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Part of Us is Missing:
The Ritual Mutilation of Male Children
edited excerpt from The Green Man, p. 12-15, Autumn/Winter 1995
Although NOHARMM affirms the general focus of this article, specific opinions of the author
do not necessarily reflect our organizational position.
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Before he understands, before thoughts and emotions are translatable into words, while he should be experiencing warmth, closeness and love at his mother's breast, he is taken by strangers, strapped to a cold board under bright lights, cut, wounded, hurt, mutilated and separated from part of himself. He screams in agony and protest, but his cries go unheeded. At the deepest level of his consciousness he feels fear, hurt, loss, separation and the anger. Twenty, thirty, fifty years later, underneath the conditioning of language and moral teaching, the pain, the loss of part of self, and the anger remain.
He is forever a wounded man. He can never recognize and deal with the emotional trauma which always lives below his consciousness. Even with hypnosis he will remember only the emotions: his pain, his loss, his anger.
We are a race of wounded, angry men. The wound is so deep that most us don't even understand why we are angry. We didn't understand, we didn't comprehend, we can't remember, we bury the pain. We turn away, deny that a memory exists, yet we still feel the pain. Still and forever, part of us is missing.
Over 3,000 boys are victims of ritual sexual mutilation (circumcision) every day in the United States; over one million every year. In the 1800s, fundamentalist preachers, who equated sexual gratification with :sin," seized the Jewish tradition of circumcision as a method of reducing the potential for sexual pleasure by male children. They believed that with a major portion of their erogenous tissues cut away, boys would be less able to "abuse themselves" by masturbation, and later as adults would be less likely to engage in "sinful" sexual pleasures.
The practice of mutilating children was widely promoted from pulpits and by the medical establishment as a "standard procedure." Doctors gave untrue and illogical justifications for the mutilations: it prevented disease, it was cleaner, it was more "natural."
Circumcision cuts only a small area from an infant, but for an adult male it amounts to about 15 square inches of the most erogenous tissues of our body, about the size of a 3x5 card. Although the procedure has long been done, there are often complications. Each year, children lose their whole penis or major parts thereof, due to botched circumcisions or infections.
Most countries ended the practice fifty years ago. With their governments no longer paying for the surgery, it is now hardly ever done. In the United States, the fees are paid by insurance companies or government agencies, almost never directly by the parents. Over a quarter of a billion dollars is collected annually by the medical establishment for mutilating healthy male children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has admitted that there is no medical reason for these mutilations. But it is hard for doctors to admit that they have harmed so many thousands of men. Neither can they admit that they themselves were also harmed, so they deny, and the mutilations continue.
Over 3,000 boys are victims of
ritual sexual mutilation (circumcision) every day
in the United States, over one million every year.
While doctors wield the knives, mothers have the ultimate responsibility. A father's advice may be sought, but even the legal power to prevent this cruelty to our children has been cut from us. It is mothers whose permission is required by the hospitals and doctors. It is mothers who give their baby boys from their breast to be taken and mutilated. It is mothers who could just say NO! [NOHARMM Note: It is our experience that mothers who consent to circumcision are heavily influenced by males around them who expect or demand the surgery, in order to "look like daddy" or for "social conformity." This is not to say, however, that there are not some pro-circumcision mothers who override the wishes of fathers who oppose having their sons mutilated.]
A Pagan priest told me recently when discussing male infant circumcision that "It teaches them that pain doesn't matter." At first I was angered by his lack of understanding, but now I realize that for him, like for many, the pain does matter, but it is too much to confront.
I realize that he is, in many ways, right and insightful. It does teach boys, as our first lesson in life, that our pain does not matter: to mother, and by extension, to any woman. It teaches us resentment, fear, distrust, anger - against mother, against women. We can never love again without fear, for our first whole, trusting love has been shattered. The pain, the terror, the harm is so deeply buried within ourselves that it will remain with us always, just as the covering of our penis will remain missing, always.
It also teaches boys never to trust doctors, nurses, or hospitals. Men receive much less medical or emotional treatment than women, because we are afraid. We can't trust them. Men die each year because they put off seeking medical treatment until it is too late, while prompt attention would have saved them. Despite the risks, we fear, we distrust, we refuse treatment until we have no other choice but death.
Many or perhaps all of us, deep
within, are unable to separate the love from the pain,
the board from the breast, or the knife from the milk.
It also teaches boys that pain and love are connected. In the first hours of life, a child is bonding with his mother, his world is one of unconscious and unquestioned love. When he goes from the warmth of mother's breast to the cutting board, to the horrible pain and mutilation, and back to the breast, many or perhaps all of us, deep within, are unable to separate the love from the pain, the board from the breast or the knife from the milk. We have dreams and fetishes of abuse by women, of suffering pain during sex, of experiencing hurt in order to experience love. For many of us love is unreachable without pain. We learn that our pain doesn't matter, the first of a long series of a boy's lessons. Boys don't cry! Dry those tears! Are you a girl? (Girls' and women's feelings matter.) We learn that our feelings don't count, our hurts are inconsequential. Mothers, women, don't accept our feelings. We learn that if our pain doesn't matter and our feelings don't matter, then we don't matter. We are expendable, usable, inconsequential, already destroyed. We search in vain for acceptance and understanding, for some way, some one, some place where we do matter, where our hurt counts.
For many of us the lesson means
that all pain doesn't matter. Hurting or killing others
is no more consequential than hurting ourselves, and we don't matter.
