The First Cut

January 27, 2009

Here’s something that I had planned to never blog about: my son’s penis. Not about the novelty of having a baby with a penis (because, really: contrary to all expectation, the novelty wears off. A baby penis is just a little version of the appendage that you’ve seen before, and once you get accustomed to the risk of being sprayed during diaper changes, there’s really nothing particularly complicated about its care and maintenance), not about the differences between be-penised babies and be-vulvaed babies (there’ll be plenty of opportunity to reflect upon gender differences as these pertain to my son and daughter without considering their genitalia) and certainly not about our decision whether or not to make that all-too-significant snip. Circumcision, above all else, was not something that I was going to blog about. Too personal. Too controversial. Nothing to say about it.

I changed my mind. I still regard the topic as dangerously personal and controversial, but I do, as it turns out, have something to say about it.

My husband and I agonized over whether or not to circumcise Jasper. Actually, that’s not true: I agonized over whether or not to circumcise Jasper. My husband was pretty certain that he wanted to not circumcise – it’s not my place to explain his reasons, but I will say that he (my husband) is circumcised, and that he does not practice a religion that encourages circumcision – and although my inclination was to give my husband decision-making authority on this issue – he, after all, knows penises better than I do – I was, for some time, torn. I had never seen an uncircumsised penis. I had no idea – beyond the most rudimentary, high-school sex-ed posterboard kind of understanding – what might be the implications of circumcising or not circumcising. I was all, what’s a foreskin? And: why cut it off? But also: but doesn’t everyone cut it off? And: if everyone else cuts it off, there must be a reason. But then again: cutting. I was very confused, and more than a little uncomfortable about the whole subject.

The only thing that I knew for certain was this: circumcision meant that someone would bring a very sharp object very close to a very delicate part of my very little baby, and I didn’t like that idea one bit.

I read every article, medical and otherwise, that I could get my virtual hands on. I read anti-circumcision articles and pro-circumcision articles. I read about how circumcision might reduce rates of certain kinds of infections, and about how such reductions were most likely statistically irrelevant in North America. I read many personal essays by parents who are pro-circumcision, and many by parents who are anti-circumcision. I saw many comparisons to female genital mutilation, which I dismissed intellectually, but which haunted me nonetheless. I resisted being haunted. I worried about resisting being haunted. I worried about the ethics of making such a decision for my child: what would my boy want, if he were able to ask himself the question? I asked my husband; he knew his own answer. I wasn’t sure that that was enough.

I worried about how much I was worrying over the issue.

I read more articles.

I read that the pediatric associations of both the United States and of Canada recommended against circumcision. They were circumspect about it, to be sure: they fall all over themselves assuring concerned parents that it’s a personal decision, a decision that only the family can make. But they still get their message across: there’s no medical reason for a child to be circumcised.

That, however, was not the reason that I decided that I did not want Jasper to be circumcised. I decided that I did not want Jasper to be circumcised, simply, because I could not bear to allow anything to happen to him that would cause him unnecessary hurt. I could not bear the idea of the flash of a blade near his little body, the slice that would cause him to cry out in pain.

This was – this is – an intensely personal decision. In a way, it was a selfish decision: I made (and my husband supported) a decision based upon my feelings, my fears. It is Jasper, however, who will live with this decision. If I chose, I could weave a story, a philosophy, about how decisions such as these demand that we consider most seriously the passive option – that we do nothing that takes away from the individual that our child will become, that we do nothing that constrains that individual, that robs that individual of anything, literally or figuratively – but that would be bullshit. As parents, we make decisions every day – every hour – that shape our childrens’ futures with little conscious regard for whether or not our children, looking back, would want us to consider those decisions differently. We take away little pieces of potential futures for our children with every step that we take – and with every step that we take, every decision that we make, we also add pieces, we also build possibilities into those futures. Obviously, in an ideal world, we would make all the right decisions, and our children would one day congratulate us for caring for them and protecting their interests perfectly. But ours is not an ideal world, and we make decisions under imperfect conditions, and we can be assured only that we will, as parents, achieve imperfect results.

So I didn’t choose to not circumcise my son because I was perfectly convinced that it was right thing to do, because I believed that it was the thing that he, someday, would thank me for doing. I didn’t make the choice that I did because I think that all parents should make that choice. I didn’t choose to not circumcise because I came to the conclusion that it was the only choice that a good mother could make. I did it only because I didn’t want to cut him.

