Circumcision is Misguided

I know LOTS of fantastic parents who circumcised their newborn sons, including some of my closest friends. I don’t think that circumcising your child makes you a terrible parent or that there is a special place in hell for circumcisers or anything like that. However, I do think that routine infant circumcision is misguided.

Here are some common reasons why people choose to circumcise their sons and why I don’t think they are valid. I know this is a touchy subject. I am in no way trying to put any parent down. I am trying to tread lightly on a subject that I think matters a lot.

I don’t have a penis, so I deferred to my husband.
So who makes this decision for single mothers? For lesbians? Your husband may have a penis, but chances are pretty good that he was circumcised as an infant and knows no differently. Research circumcision. Watch a video of it. We watch birth videos, why not a circumcision video? If your husband is circumcised, a doctor did this to him. That is no reason to do it to your baby.

If it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for my baby.
Circumcision in antiquity was not the same process as what occurs today. DrMomma has a great article concerning biblical circumcision.

Baby Jesus with his circumcised penis. Nothing like today’s circumcisions.
Photo credit DrMomma.org

“For there are many who rebel against right teaching; they engage in useless talk and deceive people. This is especially true of those who insist on circumcision for salvation. They must be silenced. By their wrong teaching, they have already turned whole families away from the truth. Such teachers only want your money” – Titus 1:10-11

“Watch out for those wicked men – dangerous dogs, I call them – who say you must be circumcised. Beware of the evil doers. Beware of the mutilation. For it isn’t the cutting of our bodies that makes us children of God; it is worshiping him with our spirits.” – Phil 3:2-3

“I wish that those who are pushing you to do so would mutilate themselves!” – Gal 5:12

My husband is circumcised and his penis is perfect.
Your husband’s circumcised penis is no doubt awesome, but he has lost a valuable and functional part of his body. When circumcision was pushed here in American (and Britain) in the late 1800s, it was done to decrease masturbation among boys.  Most circumcised males (and some circumcised females) are still able to have a “healthy” sex life, but the foreskin of the penis does have a valuable function. A LOT of sexual problems that are attributed to the female (low libido, lack of lubrication, soreness after sex, IT JUST HURTS) may actually stem from sex with a circumcised partner. We aren’t supposed to be the only ones providing lubrication and we shouldn’t be sore and swollen after a marathon sex session.

“After circumcision, the exposed head of the penis thickens like a callus and becomes less sensitive. And because erotically sensitive areas of the penis have been removed, the circumcised penis must thrust more vigorously with a much longer stroke in order to reach orgasm through stimulating the less sensitive penile shaft. In her study of women who have had sexual experiences with both natural and circumcised men, O’Hara notes that respondents overwhelmingly concurred that the mechanics of coitus were different for the two groups of men. Seventy-three percent of the women reported that circumcised men tended to thrust harder, using elongated strokes; while intact men tended to thrust more gently, to have shorter strokes, and to maintain more contact between the mons pubis and clitoris.” Read this full article from Men’s Health Magazine at DrMomma.org.

(If you are my family member, please skip this next paragraph)

On that note, I’d like to say that I love my husband’s circumcised penis. It’s a part of him, I love him, I love sex with him, and I don’t view him as maimed, mutilated, or disfigured. However, I do know that we have both been robbed of the opportunity for sex to be even more awesome than it already is because of our culture’s promotion of routine infant circumcision. The circumcised men in our lives have been wronged, but they aren’t ruined. They have had a functional, highly erogenous part of their body cut off for no good reason though. When we were discussing circumcision while I was pregnant, Jed told me, “If sex without a foreskin is great and with a foreskin is even better, why would we rob our son of that?”

