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Voices – Dusty Drake

Intact America interviewed Dusty Drake (they/she) following her heartwarming and open TikTok account of their circumcision complications. A transcript of the interview and her video follows. 

How did you discover Intact America and what does the intactivist movement mean to you?
I first discovered Intact America a few years ago on Instagram. Back in 2011 however was the first time that I heard the term intactivist. Without knowing the word though, it is something I advocated against within my social circle even before that because of my own experience. To me, the intactivist movement is about bodily autonomy more than anything else. It’s giving the right to make cosmetic decisions about one’s body to the individual themself. It seems to be a controversial opinion in North America, but I don’t think that parents should be allowed to alter their child’s body for cosmetic purposes just because it’s their child. That child is an autonomous human being and will grow into an adult who can consent to those procedures if they decide they want them.

What encouraged you to share your story, and why now?
I was encouraged to share my story when I saw a prompt posted on September 22nd to Instagram by Intact America. The prompt simply said “Robbed of your foreskin? Tell us your story.” Their email was written below and I thought to myself, “I should email them. I’m shut down so often when I bring up the problems with cosmetic infant circumcision so I’m terrified to share my story but at least they are willing to be a listening ear.” After composing the email though I had a spark of inspiration and decided that I wasn’t going to send it. I have a following on TikTok and though even though I’ve been harassed and shut down before while speaking against cosmetic infant circumcision, this is still something that people need to hear even if they aren’t ready. So I decided to record and post my story instead. I can’t begin to tell you how extremely nervous I was to talk about my own personal experience with having been circumcised as an infant and the issues I experienced during puberty because of it. While recording, it felt just as nerve wracking as if I was speaking to a room full of strangers who had no interest in what I had to say. But I continued, because if my voice can help one parent reconsider their entitlement over their child’s body and prevent them from taking away their child’s bodily autonomy then it was worth the temporary discomfort I felt while recording.

What are some of the reactions to your TikTok video and how do they make you feel?
A majority of the reactions from my TikTok on my own experience have been overwhelmingly positive which I was honestly surprised about. I have posted content against cosmetic infant circumcision in the past and have been met with a lot of hate, harassment, and even bullying. So I was understandably nervous to share my own story, but I am so glad I did. I think the biggest reward from posting about my own experience is the new and expecting parents posting that they are reconsidering doing this to their child, have now made the decision not to, or feel more reassured that they made the right decision by leaving the choice up to their child.

Would you consider sharing more about your experience, or discuss circumcision in future TikTok videos?
If the right inspiration strikes, I will continue to talk about my experience. I absolutely intend to continue making content against cosmetic infant circumcision because the right to bodily autonomy is a human rights issue.

Dusty’s TikTok Transcript:

When I was a baby, only a few days old, a doctor had convinced my parents that there was something wrong with my body and that immediate surgical intervention was needed. There was no infection, no birth defect, and there were no adverse effects that could come from leaving my body in its natural state. Yet despite this, my parents had been convinced that to be good parents and do what was best for their first born child, that immediate surgery was necessary. They hadn’t been properly educated on the surgery, and they had have been given information on the benefits of leaving my perfectly healthy body alone. So they followed through with the doctor’s recommendation.

When I began puberty at around 10 or 11-years-old, my body began to grow quickly, so quickly, in fact that the incision from the surgery that I was unnecessarily forced to undergo as an infant began to tear. The scar tissue began stretching beyond its limits. This increased tension led to years of bleeding and scabbing along the incision line from the scar, not to mention the pain that this caused me during this whole time. But I was scared and ashamed of what was happening to me. I had believed that I had done something wrong, or worse, that there was something intrinsically wrong with me and that this was a punishment for it, and this made sense to me. After all, I was a young closeted queer kid who was being bullied every single day by my peers. Heck, I didn’t even know what queer or gay or any of that was, but I knew that that was something I didn’t wanna be and that it was bad, because that’s what my peers and society had taught me.

So it made sense to me that on top of being bullied every day, that life would just punish me in this way, despite the fact that I hadn’t done anything except for show kindness to others. So I never told anybody what I was going through and I just suffered through it alone. But when I was an adult, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who had gone through this. There were doctors all over convincing parents to perform these unnecessary surgeries on their children, their newborn children. After I realized that I wasn’t alone in this, I got the courage to speak to my parents about it. They didn’t know what to say at the time, and they were clearly processing the information I was giving them, but they did look really remorseful.