It was the only thing that I could do, the only choice that I could make, for me. I can only hope that I did right, that I chose right, by him.

(I’ve not yet drawn a name for the Motozine from last week’s giveaway; I’ll do so at first opportunity and post the winner by Thursday. In the meantime, thank you all so very, very much for sharing your generosity of spirit in the comments, and, as always for your love and support.)

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    Jaelithe January 28, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I’m in the “I don’t want to perform cosmetic body modification on my infant child without his permission or understanding” camp.

    And I was perfectly willing to talk about it. On the Motherhood Uncensored Blog Talk Radio Show, a couple of years ago. That’s right. I’m willing to talk about penises on the radio. I should put that on my resume.

    We had a very civil discussion there, actually. I think civil discussions on this matter are indeed possible.

    Of course, it’s also quite possible for people on both sides to be jerks about it, as is true of any controversial issue. While I was pregnant with my son, I was very, very surprised at how many friends, co-workers and distant family members asked me, without being prompted, about whether I was planning to circ my son. And then proceeded to hold forth on their opinions pro or con, like my the appearance of my son’s penis was somehow their business. My sister’s boyfriend at the time actually attempted to STAGE AN INTERVENTION, while I was hugely pregnant, by taking me out of the house alone on false pretenses and then confronting me in anxious tones in an attempt to convince me to circumcise the baby so that he would not “be part of a minority.” It was pretty ridiculous.

    Incidentally, Catherine, you really should make sure your doctor knows how to deal with an intact penis. Sometimes doctors forcibly retract the foreskin before it’s fully detached, because they don’t know any better. A doctor I assumed was knowledgeable tried to do this to my son when he was a baby. I got pretty angry.

    Nicole January 28, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    It hadn’t occured to me until people started asking when I was pregnant that this was even a decision I had to make. After all of the research that I did I still hadn’t come to a conclusion. I wasn’t swayed either way.

    I ultimately made the decision to have him circumcised because my dad insisted. (My son’s father wasn’t in the picture at the time to help make the decision)
    I figured he would know better than I would.

    I was in the room with my son when they did the procedure and I have to tell you it was the most heart breaking, painful experience.. for me.
    He strongly disliked being strapped down but he didn’t seem to feel any pain at all. If he did, it didn’t show.

    I think that faced with this decision I probably wouldn’t do it again.
    Even though, like previous commentors, I’ve known people that were embarassed that they weren’t circumcised, I think that there is enough of both that it really won’t affect my decision. There won’t be any basis for the “like everyone else” argument. Although I’m sure that very argument probably came into play in my own decision at some point.
    I just don’t think it is all that necessary. — IMO.

    daysgoby January 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    This, in a perfect, well-thought out and well-said nutshell, EXACTLY what we went through – right down to me having Penis Day Camp with my doctor so he could assure me about taking care of an uncircumcised penis.

    But yeah – agonized, studied up, decided to go for it – and couldn’t, because I couldn’t bear to think of causing him pain.

    April January 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    i was so on the fence about this before having each of my kids… husband was inclined to cut (as he is) and i was inclined not to cut. unfortunately both of our boys have been born with hypospadius which requires LOTS of cutting, and, ultimately, a circumcision. bah.

    Anonymous January 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    What a respectful discussion about circumcision. We decided not to with our two boys, largely because it is unnecessary surgery. That said, we did make sure to find out how to properly care for an uncircumcised penis!

    To second Jaelithe, above, make sure your doctor knows how to properly care for an intact penis. It is amazing the amount of wrong information, and the number of people and sources that say to retract the foreskin! Don’t!! It will move on it’s own, generally before the child turns eight. Not two, eight! Sometimes, forceful retraction of the foreskin can lead to tears, can lead to scarring, and this nasty little cycle continues, until, guess what? A circumcision is sometimes necessary at an older age to deal with splitting, scarring, and pain… Just ask my father, who, at 60 years young, finally addressed this problem! :O

    Michele January 28, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    My husband and I only had girls. Nonetheless, we struggled with this topic throughout both my pregnancies. My thought process followed yours. I could not have written it so elequently, of course. But, my final decision would have been the same. Great post!

    PS My European born hubby is not circed and judging from my very, very personal experience, it is much better. Just my opinion.

