Minority Reporter: How Brian Morris fought a personal war against the human foreskin (and how he lost)

white_flagBrian Morris, who is a Professor of molecular biology at the University of Sydney, has spent much of his adult life attempting to defend the practice of routine infant circumcision. He has, in essence, fought a personal war against a normal part of the human anatomy (the male foreskin). Morris has utilised a wide range of tactics in order to prosecute his case in relation to this issue. He has mastered the art of optimising media opportunities to promulgate his views on the subject. He has also surrounded himself with like-minded individuals, whom he has hoped would provide credible support for his war against the foreskin. Morris and his allies have attempted to harness scientific research in order to underpin their opinions and they have been unrelenting in their attempts at discrediting those who express views that contradict their own. Despite his dedication and persistence, the evidence provided below demonstrates quite clearly that Morris has lost the battle. The ‘courts’ of science, medicine and (perhaps most importantly) public opinion have ruled against him.

Public visibility has been a major weapon in Brian Morris’ war against the foreskin. He has used his ‘status’ as a professor with great efficiency in this regard. Every notable story/article about circumcision that has appeared in the mainstream Australian media over the last few years has featured Morris. His recent television appearances include segments on the Nine Network’s ’60 Minutes’, the Seven Network’s ‘Sunday Night’ and SBS’s ‘Insight’. In addition, to the best knowledge of this author, Morris has also been quoted in every mainstream Australian print media article on the subject of circumcision in recent times. Morris has benefited from the fact that all mainstream media outlets attempt to set up a ‘polemic’ debate about seemingly controversial issues. It might, therefore, appear to some that Morris’ media war against the foreskin has been a success but public responses to his input tell a different story. In every relevant forum, the overwhelming majority of commentators have been scathing of him and his position. It is therefore that Morris’ mainstream media war against the foreskin has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

Morris has also been very proactive in using internet weaponry in his war against the foreskin. In the first instance he created a website called ‘CircInfo.net’. That site is still active and contains nothing other than pro-circumcision propaganda. Until recently, ‘CircInfo’ contained an entire page devoted to tasteless ‘circumcision humour’, which included a photo of an underage boy with his penis trapped inside a mobile phone. There was clearly no educational value that image, which leads this author to question Morris’ motivation in posting it. ‘CircInfo’ was originally hosted on University of Sydney servers but, after a complaint from a member of the public about a conflict of interest, Morris was ordered by his employer to move it to another server.

Morris continues to use that site (and the internet in general) to try and discredit those who speak out against his war against the foreskin.  ‘CircInfo’ has a whole page devoted to this endeavour. There are many misrepresentations and much misinformation offered on that page. When one assesses the character of some of Morris’ own associates (see below) it would appear to be quite hypocritical for him to attempt to discredit the entire anti-circumcision movement on the basis of ‘guilt by association’. Morris has even gone so far as to attempt to discredit the profession of paediatrics. He claims on his website that ‘most paediatricians are well-intentioned. However, clearly this specialty would attract male medical graduates with a sexual predilection for children’. Aside from the fact that such a comment reeks of a smear campaign, there seems to be something grossly incongruous about the fact that, on one hand, Morris has sought to denigrate paediatricians, whilst on the other hand, he has since put his name to a statement which congratulated the American Association of Pediatricians for issuing a statement which alleged that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweighed the risks. It is, therefore, apparent that Morris is a cynical opportunist of the highest order.

Another example of Morris’ ruthless attempts at discrediting those who oppose him occurred in 2004, when respected scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki published a short article titled ‘May the foreskin be with you’. Morris objected to  Kruszelnicki’s highlighting of the fact that the foreskin is ‘a uniquely specialised, sensitive, functional organ of touch’ and accused him of promulgating ‘blatantly biased propaganda’. Morris’ hypocrisy in this instance was breath-taking, given the one-sided nature of his own web site. Morris lodged an official complaint with The Australian Press Council but it was dismissed in its entirety. Given all of the above, it is clear that Morris’ propaganda war against his opponents has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

Morris has fought his war against the foreskin under the banner of ‘an evidence based appraisal’. Clearly however, his use of scientific studies to support his argument in favour of circumcision has failed the credibility test in two hugely important regards. First, Morris has only ever referred to studies which purport to give credibility to his position (most of which are authored or co-authored by Morris himself). There is no impartiality or balance in Morris’ so-called ‘appraisal’. No acknowledgement is given to the massive amount of credible literature which calls Morris’ position into question. Furthermore, Morris has not met the professional standards required in order be regarded as an expert on the issue of circumcision.

