One Strong Belief: Genital Integrity

St Anthony Monastery, Florence AZ

One Strong Belief

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it? (Author: Buster Benson)

I Believe in Genital Integrity

Strong beliefs have never been my strongest suit. Being easygoing and open to persuasion comes naturally to me; taking a hard line position does not. I learned to be a diplomat by necessity, as the last of 7 children, and always the youngest person in a household of 13. Born under the sign of Libra, I’m practiced at weighing the options, adding a healthy dose of optimism and compassion, and still declining to make a choice or pass judgment. At times my indecision has caused me grief –roads taken/not taken, money wasted for example– or frustrated some who view flexibility as an irresponsible cop-out to avoid commitment and the potential for subsequent fallout or blame. On the other hand, going with the flow has often helped me mediate disagreements to successful outcomes and diffuse tense, sticky situations. With this touchy topic encompassing cultural habits and religious beliefs, I trust my tongue-in-cheek approach encourages any discourse to be respectful and peaceful.

My passionate stance against circumcision is relatively recent. My dear friend Katie Hodge Dean shared a link to the blog Peaceful Parenting, where I’ve learned more than the average single, child-free woman likely knows about lactation, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, home-schooling, and raising intact boys. Today’s entry is quite apropos. Intact men reading this may enjoy a gleeful reminiscence of personal ‘ballooning’ experiences:

I have come to believe genital integrity is a basic human right. More to the point, I believe circumcision, male or female, is a barbaric act of mutilation, performed without an individual’s consent. Who would agree to be thrust into excruciating pain, with the potential for infection, disfigurement or even death, by allowing the cutting –without anesthesia– of one of the most sensitive areas of the body? The newborn baby in an American hospital ‘agrees’ by default. His only means of defending himself against the assault would be to writhe incessantly, but he is strapped (or held) down) to prevent this. A young Somali girl may face the horrific pain of her fate with stoic anguish, rather than face being an outcast. She may be tied or forcibly held down or, in a bizarre juxtaposition of mercy and brutality, be knocked into unconscious submission by a blow to the head.

Female genital cutting is illegal in the United States. Why are male babies not similarly protected by law? Doesn’t birth itself already involve enough blood, screams, trauma and pain? Who knows why I developed this One Strong Belief. Perhaps because I’m a sucker for stories; hearing, telling, reading, and writing them. There was no instant, conscious decision to take a stand, but rather a feeling that grew as I processed the heart-wrenching stories and apologies to sons, written by parents who wish they had accessed more/better/different information, challenged their ob/gyn, set aside their fears and discomfort to at least have an open, reasoned discussion.

I’m inclined to believe these statements are more true than false:

Circumcision facts (and myths) are discussed only minimally by most parents.
Circumcision violates the Hippocratic oath. The physician promises “to do no harm.”
Circumcision is cultural. Non-religious circumcision is a purely American phenomenon.
Circumcision is a medical necessity for only a tiny percentage (2%) of newborn males.
Circumcision is not decried by the medical community because it generates revenue.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) website offers parents a few pros and cons about “should we or shouldn’t we” but the information is surprisingly brief and mostly unscientific. Supposedly there is no health organization in the world which advocates the cutting of the foreskin of a healthy newborn male. On a positive note, trends in recent years show more US parents are evaluating the varied and conflicting information, leading many to make the less common choice, even if it means little Johnny “will look different from Daddy” and, both Daddy and Mommy will need to learn, and teach their son, about the care (in a nutshell, just leave it alone) and eventual development of his natural equipment.

My personal belief aside, I do not judge any parent(s) for the choice he/she/they make(s). But now, whenever I hear someone I know is expecting, with rare exceptions, I hope and pray they are blessed with a baby girl. So there you have it, what inspired my One Strong Belief. As for actively living it, I suppose with this post, I have declared myself to be, as the term goes, an “intactivist.”

A few weeks ago, a HS classmate posted on Facebook about San Francisco voting on a circumcision ban in November and added her comment: “I think it’s time to end cultural mutilations.” A lively debate began, but then quickly petered out. I’ve pasted in my comments from that thread, below the line after the article, if anyone is interested.


Chris, I totally agree and applaud you for posting about a hot & sensitive topic. I have raised eyebrows for having the nerve to have an opinion, especially as a child-free (and now unmarried), woman. It makes people uncomfortable & they don’t want to go there.

