A post about very small penises.
November 15, 2010

NOTE: This is a reminder.  I welcome debate and I welcome new perspectives on this website, always.  I do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES welcome personal attacks.  Readers here have made many a good point in the comments below and I do not want to stop the dialogue, but if we cannot remain respectful of one another and keep in mind that we all do the very best we can to keep our children safe and healthy, then I will close the comments.  DO NOT CALL ANYBODY A BAD PARENT.  One choice, especially a choice that is still socially acceptable, does not a bad parent make.  I don’t care if you disagree with someone’s choice or not; when you comment on my website, you abide by my rules, and my rules restrict hate speech, the end.  A stream of comments that is hateful and judgmental does not help anyone.  A stream of comments that is thoughtful, on the other hand, helps everybody.

Several years ago, an Orthodox family I know welcomed a newborn boy.  On the eighth day of his life, I found myself standing in a jam-packed living room as the boy was brought out on the Chair of Elijah.  Following a blessing, the mohel pricked the infant’s foreskin to draw a drop of blood.  Here was a devout Orthodox family, part of a larger Orthodox community, who refused to circumcise their sons.  Now you’ve been, the rabbi said as he kissed my cheek, to a bris shalom.  I had never heard of such a thing.

The experiences we all have in life shape us and that single occurrence, for better or for worse, changed me.  It made me think about, learn about and ultimately care about foreskins.  And look, I ordinarily steer clear of controversial debates, but in light of recent press regarding San Francisco’s proposed ban of male infant circumcision, suddenly I want to talk about it.

I very strongly oppose routine non-religious infant circumcision.  And by ‘routine,’ I mean ‘not medically necessary.’  But let’s be honest: for the average American couple expecting a child, whether or not to leave a son intact is a difficult decision.  I know because Donald and I are an average American couple and it seemed an impossibly tough call for us.  During our pregnancy, not a single medical authority educated us about the pros and cons of circumcision.  We were left to our own devices and, as is often the case, our own devices were largely based on uninformed personal experience.

After our daughter was born, everything changed.  I stared at my child enthralled and thanked every star in the heavens that I had birthed a girl.  We had dodged a bullet, I laughed to family.  But what I was really thankful for was the second chance.  Because ultimately, my husband and I had not come to a firm conclusion about whether or not a son’s poor unsuspecting penis ought to meet the chop-block.  And looking at my sleeping infant, it horrified me that I had ever elevated parental choice over a potential son’s right to bodily integrity.  I felt unbelievably guilty.

Not a great way to start out parenthood, that.

Over the following months, I found out that not a single national or international medical organization recommends neonatal circumcision…and I felt immensely betrayed.  A review was presented at the International AIDS Conference that showed that fewer than 1 in 3 American boys were circumcised in 2009 – and that in my state the rate was lower still…and I felt excited.

I finally asked questions of a girl-friend who chose to be circumcised as an adult…and I felt enlightened.  I visited a friend whose boy screamed uncontrollably for hours after his circumcision…and I felt dismayed.  A mom in my neighborhood stuck a genital integrity bumper sticker on her car…and I felt proud.  A woman I grew up with said her biggest problem with her in-laws was that in circumcising her husband, they had not preserved his right to religious freedom or his right to experience sex with all of his penile nerves intact…and I felt understanding.  I found out that a family we know lost their first son when his circumcision was botched…and I felt incalculably saddened.  I discovered (to my horror) that every pro we’d come up with during our pregnancy was unsubstantiated or, in one case, hotly debated…and I felt infuriated.

I heard the term ‘genital mutilation’ and found that I…well…I agreed.

Today, my husband and I both know much more about male circumcision and the function of the prepuce than we did two years ago, so I know that barring medical necessity any sons we bring into this world will remain whole.

But here’s the thing: although I oppose infant circumcision for a variety of reasons and I feel that education regarding circumcision should be made more readily accessible to expecting parents…I also realize that nobody sacrifices their child’s foreskin because they think it’s an inferior decision.  They do so because they love their son and they fully believe that getting rid of that pesky little flap of skin is the best choice.

So I find myself at a crossroads, so to speak.  On the one hand, I support this potential circumcision ban.  Three cheers for penises, I want to say.  Hip hip hooray for a little more of that bit of male anatomy that I adore.  And on the other hand, I feel inexplicably uncertain about endorsing government regulation.  On the one hand, I worry that government regulation is an inherent restriction of religious freedom.  On the other hand, I recognize that religious freedom is not accepted when it extends to female circumcision, human sacrifice, or other forms that involve another person’s body.  And on and on I go with this, back and forth, flip and flop.

How about you?  What do you think?  How do you feel about circumcision?  Is it genital mutilation and therefore a human rights issue…or is this just a lot of hullabaloo over nothing?  What do you think about potential government regulation?  What have your experiences relative to circumcision - male or female, infant or adult - been?

Please be respectful.  Remember, opting for or against circumcision is not an indication of someone’s overall parenting quality.  I am opening this dialogue because I want to learn from all of you, understand your choices and your beliefs, and see this issue through new eyes.  Maybe you can learn from other people as well.


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  1. By Monica on November 15, 2010

    Totally against it, for any non-medical reason.  The science against circumcision is overwhelming, not to mention the common sense against it.  (When else do we cut off perfectly functioning bits of our body for no medical reason?)

  2. By on November 15, 2010

    Against for any (non medical) reason. As an atheist I just don’t think religious reasons are “good enough” reasons to chop off a part of your baby’s body unnecessarily. The government regulates lots of things; so why is regulating snipping off a piece of flesh any different? Although it will never go through; someone will challenge on religious grounds.

    I can’t imagine loosing a health, viable baby because of a medical error on a small procedure; how horrific. My heart goes out to those parents!

    What I do find interesting with this post is that you had a female friend who chose to get circumcised. I have many African Muslim friends and not one of them advocates for this practice so it’s intriguing to me that a woman would choose to do that to herself!

  3. By on November 15, 2010

    I have to agree with Corrine - religious reasons don’t sit well with me in arguments for circumcision.

    With our own son, it was not an issue at all. I think I asked my partner, “No circumcision, right?“ and he looked at me like I was crazy to even ask. You may as well ask if I’d want to cut off his earlobe or something.
    No health carers, friends or family, during my pregnancy or after his birth, mentioned anything about circumcision, and I’m glad.

    I read many women due the same time as me who would argue vehemently that it was more hygienic (and some who would spout aesthetics) but really. Is it so hard to teach simple cleanliness? And arguments that it ‘looks better’ are just horrific.

    A regulation that protects the body and well-being of a helpless child is ok by me.

  4. By on November 15, 2010

    I am not going to argue this on the pros and cons of circumcision but on limiting/interfering with parental choices.  My first child was a special needs child due to neurilogical problems that affected his behavior. If you have a child with behavior problems EVERYONE feels they have the right to tell you what to do. One tool in our quest to help our son was medication.  This led people to tell me I was a poor parent, no better than a drug dealer in the school yard. That experience has made me sensitve - OK, maybe even hypersensitive to limiting peoples choices when we do not walk in their shoes.  Without the circumcision ban, everyone is free not to circumcise. Let’s hear it for trusting in parental choice and let go of the need to ban.

  5. By on November 15, 2010

    Sarah, I am curious about your friend who chose to be circumcised as an adult woman. Could you share what you learned of her reasons with us?  Thanks.

  6. By on November 15, 2010

    I never even thought about it until we were pregnant with our son.  I read all over the internet.  Pros and cons.  In my family it was a given that any boy would be circumcised.  Once I got to researching though I realized how absolutely wrong it was.  It’s mutilation in the truest sense.  Who are we as parents to say as soon as our son is born that he is not perfect and must be changed (without his consent!) immediately? 
    Obviously, we chose not to and while I have caused many discussions from friends and family for him going to look like a “freak” when he is older I have absolutely NO regrets and neither does my husband.  We look at him today at 2 and realize how right we were in our decision.  I’m proud we stood up for him!

  7. By amybeth on November 15, 2010

    Whatever parents decide, it should be up to individual families.

    The government has no right to regulate something so personal. Not only is it wrong on face value, but it is a slippery slope. Please, don’t let them start parenting for you on any level!

  8. By on November 15, 2010

    I’m against it for any non medical reason.

  9. By Ashley on November 15, 2010

    I, like you, feel very strongly about NOT circumcising now that I’m a mother. However, my husband has different feelings about it. As a circumcised man, he would like his (theoretical) son to look like him. Though I honestly don’t think this would be a major point of confusion (do everyones eyes, hair, hands, etc look just like his parents’?) he seems to feel that his would be the deciding vote in the matter. However, he’s also very open and reasonable, so I hope (if we are in the position of making this decision) he would listen to my reasons to not circumcise. Otherwise I’ll have to throw myself in front of the scalpel.

    I worry that too many parents have made this decision from an uneducated position and just gone with the flow of what mostpeople do for the reasons that mostpeople cite. I sympathize with the feeling of not being capable of fully educating oneself about EVERY single question of your child’s upbringing and relying on cultural knowledge to recommend a good and useful solution. THIS choice seems to me to be fundamentally different.

    As for the common arguments about cleanliness, confusion, etc, my best friend in highschool was not circumcised and he felt comfortable enough to discuss with it me. He said that it had never been an issue for him and is no harder to clean and care for than a woman’s parts. He had never felt any kind of locker room anxiety because of it either.

    But what I think we need to recognize is that all of the minor (non-religious) reasons to do it are rather superficial when held up against the potential emotional, physical, and mortal toll that it can take on a child. Just because babies don’t remember it, does not mean that it doesn’t affect them in ways they can’t understand as adults with no memory of a specific pain.

    Anyway, this is just me saying that I’m kind of in the same boat. Taking in all of the arguments on both sides but feeling a strong pull to the anti-circ camp. Thanks for sharing.

    p.s. I’m also really very interested in possbile rationale for an adult FEMALE circumcision. My mind is boggled.

  10. By Sarah Christensen on November 15, 2010

    I hesitate to speak for the woman I know who opted for circumcision, but my understanding is that she feels it was a very personal individual choice.  She married a man from a tribal group that practices female circumcision as a female rite of passage and as a means of showing that they are ready for marriage.  My understanding of her choice was that it boiled down to compromise.  She felt that her husband was going to be making several decisions contrary to his culture that conformed to her community and brought him into her family fold and she wanted to find an equal sacrifice that would help conform her to his community and bring her into his family fold.  She does not regret the decision, but I’ve never heard her advocate for it either.  The only reason it came up at all was because her children have begun asking questions about it and she doesn’t want them to think it’s always a vile practice, but she also doesn’t want them to believe it’s something that should be practiced without extraordinary self-reflection first.  Ultimately, it’s a personal choice governing her body that she made as a consenting adult, so it’s hard to compare it to the female genital mutilation practices that we often hear about.

  11. By on November 15, 2010

    We did not find out the sex of our now baby boy.  Going through all the questions of “what if this and what if that”, we agreed that there is NO medical reason to clip that skin if Baby was a boy.  In our opinions, It’s completely cosmetic and for conformity only.  If it were a religious reason, maybe I’d feel different, but it’s not, so I don’t.

    Our decision was final when we had an interview with our pediatrician.  I asked his opinion on circumcision and his reply was:  “I don’t believe that Nature brings us into this world with spare parts for a doctor to cut off”.  Amen Doc!

  12. By on November 15, 2010

    I swear, I am not trying to be snarky, but who cares? It’s up to the parents, and if you are the parent of only a daughter, why not wait until you have a son to worry about it? You might have all girls and then it will never be an issue anyway. Again, I’m not trying to be bitchy, just curious.

  13. By on November 15, 2010

    Ghana (where I work) has had major campaigns to stop this practice and none of my Northern Ghanaian friends/employees think this practice is something that should be continued. It’s also a practice the UN is trying to stop. The practice IS harmful and vile and I think before your friend starts telling her children the contrary she should talk to an 11 year old village girl who undergoes the mutilation in filthy conditions and has to suffer in pain and through infection with no medical care.

  14. By Sarah Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Tieraney - I’m just thinking about it more than usual because of the proposed ballot measure in San Francisco.

    Either way, I suppose that you could argue that if circumcision is a human rights issue, then it should matter…even to people who are not parents or who are parents to only girls.  You can say the same of it if its a religious freedom or parental choice issue.  I suppose you could draw several parallels - if only slaveowners cared about slavery, if only those discriminated against cared about discrimination, if only those without access to education cared about building schools, etc., it would be a very different world.  I also care about things like homosexual marriage rights even though I’m not homosexual.  Furthermore, as the mother of a daughter who may one day be interested in having a relationship with a man, it interests me from the standpoint of sexual function.

    I think you’ll notice that I am not trying to tell anyone what to do or think.  I’m illustrating that this is my opinion, this is the path that brought me to my opinion, and now I just want to know what other people think - is this possible ban leaving them conflicted as it does me?  Or do they think it’s a good idea?  Or do they think it’s infringement of religious freedom and parental choice?  I swear that I’m not trying to be judgmental or holier-than-thou, I’m just curious what other people think.  Right now it’s up to the parents, but if this ban goes through and if the ban in Massachusetts is passed as well, then it might only be in the hands of parents for a few more years.  Is that right or wrong?

  15. By Sarah Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Corrine - I think the way she’s handling it, telling them that the only way she finds it acceptable is as a consenting adult who comes to an individual decision after copious self-reflection, is probably the best we can hope for.  She doesn’t want her kids to accept all female genital alteration, only those committed by consenting adults.

  16. By on November 15, 2010

    If you had asked me circ vs intact a few years ago I would have shouted CIRC!  But now being a mother and a NICU nurse I have decided that it is not an option for my family.  It is such an unneccesary procedure.  I would guess 80% of the boys in our newborn nursery are circ’ed but it is such a painful procedure.  So many times completed by a resident doc who doesn’t wait long enough for the lidocaine to kick in and then the babies are in so much pain after the lido wears off.  So why subject them to this??  I have asked parents… so they look like their dad, because everyone else does, it looks better, cleaner.  All inadequate reasons in my opinion.  And so yes, I feel the government has every right to stop this procedure except where medically needed.

  17. By on November 15, 2010

    I did have my newborn son circumcised (he is 4 wks today), but it was my and my husband’s choice. I know people who haven’t had their boy children circumcised.I didn’t do much research beyond talking to my mom (who is a nurse) probably because it is the socially acceptable norm. Does this make me a bad parent? I don’t think so.

    I think it should be left to parental choice. I already think that the government regulates too much of our lives. 

    I have already faced the issue of not being able to leave my daughter with the person I wanted to when I was working after she was born because somebody decided to call DHS and reported her for watching a child. In my state it is not legal to leave your child with a non licensed provider for more than 15 hours a week unless they are family. I trusted this person more than a licensed daycare.

  18. By on November 15, 2010

    I am very strongly opposed to people (government or otherwise) telling me what to do in regards to my child’s moral or religious upbringing, medical decisions, educational choices, diet, breastfeeding choices, diapering choices etc. and so on. And therefore, I do not tell others what is right for their children and their families either.  I certainly do not support any law or governmental action that dictates these choices.

  19. By on November 15, 2010

    18 1/2 years ago and nearly 16 years ago I gave birth to boys. In our Jewish family there was no discussion/debate regarding circumcision - there would be a B’rit on the 8th day. Fortunately at the time there was a Mohel in the LA area who was an MD not an ancient rabbi with shaky hands (I mean no disrespect, but hey, this was my son’s penis!). I am a traditional, sentimental person and I love the warmth and tradition in the Jewish religion, however I HATED that day. On the flip side, if my sons had undergone the same procedure at the hospital, I would not have been right there to comfort them.  (Sarah, I told your Mom at the first one that I had finally found something I didn’t like about being Jewish)  I do not think the government should get involved in this - unless they’re going to make sure Mohels are properly trained and use sterile fields/kits during their ceremonies/procedures.  I think the best thing we can do as parents is educate ourselves and decide what is best within our own families for our own children.