Morris has regularly used ‘sleight of hand’ in order to fudge statistics and other information to suit his argument. To provide just one example, Morris once co-authored an article which claimed that a UK study had found that ‘cumulative prevalence (of UTI’s) to age 16 was 3.6% in uncircumcised boys’, however the article in question actually made no reference at all to the circumcision status of the boys included in its study. That document also claimed that circumcision ‘protects against recurrence’ of UTI’s. It cited an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) as supporting evidence for that claim, however the JAMA article in question stated quite clearly that ‘the lack of circumcision documentation in 47% of male children limited our ability to accurately assess risk based on this important factor’. These serious misrepresentations of supporting evidence clearly call into question the credibility of Morris and the other authors of the article referred to here.

Morris and his views on circumcision are clearly out of step with the majority of medical professionals in Australia. The Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons describes neonatal circumcision as ‘inappropriate and unnecessary’. Furthermore, in 2012, the results of a poll released online by the ‘Australian Doctor’ revealed that only 2% of those surveyed supported the view that infant circumcision should be mandatory. Conversely, 51% of respondents ‘likened the procedure to child abuse’. Morris must therefore most certainly be regarded as a ‘minority reporter’. One observer has even gone so far as to aptly label him ‘Professor 2%’. It is clear that Morris’ pseudo-scientific war against the foreskin has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

Morris has developed extensive networks with others who share his desire to fight a war against the foreskin. Clearly, his choices in this regard have often been less than ideal. Morris was previously closely associated with the UK based ‘Gilgal Society’. Until recently, the Gilgal Society was led by Vernon Quaintance. In 2012, Quaintance was found guilty of possessing child pornography (including images of males under the age of 16). In April 2013, Morris claimed on a Facebook page called ‘Yes, I’m Circumcised’ that he had ‘never met’ nor spoken to Quaintance however, curiously, he then went on to confirm that (quote) ‘Quaintance offered to assist in the production of professional quality brochures and that…(he)…accepted his offer’. Until shortly after Quaintance’s conviction those very brochures were available for download from Morris’ website and they carried the ‘Gilgal Society’ name and logo.

In 2010, Morris helped found an organisation known as the ‘Circumcision Foundation of Australia’. The President of CFA is Dr Terry Russell. Russell is the principal operator of ‘Circumcision Australia’, a small group of Doctors based in Brisbane and Melbourne who proudly claim that they have performed ‘over 30,500 circumcisions’ in the last 20 years. Russell himself has been performing circumcisions for more than 35 years. As such, Russell clearly has a significant financial vested interest in the promotion of circumcision. In 2004, Russell was reprimanded, ordered to repay $4,488.88 and to undergo counselling by the Professional Services Review (PSR), an independent Commonwealth body established to ‘protect the integrity of the Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits schemes’. The PSR found that Russell ‘opportunistically diagnosed tongue-tie’ in patients referred to him for circumcisions. It found that 90% of such procedures performed by him (for which a Medicare rebate was claimed) were ‘inappropriate’ on the grounds that there were ‘no clinical indications for the services’ rendered.

In addition, Morris has co-authored ‘peer reviewed’ papers with others who have no relevant formal academic qualifications, most notably Jake Waskett. In April this year, Morris confirmed via the ‘Yes, I’m Circumcised’ Facebook page that Waskett is ‘an IT expert’ who ‘did not complete his degree’. Morris attempted to validate his association with Waskett by suggesting that he ‘has an academic level knowledge of the medical literature on male circumcision’. Despite Morris’ protestations, it is clear that Waskett is neither a doctor nor a scientist. As such, he is in no way qualified to contribute to publications which claim to possess mainstream medical or scientific credibility.

