int 1999;83 Suppl. 1:34-44.
The Use of Male Circumcision to Prevent HIV Infection, A Statement by Doctors Opposing Circumcision. Found at:
Reuters AlertNet, SWAZILAND: Circumcision gives men an excuse not to use condoms, July 31, 2008.

Refuse Junk!

O.K., o.k., the earth is in dire danger, which puts us all in danger, and unless we actually change our priorities and actions our children’s children will live in a toxic unstable environment, get fatal cancers at young ages, and their children’s children (if they get born) will fight against the ferocious weather and dwindling food supply in a collapsed ecosystem just to survive, until all life is finally gone.

We’ve heard it, we care, now what? Some of us recycle some stuff. Some of us drive an expensive hybrid. Some companies even recycle. Yay. Overall, though, why does it seem like it’s still business as usual? Why do I get 3 phone books left on my porch even though I didn’t ask for them? Why is it a near impossibility to stop their delivery? Why are only 2% of the 5+ tons of tissue papers used annually (in the U.S.) from recycled material? And whose responsibility is it to change that stuff? And while I’m asking, what does “responsible” mean? What can an individual do about much bigger than individual problems?

As someone who wants to consider myself as something better than a parasite, I want to make sure that my personal impact, (some say “footprint”, but I’m talking about more than just oil and carbon), is as small as possible. When I talk about a person’s impact, I mean the personal use of materials and resources. The electricity they use, food they consume, gas, water, and so on. It’s more than just what’s utilized, too. Buying and using a product makes you responsible not just for the thing itself and its packaging, but also a portion of all the resources that are used in the making and transportation of it. But wait, there’s more! We are all responsible as individuals for what is wasted just to get and use what we do. The water that flows down the drain while you wait for it to get warm. The left overs that went bad while you were out of town. The first 4 copies that didn’t come out right. Since there’s no way to measure it, get an average, or figure an ideal, as a responsible individual, I simply have to try as hard as I can, in every arena.

To decrease my impact I try to save water by showering less, not flushing every time, and washing my clothes only when they need it. I reuse the blank back sides of paper, recycle every bit of it, and compost my unused bits of food. Anything I have control over is as efficient as I am able to make it.

Sometimes I get stuff. Free stuff, you know, at a show, fair, game or even on the street. If I know I’m not going to utilize it, then I refuse it. It may be as simple as a piece of paper, but imagine that tiny little waste and multiply it by as many people as you can see, or as many times as you’ve ever had something like that offered to you. I am choosing to take responsibility for all of the things I come into contact with; physical responsibility at an environmental level, even things that I didn’t ask for. When I say “responsibility” I don’t mean the psychological acceptance of ‘fault’ or guilt. Just that I am responsible for its purpose (that it gets used and not wasted) and its best destruction/disposal. The giver, after all, cannot possibly do that. By refusing the free thing I am refusing to take part in a larger impact. After all, what do you REALLY need a plastic bacardi necklace that flashes for? There’s a battery in there, ya know.

Imagine not ever being able to refuse all of the giveaways you come into contact with. Someone comes up to you at the mall and says: “Try our new chocolate covered snack” . You happen to be allergic, so what do you do with it? If you simply throw it in the trash, you are responsible for waste. This causes your personal impact to grow through no true fault of your own. Is it fair that you should have to try to find someone who wants it? If you can’t refuse, then you’d just hand it to the next guy and it would get passed on until it reached a person who would trash it or eat it. I know this example sounds absurd, but it is essentially the rule for a lot of waste.

As you already know, we don’t ask for the 6.5 million tons of junk mail (killing 100 million trees) that’s given to us for free every year. Not most of it anyway. So aside from being responsible for it’s proper destruction, (at 3 a day or more, that’s a big chunk of my time, especially if I want to take steps to ensure my privacy) how can I be responsible for it’s creation? Just letting junk mail come into my life and throwing it away makes me part of a big problem. I can recycle it all ‘till the lights go out, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still happening. This is why I must have the right to refuse anything anyone wants to give me. If I have no right to refuse, then I have no responsibility for my part, and no power to change it. And I WANT the power to change it.

