Female Genital Integrity | Intersex Genital Integrity | Male Genital Integrity
It is easy to define genital integrity. Everyone has genitals. However, it becomes a problem to define male genitals as simply a penis and scrotum. We could simply define male as a biological category and say that to be a proper male your genitals must look a stereotypical way. And that only those who have the "right kind" of male genitals can be called real men. But it is this very attitude of defining "male" that leads to forced genital cutting of infants and children. According to this type of logic to be "male" your genitals must match your gender.
Proponents of infant male circumcision always refer to infants who have a penis, a foreskin, and a scrotum as "male." This is because society dictates what male genitals are supposed to look like and that only males can have those genitals. Therefore, male circumcision often refers to the cutting of the prepuce, a fold of sensitive skin, from around the penis.
Students for Genital Integrity does not prescribe to a genital-to-gender system of definitions. This is, in part, to protect infants whose gender can be called "male" but whose genitals do not fit the male standard. Often unwanted genital surgeries are practiced on intersex infants or infants with "micro-penis" in order to make them look more "male" or in many cases to exclude them from being male. Often those with micro-penis are reassigned as females and their genitals are made to "look like" stereotyped female genitals.
Because there are social and structural inequalities between the male and female genders, references to male circumcision do not usually consider the practice one that is disenfranchising, damaging, or abusive to men. In order to see male circumcision in the same light as other forced genital surgeries these aspects must be noticed and validated, not because male privilege does not exist, but because as infants, the child has not yet accepted this constructed privilege.
Male genital integrity refers to any infant whose society has assigned their gender as male or who may be "reassigned" as female (in which case the infant would be protected by female genital integrity). To SGI, no matter what the genitals look like, Male Genital Integrity protects the rights of any human infant whose body is called male, not what heteronormative society classifies as "real" or "biological" male genitals. Most circumcisions occur because uncircumcised penises (correctly called intact) are not considered "normal" or "real" male genitals.
In this section, SGI will provide information regarding the forced genital cutting of the sex organs that are often called "male." This does not mean that SGI considers these genitals, nor the individuals who own them, automatically male. SGI believes that there must be room within the definition of male to allow individuals like intersex or transgender persons, whose genitals do not conform to the male genital standard, to still be authentically male.
Male Genital Cutting
Circumcision often removes all of the loose skin from the penile shaft, skin that usually covers the glans of the penis. North American society usually circumcises their infants who have a penis and a scrotum for "health" reasons even though most pediatric medical associations say it does not improve health. While the American Academy of Pediatrics says male circumcision may be practiced for "cultural" reasons it condemns all cultural practices that circumcise females, even those that merely prick the clitoral hood. Many circumcisions happen because of misconceptions and ideology of proper male genitals.
The "benefits," such as "better appearance" or the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs) cannot justify the forced amputation or alteration of sexual tissues from infants and children. Citing the example above, recurring UTIs are often caused by internal problems not external ones, and infants and children with penises rarely have UTIs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics medical library, About 3 percent of girls and 1 percent of boys will have a UTI by 11 years of age. Circumcising children for health reasons is unfounded and irrational.
In cases surgery is forced on intersex children, sexual tissues are reshaped into what is socially considered normal for being "male." Genital integrity does not include surgeries that aim to correct problems that may occur to the urinary tract as this is a health issue for all infants. However, phimosis, or a tight foreskin, is not a true medical problem because childhood phimosis is normal. Furthermore, adult onset phimosis can be treated conservatively, non-surgically, saving much of the nerve and vein tissues in the foreskin. Forced genital cutting is practiced to force human genitals into social expectations of what constitutes normal male and female standards (aka., heteronomative). Genital integrity is a movement that intends to bring personal choice back to the individual.
While SGI recognizes the personal endangerment of genital cutting, it is a much different case when it is done with fully informed consent and not as part of a gender-based abusive practice. SGI believes in a person's right to choose.
For more information on the penis and foreskin and what happens during forced genital surgery see our links page for other web sites and books.
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Copyright © 2003 Students for Genital Integrity
*Genital Integrity ribbon is Copyright © 1998-2003 NOHARMM Tim Hammond
No information within the StudentsForGenitalIntegrity.org domain is meant as,
or should replace, medical advice. However, many health care providers
know very little about foreskin function and male genital care due to
pandemic North American ignorance and false information about boy child
genital anatomy and its development. For a list of knowledgeable health care
providers in your area write to info@StudentsForGenitalIntegrity.org
or visit www.NOCIRC.org.
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