The Circumcision Decision

by Birth Without Fear on November 27, 2011

I can not thank Lauren, with The Whole Network, enough for doing this very informative and respectful post on circumcision for our BWF readers. It truly is a phenomenal article on such a heated topic. ~Mrs. BWF

During my first pregnancy, I was overwhelmed with joy when I found out that there was a little boy in my belly. Like many ‘mamas-to-be’, I instantly fell in love and spent my days (and nights) dreaming about him. As the months passed by, I began to plan for his arrival: washing and hanging all of his tiny clothes, picking out the softest blankets I could find, figuring out what breast pump would be best. I wanted to be prepared for every little detail. When I began to make plans for the birth itself, I thought about what would happen on the day of his birth, and circumcision crossed my mind.

At the time, I did not think there was even a choice about circumcision. Every male I knew- my husband, dad, brothers, friends – were all circumcised. The thought of a penis with a foreskin wasn’t appealing to me (even though I never saw one in real life), and I had always heard of women saying it was “dirty” or “gross”. I also advocated the benefits of circumcision (even though I never truly looked at the research articles.)

My heart sank in my chest, because I didn’t want to put my new found love through any pain whatsoever. However, after talking to various family members and my OB/GYN, it seemed that circumcision was the best option for my son and his future. “It’s cleaner” and “he’ll have fewer problems” were the most common responses. I had yet to hear a single response that was in favor of not circumcising.

I didn’t think about it much after that, until about 2 months before his due date. By that time, my love for him had grown immensely, and the thought of any painful procedure made my head spin. So one day, I decided to sit down and search on Google to see what came up about circumcision. I was very surprised when the vast majority of the information was against it! My curiosity was perked, and I found myself on YouTube, watching a video of the procedure. After all, my baby boy would have to go through it- so I should see it, right?

My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the video. I couldn’t stop crying.

From that day forward, I poured everything I could into researching this topic. I wanted to know the truth. Using various sites and forums, I started to network with as many people as I could. To my surprise, I found that there were thousands of parents who had healthy boys who were not circumcised. This intrigued me, because I had always been told that foreskins would cause many problems in boys/men. I needed to know more.

As I dug further into the topic, I found out that the majority of the males in the world are not circumcised. In fact, the United States is the only country to perform this procedure routinely for non-religious purposes. Another interesting fact is there is not a single medical organization in the world who recommends circumcision- not even the American Academy of Pediatrics!

So why was I under the impression that circumcision was best? Why do parents continue to choose it? Why do some doctors advise us to do so? I decided to create a list of the apparent benefits and researched them one by one. I had heard various reasons, such as better hygiene, less chance for UTIs, less chance for HIV/STDs, needing to look like father/brother(s), less chance of penile cancer/HPV, better to be done as an infant and needing to fit in with his peers. Here’s what I found.

Better Hygiene

It’s been said that much more care is needed when boys have a foreskin. That more cleaning time is required, because it is dirty and the foreskin needs to be retracted and cleaned from an early age. However, there is nothing unclean about a foreskin, especially in infancy. In fact, both boys and girls have foreskins, which serve the same purposes. The male foreskin is actually fused to the head (glans) of the penis in infancy and through much of childhood (much like a fingernail is fused to a finger.) This is the body’s way of protecting the genitals against urine and feces. Because it is fused shut, bacteria and other foreign particles cannot invade. There’s no need to retract the foreskin to clean under it. You simply wipe the outside only, like cleaning a finger- it’s easy!

The foreskin will naturally start to separate at an average of age 10. Once he can retract it on his own, he can just simply rinse with warm water in the shower. It’s just as easy as teaching a girl how to bathe and there’s nothing difficult about it.

Information over the internet can only go so far, so I wanted to personally network with people that had intact sons (or were intact themselves). I asked all about hygiene and care, and I never ran into a person or parent that had any issues with it. The parents all agreed that it was easy to care for an intact boy and all of the intact men said it was just a simple rinse in the shower- no extra time or effort. There’s even a video on YouTube that shows how simple it is! You can also listen to a pediatrician on intact care vs. circumcision care.

Less Chance of UTIs

Urinary tract infections are very rare in boys. But the prevalence of UTI in girls up to 2 years is more than twice the prevalence in boys of the same age. The rate in girls up to one year of age is 6.5%, while it is 3.3% in boys. From age one to two, it is 8.1% in girls and only 1.9% in boys. This being said, we can easily treat urinary tract infections in girls with a simple antibiotic, without the need to perform any surgery. In the rare case that a boy might get a UTI, an antibiotic would solve the problem.

There have been some claims of an increased risk of UTI during the first year of life for boys who are not circumcised. According to Psychology Today, “This claim is based on one study that looked at charts of babies born in one hospital (Wiswell 1985). The study had many problems, including that it didn’t accurately count whether or not the babies were circumcised, whether they were premature and thus more susceptible to infection in general, whether they were breastfed (breastfeeding protects against UTI), and if their foreskins had been forcibly retracted (which can introduce harmful bacteria and cause UTI) (Pisacane 1990). There have been many studies since which show either no decrease in UTI with circumcision, or else an increase in UTI from circumcision. Thus circumcision is not recommended to prevent UTI (Thompson 1990).”

Less Chance of HIV/STDs

A few select studies show a prevalence of HIV transmission in uncircumcised men, but real world empirical data shows that circumcision hasn’t stopped HIV in countries where there is already a prevalence of the practice of circumcision. Take the United States for example: we are a country with a very high rate of circumcision (70% of the current male population, compared to 10-15% worldwide), yet we have one of the highest rates of children/adults living with HIV & AIDS out of the post-industrial nations.

Greg Millett of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even said the following: “overall, we found no association between circumcision status and HIV infection status” when he presented his findings to the CDC’s National HIV Prevention Conference.

While circumcision is very common in the United States, it is uncommon in Europe. This would lead one to assume that HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases would be much higher in Europe, where circumcision is rare. However, this publication clearly shows that HIV and sexually transmitted diseases are much higher in the United States:

“The percentage of the United States’ adult population that has been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS is six times greater than in Germany, three times greater than in the Netherlands, and one-and-a-half times greater than in France.(Fig. 5)[5]”

“…data from the Netherlands found that rates of reported incidence [of sexually transmitted diseases] are considerably higher in the United States.[6,7] Further, comparisons of prevalence (the proportion of a given population which is infected) find that the Chlamydia prevalence among young adults in the United States is twice that among young adults in the Netherlands.[8,9]*”

Less Chance of Penile Cancer/HPV

Penile cancer is among the diseases circumcision claims to prevent. However, it is important to remember that penile cancer is incredibly rare. Did you know that more men are diagnosed and more deaths occur from male breast cancer than penile cancer? The chance of dying from penile cancer is so low that it is not even presented separately by http://www.cancer.gov/ – it is lumped in with all male genital cancers (including testicular cancer and the much more common prostate cancer) at a total of 310 estimated deaths in 2010. Compare this to the annual circumcision death rate of approximately 117 neonates (first month of life). That’s more than SIDS (115 annually) and more than suffocation (44) and auto accidents (8) combined. (via Saving Babies)

The Journal of Infectious Diseases from the Oxford Journals did a study on the baseline prevalence of penile, scrotal, and perineal/perianal human papillomavirus (HPV) in heterosexual men on 5 continents. They found that “Neither condom usage nor circumcision was associated with HPV DNA prevalence.”