    Backpacking Dad January 28, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I feel like I ought to drag the conversation into the mud just because it’s been so nice so far :}


    *pokes head around corner*




    Do anything for you? :}

    I’m so awesome.

    Jessica McFadden January 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    You expressed my feelings exactly, and your husband sounds just like mine on this matter. (Cut dude doesn’t want son to be cut.) Thanks for this post.

    A Crafty Mom January 28, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Great post! Everyone is entitled to their own decision, and you are awesome for sharing yours (eloquently too, as always).

    We didn’t circumsize our boys, and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t actually do very much research on it at all. My husband’s parents are from Europe, thus he is not circumcized and it never really occurred to us to have the procedure done on our children. Our midwife advised against it (although, obviously we would make our own decision not based on her opinion), and I am the biggest wimp ever when it comes to pain, needles, and blood. It was a pretty simple choice for us, lol.

    cakeburnette January 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    hunh…not one person asked me about what we planned on doing with my son. I don’t know if everyone I know is just not that nosy, or if they think that’s sort of an inappropriate conversation topic. Ewwww.

    Anonymous January 28, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I think this website and this woman could really be helpful she is fantastic and and a wealth of information! (especially about Foreskins for Keeps, an idea whose time has come )

    Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 1:08 am

    After reading the following article on what this pain specialist experienced with ‘circumcised male babies’, we chose to leave our twin sons natural. It’s obvious, that most of the pro-circumciser’s that posted here have no knowledge of what their doing to their sons. Or they don’t care.

    Anna Taddio, a pain specialist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, noticed more than a decade ago that the male infants she treated seemed more sensitive to pain than their female counterparts. This discrepancy, she reasoned, could be due to sex hormones, to anatomical differences — or to a painful event experienced by many boys: circumcision. In a study of 87 baby boys, Taddio found that those who had been circumcised soon after birth reacted more strongly and cried for longer than uncircumcised boys when they received a vaccination shot four to six months later. Among the circumcised boys, those who had received an analgesic cream at the time of the surgery cried less while getting the immunization than those circumcised without pain relief.
    Taddio concluded that a single painful event could produce effects lasting for months, and perhaps much longer. “When we do something to a baby that is not an expected part of its normal development, especially at a very early stage, we may actually change the way the nervous system is wired,” she says. Early encounters with pain may alter the threshold at which pain is felt later on, making a child hypersensitive to pain — or, alternatively, dangerously indifferent to it. Lasting effects might also include emotional and behavioral problems like anxiety and depression, even learning disabilities (though these findings are far more tentative).

    Frenk January 29, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Let me start by saying that I really appreciated the honesty of your post & completely respect your decision.

    As a complete random stranger I'll put my two cents in the pot…

    I circumcised my son because I heard that its good for the father to match the son. I'm also not too bothered by the pain part if I think it is good for them in the long run. Your post however makes me a little ashamed that I didn't think past that one simple thought. Does that make me a bad mother?
    I believe in the cry out method for teaching the kids to put themselves to sleep too. I so mean. I guess the only point to make is that I think there are decisions as parents that we have to make even if those decisions make us feel bad. (LIKE DISAPLINING THEM). But, Circumcise isn't one of them.

    Avonlea January 29, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    The website for the Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.)organization has some good info –

    “People” may think they should do it for “health” reasons, but they don’t need to. Unless you are a man in Africa without good access to clean water and good hygiene, there really isn’t a need for it.

    I was adamant that we were not going to cut away part of my son’s healthy, functioning sexual organs for purely cosmetic reasons. Even though my husband actually was circumcised later in life at about 8-ish years old due to recurrent infections, he agreed with me that there was no reason to circumsize our newborn.

    Avonlea January 29, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I forgot to add that it’s my thinkging that many of the later in life circumcisions came about due to misinformation about how to properly care for the intact foreskin, leading to problems and infections. From the D.O.C. website, in Finland, where they don’t do newborn circ, the risk of needing a circ later is is one in sixteen thousand, six hundred sixty-seven (1/16,667).

    Paula January 29, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    My hubby is circumcised. All four of our sons are circumcised. I feel there is no right or wrong answer on this topic – it is the parents decision to do what they feel is best for their son.

    Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Male Circumcision – Much More Than The Mutilation of Sexual Pleasure

    By Jamie Glazov

    THAT MALE CIRCUMCISION mutilates male sexual pleasure is a fact that has been thoroughly documented. It is unfortunate, therefore, that this anti-sexual savagery continues to be widely practiced in our own society.

