Published May 7, 2019
Updated February 26, 2022
Link to the post Intactivism is a Mental Disorder
How did you conceive of this idea?
We read Shelley Wright’s 2014 note describing her extraordinary reaction whenever she learns that a boy is circumcised. Former intactivists have reported how their mental health improved dramatically after they left the movement. One former intactivist said that there should be “a new DSM5 addition that has to do with this unhealthy obsession with the genitals of children.”
Why did you choose that photo of Jonathon Conte?
A Circumcision Choice admin searched his Facebook archives for a photo that met certain parameters.
Jonathon Conte posing alone
facing the camera
full frontal photo
a quiet background with no other people or commercial activity
a sad smile - indicating depression
a shirt with a message indicating that he considered himself sexually crippled.
We were fortunate to find a photo that satisfied every parameter. Conte took the selfie at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on June 14, 2015. We cropped the photo and changed the hue to black-and-white.
How did you get the screen shots from closed groups?
We don't reveal our sources. They trust Circumcision Choice to maintain their anonymity.
Why did you share posts and comments from closed groups?
These candid admissions demonstrate how seriously an intactivist's circumcision obsession affects her personal life.
Are you saying that anyone who opposes circumcision has a mental disorder?
No. Reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Intactivism goes beyond mere disagreement. Intactivists constantly think about circumcision, often to the detriment of their personal lives and social relationships. "Their obsession outstrips any sense of proportion... [They] act like removing the foreskin is one of the greatest human rights abuses of all time, on level ... with slavery and the Holocaust." They justify any and all vicious and vile actions (or at least they collaborate with people who do) based on the fallacious premise that they're "saving babies." In short, an intactivist does not accept that reasonable people can disagree.
But when you separate intactivists from reasonable opponents, you're committing the No True Scotsman fallacy. You don't get to define who is or is not an intactivist!
No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy because the shifting of goalposts renders an argument infallible. We have not moved goalposts; we never claimed that mere opposition to circumcision is a mental disorder. The article we quoted, "A definitive list of the weirdest people on the internet," distinguishes between intactivists and "people who are simply opposed to circumcising babies." Intactivists themselves have distinguished among levels of opposition. For example, they've denounced fathers who don't circumcise their sons but who express positive or neutral feelings about their own circumcision, as well as people who personally oppose the procedure but don't support criminalization.
How can one suicide prove that intactivism is a mental disorder?
The article isn’t just about Jonathon Conte. We provided citations to and screen shots of more than two dozen social media posts, comments, articles, and private messages.
"I began seeing a therapist for intactivism-related stress."
"I have listened to and held so many regret moms while they ... told me how they have considered suicide when they learned [the intactivist propaganda]."
"I had become so frustrated, emotional, and heartbroken ... that I had an emotional breakdown over it."
"Reading the stories from regret mothers triggers my anxiety and anger."
"I am struggling lately with intactivating ... I am finding myself so depressed being on social media."
"It is starting to affect my mental health and cause serious depression."
Those are the words of dedicated intactivists. Shelley Wright's friends agreed that "This is a real issue for all of us intactivists" and that "she honestly describ[ed] what hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of [intactivists] are experiencing."
What is your education and background in psychology?
Several of us have a BA in Psychology. Another one is an LMSW with experience working in a psychiatric hospital.
Intactivists have a selective interest in scholarly credentials. They promote Elephant in the Hospital, American Circumcision, and Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story - three films produced by men who collectively have not a single degree in medicine, sexuality, psychology, ethics, history, religion, or law.
Who are you to tell others how they should feel about their circumcision?
A man can feel however he wants. But if he becomes obsessed and lets his feelings consume his life, he should seek professional help. If he won't listen to us, maybe he’ll listen to mental health professionals who have treated suffering intactivists. Jason Fairfield reported that his therapist is "one of the top specialists in trauma in North America."
PUSHBACKS ABOUT JONATHON CONTE
Jonathon lived with his penis. You didn't. You know nothing about his problems.
Jonathon Conte described his physical, sexual, and emotional problems in a video and a blog post. He wanted others to know about his problems. We merely summarized what he said and wrote about himself.
Jonathon’s friends knew him. You never even met him. You can't say what his motivation was.
We cited his article, “Motivations of an intactivist.” As for why he committed suicide, he left no suicide note, so any guess is speculation. In a reprehensible move intactivists blamed Conte's mother for his death - because she didn't apologize and support his circumcision obsession. Yet no one can definitively know his reason(s). Apparently his friends didn’t know him well enough to look for signs of suicidal thoughts. His friends, who knew that he suffered from depression, never suggested that he seek help from a physician or psychologist.