One of the most compelling items I found on the subject of penile and cervical cancer was a letter written from the American Cancer Society to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“As representatives of the American Cancer Society, we would like to
discourage the American Academy of Pediatrics from promoting routine
circumcision as preventative measure for penile or cervical cancer.
The American Cancer Society does not consider routine circumcision
to be a valid or effective measure to prevent such cancers.

Research suggesting a pattern in the circumcision status of partners
of women with cervical cancer is methodologically flawed, outdated and
has not been taken seriously in the medical community for decades.

Likewise, research claiming a relationship between circumcision and
penile cancer is inconclusive. Penile cancer is an extremely rare
condition, effecting one in 200,000 men in the United States. Penile
cancer rates in countries which do not practice circumcision are lower
than those found in the United States. Fatalities caused by
circumcision accidents may approximate the mortality rate from penile
cancer.

Portraying routine circumcision as an effective means of prevention
distracts the public from the task of avoiding the behaviors proven to
contribute to penile and cervical cancer: especially cigarette smoking
and unprotected sexual relations with multiple partners. Perpetuating
the mistaken belief that circumcision prevents cancer is inappropriate.”

Better to be Done as an Infant

It has often been said that circumcision is better to be performed on an infant for various reasons, but it is important to look at the subject logically. If a man is left intact, he can always choose to be circumcised later. However, once a circumcision is performed, it cannot be undone. There are many cases of men who are unhappy with their circumcision, and wish that they had the choice.

Even if he opted for circumcision later, not only would he have the choice, but he would also get adequate pain medication for the surgery and understand what is happening to his body. A large majority of routine infant circumcisions are not performed with any anesthetic. In fact, up to 96 percent of the babies in the United States and Canada receive no anesthesia when they are circumcised, according to a report from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

This has many parents (and medical professionals) concerned about the pain associated with circumcision, but is a local anesthetic even enough?

In this research study, 11 male newborns were circumcised with a local dorsal penile nerve block, and 13 controls were circumcised without anesthetic. When the adrenal cortisol levels were compared, response to surgery was not significantly reduced by the administration of lidocaine. Some doctors use EMLA cream as an anesthetic. Not only is EMLA cream less effective than a lidocaine injection, but the manufacturer’s insert warns against its use on infants and on the genitals of children.

The truth of the matter is, infants cannot get the adequate pain treatment, including post-op pain medication, like an adult would. They don’t understand what is happening to their bodies, and most of all, they don’t have a choice.

Needing to Look Like Father/Brothers

This was a very important issue for me. My husband is circumcised, and so is his oldest son. I was worried that there would be issues with the new baby being different than his dad and brother. I didn’t want him to feel different or alone.

I found out that a distant family member was kept intact, even though his older brother and dad were circumcised. Although it seemed like it would be an awkward conversation, I just had to have my husband ask him about it. So he did. It turned out that he really didn’t care and it was never a big deal.

I connected with other men who grew up intact with circumcised dads, and they laughed saying, “I don’t even remember what my dad’s penis looked like…. and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to remember!”

It all made sense even though I never thought of it that way. To my surprise, it just wasn’t an issue for these men. There were even online groups dedicated to keeping future sons intact, and I spoke with hundreds of parents who had made this same decision. Many of them now had grown children, and were happy to share their experience with me. I asked many questions, and it came down to this: as parents, we can only do what we think is best for our children. But, we also need to be able to grow and learn, so we can always make the best decisions possible. Sometimes, we learn that a past decision wasn’t necessarily the best, and that is OK. We adapt and move on, and our children will understand that. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou

Needing to Fit in with His Peers

“Getting made fun of in the locker room” was a very common response for potential issues for boys who were not circumcised. This was also an important issue for me, much like the issue for my son to look like his father and brother. While this may have been an issue for men in previous generations, it is just not the same for boys growing up today.

In 2010, a slide presented by a CDC researcher at the International Aids Conference in Vienna claimed that circumcision rates in the US had dropped to 32.5% in 2009. While this number was not actually endorsed by the CDC, their 2010 reports still show circumcision rates have dropped over the years (54.7% in 2010). No matter which number you choose to use, the results are the same: circumcision rates are falling in the United States, and continue to do so. With at least half of American parents saying no to circumcision, intact boys will no longer be in the minority. Boys growing up in today’s generation will have the same amount of peers who are intact vs. circumcised.

Some regions in the US have a higher percentage of intact males, while other regions have a lower percentage, so it will vary depending on your location. However, it is important to remember that no matter what, children are going to be different than each other in a variety of ways. Some will be considered too smart, not smart enough, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short… the list goes on and on. The main thing is to be sure to teach our children to understand that they are unique and that they should love themselves for who they are. After all, they are special in their own ways, and that will never change.

Conclusions

Fast forward to now, and my son is happy, healthy and has never had a single problem whatsoever with being intact. As I’ve continued to research the subject, I’ve learned so much more than I could have imagined, such as the many important functions of the foreskin and how specialized it is. It is truly so much more than a “flap of skin”.

I’ve been so moved by the plethora of information I have discovered, that I even founded a grassroots non-profit organization called The WHOLE Network. I wanted to be able to reach other parents who were in the same shoes as I, and make sure they had a place for accurate information and support. As more and more parents seek out information, we continue to grow and help others. We have locations in each US state, as well as various countries worldwide. If anyone ever has any questions or needs information, we would love to help them and get them the accurate information they need.

We know that parents want what is best for their children. We understand that many moms and dads are simply trusting in the advice of their doctors or family. We aren’t here to condemn parents, or to make them feel guilty for past decisions. We are here to empower parents with information, and help inform them so that they can make educated decisions for the ones that they love most.

