Infant Circumcision: Why I say NO

8 Jan

There are two things I want you to know before choosing to read this. First, it contains links to graphic material, I chose not to put the pictures on the page so that you would have the option to see them or not. Secondly, my goal is not to condemn or make you feel bad about a choice you have already made. My goal is to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and to share information.  If you decide to read on please do so with an open mind and be willing to hear what I have to say.

“When we know better, we do better.”

-Maya Angelou

You may already know that I am against circumcision, specifically when it is performed on infants where there is no medical reason. If there is a medical need or if it is in the case of an adult who is capable of giving INFORMED CONSENT than what I have to say here does not apply.

To begin I will explain my journey to this belief, if you want to know when I first decided not to have my son circumcised read this. You will see that what I went on was not very much information but a very instinctual desire not to put my unborn child though that. More recently I have delved into the information and have found myself taking up the cause. There are a lot of very valid causes out there and I agree with many of them. For one reason or another though, this one really hits me. I get pretty riled up about it at times.  I get that hitting my head against a wall feeling when thinking about the arguments people make. The reasons they give. I’m not mad at them, just the thought process. On some level it angers me because I once felt the same way, not strongly, but I agreed with them. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it but I just assumed it was what you did if you had a boy and that was all there was to it. If my doctor hadn’t asked me about it that one day I may very well have done it to Logan.  Unfortunately unless you go looking for pros and cons you just don’t know, unless someone says, “Hey! Why are you doing that?” The general belief in our society currently is that when you have baby boy you cut off the end of his penis. Think about that phrase for a moment. Are there any other parts of your child you would have removed? If you had a girl would you have her circumcised? My thought is HELL NO! Yet somehow this one exception exists, this one part that we are fine with slicing off as soon as we can. There are some hints floating about now that might make you think first. It’s no longer performed immediately following the birth while you and baby are still in hospital (in Canada).  You have to find a doctor who will do it and then book it, then you have to PAY, at least a couple hundred dollars. It’s not covered by health insurance because it is considered COSMETIC.

Before I dive into the information that brings me to the decision not to circumcise babies let me address a common statement that comes up around this discussion. “It’s the parents choice” I have been saying something similar to this for some time, “Everyone has to do what’s best for them” when people have confronted me about my son. Recently I realized that I was taking the wrong approach, I was saying the wrong thing. It’s not really about the adult, it’s about the baby. Tiny and new as they are, they are still people and they have rights. Deciding for them to have an elective procedure performed feels to me like a violation of those rights, some courts agree. It is the choice of the parent, and right now in the eyes of the law they have the right to make it. If just there you said, “HA you said it Sarah I have the right so back off” then you should probably leave, you’re not going to change your mind and neither am I. Reading further will probably just aggravate you, and I’m not here to upset anyone.

Let’s start off with all those wonderful reasons people have to cut their babies. First I have a list for you, a list of various possible reasons for why circumcision came into practice. You will find the full article here.

“It has been variously proposed that it began as a religious sacrifice, as a rite of passage marking a boy’s entrance into adulthood, as a form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility or fertility, as a means of enhancing sexual pleasure, as an aid to hygiene where regular bathing was impractical, as a means of marking those of higher social status, as a means of humiliating enemies and slaves by symbolic castration, as a means of differentiating a circumcising group from their non-circumcising neighbors, as a means of discouraging masturbation or other socially proscribed sexual behaviors, as a means of removing “excess” pleasure, as a means of increasing a man’s attractiveness to women, as a demonstration of one’s ability to endure pain, or as a male counterpart to menstruation or the breaking of the hymen, or to copy the rare natural occurrence of a missing foreskin of an important leader, and as a display of disgust of the smegma produced by the foreskin.”

You will note that there are contradicting items on this list. Take into account that all of these are reasons various people have used around the world at differing points in time.  Really they are opinions.

Here are some common reasons people choose to have their baby circumcised, and the facts that debunk the myths. Find the full article here.

Circumcision is recommended by doctors and medical organizations

Fact: Circumcision is not recommended by any national medical association in the world.  Fifteen national and international medical associations have extensively studied infant circumcision and its effects and found no significant evidence to support this practice.  In March 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concluded that infant circumcision is not recommended as a routine procedure.1  The circumcision policy statements of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Family Physicians have concurred with this position.2-3  The AMA calls infant circumcision “non-therapeutic.”

