Should I circumcise my son? What are the risks of circumcision? What are the pros and cons of circumcision? I would say that circumcision is a decision only you can make for your son, but that would be far from true. It’s a decision that your son can make for himself as well.
Aside from Jews and Muslims who practice circumcision for religious purposes, people are starting to realize that there’s no reason whatsoever to have a baby boy circumcised. There have been cases where circumcisions were botched, and sparing you the gory details, little boys have been “sexually reassigned” as little “girls.”[i] Circumcision is traumatic genital mutilation that is extremely painful. In a modern country where most people have access to baths everyday, it’s an archaic ritual that serves no purpose.
The American Academy of Pediatrics even proclaims that the “data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.”[ii] People are catching on, but we still need to get the word out.
Doctors Opposing Circumcision
There is a wonderful group of doctors out there called Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.). Part of their mission statement says, “These doctors recognize that no one has the right to forcibly remove sexual body parts from another individual. They also believe that “doctors should have no role in this painful, unnecessary procedure inflicted on the newborn.”[iii]
My father, the conservative, quiet, southern, retired attorney, has never said much about his private life ever. He’s a man of few, yet very effective words. Nevertheless, I remember him saying several times during my life that when it comes to circumcision, he wishes that someone had simply given him the choice. If he had wanted to be circumcised, it could have been a decision he made for himself. So I suppose I’ve always known that if I had a little boy, I would never allow anyone to unnecessarily take a knife to his little body. I could never do it.
I may be simply pointing out a trend because most of the little boys I know these days aren’t circumcised. In fact, the national circumcision rate was down to 56% in 2006 (from a high of 85% in 1965) according to the Circumcision Reference Library.[iv]
Even at 56%, we’re still the most pathetic in the world when it comes to non-religious, medically unnecessary, neonatal circumcision. Non-English speaking countries have rates near 0%, and of other English speaking countries, Australia has the highest incident at 13%. (England is at 2.1 %)[v]
To loosen or not to loosen
So, if you end up choosing to save that little foreskin and thus the sensitivity of the natural head of the penis, something you don’t know that will become a controversy, is whether or not you should very gently help the foreskin to loosen up and pull back. There are very differing opinions out there on this one, and the jury’s still out. We need to talk to young men whose mothers practiced both schools of thought and see who’s got the most trouble-free foreskin.
One school says that for the first two years of life, a couple times a week during a diaper change or bath, GENTLY coax the foreskin back ever so slightly. It shouldn’t necessarily retract for years, but you’re encouraging it to do so, and you’re teaching the boy to clean down there from a young age.
There is a big difference in gently coaxing and really pulling back the foreskin. Never let anyone pull back the foreskin! This includes your doctor. It is very painful and can even require emergency surgery.
The other school of foreskin thought is to do nothing. The foreskin will retract on it’s own by the time the boy needs it to, and a tight baby foreskin is helping to keep the fecal matter in the diaper away from the glans (head of the penis).
I have subscribed to the former coaxing method and I’ve been very pleased with my son’s foreskin experience. At age three, he has a perfect little package with a trouble-free foreskin. Also, in newborns there occurs something called smegma, which is basically a combination of skin cells, oils, and moisture, which appears as a cheese-like substance between the head of the penis and the foreskin. It can even run down the length of the shaft of the penis. It is nothing to worry about, but you can gently coax some of it out if you want to when you are doing the gentle foreskin stretch.
Whichever school of thought you buy into, at least give yourself the choice and keep the foreskin. Do the research for yourself. A man can always get himself circumcised if he wants to. I know of one grown man who made this decision. He was a medical doctor and I get the feeling he was anesthetized for the procedure.
[i] PR Web Press Release Newswire, “Doctors’ Mistakes Causing Penile Damage,” Vocus PRW Holdings, LLC, http://www.prweb.com/releases/2002/7/prweb42218.htm (accessed Sept. 1, 2008).
[ii] American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision, “PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 3 March 1999, pp. 686-693 AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Circumcision Policy Statement,” American Academy of Pediatrics, http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;103/3/686 (accessed Sept. 1, 2008).
[v] Gussie Fauntleroy, “The Truth About Circumcision and HIV,” Mothering Magazine, July-August 2008,48.