by: Darlene Owen(Posted with author's permission)
I wouldn't say that I'm fanatical about it or anything, but I do have a very strong opinion about it, and am completely against it. I strongly believe in genital integrity for both, females and males.
I'm talking about circumcision.
I had never given it much thought before, until as a nursing student I actually saw a circumcision performed on a two day old, male infant. After witnessing the procedure, I began to question this very unnecessary procedure, and tried to reason what I can only describe as torture that was carried out on that innocent little baby who had no voice, no one to help him.
Witnessing that circumcision led me to educate myself as much as I could on the topic, and question a lot of the myths surrounding circumcision, and discover the actual truths.
I grew up like everyone else with the very wrong mis-conception that circumcisions were "no big deal", and were "cleaner, healthier" etc.
I was in my second year of nursing and looking forward to my clinical rotation in Labour and Delivery since it was the area I was most interested in, and knew most likely would be the career path I would take in nursing.
It was my second day on the unit, when the nurse I was following and observing, informed me that I would be helping her to assist a doctor that morning with a circumcision.
My nurse and I set up for the procedure and talked about what was to be involved. My nurse made it sound as though it was a very minor procedure and quite simple really.
I went with the nurse to the mom's room that was having her son circumcised that morning. The nurse asked the infants' parents if they had any questions, both parents simply replied, "no". If only they knew what their poor little baby was in for.
The nurse asked the parents if they wished to be present during the circumcision and watch the procedure performed. Neither parent was interested, so we then headed with the baby in her arms to the "procedure room", which was simply... the nursery.
The nurse unswaddled the calm, sleeping baby, and proceeded to undress him. The baby began to fuss a little since it was a little cold in the room, and I'm sure he didn't appreciate being unwrapped and removed from his warm, cozy blankets.
The nurse then layed the now naked infant down on a hard plastic body board and strapped down his arms and legs. The baby was crying very hard now, trying to fight having his arms and legs strapped down in such a straight unnatural position for a newborn.
The doctor then walked in, and was very friendly when the nurse introduced me and informed him that I was a nursing student who was joining them that morning to observe. While the doctor was talking to me, he seemed impervious to the now screaming infant. I wasn't even really hearing the doctor at that point, all I kept thinking was, 'Someone please unstrap that poor little guy, and pick him up and comfort him already.' The doctor saw my obvious distress and smiled and said, "Oh, don't worry about him, he just doesn't like being on the board, he's in no real distress." 'No real distress'? Really? This tiny little newborn was screaming and no one was responding to his cries. He was literally being ignored. I was not impressed so far.
The doctor then draped the infant in surgical drapes which covered his abdomen and legs but exposed his penis. The doctor using a swab, rubbed a solution on the infants' penis explaining what the solution was, and that it works to cause an erection on the infant so that he can grasp his penis easier.
The doctor then grabbed the infants now erect penis with forceps and proceeded to force a sharp instrument into the opening of the penis. The infant was of course screaming the most horrid cry I have ever heard come from an infant. The nurse was proceeding to give him sugar water, which she claimed "helped soothe the baby". This little guy seemed as though he could care less and was choking and gagging on the liquid. He just kept screaming. At times his scream didn't even come out, he was screaming so hard. I felt weak in the knees and had to fight very hard to hold back the tears forming in my eyes.
The doctor had forced the sharp scissor-like instrument into the opening of the baby's penis and was now forcing it open to tear away the foreskin from the glans of the penis. He then grasped the skin with another type of forcep and proceeded to cut at the foreskin. The doctor was talking away and explaining each step, I wasn't even listening. I could not believe the unbelievable distress this baby was in, and no one seemed to care really. I then asked the doctor if he had used any freezing or anything. He simply replied, "No, it's too risky to use on little guys like this." WHAT? So, basically this doctor was hacking skin off of this poor little infants' most sensitive organ, and the infant was experiencing every cut? I remember feeling so disgusted and said to the doctor, "This is barbaric." The doctor said, "Well, that's your opinion, but some parents prefer their boys be cut." All I could think of was, 'Why? Who really cares?'
When the doctor was finished the procedure, the nurse took the now exhausted infant and applied Vaseline and gauze to the infants' very raw, bleeding penis. The infant was no longer crying, but had such a look of shock on his little face. He had just experienced the most horrific pain he will probably ever experience in his entire life.
I was at a loss for words.
The truth about circumcision is that it is not medically necessary.
It is not cleaner.
Studies have proven again and again, that it has no direct relation on cancer etc. as was once thought.
It is also a very painful procedure. The baby does feel it, experience it.
There have been studies that demonstrate actual MRI changes within an infants brain after a circumcision has been performed.
As for those who claim "it looks better", my response is, "Really? Based on who's decision?" A penis with a foreskin is how the penis is supposed
to look. The foreskin has a function
, it providess protection of the very sensitive glans (head) of the penis, and it provides ease during intercourse. During intercourse, the penis moves within its foreskin, preventing rubbing or friction of the vagina, which makes intercourse far more pleasurable for both the man and woman.
Many people will respond in outrage over female circumcision, yet still consider circumcision of males 'the norm'.
Many parents aren't properly informed of the procedure. It IS
a very serious procedure with very many real risks involved. In my experience as a post partum nurse, many parents who were led to believe it was a 'minor' procedure and observed their sons' circumcision, were sickened just as I was at the actual pain and distress it caused their infant. I have had many patients who, after witnessing their first son's circumcision, decided immediately that they would not get any other boys they may have circumcised. Many parents told me that they wished they had known just how painful it would be for their son, that they would not have even considered it if they had known what is actually involved.
As for the argument that many men want their son to look like them, my answer is, Why? It is a stupid argument. Why can't parents simply teach their son that their son's penis is 'normal and healthy', that 'daddy had his normal, healthy functioning skin of his penis removed surgically, unnecessarily'. I also always say to those people, "Really? Well, watch an actual circumcision and see if you still feel that way afterwards." I have yet to see any parent watch a video, or view an actual circumcision procedure, who is not completely against the idea afterwards.
An uncircumcised penis is very easy to keep clean. There is no special care required. The saying goes, "Clean only what is seen".
As for worrying about the son's foreskin not retracting, and needing a circumcision later in life. That actually only occurs in a very, very small number of males. However, even if the male does need the surgery later in life, he will be put to sleep for the procedure and will not feel it. He will also be managed comfortably with pain medication. A newborn doesn't have any of those benefits. A newborn is awake for it, will feel it, and doesn't receive any pain medication.
Ask any grown male if he'd get his penis circumcised while awake, with no freezing, and I guarantee you'd hear a very loud resounding "NO!" Yet, many men will put their newborn son through it. Doesn't make much sense does it?
I realize that at one time it was considered the norm. Now however, with all of the education about it, I can not understand why parents still proceed to put their tiny little newborn son through such a horrific experience.
I am proud to say that I am an intactivist, and the proud mom of two gorgeous, healthy, intact boys.
Original article can be found here
Have you decided not to circumcise your son and need some help trying to talk to your husband? We realize this can be a very touchy subject with fathers-to-be, and often takes a well-planned approach. Here we hope to provide you with some tools so you are better prepared for a discussion with your husband or boyfriend about not circumcising.
A Letter To My Husband
by Andrea Brenner
(Posted with author's permission)
After our daughter was born, I started actually looking at information on circumcising. Thank god she was a girl. My husband wouldn't listen to a thing I said. Within seconds of me bringing up the subject, he was getting upset and changing the subject. It really bothered me that we had such a great relationship, and could talk about anything else effortlessly, but not this one thing. So I wrote him a letter and emailed him a few links. This letter I wrote my husband changed our lives.. Possibly saved our marriage!
To My Love:
You are my husband and my life. I'm at my happiest when I'm with you and I wouldn't want it any other way.
I love that we get along so well, and we can agree on so many things. It is one of those things that glues our marriage together. What makes our relationship so amazing is how we thrive and love each other, and give it our all. There's very little we disagree on when you really think about it, and it generally doesn't bother me too much, because I'm all about the compromise. But there's one subject we disagree on that really bothers me. It's one thing that I actually think about more often than you would think, and it seems to be a subject that's brought up, but rarely talked about and resolved.
I've brought up the subject a number of times, but in one way or another, you seem to change or drop the subject. I know it may not be something you want to talk or think about, but if we don't deal with it now, it will only become a bigger, more serious potential argument down the road. And I really don't want any rifts in our amazing marriage.
If you've been trying to figure out for the last minute or two what I've been rambling about, this is the part where I break the ice: circumcision. I know this is something that we agreed on at one point. I used to think nothing of it. It was "normal." A routine thing. Uncircumcised, or intact penises, look "weird," and circumcised penises look normal.
But the more things I've read: stories, research, various articles, personal experiences... my views have changed. I would like to share some information with you if you're willing to read it. And I hope you are. I know this is one thing you feel strongly about, but i feel strongly about it as well. This is somebody's penis. I feel it should be that person's choice what happens to it. Babies feel that pain. It's so sad and hard to think about for me. I don't want to get too passionate about it with this letter, because that's not what this is about. This is about getting the ball rolling for a discussion, and hopefully we can come to an agreement.