    Even more unfortunate is the fact that not only does male circumcision reduce male sexual pleasure, it also inflicts severe emotional and psychological damage upon its victims. Yet there is even more ignorance and indifference about this fact than about the anti-sexual component of male circumcision.

    Don’t kid yourself: circumcision of the male foreskin, which is almost always inflicted without anesthesia, is extraordinarily painful and traumatic. Whether or not this violence is experienced by a newborn, a young child or an adolescent, the victim’s brain and emotional state is sharply and negatively affected.

    Think about it: the penis is an organ that is connected to the operation of the brain and, aside from the overall objective of procreation, it is designed for the experience of sexual pleasure and the expression of love. So when it is mutilated with painful violence, the victim obviously suffers a permanent alteration of his normative brain development for the normal expression of sexual pleasure and love. All future experiences of genital pleasure involve, to certain degrees, the memory – even unconscious — of severe pain.

    Developmental neuropsychologist Dr. James Prescott has done extensive research into the neurological damage caused by circumcision. He has documented how the excruciating genital pain that is suffered, even “unconsciously,” by a new-born male baby, has long-term, damaging consequences on his ability to separate the differences between pain and pleasure in love and intimate relationships. The brain system that has been designed for pleasure is, because of circumcision, encoded with pain. It is simply a fact that this reality disfigures subsequent experiences of pleasure — and not just in the sexual context.

    The blurring of pain and pleasure in the developing brain provides the foundation for many circumcised males to need pain in order to experience pleasure, or vice versa. It would not be unreasonable to argue, therefore, that much of the violence in a society could very well be rooted, in part, in the extent to which that society practices male circumcision.

    Scientific studies have consistently shown that circumcision disrupts a child’s behavioral development. Studies performed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine revealed that circumcision is followed by prolonged, distressed non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Because of the infliction of unbearable pain on their neural pathways, circumcised babies withdrew into a type of semi-coma that lasted for days and sometimes even weeks.

    Numerous studies have confirmed that children and adolescents who experienced circumcision were terribly frightened during the assault and exhibited behavior problems after their circumcisions. Among the symptoms were stuttering, obsessive compulsive reactions, ticks and aggressive behavior. Psychological trauma also included the development of night terrors, temper tantrums and rage. In many children, suicidal impulses developed. Fear of authority was also greatly increased.

    Studies have also shown that that circumcision adversely alters the brain’s perception centers. Moreover, circumcised boys have been shown to have lower pain thresholds than girls or intact boys.

    Male circumcision has been shown to disrupt the mother-infant bond during the crucial period after birth.

    But we know how crucial this bonding is, especially in terms of what we know about how developmental deprivation of affection in the maternal-infant relationship leads to future violent destructive behavior in the child-turned-adult.

    Neuronal damage occurs in babies who are deprived of maternal affection. In other words, even if a mother gives her circumcised baby affection, there is evidence to suggest that this dynamic is often distorted because of the effect of the circumcision itself – in terms of how the baby is able to receive affection after being the victim of excruciating violent pain.

    The point here is that circumcision prevents the normal sensory stimulation of the brain and emotional well-being, which is essential for normal human development and function.

    Let us also keep in mind that, in many cases, circumcision literally destroys an individual’s life. Many boys, for instance, have been transformed into girls because their circumcisions went wrong.

    It would be silly, of course, to suggest that all males who are circumcised are sociopaths or psychopaths. That is simply ridiculous and we know better. But that is not the point. The point is that, in terms of what medical science tells us about the genitalia’s relationship with who we are, perhaps we should begin to think twice about mutilating our baby boys.

    Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 12:08 am

    So I’ve kind of been meaning to blog about this for awhile. I’m approaching this from a medical standpoint so it isn’t inappropriate or anything. It is just something I’m rather opinionated about.

    Why is the US so obsessed with circumcision? I can see that it had its place in history, a time when bathing was a once a week event, but what about now? Why has this utterly barbaric and now obsolete practicing still being performed? It really perplexes me. After all, the US is about 65-70% cut and I know that the practicing Jew population does not come near to those numbers.

    The procedure has already been shot down by many doctors. Having no foreskin does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, does not lower your chance of getting AIDS, nada. Foreskin just needs to be kept clean like any other part of the male body.