It’s just a little piece of skin, he won’t miss it.

Fact: The prepuce (foreskin) makes up as much as half of the skin system of the penis.4  It is an extension of the shaft skin that folds over onto itself, completely covering and protecting the glans (an internal organ) and provides the mobility of the shaft skin necessary for frictionless intercourse and masturbation.  The foreskin has three known functions: protective, immunological, and sexual.  It contains about 10,000 highly specialized nerve endings and several feet of blood vessels.  An adult male foreskin, if unfolded and spread out, would be about the size of index card (3 x 5 inches), much more than a “little piece of skin.”  Many sexually active men circumcised in adulthood report a significant decrease in sexual pleasure and comfort because of the loss of sensitive nerve endings, skin mobility and natural lubrication.

The care of a circumcised penis is easier than an intact penis.

Fact: For the care of an intact penis, the AAP recommends, “Leave it alone.” 5  No special care is required – an intact child should have the external surface of his penis (and the rest of his body) washed regularly to keep clean.  When a male is older and can retract his foreskin (which typically occurs by puberty), a simple rinsing is all that is necessary. 6  Other cultural myths about special cleaning procedures are just that – myth.

Almost everyone is circumcised…I don’t want my son to be teased in the locker room.

Fact:  The circumcision rate for males worldwide is about 15%.  Even in the US, the only country that circumcises a majority of its male newborns for non-religious reasons, the circumcision rate is decreasing.  According the National Center for Health Statistics, the US circumcision rate is approximately 60% (varies widely by region) and slowly decreasing.  According to many intact males, the “teasing” concern is vastly overstated.  For many boys, genital status is neither an important issue nor one that is discussed.  In the unlikely event of concerns later in life, at least the person can make his own decision about an irreversible body alteration that has no medical justification.

Circumcision is a simple and painless procedure… it only takes a few minutes.

Fact:  While circumcision is a relatively quick procedure, it is extremely painful for the infant.  The initial part of the process involves a forced separation of the foreskin, which is fused to the glans (head) in much the same way as a fingernail is joined to the finger.  The AAP says the following about EMLA cream, one of the most common pain relief methods, “The analgesic effect is limited during the phases associated with extensive tissue trauma…” 1    Although they cannot remember the pain as adults, circumcised male infants have increased pain response in vaccinations 4 to 6 months later.11  Circumcision appears to lower the pain threshold.

Circumcision makes the penis cleaner and more hygienic.

Fact:  Circumcision removes the protective portion of mobile shaft skin, which is intended to cover the glans (head) of the penis.  The glans is the internal portion of genitalia (for both genders).  Circumcision artificially exposes and denudes this highly sensitive tissue, resulting in a buildup of keratin and a dry, desensitized part of the penis.  And contrary to popular myth, more sensation does not lead tp control problems.  Based on reports from men circumcised as adults, just the opposite is true.  With more sensation, a man has better feedback and can better determine his proximity to the “orgasmic threshold.”   

I went here and found this in regards to the circumcision rate in Canada, “A 2006 article placed the (2003) rate at 13.9%.”  That was the rate in 2003, and the rates have been on the decline. To those of you who really believe that kids are going to tease your son about what his penis looks like. Even if kids were comparing and teasing it would appear that those who have been snipped will be the minority.

I have heard accounts from people who know someone who knew someone who had a problem with their uncut penis later in life. Yes it happens. Our bodies don’t always perform exactly as they should. Our tonsils and appendix sometimes cause problems later on too, are we removing those from our newborns? No because the remotely possible benefit does not outweigh the risk of the surgery to remove them. What are the risks to circumcising your son? This article shows this:

“Out of 100 Circumcised boys:

75 will not readily breastfeed post-op

55 will have adverse reactions from the surgery

35 will have post-op hemorrhaging to one degree or another

31 will develop meatal ulcers

10 will need to have the circumcision surgery repeated to fix prior surgical problems/error
8 will suffer infection at the surgical site

3 will develop post-operative phimosis

2 will have a more serious complication (seizure, heart attack, stroke, loss of penis, death)

