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Intactivism is a Mental Disorder

Published May 7, 2019

Revised periodically


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Jonathon Conte, a leader of Bay Area Intactivists, tragically took his own life on May 9, 2016.

Five years earlier Conte wrote about his motivations as an intactivist. He grew up feeling normal and whole. As a teenager he learned about circumcision, and he blamed his own infant circumcision for his genital soreness and discomfort. [1] He expressed "a feeling of incompleteness, both physically and sexually.” [2] He spoke about being broken, sexually deficient, and irreparably harmed, and he battled depression. [1]

Conte never forgave his parents for circumcising him. [3] He became estranged from his family and in his late twenties, he moved 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Florida to California. [2]

Had other intactivists taken an interest in Conte, they could have helped their friend. They could have lifted him up. They could have assured him that a 34 year-old man is more than just his foreskin. They could have encouraged him to see a physician about his soreness and discomfort. They could have advised him to see a psychologist about his mental health. Instead they reinforced his melancholic view of himself as a victim, physically and sexually crippled. They unintentionally encouraged and fed his low self-esteem and self-pity.

At Conte's memorial service, Blood Stained Men leader James Loewen admitted that Conte often had a sad look in his eyes. [4] Apparently Conte's friends were too absorbed in their anti-circumcision crusade to notice. Bear in mind that nearly five years had passed from the time that Conte publicly admitted he suffered from depression and other mental issues until his suicide.

Many others have associated intactivism with destructive emotions or behaviors.

• An uncircumcised Florida man revealed that he was treated by a leading North American trauma specialist for “intactivism-related stress.” [5] • A Northern California mother reported that several friends have been diagnosed with depression, OCD, or another disorder caused by their "abnormal obsession." [6]

• The Pennsylvania director of Your Whole Baby confided that many self-identified “regret moms” were so distraught that they considered suicide. [7]

• Several intactivists say that they have feelings of anxiety and stress whenever they learn that parents are expecting a boy. [8]

• An author in Alaska admitted that her own obsession led to an emotional breakdown. [9] When a publisher rejected her anti-circumcision book, she punched her fist through a glass window. [10]

• A mental health therapist warned a patient that intactivism might be the cause of her frequent nightmares and flashbacks. [11]

• Others associate their intactivism-related activities with nightmares, depression, and feelings of anger and anxiety. [12]

• A British intactivist vandalized his parents' house and threatened to kill his mother. His lawyer said that the man suffers from body dysmorphia. [13] • The DelMarVa Area Intactivists founder described her typical reaction whenever a friend or loved one resists her manipulative “gentle education” and chooses circumcision. Her friends confirmed that her description reflects the ways they suffer.

“I react by, sometimes not sleeping well for months, not eating well, feeling stressed, depressed and I harbor a deep seated sorrow that just refuses to go away. It's a looming feeling that oppresses my entire being, my very life force. I shrink and I retreat into oblivion.” [14]

• A Toronto mother appeared to suffer an episode of manic depression. After a week of circumcision obsession - causing exhaustion, insomnia, loss of appetite, and requiring her husband to care for her son - she was hospitalized at a mental health facility. [15]

• The Lyft ride-sharing service released a driver - creator of the Next Level Intactivism website - following repeated passenger complaints that he used Lyft to discuss his genitals and proselytize. [16]

• An Indiana man suffers constant anxiety and has sabotaged romantic relationships. The members of his immediate family have cut ties with him, his sister explaining that his anti-circumcision obsession is a mental illness. [17]

• A student at Western Kentucky University conceives vivid images of screaming babies, causing herself to suffer daily emotional breakdowns and nightly insomnia. [18]

• A Michigan man asked friends to send nasty messages to his 70 year-old mother after she explained that his anti-circumcision rage is caused by a mental illness. [19]

• Reacting to the impending birth of a relative's son, a Texas mother experienced nausea, uncontrolled crying, a panic attack, sleeplessness, and feelings of helplessness, overwhelming devastation, and grief. [20]

