Maybe that sounds dumb to you: If I have a girl, why would I circumcise her? After all, it’s done in foreign countries, and we call it “female genital mutilation.” There are no medical benefits to it (even the most minor versions of it) and generally, we find it horrifying. And it is. We don’t need to cut our daughters’ bodies for any purpose. In fact, it’s illegal.
So why is it completely acceptable to do the exact same thing to our sons?
Yes, it’s true: I don’t think of circumcising a boy as any different than circumcising a girl. It’s a completely unnecessary cosmetic procedure — one that I’d never subject my child to. Any child.
I know — people have their reasons. I’d like to address a few of them.
1) Health benefits: There are very few studies here, and they seem poorly done. Besides, there are far better ways to prevent HIV transmission than infant circumcision, like condoms or abstinence. Some of the “health” benefits originally included decreased libido and lower likelihood of masturbating, which we now know is ridiculous. There are no health benefits specifically to the infant, and certainly not any to warrant surgical removal of a body part!
2) Religious reasons: I’m not going to argue with anyone’s religious beliefs, but it’s important to know that circumcision in Biblical times was not what it is today. It was merely a ritual knick in the foreskin during the bris. It was not a complete removal.
3) Hygiene: Anyone who believes this doesn’t understand how to care for an uncircumcized penis. In infants you do not retract the skin (it doesn’t, and you’ll hurt your son if you try); you only wipe the outside of it. When the child is older, the foreskin will naturally retract, and he can learn to gently clean underneath during baths. Some might say, “But they won’t actually do it when they’re still young!” Yeah, well, a lot of kids don’t. My 3-year-old daughter doesn’t always wipe after she uses the bathroom unless I remind her and occasionally gets a little sore. We just try to stay on top of her and make sure she takes care of herself. We’d do the same with a little boy (my son hasn’t reached the ‘retracting’ stage yet). This is not an issue that is unique to either gender nor which can or should be solved with circumcision! With a little common sense, it’s just as hygienic.
4) Look like Daddy: I’m sorry, but this is one of the dumbest reasons ever. How often are your husband and son going to compare penises? A baby/child’s penis doesn’t look like an adult’s anyway. How often will they “compare” once your son hits puberty? My guess is never. Nor will the son really care what his father looks like. “Matching” is just dumb.
5) Teasing: Another really dumb reason. If some other boy is looking at your son’s penis in the locker room (where else would they see it? Are they going to talk about it on the playground? Some boys don’t even really know if they are or aren’t because they never discussed the difference at home), he can just say, “Dude, like what you see? Want to take a picture?” From what I remember, looking was way worse than anything else. Besides, with about half the boys born now uncircumcised, it’s not like it will even be weird.
There are 5 reasons busted. There are also a lot of good reasons not to do it.
1) His body, his choice: I know adult men who are circumcised who feel like they are missing something. They wish that the choice had been left up to them. This is as it should be. It is cosmetic so there is no reason to make this choice for your child. For the same reason, I won’t pierce my daughter’s ears until she is old enough to choose for herself.
2) Bodily integrity: We don’t need to lop off body parts randomly, “just in case.” He has the right to remain intact, the way he was born, barring medical necessity. He was born with these parts for a reason; let’s leave them alone.
3) Medical necessity: There are rare cases that a circumcision becomes medically necessary, such as when a condition called phimosis (hardening/tightening of the foreskin) occurs. But this is a “cross that bridge if/when we come to it” type of situation. We don’t send babies for a tonsillectomy or appendectomy right after birth just in case those organs become diseased someday. We handle it if and when it is needed.
4) Complications: Circumcision is surgery. Doctors can cut too little or too much, it can become infected, and it can re-grow partially and fuse to the penis again. Plus, anesthesia can cause a reaction (if it’s even used, which it often isn’t). All of those “botched” circumcisions I mentioned? I know babies personally who’ve had those things happen to them. More often than not it seemed babies had to undergo some type of surgery to “fix” the problems. Why would you expose your baby to these risks, however small, for a cosmetic procedure?
5) Pain: Circumcision hurts. They forcibly separate the foreskin from the head of the penis and cut it off. This is one of the most sensitive parts of a boy’s body! Sometimes they don’t even use anesthesia. Babies can pass out from the pain. There are theories that this pain is imprinted on their memories. Plus, think about caring for it in the early weeks: you have to change diapers immediately, keep it covered, not use wipes with soap (I know someone who tossed a wipe over her son’s newly circumcised penis — he screamed), and so on. Why would you go through this for something that is not necessary in the first place?
Suffice it to say, my son is not done (and my husband is 100% on board with this) and no future children will be done. It’s just not necessary! If any son of mine ever has to be done, we will do it (and still leave the rest alone). If any chooses as an adult to do it, that is his choice (much like pierced ears or tattoos). For now, though, we will respect his body and leave it intact.
Do you choose to circumcise? Why or why not?
**Edited to change comment in “teasing” point. I apologize for the earlier remark; my intention was not to promote bullying or intolerance in any way.**