  20. By on November 15, 2010

    I haven’t really formed an opinion on it. Though, I guess once we start having kids, we will have to.
    I wouldn’t have never called in mutilation, though. Maybe unnecessary.
    However, a nurse once said that if I ever saw an old man with penis rotting off of infection because he still had a foreskin and couldn’t keep it clean anymore, I wouldn’t question getting a circumcision for my infant son. My best friend knows a guy who had to get it done when he was older (teens) because his foreskin didn’t expand enough, or something, and it was then a medical issue. Talk about painful at THAT point in your life.

    I do agree with those above who do not think it is something that the government ought to be regulating.

  21. By on November 15, 2010

    I have no idea why the gov’t. would be involved in this parental decision…..at all…..and know of no parents who would look to the gov’t. for advise on this topic.

  22. By Michelle on November 15, 2010

    I haven’t really thought about male circumcision that much as far as forming an opinion about it, since I only have a daughter, but I’m with those who think the government shouldn’t get involved.  There is the separation of church and state argument, and while there aren’t THAT many people who circumcise strictly because of religious reasons, the ones who do should be allowed to.

    Beyond those who circumcise strictly for religious reasons, I think that it is a parental choice and should remain one.  I agree with whoever above said it’s not “mutilation”, but could be seen as unnecessary.  How many people out there are vehemently opposed to piercing a baby or toddler’s ears?  And yet it’s kind of along the same lines…

    Anyways, I think that mainly the government shouldn’t get involved because it’s something that’s practiced in all of the world for religious or sanitary reasons, and if you want to be able to circumcise your baby boy for either of those reasons, you should be able to.

  23. By on November 15, 2010

    I gave a baby boy up for adoption 15 years ago. I was 19 years old. I didn’t know anything about circumcision then. When they wheeled him down the hall to get cut and I heard his screams I swore right then and there i would never, ever do that to any future sons I would have. I will always regret not researching (like I do now about everything) and making a condition of the adoption that he be kept intact.

    The nurse who made the comment about the old men should have thought to mention how the CNA’s were clearly not doing their jobs of keeping the men clean if they needed help.

    The teenager who had it done was at least old enough to be administered proper pain medication and had the ability to at least understand what was going on.

    Welcome to the world baby boy! Let’s cut off your penis! What a welcome…

  24. By erin on November 15, 2010

    Tiererany, we (my husband and I) only have a daughter as well, but we are hoping to have more children, and hoping to have them soon.  So, we are trying to come to a consensus about this issue as well, ahead of time, unburdened by pregnancy hormones and the emotions surrounding the impending birth of our child.

    I felt like we dodged a bullet when we found out our daughter was a girl, because DH and I are diametrically opposed on this issue.  He is insistent that he wants his son to look like him, and since he is the father and the man that means that HE gets to make this decision.  Because I do not have a penis, he says, I will never understand.  And simply because I grow and birth his son does not give me the final say on every parenting decision we make, he says.

    Unfortunately, I am just as adamant that my newborn son will not be mutilated simply because his grandmother chose to have his father mutilated.  Because (without trying to be contentious or disrespectful), let’s face it, that’s what it is.  The foreskin may not be “necessary,“ but neither are tonsils or the appendix and yet we don’t pre-emptively remove those.  Maybe a circumcised penis might be easier to clean at first, but I’d argue that a little more “convenience” on my part is not worth the irreversible alteration of my child.  And really, it is not up to me to decide how my child’s reproductive organs should look.

    What I personally find interesting is that my husband is adamantly opposed to piercing our daughter’s ears as a baby or a young child (as am I).  He feels that we don’t need to go poking holes in her ears just because we think it is pretty.  (I feel that it is a decision that SHE needs to make, when she is ready to make it - whether that is at 10 years old [like her mother] or 20 [like her grandmother] or 55 [like her other grandmother].)  Apparently this mindset only applies if there are two X chromosomes. :)

  25. By Crystal on November 15, 2010

    To each their own - but I do not believe that the government should be involved in this decision at all.

  26. By erin on November 15, 2010

    Also, sort of tangent: Sarah, I remember once on FB you had posted about (... something… ?) that evolved into a discussion about children’s rights and such.  It would be interesting to have a post about that versus balancing parental rights/authority/experience in making decisions in the best interest of your child.

    Re: circumcision, I don’t feel there is enough medical evidence to warrant violating my child’s right to an intact body and to make their own decision (later when they are an adult).

  27. By on November 15, 2010

    I am completely against female and male genital mutilation of non-consenting babies and/or children.
    I feel that this doesnt “take rights” from the parent. It no more takes your rights from you to say you cannot cut your babies than to make it illegal to rape or abuse your child. It isnt your choice. This isnt something reversable. It isnt a “choice” like breastfeeding or deciding to vaccinate! It is willfull and deliberate harm (amputation) to a baby!
    Has absolutely nothing to do with parental rights!!

  28. By on November 15, 2010

    A few comments:

    Female genital alterations of girl children has been illegal in the U.S. for years. Why does the U.S. discriminate against boy children?

    When my children were born I was a fervently religious christian. Many christians I know circumcise for what they feel are religious reasons. I even got a talking to by my pastor’s wife about how important it was because Jesus was circumcised. I am now atheist. I’m glad I didn’t circumcise my son for so-called religious reasons; he is atheist too.

    I am a Registered Nurse working with geriatric patients for over 20 years now. I have never, ever seen an elderly man with “a penis rotting off.“ This hygiene thing may have been an issue 100 years ago, but come on people, we pretty much all have running water, do we not? Europe, Latin America, Non-muslim Asia, approximately 85% of men in the world are intact; do those men have rampant foreskin problems? I think not, because the physicians and caregivers in those countries consider the intact penis as the “norm” and understand it, unlike the United States where we have a majority of elderly men with foreskins but with a populace uneducated about the normal, functioning foreskin. I have worked in long term care; if a helpless man has foreskin problems, most likely they aren’t being cared for properly by his caregivers. (By the way, I have seen some pretty nasty female anatomy; nobody suggests altering them to make better hygiene.)

    When I originally became opposed to circumcision it was because of the pain it caused to the baby. I gradually came to truly realize what was missing and that the reason circumcision is wrong is because the person the foreskin belongs to isn’t making the decision.

    The desires of your spouse, your family, your culture, your religion, is not the issue here. The foreskin is a natural, normal, errogenous, functioning body part that belongs to a PERSON. And, in my honest opinion, ONLY that person should be making the educated decision about what is best for HIM.

  29. By on November 15, 2010

    I am not sure how many people agree with me but I will chime in. I don’t feel very strongly about this either way. I respect every parents decision about why they did it or why they didn’t. I circumcised my son, he is 15 months old now. When he was circumcised he left sleeping and came back sleeping. It healed very quickly with no problems. I left the decision completely up to my husband. He is circumcised, and I assume this is one of the reasons why he decided to do it. For health reason I had read once that it is easier to keep clean when their circumcised. I still have to peel back a little skin to keep it clean.(which is definitely not easy with a squirmy one year old!!) There is definitely not enough information out there either way. Sometimes I feel bad about it, other times I don’t. Would I do it again if we have another boy? I don’t know. Will he wonder why his and his brothers penises are different? Why daddys and his brothers are the same and his is not? Will he feel special or left out? I don’t know. When the time comes to make the decision again it might be a little harder for me this time.  But we did it and we try our hardest to make sure our kids feel great about themselves not matter what.

    I think the government should not get involved. It’s should remain a parents choice for what ever reason, religious or otherwise.

  30. By on November 15, 2010

    Recently, we had to make this decision for our now four month old son.  Both my husband and I are scientists and took the decision quite seriously.  We interviewed three pediatricians on the issue (2 leaned for circumcision citing health benefits and 1 was ‘either way’).  We also avoided using ‘google’ as our source for data since it can be very biased towards websites that are strongly anti-circumcision.  I’m writing simply to offer that there are some medical benefits to male circumcision. If you search pubmed, you can find 100’s in the past two years that discuss the topic.  If you would like to read a recent report on the benefits (reduced risk of STDs for both men and women), you can read it here:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20048246.  The article also includes a suggestion for the AAP to change their policy.  Ultimately, it was still an incredibly hard decision for us.  I gave my husband more weight in the process and he opted for circumcision based on what we had read.  Obviously, everyone has their own personal reasons and I liked that we were able to discuss this ourselves, research the matter and make our own decision.  I would be against having the government taking this away from us.  (side note: our baby didn’t cry during the procedure which made a very difficult choice a bit easier to swallow).

  31. By on November 15, 2010

    Genital mutilation is a disgusting procedure, usually done to children in the west for most part.  There is no reason for it, and your point about ‘religious freedom’, think about what your saying, there is nothing free about cutting up genitals of someone who did not aprove, nor decide to follow that religion/tradition, and if he/she did, it would be that one to decide when adult.  Boys and girls should be given the same respect and freedom, however this is not the case. It seems bizzarly silly that you acutally have to explain the fact that the foreskin is errogenous skin, it’s the most sensitive part of a man’s body and the more errogenous skin you cut, the less you have. Health reasons - well we dont’ circumcise little girls or woman for a ittle health problem that ‘might’ occur, and if so can be dealt. Thank God for the fact that people are beginning to open their eyes from a hundred years plus of brainwashing.

  32. By on November 15, 2010

    Shannon—condoms protect against STDs, not lopping off a piece of skin God gave you. Having a circumcised penis is not cleaner, people just need to take the time (i know, it’s hard to make time for your kids) to teach your uncirced boys how to wash it properly.

  33. By on November 15, 2010

    I am supportive of a government ban on this unnecessary and traumatic practice on babies and young children. I believe it’s a decision that should only be made by the boy himself when he is old enough to understand and consent. Circumcision on a minor should only be performed for the same reasons that any other medical amputation would take place on any other body part. Jews can still fulfill their law and tradition with a Brit Shalom like the example above, therefore the ban wouldn’t affect them. I’m a Christian, so I know there are no religious reasons to do it for non-Jews. Canada, Australia, and England have all set examples for us that a ban would be effective in bringing an end to the practice. I think the proposed ban is great because we need to start somewhere!

  34. By on November 15, 2010

    Nicole-  Unfortunately, you are very misinformed of the care an intact penis requires.  It requires NO SPECIAL CARE WHATSOEVER.  In fact, retracting a boy’s foreskin before it is ready causes problems and can lead to dumb doctors doing circumcisions on 7 year olds, 10 year olds and beyond. 

    As an adult, a man merely has to retract his penis and rinse it under the warm water in the shower and it is also recommended that they retract it when they urinate.  Not a huge deal.  Cleaning your ears out takes more time.

    And babies are often so upset by circ’ing that they go into a PTSD-esque sleep.

  35. By on November 15, 2010

    As parents we make choices everyday for our children, but this should not be one of them. It’s a personal choice that should be left up to the person with the foreskin. What’s done during circumcision cannot be undone and this is something that that child (not his parents) will have to live with for the rest of their lives. The foreskin isn’t just “extra skin” that comes optional with the birth of a baby boy. It serves a function and role for both the infant and adult male. We, as parents, do not have the right to take that away from our sons. If, as adults, our children decide to cut away flesh, pierce their skin, and have tattoos embedded onto themselves it’s THEIR choice - not ours.

  36. By on November 15, 2010

    baby girls are protected from genital cutting, i think baby boys deserve the same protection.

    i did not want to circumcise my first boy, i knew there was no medical reason to do so, i knew it is a painful and harmful cosmetic procedure.  my husband wanted it done, so i allowed it.  he ended up with excessive bleeding and needed stitches in his penis.  a tiny newborn with stitches in his penis, it just doesn’t make any sense.

    i insisted that my husband accompany our newborn during the circumcision and needless to say, our next 2 boys are blissfully intact - normal and natural the way humans have evolved for 100,000 years.

    the foreskin is valuable erogenous tissue, it is there for a reason and the only reason doctors keep cutting babies is $$$.

  37. By on November 15, 2010

    Our boys are happily intact.  My husband initially wanted our first circed so he wouldn’t be “different.“  However, I wasn’t about to let part of my baby’s healthy penis be amputated! Now, with all we have learned since then, my husband is very upset that he was circed.  He just had no idea what had been taken from him.  It’s too bad for their baby that one commenter above wouldn’t use the internet to search for info, as most American health care professionals are not taught about the intact penis and are very ignorant of the tremendous value of the foreskin.  It is akin to the female clitoris, being the most sensitive and nerve rich part of the penis.  Circed in infancy men of course have no idea the pleasure that has been robbed from them.

    I am an advocate for parental rights and freedom from government control.  But, I do not consider circumcision (or abortion) to be within the realm of parental rights.  They fall under the abuse category, and we surely don’t give parents license to abuse their children. 

    There is nothing to clean!  Never retract a baby or child’s foreskin!  It is fused to the shaft like a fingernail and will retract on its own over time, often not until after puberty.

    Long before I knew anything about circumcision, common sense told me that it’s insane to want to amputate healthy body parts off of a brand new baby!  I don’t know what is wrong with Americans that we consider this barbaric action to be normal.  Boys are not born deformed!  God made them perfect!  And, I’m a Bible loving Christian, free from the Law to circumcise, which I have learned was nothing as extreme as our common practice today, made popular by Dr. Kellogg in the 1800s as a cure for masturbation.  They thought that by taking away the boy’s source of pleasure, the foreskin, he would be less apt to want to play with himself.  Somehow, we have lost the knowledge that foreskins are very pleasurable.

    For the commenter who mentioned that circumcising an older child or adult would be more painful, actually fetal and newborn pain is much more acute than in older people.  They experience pain to a much greater degree, but of course it’s ok to hurt babies, since “they won’t remember,“ a popular argument used to support infant circumcision.

    For those not afraid of what they will find online, I suggest this site as an excellent starting point in researching this issue: http://www.drmomma.org/2010/01/are-you-fully-informed.html

    For those who tout the medical “benefits” of circumcision, please know that much money is made from both the surgery and the sale of foreskins to be used in various ways.  There is a vested financial interest in keeping circumcision popular.  I think it is very wrong to take part of my child’s body away because I think they might get an STD one day.  I think we’ll concentrate on teaching them to stay clean and live moral lives following God instead.  If they ever do contract a disease due to their own choices, I don’t think I’ll be blaming myself for not lopping off body parts.  Do we feel guilty that we didn’t amputate our daughters’ breasts if they get breast cancer?

  38. By gretchen from lifenut on November 15, 2010

    I have 6 boys.

    5 are intact.

    The only reason one of my boys is circumcised is because he was born with a birth defect which required surgical correction at the age of 10 months (or he’d never be able to function normally.) Part of the surgery required circumcision. The foreskin was a huge issue.

    I can attest that it takes almost no effort to clean or otherwise care for intact boys. Seriously, it’s no big deal. They’ve had no medical issues/infections/problems.

    Also, I’ve never understood the argument that boys and their fathers should “match” as if foreskins are Christmas sweaters…

    Should the government enact a ban? I don’t think so. It’s still a parental decision, not a bureaucrat’s place to decide.

    Is it ok to pierce a baby girl’s ears? Some busybody city council member may say no in the near future. I’d never pierce a baby girl’s ears, but I understand there are cultural influences that influence that decision, too.

  39. By on November 15, 2010

    I’ve heard it is much more dangerous as the baby ages, as the blood vessels and such get larger, etc. This is one more thing to take into account- parents making the decision for the babe because it is much safer within the first days/weeks of life versus adults consenting to have it done later when it is more dangerous.

    Parents want what is best for their children and all have their own reasons. I believe it really should be up to the parents because it it is their role to make educated (yes, they should know about what they are deciding upon) decisions that they believe are best for their child. This goes from what foods small children eat, to what parenting techniques/theories they follow, to medical decisions like vaccines and antibiotics, to piercing ears of a baby, to circumcision…..

    How do we decide what is okay to be regulated by the government and what is not? How do we decide when choices should be up to the parents and when the government should step in and make the choices.

    I am against circumcision. I have no religious needs that circumcision would meet, and therefore it is just an unnecessary clipping of skin without a reason. It is not hard to keep an uncircumcised penis clean (experience with the 3 year old I nanny for, started when he was 6 days and my 28 year old fiance) so what other reasons are out there? Aesthetics? Looks should not justify cutting off part of a babe’s body! Not sure what other reasons are really other there…..