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{ 187 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Rutter December 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm

As a circumcised man who has long known that his penis was not as good as those belonging to his intact brethren, I cannot praise too highly the parents who realise that their son’s future sexual life is far more important than their own cultural/religious views. Moses Maimonides admitted some 800 years ago that circumcision was performed in order to reduce sexual pleasure, and it does. Masturbation has always existed, it is not harmful or sinful, and has only been demonised in recent times. I have one son, who is happily and healthily intact.

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Ken February 15, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Well stated Keith. I am a circumcised man who wishes I wasn’t. The only point here is that I had nothing to say in the matter. This was done to me. If I had the ability to choose, I would never recommend it to anyone.

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kate December 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Too many words I could say, but most importantly, thank you! Excellent post and so inspiring. I’m so so proud and relieved that we decided to keep our son intact. Keep doing what you’re doing! :)

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Nicola December 19, 2011 at 3:06 am

Since reaching out on the Internet the subject of circumcision has been mentioned a lot, and since in the UK it is very rare (I believe! No-one I know has been circumcised as an infant, although it isn’t exactly a dinner party conversation piece heh) I was astounded to hear that so many Americans have it done on a routine basis. It just seems crazy to me, why remove something for the reason of “you might have problems with it later so best get rid of it when you’re a baby and don’t remember it”. I read a satirical blog post on how we should remove all baby’s toes shortly after birth because it will be much simpler in the long run, what with the possibility of ingrown toenails, fungus, etc. To me, the two seem equally ridiculous!

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Tom Elliott December 19, 2011 at 5:43 am

Something that, as a Man, is a point that I think worth emphasising… One significant side effect of being circumcised is that sexual please is significantly reduced. I’m sure we all want our children to one day have a truly fulfilled sex life. The foreskin contains, by far, more nerve endings that the head of the penis. So removing it will stop your son ever experiencing the full sensations of sex, and in the extreme this could lead to increased issues with arousal and ejaculation. (see the ‘many important functions’ link in the main article). If I am blessed with a son, I will not let anyone near his penis with a knife!

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Christy January 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Thank you! We have 4 intact sons, but my husband and stepson are circumcised. The “matching” argument is such a non-issue. Our youngest has hypospadias, so he is missing part of his foreskin and he pees off to the side. We can’t help that he looks different, but his brothers certainly understand! By the way, with all we’ve learned along the way, my husband is so upset that he was circ’ed. He greatly wishes he still had his foreskin. He didn’t know any better when he had my stepson circ’ed, and thought that’s just what you did. I never learned about the functions of the foreskin, etc until after having three boys, but I am so very thankful that the idea of amputating healthy body parts off my baby was something I would never do and found quite insane. Although I didn’t understand it’s wonderful purposes, I would never have part of my new baby’s body removed! And, thankfully a childbirth instructor told me it didn’t need retracted, so I never messed with my boys’ foreskins despite a pediatrician telling me I should retract to clean. Thanks again for an excellent article!

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roger desmoulins January 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm

“ ‘It’s cleaner’ and ‘he’ll have fewer problems’ were the most common responses. I had yet to hear a single response that was in favor of not circumcising.”

I gather that when these things were said to you, YouTube was already up and running. For a health care professional to say those anytime during the past 5-6 years was frankly unprofessional. Meanwhile, they don’t reveal that it is often done without anesthesia and so hurts like hell. To cut a baby without lidocaine should be a criminal offense.

The circ rate in the USA nowadays is 50-55%; I do not believe the 33% figure for 2009. The circ rate varies widely by locale (with midwest highest, west of Rockies lowest), race (African American highest, Latino lowest), Medicaid reimbursement, parental income and education, and so on. Many American parents grew up in a totally circumcised environment and so have emotional difficulties raising an intact son. It would help a lot if USA medicine would lead here, but it refuses to do so. The AAP does not recommend circumcision, but also says that doctors should circumcise if the parents wish it for any nonmedical reason.

@Nicola: the American obsession with making the penis bald is one of the very weirdest aspects of American childbirth and sexual attitudes. Almost every American white man your father’s age was circumcised 1-2 days after his birth. I call this the American Foreskin Holocaust.

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Claudia January 10, 2012 at 4:52 am

My son was circumcised at the age of 9. He had phimosis. His foreskin was a long and tight turtleneck impossible to retract. I never attempted to clean it and we never had an issue with infection. When he was 4 I took him to a urologist who recommended removal. His father rejected the procedure.

During a hike when he was 9 yrs I watched him urinate off a low bridge into water. His urine came out as a spray, three feet in circumference. I knew then why our toilet area was always covered urine splash. The other related problem was that urine bubbled up under his foreskin draining out after evacuation.

His father and I agreed we needed help. We were told his phimosis was severe and we had two options. 1. The foreskin could be surgically split open, but that leave flaps of skin. 2. Circumcision.

The circumcision was done under anesthesia at Children’s Hospital Seattle. As always our boy trusted us. He didn’t worry. He understood something was wrong with his penis.

He is 21 now and every few years I ask him if he is/was ok with the procedure. I get quiet answers, nothing negative. But, in general I think he is ok with it.

He has never expressed discontent. I worry though, after reading this article and an abundance of others, that he will do his own research and find himself inadequate or lacking sexually.

I almost wish someone would say: “having a circumcision is ok.”

This issue makes me feel sad.

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Mrs. BWF January 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

Claudia, circumcision is a procedure that was meant for rare circumstances when it was truly needed. In your situation, I would say circumcision was OK. (((hugs)))

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Cat January 11, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Claudia, I’m sorry to have to say this but most likely your son was going through a normal and temporary phase of foreskin development that would have resolved itself soon without interference. I’m sorry that you did not have the information you needed and that you now feel guilty. This info might be helpful for you:

Common Questions Regarding Normal Separation of the Prepuce (foreskin) http://www.drmomma.org/2010/01/common-questions-regarding-normal.html

Ballooning in the Intact Child
http://www.drmomma.org/2011/06/ballooning-in-intact-child.html

From the first link:
“Spraying While Urinating

Some boys will spray at one time or another during the process of penile growth. If your son has entered a spraying phase, simply instruct him to retract his foreskin enough to expose the meatus when he urinates (if he can do so himself and without pain of course). This is a phase and won’t last that long. But it might come and go several times during the separation process. There is no difference in the amount of spraying between intact or circumcised boys – this has much more to do with a child’s aim and the development of his urethra than whether or not he is intact.”

I hope this helps you make a decision that you feel better about with your next boy.