Ultimately, social and ethical issues are decided in the court of public opinion. In the case of Morris’ war against the foreskin, the jury has spoken loudly and clearly. In Australia, routine infant circumcision rates have been in dramatic freefall since the 1970’s. At that time, around 85% of boys were subjected to the practice but that figure has now fallen to around 15%. The practice is banned as elective surgery in public hospitals in most jurisdictions. This situation is mirrored in all other Western democracies. Circumcision is now firmly entrenched as a minority practice in all of Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. Even in the United States (where circumcision has traditionally been most firmly entrenched as a cultural norm) the tide is turning. Routine circumcision now impacts upon less than 50% of the neo-natal male population in America and that number continues to fall. These statistics provide clear evidence that Morris’ public relations war against the foreskin has been a dismal failure. He has lost.

On his own website, Morris makes the following observation: ‘Imagine holding a set position for years, a good portion of one’s life dedicated to that cause, only to find out the effort had little effect’. Ironically, that comment summarises Morris’ current position perfectly. He has fought a long, hard and sometimes dirty personal war against the human foreskin but, as the evidence provided above clearly shows, when judged against any relevant measure, Morris has lost the fight. It is, therefore, surely time for him to raise the white flag and officially surrender.

Footnote:  A screenshot of Morris’ comments on the ‘Yes, I’m Circumcised’ Facebook page is available upon request. To obtain a copy, send us an email via the ‘Contact Us’ page on this site.

How to tell if you live in a culture of genital cutting

simonharris100:

Are you perpetuating the genital cutting culture in Australia?

Take the test by answering the following questions.

Do you believe that girls should be able to decide for themselves if they want to have parts of their genitals cut?

Do you also believe that boys should be able to decide for themselves if they want to have parts of their genitals cut?

If you answered yes to the first question but no to the second, perhaps you are considering the issue with a gender bias.

Let’s try another set of questions:

Do you think that religious sensitivities should be respected when determining if Muslim parents should have the right to cut the genitals of their baby girls?

And do you also think that religious sensitivities should be respected when determining if Jewish parents should have the right to cut the genitals of their baby boys?

If you answered no to the first question but yes to the second, then perhaps you are looking at this issue with a religious bias.

And if after answering both sets of questions you have both a gender and religous bias towards genital cutting, then perhaps we do have a genital cutting culture in Australia.

Originally posted on stopthecutting:

I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to my first real attempt to explain to my family and friends and the world my very negative feelings about the fact that as a newborn, I was subjected to male genital mutilation (MGM).

Oddly enough, the most push back I’ve received has been from my own family. Maybe this is the first time that they’ve come to grips with the fact that their sons may grow up to feel that they were violated by MGM.

I sure hope that no one grows up to feel like they were violated, but I am not the first to feel this way about the fact that I was subjected to MGM, and until the practice is stopped, I will not be the last.

View original 1,423 more words

60 Minutes segment raises concerns that male circumcision is child sexual abuse

zscreaming babyThe Nine Network’s ‘60 Minutes’ program has tackled the issue of routine infant circumcision again (Sunday March 3rd, 2013). Participants in the segment included former Tasmanian Commissioner for Children, Paul Mason, who made the point that circumcision ‘is child abuse, it’s sexual abuse’ and Elwyn Moir, who highlighted the negative impacts that being subjected to genital cutting as an infant have had on his (and many other men’s) life. Presenting a pro-circumcision opinion (which directly contradicted the stance of Australia’s peak medical bodies) was Brian Morris. 60 Minutes has aired several segments on this issue in the past. Do you think that this latest installment sufficiently took into account the mounting evidence against infant circumcision as an ethical ‘surgical’ procedure?

Click on the link below to see a preview of the segment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_AHvKiKas8

Should Australians have the right to decide which parts of their genitals they keep?