There is absolutely no benefit to circumcision. It's listed as a cosmetic surgery and isn't covered by most insurances nowadays. The foreskin is a natural part of the body, and contains 80% of the nerve endings that create sexual pleasure. As much as I hate the idea of our children ever having sex, I don't want to be responsible for making it less enjoyable than it has to be.
As much as I would love to say, "This is how it's going to be, deal with it," I can't. We are married and we are partners, for better or worse. Which means we have to talk and express ourselves, and try to understand each other. I can't force you into anything, or force you to think in a way I want you to. (I've already tried with keeping the kitchen clean, haha wink wink).. The only think I can do is share the information with you that has swayed my opinion, and hope it moves you as well. But PLEASE consider it. Even if you're dead set, don't just read it and scoff the whole time. Put real, true consideration and thought into it. This is one thing that can't be undone. We can't change our mind, and it's a big deal. At least he has the option to do it later if he wants. It will be less of a risk at adulthood, and significantly less painful. If we get it done when he's a baby, he can't decide he wants it undone later on.
I want to make it perfectly clear: you have a perfectly amazing penis that I couldn't be more satisfied with. There is no way i think it's "abnormal" or "different". Growing up, I was taught that circumcised = normal. My views on this aren't meant to make you feel inadequate or that there's something wrong with you, because you are perfect. You are a top notch example that circumcising won't always ruin a person, or their genitals. Just keep in mind there are thousands of boys, and men, and boy angels out there who weren't so lucky. Who have suffered. And I can't bear to put a child through that.
I'm actually a little scared. I know I talk about wanting to have another baby all the time, and how much I've been craving pregnancy and a second child, but this is one thing that scares me. When the time comes, and we're blessed with a beautiful little boy, I don't want this argument to tear us apart because of how strongly we both feel. So please talk to me. For more than five minutes. And be willing to listen, and ask questions, and discuss this topic a little more.
i love you dearest. I'm so thankful for you and our beautiful daughter, and our future children.
Your Loving Wife
A woman discusses how circumcision has had a negative impact on her and her husband's sex life.
Posted With Permission from Author
My 37 year-old cut husband absolutely detests the fact his penis is now severely curved and his skin is so tight that it's overly shiny in spots. After sex, those spots tend to get raw and sore and sometimes even bleed. All because his mom decided she preferred a cut penis. I really get frustrated when people act like it's no big deal.
His father is intact with no issues, but his mom thinks circumcised looks better. So she chose to circumcise my husband in 1975. He has never had a good relationship with her, even as a child, and had a lot of unexplained problems with depression and self worth. He now wonders if it's not linked.
When we first had intercourse, the first thing I noticed was his penis curved strongly to the one side. We didn't know that was a side effect of circumcision and just laughed about it. Sex has always been good but it also has been painful. The side of his penis that pulls has shiny skin that is very tight and can be painful for him at times. Sometimes after sex he will even bleed a bit and develop raw spots in that area. I've had intact sex before so I know how wonderful it can be, how it works and how pleasurable it is.
Sex with my husband has been difficult. It's good sex but it has drawbacks (which we now know are directly because of him being circumcised.) We are both so bothered by this that it's hard to even want to have sex now. For him, he has the issues of the rawness and for me, it's the fact that it is dry and not the same as intact movement. Another issue is that we are just now aware of WHY he has this problem, and it serves as a reminder that we are left to deal with his mother's decision for his body. Worst part is: she gets to have sex with an intact man!!
He is just entering the early stages of foreskin restoration and the first day he tried to pull enough skin forward for taping, he couldn't squeeze enough to even move down the shaft. He got so frustrated he threw everything down and cursed his mother. He's been trying slowly and is finally able to get enough to put in the cone, but it's not been easy. There have been plenty of moments where he has been so frustrated over this choice his Mom thought she had the right to make so many years ago. Thirty-seven years later- HER preference means absolutely nothing and we suffer with the side effects.
Do you remember what you wanted to do with your life as a child? Most of us can clearly recall that memory, as can I. My dad asked me the familiar question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Looking back at it now, maybe becoming a mad scientist was a little unrealistic. However, I remember my father’s response better than the daydreams of glowing chemistry beakers. He told me, “Just be a better man than me and be happy.” Now, as a father of two sons with a third on the way, I understand his sentiment completely… life is about progression.
Like most fathers, I want better for my boys than what I experienced. I also want them to grow up to be better men than me and to have a happy existence. However, to achieve that noble goal, I had to examine the good and the bad about my life. I couldn’t shy away from sensitive topics like my personal character flaws or topics that are normally not discussed at the dinner table. One such subject, which is rarely brought up in public, is circumcision. I know it’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it is in dire need of discussion for mainstream dads.
Before casting me as a new-age hippy, you should probably know that I am just a normal, everyday dad. I, like most of the men in America’s Generation X, am circumcised. I do not sit in judgment of my parents, nor any others for that matter, for several reasons. At the time of my birth, common people thought of doctors like local celebrities and they were infallible. They were trusting in their doctors to guide them to do what was best. Unfortunately, parents are still pushed into circumcision by medical staff based on myths and flawed data.
Regrettably, I am one of those parents that trusted the hospital staff with my first son. I am very remorseful for it and have cried over my mistake. The most unmanly (or inhumane) thing I can think of is hurting an innocent child. I didn’t know any better, but I do now. I hold onto my father’s sentiment that life is about progression. With that notion I would like to keep other parents from making the same mistake. Here are some questions that I am asked when talking with expecting moms and dads: Q: Isn’t the procedure painless? After all it’s just skin and it’s cleaner right?
A: No. It hurts the baby greatly and I don’t want one of the first experiences my son has outside the womb to be traumatic. Just watch the procedure for yourself
to make that conclusion. Baby boys die every year from the procedure
and even more have their lives devastated by botched circumcisions
that leave the future man without the ability to have intercourse. The foreskin has so many functions
that I can’t list them all here. On the other hand, your earlobe is just skin but we don’t advocate slicing it off. Even if accurate studies showed that it was cleaner (which no such study exists), wouldn’t it be more sensible to teach good hygiene instead of surgically altering a baby? Q: I’m circumcised and sex is great, why are you unhappy about it?
A: I agree sex is great, but I can’t even begin to imagine how awesome it would be if I had all of the form and function that I was born with
. There's also a touch test you can take to be able to feel the difference in the specialized tissue of the foreskin- can you feel the difference?
Basically, a decision was made to permanently alter my body and I had no say in the decision. As a spiritual person, it bothers me that I will never know what it is like to make love to my wife as God created (or for my atheist friends as nature evolved) me. The unnecessary procedure has predisposed me and any other man that has been circumcised to keratinization
. Keratinization leads to further insensitivity of the penis and increases with age. It’s no wonder why America leads the world in Viagra sales
and is also the only industrialized nation still circumcising for non religious reasons. Q: Don’t you want your son to look like you/other siblings and match?
A: Of course not. I want my son to resemble my good characteristics like my intelligence and green eyes. If I were missing an arm, I wouldn’t have my child amputated to match me. Besides, when did you ever compare your penis to your father’s as a boy? I doubt it ever happened. My sons do not match and they have never made a comparison.
I caught a lot of flak from family and friends for not having the procedure performed on our younger son. They took the decision as a pointed finger telling them they made a mistake. Although I wish it hadn’t been done to me, I am not condemning them. However, my father wanted me to be a better man than him and that is what I am trying to do. I know that if he had heard the case that you are being presented I would be whole today.
I believe as men and fathers, we have to possess and practice intestinal fortitude when making sensitive decisions. Our children deserve to have fathers that will not waiver in the face of adversity. They deserve a hero and I hope all dads live up to it. I am very glad that I did not cave after being repeatedly criticized. The circumcision decision should rest with the owner of the penis. After all, it is his body- not mine- so the choice is his when he is old enough.
A mother shares her story of how she was previously pro-circumcision, and how her views have changed.Written by Ashley L.Posted With Permission from Author
“It’s a boy!”
There really was no surprise when the ultrasound tech said those three words. I already knew. Having had both a boy and a girl in the past, I could just feel it. My husband beamed with pride, as this would be his first biological son (my six-year old son Blake was from a past relationship,) and he couldn't be happier. I, too, was elated at the chance to raise another son, another lovely bundle of blue. Circumcision wasn't brought up at the time, probably because we both assumed since my husband and first born were circumcised, this one would be, too. As my due date drew near I began to get this feeling in my gut. I don't know how to explain it other than feeling nervous and edgy. I knew what it was about. I had the same feeling when it was time to set up the appointment to get Blake (my six-year old) circumcised.