Circumcised penises are easier to clean.
As a culture we have more experience cleaning circumcised penises, but don’t be intimidated by a foreskin. It requires no extra effort in the beginning, no retraction, and cleaning the outside only. There are a lot of great resources on how to care for an intact penis online. A lot of parents have heard a horror story about a cousin’s friend or friend’s cousin who had an infection and had to have their foreskin surgically removed at the age of 8 or 88. I think that if I was a little boy and someone said I had to either clean my penis correctly or have a surgery to cut part of it off, I would be motivated to be more hygenic. As for old men in nursing homes, that is a care issue and absolutely breaks my heart.

I am not, however, saying that medically necessary circumcision is never a valid decision. Things can go wrong, penises can need surgery. The routine removal of healthy, functional tissue that will affect a huge part of your son’s life for no good reason is what bums me out.

Circumcision reduces the rates of STDs/cancer.
So does abstinence, condoms, and monogamy. Those things also allow your son to keep his body parts.

We circumcised my first son.
There is no reason why you can’t leave your second son intact. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You can find some great resources for dealing with family discussions here.

It’s just an extra piece of skin.
This was originally intended to be a guest post, but fits beautifully here. Written by The Family Penis.

“The function of the foreskin is often missing from the debate over its fate. What is it there for? It’s there for pleasure and protection. Pleasure? The structures of the inner foreskin are all erogenous. Protection? Along with the glans, the inner foreskin is only exposed during excitement.
So what does circumcision do? It removes varying amounts of inner foreskin leaving what’s left exposed becoming desensitized over time. The glans dries out and develops a toughened surface. Circumcision also removes the mobility of the skin system of the penis making the skin taught and immobile during excitement. So why?
Non-religious infant circumcision in the USA started during the prudish Victorian era to prevent masturbation. It may not have worked but circumcision does make masturbation more difficult. A normal intact male masturbates by rolling his foreskin back and forth over his glans like this:
Foreskin Sheath Animation | Side Image courtesy of http://penisprepuce.tumblr.com/
The foreskin is like a built-in masturbation sleeve. And the inner foreskin is all erogenous tissue so it feels fantastic as it rolls back and forth over the glans. Circumcised men are left with varying amounts of inner foreskin. It is that different colored skin running between the glans and the circumcision scar. But a circumcised man must rely on lube or friction for pleasure as the mobility is gone.
The rolling action of the foreskin aids with sexual intercourse. There is less friction and the rolling foreskin provides pleasure for both the man and his partner. Yes, women experienced with both report sex is better when a man has his foreskin. Penetration is easier as the glans is slippery and moist and foreskin unrolls as the penis penetrates.
Is it any wonder the anti-sex/anti-pleasure types were for circumcision?
So remember, the foreskin is much much more than just a piece of skin. It provides pleasure and protection often overlooked in the pros and the cons.
More information available at http://www.circumstitions.com/Sexuality.html
-The Family Penis (http://twitter.com/FamilyPenis)

It’s our family’s decision.
I don’t own my son’s penis. It’s not my decision. He has not consented to the removal of his foreskin, it’s not medically necessary, so I won’t make that decision for him. I also won’t pierce my daughter’s ears or put her on birth control without her consent. I plan on teaching my children to respect their own bodies and to respect the bodies of other people. I want my children to know that they have to make their own decisions someday regarding sex, relationships, reproduction, and many other things, but that nobody can make those decisions except for them.

I will respect those decisions. My respect for them started before their birth.

 

I am thankful every day that I went with my gut feelings and said no to circumcision for my son. I fully believe that he was created/evolved to have a foreskin for a reason. I have no doubt that forgiving yourself when you think you made the wrong choice is a lengthy process, but part of being both a human and a parent (in my experience) is doing things wrong and learning from them.

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  1. Erin -  November 15, 2012 - 12:35 pm

    I did allow his dad to make the choice, we knew all the facts of both sides. His is uncircumcised and chose to have my son circumcised. I do make the statement of I don’t have a penis, I agree with both sides of the issue and see benefits to each so it was simply allowing him to make a choice I just couldn’t decide on. If I were alone in the decision making well I would have to deal with that however that wasn’t the case! Each person should certainly know the porper info before making any choice for your child!