Here is an outrageous idea. Or, at least, an idea that may seem foreign to many Australians. I believe that I should have the right to choose which parts of my genitals I keep and which parts I want to have sliced off and thrown into the medical waste bin.Circumcision consent

But it seems that many Australians don’t agree with me. Or that is what it seems when they support the act of pinning down an infant boy and cutting off part of his penis. Most call it circumcision, but I prefer to avoid this euphemism and call it what it really is: genital cutting, partial penis amputation, or even (brace yourselves) genital mutilation. ‘Oh no’ I hear you gasp. ‘It’s only mutilation if we do it to a girl, right? Even if its a tiny symbolic nick. If we cut off 30-50% of the penile skin, surely that can’t be called mutilation. And besides, we do it in Australia, and the Government pays for it through Medicare, so it can’t be mutilation. Can it?’

But what about the medical benefits? You can put forward an argument for amputating any body part based on the medical benefits of doing so. You could amputate a baby’s big toe to reduce the risk of ingrown toenails, or cut off their ears to reduce skin cancer. I challenge you to suggest one body part where there wouldn’t be a benefit in chopping it off (please suggest a body part as a comment below if you are up for the challenge). But with all these other body parts, the use of that part is considered, and medical ethics and plain old common sense prevail. The penis seems to be exempt from all of these concepts.

And by the way, even if there was any truth to these so-called medical benefits, most of them are related to sexually transmissible diseases, and I didn’t have sex when I was a baby. In fact I didn’t have my first serious sexual encounter unti l was 20. And my partner in this encounter has been my only partner and now wife for the last 12 years. I was hardly at risk of HIV or other STD’s which the pro-cutting crowd try desperately to prove are more prevalent in men who have all of their genitals. Besides, at the age of 20, even if I had decided to lead an ‘at risk’ lifestyle, I could have decided to either get myself circumcised for a marginal reduced risk at best, or wear a condom.

But getting back to my ‘outrageous’ statement. I wasn’t wasn’t given the right to choose for myself. And it seems that most Australians think that’s OK. Otherwise, like me they would be joining the intactivist movement and lobbying government to bring an end to the practice. But the most important thing they could do would be to simply stop cutting their babies. Most have, with rates now less than 1 in 5 and shrinking every year. But it seems that many who wouldn’t circumcise their own children will still support parents who decide to do it to theirs.

Maybe I am wrong. In this age of gender equality, self-determination and the growth of the human rights movement, perhaps Australians do support the concept of genital autonomy. Where do you stand?

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ryan Fitzgerald wins the inaugural ‘Australian Circumcision Stupidity’ award

In 2009, Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald, now half of the popular ‘Fitzy and Wippa’ team on Sydney’s Nova FM radio station, decided to circumcise his baby boy. Obviously we are against the forced circumcision of children where there is no medical need, but we don’t usually single out the parents who have made this decision for ridicule. Often the decision is made under pressure from family members and doctors, or due to a lack of research and understanding of just how damaging this procedure is. However, while inflicting unneccessary and damaging cosmetic surgery on his defenceless son was bad enough, Ryan’s actions in the days following the operation took the abuse to a whole new level, and so has earnt him our inaugural Australian Circumcision Stupidity award.

Holding down a perfecty healthy newborn and slicing off the most intimate and sensitive part of his body is bad enough. But in a feeble attempt at ‘entertainment’ Ryan took his son’s amputated foreskin into the radio station and passed it around to his then co-presenters, Julian ‘Jules’ Schiller and Claire Murphy, to get their reactions on air.

To see what happened check out the clip below:

On two occasions Ryan seems to gloat about just how much tissue has been removed from his baby. On one of these occasions he quips “That’s a fair bit of skin, hey?” Yes, it is a lot of skin. But what he may fail to realise is that this is only the amount of skin (and other specialised tissue) that is lost to the baby. When his baby grows into a fully developed man he will be missing up to 15 square inches of highly sensitive and functional genital tissue, which is about the size of the palm of your hand.

Ryan’s colleagues appear to be slightly less enthusiastic about the stunt, with Claire commenting “That’s the whole top of a willy. It’s not what I was expecting.” I’m not sure what she was expecting to see. If you cut off the end of someone’s penis, that is exactly what you will get. Perhaps this was a realisation for Claire of the harsh reality of this procedure. It is something that was so readily accepted by our culture until recently that it is difficult to fully comprehend what we have been doing, until coming face to face with the raw results.