You're attacking or shaming Jonathon.
He said that he battled depression. He said that he felt sexually inadequate. He said that he felt physically and sexually incomplete. Nowhere in the article did we mock or shame Conte, and nowhere did we blame him for his mental illness.
How DARE you insult a dead man!
Nowhere in the article did we insult Conte. We reported his own statements about himself. The intactivist community celebrated the death of Dr. Edgar Schoen, chair of the 1988 AAP Task Force on circumcision. Prominent intactivists, including a member of the Blood Stained Men Board of Directors, gloated over the deaths of passengers and crew aboard a doomed Malaysian civilian airliner. Intactivists have repeatedly hoped for the early demise of certain AAP doctors. Intactivists are the ones who mock and insult the recently deceased.
You’re exploiting Jonathon’s name, photo, story, and death for your own partisan purpose.
No one owns Conte’s story or his photos. Intactivists have used Conte’s name and image on signs, t-shirts, buttons. and fundraising campaigns. They even named an award after him. All of this has been done without his family’s permission. Intactivists who accuse others of exploitation are hypocrites.
You should remove this article, or at least Jonathon Conte’s photo.
It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this photo tells much about the victim. The article provides valuable information about the destructive effects of intactivism on an individual basis. We will continue to update the article periodically as additional evidence comes to light.
OTHER PUSHBACKS AND REACTIONS
These comments are out of context.
"That was taken out of context" is often used "as a get-out-of-jail-free card for statements that were not taken out of context." For each quote we provided screen shots, most of which show the entire quotation. In a few cases a post or comment was abridged. We included the date and location of public posts for readers who wish to locate the actual post.
These are just a few individuals. Most intactivists are fine.
"Thank you for so honestly describing what hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of us are experiencing..."
"We need support groups, this is a real issue for all of us intactivists."
There are countless additional examples that we've observed. Many of the people suffering are leaders or other prominent figures in the movement.
Of course men are upset! They were harmed. Of course mothers are upset! Doctors lied to them.
Anger is not a normal reaction to being circumcised. The overwhelming majority of circumcised men are happy or unconcerned. They don't constantly think about circumcision. They don't think about it when taking a shower or when using a urinal or when engaging in sexual activity. They hardly ever think about circumcision, if at all. The obsessive-compulsive behavior exhibited by extremist members of the anti-circumcision movement is a sign of mental illness.
But let's assume for the sake of argument the intactivist position. Let's assume for the moment that circumcision actually causes harm to the patient. Jason Fairfield ("intactivism-related stress") and Dan Llewellyn ("I can only go a week or so") say that they aren't circumcised. Neither Shelley Wright ("not sleeping well for months, not eating well, feeling stressed, depressed") nor Dani Alexander ("I can't even sleep. I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack.") identifies as a regret mom. Circumcision didn't cause their psychological anguish. Intactivism did.
Body dysmorphia refers to an actual or perceived birth defect. Not the surgical removal of a body part.
First, foreskin isn't a body part; it's a loose flap of body tissue. Second, the Mayo Clinic defines body dysmorphia as "a mental disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance - a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable... Your perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause you significant distress, and impact your ability to function in your daily life. You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures [such as foreskin stretching] to try to 'fix' your perceived flaw." Nothing in the definition distinguishes between a birth defect and a surgical procedure.
The American Psychological Association doesn't list intactivism as a mental disorder.
Not yet. Intactivism is a relatively new disorder, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is updated periodically. The DSM-5 considers these factors:
A behavior or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual.
Reflects an underlying psychological dysfunction
The consequences of which are clinicially significant distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning)
Must not be merely an expected response to common stressors and losses (ex. the loss of a loved one) or a culturally sanctioned response to a particular event (ex. trance states in religious rituals)
Primarily a results of social deviance or conflicts with society
Intactivists show symptoms of several disorders. Those already suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) are drawn to intactivism. Many people with BPD experience paranoia - “intense beliefs of mistrust or the malicious intentions of others.” For example, intactivists have paranoid delusions that the medical establishment promotes circumcision - despite "knowing" that the procedure is harmful - merely to maximize their own profits. Intactivists may also believe that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter actively seek to stifle their anti-circumcision actions and communications.
The APA doesn’t identify as mental disorders such conspiracy theories as alien abductions, chem trails, the earth is flat, and the U.S. government conducted the September 11 terror attacks either, but their proponents typically suffer from mental disorders.
Based on this reasoning that would mean that fighting for civil rights or other activist movements causes mental illness, since every movement has people who experience "activist burnout." Martin Luther King Jr. experienced many bouts of depression.