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Nicole April 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

Your story makes me think that my boyfriends mother had the same concerns with spraying when urinating..my bf actually sits down to pee! When I asked why he said that his mother suggested it and thats how he grew up. My bf was never circumcised and we’ve never had problems sexually, nor has he in his 23 years of existence. Now, I’m 25 weeks pregnant with our first (a son), and we’ve decided circumcision is not necessary. My doctor was glad about my decision and said she does not care to do them and never had anyone come in with a problem that would need fixing with circumcision. But I don’t think anyone should feel bad about having their child circumcised as long as they have the child’s best interest in mind. <3

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justine bell December 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

yes i see nothing wrong if medically he needed help….dont let others judge you for help that was necessarily needed

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Cassandra February 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

For Claudia (and other mothers who feel worry or regret about circumcision): We make the best decisions we know how with the information we have available. You made the decision to keep your child intact at birth. You changed your decision because it seemed that you had to. What is important is to always do your best. Your best changes from moment to moment but if you always strive for it, you needn’t be disappointed in yourself.
You are OK.

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wesley February 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Cat, you may be wrong in this instance, i had the same issues as a kid and it did NOTget better with age or resolve itself. I tried all the streaching methods and was unsuccessful. I did end uo having to have a circumcision and am so much happier now. i honestly would have rather had it done as an infant, the surgery as an adult is not pleasent. Do not feel guilty, you made the best decision for your son, this is coming from a MAN that had the same issue.

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John Harlow April 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Wesley,

I sincerely hope that you are not, in any way shape or form, advocating routine infant circumcision based on your personal experience. As a man that is both educated about the functions of the foreskin AND happy with it’s amputation, you are in an exceedingly small minority.

About the urine spraying. I was circumcised for this reason. My parents had my best interests at heart. I do not forgive, I do not forget. Since exiting the extreme level of denial I was under, I have not had a single day free from thinking about this issue. It has been 6 months. The only reason I am still in contact with my family is that it was done before ‘google it’ was the standard answer for any difficult question, and because I hold the medical establishment more accountable for their recommendation.

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O April 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm

It’s absolutely fine.

Even one of the very first links in this very one sided argument to the AAP doesn’t say they “don’t recommend it”, as if cautioning against it. They say that overall the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend everyone do it, but instead leave it up to the parents.

In other words, better, but not better enough to make it standard practice. I have a huge family of over 130 members. All the boys and men are circumcised.

Only 2 of us had any kind of problems, one of which took a week to resolve and is now fine after some antibiotics (He’s 20 now).

The only other was me, who had problems being uncircumcised, needed a procedure for medical reasons, left it too long, and now have a small scar on the the side, but otherwise have had no problems.

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Kelev January 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Claudia, there was nothing wrong with your son’s penis. The only problem he had was being born into a culture where very few people, even doctors (and especially parents) don’t know what’s normal. You are both victims of that culture. You did not have the benefit of wise, informed people around you to reassure you that what you were seeing is entirely normal. Many, many boys have long, tight foreskins, and many spray when they pee. This is common. It is not a defect, nor a reason for surgery. You and your son were taken advantage of.

He may very well feel badly if he ever learns the whole truth. Or he may choose not to give much thought to the matter, like many men. In any case, if he ever approaches you with misgivings or anger about what was done to him, then just explain how you were doing your best with the (mis)information you had, and that had you known better, you would have done better.

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Cat January 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thank you for this excellent article.

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Franny January 12, 2012 at 12:51 am

I left a comment yesterday. I have not heard back from you. I feel it is important to publish it, so others do not panic and circ their sons, “just n case”. If you feel the comment was wrong, or something, pls let me know what you would like me to change. Thanks

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Mrs. BWF January 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

Franny, I have not received any other comment from you.

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Andy January 12, 2012 at 2:01 am

Claudia, many boys “spray” when urinating, especially if they have longer foreskins. I remember from camping trips when I was a kid and the boys all lined up to pee. The boys with longer foreskins can’t control the overhang and it moves around and causes what you describe. I think you did your best with the knowledge that you had, but I just have to ask 1. did your son ever complain about a problem? 2. Did you exhaust every other avenue before finally submitting to a circ as a last resort when everything else failed. If the answer to these 2 questions is yes, then having a circ was OK.

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Kate June 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I don’t think it is fair to give Claudia guidelines of what she needed to do to make this okay. It was okay because she was genuinely concerned from her son, and having been approached by a doctor once already, she didn’t know any better (if that is even the case; as a non-medical professional she may be unknowingly leaving additional details out that did make it necessary– who knows?) My point is, you don’t need other people telling you if you jumped through hoop A and B that you are allowed to feel okay about your choice. You obviously love your son, and did what you thought was best with what you knew at the time– and THAT makes it okay. Even if it wasn’t “necessary”. It is wonderful that you try to communicate with your son about it and are so concerned about his feelings about it to this day. I think it is good for others reading this to know that something like that can be a phase and warrants more advice, but it is a sensitive issue obviously, and one where feelings need to be handled with great care.

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seymour January 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm

It’s not so much about Claudia’s unrepairable mistake as it is about other parents who are about to do the same thing because they think there are medical reasons that necessitate complete foreskin amputation (there are seriously none, especially in children). Parents will get offended no matter how it is approached, because of their ego, since it’s being implied they don’t know everything about parenting, human anatomy, children’s health, etc. Advocates are not the ones who have something to change, being wary of speaking up their mind, by fear of hurting parents’ feelings, will only make matters worse. Claudia already feels bad about her son’s foreskin amputation, lying to her won’t make it better, the only comforting truth is that the doctors gave her erroneous information. Her son would be intact if the doctors had given her the right information… or if she had researched infant phimosis (she would have learned infants cannot be diagnosed with phimosis because they aren’t necessarily supposed to be able to retract). Both the doctors and her are at fault for her son’s highly reduced penile sensation. Like, what do you want us to say? “It’s ok, nobody was hurt”. It’s not true. “It’s a messed up world and your son will forgive you if you explain what happened, everybody makes mistakes”, that is true, and it’s the best we can tell Claudia. Her son can still live and be happy, and probably have a decent sex-life. He can restore his foreskin if he wants, maybe she should tell him about it just in case. That’s all there is to it: honesty, facts. We’re not insulting her. We’re saying the way to obtain peace of mind (which she appears to be seeking) is to face the truth, be honest with the children and educate others before it’s too late for them too.

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Nancy January 12, 2012 at 3:55 am

I’m from the UK and neither of my two boys were circ’d, it just wasn’t a consideration or even brought up in conversation. However recently my husband had to undergo circumcision for medical reasons. He didn’t hesitate to go ahead once he’d seen the ureologist as he knew he would be in less pain once the procedure had been done and healed. He’d suffered from problems relating to a tight foreskin for a number of years.