The story of Blake hurts a little more to talk about, simply for the fact that I almost saved him as well. But due to pressure from many sources, I ended up caving and threw him under the bus at the last second, so to speak. I really didn't want to circumcise him. I knew it was unnecessary, but the appointment had been set, the money had been paid, and everything was ready to go. The night before he was to go in, my boyfriend and I got into a huge fight about it. I was scared and didn't want to send my one-month old son in for something he didn’t need. My boyfriend was mad because he had set up a ride for me and paid the doctor. We went to bed that night without speaking and still both very angry. The next day his brother didn’t show up to take me to the appointment. When I called my son’s father, he bluntly told me that he had told him not to come. He then hung up on me. With that said, the current me would have gone down to his work and kicked his butt for being a jerk and put him in his place. Unfortunately, the 18-year-old me hung up with tears in my eyes, and called my grandma to ask her for a ride to the doctor. My whole family is/was pro-circumcision so she happily came down. If I had of had just one person to call for support, things could have gone very different that day, but I had no one. I also didn’t use the internet at the time, so I had no facts or evidence to sway anyone’s opinions. I was just an 18-year-old girl with a bad feeling in her stomach.
My son’s circumcision went as “normal” as an unnecessary surgery could go. There were tears and blood, sleepless nights, horrible diaper changes, and crusty, multicolored genitals. Yes, this is what they considered “normal.” Everything healed and life went back to normal. At that time, I still thought the surgery was the worst part. I still thought they had cut off an “extra piece of skin” that had no function. My boyfriend brought me flowers and apologized for the way he had acted. At the time, I still didn’t realize that it was my son that we should both be apologizing to. I still thought circumcision was just a little “cut.” At that time I believe I chose to ignore the size of the wound. Just by looking at that, anyone with a brain could tell it was more than a little snip. But my son’s circumcision had been done without any type of numbing, so in order to accept that it was more than a small snip, I would have to accept that I had sent my one-month-old in for an incredibly painful procedure without the aid of any pain medication. Self-preservation comes in many forms, and from personal experience, I can tell you one of the most successful ones is denial. And it worked. For six years it worked beautifully. Until those three words were said again..... "It's a boy!"
Back to 2011: So as I sat there with a belly full of worries, I began to wonder if perhaps I should look into what happens during a circumcision a little more closely. By this time, I had access to the internet at my fingertips, and believed I owed at least that much to my belly-dwelling son. I was a mere two weeks away from my due date at this time. I started by simply typing “circumcision” into the search box on Facebook, expecting to come across a few groups to discuss in. To my surprise, I only came across anti-circumcision groups (not such a big surprise now that I know the facts). I looked in a few, and started to absorb some information.
In this next part of the story, I’m going to be writing about how I felt from a pro-circumcision point of view. Please excuse any hard feelings I had towards any of you, or the “intactivist” point of view. As you know, my opinions have changed so much, so I do not feel this way anymore. As I scanned through the pages, I was almost mad. How dare these people try to take away my rights as a parent to circumcise?! Who are they to tell me or anyone what we can or cannot do to our children? One of the posts on The WHOLE Network referred people to the GabeandJess page, where a heated debate about circumcision was happening. I felt that this may be my time to shine! Boy was I in for a shock. I came and let everyone know that I was expecting a boy, but was unsure about circumcising. I came in with the typical pro-circumcision arguments such as “it's cleaner,” “but daddy has it done,” “I live in an area where it's quite common and don’t want him being made fun of,” and “it's a parents choice.” Right away I was hit with links and facts, videos and personal stories. So much information in such a small amount of time. The seed had been planted but apparently part of me still didn’t want to go down without a fight. I'm guessing it was the part that would have to go back and rethink on the issue of my firstborn, and would have to admit that I did wrong by him.
Over the next week or so I was in too many discussions to keep count, read far too much for my already sleep deprived mind to comprehend, and overloaded my phone with circumcision websites. I did so much research I'm pretty sure my eyes bled. I came across so much new information and FACTS that I had no clue about whatsoever. The primary cause for the change of heart was the videos
. There’s something about seeing the actual surgery that leaves you feeling a little empty. If I had only seen that before I had my first son, he would have remained intact as well. May I also add, I truly don’t have a weak stomach. I’ve been to more than my fair share of “gore” websites, have come across some horrible things and still went back for more. But yet when I came across a video of a baby being circumcised, I could only watch a small part of it, and with no sound. The cries of the baby alone made me sick. Seeing is believing, and the videos and pictures truly do speak a thousand words. It was a life-changing moment when I finally realized that, no matter what, my son was not going under the knife.
I went from pro-circumcision, to “I’m not going to circumcise, but I don’t see any problem with it,” to actually getting offended when other parents talked about how they got it done to their son and it was “no big deal.” It was a quick process and now that I'm standing on the other side, I’m not sure how I was ever pro-circumcision in the first place. When I first entered the debates, I hated the saying “when you know better, you do better.” It was thrown around a lot, and it seemed condescending to me. Now from this view, all it is is the truth. When you know better, you WILL do better. It's not offensive, it's the honest to God truth.
For those of you wondering how I got my pro-circumcision husband to accept and agree, it was actually quite simple. Although I knew without a doubt that we would not be circumcising, I still let him think it was open for debate. He may have been pro-circumcision, but he was also pro-clean house, pro-steak dinners, pro-clean laundry, pro-sleeping through the night when he has to work the next day, and pro-happy wife. I simply let him know all the things that may or may not be lost if he tried to put up a fight about this. Then I hit him with some facts and statistics, some truthful information, some horrible pictures, and a horrible video. He came around without much of a fight at all. In the long run, he was glad he did. We didn’t have to worry about making that dreaded appointment, the after care, or the possible complications. I also found out, through being vocal about our decision, that my cousin did not circumcise her two boys either. Hearing that made everything all the more easier.
One last thing I'd like to share from this experience was the conversation between my husband and I, the one that sealed his decision 100%. It was hard to have to say it, but I believe it needed to be said, and it got the point across. It went a little something like this: “Let’s say that we don’t circumcise, and the worst case scenario happens: perhaps phimosis? So he has to go to the doctors for steroid cream. Maybe he will be mad that we didn’t do it when he was a baby. I know there is a tiny percent of men who wish they had been circumcised when they were children, so I will take the blame for that one. I will apologize and tell him we did our best, and that I'm sorry that he fell into the small percent of men who wish later on in life that they had been circumcised as babies. I alone will take the blame if he feels that we wronged him in some way. In return, will you take the blame if we circumcise and the worst case scenario happens? Will you apologize, and tell him we did the best we could for him? Will you look at him in his perfect little angelic face, as they lower the lid to his coffin, and tell him that you didn’t know better? That if you had of known the end result, you wouldn’t have done it? Well, let’s never find out.”
On November 3rd 2011, after only two hours of labor, our son finally came out to meet us! Our son’s birth went smoothly, and we took him home twenty-four hours after. All of him. Every last perfect, whole part. And we couldn't be happier. All because a few people from this page wouldn’t let me forget that, although I may be the parent, I am not the person who gets to decide which body parts he gets to keep. So the moral of that story is: Although we may pretend we don’t hear your points, we do. Keep planting those seeds, believe me, they grow into wonderful things.
by Tammy Schmit(feel free to contact her with any questions)
Posted with Permission from Author
A good friend gave birth to her first son the day before my wedding. It was so much fun to be a part of her pregnancy and then to watch her son grow. I was only about 2 months pregnant when I found myself lending her a hand with a diaper change. I noticed that her son didn’t look circumcised, so I asked her why she didn’t have that done. She responded that while she was pregnant, a friend of hers had her son circumcised and the baby boy died of an infection that was thought to be related to the circumcision. That was enough for her and she left her son intact.
Well, it wasn’t enough for me because I had always just assumed I’d have a baby boy circumcised and I figured it wasn’t just as simple as blaming the death on the circumcision. That same day, I went online to my favorite baby resource (BabyCenter.com). I found myself on a circumcision debate board, where I lurked for several days before building up the gall to post something. The debates were heavily dominated by anti-circumcision advocates. It seemed that every person who planned to have their son circumcised (or already did) was getting attacked, called a bad parent and other horrible things. Although I was taken aback by this cult-like online congregation, I was also intrigued because I had no clue there was such controversy over circumcisions. I just thought pretty much everyone did it because it was more hygienic and looked better.
After reading up on some of the “benefits” of circumcision, I decided to pose as a curious poster who was on the fence about circumcision. I spent many hours over the next couple of weeks debating circumcision from the perspective of someone leaning toward having it done and constantly losing my arguments to factual data and ethical boundaries. I was shocked by how difficult it was to find medical websites that supported circumcision. The facts were all there, it was clearly not a necessary procedure, the health benefits were practically non-existent (medical resources only claimed "possible" benefits), but I couldn’t help but feel like I should still have it done. I soon realized that my pro-circ stance was only still hanging around due to cultural pressures. I put my guard down, stepped out of my comfort zone, and focused on making a logical decision.