  40. By on November 15, 2010

    To all those that think circumcision of infant male boys should be a parents choice do you feel the same way about infant female circumcision? Most cases of FGM remove less skin, are less evasive and less traumatic than your typical routine infant circumcision of males and yet we have had a ban on FGM since 1996. Why can’t I chose to circumcise my daughter like I can chose to circumcise my son? I mean if the genitals are free for the cutting it seems awfully sexist that I can’t make my daughters more aesthetically pleasing like I can with my sons penis.

    I know this comes off sounding a bit emotional but really truly think about how gender biased this is!

  41. By on November 15, 2010

    HIS penis, HIS choice!!

  42. By on November 15, 2010

    As a Jew and intactivist, taking a drop of blood from a newborn’s penis is just perverted. Why the penis? What makes that OK? I know the story of Abraham, but come on, there is no common sense in it.
    All genital cuttings, pin pricks, clamping, etc is just plain torture and should be criminal. No doctor would remove an ear lobe, finger or any other body part just because the parent said to. Doctors and mohels are criminal to alter a newborn’s penis, not to mention it is bad medicine. Look what our sick culture does to even intelligent minds.

  43. By on November 15, 2010

    I’m curious - for the parents who stated that it should be parental choice (and from one who is generally opposed to government intervention in anything):

    Do you believe the laws that currently prevent parents from modifying their baby girls’ genitals should be repealed?  Do you think parents should have the right to bind a baby girl’s feet, stretch her neck or tattoo his newborn skin?  I am honestly curious - where do you believe the government should intervene?

    Recently, someone were arrested for piercing kittens’ ears.  A breeder would be arrested for circumcising male puppies, for animal cruelty.  Why is a baby less in need of protection than a pet?

  44. By erin on November 15, 2010

    Erin, As someone who is also generally opposed to government intervention/intrusion and “nanny laws,“ I DO think male circumcision should be outlawed.  We do not allow other abuses, so I am not sure why this one is okay.  For example, there was recently a case here in California where a man tattooed a gang sign on his 7 YO son.  The man was sent to prison.  Like circumcision, that is a permanent alteration of the body of an unconsenting individual.  I’m not sure why that is wrong but circumcision is fine.

    I also do not buy the “cultural” or “religious” argument for preserving circumcision.  In the United States we do not allow other harmful “expressions” of religion or culture, and yet male circumcision has persisted.  Islamic Shari’a law requires an individual to be stoned for non-marital sex; in the US we recognize that as a harmful, abusive practice, made it illegal, and would prosecute for murder.  Many countries and cultures have codified judicial corporal punishment (caning, flogging, or whipping) and yet we in the US recognize that as well as harmful and abusive and no longer allow it.  Whatever our past sins as a nation and culture, we have disallowed other harmful, abusive practices such as burning at the stake, slavery/indentured servitude, polygamy, forced amputation, hanging, and forced mutilations such as gouging out an eye.  Male circumcision (because it is inflicted upon an unconsenting individual) should not be exempted.

  45. By on November 15, 2010

    This is also a great resource talking about the studies showing “health benefits” of circumcising to prevent STDs….

    http://www.icgi.org/2010/10/medical-article-disses-circumcision-as-hiv-preventive/

    Circumcising isn’t the answer.  Better hygiene and education are.

  46. By Sarah S on November 15, 2010

    We ended up not circumcising our son and if we have any other boys we wouldn’t do it for them either. It is an issue I can see the pros and cons to though, and we do not adhere to a religion that requires it.

    What I am vehemently against, is the ban on circumcision. Parents should have the right to make decisions for their children and in this case the medical community is the “safe-guard” against abuse. The more my kids grown and enter the world on their own the more I realize that I don’t want the political establishment (left or right) anywhere near their bodies or their schools. Some things are best left to the experts and parents rather than to be legislated.

  47. By Kristin on November 15, 2010

    Having just had a baby boy and not circumsising him, there was so much peace that came from leaving him alone.  It was enough to navigate the dying umbilical cord, I can’t imagine dealing with that too.  Not to mention starting his life out with that kind of pain.  My husband is uncircumcised and it has never been a problem for him. You have to wash it. That’s it. It seems really freaky for the government to regulate this, but to me it’s way more upsetting that the medical community continues to perform this unnecessary procedure.  My pediatrician quit performing this procedure a few years back because he did not believe the research showed ANY medical reason for this to be a routine procedure.  He is a very mainstream doctor, so this stood out to me.

  48. By Sarah S on November 15, 2010

    I also wonder what it would be like if the issue were reversed - what if a few studies came out showing that it really does lower the risk of future STD’s and it became mandatory like vaccines? I’m not sure we should support laws just because they are for something we believe in. I hate the vaccine laws, and yes, I know there are ways around it, but it’s an issue for our family every school year. If we keep opening up doors to legislate parental choices, pretty soon a door will open that we will wish hadn’t.

  49. By on November 15, 2010

    Everyone on this board who argues that it needs to be the parents’ choice- why? Why should anyone except the owner of the penis have any say in a cosmetic surgery being done to it? It’s not up to you. It’s not up to the mother, the father, the grandparents.. it’s up to that baby boy. And since he, as an infant, cannot make an informed decision about the procedure you damn well better wait until he can. Let me put it to you this way- would it have been acceptable for my parents to give me a nose job as a baby so I would look like my mother and not be made fun of in high school??? It is no different. Go for it San Francisco! I hope other cities and states will follow suit and one day this will not even be up for discussion because intact men will be the norm.

  50. By on November 15, 2010

    The tender moving bits on the tip of the penis is the only part of the body about which American medicine tells parents “it’s your call either way.“ That is an absurd situation. No part of the human body should be removed with a compelling medical reason. American medicine has its head in the sand, fearing to offend many parents, and I blame American doctors and medical ethicists for the moral train wreck of American routine circumcision.

    Parents circumcise, frankly, because given their earlier life experiences, the natural penis looks off and sexually off-putting. This emotional situation is not the parents’ fault. What surprises me is the number of young American women who have never seen a natural penis in the flesh, and yet who are passionate intactivists.

    States, not cities, should regulate circ. And I greatly hesitate to ban circumcision. What should be made illegal is doing it without anesthesia. Medicaid should also not cover the cost. If hospital executives were truly aware of the risks of routine circumcision, they would not allow it in their hospitals.

    Otherwise, parents should be educated. Sadly, I do not expect American medicine to come to the education party any time soon. I know of exactly one pediatric urologist who has made a public statement opposing routine circumcision. When a circ gives rise to a problem, pediatric urologists are on the front line of consultation and treatment. They know the truth, but are incredibly reluctant to say it aloud.

    I am very surprised to hear of a bris shalom in an orthodox setting. If North American Judaism were to accept that circumcision should be a free adult choice, not something imposed on an uncomprehending newborn, that would make the American intactivist struggle a good deal easier because then intactivists could not be accused of anti-semitism.

  51. By on November 15, 2010

    Is genital mutiliation and circumcision the same?

  52. By on November 15, 2010

    @kristin: your ped is sooooo wonderful!!!!!!

    @allie: it gets less dangerous with age, not more, if only because it’s easier to operate on a full grown penis and avoid cutting too much off.

    @christy: when it comes to the moving male bits on the tip of the penis can contribute to the sexual experience of both sexes, medicine in the USA is horribly ignorant. Doctors really do not know how cutting baby boys impacts adult sex life.

    @tara: I never use any form of the verb “to mutiliate” when talking about American routine neonatal circ. It’s a loaded word that just prejudges the outcome of the discussion. If anyone wants to conclude that routine circ is mutilation, that’s fine but I don’t go there myself.

    In the places and times I grew up in, I was typically the only pointed dick in the locker room, or in the hernia check line. Circumcised looks totally normal to me. I had to struggle for decades to learn just how I was healthy and normal and sexually capable.

    The problem with American circumcision is not that it’s a mutilation, but that it is mainly done because we are afraid that if we don’t do it, our boys will be social and sexual failures. Seriously, ladies, I’ve been told 5-10x that uncircumcised men never get oral sex, and it’s silently implied that that’s a fate worse than death…

  53. By on November 15, 2010

    Would it be an infringment of my rights or personal freedom for the egovernment protected other individuals rights and personal freedom bdeciding that it is not ok for me to perform violent acts of sexual abuse such as strapping a person down and cutting off bits of their genitals against their will, and making a law to prevent me from doing so? Why would it be wrong for me to do that to an adult, but ok to do it to a tiny defencless baby. Is it because that tiny person is my ‘property’ or because they have not yet developed the ability to say no? If the issue is religious freedom than doesn’t that baby deserve his own right to religious freedom? As he grows into a man, shouldn’t he be able to make that decision? The effects of circumcision can present themselves well into adulthood, meaning that all those parents who have told themselves ‘my boy had it done and he’s just fine’ really have no idea

  54. By on November 15, 2010

    In Canada the norm is intact.

    So why is it routine in the US?

  55. By on November 15, 2010

    Not YOUR body. Not YOUR choice. It’s as simple as that.

  56. By on November 15, 2010

    I just never could put circumcise and mutilate in the same category.  Horrible visions fill my mind when I here the term mutilate.  I think if a doctor came to me and said Tara were going to mutilate your son’s penis, I would have grabbed my baby and ran out the door.

    I never considered/care if my son’t penis looked like every other man’s penis.  In 1999, when we were given the gift of our son, not once did the term mutilate come to mind.  I was informed of the process, and I guess we were quite fortunate to have the doctor’s we had because our son came out of the procedure unscathed.  The doctor used a local and performed the plastibell method.  The foreskin is not surgically removed, but much like how the umbilical cord is tied off and clamped, the same procedure is done with this type of circumsion. A plastic bell is slipped over the foreskin and a suture is placed around to stop blood flow to the area.  This in turn dries up the foreskin.  All that was left was the plastic ring, which much like the clamp they leave on the umbilical cord, fell off in his diaper.  You can read more about it, but it was less evasive than the surgical procedure and it was the method we felt best choosing.

    I would not want government making those choices for me.  I think we need to have faith parents will always have their children’s best interest at heart, even if it means their penis looks different than their dads, uncle, cousins, friends, etc. etc.  LOL, seriously, that thought never even entered my mind :)

  57. By on November 15, 2010

    Mutilate (v) -  To physically harm as to impair use, notably by cutting off or otherwise disabling a vital part, such as a limb; To destroy beyond recognition; To render imperfect


    The foreskin is perfectly healthy tissue that has a function in life. Tearing it away maims the body and impairs the full functionality of the penis and because it no longer looks like a normal penis, it is made imperfect. Circumcision does, indeed, fall into the category of mutilation.

    The Plasti-bell method is no less painful than other methods. There is cutting involved. They still use the blunt separation technique to remove the skin from the glans, then they apply the clamp and place the bell at the desired position, then they remove the excess skin above the Plasti-bell with the scalpel. The bell stays on for days and the look is considered “cleaner” than with the Gompco or Mogen but there is still cutting involved which means the baby is still forced to go through a procedure that is painful and unnecessary.

  58. By Paula on November 15, 2010

    I think it is not the parent’s choice, it should be the choice of the person who will use the penis later in life : a man and his partners. The govt has lots of laws, and most are in place to keep citizens safe. If someone was in their house beating their children we don’t say “hey, that’s his choice” no, our red flags raise and we advocate for those children. It’s the same when I hear of babies I know going under the knife for no reason: my red flags raise, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I feel horrible for that child.

    I"m not even for infant baptism, it should be left up to the individual, the covenants they make with God.

  59. By on November 15, 2010

    @Corrine: the vast majority of Anglophone Canadians born in hospitals before 1975 or so were circumcised at birth in the USA fashion. The Canadian medical association fell out of love with it and the practice went into a marked decline. But the typical mddle aged Canadian man is circumcised.

    @Paula: I agree that baptism should be deferred until at least age 14.

    @Tara: the plastibell method is as brutal as any other.

    “I think we need to have faith parents will always have their children’s best interest at heart…“ While I am extremely reluctant to put my opinion ahead of those of other parents, I am less confident than you are that parents generally know what is best for their chidlren.

  60. By on November 15, 2010

    I didn’t quite make it through all 59 comments, but in my opinion, it’s not the government’s business how people choose to parent their children as long as those children are kept healthy and safe.

    Rather than spend money on a ban, they should spend money educating people on the TRUE pros and cons of circumcision (and replace the here-say and old wives tales that people base their decisions on, like I almost did). I’m glad my husband was more educated on this than me because it helped me support the right decision for us.

  61. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 15, 2010

    MC - That’s sort of the conclusion I’ve been coming to as well.  I don’t agree with infant circumcision, but I also don’t like any government interference with personal choice - even when what the government mandates may be safer or healthier.  For example, I would always wear a seatbelt because it’s safer, but I don’t think there should be a law forcing me to do so - I’m a big girl, I think I can make choices for myself about whether or not to put my life in peril, thanks.

    I feel like education has been lowering the rate of circumcision, so might not that be the best way of continuing to lower the rate?  In many countries that still preserve the parental right to choice, the circumcision rate is remarkably low.  Education will breed cultural change eventually.

  62. By on November 15, 2010

    Sarah: I too agree with what you said about personal choice. As an RN I know that seat belts save lives, but the Libertarian part of me feels I should be able to make my own decision about that. I don’t, however, have a problem with the law about children being buckled in, because it’s safer for them and they can’t make the decision themselves yet.

    Turning that to circumcision: because the foreskin is a healthy, functioning, erogenous body part and there is no reason to amputate, the rights of the child trump any desire the parents have (well, in my book anyway).

    Why is it that the bodily integrity of girls’ genitals are sacrosanct, even a nick and drop of blood not being allowed, yet boys can be cut as a parent desires?

    ps: I know you already know, but your daughter is an absolute doll.  ; )

  63. By pamela dayton time on November 15, 2010

    It never occurred to me that circ was mutilation until my first son was born and circ’ed.  Horrible, I tell you.  I cried and cried when I saw it.  He’s five now, and I still feel sick about it.

  64. By Mary @ Parenthood on November 15, 2010

    Slate did a wonderful series on this a while back when circumcision as a form of HIV control was in the news.

    Search for slate and circumcision if you are interested I think it was by Emily Bazelon.
    The most thought provoking thing I have ever read on the topic is here though:
    http://mobile.salon.com/life/feature/2010/08/25/my_son_circumcision

    Basically a Jewish mom explaining why she circumcised her sons even though she hates it.

    I don’t think her right to make that decision should be dictated.  And for those saying that the child should make the decision…  I don’t agree.  As parents we make all kinds of decisions for our children, most of them irreversible and life altering.  That is part of being a parent.  There is a good argument for infant circumcision if you are going to be circumcised since the guys I know circumcised as babies don’t remember anything, but guys circumcised later never forget!

    I do have to say that I don’t agree that there shouldn’t be seatbelt laws. Mandating seatbelts here in Canada brought wearing levels up significantly.  Wearing a seatbelt significantly reduces the number of people ending up needing expensive healthcare, which we pay for with taxes…

  65. By on November 15, 2010

    I believe this is a choice that should be left up to the parents.  In no way shape or form do I believe the government should be able to step in and tell me how to parent my child.

  66. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Mary - I was using the seat belt laws as an example.  I might feel differently about them if I lived in a country with universal healthcare, but I don’t, and the truth is that here our taxes and health insurance dollars pay more for nutrition-related diseases right now than they do for car crashes, but there aren’t any laws mandating specific eating habits even though that would save the country a bundle.  Either way, it’s just an example (albeit flawed) to illustrate that I generally feel very reluctant to allow further government regulation, even when I believe in the cause or agree wholeheartedly that the regulation might be for the best.  I think education is usually the best way to go.

    Then again, another truth would be that people know fast food and cigarettes are unhealthy, but they still go through the McDonald’s drive-thru and they still smoke.  So maybe education isn’t always the best option after all.

  67. By on November 15, 2010

    @mary: over the next 50 years, more and more Jewish mothers are going to follow their hearts rather than their loyalties.

    @erin: I have been an intactivist on the internet for nearly 15 years. And one thing I have learned is that men know less about their penises than they think they do, and common sense not infrequently leads women to conclusions I applaud. Sometimes the shrewd and witty remarks of women take my breath away.