He drove himself to the hospital one evening full of confidence and not a worry, when he returned later he was in absolute agony (he’s not the type of person to complain either). After the anaesthesia had worn off he was in so much pain, and it took at least a week for the pain to go, swelling to subside, and longer than two weeks for the stitches to finally disolve and healing to complete. Despite all this it was still the right decision for him. However I cannot imagine putting a baby or child through this trauma for cosmetic reasons – and lets face it thats what it is unless its for religious or medical reasons.

Taking care of a baby’s/child’s foreskin is easy – leave it alone! When they get to around 5 they can gently retract the foreskin as far as is comfortable (not far at all) and swish it around in the bath (thats it). When they are older and can retract it fully, they do that while in the bath or shower and the job’s done.

My huband showed our boys his stitches and explained he had to have an operation. Hopefully if they ever experience problems as young adults or men they will feel they can come back to dad and talk to him about the time he had stitches in his willy! Then if it is ever necessary they can consider circumcision, when they are able to understand why they have to suffer the pain of an operation like this.

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Kate January 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm

My husband and I researched circumcision with my oldest son. After viewing a video on the web my circumcised husband said “NO WAY!” I am proud of that choice and feel sorry for thos who ar not strong enough to step away from the pack. All the mothers I meet can’t believe my choice. I however, and my boys couldn’t be happier. My father is Bemudian and intact he has never had and issue in his whole life.My husband is circumcised and gets irratation often. To all the parents out there be strong and stop carring what thers think. Isn’t this what we teach our kids? To be happy the way they are? My boys are and I am proud of that!

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Kristy Alger January 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I am extremely passionate about the issue of circumcision. Unless for actual genuine medical reason, not hypothetical maybes, it should NOT BE DONE! This idea of aesthetics really annoys me, the concept of wanting your children to look like their siblings and parents. Well, I’m heavily pierced and tattoed. Does this mean I have the right to tattoo or pierce my baby girl, so she looks like mummy? As for religion, I cannot think that any deity would deem it necessary for a child to be mutilated without anesthetic. My husband is not circ’d. By son is not and never will be circ’d, unless it is absolutely 100% medically necessary and there is no other route possible. We have enough knowledge and information to know that the old excuses no longer hold water. We need to inform ourselves, and others who still consider it an appropriate thing to do to an infant. And we need to psh for it to be made illegal without the consent of the child. If that means God has to wait until a boy is ten before he is circumcised and can be recognised, then so be it.

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Heather March 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I think that one of the scariest aspects of having intact sons is the ignorance of the medical community. It is not possible for a 9 year-old to be accurately diagnosed with phimosis. All of these “issues” (ballooning, spraying, not retractable) are generally just the normal stages of development of the intact penis that physicians are completely uneducated about. Just an example- my husband is a physician and recently saw his first case of phimosis in an adult patient, and the urologist that he consulted had already recommended circumcision. My husband decided to try steroid cream first since it is 85% effective and less invasive. It worked. But you still hear circumcision being recommended as a first line of treatment and for problems that do not actually exist. The urologist later joked that my husband lost him some money on that patient. At least he was honest.

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mary lanser March 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I just have to wonder how many physicians say to themselves after circumcising a baby, wow, that was easy money. I’m sure there are many. I once heard of a female physician that bragged about putting all her kids through college performing infant circumcisions. Doesn’t it seem pretty unethical that this woman’s kids benefitted from cutting off a part of those poor babies bodies? It does to me.

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Stephanie May 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm

OMG @ a dr bragging she put her kids through college on circ’s. That is really sick. What a sick, sick world (country?) we live in…

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Hilary April 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Isn’t it interesting that so many people put there lives in the hands of crazy manipulative doctors… I’m happy your husband took matters into his own hands.

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Hilary April 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm

My husband and I are blessed to be having our first little boy in July. Each one of these topics have come up in conversation between us, and I’m thankful you chose to address them all. Not only did the information help back what I’d been reading up on, it took the angle of Scientific proof, rather than the “feeling” of never wanting to hurt your new little blessing. This topic couldn’t have come up at a better time, we’ll be sitting down with our Doula tonight to discuss our birth plan and future plans on Circumcision. As of now, my husband and I are divided on the issue and both just want to do whats best. Thank you for the insightful information. Hilary.

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Eileen May 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Thank you for writing this article and for your extensive research on the matter & passing it on to us. I am most likely having my first girl, but this issue if we were going to have a boy perplexed me. Why would God give boys this foreskin if it were not needed & not an important part of the body, same question would go for our gallbladder where so many are getting them taken out… I can’t thank you enough, I will keep the above organization in mind if I ever have a boy. This has been the best article I have come across so far, thank you.

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Lauren Jenks June 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words. I am very happy to know that this information has been helpful for you. Please, don’t hesitate to contact us if you ever have any questions!

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mary lanser May 11, 2012 at 3:41 am

Years ago, I succumbed to a pushy husband who demanded his son look like him and an untruthful nurse who sided with him, and signed the consent form for my son’s foreskin to be cut off. I will forever regret that decision, but I was not informed. that said, I don’t want anyone to ever to say it’s okay because I didn’t know…..my heart knew, even if my mind didn’t, and it will never, ever be okay that I allowed this to happen to my precious, perfect baby son. He is an adult now and says he is happy with it, but it doesn’t make me feel any less responsible. I failed to protect my son and I hold myself accountable.

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Skadi April 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Mary,
I was in the same situation. While I didn’t want my son (now 25 mo) to be circumcised, my husband insisted. I did some research and wanted to convince him. Come to find out later he didn’t read any of the articles I provided or watch the video. I also talked to my OB, who told me that I should leave that decision up to him, as he is the one with the penis … I later complained about her and the fact, that no useful info was provided at all. I am still considering writing a letter to express my concerns.

I feel sick to my stomach thinking about it and have a hard time forgiving myself. It’s easier said then done. I hope I can later talk to my son, make him aware and help perhaps with his future sons. If I were to have more sons, they would be intact. Never again. Someone told me, once you know better, you will do better. I am slowly becoming more active as an Intactivist, which hopefully will help me heal.

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John Harlow April 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Good for you. If my mother did the same, maybe it would heal the rift between us.

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Stephanie May 19, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Against my urging, my brother and sister in law circ’d their first son. They are now expecting their second. I emailed her some info, hoping they’d come around and consider not automatically doing it again. Well, that didn’t quite work out :( she got really upset with me and said her son “had to be circumcised because he would have had problems peeing” or something to that effect. I’ve never brought it up again, I’m afraid to. But I’m so so sad for my little nephew on the way, knowing my ignorant brother is going to circumcise him :(

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Erin February 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

You are really overstepping your boundaries as an aunt. This is a very personal decision a parent should make and should not be met by judgement. Just try to give your nephews as much love as possible. And try to respect the parental decisions of you brother and sister-in-law.