Leading up to the birth of our son, Jeremy and I were both in complete agreement that he would not be circumcised. I continued to have this strange feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me that maybe I was making the wrong decision. I knew that was my own cultural uncertainty ringing its bell and I knew now to ignore it because the facts were clear and the decision was clear. It did NOT feel like maternal instinct urging me to take action. Every instinct in my body told me that he was born with it for a reason and to simply leave it alone. When Nathan was born, all hell broke loose…it was just such a difficult birth experience. After 33 hours of unmedicated labor, Nathan was cut out of me in emergency fashion and rushed to a different hospital where he spent the next 5 days in the NICU. Inflicting further stress on my son’s body was the furthest thing from my mind. When I finally saw his naked little body (days after he was born), it was so perfect…every last piece of my son was beautiful. I have NEVER doubted my decision to leave his penis intact and I know I never will. I’m so glad that I took the time to learn about circumcision because I cannot imagine learning all of this after the fact.
Here is a list of common reasons, in no particular order, that people present to support the decision to have their son circumcised followed by the responses I feel made the biggest impact on me. Please realize that I am not including both sides of the debate here, just what helped change my mind.
1) I want my son to look like his daddy.
Today, doctors perform “loose circumcisions.” This is done because in the past, "tight circumcisions" were the norm and oftentimes too much skin was removed. As an adult, many men suffer from tight erections that can be crooked and painful. As a result of removing less skin, some babies don’t really look circumcised, and few will look like Daddy. [Note: in the Jewish tradition, a Mohel performs the circumcision; traditional, tight circumcisions are apparently still the norm despite the increased risks.] A problem that commonly arises with loose circumcisions is that unless Vaseline is applied for 10 days after circumcision, the skin tends to re-adhere in an attempt to heal back to and protect the glans (head of the penis). The parents have to decide whether to leave it alone to separate when it is ready or to have it forcefully and painfully separated a second time
. Sometimes a second surgery isn’t even optional since the skin can grow back in an unnatural way that can cause problems (such as a skin bridge). The reason I mention all of this is because many parents end up feeling like they shouldn’t have put their son through such a terrible procedure just to be slightly circumcised, especially if the loose circumcision subjects them to ongoing problems or lifelong deformations. This “look like daddy” reason hits me funny because after Nathan was born, we found out that Jeremy’s dad wasn’t circumcised, either. Jeremy never knew! All in all, I decided that I’d rather have to one day explain to Nathan why his penis doesn’t look just like Daddy’s then have him come to me and ask why we cut part of his penis off.
2) I don’t want my son to be teased.
The circumcision rate has dropped drastically in the U.S. It is practically non-existent apart from religious-reasons in the rest of the world. Over 80% of the world’s men are intact. Approximately 45% of America’s baby boys were left intact as of 2004 (this tends to be regional). As of 2010, hospital circumcision rates in the U.S. have been found to be as low as 32%, so the numbers are definitely dropping quickly and I'm confident Nathan will never feel like he is the odd man out. A big part of that is awareness, but I think a bigger part might have to do with fewer insurance companies covering this elective surgery. I actually have to wonder if the circumcised boys will soon be the ones being chastised because they are missing out on the benefits of a full penis. When he becomes sexually active, girls will probably have experience with both as well. So rejection is unlikely for either group since there will be a true mix. Even if we end up living somewhere with high circumcision rates, Nathan will unlikely be the only intact boy. If he ever did get teased for the way his penis looks, there are all kinds of great comebacks I’m prepared to arm him with. I want him to be happy and proud of who he is. I’m not going to alter his body in anticipation of kids being kids. All kids get made fun of at some point. I’m going to focus on teaching him how to be a strong and happy individual regardless of what other people think, whether they are making fun of his hair-do, the way he walks, a goofy laugh, or his body. I see little to no chance that my son will be anything but happy and relieved that he escaped this cultural trend. The following link shows a world map with circumcision rates: http://www.circumstitions.com/Maps.html
3) My doctor recommends it.
The cultural influence is so strong in this country, that even doctors will recommend circumcision, despite admitting that it is not medically necessary. It turns out that there is no official medical organization in the world that recommends routine infant circumcision. The potential medical benefits do not outweigh the risks and circumcision is recognized worldwide as either a religious or cosmetic surgery. Not only do many American doctors recommend circumcision, but many American pediatricians give out bad information on the care of intact boys. Clearly they are not up-to-date on their medical literature! Many pediatricians will not only forcefully retract a boy’s foreskin just to take a look underneath, but they recommend that parents do the same to clean and check for problems. This is by far the number one problem for intact boys because the foreskin should NEVER be forcefully retracted. It will do so on its own when it is ready. By retracting it early, you can cause great pain to your son and subject his penis to scarring, UTIs and other painful infections. You are also committing yourself and your son to having to retract to clean sooner than necessary.
Here is a document that can be presented to pediatricians who are not aware of the problems with forceful retractions:http://doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/info/retraction.html
And here is a link from the same website talking about forceful retraction:http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/info/info-forcedretraction.html
Unfortunately, doctors are also generally bad about telling parents of circumcised boys how to best care for the penis and lots of circumcised boys are suffering from re-adhesions that could have been prevented.
It really bothers me to consider this, but circumcision is a multi-million dollar industry. Some hospitals charge as much as $2,000 for this brief surgery. Insurance companies are gradually refusing to cover this procedure as it is more widely accepted as cosmetic. Either way, there is a lot of money to be made off of this quick procedure, so I could not discount the idea that doctors might have an ulterior motive.
After my father was unable to put aside his cultural influences to focus on the actual medical information regarding circumcisions and after watching a 70-year old pediatrician scare a roomful of expecting parents into getting their kids circumcised as quickly as possible so their kids don’t get made fun of, I realized just how powerful the cultural influence is. I want my doctor to give me up-to-date medical facts, not their biased opinions (unless I ask for them). I need a safe place to find out the truth about circumcision and I should be able to trust any licensed physician to provide me with that information.
4) It’s just a snip.
Circumcisions are a delicate and dangerous procedure on a tiny, little nub of a penis. Not only is very functional and sensitive tissue being removed, but there is always the risk of taking too much off, excessive bleeding, nerve damage to the remaining parts, and infection. Some doctors are even still using the Mogen clamp, which has been known to accidentally remove the tip of the penis along with the foreskin. Complication rates of circumcision are up to 35% as stated by the AAFP. http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/clinical/clinicalrecs/children/circumcision.html
Late complication rates are at least 4.7% or more according to this study (done at one hospital): www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20155423
Adult complication rates are generally unknown as there are not many studies done, (but include hairy shaft, scars, painful erections, and more). The complication rate of meatal stenosis though is as much as 10%. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1016016-overview
At least parents don’t have to worry about the side affects of general anesthesia on their infant; none will be used because general anesthesia is too dangerous on a newborn. While there are doctors who choose to use no pain relief at all, most use a topical cream called EMLA and others will use nerve blocks (nerve blocks can also be very painful and have their own set of risks, but are considered the most effective form of pain management). Unfortunately, most doctors who do use the EMLA cream do not give the topical analgesic time to penetrate (recommended to wait at least 30 minutes after application). Many babies actually go into shock because they aren’t able to cope with the pain. This explains why some babies seem so calm after the procedure. Their little bodies just shut down. Simple monitoring of their heart rate reveals the state of shock—this scares the hell out of me.
I also recently read that burn unit wards use foreskins for skin grafts…the skin removed during a circumcision of an infant can cover a 12”x12” area on a burn victim! At least that skin is occasionally being used for something good. Foreskins are also used in making certain kinds of very pricey make-up, including those promoted by Oprah Winfrey. *Shiver*
5) The foreskin is an unnecessary part of the penis, just like the appendix.
The foreskin is far from unnecessary or useless. It not only protects the glans (preventing it from drying out and becoming less sensitive, preventing infection, and protecting it from the elements) and serves as a pleasurable gliding mechanism during sex and masturbation, but it is covered in sensitive nerve endings that increase pleasure. Unfortunately, many circumcisions don’t just remove foreskin, but they also remove part or all of the frenulum (this is the area of the penis where the foreskin attaches itself to the shaft. It is considered to be one of the most sensitive parts of the penis). Though it is not necessary to enjoy sex, the foreskin is a natural and functional part of the penis that has over 20,000 specialized nerve endings that are not found anywhere else on the body. Fortunately, every man seems to be born with a unique love for Mr. Happy, so even if he is missing out on some added fun, they’ll still be best of friends. http://www.circumstitions.com/Works.html
6) Uncircumcised boys aren't as clean.
