Friday, March 27, 2009

Save the Foreskin!

Most who know me would say I am rather passionate. Although it is a lovely descriptive word, I wonder if my opinions don't carry their deserved weight because it is sometimes assumed I am only riled up because that is just what I do. I imagine many of my friends and family thinking to themselves, "Oh it is no big deal, she is just going off on one of her tangents." This thinking, I believe, is exactly what got my babe and I in the whole KFC chicken and honey eating incident. (Unbelievable story to come soon.) The truth is, it isn't that I blow everything out of proportion, but that many things are important to me and, like I said, I am rather passionate about them.

I do not believe in routine infant circumcision. It had never really occurred to me before I became pregnant, but since we were waiting to be surprised by the sex I figured I should look into it. My initial opinion was that since it seemed everyone I knew from my generation was circumcised there must be a valid reason for it, right?

Then, I started thinking about how many things are done, repeated, and carried on not because of any rational reasoning, but because it doesn't always occur to us very social beings to think far out from our social perimeters, even when we should. I want my life to have meaning, purpose, and thought therefor I must practice consciousness, live with intent, and well, think.

After doing some research and asking medical professionals, I couldn't think of one justifiable reason to choose a routine circumcision. I brought it up to the babe's Daddy and we decided that if there just wasn't any reason to irreversibly change a perfectly created little person without even getting their input first, then why even consider it?

There are two arguments that get at me the most:
  • Baby needs to look like daddy
  • The whole locker room scenario
First of all, it is not a hard conversation to explain if it were to come up, "When daddy was a baby his penis was cut, but we didn't want to give you an owie on yours." Next, I don't think it is a responsible way to start out the very beginning of a child's life by surgically altering them so that they can supposedly fit in better. I believe it is much more supportive of somebody's self worth to teach them that they are wonderful being themselves just as they are. Cutting at an infant's most private body part without their consent is not the same as buying a teenage boy something he desperately wants just because everyone else has it. Most people are much happier with their lives when they finally grow out of that I want to be like everyone else phase, why begin some one's life with and encourage it through a risky surgery?

Then I told my mom. When I brought up that many insurances won't even cover it anymore because it is basically cosmetic surgery for an infant's genitals she offered to pay. Ugh... She is now supportive by simply saying it is my child and my choice, but that is just the thing, I don't believe it should be my choice, after all, it isn't my penis.

There is tons of very valid information out there, but I don't think it is even all that necessary with the most obvious reason why we should leave babies' penises alone. Of course, there are no medical benefits of a routine infant circumcision, there are serious risks, it is irreversible, but my favorite, which needs no data, statistics, etc. to back it up: it is not my body!

Anyways, my mom told me the other day, "Grandma was right about you. Even when you were a little girl she was saying you would be out there picketing just to be picketing. Why don't you get a bumper sticker that says, 'Save the Foreskin' on it."

Picketing just to be picketing, huh?

(Photo used courtesy of L.M.I.)


  1. I could have written that myself....except the part about your mom feels the same way as I do and left my brother intact 27 years ago! I am also very passionate about son is intact and when I tell people that (other mothers if it comes up in convo) they look at me like I'm a freak...and when I tell them why sometimes they look at me again like a freak and sometimes like "wow, I never thought of that" and most of the time I get the "I wanted them to look like daddy" BS argument or the "My husband decided, he's the one with the penis, not me." UGH!!!!!
    I also was telling a group of mothers and one father about know what the FATHER said?: "I have a cousin who had to have it done at 3 years old and he is still traumatized about it." I was FUMING, and no one would listen to what I had to say, they just brushed me off like I was the hippie freak in the room. I was very upset and very hurt!
    Anyway....I love your blog!

  2. Yes, it can be a very heated topic and it is always frusturating to have your opinions shut out or disregarded. I would have been upsted and hurt too!

    You can count me in as the other hippie freak in the room! ;o)

  3. Wow...well written post, and so true! Thanks for sharing!

  4. There are medical reasons for it... But its to the parents discretion, whether it be in or out nowadays... I ain't and I still plan on having the baby done. Same day when it is born, wont be able to remember having it done when its older.

