I like to occasionally peruse the traffic sources that bring people to my blog. Aside from some humourous searches, most are looking for me by name or searching for some aspect of Natural Parenting (and, as a note, most are from Google searches - YAY Google!).
I had one person visit during this last week searching for, "What is Genital Autonomy?"
I have one post that I wrote earlier this year for Genital Integrity Awareness Week, but I'd like to expound a little and explain what exactly I mean by the phrase "Genital Autonomy."
Let's take a basic look first -
Genital : (Source: Merriam-Webster)
1 : generative
2 : of, relating to, or being a sexual organ
3 : of, relating to, or characterized by the stage of psychosexual development in psychoanalytic theory during which oral and anal impulses are subordinated to adaptive interpersonal mechanisms
Autonomy : (Source: Merriam-Webster)
1: the quality or state of being self-governing; especially : the right of self-government
2: self-directing freedom and especially moral independence
3: a self-governing state
I highlighted both definitions of choice in the list of possibles.
So there is the basic definition. Genital Autonomy is the self-directing freedom and moral independence of one to choose what to do with his or her sexual organs.
Most often, one will hear the phrase "Genital Autonomy" used in reference to the act of Routine Infant Circumcision. Circumcision is the surgical act of excising the prepuce (and occasionally all or a portion of the meatus or clitoris). There are a number of reasons that circumcisions are performed throughout the world, both on boys and girls with ages ranging from days to decades old. Most circumcisions are not performed for any therapeutic value - often times, routine circumcisions are performed as a sort of religious or cultural rite. Members of the Jewish faith have a mohel perform the amputating of the prepuce on the eighth day of a boy's life as part of the Brit Milah. Followers of the Islamic faith (the largest world group to circumcise) do not have quite as clear guidelines set forth, but many infants are circumcised; some boys are circumcised at the onset of puberty as a rite of passage, and in some countries girls are still circumcised likewise. The only group of people who do not routinely circumcise as part of a religious rite are Americans. As a remnant of our Puritanical upbringing, Americans circumcise their young, often blindly, holding the beliefs that it is cleaner (both as an organ and as a transmitter for sexually transmitted infections). Tradition is deepset, with many fathers wanting their sons to be similarly equipped for fear that questions may be asked at some point as to why a father and son do not look the same. Thankfully, across all fronts, it appears as though routine circumcision is on the decline except in Africa, where HIV/AIDS propagators are in full force, convincing adult men that circumcision will cure or deter them from getting HIV. While more time should be invested in educating men on safe sex practices and the proper use of a condom, money is being used to mass-circumcise adult men and to educate women to have their sons circumcised as well. At times, medical reasons do arise that warrant a circumcision in males of all ages - phimosis, severe adhesions, anomalies. I have no qualms with these - as long as a medical indication marks circumcision on an infant or child truly necessary, it is justified and is a therapeutic practice.
So why should a parent "choose" to give their child the freedom to determine the fate of his or her prepuce? Many reasons...
1. We are made perfectly. There is no reason to unnecessarily undo what has been done and what has been intended. If you are Christian, the Bible explicitly states this and warns against circumcision.
2. It is a life-altering event that may lead to physical and emotional hardships later in life.
3. It is unnecessary in most cases.
4. It is dangerous. It only takes 2 ounces of blood loss for a baby to exsanguinate.
5. The immediate damages of shock and altered brain function can impede the bonding of a child with his or her mother, inhibiting breastfeeding and natural and complete development. Circumcision with no anaesthesia or improperly administered local anaesthesia hurts! It hurts so much, baby boys go into shock and their brain is permanently damaged.
6. It is not a parent's choice. It is the choice of the man or woman that child will become.
The determination of an individual's genital configuration should be chosen solely by the owner of said genitals. That is what Genital Autonomy is, and every individual deserves this basic right.
Many groups are working tirelessly to educate more parents on the possible consequences of circumcision - erectile dysfunction later in life; permanent neurological damage; hardships in bonding and breastfeeding; complications immediately following the procedure; complications in healing after the procedure; aesthetically unpleasing; decreased natural penile function (ie. self-cleaning).
I chose to leave my son intact, much to the dismay of some family members. My poor grandmother didn't know what to do when she changed his diaper the first time she watched him. "All of my boys were circumcised," she said. "I didn't know how to clean it!" I know, however, that I made the right choice, and if, when he is able to consent to the procedure, he decided he'd like it done, then I will likewise support him in that decision (I will most like try to dissuade him a little, but it's his choice!). That is what Genital Autonomy is.
I hope that more parents will take a similar stance and do their part in preserving the integrity of their children's whole bodies. The most important piece of advice I can give parents who do leave their children intact is to find a supportive and sympathetic doctor who is well-versed in intact care. While interviewing pediatricians, simply ask, "What about circumcision? Should I have it done?" and listen carefully to their answer. Try to find out about any other doctors in their practice (we had a mixed experience with our pediatrician's office, and I was told by one doctor that "he'll end up with HIV because you didn't have him circumcised").
I feel very strongly about this issue, and I hope to have imparted some knowledge to you so that when faced with this situation, an ethical "choice" may be made regarding the preservation of your child.
|My Beautiful & Intact Son|
How do you feel about Genital Autonomy and Genital Integrity? Share in the comments or on the FaceBook.