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Why Foreskin Activists Are Taking to the Streets.
At the anti-circumcision trucks in NYC, come for the sex and stay for the graphic snip videos
Passersby in Manhattan’s Union Square are no strangers to public stunts. They’ve got high-flying skateboarders, activists, rallies and protests — and this week, a giant truck featuring a half-naked woman ripping the tighty-whities off a helpless dude. At the top are the words “foreskin… a girl can hope.” To the right, there’s a big ad sending onlookers to a site called foreskin.life, which promises a list called “4 Powers of Foreskin” and shows the intertwined legs of a couple in bed.
The group behind the truck is an anti-circumcision group called Intaction — like the words “intact” and “action.” Led by Anthony Losquadro, they’ve dedicated their time to fighting, or at least starting a conversation around, infant circumcision.
“Ninety-nine percent of European men are intact, and right now in America, the rates are closer to 50/50,” Losquadro says. “Thankfully the rate is beginning to decline, and our job is to drive that down to be as low as the European rates.” Though circumcision is a polarizing subject (you can read our extensive guide to it here), Losquadro claims he’s only there to educate the masses. That’s where the truck comes in.
After Intaction lures you in with the sexy stuff, they want you to watch graphic videos of babies getting snipped. “In addition to the main billboards, our mobile unit has exhibits such as the Infant Genital Cutting Exhibit, where people see what’s done to a baby in a hospital. It’s what the doctor won’t show you goes on behind closed doors — and that’s one of our most popular exhibits.”
After you’ve peeked behind the doctor’s curtain, head over to the truck’s historical exhibit: “Completely Bizarre History of American Circumcision.” Losquadro tells me all about circumcision’s history as a 19th-century anti-masturbatory procedure. My own research finds that John Harvey Kellogg, the cereal guy who was also a doctor, prescribed circumcision without anesthesia as a punishment for self-abuse.
As circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S. and intactivists spread their message further, foreskin-rights groups have been the subject of criticism — particularly for a broad insistence on calling circumcision “genital mutilation” and equating it with the more sadistic practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM. According to a joint statement from the U.N. and the World Health Organization, FGM is a human rights violation with no medical benefits. “Painful and traumatic,” it “interferes with the natural functioning of the body and causes several immediate and long-term health consequences.”
As for male circumcision, the WHO says male circumcision (in babies) results in a “very low rate of adverse events,” especially when performed by well-trained medical professionals.
Other doctors argue that circumcision actually provides health benefits, though research is ongoing. Pediatric urologist Anne-Marie Houle writes in the Canadian Urological Association Journal that circumcision can lower the risk of HIV, STDs and UTIs. She and many others provide evidence that circumcision actually improves sexual function and sensation. Houle also argues circumcision can help protect against penile cancer, as it removes the risk of phimosis (an inability to retract the foreskin), which is a risk factor.
Still, the intactivist scene continues to gain steam online. Some men try their hand at underwear that simulates foreskin, and some are on a quest to regrow their foreskins by hanging weights from their glans — take it from Wayne Griffiths, the “father of foreskin regeneration.” But according to Intaction, that’s not what their mission is about, nor are they trying to get to Capitol Hill. “We’re just conducting advocacy and educating,” Losquadro says.
Going on four years of public activism, the intactivists aren’t leaving Manhattan anytime soon — or at least until American circumcision rates match Europe’s. “We’re in Union Square every month, sometimes twice a month, until the winter weather shuts us down,” Losquadro says, adding that New York City’s size and diversity give them something like a perpetual focus group.
And so, the debate rages on in Union Square, in doctor’s offices and online. Intactivists like Losquadro say they’re just trying to tell their side of the story (though some activists have shown to be a bit more aggressive than that), while urologists and health organizations urge each individual to weigh their options and know the benefits.
In other words, it’s the classic example of an issue that cuts both ways.
Quinn Myers is a writer based in Chicago.
AN ADVOCACY GROUP IN NEW YORK CITY WANTS PEOPLE TO STOP CIRCUMCISING THEIR INFANT SONS
An advocacy group is protesting male circumcision on the streets of New York City in the hopes that the common procedure will no longer be carried out on infants.
Intaction – a play on the words intact and action – aims to convince American men, women, and doctors that neonatal circumcision is a violation of human rights.
The non-profit organization was first started in 2010 and their mission statement, according to the Inaction website, is “that every individual has the inalienable right to an intact body. Only an adult of majority age, with fully informed consent, can agree to needless and permanent body modification.”
Circumcision, or the removing of the foreskin from the penis, is one of the most common surgeries in America, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which estimates the rate is somewhere between 76 and 92 per cent of men.
In America, there are various explanations cited in favor for the procedure, including health and hygiene reasons and as part of cultural and religious traditions.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), circumcised males are less likely to contract HIV, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV) from sex. Circumcision has also been linked to lower risks of certain cancers.
However, Intaction views the “abhorrent” practice as comparable to female genital mutilation (FGM), which is illegal in the United States and exists for the sole purpose of controlling female sexuality. Spearheaded by founder Anthony Losquadro, after he questioned: “What did the doctor do to my body?” when he compared his own penis to those of male Renaissance sculptures in Florence, Italy, Losquadro decided to fight on behalf of the foreskin, “the most sensitive and important feature of the penis.”
Intaction uses a mobile education unit to educate the public about the powers of foreskin.
Through “disruptive protests, demonstrations, parental education,” and the use of a mobile education unit which reads: “Foreskin… a girl can hope,” Intaction’s goal is to “raise awareness about the value of intact genitals so that we may reach a point in America where male genital cutting rates are as low as European countries,” according to information sent to The Independent.
The group’s educating of the general public includes descriptions of the four “powers to the foreskin” – pleasure, protection, lubrication, and connection, as outlined in a YouTube video and on the streets of New York.
According to Losquadro, Intaction’s greatest accomplishment to date has been the “personal thanks and gratitude of hundreds of men, women, parents, and expecting parents – for fighting for foreskin, and by supplying the information out that has personally bettered their lives.”Despite the frequency and commonality of circumcision in America, Losquadro told us that he only asks that people: “Don’t assume the issues are linear or that the status quo in America is something to be defended