Martin Luther King's depression was lifelong, not caused by his civil rights activism. "King knew what it meant to be maladjusted, psychologically, because he was not normal, psychiatrically. He had multiple periods of severe depression, and twice made suicide attempts as a child."
Intactivism involves far more than simply activist burnout. Intactivists are obsessed with the topic of circumcision. They spend an inordinate amount of time each day thinking about circumcision. Many judge each person in their lives as good or evil based solely or primarily on the person's view of the procedure. Many spend most of their time online in intactivist groups or searching social media for any mention of the "C" word. Activists in civil rights and other movements do not generally exhibit such behaviors. Indeed, a fanatical obsession for another cause could also be classified as a mental illness. Intactivists themselves have reported that this fanatical obsession and negative mental effect is common to all or most of the individuals in the movement.
Rhetoric such as saying that intactivists have a mental illness could play a role in the decline of an intactivist's mental health.
If that were the case then intactivists who tell a happily circumcised man that circumcision is mutilation or that he is physically and sexually deficient and mentally traumatized could be responsible for the circumcised man's mental health decline. Essentially this objecting suggests that the statement "Intactivism is a mental disorder" is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet much of the evidence for the assertion precedes the publication of the article, and there's no evidence that subsequent incidents were caused or influenced by the article itself.
Circumcised men who say that they’re “fine” have Stockholm syndrome or are in denial of the harm. You're in denial.
Stockholm syndrome is based on a bank robbery hostage crisis that took place over six days in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden. The term refers to a psychological coping mechanism during a hostage situation. In order to deal with his fear, a captive may come to believe that his captors won't harm him if he's on their side. Thus a captive may experience feelings of sympathy and support for his captors. "Situations in which the victims have displayed this kind of response have included hostage situations, long-term kidnappings, members of cults, prisoners of concentration camps, and more." This psychological phenomenon has no application to circumcision, since men are not in a captive situation, and they have no reasonable fear of imminent harm at the hands of their parents or medical professionals.
Denial is another psychological coping mechanism. Denial involves avoiding a confrontation with a problem or reality by denying the existence of the problem or reality. The prevalence of happily circumcised men poses a conundrum for a movement that claims that circumcision is harmful. Rather than consider the possibility that circumcision isn't always harmful, intactivists explain away the problem by accusing happily circumcised men of denying that they have been harmed. This self-serving accusation is dependent on the premise that circumcision is harmful - which is the very issue in question. It's known as a kafkatrap or a closed circle argument, "one where there is no possibility of convincing [intactivists] that they might be wrong. They are right because they’re right." A closed circle argument, one that is unproven and unfalsifiable, is meaningless.
This post is an example of projection or gaslighting.
Projection is another psychological defense mechanism, one that "involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings." Intactivists have undesirable feelings and emotions toward us and anyone else who performs, authorizes, or defends circumcision. We, on the other hand, have no feelings or emotions toward anyone who declines to perform, authorize, or defend circumcision. On the contrary, we respect the right of parents and doctors who choose not to circumcise. We may have negative feelings about intactivists based on their malicious actions and deceitfulness. But we don't obsess about intactivists, and our mental health is unaffected by any feelings about the foreskin or circumcision.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation intended to cause a target to question her own sanity. The 1944 movie Gaslight starred Ingrid Bergman in an Academy Award winning role as a woman whose husband uses tricks, such as secretly dimming the gaslights, to deceive his wife into believing that she is going insane. We aren't using any tricks. We merely cite intactivists' own words about themselves, along with assessments made by their own family members and mental health professionals.
Performing or defending newborn circumcision is a mental disorder.
That is a textbook example of projection.
The solution to this problem is to stop circumcising boys.
That would be like saying that the "solution" to anti-abortion fanaticism is to stop performing abortions, or the "solution" to environmental extremism is to stop building new housing and business developments and revert to a pre-industrial society.
This post is concern trolling.
A concern troll offers seemingly helpful advice while concealing his actual point of view that is contrary to the group. “A concern troll offers undermining criticisms under the guise of concern. Their goal is to sabotage the cause being discussed, and to inspire doubt among group members.”
We are not offering advice on how to improve the movement. Our only advice is that intactivists should get professional mental help. Nor do we hide our opinions or our agenda. We support a parent’s right to choose circumcision for her infant son. We oppose the campaign of bulling and harassment that targets anyone who dares to disagree with the intactivist movement.
This is all a joke to you.
This is not a joke.
Shame on you!
We are not ashamed for providing factual information. Those who harass, bully, and threaten anyone who disagrees with them are the ones who should be ashamed.