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Melynda February 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm

She is not overstepping her boundaries as an aunt by educating her ignorant family members on the topic of circumcision, AKA male gential mutilation. In fact, she’s a terrific aunt for wanting to protect her innocent nephew from a completely unecessary, dangerous and painful surgery. t’s not a parents “right” to do with their child as they please. It’s the parents responsibility to make *informed* decisions about their childs health and to do what is best for their child. Removing healthy tissue from a non consenting minor is obviously a violation of basic human rights and it not in the childs best interest. Would you say that female circumcision is OK at the parents discretion? No. It is the duty of just people to inform others when they are making a mistake and try to educate them. This isn’t a Coke vs. Pepsi or a vanilla vs. chocolate opinion kind of debate. There is nothing to debate, because it is simply a fact that genital mutilation and body modification of other people withouth their consent, for non medical reasons is immoral and unethical. Every talks about the parents “rights”, but what about the childs rights?

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John Harlow April 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Cool, so I won’t call the police when I see someone being raped / assaulted / mugged, I won’t support organisations calling for an end to FGM, etc. I’m sure you see my point.

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Sam May 21, 2012 at 11:39 am

Oh my goodness! I couldn’t even bear to finish watching the video, I just wanted to scoop that poor little baby up and hold him. Most parents I know who have had their boys circumcised have not been “allowed” in the room when the procedure is done, no wonder! Perhaps if they were made to watch, fewer would go through with it.

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Melinda July 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Sorry if this is a repeat…I scanned through the comments and didn’t see it brought up. But I just wanted to let you know that the link for The Whole Network at the beginning doesn’t work. :) Here’s the link for their facebook page http://www.facebook.com/WholeNetwork or their website, if anyone is interested http://www.thewholenetwork.org/

Thanks for an awesome post, Lauren and for sharing it, January! <3

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Dreamer July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Great entry. I wish more people would make such a conscious decision.

However I need to point out that the letter from the American Cancer Society was not actually a statement from the institution but from two former staff members, written as an opinion on letterhead paper. This distinction is important so that we don’t misrepresent the information. However, that’s not very far from their real position:

This page indicates the source of the letter:

Source: http://www.cirp.org/library/statements/letters/1996-02_ACS/commentary.html

The American Cancer Society actually states this on their website:

In the past, circumcision has been suggested as a way to prevent penile cancer. This was based on studies that reported much lower penile cancer rates among circumcised men than among uncircumcised men. But in many of those studies, the protective effect of circumcision was no longer seen after factors like smegma and phimosis were taken into account.

Most public health researchers believe that the risk of penile cancer is low among uncircumcised men without known risk factors living in the United States. Men who wish to lower their risk of penile cancer can do so by avoiding HPV infection and not smoking. Those who aren’t circumcised can also lower their risk of penile cancer by practicing good hygiene. Most experts agree that circumcision should not be recommended solely as a way to prevent penile cancer.

Source: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/PenileCancer/DetailedGuide/penile-cancer-prevention

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Macey August 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I love this article! I get so much grief from family and friends about not wanting to circumcise my son. Thank you for writing this article!

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Sofia August 29, 2012 at 4:46 am

I’m Finnish, and I’ve always been a bit disgusted with the manic obsession of circumcision in the US. I remember finding out about it from this one Sex & The City Episode where Charlotte (I think) whines about being with a guy who was intact, and all the women are appalled and surprised and go “WHAT HE’S INTACT HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE” and when one of them says they heard most of the world is, they’re even more disgusted.

What the fuck?! Where I come from, BEING circumcised is the weirdest thing you can do. NO ONE does it here, except, and it seriously is _only_ Jewish or Muslim people, for religious purposes. If any of the things you heard were true about why a foreskin should be cut, I guess 99% of Finnish men would be in a pretty shitty situation. If I would ever see a circumcised penis live (I never have!), I’d probably react like the SATC women did in the episode. WHAT HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!

I find it sad that Americans know so little about the rest of the world, and think their customs are the customs all the world uses. Please get your heads out of your asses… you’re not that great.

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Leah February 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

LOL!!!!!!! As an American, I agree! We really do need to be teaching a broader world view. It’s insane. I will not be circumcising my son. Such a silly thing, unless it’s religious. I did have a friend who’s son at 4 had to be circumcised for medical reasons and then it was the whole general anesthesia bit. I’ve been present for 3 circumcisions. 2 of the boys didn’t react at all. The local was enough. They slept through it. The other little one screamed so pitifully and continued to cry for a full hour. Just awful.

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Janine September 6, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Greatly written!!! Thank you :-) I have 2 sons who are intact and I’m very happy I did not circumcise them. If it’s there, it’s there for a reason!! Why ruin a good thing? A lot of people are definitely misinformed on the topic of circumcision.

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Amy September 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

I love this article; it is one of my favorites on the subject, because it is informative and evidence-based without being critical or judgmental. I chose to keep my son whole 14 years ago, and he has never had any problems. In fact, after seeing a video of the procedure at a children’s museum (!), he and his friend, who is also intact, wondered why anyone would do that to a newborn baby. To me, the best reason to keep a boy intact and whole us that he is born perfect just the way he is. Every mammal on earth, male and female, is born with a foreskin. The foreskin has many important purposes and thousands of nerve endings. It is the most sensitive tissue on the penis and serves essential erotic functions. I also feel strongly that every individual has a basic human right to bodily integrity (wholeness and freedom from assault or injury) and that s/he should be able to consent to cosmetic/elective surgery. Newborns cannot provide informed consent. His body, his choice. I just can’t imagine meeting a brand new, perfect, whole baby, whom I have worked so hard to create, grow, and birth safely, only to have a healthy, functional part of his genitals amputated in the absence of any medical need or pathology. Our maternal instincts tell us to protect our young from harm, and so we must.

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Gemma September 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I am SO pleased we don’t do this routinely in England…

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Comadrona September 29, 2012 at 2:04 am

This is the sanest summary I’ve seen in a long time – I’ll be sending my clients here for information.

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Michelle Storms November 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Great article! Well-done! My intact adult sons have had no problems and are grateful to have been left whole. Most physicians do not even know the information you discussed. I only knew enough not to do it because I had seen the harm first hand.

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Susan Courtney January 5, 2013 at 7:37 am

A wonderful article with some excellent information – thank you.

I decided 10 years ago to leave my son intact. My decision was driven by a number of factors:

1. His body is his body, and unless there is a medical need for my son to be circumcised while young, it’s his decision to make one way or the other, not mine.

2. I object to any form of female circumcision/genital mutilation so I believed it quite hypocritical to then have my son circumcised with a good medical reason.