For many of us the lesson means that all pain doesn't matter. Hurting or killing others is no more consequential than hurting ourselves, and we don't matter. Hurting others may be an attempt to reach the unknowable anger within, that has been there from our beginning. If we hurt enough, if we see enough pain, if we kill enough animals or humans, will it be enough for the pain we suffered?
Professionals can't help. They
have the same deep, buried primal fears
and pain which they can't face, even in their patients.
Will our pain, ourselves, ever matter? We go to war, and kill or are killed, but our death doesn't matter, we don't matter. We learn to hunt and kill animals and fish, but they don't matter, their death and their pain doesn't matter. Some us join youth gangs that hurt or kill. Some use drugs that deaden the pain of life; for a while they don't have to feel the pain. Many strike out against loved ones in anger or rage, hitting wives or children, raping or killing, and we know not from where the rage came.
There is so much anger within us, so deeply buried. A few seek psychological counseling, but for most of us, professionals can't help. They have the same deep, buried primal fears and pain which they can't face, even in their patients.
Many men stop trying. If we don't matter, if our lives don't matter, there is no point in trying to succeed. Over 90% of the homeless are men, men who have stopped trying, have quit playing the game, because it just doesn't matter, they don't matter. At last many men take the final way out: killing themselves. Men are the suicide sex. Women don't kill themselves; their pain and fear matters, it's not so deep, not so primal, and they can accept help. Men can't and don't. We don't count, we are expendable, we die.
Robert Bly talks about how the essential universal emotion of men is pain. At men's gatherings, where our primal emotions are sought, our pain underlies all else. We cry and scream, but though some of us manage to find and express the pain, the cause cannot be cured. We who seek the ancient ways as Pagan or Wiccan priests must confront the dark side of ourselves and our emotions as part of our training, in order to face the Horned One on equal terms, in order to find the Goddess within ourselves and within those women whom we love.
The face of our first terror is deep and primal, and inexorably mixed up with love and mother. Yet face it we must, and while we can't ever be free, while our bodies will never be whole, we can learn to understand and deal with the pain that is part of ourselves. When we are angry, we can learn to know from whence the anger comes, and to turn aside to peace. Only then can we fully know and love the Goddess and Her daughters.
In my coven skyclad rituals,
there are no men who have their sexual organs intact.
There are no women who don't.
In my coven skyclad rituals, there are no men who have their sexual organs intact. There are no women who don't. When I was in grade school there was only one boy who was unmutilated. We had no understanding of why his penis was different from ours, so he was ostracized for being different. Looking back, I understand that he came from a poor family, and probably was born at home. He escaped mutilation because his parents couldn't afford the "benefits" of modern medicine.
In Santa Fe, NM a group of nurses in the largest hospital has begun boycotting circumcisions. They have said NO! to the doctors, parents and to their employer. It is a courageous step. They are criticized and threatened, but they are steadfast in their resolution. The hospital and the doctors find others willing to assist, but these nurses are raising the consciousness of parents and doctors alike. In Santa Fe, the numbers are now down to only about three fourths of newborn boys circumcised at birth.
Whenever our protests are raised, people argue that the mutilation of male children is their right of religious freedom. For three thousand years all manner of cruelty and violence has been "justified" in the name of the same religions. Religious freedom is protected by law, and we believe strongly that it should be. What people have suffered more from the lack thereof than Pagan folk? If one would protect freedom though, it must apply to all people, including our children. One of the most fundamental rights is to be secure in our body. If a man joins their religion, then let him have his own body parts cut off if he chooses. In countries where the decision is left to the individual, very few (far less than 1%) make that decision.
In Africa, girls are commonly mutilated by having their outer genitals cut off. A couple of years ago, when only one African girl was mutilated in Paris, it made headline news throughout the western world. The mother was punished as a criminal. A similar case in California ended the same. Yet, no one objects to the thousands of male children who undergo equivalent mutilation every day. Do boys matter, or just girls?
We need men willing to break the code of silence.
Sexually abusing children is a felony, even for a doctor, parent, rabbi or priest. Ritual abuse of children is a felony. Assault with grave bodily harm (cutting off normal healthy body parts) is a felony. We don't need new laws. What we need are prosecutors and judges willing to uphold our laws as they have sworn to do. We need civil rights attorneys. We need men willing to break the code of silence. We need fathers willing to stand in the doorways and block the halls, who are willing to raise their voices in screams of protest. We need mothers willing to hold their sons tight to their breasts and say NO!
For most of our brothers this is an unimportant issue, best forgotten. But it can never be forgotten, just buried in the pain of deep self. We have to teach our male children that the pain of men does matter! It is time to start now, to protest, to cry, to scream again as men the screams we screamed as infants. To make our strong male voices heard in unison, where once we screamed alone. To face our pain, our anger, our fear, and to scream in protest against preachers, against doctors, against women, to scream against MOTHER!
Saving one healthy male child from that which we have suffered will be worth our efforts, and worth facing our primal pain. May he, and all our brothers yet to come, be blessed with a lifetime of sexual fulfillment with a whole body and with the warmth of whole love which we can never know.
The fight to save the children is just beginning. There are now organizations working to stop the mutilations. It will be a long and difficult task, but change we must, and change we will! For action you can take, to obtain additional information or materials for use at men's workshops or meetings, contact NOHARMM.
At the time this article was published, Zardoz was an active youth leader with the Boy Scouts of America, and is currently negotiating to begin the first Wiccan Explorer Post for teenage Pagan boys and girls.
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