The saddest side to this is that this boy will one day grow up and may find this video when looking through his father’s career. How will he feel when he sees that the most intimate part of his body not only taken from him, but then trivialised and disrespected in such a public way by someone who should have protected him?

For this shameful act, Ryan not only takes home the award but also a copy of the book ‘The Joy of Uncircumcising‘, in which he can learn about the functions of the foreskin, and how restoring his own foreskin could improve his sexual experiences. In fact, through reading this book and sharing his experience, Ryan has a chance to redeem himself. We all know people make mistakes. The growing movement against forced infant circumcision is well represented by parents who did not know the truth at the time they made the decision to circumcise their sons. If Ryan takes on the techniques outlined in this book (or more modern techniques from restoration forums) for a period of two months, and then shares his experience with his listeners, in Lance Armstrong style we will re-write history strike his name from the record books.

Who knows, like many men who have restored their foreskins and now understand what they were missing, Ryan too may join us in becoming an Intactivist and help protect the rights of future generations of baby boys.

Circumcision and foreskin restoration hit the mainstream media in Australia

The related issues of male circumcision and foreskin restoration have hit the headlines in mainstream Australian media outlets today (October 2nd, 2012). Multicultural public broadcaster SBS will use its current affairs program ‘Insight’ as the venue for an open forum on circumcision tonight at 8.30pm. In addition, News Limited’s online opinion page ‘The Punch’ today published a new testimonial from an Australian man, which once again highlights the impact that infant circumcision has on men once they reach adulthood, as well as the role that the ‘tried and true’ process of foreskin restoration can play in helping those affected to reverse some of the damage.

Click the link below to read the complete article:

‘I was circumcised and I want my foreskin back!’

Despair, embarrassment, grief and survival: A personal account of the impact of infant circumcision

In this special guest post, one of our members talks about the impact that circumcision has had on his life. He wishes to remain anonymous but he hopes that sharing his story will have two main impacts. First, he hopes that expectant parents who read his story will think long and hard before they subject any male offspring to genital cutting and, second, he hopes that adolescent and adult males who have been negatively affected by circumcision will read his story and be reassured that they are not alone in their experience and that there are steps they can take to lead happier, more productive lives. Here is ‘Richard’s’ story:

The first time I ever saw an intact (uncircumcised) penis was in the change rooms at Primary School. I remember thinking ‘that’s weird, I don’t look like that’. I had no idea why he looked different, I just thought that maybe he looked different because he was from England. All the Australian boys looked the same as I did. I didn’t really think much more about it until I was around 8 or 9 when, for reasons unknown, I asked my mother what circumcision meant. I think the word got mentioned on television. She didn’t really explain it. All she said was, ‘you know what Chris (the intact boy who lived next door) looks like…that’s because he hasn’t been circumcised’. I didn’t really think that much about it at the time. Shortly after that, I remember my father saying to me ‘you are circumcised, just like your dad’. I said to him ‘why daddy?’ and his response was ‘oh, just because it is nice and neat’. Once again, I didn’t really think that much about it at the time but my world was about to come crashing down around me.

Like most of us, my sexual awareness really kicked in around the time that I reached puberty. I had been having something resembling sexual relations with another boy since we were around six years old. I remember him saying to me ‘we’re poofs you know’. I had heard the word ‘poof’ before and knew what it meant but that was the first time that I even considered the idea that it applied to me. Having sexual contact with another boy seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me and I couldn’t reconcile that with the negative connotations which I knew that the word ‘poof’ had.

At this time I became racked with guilt and confusion but much worse was to come. Not long after all of that came the first time that I really inspected my penis and the grim reality hit me instantly. I suddenly realised what had happened to me. I suddenly realised what circumcision really meant. I had a dark band of scar tissue that went all the way around the shaft of my penis and there was also a ‘gap’, a second band of much lighter ‘depressed’ scar tissue. I was instantly devastated, instantly enraged and my whole outlook on the world instantly changed. (Thanks to the internet, I later discovered that the second band of ‘depressed’ scar tissue had been caused by an ‘improper closure’. The wound had not been stitched together tightly enough and had to be re-sutured. I almost certainly suffered severe blood-loss and I probably went into shock).