    Another big reason people advocate for circumcision is purely for cosmetic reasons. Some people value having no skin on the penis (which was there PURPOSEFULLY). But if any woman wants to judge a man by that, I’d humbly ask her what part of her vagina she would like to give up. I don’t thing girls really understand that it is not some detachable body piece. The pain infant males go through is painful to watch. If you want to see, search up Penn and Teller’s BULLSH!T episode about the matter.

    Am I against circumcision? No. There are valid medical reasons why it is performed in some cases. And what if a guy just wanted to be cut? Sure, whatever. But in those cases it can be a consenting male that willingly goes under the knife to get those results. Not an infant who is having an operation that will change his physical appearance for the rest of his life and something he has to deal with.

    It is something people should really put more thought into. Don’t just do it because the “majority” does. America is one of the last countries still holding on to this spiteful surgery.

    ps- I should clarify. I find nothing wrong with circumcisized penises. The problem lies in infants not having a CHOICE.

    Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Sex with a circumcised penis has been likened to ‘trying to appreciate one of Goya’s masterpieces by looking at a black and white photograph?’

    Kenneth Purvis, M.D., Ph.D.
    The Male Sexual Machine: An Owner’s Manual,

    Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 12:17 am

    No one is aware of the deep implications and life-long effect (of circumcision). All that takes place in the first days of life on the emotional level shapes the pattern of all future reactions. How could a being aggressed in this way, while totally helpless, develop into a relaxed, trusting person?

    Dr. Frederick Leboyer
    Birth Without Violence, 1975

    Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Paula said…
    I feel there is no right or wrong answer on this topic – it is the parents decision to do what they feel is best for their son.


    Statements such as this are a projection to protect or relieve that individual of any responsibility for their actions or feelings.
    If we accept, that babies are born perfect as Nature/God designed them to be – and that’s how the vast majority of the people in the world see it – why would some parents think it’s their right to interfere with Nature/God’s design?
    Wouldn’t it be ingratiating on the parents part, if the parents decided it was their sons decision to decide how he wants his own penis to be?

    Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 2:05 am

    This topic is so painful for me I can’t read the comments. It hurts my heart too much. We did it to our son. We fought over it and he had his reasons and at the time they were compelling to him. I gave in and hated myself for my postpartum weakness. There are no excuses. It was a huge mistake and now we both regret it. Even him. If we could undo it we would. My biggest parental regret.

    Joe January 30, 2009 at 9:17 am

    There seems to be a lot of posters who didn’t or wouldn’t circumcise their sons. I think that is great. Although I don’t think that should be a consideration, I hope people who are concerned with the ‘look like others’ will consider the response here. I look forward to the day when circumcision is forgotten like other parts of 18th century medicine or bronze age rituals.

    I think the best way to do this is just what is being done here, talking about it and eliminating the overwhelming number of myths concerning intact boys. Since once people realize most of what they’ve grown up to believe is wrong, the decision is easy.

    Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    The Cruelest Cut

    Then after the child is born some cultural traditions circumcise the child and this is another violation of the baby, the baby has only just arrived and now they cut the skin of the child. The child is welcomed into the world by giants that erode the boundaries of the child as soon as it enters the world.

    Jesus Christ was against circumcision and when the Apostles asked him about circumcision he replied that if you were meant to be circumcised then you would have been born like it from the mother.

    Some people realize that circumcision is barbaric and has no place in the 21s century. “Jews Against Circumcision” also state that Rabbi Moses Maimonides himself acknowledged that circumcision is done to desensitize the penis and curb masturbation. Anyone that hurts a child in thought, word or deed is in contravention of the universal law of God.


    The bible also talks about traditions of men being a hollow and deceptive philosophy.

    One might ask why then do religious people CUT their children in circumcision, circumcision is a tradition of man and not of God. God does not wish for any child to be harmed in anyway.


    “Children are not a commodity, without love they become so. Parents are the guardians of the soul, a precious gem born to shine. It is the guardian’s responsibility to ensure that gem is not reshaped, but allowed to BE its natural state. Children are the supreme joy of human life’ from Sacred Words.


    “MGM (Male Genital Mutilation) is a cruel, painful, mutilating, torturous, violative act without valid medical benefit that not only contravenes the UN Charter but also violates every principle of human kindness and medical ethics in every civilized country in the world. The very foundation of modern medicine is “First, do no harm.” Yet, circumcision does just that.

    The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and equivalent organizations in Canada all state that routine circumcision is not medically justified.