1 will require additional immediate surgery and sutures to stop hemorrhage

1 will develop fibrosis

1 will develop phimosis

1 will be treated with antibiotics for a UTI (urinary tract infection)

1 will be treated with antibiotics for surgical site infection

Of those who do receive pain medication for the surgery (about 4% of those boys undergoing circumcision in the U.S.) some will have adverse reactions to the pain medication injected”

Sound scary? Yeah I think so too. But wait, there are risks to leaving him intact too:

Out of 100 Intact boys: 

2 will be treated with antibiotics for a UTI (fewer if the foreskin is never forcibly retracted)

1 will be told to get cut later in life for one reason or another (fewer if the foreskin is never forcibly retracted)”

The list is shorter, and it’s rates lower than most on the first list. The rates have the potential to be lower of more people are properly educated on how to care for their intact sons.  Leave it alone! For more information on how to leave it alone,  go here.

I am always amused by the concept that the child should look like his father. He is a different person, he has half of his mothers DNA. Fathers, if your son is born with different hair or eye colour than you have do you take measures to alter it to match yours? No you say? That’s foolish? What do you mean? Shouldn’t he look just like you? Right down the end of his penis? OOhh that is foolish.

Yeah they look different. Do you know how different? Feel free to check it out here. Don’t be weird go ahead and look. You should know if you want all the information.

Let’s address the future now. Someday that baby will grow into a sexual being. And as much as we can say I don’t want to think about my kid that way, or why are you using your child’s future sex life as part of your argument, it is still a point to consider. First I would like to remind you that one “benefit” circumcision  is supposed to provide is a reduction if not complete halting of masturbation. If you think your child should not be exploring himself sexually at some point in his life to begin with then you have something else to deal with all together. For those of you that recognize it is a natural part of human development and sexuality, do you want to take that away from them? I know I know it doesn’t actually stop it, but people thought it would and that’s why they cut their kids. Studies have proven that an intact penis is more sensitive, want the stats? Go here.  Don’t want to read and try to make sense of all that? Their conclusion is this, “Circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis”.  Ablation basically means remove, “In medicine, ablation is the same as removal of a part of biological tissue, usually by surgery

There are a lot of products and marketing out there which suggest that men are seeking to increase the size of their penises, I’m thinking we’re not doing our boys any favours cutting some off.

Religion. There are several religions whose practices and rituals include circumcision. The one we tend to associate it with the most is the Jewish faith. I am obviously not telling people who to practice their faith. I Do offer this article though. There are options, and things can be done differently. A large number of the other religions and cultures who ritualistically perform circumcision do it later in life, often as a coming of age practice.

Circumcision is permanent. It cannot be undone. It can be done later in life though. And a man who wants or needs it can choose to do it. They can be sufficiently numbed or put under completely. They can be given meds to manage the pain following the procedure. They know what is happening to them. Studies have shown that neonates cannot be safely numbed to the point where they will not feel the pain of the crushing, tearing and slicing of the surgery. There is no NOW OR NEVER with circumcision. You don’t have to rush to it. The option will remain available in the future. Isn’t this best left as a “better safe than sorry” situation? Don’t take the risk and what is there to regret?

I have met, talked to, and read the stories of many mothers and fathers who regret their choice to have their son circumcised. I have heard stories of the procedure and complications which resulted in them having to bring their baby back to have it done again. Heard about how little information was offered by the pediatrician performing the surgery, and how they had to pay cash for it. One story that had a large impact on me was this one. It breaks my heart when I read, “To see a part of this baby’s penis being cut off – without an anesthetic – was devastating. But even more shocking was the doctor’s comment, barely audible several octaves below the piercing screams of the baby, “There’s no medical reason for doing this.” I couldn’t believe my ears, my knees became weak, and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t believe that medical professionals, dedicated to helping and healing, could inflict such pain and anguish on innocent babies unnecessarily.”

You may have read this whole thing and clicked and read every link I sent you to and still feel that circumcision is the way to go. Perhaps from the perspective of a man you will hear what I am trying to say. Maybe knowing there are lots of people out there who feel and think the same way would help you to understand. Here are just a few of the Facebook groups who speak out against routine infant male circumcision.

