If everyone jumped off the circumcision bridge…

January 7, 2011

This is a hot button issue – and one we are discussing in our household. Please know that as I write this, I have no one in mind. If you did or did not circumcise your child, that was your choice – and has nothing to do with me or anyone else.

I am against circumcision for our child. 100%. I don’t understand the reason for it, I see no need, and I’m unsure why we continue to do it. I keep reading and researching it to see why it’s such a standard practice, but I don’t see any compelling reason. I feel that, if we have a son, it is not our choice to make for him.

Sam wavers on it. He feels that it is a right of passage in a boy’s life. The first real pain he will feel. He also thinks that it’s something we should do so our son doesn’t differ from him physically. I mentioned this on Twitter and had @clairelouise2 say, “so he thinks looking like Dad is important? If so, ask him when he last saw his dad’s penis. That usually gets them.” Which got me to thinking…

We have talked on this issue many times. Last time I asked Sam, “So if you hadn’t been circumcised as an infant, and felt left out or different, would you get it done now? Or maybe 10 years ago?”

His response? “HELL no!”

In which I looked at him very pointedly and said, “So why do you feel so strongly about it now? What’s the difference in you inflicting that pain on yourself now and doing it to a newborn?” I wasn’t trying to be mean, but let’s be honest – it’s bound to be painful to have that happen at 2 days or 28 years old.

Many of my RL and online friends have said, “I left the decision up to my husband because he has a penis and I don’t.”

A. I’m very glad that you don’t. 🙂

B. It’s great if your husband was actively involved in a knowledgeable decision process by reading and being medically informed, and you were comfortable with letting him make the decision.

If I had wanted to pierce Bella’s ears when she was born (which I didn’t), I know Sam would have talked to me about making a decision based on fact and practicality – not emotion. He was against having that done to Bella simply to have her look cute.

I feel the same way about circumcision. Why should we put our son through that just to look the same as some of his peers? Or his father?

But if when he was older, our son wanted it done – then it’s their choice and their body. I don’t believe I have a right to make a decision like that for him. Unless it was medically necessary when he was born, but I don’t see that in anything I’ve read.

I want to respect Sam’s feelings on this, while having him understand that for me, this isn’t something I want to do – and to know why. I often wonder how couples end up making a decision like this where there is no middle ground. Except to agree to have it done later in life if the boy chooses.

I’d like to leave the decision up to our son – it’s his body. His choice.


  • Susan

    January 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    No, lifelong body-altering cosmetic surgery on a newborn is not ok, & I have half a mind to put my Jewish boys on here to reiterate that they are quite happy to have been spared an agonizing surgery that removes 40-60,000 nerve endings (compared to the 8000 in the entire external clitoris, & 6000 in the entire circumcised penis).

    If they want a Bar Mitzvah, no one is going to check their parts. Their bodies, their decisions.

  • Hugh7

    January 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    I’ll put this bluntly, and if you agree you can figure out how to say it more kindly: your DH may be the one with a penis, but if he doesn’t have all of his penis, (and you have all of your genitalia) you are actually in a better position to decide than he is. Would you give any of yours up (without some pressing medical need)? No? Then why should your son?

    He may not remember, but how long does it take him to forget? Taddio et al. found circumcised babies react differently to the pain of vaccination months later.

    @Jen: Christians believe Jesus was crucified so that we need not be. Same with his circumcision. See Gal 5:2 and many other writings of St Paul.

    @Cole: There are Jews who don’t circumcise (not many Orthodox, of course) and here are contact details for celebrants of Brit Shalom (a k a Brit B’li Milah – covenant without cutting), several of them rabbis. One in New York has celebrated hundreds. About Bar Mitzvah, one rabbi said, “We don’t check.”

    HPV is a very common virus that the body is very good at clearing. The African study (by the same team that started to find circumcision increased the HIV risk to women, but they cut that study short before it could be confirmed) only found quite a small absolute difference. Circumcision has been a “cure” looking for a disease for over a century.

    Lots of men do bitterly resent that this was done to them without their choice, and even when it doesn’t give them problems directly (as it all too often does), not knowing what they are missing nags at them.