    Growing up, we heard the same myths that all of you have heard – it’s just a snip, it doesn’t hurt. Lies! They have attached EKGs and EEGs to babies during circumcision. Their blood pressure rises, their brain waves go off the chart, they writhe in pain, and they go into shock. It hurts, trust me.

    Circumcision removes healthy, erogenous tissue. It has been estimated by Canadian researchers that up to 80% of a male’s erogenous tissue is amputated during a circumcision.

    We’ve also heard people say, “It’s cleaner.” If boys can learn to blow their nose, brush their teeth, and wipe their butts after using the toilet, they can learn to pull back their foreskin and wash. (Incidentally, the foreskin is normally attached to the Glans and may not separate until puberty. When this is the case, it should be left alone, not forcibly retracted).”

    JCK January 30, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    My husband and I went back and forth about this, too. In the end, after much research, we decided to not circumsize our son. I have to say, every time I see him running around naked a breathe a sigh of relief that he was not cut upon. Two things helped form my decision. Dr. Fleiss’ article on why circumcision is unnecessary, and statistically that more parents are choosing this path. The 2nd reason did not weigh as much in the decision, but it was reassuring to hear that the stats are 50/50 and 70(not)/50 here in S. California. This would, of course, be statistics from families that do not have a religious belief on the subject.

    Good for you for writing about this. And, yes, bottom line…like all of this parenting stuff…it is SUCH a personal decision.

    Anonymous January 31, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I’m not a mother, but I would like to say that having sex with a guy who is intact(has his foreskin)has been unbelievably good.
    I’m 24 and have had an active sex life since I was 17. Until I met Rob, I had never had sex with a natural guy.
    It’s hard to explain, but I sexually feel more of him, than I ever did with the previous six circumcised men. I think it has to do with him having a lot of extra skin on his penis – it’s just great. He glides in me, where the previous men would grunt and groan trying to come. In some way, having sex with Rob is like having sex as Nature Intended.
    If I should ever have a son, I will definitely not let anyone tamper with his penis.

    Sarcastica January 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    If the ultrasound is right and if the little nudger currently beating the crap out of my uterus is a boy, then I have to face this decision…to do or not to do?

    My entire family and my fiancee and HIS entire family all say; do. But I have no clue.

    I’m torn.

    On the one hand, like you mentioned…the idea of a blade so close to my baby and harming him when it doesn’t NEED to be done, well I don’t like that idea.

    On the other hand, my fiancee’s entire family [of boys] has been circumcised, and the only one that wasn’t ended up having to have the operation when he was 25 due to medical issues…and that’s scary. You remember that. At least as a baby you don’t remember it.

    But I have NO CLUE. :(

    blrn January 31, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Sarcastica, nearly all men who ever “need” a circumcision later in life either do not actually need it, or damage was caused by improper care, or both.

    In countries which intactness is the overwhelming norm, the concept of needing a circumcision for a medical reason later is almost unheard of. I’ve heard numbers from scandinavia of something like 1 in 12,000-15,000.

    All you really need to do is protect your some from ignorant/improper care, and he’ll be fine.

    Anonymous January 31, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    I could go on at great length about the medical and ethical arguments against male genital mutilation. Perhaps I will, in the future. But today I’m going to focus on a first-hand account of what it is like to experience/witness this barbaric procedure. I dare you to read it and defend it. I dare you.

    (I essentially copied the following from the book Circumcision Exposed: Rethinking a Medical and Cultural Tradition by Professor B.R. Boyd.)

    What you are about to read is an account of the first circumcision witnessed by Marilyn Fayre Milos, during her training to become a nurse/midwife. The experience she describes launched her into her life’s work to end the circumcision of baby boys.

    We students filed into the newborn nursery to find a baby strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter-top across the room. He was struggling against his restraints – tugging, whimpering, and then crying helplessly.

    No one was tending the infant, but when I asked the instructor if I could comfort him, she said, “Wait till the doctor gets here.” I wondered how a teacher of the healing arts could watch someone suffer and not offer assistance. I wondered about the doctor’s power which could intimidate others from following protective instincts.

    When he did arrive, I immediately asked the doctor if I could help the baby. He told me to put my finger into the baby’s mouth. I did, and the baby sucked. I stroked his little head and spoke softly to him. He began to relax, and was momentarily quiet.