  5. This post is not about ROUTINE infant cicrumcision which has no medical benefits. I don't believe it should be left up to the parents' as it is not their body.

    Also, there is very little we understand about memory. Although the memory of the specific event may not be able to be recalled, the emotional memory is retained.

    Although an adult man may not remember the proceedure itself, they are the ones who have to live with the fact that they have a penis that was altered for cosmetic purposes without their consent. Many men wish they were still intact, especially the ones who have had to endure the very serious possible risks that can occur from a circumcision.

  6. I meant this post IS about routine infant circumcision which has no medical benefits.

  7. Thanks for sharing your views on this subject. I have been struggling with this decision myself.

    I am a CNA (Certified Nurse's Aide) and I have cared for many elderly men who were not circumcised. MOST of them have no issues at all, but some who are incontinent and incapable of caring for themselves wind up with horrible infections of the foreskin that bleed and lead to urinary tract and bladder infections. It has been my experience that these infections occur when the caregivers don't know how to clean under the foreskin.

    When I brought this up to my midwife as a possible PRO circumcision argument she said, "Then THAT would be the time to circumcise!"

    I think she's right.

    This is still a difficult decision for me. My SO has been circ'd and so has his first son. He thinks we should, and he has a penis. I feel like his opinion counts more than mine in this matter... I'm going to have him do more research on it before we decide.

    Thanks again for sharing your viewpoint.

    -Taryn (BabyMagick from BC)

  8. This is interesting... The National Organization of Restoring Men. I am a save the foreskin gal myself! I have two sons who are completely in tact! =)


  9. I have one circ'd son and one un-circ'd. With my older son, I couldn't really see how there was any real reason TO do it, but his father insisted.

    My younger DS has a different daddy. He is circ'd himself, but he feels robbed. He has heard that there is more sexual feeling in the foreskin. That sort of claim is purely anecdotal--that sort of thing is not really measurable.

  10. I totally agree with you. My brother is intact because, when my mom was in the hospital after having me, she heard a baby screaming. When she asked what had happened, and was told the baby had just been circ'd, she vowed never to do it if she had a son. And when my brother was born, she didn't. I just had a baby girl, but when I was pregnant, and didn't know the sex, my husband and I discussed this issue. He is circ'd and felt that his son should be, too. I don't agree, but don't know how to convince him otherwise. Since we had a girl, it didn't become an issue, but we're trying for another one soon and I need to do some research to try and change his mind. I may end up quoting this post :)

  11. It is so great to hear that others are doing and encouraging research! I am so glad I have been able to contribute to helping others consider routine infant circumcision in a different light.

    And please, quote away! ;o)

    I recently posted a journal article on a parenting board which has a slightly different tone, approach, and other info if you are interested in checking that out also.

  12. I read recently that being circ. actually helps reduce the risk of getting certain STDs. I read the article sometime this year so its pretty recent. My husband is not circ. and regrets that his mom didnt do it so he wanted his son to be. Either way i did not care whether he was or not...he's my son and i love him either way unconditionally. i do know that my stepmothers father had to get circ. when he was in his 70s and it hurt like hell. I'm not saying that not circ. is bad i'm just saying that you need to research also why its good to circ. and weigh the facts.

  13. You know what else helps reduce the risk of getting certain STDs??? CONDOMS! And they have a better rate of success! If your son is sleeping around with people who might be giving him STDs, wouldn't you prefer him to wear a condom anyway???

  14. there would also be a reduced risk for women if we circumcised the hood of our clitoris.

  15. I completely agree- I was the 1st person in my family to decide not to circ my 2 son's (my mom had the same silly arguments and finally relented). And trust me- at 9 and 11yo they are VERY fine with it. My midwife w/ my 1st pg'cy explained it to me very clearly and concisely. She had 4 sons ranging in age from 20 to 10 I believe and the way she put it to them was, either you keep it clean or it may need surgery. So guess what? her son's kept it clean and so do mine :). I also couldn't see cutting on my children, when it is something they came into the world with. They are born perfect, wht mess that up? If you teach your children basic hygiene it is a nonissue anyway. We teach daughters to wipe front to back to avoid infection it shouldn't be that difficult to teach our son's to take proper care of their privates as well. Oh and I don't believe in clipping a dog's ear's or tail to make them look "better"(or more like their daddy whatever)either. IMO it's almost the same exact thing. Purely cosmetic. Also it's a misnomer that un'circ'd guys are more prone to infection. Again- have proper hygiene and it is a nonissue. I have met some un'circ'd guy's and none of them ever had problems- and they said they enjoyed sex A LOT. I also knbow a few guys who said they were too sensitive (and found sex sometimes painful) b/c of scarring from their circ (just and FYI no I didn't sleep w/ all the guys I spoke of). It's not like a baby can say "ok, that's enough I think". Any how, obviously I am very passionate about this as well.