  • Jessica

    January 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I guess I’m on the other side of this issue because I have two boys and both are circumsized. In my family and culture this is just how it’s done. I thought about about it, when I was pregnant with my first son, but we decided we would rather have it done early, when he wont remember it, rather than him have to deal with it later. Now that Im older and have learned more about it, I dont really think it makes much difference medically but I dont regret our decision.

  • Jen

    January 7, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Being a nurse, you KNOW I’m all about the medical side of things. I have cut some foods out of my life just because of a medical journal or article I read about it. But for some reason, I really didn’t see this is a “medical” or “non-medical” decision. We had more trouble picking out his name, than we did for our decision to have him circumcised. Literally, this is how the conversation went:
    Me: Do you want him to be circumcised?
    Hubs: Yeah. Why?? Is that even a question??
    Me: No, I want him to be. I figure, Jesus lead the Jewish people, right?? Well, if it was good enough for Jesus, it will be good enough for our son.

    This is in NO way meant to be an insult in any way, shape or form for the Jewish community. Nor am I making light of a sacred rite of passage. I’m just saying, this is how we made our decision. And I wouldn’t have left him uncircumcised regardless. Personal decision, and if we have another boy, he will be circumcised as well.

    1. Diana

      January 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      Oh Jen. This is why I love you. I knew, just knew, you were going to give it to me straight. And you did. I love it.

  • World Spinner

    January 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    If everyone jumped off the circumcision bridge… |…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  • Jen J. – Life With Levi

    January 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    We circumsized our son. My husband wanted it done, and I did too. My little brother was uncircumsized, then had to get circumsized when he was 9 or 10 for health reasons (I’m still not totally clear why, but I know repeat infections were involved.) He has told me that he’s glad he had it done, but wishes it would have been done when he was born. It was pretty traumatic for him being older & having to deal with that.

    I think it’s great that you have figured out your stance on what is best for your family. It sounds like an educated, supported decision.

    1. Diana

      January 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      See, this makes me waver. What if our son feels like at 8 he’s different and resents me for it, because I went on some kick that he couldn’t be circumcised when he wouldn’t even have remember it?

      Your comment gives me a lot to think about – thank you.

  • kim

    January 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    The whole to cut or not to cut . . . ugh. Yeah, we argued about this before John was born as well. I even made my husband watch video’s of it being done. He still was for it. I still don’t understand that.

  • Alyssa

    January 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Good post, Diana 🙂 I really enjoy the way you are firm in showing that you are stating what you want for your family, not what EVERYONE should be doing. I appreciate that.

    We did circumcise our newborn when he was 8 days old. I had read it’s best to do it before 4 weeks, because after that (or rather around 6 months old) is no different than being 16 and having it done. So, I do feel that it was best to have it done early, and that it doesn’t have the same feeling as it would have if we waited a few months.

    Also, my brother is 14 and he did just get a circumcision done in November. I don’t know the exact reason he chose to got it done, I can only assume it was because he felt he was different from other people. Anyways, he got it done and it’s now 7-8 weeks later, and he’s still complaining of it being sore and walked around with bandages on it for almost the full two months since it was done. With my baby, his penis looked healed within a week.

    I don’t know what it feels like, and I never will. But I do think that getting it done as a newborn is SO MUCH BETTER than getting it done as a teenager or later.

    Anyways, that’s just my opinion, that it will probably hurt for your son(s) way more if they choose to do it as adults, rather than if it’s done already as a newborn (when they won’t ever remember the pain). Just my thoughts 🙂

    1. Diana

      January 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      Yeah, I keep thinking about this with all the other commenters saying the same thing. The chances of him wishing he were circumcised seem to be a lot greater than him being like, “It’s cool Mom, no worries.” :/

    2. Karen

      January 15, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      Perhaps the larger issue is that we are not teaching our young boys about normal anatomy? We are not telling them that they are as they are created. We are not telling them that daddy looks a little different because when he was a baby, they thought removing the skin at the end of the penis was better but now they know differently.
      Circumcised men have a very difficult time understanding that they were not protected by their parents. They have a very hard time coming to terms with their wounding. Circumcising their own son normalizes what was done to them. Circumcision begets circumcision and the cycle goes on. Perhaps instead of hiding from the normal male body, we should be embracing it and speaking honestly about it’s normality.

