So, I am going to “go there”, and considering I have a very small readership at this point, I’m going to hope that no one gets all pissy with me about this topic.
As soon as we found out we were having a boy, I started thinking about his penis. Mainly: to circumcise or not to circumcise.
I have done a lot of research about this topic. I have read message boards, asked my twitter friends, listened to (unsolicited) feedback from coworkers, read abstracts from multiple medical studies, read up on what the AAP has to say, and talked at length with my husband. All feedback falls into one of these categories:
1) Uncircumcised penises are gross. They look gross to sexual partners and they’re harder to keep clean.
2) Circumcised penises are healthier – they transmit fewer STDs, including HIV, and have a lower risk of penile cancer/painful adhesions.
3) Your baby boy is born perfect and you should leave him perfect.
4) Uncircumcised boys will be made fun of in school because they won’t look like other boys.
My biggest struggle with coming to this decision is that none of these positions feel 100% right in my heart.
1) Uncircumcised penises are gross – I don’t want to put all my business out there, but I did have a partner before A who was uncircumcised (or “intact” to use the modern nomenclature). It didn’t phase me at all. It’s certainly not the hideous monstrosity some people expect it to be. And mothers of uncircumcised sons say the penis is just as easy to clean as a vagina (think of all the folds girls have!).
2) Circumcised penises are healthier - In many areas, such as Africa where men will walk miles barefoot in the rain for just the chance of being circumcised, this is true. But the AIDS epidemic in America is very different from the problem in other countries. Here, AIDS is mostly transmitted during homosexual sex, in which case circumcised or not, it makes no difference. And the risk of penile cancer, while indicated as being slightly higher in intact men, is still so small it’s not even really worth considering.
3) Your baby boy is born perfect - I tend to agree with this. But I am also not a doctor so this sentiment alone, while heartwarming and resonant, is not enough for me. Thus, all the research.
4) Your son will be made fun of - I have never, ever thought that “because we’ve always done it that way” or “because everyone else does it” or “because you’re expected to do it” is a good enough reason to do anything.
What it boils down to is this: I don’t want to make this decision for my son. It’s his penis, he should decide what it looks like. I hate that I have to decide something so personal for him so early on. And in that vein, it seems like leaving him intact would be the best way to go, since he can always opt to have his foreskin removed, but he can’t opt to have it put back on.*
And the thing that I keep coming back to: the American Academy of Pediatrics says there is not sufficient data to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. Basically: there is no medical reason to circumcise your son.
So, my vote is no. I do not want him to be circumcised.
That said, I left this decision up to my husband. The climate of the current election has led to a bunch of white men in politics trying to make decisions about my uterus, which outrages me. This has cast the situation in an even clearer light for me and I think it’s fair that I allow my husband veto power over my opinions on all things penile.
For now, A and I have both decided to leave our son intact. I will keep you posted in the coming months if things change.
* Similarly, we are not baptizing him as an infant because we don’t believe in original sin (your baby is born perfect, again) and we don’t want to decide his religion for him, but that’s a separate post.