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Circumcision: Will You Make the Cut?

We had our oldest son in the hospital and he was circumcised at birth, partly because we didn’t know any better, and partly because I wanted him to “be like me” (“it’s normal, everyone does it”). I decided that I would accompany him and be with him during the process because I needed to know what it entailed, and I wasn’t going to send him to a room with the doc by himself. After witnessing his birth and holding his tiny body to my chest, being filled with love and awe at this miracle, I couldn’t let him be taken behind closed doors to have surgery without me.

I’m so grateful that I went with him. Not because I could do anything to comfort him or bond with him, but because my eyes were opened to the trauma inflicted on me and on him (and all other cut men) by the barbaric practice of circumcision.

Warning: Graphic video! Watch this if you want to be totally turned off to circumcision. If you have a weak stomach or are prone to fainting, please do not watch it!

I now believe that if you want to circumcise your baby, then the mother should be required to hold her newborn while it is done. I can guarantee you that circumcision at birth would be a rarity if mothers had to pry their son’s legs apart and restrain them while someone cuts off a part of their infant’s penis. There aren’t any mothers that I know that would let pain and suffering be inflicted on their child by a stranger with a knife. For more, see Mothers Who Observed Circumcision.

How could we look at our brand new baby boy, thinking he’s so perfect, and then almost immediately send him out to have something surgically removed from his body? And not for disease or dysfunction, but because we’re stupid sheep that run with the flock…

Think about it: A newborn, just starting to breathe air and take nourishment through the mouth, has a pretty immature immune system, and we’re willing to let someone cut off a large flap of skin and leave an open wound on the genitals. In a hospital, one of the most infectious environments that humans have created, no less.

Here are some circumcision links to get you started:

Circumcision, The Hidden Trauma : How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All

“Circumcision, The Hidden Trauma is the first intensive exploration of the unrecognized psychological and social aspects of this increasingly controversial American cultural practice. The book has been endorsed by dozens of professionals in psychology, psychiatry, child development, pediatrics, obstetrics, childbirth education, sociology, and anthropology.

Without much knowledge, the American public generally assumes that our cultural practice of circumcision is a trivial and benign procedure. As discussed in Circumcision, The Hidden Trauma, plain facts and recent research results conflict with these beliefs and raise questions. Dr. Goldman’s application of psychological and social research coherently explains both the tenacity of the practice and the contradictory information and beliefs about it. After a review of the surprising abilities of infants and their responses to circumcision pain, the long-term psychological effects of circumcision are examined from the perspectives of both traditional and more recent, innovative psychological theories. We learn that circumcision has potential effects not only on men and sexuality, but also on mother-child relationships, male-female relationships, and societal traits and problems. The text is supported with clinical reports, interviews, surveys, and thorough documentation.

Circumcision, The Hidden Trauma identifies an overlooked source of early pain and simultaneously points us in the direction of both healing and preventing this pain. It is of particular interest to men who seek to explore their sexuality and deepen self-awareness; women who want to understand men better; parents and children’s advocates; childbirth educators and allied workers; and mental health, medical, and academic professionals. The book has wide appeal because, more generally, it is about trusting our instincts, questioning some of our cultural values and assumptions, and reflecting on who we are and who we can be as individuals and as a society.”

More links to rethinking circumcision:

I certainly can’t speak for the ritual/religious side of the circumcision issue, as I don’t have that experience in my life. If you believe that it is a covenant with the Creator, then I respect that as your faith, but I don’t think we should circumcise baby boys at all. However, I think that it would be a great test of manhood and faith to undergo circumcision as an adult or in a coming of age ritual.

For the most part, circumcisions are performed on a routine basis, with no religious or ritual significance. Maybe it’s a way to get a little more revenue, to get you to buy into the machine of big medicine, maybe it’s just monkey-see, monkey-do. I know it was for me. I didn’t even question it. Circumcision is just what you do when you have a boy baby, and everybody else is doing it… Then you have the fear factor of “what could happen if we don’t do this?” that adds to the argument for cutting, and the thought that if you didn’t do it, you’d be different, and he’d be different, and so on.