  16. I agree that routine circs should not be done, but I don't agree with the people who judge people who decide it's right for them.
    My DH and I had a long conversation about it and decided for many reasons that we should have our DS circumsized. My DH is circumsized, my brothers are not. However, I was more in favor of it than my DH. It had nothing to do with wanting him to "fit in". It had to do with medical and religious reasons.
    When he had the procedure done there was very little crying. There were several babies getting done in a row and I heard none of them screaming as if they had had a finger chopped off. My DS cried more because he was hungry! I gave him tylenol twice that day (he's had just as much for a vaccine) and he was fine.
    It's not for everyone, but it is right for some.

  17. i am very torn on this issue... i don't have a boy, i have a girl, and am not pg, but do plan on having more sooner than later... i plan on doing plenty of research though to decide what is right for me... i do think i'm leaning more toward not circ-ing though... someone asked me if i was going to get my daughter's ears pierced... she is 4 mos. old... and i said no way... i could never see poking holes in her for my own selfish reasons... i think i will probably feel the same way about circ-ing.

  18. I never thought about it until I was preg with my first son. Thankfully I started doing research. I saw one of those videos that showed the actual procedure and that did it for me. I would NOT let my little boy go through that! My husband is circ'ed and he didn't really care, but once I showed him the video and info he totally agreed with me. Now he is upset and feels that he is mangled and never was able to make that choice for himself. So we are both happy we left our boy intact.

  19. I hate women that judge other mothers who DO circumsize their son. It's one of those breast vs. formula, AP, CIO, spanking, etc. debates.

    Also, what about mothers that pierce their daughter's ears when they're 4 months old? That's altering the human body, but we don't hear too much about that, do we?

  20. I don't think that we should judge either way. As other have said it is a personal choice and in some cases a medical nessecity. I personally had my son circ'd. The reason being a year ago I had to help my sister with my nephew that had to be circ'd at the age of NINE for medical reasons. I have never seen a little boy in more pain in my entire life and it was possibly the worst thing I have ever seen EVER. He couldn't walk, he couldn't sit and he would SCREAM and cry every time he peed for at least 2 weeks. It was HORRIBLE.
    Now I know that this is extremely rare but after seeing that there was no doubt that I would circ my boys when they were born. Gavin didn't even cry because they numbed it and never had any other troubles.
    I don't think either way is the wrong way. Just a personal choice. I do agree that it would be better to let someone choose how their body looks but sometimes when you are a parent you do what you think is right for your child.

  21. I'm sorry to inform you "save the foreskin gals" this, but there is medical purpose for circumcision - decreased chance of contracting and passing STD's and infections as well as better hygiene which decreases the chance of infection.

  22. Is Neonatal Circumcision Clinically Beneficial? Argument Against

    Robert S. Van Howe

    Nat Clin Pract Urol. 2009;6(2):74-75. ©2009 Nature Publishing Group
    Posted 03/26/2009

    Clinical benefit is only one facet of clinical decision making; medical risks and financial costs also need to be considered. For example, many of the benefits espoused by advocates of circumcision would be more effectively achieved by penectomy, which has the additional benefit of preventing unwanted pregnancies. Of course, penectomy is too invasive, and is not a practical solution. Many of the "clinical benefits" lauded by advocates of circumcision include reduced risk of phimosis, balanitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), genital cancer and sexually transmitted infections (STIs); however, evidence for these benefits are weak or nonexistent, and several alternatives to circumcision are available that are more effective, less invasive, and less expensive.