Neither are uncircumcised girls. All boys and girls need to learn how to keep their privates clean. Intact boys should plan on spending an additional 5 seconds “playing” with their penis in the shower; however since the normal natural retraction rate doesn't occur for an average of 10 years, this isn't something the parents will need to be concerned about for most kids. I recommend that all men and women take a shower daily and especially after breaking a sweat if they don’t want to be stinky down there. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go sniffing around my hubby’s crotch at the end of the day and especially not after he’s been working out. Of course, if I’m being honest, I usually don’t smell all that much better than him…erm…I mean…I smell like roses. :o)
I found this quote from an Islamic website interesting because it sounds just like the argument I used to use in support of circumcision: "The secretions of the labia minora accumulate in uncircumcised women and turn rancid, so they develop an unpleasant odour which may lead to infections of the vagina or urethra. I have seen many cases of sickness caused by the lack of circumcision. " http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/45528
7) I’ve heard that uncircumcised boys are at higher risk for cancer, STDs, and urinary tract infections.
There is a lot of misleading information regarding health benefits. While some studies show that intact men are at higher risk of contracting STDs because the virus survives longer in the moist, protected environment under the foreskin, other studies show that the dried out (or “keratinized”) glans has a tendency to crack and allow for easier transmission. All men should be advised to practice safe sex regardless of circumcision status.
The small increase of UTIs can be explained by the number of babies who have their foreskin forcefully retracted. Those boys who do get UTIs should be given antibiotics just like their female counterparts. Overall, the potential “protective” quality of being circumcised is so small that hundreds of baby boys would need to be circumcised to spare just one baby an infection that can be treated with antibiotics. Similar infections and problems tend to occur in girls and there is always an alternative to surgery. Here is an article that discusses how the foreskin protects against
As for cancer, penile cancer is by far one of the rarest forms of cancer and usually only occurs in the elderly. I certainly wasn’t about to subject Nathan to a life without part of his penis for that risk. If he wants to lower his cancer risk when he’s an old man and not able to even get an erection anymore, I suppose he could choose to have the surgery. Of course, I’m at such high risk for cancer that I’m being told to have a full hysterectomy and mastectomy to improve my chances of survival. These contradictory studies can be debated all day, but in the end, there is STILL no official medical organization in the world that recommends routine infant circumcision, including the American Cancer Society. Here is a recent article that discusses some of these concerns: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/health/23consumer.html?_r=1
8) It’s a personal choice.
Personal choice SHOULD mean that the person attached to the penis should get to choose. Every man should have the right to decide whether or not he wants the full penis that he is born with. His mother and father’s biased opinion of his penis should not be the deciding factor before he is even old enough to hold his own head up. If later in life Nathan decides that he wants to have a circumcision, he can go to the doctor, choose the style, size, and shape, method of surgery, types of anesthetic, and type of post-op pain relief. If he had been circumcised, he could never undo our decision. Nathan's father reached the conclusion early on in these discussions that he was wronged. He now wishes that he was not circumcised and while he is not comfortable speaking out against circumcision the way I am, he fully understands that it is unnecessary, that there are clear benefits to having an intact penis, and that parents should not be allowed to make this decision for their sons unless there is a medical reason to intervene. And really, that's why most anti-circumcision advocates speak out...this isn't just about making a decision for your son, it's about taking away his rights to decide what he prefers based on HIS personal experiences, not ours as parents, which are greatly affected by the culture we grew up in, a culture that has already changed drastically. It never even occurred to me before beginning this research that there are men who wish they were never circumcised and I was shocked when someone had me run a search for "foreskin restoration" online. There are a large number of websites discussing ways to get some of those protective and functional features that the foreskin provides back, proving (along with forums filled with men upset about having this decision taken from them) that there are an incredible number of men unhappy they were circumcised. So, while you may believe you've never met a man who wishes he wasn't circumcised, there's a decent chance you have and he just has no interest in discussing it with you. While the true foreskin with all of its nerves and inner mucosa can never be replaced, there are ways to regenerate skin to protect the glans. The Penn & Teller episode on circumcision delves into this in quite a bit of detail: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=416_1218124584
9) It is better to have it done at birth because it is much more difficult to have a circumcision later in life.
To the contrary, the older your son is when he is circumcised, the better the pain relief and recovery can be controlled and the less likely that errors will be made since the penis will be larger. Infections aren’t likely to be as much of a problem later because the foreskin will have already separated from the glans naturally (the glans won’t be raw and vulnerable to infection) and his immune system will be more developed. Some people say it’s better to have the circumcision done in infancy because when they are older, they will have to undergo general anesthesia, thus it is a more complicated procedure due to prep time and the inherent dangers that come with anesthesia. I find this a very disturbing rationale since the reason infants don’t get general anesthesia is because it is too dangerous at that age, not because they feel less pain.
I’ve also heard people use the reasoning that recovery time is longer and more painful for an adult. Recovery is about 2-3 weeks for both infants and adults. During that time, an adult has far more options in terms of pain relief (and the ability to verbalize the extent of that pain) and their wound isn’t being exposed to runny feces and urine in a diaper. An adult will probably experience the additional frustration of not being able to be sexually active until fully recovered.
While there are attempts to restore the foreskin, circumcision cannot be undone. It is a permanent decision. I’ve come to the conclusion that any permanent, non-medical surgery should be delayed until the child is old enough to make his own, educated decision.
10) I want to have it done now because my son won’t remember the pain.
There have been plenty of studies showing that there is lasting psychological damage that can occur from the trauma an infant undergoes during circumcision. This damage includes trust and attachment issues, problems establishing breastfeeding, as well as reduced pain tolerance over the long-term. Although I personally found these things too subjective to sway me one way or the other, given the rest of the arguments, it’s just not worth the risk. Another thing that bothers me about this issue is that I can’t help but think that we are simply convincing ourselves that the pain an infant feels is not real or just somehow taking advantage of this pre-bonding period to let our child deal with the pain. A two-year old won’t remember being circumcised either, but can you imagine not providing adequate pain relief during circumcision to your 2-year old? I personally do not see how we can compare an adult’s level of pain with an infant’s pain when the infant cannot communicate with us what he is experiencing.
This argument also typically assumes that an intact child will need to be circumcised later in life. There are all kinds of anecdotal stories of an older child needing to be circumcised due to infections or other problems, but in reality, the true medical need to be circumcised is very rare. Almost every case of infections or other problems is caused by forceful retraction...avoid that and chances are you will never have to worry about needing to circumcise your son. Most boys in the U.S. (and some in other countries I am sure) were forcefully retracted at some point and many still are due to the doctors being misinformed on proper care, so those anecdotal stories no longer have such an effect on me. Plus, it has become obvious that many American doctors will rush to circumcision as a solution to any problem related to the penis when there is almost always a far less invasive approach available. Recently, it has been discovered that even with the continued practice of forceful retraction, a circumcised boy has about the same risk of needing to be re-circumcised due to a botched circumcision or adhesions as an intact boy has of ever needing to be circumcised.
11) My son will thank me for circumcising him before he could remember.
Yes, this is possible. But, it's also possible he will resent you for it and as the circumcision rates continue to drop drastically, this is becoming far more likely. At the very least, this is a very controversial and irreversible decision you are making for your son and if you were wrong about what he and his future partner would prefer, leaving it intact leaves him options. It's so easy now for someone to go online and do the research themselves. When my son goes online and sees that this was such a huge debate, realizes the myths about it, and understands the functions of his foreskin, I have no doubt he'll be glad he dodged that bullet. FGM
A big piece of the circumcision debate is whether or not it can be compared to female genital mutilation (FGM). I have to admit that at first, I really couldn’t compare the two. It came across as a really extremist view and I was looking for all kinds of arguments to convince myself that circumcision and FGM have nothing in common. I was offended that someone might suggest that by planning on circumcision, I was just as barbaric as people who mutilated female genitals. The moment I stopped looking for ways to disrupt the comparison, I was able to see the big picture. Keeping in mind that there are various degrees of FGM, whether it is done for appearance, cleanliness, or to reduce sexual sensation, there really are remarkable similarities to male circumcision. This link shows a direct comparison: http://www.circumstitions.com/FGMvsMGM.html
I realize that this letter is quite one-sided, but it is my story and the facts have been verified. I'm not out to mislead anyone, I'm determined to make up for what our doctors are failing to provide us so that we as parents can make an educated medical decision with regards to surgery on a newborn. I was completely ignorant on this topic when I became pregnant with my first baby. I know how hard it is to step outside of the comfort zone of our culture and I am not angry with parents who choose to circumcise. Not only are doctors withholding details on the risks involved, but some doctors are even scaring us with potential medical risks that have long since been disproved. I am including a list of links below so that you can verify the facts that I have provided and continue educating yourself on circumcision.