Fathers Choosing Not To Circumcise 

Keeping Future Sons Intact

Boys Deserve Better

Intactivist Rex 

End  Routine Infant Circumcision

Please, even if you do no accept what I have shared with you as reality. Even if babies will in no way recall the pain of the procedure. Does that make it OK to put them through such agony? Would you cause your child any other harm feeling OK with it because they would forget?

If I have changed your mind. If you already feel the same way. If you disagree but think someone you know might benefit from the information. Share a piece of this post, a link to it, click Share or Like.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

                                                                                                                                                                                              – George Bernard Shaw

5 Responses to “Infant Circumcision: Why I say NO”

  1. Patricia January 9, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    First time reader long time friend lol! You are brilliant! Book of knowledge and if any other person does not think so back the eff off! I too one of those parents thought it was the thing to do to circumsise my boy and I did it! It was the worst thing that I have every done to my child! Nobody told me any different. No one said “why?” but I was ignorant too! Love you never be afraid to stand up for yourself or your children!

  2. Rob RN January 11, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Wonderful factual information!!

  3. myrick January 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    The only system of socialised medicine that still covers routine infant circumcision (RIC) is Medicaid in 32 USA states. The USA is the only country where maternity wards offer RIC as an option. RIC is gone in the UK and New Zealand, because medical school profs began teaching against it in the 1950s. The rate is way down in Australia and Canada, again because doctors were free to take the lead.

    The desire to circumcise males is a major unsolved problem in the social psychology of human sexuality. The owner of this blog is apparently Canadian and I should not comment on Canadian culture. In my opinion, American RIC is grounded in deep seated emotions about the undesirability of the natural penis, perceived as unsanitary and unappetising, and therefore as sexually undesirable. RIC is also grounded in an inadequate understanding of sexual acts, of what foreskin mobility contributes to such acts, and of the sensitivity of the bits cut off. Americans with PhDs have told me with straight faces that not circumcising a baby boy will mean he will never experience oral as a man!!

    In the UK, the higher the social class into which a man was born, the more likely he was to be circumcised in infancy and childhood. The British, to their credit, have forthrightly admitted this sociological fact. The fact is also true of the USA before 1940, but Americans never talk about this because it contradicts their self image as an egalitarian society. At any rate, to the American eye the natural penis came to be seen as a lifelong marker of humble origins. That the urban middle class was usually circumcised, while the men born into rural and working class families were not, was revealed by barracks life during the World Wars and the Korean conflict. Is it a coincidence that baby boomers (born 1946-64) were the first American generation in which circumcision was quasi universal, the first generation in which millions of people had no idea of how the natural penis looks and functions?

    The last 40 odd years have seen a revolutionary rise in women’s sexual self-awareness. Witness the many thousands of performances of the Vagina Monologues. Less known but deeper are the writings and teaching of Betty Dodson. There has been no parallel rise in male sexual self-awareness. Hence the resistance, in certain quarters, to leaving baby boys intact. Nowadays, more women blog their sex lives than straight men. Women who do so not infrequently reveal a meticulous understanding of male anatomy and desire. Very ironically, most of what I have learned about the intimate male body in recent years has been written by women.

    I do not see intactivism as a social movement seeking to outlaw RIC. (But I do believe that unanesthetised routine and ritual circumcision should be illegal.) Rather, I see intactivism as a movement seeking to extend the American understanding of how nature intended sexual pleasure and functionality to work. It is a raw fact that circumcision destroys the most sexually sensitive parts of the male body, and removes male parts that interact directly with the vaginal lining. Women who blog their sex lives have revealed that foreskin motion, and the way the foreskin interacts with the natural secretions of both genders, can do much to enhance the pleasure they derive from sexual acts. Once what I write here becomes common knowledge among women of childbearing age, RIC will end in America, simply because young mothers will rightly perceive it as putting normal sexuality at risk.

  4. Jeremy January 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    “It’s not really about the adult, it’s about the baby. Tiny and new as they are, they are still people and they have rights.”

    Do you have the same thoughts about abortion then? How can we care about baby’s rights when they are born if we don’t care about their rights while in the womb?

    • Sarah Mathison January 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

      You make an excellent point Jeremy. The rights of all people should be respected.

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