Pro Circ Profile
by Rosemary Romberg
Over the many years since the dawn of my concern over routine infant circumcision in 1977, I have heard from thousands of individuals and organizations. The overwhelming majority have shared my opposition to the routine operation. In fact, at the outset I was neutral on the subject, concerned about infant pain, but leaning towards believing that circumcision conferred many benefits. It has been the incontestable facts that have dispelled the lifetime accumulation of myths. And it has been the tremendous support of so many others who strongly oppose the operation that soon convinced me that infant circumcision is indeed wrong .
Many supporters have been childbirth educators or health care providers seeking material to give to their clientele. I have heard from many expectant parents wishing to make a decision about circumcision, or having already decided against it, seeking support for their choice. I have also heard from many parents of intact sons, wishing information about correct care of the foreskin. Countless men have written for information and offered their support. For most the circumcised/intact question is a male sexuality concern. Some of these men are intact, perhaps defensive of their natural state. Others are circumcised men, some deeply angry and resentful over their own unrequested foreskinless state.
During the “snail mail” days, Peaceful Beginnings’ mailing list numbered around 6,000. Thousands of others have come and gone (we often lost people due to bad addresses.) While we did get a few curiosity seekers and “weirdos”, and some undoubtedly who disagreed with our material but never communicated back, I could easily fill a book the size of a major city phone book if I were to list one by one the many who have strongly supported our deep concern for the well being of infants and the natural state of the body. Today there are at least several hundred strongly dedicated opponents to routine infant circumcision, with countless thousands of others who share our concern.*
Individuals who are strongly pro infant circumcision have contacted me so infrequently that each stands out as a distinct memory. Until 1988 they seemed so scarce as to be virtually non-existent. The following is a description of the pro-circ contacts that I recall throughout the years:
In 1980 I received a handwritten postcard. The gist of the message was “Circumcision is painful for a baby, but much worse for an adult.” and “Sex with a man who isn’t circumcised is really gross.” No name nor address was given. I believe the postmark was Berkeley, CA,
In 1981, shortly after the airing of NBC Magazine’s feature on infant circumcision (in which I appeared) I received a lengthy letter from a man in Massachusetts who had seen the program. His letter was filled with bizarre suppositions such as “circumcision causes the muscles in the buttocks and legs to develop faster. Therefore circumcised males are better athletes.” I did write back to him with some of our material. I have not heard from him since.
At around the same time in 1981 a man from British Columbia sent me a couple of letters in which he insisted that “North American women prefer circumcised males.” I think I wrote back, countering with “How can they know if that’s all they’ve ever seen?” He had two circumcised sons. Later in 1983 he visited me in my home in Bellingham, WA (which is very close to the Canadian border.) He was very nice and purchased some of my information sheets. At that time he told me that his views on the subject were changing, and he was no longer as in favor of circumcision as he had been before.
Shortly after my book was published in 1985, a man who had purchased and read my book wrote to me in disagreement. He had chosen to be circumcised as an adult (a choice which the intact baby movement does not oppose.) He preferred the circumcised state to the intact state, and therefore everything in my book was “totally wrong.” Since he preferred his circumcised state, then every other male in the world should be circumcised as well. (I do not remember this man’s name or where he was from.)
At around the same time a man from Florida ordered my book, slides, and all of my other information sheets. Months later he sent me a huge letter, about 50 pages long, all expounding on how “circumcision is wonderful” and “I was totally wrong.” Most curious of all, however is that this man has remained on our mailing list and has since sent me two generous contributions, one for $100 and one for $50.
In 1986 a man from Ottawa, Ontario, who had been on my mailing list for years and had purchased my book, phoned me. Upon learning that I had become a Christian he was certain that now I couldn’t possibly still hold the same anti-circumcision views or have chosen to leave my new son intact. He has phoned me a couple of times since. He seemed to have a “circumcision is a gift from God” idea.
In around 1986 or 1987 I received a long distance phone call from a woman in Australia who was expecting a baby. She and her husband were both Americans and were planning to return to the U.S. in a couple of years. I was curious that she even requested the information since infant circumcision is relatively rare in Australia. She later wrote back saying that while she appreciated the information I had sent her, she was still going to have her baby circumcised. This is the only mother who has ever written back to say “I’m going to do it anyway.”
In late 1987 I received a lengthy letter from a woman in Michigan who had read my book and disagreed with it. She was “glad that her husband and sons were circumcised.” Despite having read the many first hand accounts in my book, she was repeatedly insistent that infant circumcision was no more painful than a brief injection or heel stick. In 1988 she was sent a Peaceful Beginnings newsletter which resulted in a similar letter from her.
In 1988 I received several letters from a man in Toronto, Ont. He had been on my mailing list for years and had purchased my book. His letters have been angry, sarcastic, and strongly pro-circumcision. I have responded to him briefly and sent him a few articles.
The above individual also strongly favors continued build up of nuclear weaponry. He has made similar sarcastic, demeaning statements directed towards my opposition to the threat of nuclear holocaust.
At around this same time I have received some similar, harassing letters from another man in Toronto, Ont. He gives his name but no address. (His letters bear a Toronto, Ont. postmark.) This man knows the other Toronto man, as material I send to the previously mentioned man quickly ends up in this guy’s hands. He sometimes would Xerox copies of newsletters, etc.. and send them back to me written all over with sarcastic remarks.
In the fall of 1988 I received a harassing phone call from a man telling me I was “sick and needed professional help.” (Because of my deep concern for babies and opposition to infant circumcision.) I immediately hung up. I strongly suspect it was one of the two above Toronto men.