So what? Be different. Let him be different.

If enough of us are, then we’re the norm, and circumcision is the oddity.

UPDATE: The real reason you’re circumcised:

(Just realized that I needed to clarify: I have two sons. The oldest was born in a hospital and was circumcised. He lives with his mother, and this post is about that experience. My younger son was not circumcised, was born at home, and I tell his birth story here: Unassisted Birth: A Father’s Experience.)

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27 Responses to Circumcision: Will You Make the Cut?

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience so powerfully and for providing all those valuable links.

    To me, the apparent brutality of it is not so compelling. High-voltage defibrilation or emergency trachiotomy looks brutal, too, but if it was a choice between “suffer a little” or die, of course I would want a loved one to live.

    But circumcision isn’t like those things. There is no national medical association of doctors on earth (not even Israel’s) that endorses routine circumcision. The known drawbacks and risks of circumcision far outweigh any potential benefits. In particular, 100% of circumcisions result in the loss of about 20,000 specialized pleasure-receptive nerve endings, loss of protection for the glans and adjacent mucosa, and loss of the exquisite frictionless rolling/gliding mode of stimulation that 95% of the non-Muslim world knows as normal intimacy.

    It just comes down to basic human rights. Foreskin feels REALLY good. It’s HIS body and solely HIS decision.

  2. I spent my 28th birthday at the pediatrician with my son while he was circumcised. After watching them put the device around his penis and pull the foreskin through and then slice it off I was completely uneasy.

    The pediatrician tried to talk us out of it, but much like yourself I was in the mindset “I had it done, so should he”. The other influences were things like the fact my cousin was no circumcised, but as he got hold her penis grew and the foreskin didn’t which meant he was circumcised at around age 12 or 13. And around the same time my sister-in-law had a baby and it was circumcised because her boyfriend was not circumcised and he had his son circumcised because he was teased in junior high and high school in gym class for NOT being circumcised.

    So all these factors lead me to believe I was making the RIGHT decision, but after watching the procedure and seeing my son scream and cry. I would probably not have done it had I known what I know now. Not to mention we have occasionally had issues with his foreskin ever since.

  3. Thank you for all the great links, and recognizing this cultural hypocrisy. Female genital mutilation is illegal, but male genital mutilation is perfectly legel, with the hospitals making a profit on the surgery and selling the foreskins.

  4. If I wasn’t afraid of the consequences I would kill all of those who led to my circumcision. I don’t enjoy sex. I don’t feel anything. All I get is the relief of being turned “off”, once I manage to ejaculate, it does release my urge but I feel obligated to have sex with my girlfriend because it’s just a tease because I know, by instinct, there should be a feeling that I expect but every time I am disappointed and often get angry. Very angry. I see her, obviously feeling it *before* she climaxes BUT WHAT THE FUCK ABOUT ME???? DOES ANYBODY THINK ABOUT THAT??? What if SHE had her sensitive parts cut off??? Huh?! The best part of me has been cut off and it prevents me from enjoying one of the most important parts of life.

  5. Joel – it’s very upsetting to hear your experience. It makes me so angry to think that some circumcisers will carve out particularly the frenulum, after they’ve already tossed a fair amount of erogenous tissue in the garbage.

    There isn’t much you can do to make the nerves that were sheared regrow – but have you looked into foreskin restoration?

    It follows the same dermatological principle that allows people to stick big plates in their lower lips and earlobes. Basically, if you place any tissue in your body under regular gentle stretching tension – your body fills that area with more cells in an attempt to relieve that stretch. Kept up for long enough, you can create for yourself something mimicking the tube that was cut off.

    This will likely help you regain some sensation. Your glans will lose the layers of toughness it developed through being constantly exposed to the outside environment – and the same goes for what’s left of your inner foreskin. The bit that lies between your glans and your scar is what’s left of the inside layer of your foreskin – and from the sounds of things, you weren’t left much.

    You can also focus particularly on stretching out particularly what’s left of the inner foreskin – and I imagine this may mean that the area fills with the nerve-endings associated with that tissue as it stretches.