Just last month, I was hanging out with my mom and she came up to me on her own, she sat next to me on the couch and just gave me a big old hug. She looked me in the eyes and she said, “I am so sorry. I would never crop a dog’s ears or tail, but for some reason, I never gave a second thought to mutilating my own newborn baby. I wish I could go back and make an informed decision with the knowledge I have today. I’m so sorry that we circumcised you.”

Voices — James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG


During my Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency, I had the opportunity to learn newborn circumcision. Because of the frequency of the procedure, I agreed to the training. Yes, the Siren on the rocks of “cultural normalcy” called me.

Immediately prior to the training, I remember a blond-haired resident giddy with excitement at being able to learn the procedure, and vividly recall her saying: “Have the nursing staff line the boys up. Go Chop! Chop! Chop! Think of all the RVUs you can make??” RVU stands for Relative Value Unit, which is a figure used for compensation. Obviously, her main concern was the amount of money that could be generated by sexually maiming newborn boys in the name of profit. 

The white Circumstraint board was on a procedure table. The baby was brought into the room. The mother’s written “consent” had been verified.

There were three of us. My assigned job was to put the safety pin through the foreskin. 

The naked baby was then placed in four-point restraint and immediately began crying uncontrollably. Someone prepped the skin. Another Resident placed the local anesthetic which resulted in further crying. Those who have children or work with newborns know that babies do “talk” in their own ways. There are cries of hunger. Cries of frustration, and cries of absolute fear and pain. Perhaps I am blocking out the other parts of the procedure that the other two doctor trainees performed.

It came time for me to place the safety pin, so I was standing directly over the baby. The screaming was just awful. I can remember starting to place the safety pin in the foreskin and small dot of blood appeared where the pin would be placed. At this point, I almost walked out of the room. Seeing a naked restrained human screaming in pain, with his head rocking back, spittle flying from his little mouth was too much. I wondered, “Now why are we doing this? Why are we violating this human being? I finished my part and stepped aside. As the shrieks of the restrained baby intensified, the third resident severed the baby’s foreskin along the edge of the clamp and placed the circular bloody specimen on side of the Circumstraint. 

I will never forget the shrieks of that baby. 

The episode left me with the knowledge that I had violated my own morals as well as the code of medical ethics. Indisputably, we had done harm to the baby that day. The baby’s normal genital anatomy at birth had been forever changed, leaving him physically altered as well as neurologically ruined. Unquestionably, it is impossible for a newborn baby to give consent for such a procedure. I still hear the screams from time-to-time.

And we call ourselves healers?

I have never performed or taken part in another circumcision.

James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG
Las Vegas, Nevada

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Voices — Friendships

Elise Wicklund

I think a lot about friendship these days. Becoming an intactivist eight years ago really changed how I interact with the world—not because I fear rejection, but because I know what I believe is sound and resolute—and this has had a profound impact on my friendships.

First, a little background. I became an intactivist after my first son, Paxton, was born. Despite knowing in my gut I didn’t want to have him circumcised, I let the advice and opinions of those around me convince me that it was the right thing to do. But right from the start Paxton was in a lot of pain from wounds that wouldn’t heal. He developed a painful ulcer, adhesions and other complications in the first few years of his life. It broke my heart that he shrank from any touch.

I was full of guilt and regret. I sank into a depression so deep I thought about killing myself. I pulled away from everyone. At the same time, even my husband wasn’t hearing me. In those days he didn’t understand the intensity of my grief, and I was really low.

It wasn’t until I joined a Facebook group for moms with similar experiences that I started channeling my grief into action to help other babies and their families. I attended rallies and met my Facebook community in real life. We formed a bond of support while speaking out and shining a spotlight on this atrocity.

I noticed that some moms would join the cause for a while and then drop off, eager to get back to a more normal life rhythm. It was a little sad to see those friendships drop off one by one, but I pressed on. Fighting to end circumcision was just a hill I was willing to die on. That’s when I started sharing what I had learned about circumcision with friends on Facebook. I had to be heard, so I was posting pretty regularly. Every time I came across new information, I’d put it up there. Some of my long-time friends were there for me and supported me all the way.

But staying with the cause dropped a bomb on my friendships. Right away, friends I had known for years pushed back. Some shot off angry replies. Others complained I was pushing my views on them or posting inappropriate material. Many unfriended me or stopped responding to calls and texts.