  • Not There Yet

    January 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    We are having this discussion right now. I tend to believe that it is genital mutilation and if it were a routine procedure done to a girl, we would not need to have this conversation – it would be an obvious NO! DH says he wants it done – but has yet to give me a reason, other than “I might want him to look like me…” My response is – so, if he is born with brown eyes instead of blue, will that be a problem? If he is born with dark hair instead of light, will that be a problem?
    I just tend to think that so far our bodies have created a life, nurtured that life and will birth that life without a lot of intervention from the two of us and our “reasoning.” I just figure if a boy is born with foreskin, it is probably there for a reason… leave well enough alone.

  • Noelle Spooner

    January 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    We had decided to not circumsize our son. However, he was born with severe hypospadia/chordee. We are lucky to live in a city with one of the best pediatric urologists in the country and have decided to have the surgery/surgeries to repair it. His foreskin will be used for the repair. I had never heard of this condition until I had my son. I am confident we are making the right decision for him.Hopefully any future sons will not need surgery.

  • Tweets that mention If everyone jumped off the circumcision bridge… | — Topsy.com

    January 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm

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  • Nicci @ Changing the Universe

    January 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Oo, this is a good issue! We chose to not circumcise. We both did a lot of research on both sides of the arguement. It came down to something our pediatrition told us: Do it or don’t do it. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The thing is comes down to is cosmetics. Do you want it to look like a mushroom or a sleeve?

    In fact, many insurances are no longer covering circs saying that unless it is medically nessecary, it’s a cosmetic surgery and one they won’t pay for.

    Sure, our son’s penis will look different than his father’s. If he asks why, we will explain it to him and offer him the chance to have it done.

    And as for the claims that men without circs have a greater chance of getting and spreading STDs? Here’s a thought: safe sex. Teach your son how to wrap it up to prevent getting it and teach him not to sleep with everything that moves to prevent spreading it around.

    The claims that it’s not “clean?” Sure, there’ a bit more effort to keeping it clean than a circ’ed penis, but again, when teaching your son how to wash his body, teach him how to properly wash his penis.

    I guess I’m just tired of the snide comments here and there from my family about my son’s penis. I mean, really, it’s my son’s. Not yours. And I’ll thank you to stop talking about his private area 🙂

    (PS – there are TONS of spelling errors in this, but for some reason it won’t let my mouse click inside this box so unless I want to erase everything I just wrote, you’ll have to deal with my spelling mistakes 🙂 )

  • Branson

    January 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    My youngest brother-in-law was the only one of 5 boys to not be circumcised. His parents felt it should be HIS choice. It bothered him. A lot. He ended up having the procedure done as a young teenager. It was incredibly painful, obviously. The fact is that most people probably arent going to make this change overnight. So I guess it comes down to how important it is to YOU. I want my son to be comfortable being different, but the way his penis looks is not something I want him to worry about and OUR personal family experience led us to save him the chance of pain and a medical procedure later in life. If he ends up feeling strongly about the issue he can make a different choice for his son, and advocate for change. But I can’t see him holding it against us for making a decision based on both fact and experience for him as an infant. That is what parents do 🙂

    1. Diana

      January 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Love this. Thank you for showing the other side of a parent’s decision.

      Informed, loving parents choose circumcision all the time – and it doesn’t make them any less informed or loving. At all. And you are proving that!

  • cathy

    January 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    As always, loving this post. I’m thinking: Crap! Now I am stressing out about this decision for when I have a child….which wont even be soon! But very good points, ive been reading alot in the news about this lately. I don’t have anything to say really, because I haven’t educated myself about it. If there aren’t any legitimate medical reasons to this procedure, then I don’t see myself choosing it. Other than that, it made me sad to see my nephew go through this 🙁 And hearing all those stories out there about things going awry during this procedure. Scary!

    1. Diana

      January 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      And it’s a small percentage – it really is. Not that it matters when it happens to be your kid, but the medical community does their very best to be safe and keep your child from pain.

      It’s just not something we want to do – you know? Thanks for commenting on this one. 🙂

  • Cole

    January 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t want to get into a huge debate, but I did want to mentio that I’ve never heard of Jewish circumcision being optional (and I AM Jewish – and circumcised). In fact, in my experience, you cannot have a Jewish marriage ceremony or a Bar Mitzvah if you have not had a bris (circumcision is the medical procedure, the bris is the religious ritual).

    1. Diana

      January 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      I’d never heard of it either, and that’s why I linked it to a .org site with a reputable background.