• An uncircumcised Maryland man suffered a crying fit when parents choice advocates rebuked him over his baby penis obsession. [21]

• While her family sleeps peacefully, an Arkansas mother suffers depression, anxiety, insomnia, and crying fits because of her obsession. [22]

• A member of the Blood Stained Men Board of Directors admitted that the anger and stress he suffered from intactivism led to emotional fatigue. [23]

• An American living in Madrid has lost friends and family and is known as the "foreskin boy" because he refuses to take a break from his anti-circumcision crusade. [24]

• Upon learning that her sister had ignored her "intense efforts" and circumcised her newborn son, a mother in the midwestern United States neglected her own son in favor of smoking and alcoholism. [25]

• A Georgia intactivist threatened to ostracize her sister for circumcising her newborn son. The baby’s grandmother recommended psychological counseling for her intactivist daughter and appealed to the irony that her daughter was "circumcising" her sister and nephews out of her life. [26]

• An uncircumcised Reddit user suffers from social anxiety based on a fear that friends will joke about or defend the procedure. He gets nervous whenever he hears a word that begins with the prefix circum-. [27] • Employment recruiters notified an Arizona IT instructor that he is sabotaging his job search by engaging in intactivism. [28]

A 63 year-old British man expressed that feelings of agitation and revulsion prevail over his life. [29]

• A Southern California IT specialist has frequent nightmares about circumcision. [30] By focusing on his anti-circumcision obsession, he has neglected his responsibility to obtain stable employment and provide financial security for his family. [31]


This is not projection or gaslighting. These examples are actual posts and comments by leaders and other members of the movement.

• • • • •

Despite what intactivists may have come to believe, a fixation on foreskin is not normal behavior. A fixation on circumcision is not healthy behavior. A fixation on a parent’s medical decision is not normal or healthy. Based on these testimonies intactivism causes stress, anxiety, anger, rage, nightmares, flashbacks, sleeplessness, PTSD, OCD, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

A mental disorder is a neurosis in which obsessive thoughts, compulsive acts, and feelings of anxiety dominate one’s personality. [32] Dysmorphia is a mental disorder characterized by preoccupation with a minor or imagined body defect. [33] You should seek professional counseling if some of these circumstances apply to you.

• You constantly think about circumcision. • Thinking about circumcision makes you depressed, anxious, irritable, or apathetic. • You justify behaviors that you previously would have considered unethical (harassing mothers, threatening doctors, body-shaming women and circumcised men). • Your activism is interfering with your social relationships, your marriage, or your family life. • You are subsituting members of the intactivist community for your relatives and social circle. • Your activism is threatening your career.

Marty Klein, a renowned sex therapist, has suggested that any man who feels "damaged, mutilated, or emasculated by his circumcision" has other emotional or neurotic problems and should seek psychological treatment. [34]

You don’t have to suffer. Help is available.

If you feel that you're in a crisis or know someone who is, please reach out for help. In the United States call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. In Canada call 911 or your local Crisis Centre. In other countries call the local emergency number.

[1] “In Memory of Jonathon Conte”; Your Whole Baby [2] Jonathon Conte, “Motivations of an Intactivist”; Intact News; July 2011

[3] Jonathon Conte; Facebook post; October 5, 2012. "I did not include a baby picture because I do not have any in my possession. All pictures from my childhood reside with my parents, with whom I have ceased contact as a result of my anguish for their subjecting me to genital mutilation... No one has the right to tell me how I should feel about those who allowed my body to be physically and sexually violated. It is insulting to suggest to a victim of any physicial, sexual, or psychological abuse that he or she should strive to improve the relationship with his or her abuser."