I used to think I didn’t care what others around me thought, and then I climbed on that hill and stood on it. It hurt for a while. Sharing what I knew was part of my healing and my journey, and my whole village around me was walking away. It took a very long time to allow myself not to be individually invested and angry.

I can see now that fear drives anger; my posts probably made them question their own decisions, and there was nothing they could do about it. I’ve also come to realize that there are people who just don’t want to understand. When it comes to friendship, it’s more important than ever to nurture mutual respect with folks who don’t agree with us.

To move through regret and grief, we don’t ever get over it. We learn to grow a life around it. If we don’t, we’ll sit in the pain forever. I’m still as passionate as ever to save baby boys from mutilation, but I’m learning to let go of the outcome. I offer my best and keep going.

Elise Wicklund

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Voices — V.R.

I was circumcised twice—first when I was born and again as a revision when I was about 5 years old. This has haunted me ever since.

I clearly remember the second circumcision—surrounded by doctors all looking at me. I was scared and cold, and my mom had left the room. This was not a pleasant experience. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Looking back at my teenage years, I noticed that I had a few experiences that were not normal. I did not know that without the foreskin, the glans and shaft can become dry, which results in small painful tears and chafing.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to do some of what a missing part of my body (the foreskin) is supposed to do: keep things moisturized. But the scar is a daily reminder that I was robbed. I have never had any complaints from partners in the past, but that is not the point. Even in a world where this is considered the norm, I have always been conscious that something wasn’t quite right.

I wanted to know why circumcision was considered necessary, so I started to do more research. I found out how common circumcision and mutilation are for children and young adults all over the world, and how hospitals sell foreskin to tissue banks, and somehow this ultimately becomes facial creams and cosmetics. I was shocked and felt sick when I read this. I got so angry, a friend told me to look for organizations that are fighting against it, so I could find people who share my anger and aren’t afraid to speak out about it.

That’s when I found Intact America online and saw what they are doing to change things. I want to make a difference any way I can. I want people to recognize that this is a business. Tell me why the hell a single foreskin can sell for upwards of $100,000? In fact, I think they owe me $200,000 since they did it twice. They did it twice and I still have part of my frenulum, a sensitive band of tissue that helps contract the foreskin over the glans. Medical professionals learn to perform circumcision by actually doing it. There is no infant penis model for them to practice on. Was I a test subject? The whole thing is absurd.

What hits me the hardest is knowing I will never have the full experience of being intact. My solution is tissue expansion. It’s a non-surgical method that, when done properly, can yield many benefits. Essentially it creates a neo-foreskin through gentle stretching exercises over a year or two. It won’t have the same nerve endings as the original foreskin, which is still sad, but it will provide every other function, including improved sensation, a more moist and supple glans surface, and protection. This is a permanent and long-term investment for me. I am even considering a tattoo to symbolize the journey my body and I have been through.

There are things I have experienced that I just do not want to share. This, however, is something I am brave enough to fight for. All of these negative experiences imbued my aura with an eternal flame of darkness. A dark flame sounds very contradicting, like an oxymoron, and that’s because it is. It’s still fire. It’s still fuel. Is it light? Nope. But I will use it to propel me throughout the rest of my life. If I can fight for myself, I can fight for others. If I can love myself, I can love others.

I am only 20 years old. I feel like I have been through too much already. But I am still breathing. I am still standing. I am still here. I grieved the person I was as a child full of innocence. I have shed my skin many times. Nothing really fazes me anymore; I am often disappointed by things most people think are scary. I have no fear because I know I can face anyone or anything. This little journey I’ve been on with my body has been horrible yet liberating. I am conquering one thing at a time. Deconstruction and reconstruction. Death and rebirth. This is my story.

V.R.

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Voices – RHF

I was born in 1944 in a small town in central Ohio. I learned early on that my penis was different than most boys’. In elementary school, going to the bathroom for No. 1 was like “show all, tell all.” I was still too young to have retracted my foreskin naturally to get the “cut look.” My Dad was uncut so I thought I was normal, but I got teased by other boys standing in the next stall over for having a “ding dong” with a point on the end. The guy who did most of the teasing had a bigger one. I felt embarrassed about the size difference but also about being uncut.

I can still remember that guy’s name. I felt kind of sorry for him. He was tall, the playground bully, and he lived at the Children’s Home in my hometown. When we got to be 5th or 6th graders, he could hit that softball for miles on the playground. I lost track of him. Someone said later he might have gotten killed in Vietnam.