    And you will also get to experience “gliding action” with your pseudoforeskin – where the foreskin continuously rolls back and forth over itself.

    To get an idea of how the foreskin moves back and forth, take your cuff, and stick a fair amount of it up your sleeve. Now make a fist with the hand you used to stuff the cuff into the sleeve, and pull your hand out slowly. You’ll notice that the material you folded inside is now starting to roll to the outside again. This is how foreskin moves when is being pulled back: the inside layer rolls to the outside. And moving the other way, the inside layer rolls as smoothly back inside.

    Some restored guys describe gliding action as being quite exquiste.

    Anyway, have a look into it and maybe discuss it with some guys here: http://www.foreskin-restoration.net/forum

    Cheers.

    • It sounds like he was circumcised very tightly and I doubt he has any inner lining left or much of the frenulum left. I’ve heard varying testimonies as to how much sensation can be retrieved. Some have mentioned some and some have have mentioned not much. Foregen is working on foreskin regeneration and will start trials once they get enough money to start.

  6. Very interesting post – as well as the feedback and comments. Really gets you thinking on a topic that, as a non-parent, I normally don’t ponder. Thanks for the post.

    First time at your site, we love it by the way! Thanks.

    Laurie
    ecoki.com

  7. Can anybody tell me why the baby have to suffer? Why don’t put some anesthetic ??

    I am completely shocked…

  8. Nice to read this. Both of our boys are intact and we felt a lot of pressure from family and friends to have our son circumcised. My husband had the same thoughts of wanting him to “be like me”. I rallied against it- but also honored his decision- but I said when the time came he would have to take him, hold him, comfort him, etc. And the day after the birth- he couldn’t do it. Then with baby #2 it was for sure- as our boys are healthy- and circumcision hasn’t been any issue in our day to day life.

    I do have a friend who’s mom is a mid-wife. They are Jewish and she is also (pardon me I don’t know the word maybe its “Moile” Mole?”) someone who’s religiously able to perform the rite of circumcision. Anyhow I was talking to her on the phone one day and her mom was dealing with the fallout with her malpractice insurance about a botched circumcision she had performed.

    Then I became aware of how common mistakes are made, it is botched, that it often performed by inexperienced nurses, midwives, which since at the time I was pregnant- caused me to set my heals in even more that it was esp. an unnecessary procedure and an unnecessary risk for a newborn.

    If you go to http://www.mothering.com Mothering magazine did an excellent issue on circumcision covering all the pros and cons in a very informative way- and I shared my copy with other pregnant moms until it literally fell apart. You can order back issues and I recommend it for anyone pregnant, expecting a child, etc.

    I think most people just don’t know. There is no need to beat up parents who did- because they didn’t know. But there is a need to really support parents who are investigating, to make information available, so parents can make informed choices about the health of their child.

    I am SO glad I had some loving moms, parents who shared their stories and supported me. And I bet someday my sons will be grateful too.

  9. I am the mother of a son who was circumcised at birth. I’m also a former nursing student who worked as an aide in the labor & delivery unit and comforted many newborn baby boys during the procedure. At our hospital, at least, babies are given EMLA, a topical aneastetic, and/or lidocaine administered via needle, to numb the skin. Most (but not all) of the babies slept right through the procedure.

    However, I’m not certain that had I seen the procedure before my son was born I would have agreed to it. After seeing those babies go through it, I don’t think I could subject my own son to it. Let him make that decision once he’s an adult if he’s bothered by a little extra skin.

  10. When my son was first born I was thinking that I would have him circumcised, because it seemed like the “natural” thing to do. Then I heard of an infant who went into cardiac arrest while having it done. That changed my mind on the spot! Now, I’m happy to report, my 18 year old son is happy, healthy and intact! He has told me himself that he is glad I chose to not have him circumcised.

    So based on our personal experience I would highly recommend that new parents allow their child to be the perfect little creature he is! If your son wants to get snipped he can always have it done as an adult.