    Phimosis is as common in circumcised newborns as it is in boys who are not circumcised. Topical steroids are effective in approximately 85% of patients,[1] and could eliminate the need for newborn circumcision to avoid phimosis. Balanitis is more common in circumcised than uncircumcised boys under age 3 years, but may be more common in uncircumcised older boys. The only published adult study of balanitis showed that a referral bias occurred among circumcised men: the control group had a 47.8% circumcision rate,[2] but the participants were from the UK, where the circumcision rate is around 21%. Balanitis can typically be treated with topical antimicrobials.

    Newborn boys are more likely to have urinary tract abnormalities compared with girls, particularly in the first 6 months of life; however, many boys later outgrow these abnormalities. Observational studies have found that uncircumcised boys are at increased risk of UTIs during the first 6 months, but this finding might be a result of differential rates of prematurity, urine collection, false-positive urine specimens, and the frequency at which health care is sought.[3] In the absence of anatomic defects, UTIs do not require surgery and can be treated with oral antibiotics. The risk of UTI resulting in chronic renal disease is remote.

  23. @Angela: condoms are even better! Also, I'm all for removing teeth from infants, won't hurt while teething, no infection, no cavities! You have great arguments!

  24. Okay, I am uncircumsized and there is no way I would get circumsized now because of how painful it is (and there are increasing problems with getting circumsized after having gone through puberty, but we will not go into all that). I also personally would not care either way about having been circumsized as a baby... after all I would not remember it.

    From a medical perspective, there are certain pros to being circumsized... basically, because it is easier to clean you are less at risk of infections from improper cleaning and less at risk from having trapped bacteria that will give your partner an infection.

    From a cleanliness factor, a circumsized penis will stay cleaner throughout the day because you are not peeing through a flap (pulling back the flap to pee is really not an option).

    If the person is taught how to properly clean then it is not a big deal to be uncircumsized.

    If there is a time to circumsize a boy, then I would say birth is the time to do it because the child will not remember or be negatively effected by the decision; however, the process is quite painful and easily remembered by an older person... and as a man there are other complications that are not present at birth.

    It is more than just a cosmetic surgery... there are medical benefits as well as other benefits, but ultimately the medical negatives of being uncircumsized can be counteracted. Basically, leave it up to the parents to decide.

  25. What is the KFC and Honey story? I searched your blog and did not find it... unless I skimmed past it. You got me curious now.

  26. I have a problem with the "they won't remember it argument." If a doctor could cut off part of your body today and guarantee that you won't remember the experience a year from now, would you give consent? Unlikely.

    Also, something else I read on this subject that has stuck with me is this. If he were born without a foreskin, it would be considered a birth defect. Why are we (as a society) so eager to give our kids a defect?

  27. I'm WAY late to this discussion, but just wanted to say a big THANKS to Owl and all the commenters who are willing to speak out against circumcision.

    Circumcision is deeply entrenched in our culture, so its very easy for many to be convinced that it is a good idea.

    Even the discussion about how "theres no way to know if sensation is lost by circumcising" Well, guess what, you're cutting off thousands of sensitive nerve endings.. the sensations of the foreskin are GONE after. Would you lose sensation from cutting off any other sensitive body part? YES. same situation here.

    The medical benefits are preposterous. Women get more UTIs, they have less easily cleaned genitals, they are more likely to get infections, and condoms are the only way they can avoid getting STIs as well. So... if women don't need it, then neither do men. I'll tell you right now, it takes 2 fingers to pull back a foreskin in the shower.. and it feels good.

    Also, an above commenter mentioned that pulling back a foreskin to urinate wasn't an option. I completely disagree.. and if not for some reason, use toilet paper. Seems to work for women who have sensitive skin covering their urethras as well. And for the record, it covers their urethra to PROTECT it.

    The foreskin is healthy, valuable tissue. So, no this isn't like another debate, its like parents making a choice that they have no reason to make at ALL - no medical organizations recommend it!

  28. 48% of boys born in a hospital in 2008 were not circumcised. That's not even including out of hospital births where almost 100% of boys are not circumcised. So the locker room scenario isn't really a good argument anymore. ;)
    Just a fellow babycenter mom agreeing with your point of view.