    A lot of women have done a lot of thinking in recent decades about body acceptance issues. A lot of women have struggled to get past what the fashion and entertainment industries want them to think. One consequence of this struggle is that women have become more respectful of what mother nature does, and more tolerant of variety in private parts. There is no ideal penis just as there are no ideal breasts. Women now often understand that when body and attitudes clash, it is the attitudes that should give way.

    A number of you have made thoughtful calls for better education on the parenting and sexual aspect of routine circumcision. This is all well and good in theory. But experience has shown that official America has a great deal of trouble spitting out the truth about circumcision. Sex ed curricula are more PC about homosexuality than they are about foreskins. Official America will simply not admit that some circumcised adult men are sexually damaged goods.

    Intactivism is a grass roots movement that has received almost no support from Oprah, Dr Phil, People magazine, the New York Times / Washington Post, NPR, PBS, New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic. Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan are intactivist, but only online and in public lectures. To learn the truth about the moving bits on the end of the penis, bits America is so ashamed of, you have to go to that Wild West of information known as the Internet!

  68. By on November 15, 2010

    My thoughts were that the main problem with FGM was not that is was typically done to infants but to young girls held down on a dirty floor and cut with a dull blade.  Aside from that I would never presume to judge an individual for following their culture…be it ritual scarring, neck rings, ear pircing etc. I won’t choose them but I have little knowledge of their culture and their reasons behind said practices.  Just because a person makes a decision that you disagree with does not make it wrong.  Who the hell are we to judge.  How do you know that anyone who experienced these rites of passage (circ included) are negatively affected at all. It is our right as parents to decide what is best for our children within our family.  We decide whether we are going to raise our children in religion, education, and even to just be compassionate beings.  It seems to me that it is ok to make some decisions for your children but not others.  Few would probably argue to not put away money for your children’s education…and yet you are assuming that your child will find education important and want to attend college.  Shouldn’t that be his decision…after all it is a life changing experience.

  69. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Myrick - Like a previous commenter, though, I am wary of using the Internet for research.  I love the Internet, don’t get me wrong, but it is not always the best or most reliable resource.  Luckily, there are several excellent books that analyze the history and practice of infant circumcision as well, some written by doctors, others by people who identify religiously with a community that circumcises, etc:

    Marked in Your Flesh (Leonard Glick)
    Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives (Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf) (sidenote: I love pretty much every one of the books in this Multicultural Perspectives series that I have ever read, although they’re all a bit dry reading, they’re really interesting to think over)
    Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective (Ronald Goldman)
    What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision (Paul Fleiss)
    A Surgical Temptation (Robert Daly)
    From Abraham to America (Eric Silverman)
    The Female Circumcision Controversy (Ellen Gruenbaum)
    Circumcision: What it Does (Billy Ray Boyd) (disclaimer: I checked this out from a library and it was missing an entire section out of the middle, so I did miss that bit)
    Prisoners of Ritual (Hanny Lightfoot-Klein)
    Covenant of Blood (Lawrence Hoffman)
    Circumcision: A Painful Dilemma (Rosemary Romberg)
    Male and Female Circumcision (Sami Aldeeb)


    THAT SAID, my disclaimer is this: I have read each of these books, quite a few others about female circumcision, and tried two others about male circumcision (the Frederick Hodges book titled Male and Female Circumcision, not as thorough as it sounded like it would be, and David Gollaher’s Circumcision: A History was just, I don’t know, I haven’t been able to get able to get through it) but I have not had a single medical study relative to male circumcision - infant or adult - ordered into my library.  I have relied entirely upon the authors to accurately represent the studies upon which they draw.  So I say they’re great books, but to be fair, the only ones I’ve fact-checked were the books or chapters that dealt with female circumcision.

  70. By Catherine on November 15, 2010

    We did not circumcise our son, who is three now, because we both believe that it is not our place to choose to permanently alter another human being without their consent.  If my son decides he wants to be circumcised, he can do so as an adult.  It comes down to the fact that the penis and foreskin belong to no one but the person to whom it is attached.  If there is no medical reason for circumcision (which is so very extraordinarily rare), we have no right to remove parts of people’s bodies.  Our cultural climate is shifting wherein more and more people are seeing that it is unnecessary.  This next generation of males have tipped the balance to more intact men, one generation past that, I imagine it will be very unusual to be circumcised.  Hopefully.

  71. By on November 15, 2010

    I have four grown sons who have all (at various times) thanked us for making sure they were circumcised as infants. I am thankful too. You can say whatever you want about it….four handsome young men I know disagree with you 100%.

  72. By Tracy Roberts on November 15, 2010

    It makes me angry when people argue the to each their own argument.  If that is the case, then the government should not be involved in anything involving the care of children.  We should be able to hit, beat, and routinely abuse our children without government involvement then.  At the very least, we should be able to circumcise our baby girls legally.
    Give me a break, a baby, any child has rights too.  Having a child should not give one pure control and free range over another’s body, that is just sick.

  73. By on November 15, 2010

    I think it’s fine for San Francisco to ban circumcision if it wants.  I think they should definitely have an option to opt out for religious reasons, though.  Now, if the Federal government wanted to ban it, I would have a major problem with that. 

    I fail to see how circumcising your son is tantamount to taking away his right to religious freedom.  It’s not like he’s going to grow up and be like, “Crap, I have to be Jewish now” because he’s circumcised.  Parents are free to raise their children in the faith that is important to them.

  74. By on November 15, 2010

    @Catherine: the American obsession with the bald penis will fade away, just as the same obsession is gone from the UK and New Zealand, and mostly gone in Canada and Australia.


    @lynn: my children all love peaches and cream ice cream. From that fact, I would never assume that your children also must love peaches and cream. Your sons are happy the way they are. That does not justify what was done to them a generation ago, because any man is free to have himself circumcised after his 18th birthday. An even stronger case can be made that the happiness of your sons has no bearing on what we should do to boys being born nowadays.


    @christensen:

    I am a big fan of Rosemary Romberg, who was an intactivist mother before even Milos was. But her book went out of print in 1989, and she left intactivism shortly thereafter.

    Gollaher’s book somehow is not as satisfying as I would like it to be. It is also beginning to date.

    Leonard Glick and Lawrence Hoffman are challenging Jewish intellectuals and hence hard reads.

    Ronald Goldman is a shrink, big on “psychological damage.“

    Paul Fleiss is Heidi Fleiss’s father, and hence damaged goods.

    I like Robert Darby, but he’s a gay Australian.

    Billy Ray Boyd is no scholar.

    Hanny Lightfoot-Klein is the great women voice of protest about FGM.

    Sami Aldeeb is an Arab Christian who feels oppressed by the Jewish and Moslem insistence on circumcision.

    Moral: no author, no book has it quite right.

  75. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Alisa - I get this second-hand from the girl I grew up with, but my understanding is that the two of them view circumcision as the expression of his parents’ religion and not being circumcised as the expression of their atheism, which obviously doesn’t have a pre-set circumcision tradition, so they believe that by having him circumcised his parents took away his ability to express his own religious identity fully.

    It’s a hard argument because expression of a religion is entirely different from selection or or identification with an religion, isn’t it?

  76. By on November 15, 2010

    @alissa:

    I fail to see how circumcising your son is tantamount to taking away his right to religious freedom.
    ME. True. But if a man stops believing in Judaism, the fact that he is circumcised loses its spiritual meaning. He becomes merely a man lacking some very sexual parts.

    It’s not like he’s going to grow up and be like, “Crap, I have to be Jewish now” because he’s circumcised.
    ME. True, but in many cultures, circumcision means that men can never put their Jewish ancestry behind them. Some men value the option of putting their ancestry behind them. Sometimes having that option can save his life.


    Parents are free to raise their children in the faith that is important to them.
    ME. Yes, but does faith includes the irreversible alteration of the most sexual part of the male body?

  77. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Myrick - I guess that’s why you read more than one book, right?  Just like how nobody reads only one media perspective and expects to have the full truth.

    I love Glick’s book.  Am with you on Gollaher - I wanted so badly to love that book, but I just can’t seem to get through it.  It’s not dry, it’s just…it sort of sucks.  But I love Glick.  Definitely makes me think.

  78. By on November 15, 2010

    @christensen: Glick is a powerful and competent intellectual. And he has the classic Jewish brain. But I cannot recommend him to anyone who does not have a good traditional university education.

    If a Jewish man wants to become Moslem, his penis is no problem. Ditto if he wants to be Christian, and I’ve never heard of a Christian woman married to a Jew having issues with his circumcised penis.3 The only religion was actively advocates for the untouched body is Sikh.

    The clash is with atheism, which has no time for the Promise Made to Abraham. No time for the Chosen People, for the Covenant. Atheism reveres Mother Nature and her handiwork, i.e., evolution. And the foreskin has very much passed the evolutionary test.
    The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc) detest circumcision as grounded in a puritanical hatred of sexuality.

  79. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 15, 2010

    Myrick - You make me want to pick your brain - in a good way, I promise - because Sam Harris.  Is.  Awesome.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but again, the man makes me think.  And in the years I’ve been tooting his horn, I think you are the first person besides my father (who recommended Harris to me in the first place) who knows who he is.

  80. By on November 16, 2010

    I’m in England these days so I think everyone would look at me like the crazy American that I am if I suggested having our son circumsized.

    I feel that if they can make it illegal to happen to baby girls they ought to do the same to protect little boys, although I am generally not a fan of government control over such personal things. It just seems.. discriminitory, and that I have a problem with.

    Just my 2 cents :)

  81. By on November 16, 2010

    No, it should NOT be up to the parents, unless it’s medically necessary. The potential law is about protecting infant boys from the needless removal of their foreskins when they’re too young to consent. Religion and parental preference should make no difference. It’s his penis, and he should be the one to make the decisions about it as he grows up. It isn’t being brought up as a way to attack parental rights. It’s being brought up as a way to protect the rights of infants over their bodies.

  82. By on November 16, 2010

    http://www.who.int/hiv/mediacentre/news68/en/index.html

    The World Health Organization recommends circumcision, along with health education and other forms of contraception, as a direct prevention to the spread and contraction of HIV/AIDS.

    In South Africa, men are lining up in hoards at health clinics that offer inexpensive circumcision - a country where close to 38% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS.  There are numerous campaigns supporting this stating that a “real man” treats his woman respectfully, has only one partner, and IS circumcised.  The King himself has come out in support of this.

    So those of you passing judgment on those who chose to circumcise on account of STD prevention, I feel that you are sadly mistaken.

    SARAH (and anyone else who wishes to chime in) - Will you not vaccinate your daughter against HPV because we should be able to “educate” our daughters about safe-sex practice?  I feel not vaccinating against HPV is incredibly irresponsible.

  83. By on November 16, 2010

    I wouldn’t call this government regulation as much as a removal of a “right” that never should have been there. A parent has the right to feed. clothe,  raise, ect .. their child. But unnecessary medical modification is not a right the parent has. The right to be left intact is solely the child’s.
    It is heartening to see this post from the mother of a daughter. This is indeed a human rights issue, but also our daughters have the right to partner with a whole man.

  84. By on November 16, 2010

    Even if there actually was genuine evidence that circumcision prevented STDs (if you’ll do more research, you might be surprised to find that the Langerhan cells in the foreskin actually provide an anti-viral barrier to most infections), there would still be no reason to cut up the genitals of infants.

    Because circumcision is irreparable, the baby in question should be allowed to grow up and decide for himself if he wants his penis to be permanently altered.

  85. By Sara Miller on November 16, 2010

    I don’t agree with the folks saying “his body, his choice.“  As parents, when we bring a child into this world, we ARE responsible for many of the choices in their formative years - be they physical, emotional, educational, spiritual, etc…  If your baby was born with a heart defect, for example, there is no way that you would say “sorry Doc…don’t operate just yet…our child will have to make that call.“  We make decisions for our children based on the best information possible.  Sarah, your blog/life is a classic example of this.  It’s evident that you want to give C the world!  But you are leading her in what you feel are proper choices for your family, until she is able to make those decisions on her own.  You offer her buffalo mozzarella and almond butter - you don’t just let her grab for the Captain Crunch in the store aisle because it’s strategically placed at her level.  And you’ve offered her formative choices in reading material (Love That!) because you know it will expand her mind and give her more knowledge of this world and how things work…you don’t just plop her all day in front of the TV.

    However, that being said, I am opposed to circumcising my boys.  My first was circ’d - and my husband knew he wouldn’t be able to handle it, so I had to take our 8-day old son (my choice to do it on day 8 due to medical research about clotting factors - we do home births and say no to shots) to the pedi on my own and sit in that room while they strapped my baby to a board and listened to him scream while the doctor cut.  And while I did love and trust my doc at the time, and he did it in the most caring way possible, it was still pure TORTURE for my son and TORTURE for me.  I vowed to never do that again…and so son #2 is intact.

    Do I feel that there are issues because the men in our house don’t look “the same?“  Not at all.  My hubs and son #1 are cut - son #2 is not.  And no one mentions it one little bit.  Our bodies will never be “the same.“  Especially with children - they don’t care, or even notice.

    As for governmental regulations?  I am not for that.  While I do feel strongly about my rights NOT to circ - to breastfeed in public - to have as many children as I choose, whether it be socially acceptable or not - does not mean that I want our government to regulate my opinions onto others.  If you want to circumcise your boys - fine.  But don’t make me feel that there is only one option.  It’s still America.  Land of the free - to make our own choices.  I would just pray that families would continue to see the massive amounts of education out there about sensitive topics like this and become knowledgeable before making their choice.  But if they choose to circ, that’s their choice…just as it’s MY choice to NOT circ.

  86. By The WHOLE Network on November 16, 2010

    Care if we post this to our “Active Intactivist” column and link back to here? Just shoot us an e-mail and let us know.  :)

  87. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 16, 2010

    Emily - I’ll have to look into the WHO 2007 recommendation you linked - I’ve never seen it before and I’ve never read an article or book that mentioned it.  THIS right here is why I love these discussions - without you, I would never have known about that announcement and it certainly changes the dynamic of this conversation.  I guess my only question is that it doesn’t seem to address infant cirumcision so much as the circumcision of sexually active men, right?  It mentions the prioritization of men in the highest-risk age group, which I would assume is probably from sexual activity on, and then mentions that providing circumcision services to younger age groups could help long-term, but it doesn’t specify what those age groups are.  If ‘younger’ is 15, okay, they can still make conscious choices.  If ‘younger’ is days old, that’s another story, but the WHO doesn’t specify.  I don’t know what their recommended age is, which could be why I was under the impression that no international health organizations recommended infant circumcision.

    Although, with AIDS, can’t it be argued that safe sex education is more effective than circumcision?  Wouldn’t a condom or HIV-testing with your partner be more effective than not having a foreskin?

    As for the HPV vaccine, I can’t really answer that.  I don’t know enough about it to make an educated decision.  It’s a great analogy, but I really don’t know anything about it.  Either way, I am a HUGE believer in the power of education.  As I mentioned above, I like to think it’s the most effective means of enacting change - and most of the time, I would say that’s true.  But obviously we can all think of plenty of examples where I’m wrong.  I guess you don’t just need education, you also need to incite in people a desire to learn and a desire to take that education into consideration when they make their choices.

  88. By Stephanie on November 16, 2010

    You say: “On the one hand, I worry that government regulation is an inherent restriction of religious freedom.  On the other hand, I recognize that religious freedom is not accepted when it extends to female circumcision, human sacrifice, or other forms that involve another person’s body.  And on and on I go with this, back and forth, flip and flop.“

    Um, so that means we should allow female babies to have their clitoral hoods (the prepuce, same piece of skin as the foreskin) pin pricked in the name of parental choice? and in the name of “religion.“ I know you say you are against it….but even this statement that you make is not totally against it. Because the government has BANNED any form of female genital mutilation, INCLUDING a pin prick for “religious” reasons. So why then is it not ok for the government to BAN the removal of a large, very important, nerve ending laden piece of erogenous tissue from a male infants PENIS!??? I think the government CAN and SHOULD BAN it, because it is a sickening disgusting VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS!