The following are links to official medical associations and their statements on circumcision:American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP): http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/clinical/clinicalrecs/children/circumcision.htmlAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;103/3/686American Urological Association: http://www.auanet.org/content/guidelines-and-quality-care/policy-statements/c/circumcision.cfmBritish Medical Association, Medical Ethics Committee: http://www.bma.org.uk/ethics/consent_and_capacity/malecircumcision2006.jsp Canadian Pediatric Society: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/FN/fn96-01.htmRoyal Australasian College of Physicians: http://www.racp.edu.au/index.cfm?objectid=65118B16-F145-8B74-236C86100E4E3E8E Central Union for Child Welfare in Finland: http://www.childcentre.info/10595/ The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia: https://www.cpsbc.ca/files/u6/Circumcision-Infant-Male.pdfThe Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG)
: http://knmg.artsennet.nl/Diensten/knmgpublicaties/KNMGpublicatie/Nontherapeutic-circumcision-of-male-minors-2010.htmMore links:http://www.thewholenetwork.org/http://www.askmen.com/sports/health/15_mens_health.htmlhttp://www.askdrsears.com/topics/pregnancy-childbirth/tenth-month-post-partum/deciding-whether-or-not-circumcise-your-baby-boyhttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002998.htm
(this is an anti-circumcision site)http://www.circumstitions.com/
(this is an anti-circumcision site)http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?s=5bf433f99b737d53a492f9189737dacb&t=112410
(Stories from mothers who regret having their son circumcised)http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/
(this is an anti-circumcision site)http://mensightmagazine.com/Articles/Northrup/lovecirc.htm http://norm.org/
(Site for men trying to restore their foreskin)http://www.lcshj.org/circum.html
(Statement on Jewish Male Infant Circumcision and Brit Milah) http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/
(This site contains graphic images of the head of the penis in an attempt to explain some of the benefits of the foreskin. The focus is on how the glans must adapt to being an external organ without the protective prepuce.) https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthency.do?hwid=aa41834
(Kaiser Permanente's stance on circumcision)http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=416_1218124584
(Penn & Teller: Circumcision is BULLSH*T: for those of you who like to laugh through the pain)
A mother shares about the pressure she received from her spouse, and how her son's botched circumcision caused her to regret going against her instincts.
Posted with Permission from Author
When I found out my second child was a boy, I started immediately thinking of the differences I would find in parenting and care-taking between him and my first born daughter. As I sat at lunch one day with my sister and mother, my sister asked me if I planned on circumcision. We sat there talking and she informed me if she could go back, she wouldn’t do it to my nephew. My mother agreed, stating that if she had had the choice all those years ago, she doesn’t think she would have done it to my three brothers. I was unsure, however; I don’t have a penis, never had to care for one, never knew anything different than circumcision. But I was young. The world was changing. So I did what any reasonable young mother would do. I researched.
I googled everything I could think of, day and night. I watched videos, read articles, looked up scientific facts on pros and cons. I blogged and tweeted my concerns, asking for help making this decision from friends, family, and even strangers. In my heart I knew it was wrong, I couldn’t find any reason to justify it, but I also struggled finding a reason to justify not doing it to my husband. He was convinced it had to be done, that it was cleaner, that it was easier to care for, that it was the natural thing to do. My son would look different than his peers, he would look different than his father, and women wouldn’t be attracted to it. I tried to show him the research, I tried to discuss it, I tried to show him the videos, but to no avail. I couldn’t convince him and I was tired of fighting. Finally, someone gave me this advice, “If you’re still unsure and it’s that important to your husband, just let him decide, even if you don’t agree on it.” So I did. I relented and said, “Fine, dear, have it your way.”
The days and weeks leading up to the birth of our son, I still tried, without luck, to make my husband reconsider. Not even reconsider really, but to just consider another option. He wouldn't watch the videos and stated plainly that I had no idea what owning and cleaning a penis entailed; it would be much more difficult if he was left intact. Did I really want that?
My son was born early on a July morning, and by the afternoon the nurse came around to ask if we were choosing circumcision. I was alone in the hospital room at this point and nearly told her no, to leave him alone, but instead I choked out a yes and was told that he would be picked up tomorrow morning for his “procedure.”
The next day, I sat; silently praying they wouldn’t show up, that they would forget about us, about him, about his penis. They allowed me to finish nursing while they described the way it would happen, what they would do to soothe him and had me sign the forms with a shaky signature. They promised it wouldn’t be more than an hour- two tops. He would come back, right as rain.
I sobbed as they wheeled his little bed away from me.
Five hours later, I awoke from a nap to my husband standing in the room, questioning where he was. I didn’t know, they took him away this morning and I hadn’t seen him since. He walked to the nursery to question the nurses where they explained that he had bled “just a little more” than they were comfortable with, so they kept him a little longer just to make sure.
“You’re lucky!” The nurse laughed at my husband. “Most babies are way too small and the doctors have a lot of trouble getting the whole thing off. You have a big boy!”
For days, my son slept. Not the sweet, peaceful sleep of a newborn, but a fitful, obviously painful sleep. When he awoke, he screamed in pain, unable to be soothed, unwilling to nurse or cuddled closely. He screamed when he urinated or defecated; he was only happy when his diaper was off, but so long as his penis went untouched. I lived in fear of diaper changes. I wanted nothing more than to just leave him be; no diaper, no pulling his penis to ensure the foreskin wouldn’t grow back, no Vaseline on the base. Just freedom from pain is all I wanted for him. We both sobbed during those moments, his diapers always speckled with blood and his face always tear stained.
The healing process never seemed to end. As he got older, the bleeding stopped, but the wound never healed. At first, his pediatrician told us to continue to just put the Vaseline on it, continuing to treat it like we always had. It wasn’t until six months of questioning did she inspect a little better and found that, while the doctors considered him a “big” boy and claimed to have no trouble with his circumcision, they actually snipped too much off. Now, he will have a permanent scar about a half of an inch long at the tip of his penis. When it will become a scar, I have no idea (as of right now, it’s still an open wound, 14 months later.) We’re still required to keep Vaseline on it several times a week. We find blood occasionally on diapers and hear him screaming at the first sign of a dirty diaper. He runs away after his diaper comes off and holds himself sobbing. During those nights when his cut reopens, he and I both lay awake at night crying, wishing for an end.
We should have allowed him that choice, we should have waited. If we had, he wouldn’t be in pain several times a month... he would be whole with no pain, as he should be. I don’t know if this has changed my husband’s view on circumcision, and I don’t blame him for this. I blame myself for saying yes; I blame myself for signing those forms; I blame myself completely, and I will fight for tomorrow’s sons- whether they are my own, my nephews, or a stranger's. No boy should have to go through this pain, not for his parents peace of mind.
An email that was sent to the mohel who performed a young man's circumcision 21 years ago. Written by Shea Levy
(Read original article here)
Posted with Permission from Author
This is an email I just sent to the mohel who performed my circumcision 21 years ago today. My goal in sending this was to show him the perspective of someone who wished he hadn’t been circumcised, so that he would understand what his profession could do and maybe so he would question his continued participation in the field. I’ve chosen to publish this openly for two reasons: So that my friends and family can understand how I feel personally about my circumcision (rather than just my intellectual position on circumcision in the abstract), and so that anyone out there who is considering performing a circumcision or having one performed might change their minds.
Before I get to the email, a few notes:
- The account includes personal descriptions involving my genitalia. While there is nothing graphically sexual and no pictures or anything, this may make some uncomfortable.
- I’m well aware that my parents had a significant role to play in my circumcision as well. I do not mean this letter to be construed as faulting only Rabbi Henesch. I am still not sure how to discuss this topic with my parents, or even if I should considering that they will not be in the position to circumcise another boy in the future.
- In the email, I used some transliterated Hebrew phrases that I can be sure Rabbi Henesch knows and that some of my readership doesn’t. Such phrases will be explained in square brackets; these brackets were not included in the original email.
Dear Rabbi Henesch,
You wouldn’t remember me, but 21 years ago you changed my life. Like most of your clients, I was eight days old at the time, so I doubt I was able to articulate my thoughts on the procedure. But now I’ve had a fair amount of time living with the effects of your work, and I’d like to share with you my perspective on what you did to me.
If you haven’t guessed by my tone, I wish I hadn’t been circumcised. I could show you studies that I believe demonstrate the deleterious effects of the procedure on infants, the costs to the adults that had the procedure done earlier in life, and the falsity of the supposed health benefits of circumcision, but I won’t. There are dedicated organizations that can convey that information far better than I could. What I have to offer you is my personal experience, the costs I believe your action has lead me to bear, in the hope that you might understand on a personal level the potential for harm that comes with your profession, and perhaps even consider leaving it. This account will be both physically and spiritually personal, but as someone who has had a permanent impact on my genitals I think we’re past those types of boundaries.
Almost every single day, for as long as I can remember, I have at one point or another felt discomfort in the tip of my penis. It doesn’t matter what type of undergarments I wear, if I wear pants or shorts, or whether I’m sedentary at a desk all day or out playing a sport: eventually, my penis will brush against something in an unpleasant way. It’s not a major discomfort or pain, but it’s there and it’s noticeable, and it doesn’t feel natural. It makes me feel like something is wrong, like something is somewhere it doesn’t belong, and there’s nothing at all like it for any other parts of my body that are covered in clothing all day. I can’t verify this personally, but apparently this is a problem that only happens to some circumcised men, and not to any intact ones. In fact, it is my understanding that intact men experience significantly less genital chafing in any circumstances. Regardless of the cause, the fact remains that most days I get a physical reminder of a fact of my biology that I strongly wish wasn’t so.
