Why This 'Intactivist' Is for Foreskin

January 30th 2016

Marilyn Milos was already a mother of three, but it wasn’t until 1979, as a Bay Area nursing student and aspiring midwife, when she watched a doctor perform a real-life circumcision on an infant boy. It was an experience she never forgot, one that compelled her to question the surgery's merits, she told ATTN:. Now, 37 years later, Milos has become one of the most outspoken proponents of a burgeoning anti-circumcision movement, which its members call 'intactivism.'

Circumcision movementFacebook/ATTN: -

“When I started, it was to stop the screams of babies,” Milos, who is now the Executive Director of a non-profit advocacy group called The National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Center (NOCIRC), told ATTN:. “Then, men began to scream.”

Intactivists staunchly believe that male circumcision is an act of “genital mutilation,” one that is medically unnecessary, sexually detrimental, and a violation of basic human rights. They frequently compare the severity of the procedure to the ritual of female genital cutting.

The CDC and other health organizations continue to advocate circumcision, citing research that states that the procedure greatly reduces the risk of STDs and other infections, including HIV. However, this has not dissuaded intactivists, who claim that these numbers fail to paint a complete picture, from taking action.

There's a growing movement against circumcision.

Since the 1980s, intactivists have been operating mostly as a fringe group, but in recent years, the movement has steadily gained traction both online and offline, thanks to its tight-knit group of fervently vocal advocates. In 2011, intactivists collected nearly 12,000 signatures in the Bay Area in support of banning circumcision for minors. It was enough to earn them a coveted spot on the municipal ballot, but backlash from allegations of anti-Semitism ultimately quashed their efforts.

Anti-circumcision penises at San Francisco Pride ParadeFlickr/Caitlin Childs -

Milos, who has been both “credited and blamed” for founding intactivism, has been extolling the sanctity of foreskin since the 1980s, when she would speak on local radio shows and proselytize at Marin General Hospital, where she worked as a nurse. Her message first resonated with gay men, who were happy to hear a medical professional speak out on their behalf on the topic of male pleasure.

“The foreskin is not the wrapper. It's the candy,” Milos told ATTN:. “Circumcised men have sex more often because they’ve never had a full body release. They continue to seek what has been stolen from them: a normal sex life.”

She asserts that up until recently, anti-circumcision discourse has largely been rejected by mainstream culture in America due to feelings of guilt and repression. Throughout her crusade, she has encountered ambivalent doctors, “regret moms,” circumcised men who maintain the status quo out of ego or tradition, and those who are simply in denial.

"What man wants to hear that the most sensitive part of his penis was chopped off, thrown into the trash can, and now someone out there is probably making money off his purloined foreskin?" Milos asked.

NOCIRC has attempted to align the intactivist movement with other human rights organizations geared toward both the abolishment of female genital cutting and intersex body modification, but with minor interest. The radio silence has not deterred the organization from fighting the good fight. Milos said, “When you challenge the status quo, you are a fringe group.”

And despite the flack intactivists continue to receive from mainstream media, Milos remains steadfast in her conviction. She said, “If they're saying bad things about us, it means we’re getting publicity, which means we’re getting closer to winning.”

The alternative could be worse, she said. “The worst part was when they ignored us.”

Two out of three men worldwide are uncircumcised, and while the procedure is on the rise overseas in certain places like Korea and South Africa, circumcision rates in the U.S. continue to fluctuate, varying from region to region, with neonatal circumcisions declining steadily. According to the CDC, in 1979, approximately 65 percent of newborn boys in the United States were circumcised. By 2010, that number has dropped to 58 percent.

To learn more about the growing anti-circumcision movement, watch this ATTN: video:


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