tagReviews & EssaysCircumcise Me!

Circumcise Me!


My oldest son is circumcised. He was nine months old before the surgery could be done (they had questions about his kidney function and tests to do before they could approve it) and although my ex insisted, I was hesitant. It meant general anesthesia. It meant a much greater risk to our baby. In fact, he did have a reaction to the anesthetic - and could have died. All for a piece of skin on the penis.

My youngest son is uncircumcised. And if I have another boy, I won't have him circumcised either. There's a lot of research out there about it - you have to do a lot of reading and thinking for yourself to come to your own conclusions. But the American Pediatrics Association changed their stance on circumcision in 1999, stating there wasn't significant enough evidence to prove circumcision was a health benefit. And almost ten years later, we're still talking about it.

Should boys be cut?

Well, the evidence is clear - there's no proof that it's necessary for any medical reason. Culturally, there are other considerations to be made, of course. But for the majority of the U.S. population, the most prestigious and well-respected voice in children's' medicine has taken the stance that circumcision isn't necessary, and in fact, in itself, causes pain and a risk of infection in newborns who have immature immune systems. The U.S. tends to follow doctors like they were gods in white coats... so why is this still an issue? Why are we still debating?

Because, like breast enlargement, vulva enhancement, anal bleaching and hymen repair, the medical community is now billing circumcision as a "cosmetic" procedure. Yes, there are cases when it becomes a medically necessary procedure (unlike the above), when the benefits outweigh the risks, even in adult men. But those cases are actually rare. For most, it is an unnecessary, cosmetic procedure to conform to perceived social norms. (The new African AIDS studies notwithstanding... still, no official position has been taken based on those... yet.)

The thing is, nature is pretty good at weeding out the things we don't need when it comes to our body. Darwin wasn't wrong on that point. If men didn't need their foreskin, they'd be born without one. Over time, the foreskin would simply disappear. It clearly still serves some function - and we can guess as to what that is all we want - from sexual pleasure to simple protection. But ultimately, in terms of evolution and science, it makes sense that the foreskin serves some purpose.

Many men lament the possibility that they, being cut, might have lost some sensation or sexual pleasure due to their circumcision. And I don't blame them. I know I'd be annoyed if someone told me I might be missing out on some sort of sexual pleasure, and it wasn't a decision that I either made for myself, nor one I could take back.

As for whether circumcision leaves a man less sensitive and less able to experience full sexual pleasure... Certainly, it's a possibility. It's all relative. But considering what could have happened during a circumcision, the possible loss of a small percentage of sexual pleasure is the least of a man's worries when it comes to this procedure. Look at what happened to David Reimer.

In case you haven't heard his story, David Reimer was born, along with his twin brother, in Canada in 1965. When he was eight months old, a doctor using an electric cauterizing device (instead of a scalpel) slipped during his routine circumcision and burned most of little David's penis off. His parents consulted a doctor at John's Hopkins, who wanted to use David as research material, and consequently they agreed to raise him as a girl, instead of a boy. That lasted until puberty, when David discovered what really happened. He later committed suicide in 2004.

Live David Reimer's short, sad life, and then tell me that a circumcision is "worth the risk."

It's still an operation. People with knives near your genitals? The brain boggles at the thought that any man or woman would say, "Oh... okay, sign my baby up!" What right do you have to make that choice about someone else's body? Your child may be of you, but they are not you. Until that child is old enough to say, "Circumcise me!" I think it should be a moot issue.

That's one of the reasons I won't circumcise any of my sons anymore. I won't make a choice for them about their bodies that they can't take back. The same goes with my daughters (things like piercings, etc.) Unless it comes down to life or death, I won't make that choice.




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