    The silence was broken by a piercing scream – the baby’s reaction to having his foreskin pinched and crushed as the doctor attached the clamp to his penis.

    The shriek intensified when the doctor inserted an instrument between the foreskin and the head of the penis, tearing the two structures apart.

    The baby started frantically shaking his head back and forth – the only part of his body free to move – as the doctor used another clamp to crush the foreskin lengthwise, where he then cut. This made the opening of the foreskin large enough to insert a circumcision instrument.

    The baby began to gasp and choke, breathless from his shrill, continuous screams. My bottom lip began to quiver, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I found my own sobs difficult to contain.

    During the next stage of the surgery, the doctor crushed the foreskin against the circumcision instrument and then, finally, amputated it. The baby was limp, exhausted, spent.

    I did not know what they had cut off, and I did not try to find out.

    I had not been prepared, nothing could have prepared me, for this experience.

    To see a part of this baby’s penis being cut off was devastating.

    But even more shocking was the doctor’s comment, barely audible several octaves below the piercing screams of the baby: “There’s no medical reason for doing this.”

    I couldn’t believe my ears, my stomach became weak, and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t believe that medical professionals, dedicated to helping and healing, could inflict such unnecessary pain and anguish on innocent babies.

    Staci February 1, 2009 at 3:09 am

    I have never blogged about this, but I will tell you it has been the most anguished decision of my life and I had to make it twice. There is not one parenting decision I have ever made that I second-guess so much. But, like you, at the moment, I just simply couldn’t stomach the thought of the procedure, so here they are… and I pray they don’t hate me someday.

    Anonymous February 1, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Staci said…
    I have never blogged about this, but I will tell you it has been the most anguished decision of my life and I had to make it twice. There is not one parenting decision I have ever made that I second-guess so much. But, like you, at the moment, I just simply couldn’t stomach the thought of the procedure, so here they are… and I pray they don’t hate me someday.

    Stop worrying! I’m one of six brothers and our parents left us as Nature wanted…intact. We’ve thanked our parents a number of times for leaving us whole. None of us are interested in changing our genitalia – we’re just grateful to have our ‘original equipment.’

    blrn February 1, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Staci, your sons will thank you for it. Just make sure you protect them from uneducated people (doctors included) who might forcibly retract them.

    In the unlikely case one of your sons wants his penis smaller and shorter, he can always get it done.

    You made the right decision, no doubt about it!

    The Mad White Woman February 2, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Oh I remember those days well. I agonized over Tre and Jonathan…do I or don’t I. Their father is NOT circumscised and he was totally FOR them being circumscised. I had the same doubts as you – they were going to CUT my day old baby! They were going to hurt him and cause him pain! I was so anxious about the whole thing. I had to be there when the doctor did it. I wanted to be there to make sure they didn’t f*** up anything. I had a wonderful OB/GYN doctor who did it herself and yes, I was allowed there. She actually gave him something to numb the area and he cried initially but as soon as he was back in my arms he was alright. You’re absolutely right though, it IS a personal decision and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and decisions. Hugs to you!

    Anonymous February 3, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Ok there was way too much to read here, but as someone WHO WAS CUT A YEAR AGO, here is my experience (I’m 24):

    1) As uncut, I never understood the phrase “get your di*k wet,” as the head of the penis was moist and soft all the time. I NEVER GOT why GUYS would use lube for masturbation/hand-jobs!!!! —Your penis will DRY UP like a peeled cucamber left uneaten for too long — rubbing/touching it will be unpleasant and weird

    2) In case you’re wondering what all the “nerve endings” and sensitivity craze is all about, (such as whether it’s simply feeling less during thrusting and lasting longer) YOUR ORGASMS — WILL — SUFFER!!! A LOT!

    I used to YELL and SCREAM and SHOUT and now it has NUMBED like a permanent anesthesia! Oh, I still make a sound, but it’s a FRACTION of previous orgasms. The most intense orgasm now is like “way below’ what it was before I had my circumcision.

    You can go ahead and argue and debate that your son won’t know the difference. You can say that millions in the U.S. (who never knew the difference) enjoy sex, and that adult males don’t regret doing it to their sons. But if you want to decrease how much your sons will feel doing sex go ahead and get them cut.
    Illustration – my last orgasm, arousal and Plateau have been reduced since my circumcision. I can see a vast difference in the before and after.
    Now if this is what you want for your son, then do this unnecessary surgery. Just remember, once a boy is cut… there is NO TURNING BACK.