  89. By on November 16, 2010

    Comparing infant circumcision to neonatal heart surgery is like comparing apples and oranges. Heart surgery is a necessary procedure that a baby may have to undergo in order to save its life. Circumcision is an elective cosmetic surgery that removes healthy erogenous tissue from the penis. The foreskin is not a life threatening birth defect that has to be modified or removed. There is no comparison at all. One procedure saves lives and the other permanently disfigures the male form.

  90. By on November 16, 2010

    Sarah, I just want to comment on your question about safe-sex education as a more effective method of preventing disease transmission than circumcision. I am all for sex education and think it needs to be much more prevalent and accessible than it currently is.  I also am not against also teaching abstinence along side (please note I am saying in ADDITION to) safe sex education. However, it is SO very common for both males and females who are highly educated, intelligent, and just plain “good kids” to make bad choices in “the moment” and practice unsafe sex.  In an ideal world, we would all take the knowledge given to us and practice it faithfully, but we are flawed human beings and don’t always choose what is best for ourselves.  The best we can do is educate and hope that it sticks.  Just a point to consider.  This is why I believe abstinence ONLY education could never EVER work.  Before someone jumps on my head, I am not saying this as an argument for or against circumcision, I just think it is easy to idealize human nature especially when arguing something one feels passionately about.
    The WHO article is very interesting, as are a few others that have been referenced here, but not commented on any further.  I am glad that you are open to reading both sides of the issue - you are so smart :)

  91. By Sara Miller on November 16, 2010

    @Sandy - you missed my point.  It’s not about lifesaving procedures or cosmetic procedures.  It’s about not just giving a blanket statement that the child should choose.  What about hearing aids then?  Or any number of other “non-life-saving” procedures.  A parent is a parent FOR the child…and that includes making many choices for the child as the grow and mature until they’re able to make them responsibly for themselves. (and keep in mind - my position is the same as yours - I think circumcision is totally unnecessary.)

  92. By on November 16, 2010

    This is NOT an issue of parental choice anymore than raping or beating your child is! Do you people who think that feel the same way about those laws? Do you also think that female circumcision should be legal? If not then you are sexist. Boys deserve the same protection as girls. Children are not property that you can use just as you wish, that’s why we have laws protecting them. I pray this measure gets passed and spreads throughout the country. People need to wake up. We are talking about cutting on innocent little babies here!! What is wrong with people? I am baffled by this.

  93. By on November 16, 2010

    @kiki: girls need to learn when they are of high school age that the casual sex so many people indulge in between the ages of 18 and 23 must be done with a condom and lube. Which is why we need to learn more about how condoms interact with foreskins. I am intact and so speak from experience when I say that it is trickier to install a condom on an intact penis. But this is something that every young woman must learn how to do. HIV and HPV mean that a lot of traditional squeamishness about the male genitalia has to die—or else foolish young people die horrible deaths.

    @missjoules: the British have forgotten that during the first half of the 20th century, a well bred middle class boy was supposed to be circumcised. It was one of the many things that set the Right Sort apart from the Common Herd. Circ died because the NHS refused to pay for it after 1949. The government of the day was very much on the left, and refused to sanction what was called in the British Army a “toff penis.“

    I know of no culture where some cut and uncut are a stable mix. Either cut dominates or uncut does, because boys look at each other when they pee and nobody wants to be the Odd Man Out.

  94. By on November 16, 2010

    @Pam:

    “I am a Registered Nurse working with geriatric patients for over 20 years now. I have never, ever seen an elderly man with “a penis rotting off.“
    I love your frankness. You are aware that quite a few American nursing home nurses claim that the intact geriatric penis is a problem?

    “approximately 85% of men in the world are intact; do those men have rampant foreskin problems?“
    I have been waiting for 30 years for a study comparing European and American urology practices. If the foreskin was nasty, European urology would reveal that fact.

    “...physicians and caregivers in those countries consider the intact penis as the “norm” and understand it…“
    Truth is, Europe is not as knowledgeable as I would like. They don’t so much “understand” the foreskin as take it for granted. The most sophisticated writing about the natural penis is American.

    “...unlike the United States where we have a majority of elderly men with foreskins but with a populace uneducated about the normal, functioning foreskin.“
    By now, a lot of elderly USA men are circumcised. It is true that nursing and medical education in the USA fall down badly when it comes to the tip of the penis.

    “I have worked in long term care; if a helpless man has foreskin problems, most likely they aren’t being cared for properly by his caregivers.“
    I would predict that a lot of LPNs in nursing homes are too embarrassed to pull the foreskin back when they clean a patient.

  95. By on November 16, 2010

    @Emily

    The WHO recommends circumcision, along with health education and other forms of contraception, as a direct prevention to the spread and contraction of HIV/AIDS.
    ME. The WHO got conned by a small number of American researchers who are circ enthusiasts and who supervised the dubious African clinical trials. No non American medical society agrees that this recommendation has any bearing on whether First World baby boys should be circumcised.


    In South Africa, men are lining up in hoards at health clinics that offer inexpensive circumcision - a country where close to 38% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS.
    ME. The real problem is that the African understanding of marital fidelity has completely broken down.


    There are numerous campaigns supporting this stating that a “real man” treats his woman respectfully, has only one partner, and IS circumcised.
    ME. If you have only one partner and she is healthy, there is no benefit from circumcision. If one takes the results of the clinical trials at face value, the conclusion is that circ reduces the risk of irresponsible sex. The claim is a quite narrow one: circed men are less likely to contract AIDS from an infected woman.

    The King himself has come out in support of this.
    ME. The King of the Zulu nation. An authority on sex, urology, and epidemiology to be sure…


    So those of you passing judgment on those who chose to circumcise on account of STD prevention, I feel that you are sadly mistaken.
    ME. It is the CDC and a small number of American enthusiastic circumcisers who are mistaken, not those who doubt them.

  96. By on November 16, 2010

    The first half of this comment has been removed by the moderator, Sarah Christensen.

    Sarah, as for your friend who chose to get herself mutilated to conform to a misogynistic culture, did she understand that the purpose of the mutilation is to reduce women’s sexual pleasure so they will remain faithful to their husbands?  Did she have any idea of the kind of vile misogyny that she was playing into?  Ask her why she was willing to marry a man who wanted her to experience no pleasure from sex, to never orgasm again.  That is not a man; it’s a monster.

  97. By on November 16, 2010

    Myrick:

    “You are aware that quite a few American nursing home nurses claim that the intact geriatric penis is a problem”

    Oh yes, I’ve heard that complaint ad nauseam.

    “By now, a lot of elderly USA men are circumcised. It is true that nursing and medical education in the USA fall down badly when it comes to the tip of the penis”

    From my experience in “my neck of the woods” I would say about 3/4 of the geriatric penises I have cause to see are intact. Perhaps that is because I live in a rural geographical location with a majority unskilled/educated people as the norm 50-100 years ago, not to mention a large immigrant population from that era as well. Many elderly men where I live were not born in hospitals as well but on the family farm or their home in a small town. In addition, I can tell you my son’s own pediatrician as a toddler was utterly clueless regarding his intact penis. (This prompted me to write for info from NOCIRC -this was pre-internet days. I received a scathing handwritten reply from Marilyn Milos herself.)

    “I would predict that a lot of LPNs in nursing homes are too embarrassed to pull the foreskin back when they clean a patient.“

    Here the majority of personal care is done by Certified Nursing Assistants. IMO, the lack of cleaning may be more related to a lack of knowledge of how TO care for an intact man or perhaps not wanting to take the time. And unfortunately, I have run into CNA’s who don’t do a lot of things they should like cleaning fingernails, wiping faces, cleaning dentures and so on.

    Both my adult daughters became RN’s recently; I had the opportunity to check out their textbooks and I can sadly tell you there was little to no accurate information about the intact penis, most of the pictures/drawings were of the circumcised penis and in several instances there was misinformation regarding care of juveniles with intact foreskins.

    I believe this to be at the heart of the matter…

  98. By on November 16, 2010

    I work for an attorney that brings suits for circumcision damage for men and babies. Errors occur ALL THE TIME. A very small percentage of the calls we get turn into cases because damage is so NORMAL. Doing something like that to someone when there’s no need is already a crime, we just don’t have a social recognition of it yet. I know a lot of people are defensive of this new idea that circumcision is a bad thing, because they already did it.  OK fine. It’s done.  But if you still have the “choice” in front of you, why not leave it for the person who OWNS the penis?  Even if there were benefits: the person who has to LOOSE tissue and sexually responsive nerves and the normal function of their penis in order to get those benefits has the human right of autonomy and deserves to weigh the decision themselves.  When it comes to a circ ban you can’t think of it as the government taking away parental rights. What they are doing is SECURING the RIGHT of every man to refuse amputation.  Just like they’re protecting little girls already.

  99. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 16, 2010

    Stephanie - The beauty of being human is that I operate largely in shades of grey.  We all do.  We all draw our arbitrary lines in the sand and we all flip-flop on things and we all contradict ourselves.

    When I say that I am opposed to infant circumcision, you will have to take me at face value that I am.  Just because I accept that there may be arguments I cannot or do not fully understand does not mean that I am any less opposed.  It means that I am human, that I am doing my very best to keep an open mind and consider every aspect of the situation before jumping to an uneducated conclusion, and that I know I am not the ultimate authority on anything.

    Kiki - I don’t believe that abstinence-only education works either.

    Rowena - It is completely unacceptable for you to call any person a bad parent on my website.  If you want to contribute to this discussion, I welcome your perspectives as long as you can be civil.  I wouldn’t stand for anybody slinging personal insults at you and I won’t take you doing it to someone else.  As long as you’re on my website, do not ever do that again.

    As well, my friend made her choice independently of her husband.  My understanding is that he never asked it of her or implied that he would prefer it.  She felt that his culture would better accept her if she made this choice and so she did.  I would never presume to tell her that she made the wrong choice for her own life - she was an adult and an exceedingly well-educated one at that.  I trust that she knew what she was doing.  Please keep in mind that not every female circumcision is done for the reasons you listed above, just as not every male circumcision occurs for the same reason or in the same manner.

  100. By on November 16, 2010

    “Please keep in mind that not every female circumcision is done for the reasons you listed above”

    That is simply not true.  There’s a saying:  You can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts.  Sometimes practices become so ingrained in a culture that the original reason is muted with time.  For example, women changing their name when they marry stems from a time when women went from being legally their father’s property to becoming their husband’s property.  Women who change their names today sometimes don’t realize they are buying into sexist traditions that impede equal rights for women, but they are, whether they acknowledge it or not.  The reason your friend’s husband’s culture practices FGM is to reduce female sexual pleasure and thus supposedly ensure fidelity in a patriarchal culture.  There is no other reason.

    As far as calling someone who mutilates their son a bad parent, it wasn’t an ad hominem attack.  Again, it goes back to fact vs. opinion.  Mutilating your child, when your instinct should be to protect them from harm, when it is your duty to protect them from harm, is, objectively, bad parenting.  I was not being insulting; I was merely stating a fact.  If I had said, “you’re a bad parent and you’re ugly” that would have been an insult, and I would never do that.

  101. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 16, 2010

    Rowena - My blog, my rules.  The word ‘bad’ is, by definition, a judgment.  There is no such thing as an impartial judgment.  KNOCK IT OFF.  I welcome your thoughts as long as they remain respectful.  I understand that this is an issue that gets people fired up, but please keep in mind that calling somebody a ‘bad’ parent does nothing to further the conversation here.  It doesn’t educate people, it doesn’t bring about new ideas, it doesn’t help, period.  This space is about having a conversation and welcoming all perspectives with the hopes that we can all learn from one another, whether or not we agree.  I’ve learned from some of the above comments already, and I know from many many e-mails and a few comments that other people have too.  Let’s have that remain the goal.

    On the topic of female circumcision, look.  The reasons that my friend’s husband’s culture circumcises were not part of the reason she chose circumcision.  The fact remains that she made an independent choice and that, as an educated adult, that was entirely her prerogative.  You and I don’t have to like it, but then it isn’t our clitoral hood either.

  102. By on November 16, 2010

    Oh, this will make your blood boil!!!! The babies scream because they are strapped or wrapped securely to a board and cannot move. It has very little to do with pain. Let’s face it: it’s a personal decision each parent must make. Period. Trying to convince someone to change their mind is ridiculous.

  103. By on November 16, 2010

    I’m crying a little on the inside that my computer is broken and that I have to type this response on my iPhone.

    I never felt strongly one way or the other about the issue. In my opinion from day one, to do or not to do was a decision my husband would make. I felt that as a woman I was not adequatly equipped to make that decision. My husband had/has the appropriate amount of testosterone running through his veins to have a much better idea than me about what a full grown male would think about a decision we as parents made for him a matter of hours into his life. My husband’s decision was without thinking for a second to circumsize. He threw out the ‘locker room’ arguement (his assumption was ALL men are circumsized our son doesn’t want to look different!!).

    the morning after my son was born… Not even 24hrs old, my OB (who does the procedure here) came in and we handed our child over. We both felt terrible ‘poor guy’.

    What felt like minutes later, our little bundle of joy was carried back to us and she explained that she was unable to complete the circumcision. She had started the incision and realized that he had a hypospadias. Essencially his urethera was not centered (once potty trained urin could go flying everywhere!). In order to correct this, the foreskin would be needed. We were both concerned, but assured it was a very common thing and would be fixed easily by a pediatric urologist. We were given a refferal and went on with our day.

    Fastforward a few weeks. His stitches (they tried to stitch it back together) were healed and we had our appointment with the urologist. He looked at Jude and said he was fine. He did not have this hypospadias and the doctor was wrong. He explained it’s common for the foreskin to be tight at birth, which gives the illusion to the person performing the procedure and she did the right thing to refer him to see a urologist before his valuable foreskin was tossed.

    Then he continued to explain that now in order to circumsized him they needed to put him under to perform the procedure. Also, they wouldn’t be able to do it until he was six months old. I then asked if at this point (the poor guy had already been cut!) it was manditory, or if we could forego the circumcision all together (I was in no way prepared to put my six month old under for something that was not manditory). He explained that Jude essencially had asemi-circ and he could without a doubt be left just as he is. I was fine with this. My husband: not so much.

    I again left the decision up to Ryan. I told him if it was something he felt strongly about, he would need to call, make the appointment and take him in. He never called.

    If we have another son, he will not be circumsized. Had we done more research, and I made a case against it to begin with, they would have never ‘discovered’ the (non existent) problem and we would have skipped all of the problems to begin with. Because of this… I’m ‘against’ circumcision. I don’t
    base this on any scientific study, religious views or firm beleifs. Likewise, I would never bash another mother or family for choosing one way or another.  I have very good friends who have circumsized sons… And very good friends who don’t.

    I’ve since spoken with uncircumsized men (my grandfather was uncircumsized, a close friend, etc) and they both say they wouldn’t change it. I have also spoken with circumsized men (my husband, close friends, etc) and they cringle at the thought of foreskin. I’m pretty certain you go with what you know.

    That being said, It still astounds me that so many women have so big an opposition to circumcision though… When there are so many men who are circumsized… And wouldn’t have it any other way.

    PS

  104. By Hollie on November 16, 2010

    This is a topic in our house right now.  I am the mother of 2 beautiful boys, and I TRIED to do research on circumcision but it was difficult to sort fact from opinion.  My husband & I were both ambivalent about it—and decided to circumcise based on what we knew.  Son #1 had a decent circ, no problems.  However, it’s what the doctor calls a ‘half’ circumcision.  He said we could re-do it, and hubby & I decided absolutely not.  So baby #2 came, and we decided to do it again…and the same thing happened.  Except on baby #2 it fused together.  He is 18 mos old and we’re working on non-surgical options to fix it for him.  One doctor said if we leave it the way it is, he will be considered mutilated.  Can you imagine hearing those words about your sweet beautiful baby’s body part??  ::sigh::

    Now?  Now I wish we hadn’t done it.  If I had a crystal ball I would have NEVER done it.  I look back and think…if we were ambivalent, why did we do it??  The answer is because we didn’t have enough information about it.  And it only took me 2 horror stories of friends of friends who got circ’d later in life due to infection to push us over the fence.  But really, where is the fact based pamphlet we needed to help us make this decision?  The tide seems to be turning, and it looks like potential bans will at least open up the dialogue.  It’s a tough decision for parents to make, and I don’t live with regret.  It is what it is.  I know we did the best we could with the information we had at the time.

