Five issues you might have to overcome before choosing not to circumcise your son…
Let’s be honest, it can be hard to go against the grain. There are evolutionary reasons why people are drawn to following the herd and not standing out. But, as humans, there are also plenty of benefits to being the odd (wo)man out and speaking up about things that are wrong. What would our present day look like if it weren’t for those brave people who stepped out of the proverbial line and said, “Enough is enough!”
I’m here to tell you that this issue (cutting skin off your son’s penis) is important enough that you need to step out of the line. And fear not, brave one, statistics around the globe and in the USA can assure you that you aren’t alone. You aren’t part of a fringe group. You are part of a growing movement for human rights. We’ve made a lot of positive changes in the last 100 years. We’re going to make a lot more in the next 100. We can’t be comfortable with status quo when it allows for inflicting a barbaric practice on our most innocent and precious civilians. Don’t just step out of line — dance out of that line, because you are helping to make change for future generations of boys and men.
So, that’s number 1. You’ve got to be willing to be different and go a little bit against the grain, but also know that the numbers are in your favor. Someone else in your neighborhood has an intact son, and soon, a lot more of your neighbors will too. You’re not going to be Weird Wanda. You’re going to be Leader Louise!
You’re also going to have to wrap your mind around what the normal, whole male body looks like. You may have never seen an intact (not circumcised) penis. Or, you may have seen (or felt) one once back in college, but didn’t have an opportunity to give it a good stare down. Or, maybe you’re quite comfortable with an intact adult male penis, but not really sure about the infant variety. I’ll be honest, I’ve had multiple opportunities to closely examine intact adult penises. And I liked 'em. A lot.
But, an infant's intact penis was new to me. And, while I’d had plenty of exposure to intact adult penises, I’d had more exposure to cut adult penises. When my son was born, as much as I knew I was making the right decision, as much as I knew he and his future partner would one day thank me, the intact baby penis still took some getting used to in the visual effects department. It was a new sight to me. But, really, having only had a daughter previously, if my son’s penis had come out of my womb looking cut, that would have taken some adjustment to my eyeballs too, because penises smaller than pinky fingers are just not something I’d seen much of in my life.
So, there’s number 2. Realize that tiny penises look different than adult penises and as a woman more comfortable with the appearance of the vulva (or as a cut man more used to your scar), your retinas may need some time to adjust to the tiny little appendage. But, they will adjust, I promise.
This is a tough one. Number 3. You’re going to have to wrap your head around how and why highly educated doctors are encouraging, condoning, and performing this barbaric practice if it’s so wrong. Here’s what I can tell you: 1. Medicine, like everything else in society, is always evolving. Did you know that up until the 1980s, babies were routinely not given proper anesthesia for open heart surgery? That’s just one of many available examples. 2. Things practiced in medicine 50 years ago would scare the living daylights out of you, and 3. Doctors are also humans who are prone to the same cultural conditioning that we are all prone to. They may even be more steadfast in their convictions if they choose to rest on the laurels of their education and assume that they were taught indisputable facts rather than remain open to an evolving understanding of the human body.
I recommend doing some reading up on statistics for male genital cutting in other developed countries (it is much more of a rarity), checking out circumcision policy statements from health organizations around the world, and looking into doctors in the USA who are bravely and boldly leading the healthcare industry out of the dark ages.
You’re also going to have to know, really KNOW, that your son is not going to be a social pariah or a forty year old virgin because he has his foreskin. That’s number 4. How do you know this without actually knowing it? Because you will teach your son to love and appreciate his whole body, just as you love and appreciate your whole body. And you might worry, What culturally-conditioned foreskin-phobic American will love my son with his natural penis? The answer? The kind of person you would want to love your son: someone who isn’t afraid to go against the grain, who seeks knowledge and is open to new information, who wants to experience the pleasure that foreskin will bring, who will love every inch of your son’s whole body, and will want to leave your future grandsons whole and perfect, too.
And, finally, number 5. You’re going to have to be able to not buy into the “cutting off your son’s foreskin will prevent disease” hype. The list of things that foreskin removal “treats” has changed over the years. A popular claim right now is HIV. I think it’s safe to say most people, with or without foreskin, would choose to wear a condom to protect themselves from HIV. A circumcised man can’t have sex with someone who has HIV and NOT get it just because he doesn’t have his foreskin. Common sense. Furthermore, the studies used to back this claim are riddled with issues, as you can see here. UTIs? Females get more UTIs than males. There are treatment options in place for females that also work for males. UTIs do not require surgery. If you want to talk about cancers, according to prominent cancer organizations, a female's chance of developing vulvar cancer is greater than a male's risk of developing penile cancer, yet we rightfully do not use this as an excuse to remove female genital tissue at birth. Breast cancer for both males and females is also more common than penile cancer (which, by the way, you can still get penile cancer if you have your foreskin removed, but it is extremely rare regardless). We do not remove any other body parts at birth for “cancer prevention.” It’s nonsense.
In summary: It’s OK to say no. Your son’s foreskin will not ruin your life. (Taking his foreskin could ruin his life, however.) Baby penises don’t look like man penises. Doctors are not omniscient; they are a product of their society as much as anyone else. Your adult son and his foreskin will be loved by his significant other. Foreskin isn’t deadly; if it weren’t meant to be there, men wouldn’t be born with it. It serves a lot of important functions that will benefit your son his entire life… just like having an awesome foreskin supporting mom will benefit him his entire life.
Please, let your son be part of #generationintact because boys are born perfect too.
Jen Williams is the founder of Your Whole Baby. She is passionate about many causes including the human rights violation happening to baby boys and girls around the world. Jen lives with her husband and two intact children.