In 1988 I received a phone call from an expectant father in Texas who said he was “curious as to why anyone would be opposed to circumcision.” I sent him some material. Whether he was truly strongly pro-circ or simply uninformed is unknown. I did not hear from him again.
In 1988 I received a phone call from a man in the New York area. He said that his girlfriend was expecting a baby and he asked me numerous questions about circumcision. He expressed many strongly pro-circ opinions. Although I urged him to give me his address so that I could send him some material, he refused to give out his address or identify himself by any more than his first name. He has since written to me a couple of times. His letters are quite angry and hostile in tone. He would only disclose his first name. His letters bore a Brooklyn, NY postmark. He attempted to urge me to have my youngest son circumcised and was certain that I had done a horrible thing by leaving my fourth son intact when he has brothers and a father who are circumcised. This man has also contacted and harassed other anti-circumcision activists.
In 1988 following the publication of a letter by me in the (then) local Bellingham, WA. newspaper, I received a letter from a man who lived locally. He was intact and hated his foreskin. He expressed overall strong hatred for the human genitalia both male and female. He gave no name nor address.
The above is hardly enough to draw up a profile of who the pro-circumcision people are. As far as I can tell only the two Toronto men know each other. Only one woman expressed herself as strongly in favor of circumcision. (The Australia woman might not have been strongly pro-circ herself as many mothers would prefer not to have their sons circumcised but are pressured into it by husbands or relatives.) The one unhappy intact male was curious. (Why didn’t he have himself circumcised?) The others appear to be circumcised males who feel terribly threatened that other males may be allowed to have their foreskins. I also find it curious that four individuals have refused to give a return address (thereby refusing two way communication.) Of these, two have refused to give their names and one has disclosed only his first name. I also find it extremely interesting that four of the above mentioned individuals are men from Canada. Rates of Circumcision in Canada are considerably lower than in the United States, so perhaps circumcised men in that country feel more threatened. Of particular interest is that of the 13 above mentioned individuals, six have contacted me in 1988. Therefore, in that year (1988) I received as much pro-circ contact as I had in the previous ten years put together.
We should view this as a good sign, in that this indicates that by then we had become powerful enough to have an opposition.
While harassment from pro-circ people was rare until the late 80’s, there have been some squabbles between activists within the ranks – generally over power struggles, ego problems, and philosophical differences. But now that we have encountered a recognizable opposition, this can only spur the rest of us on in our efforts and convince us that we must work together in full cooperation if, indeed infant genital mutilation is to come to an end.
Pro-circumcision contacts – (Those who have contacted Rosemary Romberg.)
13 individuals; females – 2; males – 10; gender unknown – 1.
All have been adults as far as can be determined.
Initial contact: Telephone call – 3. (Two of these were later followed up by letters.) Postcard – 1. Letters – 9.
Countries of origin: United States – 8, Canada – 4, Australia – 1.
Cities of origin: Berkeley, CA.; Marion, MA.: Vancouver, B.C.; Miami, FL.; Ottawa, Ont.; Moree, Australia; Detroit MI.; Toronto, Ont. (2);, Brooklyn, NY.; Bellingham, WA., One was from Texas but I am unable to remember the city. For one other individual I am unable to remember the source of origin, except that it was from somewhere in the U.S.
The two men in Toronto are the only two who appear to know each other.
Four have given no return address. (I have referred to the postmark on the piece of mail for the source of origin.) Of those four, two have not given their name, one has given only his first name, and one has given his full name. Of the two unidentified individuals, one did state that he was an intact male.
Circumcision status of the men:1 intact male, 1 man had recently undergone circumcision in adulthood, the others either did not state their circumcision status, or indicated that they were circumcised, presumably in infancy or early childhood.
Parenthood status: 1 mother of circumcised sons, 1 expectant mother, 2 expectant fathers, 2 fathers of circumcised sons. The others either did not mention children, or I am unable to remember if they had any.
Years of first contacts:
1980 – 1, 1981 – 2, 1985 – 2, 1986 – 2, 1987 – 1, 1988 – 5. (One of the individuals in 1988 had previously ordered material but did not contact me with pro-circ letters at the time.)
Apparent “intensity level” of pro-circ stand: 3 individuals (all 1988 contacts) have been quite hostile and sarcastic in the tone of their letters. Of the others, one man was simply curious as to “why anyone would be opposed to circumcision.” One woman was “going to have it done to her baby anyway” after reading my material. One man, after roughly two years of correspondence was open-minded towards the anti-infant circumcision arguments and was beginning to change his views. One man has sent generous monetary contributions despite his strong pro-circ stance. The other 7 individuals seem fairly strong in their views but not hostile.
The above is especially remarkable in the small amount of such people. Over the years I have heard from thousands of people who are either strongly opposed to infant circumcision, deeply concerned about infant pain and unnecessary surgery, curious and open-minded about learning from our material, or who have already made the decision to leave their sons intact. Judging from the content of all mail and phone calls since I began my research on circumcision in 1977, the ratio of anti-circumcision vs. pro-circumcision people who have contacted me has been roughly 500/1.
(Update: The above was written in 1989. Since then I have had one other contact via letters and correspondence during the early 90’s with a Nebraska mother who belongs to an extremely conservative, Old Testament based, religious group. I have shared with her my writings which expound on the irrelevance of circumcision for Christians as strongly supported by many New Testament passages. Her letters to me have been strongly attacking of my own spiritual views. – R.R.) (Revised – 2013)