  105. By on November 16, 2010

    Also, we as parents are ‘allowed’ to make decisions every day that can have much longer lasting effects on our children than whether or not we circumsize. To say that one area of our childs life is important enough to regulate, but other areas are not is obsurd. Things such as education, diet, exercise, support, love, and much more are so much more valuable.

    By skipping the circumcision, you aren’t given an award that says you have a free pass, because you must really love your kid to make that decision to stand up for his foreskin. Likewise, you arent (or at least shoudlnt be) shunned by society for deciding to circumsize. I think if circumsizing your little boy was the worst thing you did and he’s pissed off about it when he’s a grown man, then he needs to take a trip and see how much worse other people have it.

    Once we make it manditory to hug your child every day, tell them your proud of them or teach them something new at least once week, I might start to consider circumcision a big issue. But it might also take shutting down mcdonalds, making daily walks manditory, banning cigarettes and doing homework with your child every day too.

  106. By on November 16, 2010

    “That being said, It still astounds me that so many women have so big an opposition to circumcision though…“

    Not me, because it is still often done without anesthesia, and most women find that very cruel. I also believe that what circ cuts off is easy for women to relate to, and that women have evolved to find the look and feel of an intact penis sexy.

    “ When there are so many men who are circumsized… And wouldn’t have it any other way. “

    Only in America! In Europe and Japan, men are NOT circumcised and “wouldn’t have it any other way.“

    The only people who have an informed opinion about cut versus uncut are people who have had unprotected sex with several partners of each kind. This is unsafe sex of a kind I cannot condone. (Condoms take away a fair bit of the sexual advantage of being intact.) That said, quite a few American and Canadian women have disclosed on the internet that they’ve “been with both” and prefer intact.

  107. By on November 16, 2010

    “ When there are so many men who are circumsized… And wouldn’t have it any other way. “

    Only in America! In Europe and Japan, men are NOT circumcised and “wouldn’t have it any other way.“

    myrick, I made that point as well. You totally pulled that line out if the context of the rest of the post. You could also make the same point that in other countries feet are bound and necks are elongated and those people wouldn’t have it any other way… But it’s their ‘social norm’ an therefore is accepted. Should we do it? Probably not. Should they be forced to be circumsized? No. Should any of us (especially in America!!!) condemn them (or our neighbors) for what decisions they make on what is socially acceptable? I most definitely think not.

    As for the point of it being done w/out medication, I totally understand that. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s not the #1 reason women (or anyone for that matter) are opposed to it.

  108. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 16, 2010

    Myrick - I know more women who have experienced sex with both circumcised and uncircumcised men and have prefered intact men to circumcised men, but I also know a few who have been with both and preferred circumcised men.  I don’t think it’s a reliable way of figuring out what most women prefer because any woman who has experienced sex with both might have a different preference based on pleasure, culture, a particular man’s hygiene, and non-sexual experiences with a man.

    Either way, if people want to have safe sex without a condom, there are options.  The reliability of those other options is only enhanced by using a condom, but I’m certain that there are plenty of people who experience condom-less sex with more than one partner in their life courtesy of birth control hormones and the like.

  109. By on November 17, 2010

    I read through all the comments and didn’t read anything I hadn’t heard while doing research when pregnant with my son. We chose to have our son circumcised and will do the same with any future sons. I’m not going to get into the reasons why or defend our decision. This is a topic that many people feel very strongly about. My issue is with arguments I’ve read (not just here) related to circumcision. I think it is so sad to see mothers being, for a lack of a better word, mean to other mothers. Using the word mutilation and comparing having your son circumcised to child rape? My hope is that you are able to hold your tongue when you come across a mother who has chosen to have her son circumcised. It may be a decision you don’t agree with but just because you (or like minded) don’t agree doesn’t mean it is wrong.

    I would also like to add as a neonatal RN I attend to babies during circumcisions and I can tell you if someone isn’t using pain relief (topical and/or block) then there is something wrong with THEIR practice because that isn’t the practice in general.

  110. By on November 17, 2010

    This post is about male circumcision but it lead me to explore female circumcision too. It is a surgery with much more variation than male circumcision, from “just” the removal of the clitoral hood, to sewing together the outer labia. I always assumed that it was done to decrease woman’s pleasure and keep her from extramarital sex. I was astonished and horrified to read that some woman want it done to their daughters to protect them from sexual assault. So much of the vaginal entrance is blocked that it can require cutting with a knife to make intercourse possible.  In some countries mothers also take a pestle, (used for grinding grain) heat it and pound their daughters breasts with them in an attempt to flatten the breast. Again, to help prevent sexual assault.  This information is so horrifying to me that it has disturbed my sleep for days. It makes you really think about what constitues “good parenting” in any given culture.

  111. By on November 17, 2010

    I have a little bit of a different point of view on this one. My husband is intact. This has embarrassed him for years and he vows that if he has sons, they’ll be circumcised. We don’t have children yet, and hopefully we’ll have girls and not have to deal with this either way. Most, if not all of the boys he grew up with were circ’d and it made him feel different and very self conscious. He was unbelievably self-conscious and nervous when he told me he was not circ’d (and this was in his 20’s). Hopefully the fact that more and more parents are choosing not to means that this will not be a reason for a kid to be so self conscious. I’ve not decided if I want to circumcise my (hypothetical) boys, but its going to be a serious uphill battle if I think its the wrong thing to do for our kid. I just wanted to share a slightly different point of view.

  112. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on November 17, 2010

    Kim - I’m not asking for a defense.  This whole post was only intended to bring many different perspectives into the fold of one conversation.  I deleted the comments or parts of comments that leveled personal attacks on one another, but the rest I left up here because most terminology and analogies seem to have been used to illustrate a point as compared to being used only to be hurtful.  Even some of us who agree with certain termilogoy - i.e. I agree that if female circumcision is genital mutilation, then so is male circumcision - refuse to use those terms regularly precisely because they are polarizing and potentially very hurtful.  It’s hard for me to gauge someone’s intentions, obviously, but deleting comments quickly becomes a slippery slope.

    Furthermore, I suppose that I may not have properly explained myself if you are under the impression that I would ever say anything hurtful to a parent - or any person, really - who held a different belief than I do.  One of my closest mom friends circumcised her son, but we still get along just fine because we both respect the other’s opinions.  I understand that people circumcise for a variety of reasons and although I may not agree with the practice for my family, who am I to presume I know why they felt it was best for theirs?  I may even wish it weren’t as widespread a practice as it is, I may even be the sort who would protest it in front of a federal building, but I still am not certain that I feel comfortable with government regulation (even on the city level), which is the why I wanted to talk about it in the first place.  And I’m glad I opened the topic because despite the ridiculous amount of reading I’ve done, I still saw a couple of new ideas and links that I’d never come across before.

    Either way, I would never tell another person that they made the wrong decision.  They made a different choice than I would have.  The end.  I hope you can believe that I never wanted this topic to offend anyone.

    Mitzie - It’s a dark rabbit hole, that.  I started looking into female circumcision after my girl-friend started talking about hers.  I was surprised at how much therre was to know about a practice I had previously believed to be extinct.

  113. By on November 17, 2010

    For the wife of the uncircd man: I truly feel bad for your husband and appreciate the viewpoint, but do have some thoughts about it.

    1. Should we as a society cave to bullies (like the ones who teased your hubby as a child/teen) even when tye actions afe unethical? Example: A child is born with big ears. Should we have them tucked at birth for his own good and so that he wont be ridiculed for them?

    2. Shouldnt your hubby have embraced his intactness long ago? Is it because of the ridicule that he is embarrassed? Shouldnt we teach our children it is OK to be different (even though it is apparent that intact boys will be the norm very soon.)?

    3. Id like to know if it is just his “differing” to other boys that caused his embarrassment or if it was in fact something in particular about his penis. I know sometimes I dont feel so fresh down there due to the natural ‘juices’ however, this doesnt make me want to have my who-ha cut…

    4. If your husband is so ashamed of his penis why didnt he have himself circumcised? Honestly, insurance will pay for it if he claims health issues so if he is all for putting your hypothetical baby boys through this risky procedure, why not himself (by the by, there is much less risk and pain for him vs a baby as baby boys prepuce is fused much like your fingernail to the penis and needs to be ripped from the penis first before it is cut).

    Im not intent upon attacking you for your generous post, just very curious. I have a circd husband and an intact, perfect son.

    My husband on the contrary has major bad scarring, skin tags that are painful and still has chafing issues due to his circ and never wanted our son to feel the way he does about his mutilated penis. He, in fact, asked his mother (who was 19) why she had it done and she said she trusted the doctor. He underwent 5 surgeries to fix his penis and as Ive mentioned previously, still has issues all because someone took his perfectly fine organ and cut off a vital part of it.

    I hope that people who are unmoved by the vast amount of information against circumcision and decide to continue with this ‘tradition’ at the very least do not leave this surgery up to an ob/gyn and instead contact a urologist who has the appropriate schooling to perform something this intricate.

    Thank you for listening. It is my fervent hope and prayer that you leave your perfect sons penises alone.

    Cjf

  114. By erin on November 17, 2010

    Anon, I am curious as well.  If you don’t mind expounding on what is surely a VERY personal issue (but isn’t this whole discussion about a personal issue anyway), I’d be interested to know why your husband is ashamed of being intact.

    Kim, I am also curious as to your reasons for circ’ing your son.  I am not asking for a defense (it’s YOUR decision, no matter what I feel about it), but I am always interested in finding out why people choose to circumcise.  My husband and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum about this issue, and fortunately it is not a decision we’ve had to make as we were blessed with a daughter.  However, we WILL encounter it if we have a son, of course.  I just don’t understand why he feels the way he does (or anyone who has chosen to circ) and I’d like to.

    In MY defense, I ask all of my friends with boys about their decision to circumcise or not.  It may be a bit forward, but I promise I am never ever looking to attack (and I am not here), just curious about a different viewpoint.

  115. By on November 17, 2010

    111. anonymous - before you allow your boys to be circumcised, why doesn’t your husband get circumcised first?  if he feels so badly about it and all…

    intact genitals are a basic human right.  imo, those who choose to circumcise with all the information available today, have simply been duped by their doctor.  and now are in complete denial.

    doctors have no business cutting baby boys’ genitals for no medical reason. 

    oh wait, actually, it is a business for them, the typical circumcising doctor makes an additional $60,000+ each year.  and amputated foreskins sell on average for $250.

    “congrats on your beautiful baby boy!  we just cut off healthy, erogenous tissue from his genitals and made $250 bucks off it!“ <barf>

  116. By on November 17, 2010

    @Webster: what some cultures do to girls - as old as 16 - is so barbaric, is so hateful to normal female anatomy and sexual desire, that I conclude that something can go catastrophically wrong with the part of the human mind that governs sex. Middle aged women with hard faces and strong arms hold down girls and cut up their most private place with razor blades. This is the single worst act our species is capable of short of mass murder. I’m with Hirsan Ali on this one.

    Setting aside c sections, we all begin our journey through life in a woman’s most private place. That more than suffices to make that place worthy of reverence. But no, quite a few of us humans despise the vulva and wish to do it severe harm. Why? Why?

    @anonymous:

    “My husband is intact. This has embarrassed him for years and he vows that if he has sons, they’ll be circumcised… Most, if not all of the boys he grew up with were circ’d and it made him feel different and very self conscious. He was unbelievably self-conscious and nervous when he told me he was not circ’d (and this was in his 20’s).“

    I was so self-conscious about my Weird Dick that I did not lose my virginity until I was 37, to the woman I married. Moreover, I found it very difficult to admit to her that I was intact, even though I knew that she had been involved for years with several foreign born men. When I was growing up, I was typically the only intact boy in the locker room, in the hernia check line. I was never made fun of after second grade, but lived in constant fear of being bullied for having a Weird Dick that No Woman Would Want. As a teenager, I vowed to get myself cut as soon as I was old enough to see a urologist without my parents knowing about it.

    I was wrong.

    It was American medicine that was wrong and my body was fine, but I did not discover that fact until I was 34. I have never had any medical issues with my natural penis, my wife fully accepts me as I am, and what my penis looks like has been nobody’s business but my own since I left high school.

    When my wife met me, she spent time carefully exploring the puckers and folds that set me apart from nearly all American men of place and time. She did this even though she had already had several intact boyfriends. What she did strongly validated me. She did share with a few close women friends that I was intact. I invite you to think about validating your husband’s body. If you can convince him he is beautiful, then he will surely accept any future son as beautiful, just as nature made him.

    Only in my 40s did I gradually become aware of the sexual advantages of having all the moving parts. The Anderson tale of the Ugly Duckling resonates very deeply with me.

  117. By Restoring Tally on November 17, 2010

    I am a son who was circumcised at birth. I really wish my parents had protected me and left my body whole. If it had not been a cultural norm, I probably would not have had part of my sex organ removed without my consent. I dislike my circumcision so much that I am restoring to undo my circ.

    Many say that circumcision is a personal choice. They are correct, the choice is very personal to the owner of the sex organ being cut. It is my sex organ, not my parents. I am the one who uses my sex organ, not my parents. My body, my choice, not my parents.

  118. By on November 18, 2010

    Christel-
    1. I don’t really think it has to do with “caving to bullies”. I’m honestly not sure if he was actually bullied about it, or was just so self-conscious because he was different than all the other boys. While I can appreciate the analogy to ears… ears aren’t penises. I don’t think its a fair comparison. I think anyone would be more self-conscious of different genitals, than ears. Plus, chances are, youre not the only kid with ears that stick out.

    2.His parents did teach him it was okay to be different. He’s a much different guy than most of his friends, and is totally fine with that. Again, I think its the personal nature of a penis. I’m pretty sure most boys are concerned about if their penis is adequate on their own, without an added taboo. (Which, HOPEFULLY, will not be their for our children)

    3. No problems with juices…  It is only foreskin that was the issue of embarrassment…

    4. I’m not sure he even knows thats an option. Also, we’re married, he knows I love everything about him, including his intactness. I had to tell him that many many times before I think he actually believed me. What would the point be now? There’s no one else hes going to have to tell about it anymore. Plus, theres no way in hell I would bring that up to him. I feel confident that it would come off as ME not being happy with him and wanting him to change, which is absolutely not true.

    Aside from all that, we’re planning to have children, but not right now. Since we don’t have a boy on the way, we have not done all the research that will be done before we make any big decisions like this one. I just wanted to offer a different point of view to the conversation.

    kelly- The attitude is unnecessary. I’m going to assume that wasnt honestly a question you wanted answered, and if you did, just refer to my answer above. Also, in the future, know that being snarky isn’t going to help your cause. If you’re truly trying to convince someone of something, being rude isn’t going to get you anywhere. Its just gonna piss them off and likely discount your opinion even if it is based in fact.

    myrick- You have no idea how much I appreciate your honesty. I hope to goodness that my husband feels the same way about his body that you do about yours. And believe you me… I tell him how beautiful he is all the stinkin’ time. How perfect he is, how glad I am that he is JUST the way he is, how I wouldn’t want him any other way.. etc, etc…

  119. By on November 18, 2010

    actually it is an honest question i would like answered.  how can he not know it’s an option for himself but vows to do it to any son of his?  of course it’s an option, it’s an elective procedure!  it surprises me that so many men seem so concerned with their penises and yet, know very little about them.

    but you’re right, what would the point now.  boys egos are so very fragile.  i’m sorry you are unable to have an open, honest conversation with your husband about this.

    i don’t think my “attitude” is rude.  it’s brutally honest.  parents need to KNOW genital cutting isn’t about the health of their child, it’s a multi-million dollar business.