      But, I think what you wrote is interesting. I knew almost nothing about that and now I do. 🙂

      1. Cole

        January 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

        I saw your reference – definitely not accusing you of making it up; I was just surprised. Uncle Matt was born via c-section and he was circumcised in the hospital rather than having a proper bris and it caused problems when it came time for his Bar Mitzvah – the family had to switch temples. Daddy DID have a bris, but he couldn’t find the certificate and Mommy had a difficult time finding a Rabbi who would perform a Jewish ceremony. I don’t doubt that there are some denominations of Judaism that are more lax, but we’re Reform and even so a bris is not considered optional according to the Rabbis we’ve spoken to. The bris is the first religious rite in a boy’s life. It is symbolic of the Jewish people’s covenant with God, and is his formal introduction to the community – it is also when he receives his name.

        1. Diana

          January 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm

          I definetly didn’t think you were telling me I made it up :), but I’ve had people not see the link or think I just had fun underlining and making it a color. lol

          I always thought that for Jewish people it was mandatory – a covenant with God as you said. So that website, and what you are telling me, are really interesting. I’m glad you said something on here.

  • @QueenGeekKeri

    January 7, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I fought with my hubs for most of the pregnancy about not circumcising our son but in the end my hubs won out with the I have a penis so I know better speech. I look back now & I wish I hadn’t backed down. Luckily they left some of the foreskin so it is more like half a circumcision. The hospital said they don’t cut as much as they used to. Still I feel bad but @ 9 months pregnant I couldn’t fight anymore.

  • Devan @ Accustomed Chaos

    January 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I am against non-medically necessary circumcision. I know ive chatted with you about this in the past. the fact that my husband has a penis doesnt in my mind give him full right to my sons penis nor does it discount my opinion on the matter. It is my childs penis – no one elses so it is NEVER my decision (unless it became a medical issue & there are rare medical issues where it may become necessary at birth or later).

    Funny you mention ear piercing – i have both of my daughters ears pierced. I see this mentioned in a few places on how it is similar to circumcision — here is why i think it is not even the same…. I am not alerting my daughters ears permanent – forever. She can remove them or i can remove them and that’s it. It does not alter the function of the body’s intention.

    Removing foreskin does alter the body’s function. It does. It wont ever grow back – you can not un-remove the skin. Not my decision. Not my husband’s decision.

    1. Diana

      January 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      I don’t think ear piercing is the same as circumcision – but here’s why I mentioned it. To me – it’s something medically unnecessary that many parents choose to do. I feel the same way about circumcision.

      I agree completely with you that it does not alter the look of a child forever, although in many cases it can cause infection and scarring.

  • Lori

    January 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Well, there’s that whole “I don’t have a penis…” thing.

    Yay me. 😉

    But I have a few thoughts.

    1. As a younger child, my son DID see dad’s penis. We were casual about bathing him in showers with us until he was four or five, and so he did notice his dad’s and there were conversations.

    2. There is evidence that non-circumcised men are more likely to carry HPV and pass it on to their partners.

    3. And this is the one I find interesting. In an informal survey of men I have known: I have never had ONE single man who was circumcised say he wished he were not. I have known TWO men who were NOT circumcised (which is nearly all of the un-c’d men I know) say that they wished they were, but couldn’t really deal with the idea now as grown men.

    If circumcision goes the way of the dodo bird, it will trouble me very little. But I don’t think the practice is barbaric and I’m absolutely fine with any parent who decides that it’s right for their son.

    1. Diana

      January 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      I love that you put your points of view in here. I found them really interesting and informative. I do know about the HPV, but anything I’ve read has most of those reasons given to slow the spread of HIV in Africa.

      What bothers me is the men who say they wouldn’t have it done now. Because it’s painful. So. There lies my problem with it.

    2. Restoring Tally

      January 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      I was circumcised at birth and I really wish I had not been cut. Few men talk about their penis in anything other than glowing terms, so it is not unusual to not know men who do not like being circumcised. But, many men, particularly as they get older discover that they are losing sensitivity and sex is no longer fun. This happened to me when I hit my 40s. I am restoring my foreskin and can say that having a foreskin is a big improvement over being circumcised. The more I restore, the more I regret that my parents let the doctor cut my sex organ.

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