    Hope it was helpful.


    Anonymous February 3, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    The Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide: A Petition to the World Court, at the Hague
    Please sign at:

    Anonymous February 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Compelling reasons exist for strong concern among attorneys and the public about the various types of damage caused by circumcision. These include pain and suffering, psychological harm, behavioral changes, irreversible reduction or loss of full sexual function, and underreported tragic complications, including deaths. Moreover, no satisfactory medical justification for routine circumcision has ever been demonstrated.

    Mik February 16, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Here via Neil’s Citizen of the Month post.

    Having gotten married and had grown up step-children I’ve never had to worry about making this decision.

    I respect your decision as a mother.

    As I mentioned at Neil’s (and I can’t believe I did, happily no one will read it LOL).

    I only wish I had been circumcised when I was a babe so as not to have remembered what it was like!

    When I was young, doctors were worried about how tight the foreskin was and recommended I get it removed. Due to the waiting list on the National Health in the UK or something it didn’t actually happen until I was 13.

    Never again!

    Waking up in the hospital in pain and spending quite a while in pain recovering and pulling the so-called dissolving stitches out of myself for a while after was no fun (the merciless teasing of school mates didn’t help).

    I do remember the doctor telling my Mum that having it removed is also cleaner and the female partners of men who have been circumcised have a lower rate of cervical cancer due to the cleanliness! I had no idea if this was true or BS.

    I can say it hasn’t effected me in the workings of the little guy or in any physiological way that I am aware of, or has it?

    Dang, that’s two blogs I’ve talked about my penis, he’ll be writing his own blog next if I’m not careful.

    If I’d had the choice, would I have had it done, mm, good question, at the time I thought it was necessary and didn’t know any better. Now I probably wouldn’t.

    Hugh7 February 16, 2009 at 4:26 am

    It’s good to see that so many people have made the same commonsense choice you did.

    It’s striking how in America it is such an agonising decision – but with so much pressure to do it. Unlike what school to send him to, or what time to send him to bed, it’s not a decision that needs to be made at all. Most of the world never gives it a first thought. The rest of the English-speaking world tried it, found it did no good, and gave it up. In New Zealand it was nearly universal; now it’s almost unknown, and in many cities there isn’t a doctor who will do it.

    And it’s a most extraordinary decision, when there is no other part of his body – and no part at all of hers – that may be cut off at parental whim. The only reason it’s not dismissed out of hand is that it is so common.

    And to look like his father? You can’t be serious!

    Mark Lyndon February 16, 2009 at 5:01 am

    You might also want to check out the following:

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.
    Circumcision is a “non-therapeutic” procedure, which means it is not medically necessary.”
    “After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions.

    RACP Policy Statement on Circumcision
    “After extensive review of the literature the Royal Australasian College of Physicians reaffirms that there is no medical indication for routine neonatal circumcision.”
    (those last nine words are in bold on their website, and almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. “Routine” circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia in all states except one.)

    British Medical Association: The law and ethics of male circumcision – guidance for doctors
    “to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate.”

    National Health Service (UK)
    “Many people have strong views about whether circumcision should be carried out or not. It is not routinely performed in the UK because there is no clear clinical evidence to suggest it has any medical benefit.”

    See also:
    Canadian Children’s Rights Council
    “It is the position of the Canadian Children’s Rights Council that “circumcision” of male or female children is genital mutilation of children.

    Drops in male circumcision:
    USA: from 90% to 57%
    Canada: from 47% to 14%
    UK: from 35% to about 5% (less than 1% among non-Muslims)
    Australia: 90% to 12.6% (“routine” circumcision has recently been *banned* in public hospitals in all states except one, so the rate will now be a lot lower)
    New Zealand: 95% to below 3% (mostly Samoans and Tongans)
    South America and Europe: never above 5%

    It’s worth remembering that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion if it weren’t for the fact that 19th century doctors thought that :
    a) masturbation caused various physical and mental problems (including epilepsy, convulsions, paralysis, tuberculosis etc), and
    b) circumcision stopped masturbation.

    Both of those sound ridiculous today I know, but if you don’t believe me, then check out this link:
    A Short History of Circumcision in North America In the Physicians’ Own Words

    Over a hundred years later, circumcised men keep looking for new ways to defend the practice.

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