Mothering magazine: 'Where Is My Foreskin?' (Readers' letters)

The current issue of Mothering magazine, no. 86, Jan/Feb 1998 has 13
letters published as the response to the Oct. 1997 Mothering article "The
Case Against Circumcision" by Paul Fleiss, MD. [Letters are sent to "Your
Letters", Mothering, PO Box 1690, Santa Fe, NM 87504; email: ]

The letters are on pages 10 to 13.

Congratulations on "The Case Against Circumcision" (Winter 1997).
Mothering has been at the forefront of this educational crusade for many
years. Keep up the wonderful tradition and educational service provided by
your superb publication.
Again, thank you from millions of parents and their sons.

- James E. Peron, EdD
Childbirth Education Foundation


Thank you for having the guts to finally publish the truth about
circumcision. It is an operation that has no medical benefits and is much
misunderstood by the parenting population.
Much of this misinformation has been spread by my colleagues, who
continue to look for a reason for its practice. There is only one main
reason I can see, and that is easy money. Never mind the ethical standards
that the operation violates, which they never address, either because of
ignorance or choosing to ignore the facts.
I applaud you for breaking the ice and stating that routine infant
circumcision is unnecessary and wrong. Continue your good work. We keep
Mothering in our waiting room for patients to read.

- K. Baker, MD
Obstetrics and Gynecology


Thank you for having the courage to ask the question that no one wants
to admit colors the circumcision debate: "Where is My Foreskin?"
"The Case Against Circumcision" will educate parents about the
structure and function of the foreskin, as well as about the physical,
psychological, and sexual harm caused by its loss. I was horrified by the
first circumcision I saw as a nursing student. Weeks later, I was stunned
to realize that in telling what was being done to babies behind closed
doors I was also revealing the horror of what had already happened to so
many males in our society-- including my husband and three sons. I now know
that a wound must be recognized before it can be healed.
When my youngest son asked me for a copy of _Sexual Mutilations- A
Human Tragedy_ edited by George Denniston, MD and myself, I inscribed the
following: "You know that if I could take one thing back in my life of many
mistakes it would be the circumcision of my sons-- the gravest mistake of
all. It is the pain and trauma inflicted upon you – because I didn't know
enough to protect you – that will save untold numbers of other babies from
the same suffering. It will never be enough-- because it won't by you and
your brothers that are spared."
I would like to let readers know that the Fifth International
Symposium on Sexual Mutilations will be held at Oxford University, August
5-7, 1998. For more information, contact NOCIRC, PO Box 2512, San Anselmo,
CA 94979.

- Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN
Executive Director, NOCIRC
San Anselmo, California


As a pediatric nurse practitioner working in a hospital birthing
center, I honor a woman's inner power. I am always glad when a family
decides to leave the foreskin intact. For those who choose the procedure, I
gently make sure that they understand that it is unnecessary and why.
However, "The Case Against Circumcision" incites fear and does not
honor what Mothering is about. I have never, ever sent off foreskin to be
used for pharmaceutical or cosmetic experiments or uses. It is disposed of
in the wastebasket! What million-dollar business are you possibly talking
about? Mothers give themselves enough to feel guilty about, let's not add

- Kathryn Landon-Malone, RN
Portland, Maine


"The Case Against Circumcision" turned up the same week we were told
that our ten-year-old son would need to be circumcised. Your article
confirmed all the reasons we left our son's foreskin intact in the first
place. We never thought we would have to revisit this. Our son's foreskin
retracted after birth, but now it doesn't.
Research has taught us that nonretracting foreskins do occasionally
occur in a small percentage of older boys and that there are alternatives
to circumcision, including manual stretching and less drastic forms of
We would like to hear from other readers who have been through this.
What option(s) did you choose? How do you locate a like-minded healthcare
practitioner? How did your son handle the attention?

- Parents in Pennsylvania


In "The Case Against Circumcision" Dr. Fleiss makes a very convincing
argument. Nowhere, however, does he mention religious reasons for
I would be very interested to hear how other Jewish families resolve
this issue. Do they follow their hearts, as he suggests, at the price of
horrifying and alienating their families? Or do they follow their faith by
subjecting their child to something that goes against all their parenting
ideals? For some people, this issue is far from simple.