Tom re: (female genital mutilation) Male or female, why should any level of mutilation be acceptable? If not medically necessary, isn’t it a violation of human rights? As for religion, two Jewish (male) doctors have written books decrying it, advocating merely a tiny ‘symbolic’ cut at the bris instead. Read countless agonized stories by parents who regret not making an informed decision. There are more impressive, updated sites, but this is simple food for thought. This site is a little over-the-top and amateurish, but the plain truth is just as ear piercings naturally close up, the foreskin can be stretched and restored.  [*smiles* and wonders if a few curious and open-minded men will consider taking matters into their own (or their partner’s) hands] This site is very thorough, actually a critique of the above site, based on one man’s experience with prostate surgery and restoration

Yes, I am deeply passionate about this serious subject, joking & innuendo aside. Incorporating humor seems to make it a little more palatable for the masses. 😉


#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.

About ciaomari

Food is in my blood! My Sicilian ancestors were lemon & grape farmers, bakers & grocers. I grew up gardening, canning, fishing & berry-picking. Choosing, preparing & serving food make my heart sing. I live to feed and care for people, at home & work. Food = love! I'm an irrepressibly enthusiastic & infinitely curious East Coast Renaissance woman transplanted to the Southwest desert: beverage geek, food nerd, herb gardener, historian, hospitality pro, musician, nature lover, ordained minister, photographer, polyglot, reader, re-user, recycler, soul therapist, writer & voyager. Admiring beauty, observing details, spreading joy, living mindfully, reading voraciously, writing from the heart, loving passionately... these are a few of my priorities. Thank you for visiting and sharing yourself with me as well.
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10 Responses to One Strong Belief: Genital Integrity

  1. Katie Dean says:

    Oh Marianne, I had no idea that I had anything to do with touching you about something I hold so dear and am so passionate (and often saddened about.) I am so beyond proud to have intact boys. And I will never forget the response of a great friend of mine regarding her decision to not mutilate her perfectly healthy boys: It’s not by body. It’s not my right.

    I know I come across as over-the-top passionate – but it’s TRUE: baby boys are born PERFECT! What on earth makes us think we have the right to decide an important piece of their body i=does not belong. It’s absurd!

    Oh Marianne! I had no idea! Yay! Something I said/did had an impact! YAY!

  2. Chris Lee says:

    Love how you write, Marianne!

  3. kurt_t says:

    Thank you. This is the only thing that will end this abominable practice. All of us speaking out. Men, women, parents, non-parents, mutilated and not. I wish I’d started speaking out sooner. I’m glad I am now. I won’t stop until the day I die.

    • ciaomari says:

      Kurt… You’re welcome, and thanks for reading/commenting. Bless. Your. Heart. I think you are incredibly courageous to speak out with such honesty and passion about something so personal. Your blog entries make me laugh and cry. I look forward to reading more. ~Mari

  4. ciaomari says:

    Moshe… Thanks for commenting and posting those links, which lead to a treasure trove of archived information and currently active sites where I hope to further educate myself. If I understand correctly, your Username links to a page of with a passage written by you 22 years ago, just before your son Sammy was born. God bless you and Yehudit for being so brave as to defy family, religious and societal norms all those years ago, in order to do right by your son. ~Mari

    This statement on the home page is a brilliant, simple summary of the issue:

    “The forced amputation of a healthy part of an unconsenting [sic] infant’s or child’s genitals, whether in the name of medicine, religion or social custom, is a human rights violation.”

  5. Shinae Nae says:

    My son has all his pieces parts, and he was born in a Stepford like city where circumcision seemed a fairly unquestioned practice, so I got a few raised eyebrows among girlfriends who thought me a bit of a hippie for choosing not to (and maybe a few mental high-fives from their husbands).

    But I’m glad he’s whole. He’s 12 years old now, never had a health issue related to being intact. (Why would he?)

    Thanks for writing about this. I think more people need to stop and think about why they’re doing this rather than how they might be perceived for not.

  6. ciaomari says:

    Shinae, I’m so happy to meet you! Thanks for reading and adding your personal experience. Your son is a lucky boy to have all his pieces parts! Hope those husbands did mentally high-five you; seems all too common the father is the one *pushing circumcision (if he’ll even discuss it at all). Your last statement is really the crux of the matter, and I wholeheartedly agree. Whether it’s because they’re uncomfortable discussing it, or they haven’t asked enough questions to believe the medically factual truth, too many people brush it off as no big deal. I pray to see the day when it is properly recognized as the crime that it is: a violent, premeditated assault against an unarmed, defenseless individual.

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