In Junior High School, still feeling self-conscious about looking different from other boys, I hid my penis when taking showers after gym class by keeping a towel around my waist. My parents told me I wasn’t circumcised when I was born in 1944, because I was premature and wouldn’t have survived the procedure.

My baby brother was born in 1948, and I was forced to watch his circumcision. Our family doctor came over one April morning, and they laid my brother out on the kitchen table and the doctor cut him. He screamed with pain, and that memory shakes me to this day. I can remember my Mother saying, “If you are not a good boy, this will happen to you.” To me, that meant that my penis would be cut off; at age 4, I had no idea what a foreskin was.

So, I was a very good boy, but scared my whole life until I got big enough to fend for myself. My Mom also had told me I was ugly down there so I never thought I would be able to attract any woman and one day have children. It wasn’t until I went to college that I heard that the Europeans didn’t do routine circumcision. I found a French girl, and she took a chance on me.

Even though I am not circumcised, I’ve been haunted by circumcision trauma my entire life. First, being different; then being forced to witness my brother being cut and threatened with the same fate; then my mother telling me how ugly my penis was; and much later, when I was beginning my professional career in a hospital, having to pass by the newborn nursery where there was a circumcision room, and hear the screams.

I truly do not know how anyone can think this is something that is alright to do to a baby.

RHF, Youngstown, Ohio

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Voices — M.J.

Editorial note: This insightful letter from a self-identified “prostitute” (sex worker) was sent to the Editor of Penthouse magazine in June 1985, apparently in response to discussion in a prior issue about circumcision. It is still relevant today. Note that frenum is an alternate word for the more commonly used word frenulum. Also, the author repeatedly uses the terms uncut and uncircumcised; the term “intact” had not yet become part of the vernacular. The letter, reproduced in its entirety below, had been preserved by Marilyn Milos, founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Centers (NOCIRC, later renamed Genital Autonomy – America, which merged with Intact America in 2021).

Dear Penthouse,

I’m a prostitute. It paid for my education, provides a good lifestyle, and I enjoy the work. I’m surprised and dismayed by the many misconceptions printed regarding circumcision, in letters by both men and women. My wide experience gives me a perspective to contribute to the discussion.

I didn’t grow up, as many women do, regarding the circumcised penis as “normal”. Helping my mother bathe my two uncircumcised younger brothers showed me that washing the penis is no more of a chore than washing the female genitals, and even simpler, because of fewer folds of skin.

Few uncircumcised penises are dirty. It’s far more common to encounter a man with bad breath, from lack of brushing or a mouthful of cavities, than one with a dirty penis. Yet, nobody suggests that the teeth be routinely extracted for “hygiene”.

Uncut men enjoy sex more because the penis is more sensitive. Uncircumcised males secrete more pre-coital mucus, and it starts flowing sooner, than with circumcised ones. The uncircumcised penis offers more opportunities for foreplay. Stroking the foreskin back and forth, retracting it to touch the corona or pluck the frenum lightly, is very stimulating. Inserting the tongue under the foreskin, or retracting it for easy access to the glans, frenum, and inverted inner lining, are stimulating variants to pumping the foreskin. Many men enjoy a good “hand job”, and the uncut ones can enjoy the full stroke, retracting the foreskin fully, then running it up over the end of the glans. The flow of clear mucus gives lubrication, enhancing the sensations and preventing irritation from dry friction.

The denuded organ requires special manipulation. There’s no foreskin to serve as a natural stimulator, and sometimes the frenum has been removed too, limiting the possibilities. If there’s enough slack, pulling the rest of the skin up over the corona works, although many don’t enjoy dry friction. More often, I have to use lubrication. The cut ones are handicapped from the start.

Some circumcised men are so insensitive that they can’t come to orgasm even after fifteen minutes of a “blow job,” and need to be finished off by hand. This has never, in my experience, happened with an uncircumcised man.

I’ve never noticed a difference in the time required for coital climax between cut and uncut men. Although it seems that circumcision, by removing sensitive tissue, would delay the climax, this isn’t so. Premature ejaculation is common, in our mostly circumcised males. I feel that there are two reasons for this:

The first is that sexual stimulation is not only physical, but mental. Circumcision does not affect this.

The second is that the skin of the uncircumcised penis, more slack during thrusting and withdrawal, tends to give with the friction, gliding up and over the corona. This partly shields the glans from excessive stimulation It also avoids putting tension on the frenum. This happens with a tight circumcision, speeding the man’s climax.

I hope that this is helpful.

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