- Kathryn Orlinsky
Irvine, California


While I agree that circumcision for medical reasons is unwarranted,
"The Case Against Circumcision" argues in a culturally insensitive manner
against all circumcision.
Jewish tradition goes back to Abraham's circumcision of Isaac and
other males in his household at God's command (including Ishmael and
himself), as a "sign of the covenant." My son's bris was one of the most
profound spiritual events of my life. The pain of cutting my new baby – to
him and to me – was not lost on me, and it was in fully encountering this
pain that I felt the awesome transcendence of consecrating another
generation to the service of God. The paradox is that the very physicality
of this ritual charges it with a power that was formerly unknown to me in
any religious practice. No doubt child sacrifice – as once practiced --
was also very powerful. Circumcision falls far short of such ritual murder
-- now condemned – yet preserves something of the primal and transcendent
meaning involved in offering one's child to God.
Dr. Fleiss's claim that the Roman Empire prohibited circumcision to
protect children is a shockingly inaccurate and shameful misrepresentation
of a classic tactic of antisemitic religious persecution. Rome also
prohibited the study of Jewish texts and the observance of the Sabbath.
Finally, the Jewish people will be saddened to discover that our brain
development has been stunted by circumcision! The folly of such a claim in
the light of the highly disproportionate number of Jewish males among Nobel
Prize laureates, etc., makes it unworthy of serious response. I hope that
future treatment of this subject in your fine magazine will be more
nuanced, sophisticated, and culturally sensitive.

- Jeffrey Chajes, PhD (Yale)
Circumcised, healthy, and sexually satisfied!


"Where is My Foreskin?"  Males of my baby-boom generation have
wondered about that for decades, and we have been falsely told that a part
of our bodies was whacked off for our own good.
Kudos to Dr. Paul Fleiss for his comprehensive, compelling, and richly
documented article. It not only tells how complex a structure the foreskin
is, but how valuable it is to be completely male as nature intended.
Circumcision is repulsive abuse of helpless newborns, ethically
indefensible, and a human rights violation that cannot continue. Expectant
parents need to wise up and say no! We cannot expect the medical profession
to lead the way to ending this rude, crude, and violent treatment of our
youngest males as they come into this world.

- Lawn Griffiths
Tempe, Arizona


Finally a piece that explains the function of the foreskin-- another
example of how perfect nature is. I was very disappointed that there were
no pictures of intact and circumcised penises. I realize that with the
current concern about kiddie porn it may not be wise to show actual
photographs of genitals, but how about some diagrams? Most people are not
aware of the differences in penises.
Thank you again for a fine magazine.

- Deborah Yokum
Saranac, New York


As nurses who educate parents about circumcision, it was a great
relief to read "The Case Against Circumcision" by Paul Fleiss, MD. Many
physicians present "a balanced view" about circumcision, leading parents to
believe that circumcision is a benign procedure and that it's "no big
deal." Dr. Fleiss lays that myth to rest.
Circumcision harms a child sexually and emotionally. It also damages
the child's bond with his mother. Congratulations to Mothering for being "a
fierce advocate for the needs and rights of the child."

- Mary Conant, RN
Betty Katz Sperlich, RN
Nurses for the Rights of the Child
Santa Fe, New Mexico


Thank you for "The Case Against Circumcision". Because I read an
article about circumcision in Mothering several years ago, our son has his
foreskin intact, *and* I've become a field organizer for the National
Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC).
Thank you, thank you for keeping the circumcision issue upfront and in
the public's eye. For the children!

- Laurin Kiser
Gastonia, North Carolina


Thank you so much for "The Case Against Circumcision". I read a fine
book called _Circumcision- What It Does_ by Billy Ray Boyd, which
particularly talks about how circumcision affects a man's sexuality.

-  Clay Olson
Santa Cruz, California


When my son was born, I believed that "boys are circumcised." When I
asked the doctor if it would hurt, he just laughed and said, "Of course not!"
Now I am suffering guilt, self-hatred, and sorrow. Why didn't I
protect my son? Where was my consciousness? Why didn't I demand to know
more? How can I forgive myself and help my son to heal? Do I discuss this
with my son who is 8 years old? How do we reconcile and heal if we
recognize our mistake?

- Jennifer Silver
New York City, New York

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