[4] James Loewen; "An Incredible Sadness" - eulogy at Jonathon Conte memorial service; San Francisco - May 22, 2016. "I'm going through these photos, and so I'm just wanting to get every photo that Jonathon's in. And I saw something that I hadn't seen before. And that was an incredible sadness that's in so many of these pictures. I'm gonna post a whole album on Facebook so you can all see this. And for all the times that I spent with him - and we had some wonderful conversations, and these were not soul-baring conversations because he held a lot to him. And I think there was a shared experience there, because you know there are a lot of us who hold things to ourselves for various reasons. But the fact that that was revealed in the various pictures I just feel was so profound. And the fact that I missed it - thinking I'm a person who observes people and micro-expressions and so on - so that sadness is something I'll never forget. And I urge us all to look very carefully at the people who are suffering from this. Because there's a lot of harm here. It's not visible, and people hide it." [5] Jason Fairfield, Facebook post; May 25, 2017 (Facebook.com/jason.fairfield.100) [6] Ibid, comment posted by Vee Savage; May 25, 2017 [7] Cassie Waldeck, comment on Shelley Wright Facebook post: "What is the best part of having an intact son?"; July 25, 2016 (Facebook.com/ms.shelldubz)

[8] For example, see Michelle Brandt Facebook post and comments; August 3, 2015 (Facebook.com/brandtml)

[9] Rosemary Romberg, Facebook post; July 7, 2017 (Facebook.com/rosemary.romberg)

[10] Rosemary Romberg Facebook post; April 18, 2019 [11] Intactivists Stop Circumcision post, circa 2014 [12] James Ketter Facebook post, November 18, 2016; (Facebook.com/james.ketter.73); Intactivists Stop Circumcision posts and comments, October 2015

[13] Adrian Troughton, "Man threatens to kill mum in text message because he was circumcised"; Leicestershire Live; Jun 8, 2018 [14] Shelley Wright, Facebook note: "My personal struggle"; November 23, 2014

[15] Melissa Annette; Intactivism Uncensored Facebook group posts; May 4-5, 2020

[16] Daniel Rold, Facebook post; February 13, 2019 (Facebook.com/PaleoAthletics)

[17] Steven Barendregt, Facebook posts; September 2017 - December 2018 (Facebook.com/steven.barendregt)

[18] Kalei Cherise Valery; Friends of Bloodstained Men Facebook post; November 15, 2019

[19] Alex David Paavola; Friends of Bloodstained Men Facebook post; February 28, 2019

[20] Dani Alexander Fitzpatrick; Facebook post; December 12, 2019 (Facebook.com/dani.alexander.3720)

[21] Tyler Howard; Facebook post; February 25, 2020 (Facebook.com/tyler.howard.1291)

[22] Michaela Louise Barnes; Global Intactivists (Anti-Circumcision) Facebook post; December 22, 2019

[23] Brian Herrity; Facebook post to Celeste Melody Lyons page; January 12, 2020 (Facebook.com/galacticmelody)

[24] Steven DeFrancesco; Stop Routine Infant Circumcision Facebook post; February 9, 2020

[25] Anonymous; Facebook message to Brother K posted on Brother K's Facebook page; April 25, 2020

[26] Arielle Fischer; Facebook post; December 2, 2020 (Facebook.com/shuvit.upuras.5)

[27] Jake Smith; post on Reddit Circumcision Grief subreddit; January 14, 2021 [28] Carter Steinhoff; Facebook post; February 15, 2021 (Facebook.com/carter.steinhoff )

[29] Patrick Smyth tweet; January 30, 2021. “Agreed. After all the years I have been involved in this campaign I too cannot find adequate words to convey my revulsion and the feeling of absolute turmoil that continually dominates my waking thoughts.”

[30] John Adkison tweet; April 12, 2021. “I keep having nightmares of children getting their genitalia cut without a medical need. It's worse than any horror flick I've ever seen.”

[31] John Adkison; “Not Uncommon”; “Circumcision is a Fraud“ blog; February 16, 2021 [32] Longman Dictionary of Psychology and Psychiatry [33] Mayo Clinic Staff, “Body Dysmorphic Disorder”; Mayo Clinic

[34] Marty Klein PhD; "Criminalizing Circumcision: Self-Hatred As Public Policy"; Psychology Today; June 2, 2011

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