Oh but there are things that can be done, right? Yep, LOTS of things. So many things to do in fact that it’s a pretty good investment of time. Call, mail, or email each sender and express your desire not to receive the mail. Of course, they still send it to you for a certain number of weeks or months (which seems to be growing) under the excuse that they pre-print and can’t sort you out. Some companies represented by the junk are not even the ones mailing you, so contacting them simply makes you a spectator in the sport of buck passing. If you want to opt out of credit solicitation, you cannot simply call amex or whoever, you have to call one or more separate entities and register your name and social security number with them.

Go to, now and learn how very time consuming opting out of junk mail marketer by marketer can be, or, pay someone to do it! You could go to and sign the petition. You could go to one of a few really great websites like, and read lots of tips for getting rid of your junk mail and the things you need to do to keep it from starting. I mean LOTS of tips, almost 3 pages worth.

According to the U.S. Postal Service’s Domestic Mail Manual, section 508 Recipient Services 1.1.3 Refusal After Delivery: “ addressee may mark a mailpiece "Refused" and return it within a reasonable time, if the piece or any attachment is not opened.” Trying to get your individual mail carrier to recognize your right to refuse, however, may cost you a gift sent by a faraway friend, a broken netflix disk, two weeks of delayed mail, litter on the ground, and a lot of frustration so, proceed with caution. Refused mail should be returned to the sender, but I don’t have high hopes that it is.

Sometimes, like with the unfabulous company comcast, the unconnected, less than knowledgeable telephone representatives either tell you they don’t know how to process your request, or simply claim to have done it (thank you Andre, Lynn and Shelly) while the junk keeps coming. That is, if they don’t decide to send you on a goose chase of different phone numbers and websites that circle back to the beginning, or end at the do not call registry. In my case, having called every available number repeatedly, returned, refused, and mailed back the mail with my request on it several times (paying for the postage) over the course of 5 years has had exactly one result: my name replaced with “current resident” on the mail piece. O.k. sorry, 2 results, I will never do business with comcast.

Is this having the right to refuse? Is this having the power to influence change? Doesn’t seem like it to me. If I have the right to refuse what I don’t want, and the power to change a system of nature abuse and waste, why do I have to pay for it? After it’s been paid for with my time, money and frustration, why don’t I get results? I say I deserve more than the right to refuse!

Sending something to me in the mail without my specifically requesting it should quite simply not happen in today’s environment. And this goes as well for all the junk taped to my box or litter thrown near my yard in a plastic baggy with rocks in it. I must not have to pay in any way for this, (i.e. services or lobbying) because then it is only granted to those who can or will pay for it, and that’s not right or effective. This is where it gets stupid. Businesses are not going to change what they’re doing just because it’s right, they have a monetary interest. They will only stop if they have governmental regulation, or some kind of change of circumstance that tips the scale of their practice being profitable. Since the government isn’t built for that kind of micromanaging, and shouldn’t be, another solution must be found.

HERE’S WHAT I SUGGEST WE DO. Print this article on the BACKSIDE OF PAPER THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN USED!, and return it with a postage paid envelope that you have received as junk mail, along with your request to be removed from their junk mail list. Further, you could sign the bottom if you agree to never buy anything from or patronize any business (or nonprofit!) who sends you junk in the mail. You could even take it to real HERO level and designate a stamp or two from every book you buy for those that don’t include an envelope with their junk. If you feel inclined, send this to someone you think is cool enough to take it seriously. Come on people, I’ve seen how far email forwards can go. The more of us who do this, the louder the message gets. Perhaps they will hear us saying that we should not have to jump through endless hoops in order to ensure our rights, or protect our earth. Perhaps they’ll get tired of paying for something that doesn’t benefit them and hurts their client base. Maybe.... maybe they’ll stop just to save the trees. (If you don’t know yet how valuable trees really are, read the book The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann. In fact, just read it anyway.)