  120. By on November 18, 2010

    Myrick, let me just say that I am totally opposed to female circumcision. I am happy being a woman and felt such joy, pride and achievement at being able to have two children. So proud of my body: as if I had invented the whole process, never mind that a couple million other women were doing the same thing that same year. But reading about female circumcision as a protection against sexual assault helped me understand at least one reason the practice continues. I am sure that some want it done as a way to control women, the Madonna-Whore issue, who know what other misanthropic ideas. I am sure you know that in these cultures that are so stunted in their attitudes towards women, a woman raped is worse than damaged goods. No one will ever marry them, some are killed for the “crime” of being raped. I can see how a mother might feel she is doing the best she can to protect her daughter. Even in America, the victem is often blamed. How much worse is it, say in the Congo? Of course it would be better if that society underwent wholesale change, but what can a powerless woman do with the daughter she has right now? So while I don’t condone it, I can understand it.  I am not familiar with Hirsan Ali. Thank you for bringing him to my attention. And thank you to Sarah, for starting this topic. I have never had a blog post affect me so much.

  121. By on November 18, 2010

    And the first thing I learned about Hirsan Ali is that she is a woman. Please excuse me saying “him” in the post above.

  122. By on November 18, 2010

    Mytzie-
    Thanks for responding.

    You are right the penis is much more important to a man’s view of himself. Much in the same way that a masectomy is for a woman I can imagine. I do believe that your husband grew up in a different time.

    Thanks again for your generous post. I think that the crux of this issue is basically that your hypothetical sons will have a choice if you leave it alone and they wont if you dont. That aside from the fact that it is a very unecessary, dangerous and extremely painful crime against young boys that should not be legal just as much as any other undue harm against defenseless beings is.

  123. By on November 18, 2010

    @Webster: I know that in most traditional cultures, the fate of raped women is worse than that of rapists. That is, of course, unfair in the extreme. That said, I do not know how the treatment of rape victims explains or justifies FGM. SubSaharan Africans claim that circumcised women are less likely to have premarital and extramarital sex. To my knowledge, they do NOT claim that a circumcised woman is partly immunised from rape.

    @kelly: “it surprises me that so many men seem so concerned with their penises and yet, know very little about them.“

    I am a man and this does not surprise me. Having a penis and a male ego definitely gets in the way of clear thinking about the penis—and maybe I am guity as well! The rising tide of internet based intactivism all around us is 90%+ women’s voices. I would welcome your thoughts as to why this is. My conjecture is that intactivism is a side effect of the great feminist uprising of the past 50 years.

    Since about 1970, I have read over and over words in the following spirit:

    “I am woman, and as such am dignified and beautiful. I will not live in shame and embarrassment. I will not let shallow men dictate how a woman should look and function. I do not share my private parts lightly, but I also refuse to be ashamed of them. I embrace my anatomy, curves and all. I shun men who will not accept me as I am.“

    If this describes you, then you are primed to have grave doubts about the ethics of routine circumcision.

    Americans are giving up the bald penis, and the main reason is simply because you younger women are coming to dislike the implied disrespect for Mother Nature, who deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  124. By on November 18, 2010

    Myrick, I found this in Wikipedia, thus my comment.

    Female circumcision is a pre-marital custom mainly endemic to Northeast Africa (see Map) and parts of the Near East that has its ultimate origins in Ancient Egypt.[71][72] Encouraged by women in the community, it is primarily intended to deter promiscuity and to offer protection from assault. 

    It is based on this paper - Suzanne G. Frayser, Thomas J. Whitby, Studies in human sexuality: a selected guide, (Libraries Unlimited: 1995), p. 257

  125. By on November 18, 2010

    @Webster: I can follow the claim that FGM deters promiscuity. I cannot follow the claim that it offers protection from assault.

    The passage in Wikipedia you quote is silent about the way in which FGM is common in parts of subSaharan Africa that are not Moslem, and that it is unlikely that tribal Africa would adopt a custom from faraway Egypt. Customs have tended to flow the other way, down the Nile.

    More from Wikipedia:

    The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.

    * Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice.

    * FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.

    * FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido, and thereby is further believed to help her resist “illicit” sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3 above), the fear of pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage “illicit” sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.

    * FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and “beautiful” after removal of body parts that are considered “male” or “unclean”.

    * Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.

  126. By on November 18, 2010

    Could someone please explain to me how a woman being circumcised could “protect her from sexual assault”. That simply makes absolutely no sense to me…..

  127. By on November 19, 2010

    @Lynn:
    It doesn’t make sense to me, either, really. The act, itself, is sexual assault. I don’t see how it would dissuade someone from assaulting her further in the future. I don’t think that an aggressor is going to just stop what he’s doing when he sees that her genitals have been altered - perhaps put additional steps in the brutality that would ensue but not stop it altogether.

  128. By Carla on November 23, 2010

    I’m married to a circumcised man, and while I’ve never slept with anyone else, when I read about the sexual effects of circumcision (http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com/), I can definitely relate.  I’m not saying the sex is bad, but without the foreskin we’re both left with serious pain afterward, and it’s difficult for me to get what I need to be satisfied.  Sex is rough, and it’s difficult for him to control his climax.  Without the foreskin, the glans becomes calloused and hard, when it should be spongy and smooth.

    My husband and I struggle to deal with it, and he’s currently working towards restoring his foreskin.  I can’t wait for him to have some functioning gliding action.

  129. By on November 23, 2010

    I absolutely support circumcision being banned!  It is not fair to protect girls from altering their genitals for non-medical reasons, and it should absolutely be the same for boys under age 18.  His body, his choice- same as women/girls.

    That being said, I do believe the gov’t regulates far too much, and it frightens me when they start butting their noses into my parenting rights.  The vast majority of the time the gov’t is incredibly incompetent, and making broad decisions for people they don’t know is very invasive.  But, in this instance I think it is absolutely necessary to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  That is the government’s true job- not regulating everything else under the sun.

    I feel like you, Sarah.  I feel a strong maternal urge to protect innocent baby boys from unnecessary and in fact, harmful mutilation.  But on the other hand, I feel distrust for an all-too-present government.  I understand how you feel, but I believe it might be the only way to protect these babies/little boys.

  130. By on November 23, 2010

    I won’t call anyone a bad parent, but do good parents cut off normal and healthy body parts from their children?

    Do good parents put their child through surgery based on personal preference?

    Do good parents even WANT the “legal right” to amputate healthy body parts from their children?

    Do good parents act as if they own their child’s body, or do they feel as if they’re simply taking care of the child’s body until he/she can make choices for himself.

    Do good parents only harm their male children because “boys are tougher”?

    I’ll let ya pro-cutters think about that.

  131. By on November 23, 2010

    More questions to ponder
    How many normal and healthy body parts from a child can you cut off before you’re considered a child abuser?

    How many normal and healthy body parts can potentially harm a person if something goes wrong with them?

    Why is it only a part of the male genitalia that is so completely hated by Americans that you’re amputating it before the child even has a chance to experience the pleasures it can give?

    Ethnocentric Americans who believe that they love their sons while mutilating their genitals more than African women love their daughters while they also are being mutilated. That’s not the case.

    It’s simply a case of misguided and perverse tradition “A tradition that was started by disgusting doctors. Not more than 60 years ago they were mutilating every baby boy they could get their hands on, Not only do we have entire generations of young men who have been deprived of normal and healthy sexual body parts. But we also have generations of women who have also been deprived the joys of the male foreskin.

  132. By on November 23, 2010

    There are many angles to this problem, and I want to take a look at some of the most prominent ones.

    The first problem that people see with a ban on circumcision is the fact that, well, isn’t this a “parent’s choice?“ What is San Francisco doing sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong? The second problem is that, “It’s a religious decision. Such a ban infringes on my religious freedom.“

    The problem with “parental choice” comes down to this: Circumcision isn’t medically necessary. It is cosmetic elective surgery that is performed for no further reason than “that’s what the parents wanted.“ Since it is culturally accepted, maybe even by the majority of Americans, expected, most people don’t see a problem with parents “choosing” circumcision for their baby boys. But we must ask ourselves, in actuality, how is non-medical, cosmetic surgery, particularly circumcision, something parents have come to feel entitled to as a “choice” for their children?

    Let us consider a few realities. Before a doctor can perform surgery on an individual, there must be one of two things, or both; medical indication, and the consent of the individual. In the case where an individual is unable to speak for himself, then it falls on his caretakers to make decisions for him. But here’s the trick; if there is no medical necessity, if the individual is perfectly healthy and not in need of any surgery, is there even a choice to make?

    In most cases, if a doctor preforms non-medical surgery in a non-consenting individual, and that individual gets a hold of this fact, then the doctor can be sued for medical malpractice and/or medical fraud. Before a doctor can perform any surgery, he needs to have concrete medical indication, and most importantly, the informed consent of either the individual or his caretakers. But without concrete medical necessity, how can a doctor even be performing surgery, let alone present parents with any kind of “decision” to make? How is it that doctors can even be asking parents for permission for something that they can’t even be performing?

    If a doctor is asking parents for their “consent” for a surgery that he cannot even be performing, isn’t this abuse on the part of the doctor? Professional abuse, abuse of parental naivete, and ultimately, the physical abuse of the child? Shouldn’t a doctor be properly informing parents that circumcision is uncalled for, that the foreskin is normal, healthy tissue, and inform them of the care of intact babies? Instead of gearing parents, and egging them on towards circumcision?

    The ban on circumcision is said to infringe on so-called “parental choice.“ But really, what “choice” did parents ever really have? And don’t doctors have the responsibility to better inform parents on the bodies of their children?

  133. By on November 23, 2010

    Continued from above:

    The second problem posed by a ban on infant circumcision is that it is said to infringe on “religious freedoms.“ Already, the Anti-Defamation League, together with other Jewish groups, has released a statement in regards to the ban. Their argument may hold water, if it weren’t for the fact that there is already a federal ban on female infant circumcision.

    Now, it’s easier to defend a ban on female infant circumcision because it is a custom that our country has abandoned since about the 1970s. Yes, our country also practiced female genital mutilation, and it was even paid for by Blue Shield. About this time, the argument changes focus from “religious freedom” and “parental rights” to how much more severe female infant circumcision is perceived to be. In all actuality, however, there are varying degrees of female infant circumcision, some of which are similar to, if not less severe than male infant circumcision. (This year, the AAP temporarily endorsed a “ritual nick” in baby girls, but that was repealed due to a world outcry.)

    But the point is this: A federal ban on female circumcision infringes on the religious and parental rights of immigrants from Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia. In those cultures, the circumcision of baby girls is discussed on internet forums, pretty much the same way American parents talk about the circumcision of their sons without second thought. Female circumcision is seen as a “religious right” and a “parental decision” in such families too, but nobody seems to be concerned about that. The fact that the conversation changes focus from “religious freedom” and “parental choice” to “which one is worse” tells us one thing: The “religious freedom” and “parental choice” arguments do not hold up.

    The bottom line is this: Either the genital cutting of children is justified in BOTH sexes under “freedom of religion” and “parental choice,“ or it is not. We cannot pick, choose and defend only those cultural/religious/traditional customs with which we are comfortable. If we’re going to criticize abusive practices, we need to use the same yardstick for all.

    So far do we care about “religious freedom” and “parental choice” REALLY? How far are doctors expected to perform non-medical surgery on our healthy children based on pure “parental decision?“ Or is their duty protect the rights of his patients and perform only that which is medically indicated? Do we really think we can cloak everything under the cosmopolitan-sounding label of “cultural relativism?“ Or are genital cutting practices in this country subject to self-serving opinion of which “mutilation” and which one is not?

    For the situation in this country to continue as is in this country is a glaringly obvious double-standard.

    One of two things must happen. Either:

    A) The 14th ammendment is acknowledged and children of BOTH sexes are protected from genital mutilation with no exception for “religion” or “parental prerogative.“

    or

    B) The ban on FGM is lifted and people from ALL religions and/or ethnic backgrounds can practice genital cutting on children of either sex.

    If the Anti-Defamation group were to agree with option B, at the very least their position would be consistent.

  134. By on November 23, 2010

    Regarding the latest hype regarding the latest circumcision/HIV “studies,“ there are various reasons these studies are flawed.

    1. Researcher bias; a lot of these “reseachers” have a conflict of interest in that they belong either to societies, ethnic groups or religious sects where infant circumcision is a requirement. The most prominent people are Robert Bailey and Daniel Halperin. Robert Bailey has been trying to find a way to legitimize infant circumcision since about 1996, a full decade before any of the latest “studies.“ And Daniel Halperin is Jewish, and he is on record saying he wants to continue his grandfather’s legacy (grandpa was a mohel).

    2. The “study” was rigged from the beginning. The “reseacrhers” weren’t looking to “find” how circumcision “reduced the risk of HIV by 60%,“ that was already an assumed, forgone conclusion. They were looking to see “how much,“ without ever actually showing any proof that the removal of the foreskin did anything to prevent HIV. Neat huh? (See #4)

    3. Methodology. The circumcised group of men were told to abstain from sexual intercourse for 6 weeks after their circumcision. They were also given full instruction in the use of condoms. A large number of men dropped out of the studies, and, as if this weren’t enough, the “studies” were ended early. The “results” were immediately published, and circumcision advocates were already using them to promote, not adult, but INFANT circumcision.

    4. I think this hurts the studies the most, the fact that the hypothesis on which they were based, that the foreskin “reduced the risk of HIV” by eliminating the langerhans cells, which were supposed to be the “prime port of entry” for HIV.

    In reality, Langerhans cells are found all over the body; their removal is virtually impossible. Also, deWitte found that “Langerin is a natural barrier to HIV-1 transmission by Langerhans cells”

    http://www.circumcisionandhiv.com/files/de_Witte_2007.pdf

    As of yet, there hasn’t yet been a single explanation as to how exactly removing the foreskin “reduces the risk” of HIV infection, only assertion that it just “does.“

    The langerhans hypothesis has been long forgotten, and researchers tried to sell the lie that “Circumcision ‘reduces the risk of HIV’ because it’s harder for the virus to get through the keratinized glans.“

    But in other studies:

    “CONCLUSION: We found no difference between the keratinization of the inner and outer aspects of the adult male foreskin. Keratin layers alone are unlikely to explain why uncircumcised men are at higher risk for HIV infection.“
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20098294

    STUDY: HIV-1 Interactions and Infection in Adult Male Foreskin Explant Cultures - “No difference can be clearly visualized between the inner and outer foreskin.“
    http://retroconference.org/2009/PDFs/502.pdf

    5. Realities in other countries with circumcised majorities simply do NOT ADD UP.

    According to demographic health studies performed in other countries in Africa, HIV transmission was prevalent in circumcised men in at least 6 different countries:

    Cameroon (4.1% v 1.1%)

    Ghana (1.6% v 1.4%)

    Lesotho (22.8% v 15.2%)

    Malawi (13.2% v 9.5%)

    Rwanda (3.5% v 2.1%)

    Swaziland (21.8% v 19.5%)

    The demographic studies for these countries can be found at measuredhs dot com

    According to Malaysian AIDS Council vice-president Datuk Zaman Khan, more than 70% of the 87,710 HIV/AIDS sufferers in the country are Muslims (where all men are circumcised). In Malaysia (home of the TaraKlamp by the way), most, if not all Muslim men are circumcised, whereas circumcision is uncommon in the non-Muslim community. This means that HIV is spreading in the community where most men are circumcised at an even faster rate, than in the community where most men are intact.

    Let’s not mention the situation in America, where, despite a circumcised majority (approx. 80% of American men), we still manage higher rates of HIV transmission than other countries who do not circumcise, IE, the UK, Denmark, Germany, and Japan just to name a few.

    Before any further promotion of circumcision on the grounds of “HIV” prevention, the merit of performing circumcisions in babies who are at zero risk for sexually transmitted HIV (especially when circumcision couldn’t hold a candle to condoms which are 95% effective and protect BOTH sexes), and failure of circumcision to prevent HIV in the aforementioned countries needs to be explained.

    Will the WHO, UNAids, UNICEF, Johns Hopkins etc. please step up to the plate?

    Why are these “studies” being used to promote the circumcision of sexually inactive, non-consenting individuals, when the “studies” themselves were conducted in adult, questionably informed men?

  135. By on November 23, 2010

    Couple of last points:

    Someone above said:

    “...a nurse once said that if I ever saw an old man with penis rotting off of infection because he still had a foreskin and couldn’t keep it clean anymore, I wouldn’t question getting a circumcision for my infant son. My best friend knows a guy who had to get it done when he was older (teens) because his foreskin didn’t expand enough, or something, and it was then a medical issue. Talk about painful at THAT point in your life.“

    Why is it someone always knows somebody who knows somebody who knew somebody who had “problems” because they weren’t circumcised?