The permanently uncovered portions of my glans are calloused. They aren’t big callouses like might form on your hands, but the skin is thicker, tougher, and less sensitive than the skin of the glans still partially covered.
I have a scar around my penis, a visual reminder of what used to be there that I never knew. It’s not nearly as bad as some of the extreme examples of circumcisions gone wrong that I’ve seen, but it’s there and noticeable. It certainly doesn’t make me look more attractive than I otherwise would.
The area underneath the folded shaft skin that remains regularly collects dust, lint, and other foreign particles. Though I wash daily, it is fairly sticky and catches occasionally on my pubic hair or the cloth of my underwear, resulting in an unpleasant sensation when it becomes uncaught.
Sex and masturbation are less enjoyable than they could have been. I have good reason to believe, given the callouses I can feel and the physical sensitivity studies that I’ve read, that I am not capable of the same level and variety of physical pleasure that would have been available to me had I been left intact. I lose out on the sensation of loose skin sliding up and down my penis during intercourse or masturbation. My penis has less natural lubrication than it should. Sexual activity causes more friction than it should. Sexual activity is more likely to leave my penis feeling raw and sensitive for some time after the fact than it should. I am more likely to require supplemental lubrication for intercourse than I should. In particular, masturbation is more abrasive, less pleasurable, and overall more difficult than it should be (which, not incidentally, was one of the leading arguments that led to the rise in circumcision rates among non-Jewish Americans).
These physical problems are not insignificant, and I think they alone would be enough for me to regret what happened to me, but they pale in comparison to the spiritual problems. You see, Rabbi Henesch, I do not consider myself a religious Jew. Culturally, I still maintain some of the familial values and some practices, especially those that bring me closer to my family, but I do not believe in God and do not find spiritual or moral guidance from the Tanach [The Old Testament, including the Torah] or the Rabbis. I grew up going to shul [synagogue], celebrating the holidays, going to Sunday School, having a Bar Mitzvah [the Jewish coming-of-age, at 13 for boys], and even going to a Jewish Day School, yet today I am in almost complete control over the extent to which Jewish culture and Jewish religion play a role in my daily life. The exception is circumcision: For the rest of my life, I will have to live with a penis that was cut in the name of a covenant I did not agree to with a being I do not believe exists. I expect you are a civilized man and that you would balk at the idea of adults being forced to express belief in a system they have not personally chosen, whether that expression comes in the form of a requirement to wear a cross around your neck or even a requirement that all who were born Jewish wear the tallit katan [a four-cornered garment with long fringes that is worn under everyday clothing]. Yet that is what the circumcision ritual does: it forces one participant, someone who has just barely opened his eyes to see the world, to bear a permanent, irreversible mark of the religion of the other participant. The Jewish cultural practices I’ve chosen to keep remind me of the goodness and greatness that comes from some aspects of Judaism. The physical modification I cannot change reminds me of all of the bad that helped lead me to reject it as a whole.
At one point, not too long ago, I hated you. I wanted to rage at you, to extract justice from you, to make you explain yourself. But I understand now. I understand how you could have chosen your profession, how you could have chosen to do this to me. Circumcision is viewed as a badge of honor in Judaism, is seen as fundamental to many aspects of the religion, and has a history of being a symbol for the autonomy that the Jews have held on to in the face of tyrannical governments and cultures that have conquered them in the past. I do not condone it, but I can understand why someone raised in that culture might view your job as holy and celebrated, and never even question the possible downsides. But now, you don’t have that luxury. You’ve seen the other side of the issue and now you have a choice to make.
Out of the hundreds or thousands of circumcisions you’ve done, it’s possible I’m the only one who regrets it. But next time you stand over a baby boy, ready to cut, ask yourself: Can I be sure that this boy won’t be the same? Can I be sure that I’m not dooming this child to a life of physical discomfort and inconvenience? Can I be sure that this child will embrace my faith and this symbol of it for the rest of his life? Can I be sure that I have the right to make this decision for him?
You might respond: what about the majority, those who never have any physical problems and remain religious Jews their whole life? Well, my question to you would be: What would they lose? Do Jewish daughters have a less joyous start to their life due to the simchat bat [the female celebration of birth ceremony, with no analogue to circumcision] not including any permanent physical modification? Do Jewish women who retain their faith into adulthood have any less of a role in God’s covenant with Abraham as a result of their lack of a bodily symbol of the contract? And could not a Jewish man who was left intact, upon reaching adulthood, decide that he would like to be circumcised? Given that half of the Jewish population manage to be celebrated members of the community without circumcision and that the other half could choose circumcision when they are more aware of what Judaism means to them, can you justify your next cut?
How a boy's forced foreskin retraction eventually led to his circumcision, and what it was like as an adult with and without a foreskin.
Written by Christopher S.
Posted with Permission from Author
When I and my twin brother were about six years old in a small South African town named Kloof, Dad had to be taken to Johannesburg for an operation on one of his legs and Mum went with him, taking our younger brother with her. We had a nanny, our beloved Harriet, a black girl ('grown up' to us, of course) who loved us as if we were her own. But caring for us 24/7 single-handedly was not practicable. This left me and my brother needing care. We were put into a children's home for about a six weeks. On our first night in this place, one of the other children knelt on her bed and repeatedly chanted, "You'll be here forever, you won't ever see your Mummy and Daddy again - not ever, ever, ever!" My mind went into a spin, shocked and uncomprehending. I tried to settle down on the thin mattress, so unlike my real bed at home, with her words filling my head.
The next morning I woke up and was mortified to discover I had doubly fouled my bed. It was the same the following morning and the next and the next... and so on. I feared waking up each morning with a soaking wet bed and the sensation of dried faeces cracking apart between my buttocks. "No, nooo," I pleaded, burying my head in my pillow, "please, please no!" I was deeply ashamed. I was bad.
Initially I was cared for with a detached, matter of fact manner: bathed, dressed and left to live each day with all the other children. I felt imprisoned (I still recall the high walls that surrounded the tiny playground). Finally, one carer lost her patience. I was dragged to the showers, scrubbed with a floor brush and (this is not easy to retell)… genitally abused. My foreskin had not naturally retracted. In an act of unconscionable violence she took the opportunity to punish me further. I don’t remember screaming, just mind numbing, stabbing pain and the sight of blood washing away in the water at my feet. My memory of anything that ensued after that terrible morning is lost - except this:
We were eventually taken back home... and to this day I remember in vivid detail the moment I saw my mother standing, waiting at the front door. I ran down the long path, crying out in joy, "Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!" And fell into her open arms, sobbing uncontrollably, released from that little girl's lies and the terror I had lived through.
Roll forward many years: grown man and married. My foreskin had lost its elasticity at the site of the injury and was painful to attempt retraction. So any masturbation, alone or with my wife's assistance, was done with the glans covered. But sexual intercourse, with her natural lubrication, helped to ease the skin over the 'head' and back again - and often made the experience very special, as nature intended. I bless the fact that we had our three children this way.
There were a few unnerving occasions when my foreskin stayed retracted and stuck, leaving the glans exposed and unbearably sensitive to touch.
Inevitably though, there came a point when even penetrative sex was no help - until one night when I withdrew with my foreskin totally trapped behind the coronal rim. Nothing I or my wife did to try to release it was successful. It began to swell with engorged blood, tightening its stranglehold. I was in great pain. My wife rang 999. I was rushed to hospital. I remember an incision to release the oedema. Two days later I was circumcised, accompanied in the hospital by my eldest daughter - a newly qualified nurse at the time - who was my rock through it all. This was in March 2002.
The circumcision itself was painless; so much so that when one of the attending nurses asked, "Did you feel that?" I replied, "No - not a thing. "Just as well," she retorted, "you'd have kicked him!" Does any baby boy ever receive a local anaesthetic as effective as that? I think not, because it's used at that strength for adults whose metabolism can accept it. Moreover, babies fortunate to receive even a milder injection of anaesthesia will feel the pain of the needle in the base of their penis. I received two on either side and it hurts. But I was an adult undergoing a necessary circumcision: big difference.
The recovery period was not painless, nor is it for an infant boy. Initially, the permanently exposed glans is excruciatingly sensitive to the slightest touch of a finger or light brush of clothing, not to mention the sutures at the site of the removed foreskin which ooze drops of blood and stick to clothing. The sensitivity I speak of is not erotic in any way; it's similar to the pain when we knock our humerus (funny bone), but made more intense because the glans is a sexual organ. A rather foolish piece of advice I read from a list of DOs and DON’Ts after the surgery was to avoid erections, as if we somehow have any control with this! And did the compiler of the list not consider the phenomenon of 'morning wood'? I also had to visit my local hospital outpatient department with an infection of the wound. It was cleared up with an antibiotic, but it still meant yet another examination. Not every man or boy goes through complications like mine. Some many do.