Almost overnight, my whole personality changed. I became extremely depressed and I became anti-social. Looking back at it now, I think that I had something akin to a mental break-down. I became increasingly dependant on alcohol and cannabis, in order to maintain something that resembled happiness. I had been an outstanding student in Primary School but over the next couple of years my academic results went badly downhill, to the point where I began failing subjects. I became an introvert. My childhood friends fell by the wayside and the small group of friends that I had made at High School couldn’t understand why it appeared that I was sabotaging myself so badly. I remember one of them saying to me, ‘you are smart, you are funny and you are a good-looking guy, so why are you behaving like such a twat?’

There was no way that I could provide an honest response to that question. My faith and trust in my fellow human beings had evaporated. I had become wracked with despair, embarrassment and grief and I hated myself. Instead of going on to complete High School and studying law at university, as I had always wanted to do, I dropped out and became a full-on ‘party animal’. I took loads of drugs, including too many magic mushrooms and too much LSD. I didn’t recognise it at the time but I had gone into self-preservation mode. I tried to ‘do the right thing’ and stay employed but I couldn’t. I had developed a severe anxiety disorder. I couldn’t even do the basic things in life properly. I couldn’t feed myself properly. I couldn’t keep my clothes or my house clean. I spent 12 years wasting away on the Disability Support Pension.

During those especially dark years, my negative self-image also resulted in me avoiding having sex, even though I really desired it. I suppose my homosexuality complicated the situation in this regard because I feared that any male partner would see my penis and reject me. Eventually, a guy came along who I really liked. We had built up a good friendship and so I thought I could trust him. I was wrong. When we got naked I noticed that he had an intact (and I must add rather large) penis. When he saw my penis his behaviour changed immediately. He kept staring at it and wouldn’t touch it. At that point, I put my clothes on and walked the 5km to my home. After that experience, I didn’t even attempt to have sex for over ten years and, when I eventually did so, I felt the need to be in absolute control of the situation, in order to avoid a repeat of the humiliation.

My quality of life has improved somewhat over the last few years. To some extent, distraction ended up being a positive factor. I finally made it to university and completed an Honours Degree in International Relations. That achievement (and the recognition from others that it created) has helped me realise that there is more to my existence and my identity than just my status as a circumcised man.

On a different level, the internet has been a great resource for me. All of a sudden and ‘out of the blue’, I realised that I was not alone in the way that I felt. I discovered that there is an international ‘brotherhood’ of circumcised men whose life experiences have been as traumatic as my own. I also discovered that there are a large number of intact men (and also some women) who empathise with me and respect me for who I am. These people do not judge. These people inspire. These people are my friends. I no longer perceive myself as being a victim. I now perceive myself as being a survivor

Thanks to the internet, I have also discovered foreskin restoration. I know that I can never completely reverse the damage that was done to me by circumcision but I know that I can reverse some of it. It provides me with some comfort to know that, eventually, I will have more or less the same sexual appearance that I would have had if I had not been subjected to genital mutilation. That, for me, is the main benefit of foreskin restoration, although regaining some of the normal sexual function that I have been deprived of is also important.

So here I am, a 43 year old man who feels that he has been through hell (which is pretty weird considering that I am an atheist) and lived to tell the story. I now believe that my quality of life will continue to improve, even if it means sometimes taking two steps forward and one step back. I no longer judge myself in the way that I once did. In the end though, I know that I will always have to live with the burden of something that occurred in only a short few minutes of my life and which was imposed upon me without my consent.

Whoever reads this will no doubt sense that I still retain some self pity, however I consider it to be a great virtue that I am now able to use some of my psychological and emotional energy to help prevent as many boys and men as possible from experiencing problems similar to my own, as a result of being circumcised as an infant. I live in hope.