    I mean, come on. What other conditions can we talk about like this?

    “Oh I heard a man got testicle cancer and he had to have it removed…“

    “One man I know had prostate cancer and he had to have THAT removed.“

    ERGO, “let’s remove those parts from a baby?“

    I mean seriously.

    I’ve heard the “old man in the nursing home” line WAY too much. It’s become something of an urban legend.

    Enough about old men with foreskins, let’s talk about old ladies with severe LABIA. And I’m talkin’ chewed up bubble-gum. Isn’t anybody going to talk about “how much work” it is for caretaker to wash out an old woman’s conch? How it would be “so much easier” if she just didn’t have labia that harbored all that smegma? (Newsflash, readers, women get smegma and get “stinky” down there too. But you know how girls take care of this problem? That’s right, a shower.)

    And about pain “at that point in your life”: This logic dictates that every single operation a man should ever have should be performed as a child. Guess what; pain from NECESSARY surgery is inevitable. Pain from NON-necessary, completely COSMETIC surgery isn’t.

    Somebody else was talking about heart surgery, or any other surgeries for their sons. I’ve said it before, but if there is medical necessity, most definitely parents have a choice to make. But if there is no medical need, how can doctors even be performing circumcisions in healthy newborns, let alone even elicit some sort of “decision” from parents?

    Another argument I hear often is the argument of the cleft, or 6th digit. This argument is flawed for one huge reason; it compares honest deformities/genetic anomalies to the normal, healthy tissue that is the foreskin. When there is an actual deformity in need of correction, parents most definitely have a decision to make. But the foreskin isn’t a deformity or birth defect. It isn’t “extra” or a genetic anomaly. It’s standard equipment.

    The question remains, and I think I’ve already covered everything; since when was the amputation of perfectly normal, healthy tissue found in every boy at birth, ever a parent’s “choice?“ WHY are doctors even selling it to parents as such, when they’re not even supposed to be performing non-medical surgery in non-consenting individuals to begin with?

    I can’t blame parents for deciding to go through with circumcision; you can mislead anybody using lies, especially if you’re a credible person with a PhD and a white coat. It’s DOCTORS who should know better than to take advantage of parental trust for financial gain.

  136. By on November 23, 2010

    Very much against genital cutting on any non-consenting person, whether it’s an laboring woman who has an episiotomy cut against her will, a young girl in Africa who suffers infibulation, or an infant boy in America strapped to a board and having his foreskin peeled away, crushed, and sliced off.  (And if you think I’m being dramatic, you should read about American circumcision.  It’s extreme, including the removal of the entire foreskin, frenulum, and often more.) 

    As far as government regulation goes, I’m all for it.  I think it’s time for equality:  We have a law that prohibits genital cutting of baby girls.  Why the double standard for baby boys?  Leave the choice to the person who owns the penis.

  137. By on November 23, 2010

    I am a big fan of parental rights. 

    That is why I was so horrified when I went to a doctor to have my son’s toes removed and the doc said “no” and called CPS!  It is MY CHILD and nobody has the right to tell me what I can and can’t do with him!

    He would be so much cleaner without toes to wash between.  Foot fungus is a very real and common danger.  And it is not like he needs his toes.

  138. By on November 23, 2010

    With all the overwhelming evidence against circumcision it amazes me that people non-chalantly still say that they are going to cut their child. It is almost a supremacy thing-as if they “own” their child. You own the right to respect the honor of being given a defenseless child to make GOOD, honest decisions… Not to casually trust every doctor and ritual.
    Being a parent has been for me the single most important thing I have ever done or am doing. I constantly question my choices for my son.
    One issue I have never, ever struggled with was circumcision. It was so overwhelmingly clear to me that it was not the best for my son so I made a non-decision. I will never regret it. I will never question it. And my son will never wonder why I took it from him. My son will have that right as an adult to go under this elective procedure. I will fight for my son and the sons od America who are still tortured with this heinous “practice”.
    It is encouraging that only 30% of America still feels the need to do this, however if a ban is what it takes to keep other babies from harm’s way, then so be it. God Bless San Fran!!

  139. By on November 23, 2010

    I do think it’s a human rights issue, and as such, support a ban on it on minors.  If adults want it done, that’s their choice.  I don’t think this comes down to letting the government parent for us. (As a Libertarian, the thought of that makes my skin crawl.)  It comes down to WHOSE rights we, as a society, protect.  Right now, without bans on non-medical circumcision of minors, we are protecting the rights of parents to make decisions concerning bodies that do not belong to them.  I argue that they never had that right in the first place from an ethical standpoint.  With a ban on it, we would be protecting the rights of the individuals who own the bodies in question, to keep their whole bodies, and decide for themselves.  That’s as it should be. 

    Of course I don’t think this ban will pass, but I think it’s an ingenious move to even propose it.  It’s brought an important issue out onto a prominent national stage, and allowed those of us who are in the know about it to debunk the widely held myths that keep parents in our society cutting babies year after year.  I know that even though this ban has slim to no chances of becoming a law, the talk that’s taken place on this issue, has saved more than a few babies, or eventual babies, from this injustice.

    I have two kids, a daughter and a son.  Their bodies do not belong to me.  They belong only to them.  If my son decides at the age of 18 or older that he wants to be circumcised, I will support that decision because he made it for himself.  However, I will NOT assume to make that decision for him, which is why he remains whole.

    I will also say that I completely support education on circumcision given as a matter of routine to parents-to-be from their healthcare providers.  Both times I was pregnant, my midwives did give some guidance on that.  The first did so only because I told her I was really clueless on the issue and wanted to know a lot about it before making a decision.  The second, she handed out big packets on it to every parent early in pregnancy so they could have plenty of time to research, using what she’d given as the jumping off point for their own exploration of the subject.  If every midwife and OB in the country gave that stuff, it would be a lot easier for parents to make an informed choice (and if it is a truly informed choice, it is probably NO) then it would actually be unnecessary to propose bans.

  140. By on November 23, 2010

    Well, I’ve been reading all the comments and I have this to add.  We have sound reasons to not trust our government with our “personal decisions”, however, we have all come to agree about certain moral restraints that the government imposes because it causes harm to people other than yourself ie: murder, robbery, rape, toxic waste, etc..
    It would be some people’s “personal decision” to have sex with 9 year old girls and boys.  US government limits this type of personal decision because it is shown to harm another being.  Genital mutilation of helpless infants certainly falls in that category.  Many young parents do not question this procedure because they did not take the time to find out if it was OK.  In some communities in the world, it’s still OK to have sex with 9 year olds too. How does a community create sensitivity to the suffering of others?  One way is to make it illegal.  Wake up call.  BTW I am a 51 year old woman who declined to have my infant son circumcised 26 years ago against the wishes of his father, who had not looked into it at all but wished instead to blindly follow what had been done to him.  Another trap we must guard against.

  141. By on November 23, 2010

    I thoroughly enjoyed the posts, Joseph. Very informative. I liked the comparison of old men and women under the care of others, too. I don’t think people really consider the similarities between the intact man and an intact woman when it comes to care and maintenance.  ;-)

  142. By on November 25, 2010

    Oh my. This is a controversial debate. I am a registered nurse, and teach prenatal classes wherein I talk, all the time, about male circumcision. I “dodged’ the bullet two times when I had two girls in a row. Our third was a boy. I wish wish wish I had researched this more, however - we had him circumcised. It was/is still the absolute worst decision I have made to date as a parent. My husband is circumcised. As a nurse, I felt that it was a fine decision, though medically completely unnecessary. I regret the decision each and every single time I change his diaper or bath him. The uproar against this practice for ‘cosmetic’ reasons makes me remorseful, and happy at the same time. I wish I had had thought clearer then. I think this is a terrible practice, whether it’s done for religious reasons or not…

  143. By on November 30, 2010

    I’m a bit late on this but as a mother who chose to have her newborn son circumcised because I thought it was the most healthy decision for my son, I wouldn’t make the same decision for any future sons. 

    My son’s doctors only partially circumcised him, which really upset me because what is the point of a partial circumcision?  If I had known that they were going to do that I would’ve said, “No,“ to the circumcision.

    Unless medically necessary or I convert to Judaism, I say “no” to circumcision.

  144. By Rachel on January 20, 2011

    I’m a nurse on a urology floor and I’ve seen some pretty horrific infections in non circumcized males, at times necesitating surgery where part of the penis is removed.  I have never seen an infection in a circumcized male.

  145. By on January 20, 2011

    @Rachel:  I bet you’ve never seen testicular cancer in a male who was castrated at birth either.  Let’s amputate all sexual organs at birth to prevent future medical problems.  Why aren’t we amputating girls’ breasts at birth & prophylactically removing their uteruses and ovaries?  Why don’t we just amputate the entire penis at birth to prevent penile cancer?

  146. By on January 20, 2011

    Rachel: Hmmm, I would think if you are really a nurse (as you claim to be) you would actually KNOW how to spell “circumcised.“

    And, as one nurse to “another,“ I would like to ask you, what other body part do we routinely amputate to supposedly prevent infections?

    Yeah, none. We just treat with antibiotics, right?

  147. By on January 20, 2011

    @Pam. I became an intactivist in 1983, by reading Wallerstein (1980). I immediately saw that it would be very revealing to go to a random sample of urology practices in Europe and North America, and simply count what they do, esp. with regard to the foreskin and its absence. Phimosis, balanitis, etc. for intact, circumcision revision, skin bridges, excess tightness, etc. for circumcised. STDs for both. The question would be: does circumcision improve penis health, or simply swap one set of problems for another?

    There is certainly no lack of relevant data in principle, and significant variation in national postures vis a vis routine circumcision: continental Europe and Japan never circumcised, the UK and New Zealand have given it up, in Australia and Canada it has moved from the norm to a minority practice. The only western socieites where most adult men were circumcised for nonreligious reasons are South Korea and the USA.

    I have been waited 28 years for such a study, and am not holding my breath.

  148. By on February 22, 2011

    I’m a medical student studying for national board exams and upon reading about circumcision, I remembered your blog discussion and thought you might be interested in what they are teaching med students.

    In summary, the benefit statement is: Circumcision has been associated with a number of medical benefits, including lower rates of urinary tract infection, penile cancer, penile inflammation, penile dermatoses, and sexually transmitted infections. 

    Compared to uncircumcised men, circumcised men appear to have a lower risk of penile cancer, and their sexual partners may have a lower risk of cervical cancer.  Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common cancer of the penis and the major risk factor is lack of circumcision.  Studies out of S Africa, Kenya and Uganda have shown that circumcision protect against acquisition of HIV. In Africa, the lack of circumcision appears to be one of several facilitating factors in HIV seroconversion. The World Health Organization has recommended that circumcision be considered as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package that includes provision of voluntary HIV testing and counseling services, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, promotion of safer sex practices (delayed initiation of sexual activity, reduced numbers of sexual partners, avoidance of penetrative sex), and provision of male and female condoms and promotion of their correct and consistent use.

    The risks statement: The rate of procedure-related complications during and after circumcision is approximately 2 to 5 per 1000 cases [59-61], with most of these problems readily treatable and causing no long-term effects. Unsatisfactory cosmetic results (too little or too much skin removed) are also reported. The most common, significant medical complications of male circumcision are bleeding and local infection [17,62]. Most bleeding can be controlled simply by applying pressure to the bleeding site. The risk of severe bleeding is higher if there is an underlying coagulopathy; therefore, a family history of bleeding diathesis or neonatal petechiae should prompt further evaluation before the procedure is undertaken. The presence of anatomic abnormalities, including anomalous vessels, also increases the risk of an adverse outcome.

    Uncommon, but significant complications include life-threatening sepsis or death, buried penis, urethrocutaneous fistula, meatitis and meatal stenosis, and amputation of the glans.

    All of this information is off of uptodate.com, which is the website that university hospitals often subscribe to for physicians to use a main in-clinic resource. 

    I just wanted to share the medical information.  This obviously doesn’t take into consideration ethical issues, religious practices, etc.

  149. By on February 22, 2011

    A lot of penis problems in the USA come from the fact that American parents and doctors do not know how look after and educate and intact boy. In the past circumcision was strongly correlated with parental socioeconomic status. Intact boys and men were typically poorer and less educated men. It is very well established that poverty and low education are strongly correlated with adverse health outcomes. To determine whether circumcision status affects health, one should compare men who are American and continental European university graduates. The Americans will be circumcised, while the Europeans will not be. Other characteristics relevant to health outcomes will be held constant.

    UTI: In 1986, Wiswell published a study claiming to have “reviewed” the records of 400,000 boys born in hospitals run by the the US Defense Dept. for dependents of servicemen. He claimed that intact boys were 11x more likely to have a UTI before their first birthday then cut boys. Given the computer technology of the day, and the lack of consistency across hospitals in their computer record keeping, I do not see how Wiswell could have done what he claimed to have done without a huge grant to hire an army of computer geeks.

    Four Swedish researchers published an article in 1989 arguing that the response to the higher rate of UTIs among intact boys was not to circumcise them, but to deliberately expose them to good coliform bacteria at birth.

    Penis cancer: cancer of the penis is more common among uncircumcised men IN THE THIRD WORLD WHERE ACCESS TO A DAILY SHOWER IS PROBLEMATIC. Cancer of the penis is less frequent in intact Scandinavia than in the circumcised USA.

    HPV: extant studies mix together subjects from First and Third World nations. It is fundamental to control for income, education, and access to daily showers and condoms.

    HIV: no one has any business alleging that circumcision “protects” against AIDS. If the African clinical trials are taken at face value (and I do not so take them), all circ does is improve the odds under African conditions, where access to sanitation and condoms is much worse than it is in our world. There is no evidence that circumcision helps combat AIDS in the nations that ring the North Atlantic.

    Complications of circumcision: American medical and sexual research continues to turn a blind eye to complications that do not become apparent until a man begins his responsible sex life, or even much later. British research has been better here, and this is a major reason white British medicine has given up routine circ. Australian medicine has concluded that about 1% of circmcised adult men have damaged penises, which is why routine circ is discouraged in that country.

    American medicine is especially blind the possibility that some women prefer vaginal intercourse with an intact partner. (The Australian and New Zealand medical literature have investigated this very hypothesis.) This American blindness is a reason why American routine circumcision has become a feminist issue.

  150. By on February 23, 2011

    @Kristina

    Where is the respect for the normal male anatomy?  Is there no mention of the importance of the prepuce, the functions, why it’s there, why it’s been selected throughout millions of years of evolution?  Shouldn’t doctors know how the human body works?  No comparison to other non-circumcising countries and their low rates of infections?  No accounting for the fact that the US has the highest rate of circumcised men and one of the highest rates of STDs? 

    The cancer one drives me nuts - vulvar cancer is twice as common, yet no one recommends slicing off a baby girls’ labia at birth to “prevent” it…

    Just goes to show it’s a system built on profit.  The only information given is to promote amputation of normal, healthy tissue.  No money to be made when parents leave their kids genitals alone.  Such a shame.

  151. By on February 23, 2011

    “Where is the respect for the normal male anatomy?“
    Male private parts do not command as much respect as female ones.


    “Is there no mention of the importance of the prepuce, the functions, why it’s there, why it’s been selected throughout millions of years of evolution?“
    American medicine refuses to acknowledge the sexual value of the foreskin and frenulum. Because the typical sexual investigator is either a circumcised male or married to one.


    “Shouldn’t doctors know how the human body works?“
    Doctors often know less about sex than we do.


    “No comparison to other non-circumcising countries and their low rates of infections?“
    American medicine is very reluctant to base conclusions on comparing USA data with data from other western countries.


    “No accounting for the fact that the US has the highest rate of circumcised men and one of the highest rates of STDs?“
    American medicine lets that fact pass in silence.

    “The cancer one drives me nuts - vulvar cancer is twice as common, yet no one recommends slicing off a baby girls’ labia at birth to “prevent” it…“
    Mothers have always felt very protective about the bodies of their daughters. Only in recent years have mothers gradually come to understand that an infant son is equally helpless and vulnerable.


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