3. While I am used to men being circumised, the appearance of an uncircumcised penis is just something that you get used to with time and is certainly not a good reason to perform a painful and barbaric medical procedure on an infant.

The only thing I disagreed with in the above article is the age at which the foreskin starts to retract. While most literature I have read in Australia says it usually starts retracting from the age of 2-3 years and you shouldn’t attempt to retract it for cleaning etc before this time, my son’s foreskin retracted at least 2/3 of the way when he was less than 2 months old. We found that if we didn’t gently push it back (not force it, just as far as it would naturally retract) and clean underneath the foreskin, the end of my son’s penis would get red and painful looking. By the age of 2-3 years, my son’s foreskin retracted fully and shortly thereafter, it became his responsibility to clean it himself (with an occasional reminder!) which he does as if he neglects it, it gets red and itchy.

My son has had no actual infections or any other such issues with his intact foreskin and I am very glad that I never had him circumcised.

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Darah January 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Beautiful! I posted it to a group on Facebook and will continue to share this!

The research in this article is phenomenal and you can bet your behind I will be sharing it with other mothers who are contemplating their options. :-)

PS. I also have a beautiful, perfect and whole son.

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Kendrik February 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

So good to see that so many Americans are now realizing the truth of circumcision.

However, as rates are dropping, I see some American-based health organizations like the CDC using scare tactics to promote circumcision…how intact men’s future health problems will overload our healthcare system.

This is from a country whose food-group pyramid have us binging on carbs, meats and dairy and now we are an obese nation with children who are diabetic.

We must realize that healthcare in the US is FOR PROFIT. Keep letting the words out. We know the truth in our hearts regardless of what the so-called health professionals here claim.

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Anne Ayers February 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Great write up!!!!! Its a personal choice….both my boys are circumized…….I later went on to adopt my 4 yr old nephew who wasnt circumsized……he was constantly swollen and hurting no matter what I did….we went in to see dr about circumsizing him and our insurance wouldnt cover it and 12 years ago they wanted 3000.00 for it :( which we couldnt afford….I hated seeing him in pain and his embarrassment over his constant pain and he didnt understand why his penis was different from my boys…..he is now a teenager and poor lil guy has been harrassed in locker rooms…….I wished we could have afforded the srugery for him….he still has problems but keeps it to himself till he cant take it and asks to see dr……his momma was a crakhead and neglected him in so many ways ………..but i am glad that things worked out for you…..I just wished someone would have cared for my nephew better…he wouldnt have all these problems now…..and he is terrified of sex……just sad……I wish you the best!!!!!

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Mrs. BWF February 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Were you retracting his skin?

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Anne Ayers February 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I also forgot to mention that my grandson was circumsized 3 weeks ago and they have always used a numbing agent on penises here in my state……they took great care to make him comftable and to be fast but not tortue him…….my boys were circumsized 29 and 26 years ago and they also had a numbing agent used………at age 15 I also researched and asked for all information and how it was done…….they hardly fussed at all……..

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Em February 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I did all the same research and still decided to have my son circumsized. He is a happy and healthy eight month old now and I don’t regret making that decision. I love my son more than anything else in the world. I was informed and I did what I thought was best as a loving mom. Some of you are being pretty hateful about those around you who have made this decision; Judge not lest you be judged.

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Clare April 15, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Totally agree!!

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taylor February 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

It is a senseless decision. As much as people try to make excuses such as “its a HARD family decision”, “its whats best for them” blah blah blah. It is not your penis. You do not know if they will butchure it leaving your son with a life long struggle due to your ignorance/stupidity/choice what to do with THEIR body. And for those who are religeous, it says NOWHERE in the bible that they need to cut the forskin off…. shouldnt you leave them as GOD intended them? I ha ent read the newest form of the bible due to it being rewritten so many times in new eras to fit whoever that person wrote it best. Its not your body, they are perfect and why risk destroying their sdulthood with such a dumb pointless COSMETIC decision? Thank you for writing this :)

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randi February 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Thank you for such a great and comprehensive article. I didn’t circumcise my first son and I am pregnant with my second and will not circumcise again. I think it’s an ancient brutal ritual that is totally unnecessary.

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Nikita Kinnane February 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thank you so much! I have an intact son and another boy on the way. I knew it was the right decision for me without researching because I could not put my son through that. After reading this I am so glad I followed my gut instinct (I was 16 at the time).

My husband is circumcised but he also thinks the procedure quite barbaric and we both agree that if our sons change their minds when older, or it becomes medically necessary they can get circumcisions then.

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Sarah February 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

My husband was circumcised when he was 5, the story goes that some sand got stuck inside just enough that they couldn’t get it out, they left it and it soon became infected and I suppose at the time it was their only option. He has never felt lacking in the area, or sexually ;) hehe, even though he has a little triangle bit missing around the head of his penis, he thinks it’s quirky and so do I :)

My step son has asked his Daddy why his penis looks different and when we tell him why and he just goes “oh ok then”. He is 5 soon and we get him to take care of his foreskin, and it doesn’t bother him that his looks different to his dads. If we ever have a son (we have a daughter of almost a year) we will not be circumcising him :)

Also our flatmate, one of my husbands good friends, is circumcised. His foreskin was to tight and when he tried to have sex for the first time there was barely any feeling and went at it for 4 hours to no avail, he was 21 at the time and talked to a doctor and had the procedure done. He doesn’t regret it at all. Each to their own if they’re old enough to make the decision themselves, and if it is medically needed.

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Tiffany February 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I think it really comes down to preference and what the parent chooses. I have a daughter so I never had to even think about the choice, but now that I’m 9 weeks pregnant and 50% chance of it being a boy, I’ve thought about circumcision.

First, let me say I am rather shocked and saddened that Google would be a starting place for information. However “good” we claim the internet to be, nothing beats the good ‘ole Dewey Decimal System in the library looking for good solid information in paper. This is the internet, anyone can post ANYTHING. Ever heard of people posting other people’s pictures and claiming them to be their own? It’s just a basic case of misinformation. Everyone thinks they know best – which remains true to a degree; we have the capabilities for deciding for ourselves what is best. And, most importantly, not everything we read on the internet is true! Take for example the case of Obama’s birth certificate. Some sites say it’s fake, others say it’s real – ONE OF THEM IS WRONG, yet they’re both there!

Having a husband in the medical field AND circumcised – the choice is easy for us. We would circumcise. It goes much deeper than “matching penis’” which, in my opinion is rather sick. We won’t circumcise so his penis will look like Daddy’s. My husband has never had a problem with being circumcised. Sure, with the exception of a couple of days of his life, he has never known anything else, but, the main thing is that it has not caused him problems.