  11. I too have two boys, one who was circumcised out of ignorance and one that is intact because I learned better. I wish I could go back and take back my decision to do it to my oldest, but I can’t. I believe it was a parenting low for me, since I sent my perfect baby to be altered with no reason. I am so glad I am seeing more and more parents getting educated and speaking up, if only someone would have told me it wasn’t needed.

  12. I am conducting a poll on my website to look at the way that circumcised and intact men view and experience sexual pleasure. Please take a look at my site stopthecut.org and look at the blog section. You will find the link to the survey there.
    thanks.
    Dr. Devin
    stopthecut.org

  13. I am profoundly disturbed having seen the video above. I could barely watch it and can hardly imagine how anyone would want to torture their baby boy like that. I almost wanted to cry. It is completely unnecessary to cut a perfectly normal and protective part of the penis off–just a barbaric ritual blindly passed forward through the generations. That’s not to say that it is wilful or conscious barbarism on behalf of the parents, many of whom follow religious injunctions and want to ‘do the right thing’, but the practice itself is what it is–mutilation.

    There are many forms of cruel behaviour we now look upon as morally objectionable, even criminal–slavery, wife-beating, rape, stoning, torture, corporal punishment, etc.–that were also accepted, condoned or even commanded in religious texts. Female genital mutilation is now a safe topic to rail against, even though it is still part of some peoples’ culture and religion, but speaking out against male genital mutilation (people don’t even want to call it mutilation yet) still risks the label of hate speech (Judaism and Islam both require male circumcision). Hopefully the time will come soon where male circumcision will be added to the list of cruel practices condoned by religion yet no longer morally acceptable, nor legal.

    A good friend of mine, during a discussion of this very thing, got rather agitated about it, saying there was no comparison between the female genital mutilation and male circumcision because there are cases of female circumcision where the whole clitoris and then some is removed. However, a lesser degree of mutilation is still mutilation. Above all, it is entirely medically unnecessary and interferes with the natural function and pleasures of the penis.

    Thanks for being brave enough to speak out.
    .-= Abram´s last blog ..Atheist Ads in Toronto =-.

  14. In New Zealand circumcision used to be nearly universal, now it’s almost unknown (except among non-Maori Polynesians). Several factors led to its extinction: a professor who ruled that a large new women’s hospital would not perform it; removal from public funding; and a policy (“sleeping dogs”) that it would not be offered to parents who didn’t ask for it. But I heard of a new one the other day: a group of nurses got together and refused to hold the babies for it; the mothers would have to do that. Few would.

    And there hasn’t been any outbreak of any of the things it’s supposed to be good for.

    A straw poll on a British science website showed the vast majority of intact men were happy to be that way. The circumcised men were evenly split between happy and neutral, but too few to draw a conclusion.

  15. You might also want to check out the following:

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    “Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”

    http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/pregnancy&babies/circumcision.htm
    “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 Paediatrics & Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has concluded that there is no medical reason for routine newborn male circumcision.”
    (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.”

    Drops in male circumcision:
    USA: from 90% to 57%
    Canada: from 48% to 32%
    UK: from 35% to about 5% (about 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%

  16. That breaks my heart. How can ANYONE see this as ok??? Do you hear those tortured cries? I am in tears right now…my heart aches! This needs to stop!!!!!!!

  17. Thanks for posting this. I almost cried. I had two boys and I was always sure I did not want to do this, I often said this with pride when anyone asked and in my culture everyone does it. I think this procedure should be banned. It should be considered a crime.

    • Correction: I HAVE two boys, and I almost cried because I could not bare to watch, and the little I watched was without sound. I can just imagine that little baby crying in torture. Could never do this to my boys.

  18. I was circumcised at 14 because a surgeon used pseudomedical justifications for doing it (tight foreskin), even though it’s not necessary. This was the NHS in the UK in 1993. No less invasive treatments were offered. IT destroyed my sexual pleasure for life because all the important nerves are in the foreskin.

    Males are looked upon as subhuman in this society. We cry “barbaric” at female genital mutilation, but people ignore the fact it’s happening to boys legally.

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