  2. shawntae -  November 15, 2012 - 2:15 pm

    I wanted to just share my experiences and thoughts.

    If I had another son I don’t know what I would do. Here is the hard part for me even though I KNOW that circumsizing is not good and just not needed. Because it’s not my body, it’s not the family penis and it’s not my decision. I think that is where moms go wrong. Because they say well we made this decision, no it should have never been your descision because it aint your penis! haha I think most of these moms (i was one of them) were just uneducated about circing.
    Here is my question, What if I leave my next son (if I had another one) intact and he is mad because his brother is circumsized and he is not or visa versa. Maybe they wont even talk about it but what if they do. I just don’t want to do something that makes my child resent me. I don’t want to explain to Kingston why I did this to him, oh mommy didn’t know better and so I left your brother alone. I honestly feel like if I circumsized my next we would never even talk about it UNLESS I kept the next once intact. I know then it would be brought up. I so badly wish I would have never done it in the first place so I wouldn’t have this problem But then again, when I ask james if he is mad at his mom for doing it to him he says NO and says that he doubts any man is.

    Isn’t it funny that we just do what everyone else does? You see my sisters had boys before me and they were all circumsized so once I had Kingston I just got him circumsized because that is what my sisters did. So dumb. Here is my experience with it, The dr went over it with james and i and talked about it and we did have to pay $350 for it. They dont do it in the hospital where I am from, you have to wait till the 2 week checkup for some reason.
    I remember telling James, are we sure we want to do this? He said yep and that was that. He also mentioned that everyone in school knew who the person was that was intact and they were made fun of. I’m not a man so I just said okay. I honestly wish I would have researched it more and would have put my foot down. Also, why aren’t they showing us the videos of this being done?
    But…
    I hear of all these horror stories about how babies bleed to death and how they have to cut this and that off and then there is that horrible video on youtube. My sisters sons also had to have vaseline in their diapers and their poor little penis looked crazy for awhile because of it…
    I was in there when the dr did it. He cried when she numbed him and then went back to sleep and didn’t cry at all. I also never saw her cut anything.
    No, he did not go back to sleep because he was in shock! I feel like he honestly was not in pain because he was in fact numb.
    She put this plastic thing over it and pressed down and then said keep this on and it will fall off on its own. I used no vaseline. I brought it up to her and she said this was the new way they are doing it and it’s not needed. It never bled and one day the plastic thing just fell off in his diaper and wala it was done. So our experience was “good” for what I did to him. So maybe they are doing things differently now? Who knows. I’m not saying, see my experience was good so go do it! No I don’t think that way but my experience was definitly like some of the ones I have heard or from that video.
    Maybe one of you can tell me if the way they did my son’s was a different way or something. I don’t know. I just think that people shouldn’t go in there not knowing anything about it. Please research it first and don’t just do it because the dad is.

    Sorry I wrote a novel.

    • Jessica Murphy -  November 15, 2012 - 6:12 pm

      Shawntae,

      It’s a difficult place to be in when you potentially have one son circumcised and one not. I’d direct you to http://www.drmomma.org/2010/05/i-circumcised-my-son-healing-from.html and some of the links you will find there.

      Your son or sons will someday know that they have been circumcised and might wonder why. Just be honest. A lot of parents regret circumcising their kids and apologize for making the wrong decision, for not knowing better, for believing some of the things they have heard and so on.

      As for methods, there are a few that are used most commonly; plastibell, mogen clamp or gomco clamp. It sounds like your son was circumcised using the plastibell. All methods forcibly separate the foreskin from the glans (it’s almost always fused at birth) and then crush the foreskin using some sort of clamping, which minimizes bleeding. Under the plastibell your son’s penis likely looked the same as your sisters’ sons, but you didn’t have to put vaseline on it because the plastic was covering it. It might have looked less painful from your perspective, but it’s essentially the same method.

