Thursday, June 17, 2010

The latest lack of Physician Integrity when it comes to Genital Integrity, or "How Cornell University has just lost all of my respect and gained my ire."

Before I go much further, I want to make one thing very clear:  I am an intactivist.  I am quieter about it than most, because that's how I work, but I am one none-the-less.  My intactivist standpoint extents to ALL children, not just boys.  Genital mutilation is genital mutilation is genital mutilation.  The blighted anthropologist in me recognizes religious and cultural values placed on genital mutilation, but the mother and humanist in me refuses to say that it's acceptable.

My son is intact.  I have spoken to many parents about keeping their sons intact.  I have held partners as they wept over the cruelties they suffered as infants and the complications and pain they endured as adults.  I have held mothers as they wept when they realized the enormity of what they unwittingly allowed to be done to their sons.  I have gone the gambit from debates with rabbinical figures and physicians who refuse to acknowledge the current (and correctly) changing world-wide stance to anonymously penning heated editorials on the subject.  (Which, I am proud to say, I will be anonymous no longer.)

In a culture that is so hell-bent on sexual revolution and progression, we defile and maim the most sacred symbols of humanity with nary an eyeblink in most situations.  Male infant circumcision is routine and clinical in most cases, done without anesthetic in all cases, and carries hundreds of possible complications including the very real and very rarely spoken of, most devastating complication of them all:  death.

There is a growing number of us that are working our asses off in grass-roots organizations to bring to light the atrocious and barbaric practices still going on in our "first world" country today.

Recently, we were shocked and appalled to see that the AAP was considering changing their standpoint of Female Infant Genital Mutilation. In a movement they termed "an attempt at harm reduction," they considered implementing a new wording in their policy on FGM to allow physicians to perform a "ritual nick" on femle infants to satisfy religious and cultural expectations and to avoid the exportation of infants to countries where full FGM was expected and routine.  After huge public outcry, the AAP backpedaled as fast as their little legs could take them and not only retracted their proposed changes, but also scrabbled to make "clarification statements" on their position.

Now we are slapped in the face with news of a researching physician at Cornell University who appears to have been practicing his own twisted form of FGM and abuse, all in the sanctioned name of research.  Dan Savage added his very public recognition to a piece by bioethicist Alice Dreger that outlines exactly why Dr. Dix Poppas is a monster. 

It's not just that he's using pediatric subjects to further his research on a "nerve-sparing" technique of clitorectomy performed solely for archaic cosmetic and social purposes.  He's also (with the consent and observation of parents,) following up annually with these girls to "test their level of sensitivity," using either a hand-held vibrator or hand-held cotton swab.  Himself.

As an intactivist, I am enraged beyond words.  As a parent, I am horrified and devastated.  As a woman, I am left feeling violated just by reading his research.

This is a man who has continued to cut on female children for zero purpose.  Unlike MGM, there is NO DATA LEFT AT ALL that even remotely supports the use and research into routine clitorectomies.  (Unlike MGM, where there are still a lot of incorrect notions from the last 50 years to dispel.)  NOT ONLY has he continued to cut these girls in the name of science, he is also doing what would equate to molestation in any other case, on a routine basis, with the approval and indeed the witness of their parents.

I ask you, my readers, to get involved here.  Spread the word.  Cry out to the powers that be that Dr. Poppas is commiting a vile crime against these children.  If, while you're at it, you want to join us on the rest of the intactivist front, that would be awesome, too.  Rome wasn't built in a day, though, so I very much believe that we need to target as many individual atrocities as we can while trying to educate people on the bigger picture.  Dr. Dix Poppas' "research" is, without a doubt, a prime example of one of those individual atrocities.

Will you stand with me?  Will you express your outrage to Weill Medical College and Cornell University?  An email, a phonecall, a letter.  Spread the word.  Above all, stand with me to MAKE HIM STOP.


  1. WHAT?! I am shaking at the thought of an adult male touching the sexual organ of a minor with a VIBRATOR. And he had the parent's consent to perpetuate this sexual abuse?! Off to spread the word. We cannot stand for this.

  2. thanks for speaking up and acting!

    after more than a half a century of mutilating genital surgeries having been performed on countless thousands of helpless little children in virtually all 'developed countries', and after almost 2 decades of survivors fighting to end this horrible 'best practice', your support is more than welcome.

    like my partner who was submitted to such surgeries says: it's a human rights issue.

    don't know if you care about facebook, but for what it's worth, there's a dedicated group there:

    kind regards, seelenlos /

  3. Seelenlos, I am actually a member of the facebook group. I've also placed calls to both the IRB as well as the dean of Weill college and the president of Cornell. I'm still working on a letter. It's difficult, to say the least.