Way back when I was pregnant with my first and we didn’t know the gender yet, I went on a serious information gathering rampage. The question on my mind was whether we’d circumcise if our little mystery fetus turned out to be a boy or leave him intact. I know that for some families, the issue is cut and dried. Religion can make it a no-brainer. Just being American can make it a no-brainer. But for us, we didn’t have a religious reason to circumcise, and since about half my family lives in Europe, I didn’t feel cultural pressure to circumcise.
I had NO idea that circumcision rates vary so widely by state in the US (in 2009, it was 12% in Nevada and 87% West Virginia, with 54% being the countrywide average), and are very, very low in other parts of the world (though quite high in the Middle East as you might expect). Where we live in MA, rates are smack dab in the middle so our kids would be in good company no matter what we decided to do.
Then, thanks to my first’s double X chromosomes we were able to shelve the whole issue. But when my son was in utero, the question came up again and ultimately we decided not to circ. Here’s why:
- It seemed odd to me to cut off a perfectly good piece of my baby. Men all over the world (including about half of my male extended family members) are enjoying life with foreskins. As with most parts of the body, my opinion is that you leave stuff where it ought to be unless you have a good (medical) reason to modify it or remove it.
- Aesthetics was not a good enough reason in my opinion for me to subject Bo to a surgical procedure. Or any procedure. It’s the same reason I didn’t pierce P.’s ears when she was a baby. As cute as those tiny baby earrings are, I don’t feel like it’s my place to make permanent decisions about what my children’s bodies will look like (except when medically appropriate).
- The ‘looking like dad’ line of reasoning falls under the umbrella of aesthetics, but I’ll address it directly. P. has blonde hair and I have brown. I’m not going to dye her hair to match mine. And I can’t bring myself to subject my baby to surgery for the same reason. Lots of kids look different than their parents in lots of different ways. It’s not traumatizing.
- I don’t feel like it’s my place to make decisions about my son’s future sexuality/sexual satisfaction, which is what I feel like I’d be doing by removing a part of the penis that both has nerve endings and can play a role in sex. If he wants to get circumcised one day for looks, he can do that when he’s a grown man.
- The APP supports circumcision without full on recommending routine circumcision for every new baby because when it comes to HIV transmission rates and rates of penile cancer, circ’ed guys have a tiny edge. But in the US, condoms are both available and culturally acceptable, and I hope my kids will be smart enough to wrap it before they tap it when they grow up. And penile cancer is really, really rare already.
- Re: keeping clean… the eventual maintenance of the intact penis is much like the eventual maintenance of lady parts. Or any other part for that matter. A thorough rinse that gets to the crevices is more than adequate. As babies, they’re not that dirty so baths and a quick swipe get the job done. By the time kids are older and ickier, they’re old enough to keep their own parts clean.
- I read about the procedure. Then I watched a video of the procedure. With sound. ::shudder::
I know it’s a fairly controversial issue, so if you DID circ for any of the above reasons please don’t feel like I’m calling you out or trying to pick a fight. Different strokes for different folks, I say! I totally welcome friendly debates, however, so comment away! Did you circumcise your boys? Why?