      The reason freshly circumcised penises are red and raw looking is because that foreskin that was attached has to be pulled away from the glans to be removed. In an intact infant, this happens naturally over years rather than all at once using surgical force.

      And most American men (in my experience) aren’t upset over their circumcisions, but some are.
      http://www.drmomma.org/2011/02/men-ask-why-was-i-circumcised.html

      I hope that I responded to all your questions. Thank you for the comment.

  3. _mamabird -  November 15, 2012 - 2:24 pm

    If I wasn’t already motivated to keep any future sons of mine intact – this post would have done it for me! Great job presenting the facts.

  4. Adam -  November 16, 2012 - 8:06 pm

    This is a great post! It is important to speak up about this issue as many people are so uneducated about the functions of the foreskin and how the child is being changed for his entire life.

    You are a great woman for being able to recognize that it was wrong to do your first son and to leave your second son intact! I applaud you.

  5. Dan Bollinger -  November 23, 2012 - 8:27 am

    A great resource for parents considering infant circumcision is http://circumcisiondecisionmaker.com/.

    The “I don’t have a penis” argument is false, but not for the reasons you might think. Both the male prepuce (aka foreskin) and the female prepuce (aka clitoral hood) develop from the same preputial bud in utero. The tissue begins to change at the end of the first trimester. So, if your husband is cut and you are not,then YOU are the authority on what it feels like to remain intact!

  6. Lara -  November 29, 2012 - 11:51 am

    I’m so glad we didn’t have a son, because I know this would have been an argument in our house and I’m with you. I thought this was a very respectful article though… Nice work, lady 🙂

  7. rebecca -  December 3, 2012 - 11:21 am

    This post makes me sad and glad at the same time as well as educating me a bit for the future. After much research and a few arguments my son was left intact 🙂 The information on how intact men masturbate and how sex happens (for some reason I thought they had to pull the foreskin up to have sex then put it back?) will be useful and I’m bookmarking it for the future. I’m sad because while I do love sex with my husband, it does hurt and leaves me quite sore afterwards. I hope people continue to open their eyes and leave this barbaric practice in the past. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Jessi -  December 3, 2012 - 12:13 pm

    I wanted to tell you what a great piece I think this is. I’ve got three uncircumcised sons, and I’m always looking for common sense literature that I can share with people who are making the decision for their family. You did a good job explaining things without being overly scientific or medical, and incorporating your own family’s various penile experiences (haha) and reasons behind them in a way that’s thoughtful without being judgmental is refreshing. Too many voices on both sides of the issue are militant and unwilling to recognize that it’s not a black-and-white issue for most people (though I think it IS a black-and-white issue, I try not to come across that way because I realize I know so much more about it than the average person). I appreciate your approach and will be bookmarking this. Thank you 🙂

  9. David -  January 13, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    I’m circumcised and sex has always and continues to be very satisfying in my fifties. My son is the first natural male in his family for generations. I’m proud of the fact that I stood up and said “My newborn son is beautiful and perfect just the way he is and if you try to do him harm you will climb over my dead body to do it.”

    I didn’t realise the significance of what I had done until we shared a bath when he was about 4 years old and he asked why my willy looked different. I explained it to him and a tear rolled down his cheek. I reassured him that it would not happen to him. He replied “I know. I’m really sad they did it to you Daddy”. If a small child knows it is wrong then what’s wrong with the rest of society. We do not have the right to alter our child’s genitals EVER

  10. Christina -  April 2, 2013 - 7:09 pm

    I know a few men who are circumcised and complain about pain and infections. And I know young boys who didn’t get it done at birth and then got a infection and then had to have it done in their childhood. They remember the pain and everything. I know that isn’t the majority. I also have heard of men who have issues with a circumcision. Everyone can only do what they think is best for their children. no judgment either way.

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