I am posting this as a mom who is first, Jewish, and second, who has two sons who are circumcised. Since my pregnancy with my third son, however, I have researched the issue of circumcision and have left my third son intact, as will be this fourth son due in October. Below are a few of the reasons I made this decision. For anyone planning on giving birth in the future, this information is critical to protect your unborn sons. I am certainly in no position to judge anyone who has circumcised sons, as I have no stones to throw. However, I would like to share what I have learned and hope that it does some good to protect future little boys...Please, if you are in your childbearing years, take the time to read through the research before making this choice. It's not a little thing to make a decision about your child's genital integrity, whether they are female or male. (I confess that, with what I know now, it truly boggles me that so many people can be staunchly opposed to female circumcision, yet think that male circumcision is ok...it is really the same thing, even if the details look different.)
I grew up thinking that circumcision was normal and a good idea...no one had ever taught me otherwise, and I figured it wouldn't be so common if it wasn't good. A few years ago though someone said something to me that made me start wondering...so (as I tend to do) I started researching. As most of my readers probably know, I try to avoid resources that are anecdotal or emotionally-charged, and just stick with hard scientific facts inasmuch as it is possible to do so. The medical evidence on circumcision is quite one-sided--circumcision is unnecessary, painful, and probably damaging (some things are difficult to test or prove, and at least one study on this subject had to be stopped early because they concluded that the baby boys involved were being too traumatized to ethically continue the study...but there are indications that circumcision can do real and lasting harm).
As I said, visit the link I posted above. She has LOTS of links to references and resources that are well worth your time to visit.
About two years ago, when Bear was a fairly new baby, I posted about intactivism (or activism in favor of intactness--non-circumcision). I don't really have anything new to say, or any better ways to say it, but I do think the topic bears repeating, so today I am just going to re-post what I wrote before.
"I did then what I knew how to do. When you know better, you do better." ~ Maya Angelou
I've been a little hesitant to post anything on this topic, because I know members of my extended family read here, and I think that many of them disagree with me on this topic. But I was recently part of a conversation that made me realize that I should talk about this, and most especially to the people I care about.
My baby son is intact. That means that his body is precisely as God made it--we did not cut off part of his penis. Circumcision may be common, but so was the black plague and smallpox. Just because something is common doesn't mean it's good or right. I don't like to make any kind of major decision without doing the research--so I did it. I studied from sources like the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and so on. Sure, there are a lot of emotionally-charged hotheads out there preaching against circumcision, but there is a lot of careful, logical information as well. And it all says the same thing--there is no good reason to circumcise unless your God requires it. The only faiths I'm aware of that call for circumcision are Islam and Judaism. My own faith has scriptures which are blatantly against circumcision (Moroni 8:8 Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.) SO, there is no good reason for me to cut my son.
There are many arguments in favor of routine circumcision, but none of them hold water. I'll just run over the ones I hear the most:
1) Looking like Dad--so, if my baby's nose doesn't look like mine, shall I get him a nose job? Shall I get him color contacts if his eyes are a different shade than mine? Really, this must be the strangest reason ever for a cosmetic surgery on a baby
2) Looking like other boys--well, circumcision rates in this country are on the decline...somewhere around 50% at present, with various areas ranging from 35% to a high of about 65%. Most of the rest of the world (with the middle east as the exception) has MUCH lower rates.
3) Risk of penile cancer--penile cancer is very rare. Even among high risk groups, studies indicate that the difference in penile cancer rates between circumcised and intact men is something like 0.03%. Not statistically significant. In other words, it's too small to be considered evidence or 'proof' of anything...
4) Hygiene--underneath the foreskin is something called smegma. It is a lubricant-not unlike the fluids which women have in their genital regions. It not only lubricates, but also works much like snot--it catches anything that may get in there and flushes it out. So, actually, the intact penis is MORE hygienic than the circumcised one.
5) Risk of infections--see #4
6) More likely to give wife infections--see #4
7) Harder to wash--um, have you ever washed a little girl? Furthermore, during childhood an intact penis is about as complicated to wash as a finger. Anybody want to cut off their fingers in an effort to make handwashing simpler? I didn't think so! And in adulthood, well, an extra two seconds in the shower to rinse in and out, and voila, cleanliness is still easy.
8) Lower risk of STDs and AIDS--well, the studies that have suggested this have not taken into account things like socio-economical status or sexual habits...they have just said oh, this man is intact or this man is circumcised, and let's see who has STDs. The studies are biased. Frankly, a little education and monogamy would solve a whole lot more than cutting off some skin.
And, in case you have heard the rumors or believed them, let me set you straight: circumcision HURTS LIKE CRAZY. Grown men get general anesthesia if they choose to have it done. Babies are lucky to get a local. And then, while they have a raw, fresh wound, they are put into snug diapers which not only rub the wound, but also expose it to urine and feces on a regular basis. Mmmmm, just what you want on a wound in the most sensitive part of your body, isn't it.
As I pointed out to my friend--I spent 9 months of pregnancy doing everything I could to protect my baby. That isn't going to change just because he's now living outside of me rather than inside. I will still protect him.
I want to make a comment for those who noticed that I use the word 'intact' rather than 'uncircumcised.' The prefix 'un-' suggests that something was incomplete. The penis was meant to be the way it is; it is not an incomplete circumcision, it is intact. I realize that there are circumcised men out there who may feel hurt at the thought that they are not the way they were meant to be. Unfortunately, that is exactly true. Generations of the blind following the blind (or the circumcised following the circumcised) have injured countless boys and men. I cry thinking of it. I wish I could restore to you what was taken without your permission...but unfortunately I cannot. All I can do is try to spread the information in the hopes of protecting future little boys. "...when you know better, you do better."
Every day when I change his diapers or bathe him, I see my son's healthy, intact body. It is just as we made him. It is just as God designed him. It is how he was born, and it is how he is meant to be. Who am I to take away his choice to be intact? Every day when I see his intactness, I remember that I chose to respect my son. It reminds me to respect everyone. I think this world could use a little more respect.