However, there is one absolutely inevitable consequence of circumcision: increasing loss of sensitivity as the years go by. Imagine this from boyhood, let alone from a mere nine years ago as in my case (almost to the day). Nature designs the penis perfectly: the glans as an internal organ within its protective sheath which is filled with nerve endings designed to interact in a shared partnership of exquisite sensual pleasure. Cut away a penis’s foreskin and nature goes into a desperate attempt to simulate its protective hood. It grows a covering of toughened tissue, incrementally as the months and years pass by. Nature doesn't 'think' of sexual compromise, it simply protects an injury - and the penis is finally left a shadow of its former self.
My glans is now unable to detect heat from cold: both are equally neutral under very hot or icy water. The only sense I experience is of pressure. It was a shocking discovery for me. Yet guiding a flow of very hot or icy water onto the shaft makes me recoil.
Sex? I can masturbate and ejaculate, of course. But it has been a learning curve in the absence of a foreskin. With a foreskin it is natural and so very easy. Sexual intercourse? Not good - for her or me. It takes me so much longer to achieve climax... and she is sometimes sore before I ejaculate and is left in a state of "Just lie back and think of England.” It distresses her AND me. We rarely try anymore.
I'm aware that most American adults, men and their partners, have lived with circumcision for many years and learned to enjoy sex, regardless. But I do wonder if they ever give a thought to the ultimate pleasure of natural sex. I knew that pleasure, briefly, once.
Nature gives every boy his birthright of an intact penis - together with the equal right of every girl who is now protected from genital mutilation, almost worldwide. Boys are no longer 'fair game', to put it brutally. Even American routine circumcision of its boys has dropped dramatically in the last few years.
The AAP’s 2012 revised statement on infant male circumcision is a total nonsense, basing its findings on flawed African trials of adult males. When is a prepubescent boy ever sexually active to the extent foolishly implied by the AAP? It’s arrant stupidity. This aside, there is no mention of basic ethical constraints or equal autonomy with females. British reaction is conspicuous by it’s deafening silence at the AAP’s pronouncement.
It was a different world when I was a small boy. Children were abused under a cloak of silence. There was no Internet to speedily publicise atrocities across the world. But we have that privilege now. We can fight wrong with right instantly and universally. It won’t rid us of mankind’s inhumanity to man, but our future together as ‘one world’ may give us hope for its eventual redemption.
Christopher S. shares his story in hopes that others will embrace genital integrity. Not only does his story show the harm in forceful retraction, but the undeniable fact that there is a big difference with and without a foreskin. Please, do not take this away from your son(s). His body, his choice.
A personal story from a Jewish mother who finally researched circumcision, and had a change of heart once she learned the facts.Written by: Rebekah C. on her Thoughtful Momma blogPosted with Permission from Author
Circumcision is one of those issues that has moms flaring at the nostrils and screaming in protest regardless of how they personally feel about the issue. I remember the first time someone challenged me on the topic and how furious I was when she suggested I was advocating for infant mutilation. I was, to put it blandly, enraged.
I grew up being raised in a blended faith. My family are Messianics: Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Tenach. I remember my youngest brother’s Bris quite well but because his Bris was a reception only (the actual procedure was done in the hospital), and the only other one I’d ever been to happened when I was so young I couldn’t really remember it, I had no idea, really, what circumcision entailed other than my parent’s sublime explanation: “It’s when a little flap of skin is cut off as a sign….”
Years later, I married a man who wasn’t circumcised. Not to go into too much private detail but I will tell you that I thought it was so COOL he wasn’t. I had this idea that it made him unique, almost exotic. I laugh a little at myself now, of course. I have only ever “been with” my husband so it’s not as if I had anything at all to compare it to and now, of course, it seems ridiculous to consider something entirely normal as “exotic”.
However, as we talked here n there about our faith, future children, that sort of thing, circumcision came up a lot. At that time in my life, I truly believed that our son(s) needed to be circumcised. That not doing it to him would be a sin. For me. Not him, for me and for my husband.
I am explaining this to demonstrate the backwards and completely blinded point of view I had at that time. When I conceived my first child, I still felt that circumcision was just something I had to do. Thankfully, she came out without a penis, lol. I deeply cared about my child and had she been born a boy I would have had her circumcised believing I was doing the very best thing for her physically AND spiritually. I wasn’t any less of a loving person then. I haven’t become more intelligent over the last 6 years, either.
That said, I was definitely thinking backwards. See, I would never have dreamed of asking my husband to be circumcised. If asked, I would have explained why by saying that it was his body, not mine, and that the decision to cut himself was between him and God.
Are you catching the discrepancy here? It wasn’t ok for me to ask a grown man to choose for himself but it was entirely ok with me to make that decision for my defenseless baby?!
Then, one day, when my oldest was about a year old, I become involved (to my embarrassment, now) in a flame-war going on in a wonderful little yahoo-group that revolved around birthing. As I’m sure you can imagine, mother’s are vicious and don’t really pull any punches when they are advocating their motherly choices for their children. This little war was epic, yes it was. Someone had posted an informative link regarding circumcision awareness and someone else had immediately retorted about being judged and it went off from there. I kept my mouth shut at that point as my personal opinion was that circumcision for any reason other than religious was stupid. But then, the fateful words hit my inbox: “Mutilating your son in the name of your god is still wrong, regardless of your religion.” Ooh I was hot! SO angry. It was like someone punched me in the stomach. How DARE this woman comment on something so intimate and personal as another person’s religious beliefs! I’m afraid I wasn’t even really “hearing” her point, I was just pissed she presumed to know another person’s heart when making decisions like this.
Looking back on it, she didn’t say anything cruel or intentionally insulting, she was just speaking the truth. But it was ON in that moment. I wrote a lengthy, heartfelt, passionate response. She returned it with one of her own. She made me look like a complete idiot without even trying because she had all this “information” about what was done and it’s life-long implications and I realized I had no idea what I was talking about! So I set about researching her claims, intent on digging up the opposite research to shut her up.
That isn’t what happened, though. I had been told growing up that the anti-circumcision movement was “the Enemy’s” attack on God’s people. That it was anti-Semitic, etc etc. And I was convinced that I could prove her wrong by going to science. After all, wasn’t it true that being circumcised was healthier? I mean, obviously she was just bigoted or misled…right? RIGHT?
Nope. No, in fact, every click I made drew me further and further into an education I didn’t even know I needed. I learned, for the first time in my life, what a foreskin really was and how it compared to female anatomy. I also learned about other forms of ritual genital mutilation that are NOT socially acceptable but defended with the exact same arguments as what I was using! (referring to Female Genital Mutilation, here) I watched circumcision videos (not for the faint of heart, let me tell you! I cried…a lot). I read medical websites devoted both to defending the practice and ousting it as an outdated unnecessary and yes, harmful procedure. I learned things I never dreamed could be true, including that just as many baby boys die during the neonatal period of their lives from being circumcised as do from SIDS. THAT interesting fact spurned me to learn even more and by the end, I was a changed person. I was humbled and I had some serious thinking and soul-searching to do.
I, like so many others, looked for ways around the religious “need” without actually denouncing circumcision. I researched “gentler” ways to remove the foreskin from the son I hoped for, even going so far as to consider doing it myself so that it was done “Biblically” and with the least amount of harm possible!
It was then, when considering doing it myself that I realized that I had lost my friggin’ mind! I mean, I’m sitting there, considering cutting a piece of my son off myself in order to protect him from harm!?!?! What was WRONG with me? I came to the conclusion that there was something seriously wrong with my thinking. My husband, of course, had been going through his own thoughts and research about it and obviously, being uncirced himself, came to the same conclusions. It was a relief, in a way, but posed other issues for us. Concerns about “sin” and about rejection from my family (who still see this as something sacred and necessary). I’ll come back to my thoughts on that at a later time, though.
I’m happy and even proud to say that now I have a 13mo old baby boy who is happily and blissfully ignorant of what he’s been spared. His body was left intact, as it was designed and functions normally. It may be that someday he’ll grow up and, for his own reasons, decide to get circumcised. I admit that as his mother I hope he doesn’t: I think he’s perfectly created just the way he is and it would be a real shame to mutilate a part of his perfect little body. But it’s his decision ultimately, and that’s what matters. HIS choice. Not mine.
I share all of this because I want people to understand that I get it. I know how complicated and difficult this “choice” feels because I’ve been there. I’ve agonized over it, defended it and seethed when anyone contradicted my perceptions of reality.
I really want to talk about this more, it’s a subject I’ve come to feel very passionate about. I want to help stop this horrible practice and help other parents to wake up and see what it is we’re doing! I realize this topic will piss people off. For a long time I hesitated to write about it because I don’t really like intentionally offending people. Unfortunately, though, the truth is the truth. Sometimes hearing it angers people. That’s ok. If someone hadn’t offended me, my son’s little penis would be mutilated today and I sincerely hope that I can share that gift of “enlightenment” with someone else.