To Cut or Not to Cut? Infant Male Circumcision

I suppose it’s never too early to begin embarrassing my son, so I’ll take this opportunity to talk at length about his penis. I didn’t think it would be such a hot topic so early in his life, but even before he was born, the question was being posed to my wife and I by nurses, physicians, and other health professionals around us: “Are you going to have him circumcised?” I suppose it’s only fair to share in his embarrassment, so I’ll include my own humble anatomy in the discussion: like most males of my generation in America, my penis was circumcised. And it’s not something I’ve given much thought to until I found out that I was having a son of my own.

To my parents, and to my wife’s parents, there was no question – of course he’d be circumcised! After all, it’s “cleaner,” isn’t it? And don’t we want him to “look like daddy?”

To their shock and surprise, our answer to both questions was: “No.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement on circumcision reads thusly:

The AAP believes that circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages, as well as risks. The existing scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend routine circumcision. Therefore, because the procedure is not essential to a child’s current well-being, we recommend that the decision to circumcise is one best made by parents in consultation with their pediatrician, taking into account what is in the best interests of the child, including medical, religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions.

In other words, the AAP doesn’t think circumcision is as scientifically warranted as, say, a Hepatitis B vaccine. But it also recognizes that many American parents feel strongly, usually as a result of vague cultural assumptions, that circumcision is a good thing.

Now, there is some evidence for a potential medical benefit from circumcision, but this has primarily been shown so far in populations at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., men in Sub-Saharan Africa surrounded by HIV). Indeed, most circumcision worldwide is found among African Muslims, with only 30% of boys circumcised globally according to the World Health Organization.

In America that number is as high as 75%, and here circumcision’s popularity has more to do with 19th century medical anecdotes and Victorian antimasturbatory anxiety than good science, much to most people’s surprise.

The problem is that given my own phallo-anatomical limitation, the intact penis is something of a mystery to me. Although I don’t give a damn about having identical genitalia with my son, it does bother me that I’ll lack knowledge about his basic boy parts. If anyone has suggestions or insights for a circumcised dad raising an uncircumcised son, please do leave them in the comments here.

And, of course, If he regrets our decision, he’ll have our permission to rectify the situation when he’s old enough to choose it for himself. Something tells me, though, that he’ll probably be cool with it.

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22 Responses to To Cut or Not to Cut? Infant Male Circumcision

  1. Jim says:

    Zach,

    I am uncut and cannot think of any other way to be. There really is nothing special that a father needs to do other than pull the foreskin back and make sure the head is clean. Any uncut penis head is very, very sensetive, so you have to be careful. Your son will thank you when he is old enough to have sex. Trust me!

  2. Shane says:

    We have the same situation in our family – but my husband was pretty clear that he didn’t want his son chopped just so he could be “like daddy.” We also went against cultural norm of time/place and are very glad we did.

  3. Chantal Yacavone says:

    Don’t do it. There is absolutely no good science to recommend it and plenty of men living with “botched” circumcisions that have damaged their sexual relationships for no good reason. FYI, I have 3 intact sons and they could care less that they don’t look like daddy. We told them if it really bothered them that the choice would be theirs when they were 18.

  4. Norm Barrett Wiik says:

    My wife and I made the same decision with our son a couple of years ago, and no adverse consequences yet. Hopefully enough people from our generation will forego the procedure on their sons that both of ours will grow up with peers who are mostly intact, and when they have children it won’t even be a serious question anymore.

  5. Drew Dowling says:

    I’m an uncircumcised Irish male living in the US. I was quite surprised when I moved over here to see how prevalent the practice is outside of a Jewish or Muslim country.

    I’ve had many a good natured slagging match over our differences with my male friends (and there girlfriends/wives) but in the end it seems to make very little real difference, beyond possible enhanced sensation during sex.

    If I’m lucky enough to have a son one day I would not have it done to him as it seems like a pretty traumatic operation to have preformed for no obvious gain.

    I guess he can make up his own mind when he turns 18.

    As for advice all I can say is to follow Arthur’s advice and make sure you “wash his winkie”
    ,

  6. L.Long says:

    I was CUT at 10yrs. I was raised by religious parent and of course your are not even suppose to LOOK at the penis much less touch it!
    For what ever reason my foreskin stuck to the head a number of painful times (taking their word as I have no memory of this). So finally got it wacked off.
    So for intelligent parents willing to touch the untouchable and willing to honestly teach the unteachable, there is no reason to get it cut. For those OTHER type of parents please get it cut at birth.

  7. RLee says:

    Look at t\it this way: If infant circumcision is intended to prevent future medical problems, why not take out the newborn’s tonsils and appendix while you are at it? Makes about as much sense.

  8. Christi says:

    When we were still pregnant and hoping for a boy, we talked to our doctors and the birthing teachers about this. We all came to the same decision you did, Zach, that it is medically unnecessary. However, they were very careful to warn against cleaning inside the foreskin before it has naturally loosened enough to slide down. They likened it to the idea of cleaning inside your eyelid o.O Obviously, once the hole has opened enough to allow for movement you should use proper hygiene.

    At the end of the day, however, we had a girl and never actually had to deal with this situation. So take it with a grain of salt, I guess.

  9. Mom says:

    Just keep some A & D ointment handy. Whenever it gets a little red, dab some on there and it should be fine by the next day. This is really just for the infant/toddler years. Once they are older and learn how to keep themselves clean, there is usually no need for this. My husband and sons are uncirced and no problems with any of them.

  10. Zachary Moore says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your advice and suggestions!

  11. kirkaug says:

    We have two boys who do not have penises who look like daddies. I had no reservations about it. My wife was unsure until I showed her some research I had done on the topic and talked with some doctors about it too. We are happy with the route we took.

  12. My wife and I had the same decision to make when we learned we were having a boy. We reached the same conclusions you did, and for largely the same reasons. One thing I want to add, though, is to back up what Norm Barrett Wiik said: rates of circumcision in the United States are dropping (here’s just one citation to back that up). If rates continue to decline, they’ll soon drop below 50%, and intact male children will be in the majority. If that comes to pass, I didn’t want my son wondering why his parents chose to cling to an unnecessary, dying tradition.

  13. Restorme says:

    One thing that you could do, is to restore your own foreskin. I, myself, am trying to put back what someone else took without my permission. I will never be able to completely replace everything, but I will come close. Hundreds if not thousands of men are actively restoring their foreskins, using everything from their own hands, to complicated devices. It is safe and effective.

  14. Pingback: CRAP Mamma » Circumcision – to chop or not?

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