I’m not touting around being “au natural” having to only eat organic foods, not let my children play in the dirt, being careful to expose them to germs… I had a 5+ year career in childcare. Not only have I seen the benefits of exposing children to germs – let’s be realistic here, I’m talking about not raising “bubble” children, not about promoting exposing children to dangerous germs such as salmonella – and I’ve changed thousands, hundreds of thousands of diapers in my life. When I was 17 I changed a little boy who was uncircumcised and poop was in his foreskin. It was then that I decided for myself that if I were to have a boy, I would want him circumcised. You’re exactly right – the foreskin doesn’t move on young children. So how do you properly handle feces in it?

The most important deciding factor for me is belief. I am a Christian. In the Bible, circumcision is used as a covenant between God and Jewish males. It separated the Jews from the Gentiles. Even though I’m not Jewish, I still believe in honoring God. It’s not Religion, it’s relationship.

Bottom line is it is really personal choice. There are benefits and risks to both circumcision and “au natural” foreskin. I wouldn’t and don’t push the topic of circumcision. Yes, I think that all need to be informed, but not pushed to making a choice.

I am all about natural birth and breast feeding, but I don’t agree with purely organic foods, a vegetarian menu, cloth diapers…I am also not about letting an infant make a choice on circumcision. That’s our job as parents. We are supposed to make the choices that we see best fit for our children; whether it be what to dress our infant baby in or whether to have our son circumcised or leave the foreskin.

That’s the beauty of individuality. We can all choose for ourselves, we all have different beliefs, personal conviction, things that make us sigh in awe and things that make us roll our eyes.

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Vee March 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

If you believe in honoring God, you should know that the New Testament forbids circumcision!

“Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you be circumcised, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” – Gal 5:2

“And even those who advocate circumcision don’t really keep the whole law. They only want you to be circumcised so they can brag about it and claim you as their disciples.” – Gal 6:13

“For there are many who rebel against right teaching; they engage in useless talk and deceive people. This is especially true of those who insist on circumcision for salvation. They must be silenced. By their wrong teaching, they have already turned whole families away from the truth. Such teachers only want your money” – Titus 1:10-11

“Watch out for those wicked men – dangerous dogs, I call them – who say you must be circumcised. Beware of the evil doers. Beware of the mutilation. For it isn’t the cutting of our bodies that makes us children of God; it is worshiping him with our spirits.” – Phil 3:2-3

“And I testify again to every male who receives circumcision, that he is in debt to keep the whole Law. You who do so have been severed from Christ…you have fallen from grace.” – Gal 5:3

“As God has called each man, in this manner let him walk. And thus I command in all the churches. Was any man called in the circumcision [Old Covenant]? Let him not try to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in the uncircumcision [New Covenant in Christ]? Let him not be circumcised! Circumcision is nothing. And uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called.” – 1 Cor. 7:17

“And some men came and were teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ But Paul and Barnabas together had great dissension and disputing with these men. . . Then Peter stood up and said to them ‘…Why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” – Acts 15:1-2, 7, 10

“But if I still proclaim circumcision. . . then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” – Gal 5:11

“I wish that those who are pushing you to do so would mutilate themselves!” – Gal 5:12

and you are correct, it is a personal choice… for the owner of the penis to make as an informed adult. If you wouldn’t circumcise your daughter, you shouldn’t circumcise your son.

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Clare April 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm

If only you knew the context of these verses! The NT does not forbid circumcision at all. Paul is telling off the Jews who want gentile converts to be circumcised like the Jews were before being accepted as a follower of ‘The Way’. This is back when most new Christians were previously Jews, before Paul took the gosoel to the Gentiles. Paul is saying circumcision is only an outward sign – Christianity should be an inward relationship (circumcision of the heart).
While I found this blog fascinating reading it upsets me how one sided it, and most of the comments, are and how many of you try to make others feel guilty for circumcising their sons. In Australia there is a similar debate, but the research we read was quite persuasive and we chose to have our son circumcised and are happy with our decision. My husband has never been sorry and never felt mutilated by his parents, nor does he complain of reduced pleasure (how the hell do they research that anyway!) I don’t believe that the God who created sex would then tell you to do something that reduced pleasure in it. And some decisions can’t wait til adulthood – seriously how many older males would cut their penis – not because of right and wrong just because if pain and change at such a late stage! No one so far has mentioned aesthetics (is this in the eye of the beholder) or reduced rates of cervical cancer for partners.
Why can’t people agree to disagree in this instance.

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Wendy May 31, 2013 at 6:18 am

Being an American in the medical field does not make one an expert on the foreskin. Quite the opposite, it p’s actually a handicap in the area of normal, natural penile anatomy.

Did you know that the vast majority of texts used in U.S. medical schools don’t discuss the male foreskin, except how to cut it off? No mention whatsoever of the functions of the foreskin. Find a medical book from any country where RIC is uncommon or unheard of, and you’ll see loads of information.

American doctors, in general, are clueless about the care of the intact penis. Most pediatricians mistakenly believe that the foreskin needs to be retracted from birth, and many have diagnosed young children and infants with phimosis. The normal age of retraction is between 10 and 14 YEARS old, so this diagnosis in a young child is assinine!

Not only that, but American doctors seem to think circumcision is the only way to treat phimosis, when there are steroid creams that usually work wonderfully in aiding retraction.

In such an ill-informed, circumcision-happy society, is it any wonder your “medical field” husband believes the lies about the intact penis? People are afraid of the unfamiliar and unknown, and healthcare professionals are no exception!

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Kathleen Neely February 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm

my first son was circumcised because I did not even know what it was… I was 17. my second son was not touched and is a much gentler person…

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Simone February 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I just have to point out my family’s history – my husband was never circumcised because his father WASN’T and didn’t want his sons to be different than him. He did go through some unpleasant social experiences in gym and had a few instances of teen girls being weirded out by foreskin back in the 80s. But he always tells people now that as soon as he actually grew up, he much preferred being intact, and that he would never trade the lifetime of ease and pleasure of being intact for the problems and desensitization that can come with circumcision for a few moments of fitting in better as a kid.

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Kristina February 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I posted on this thread yesterday and I see my post was never approved. The AAP revised their statement recently, saying the benefits outweigh the risks of circumcision. I find it disappointing that my post wasn’t approved, I’m not passing judgement, merely weighing in with facts.

I have two beautiful boys who were both circumsized. Their dad was in the room with them and it wasn’t that bad. I don’t regret my choice. I think this is a very personal decision and it sounds like there’s a lot of judgement being passed here.

I really like this blog and I just had a natural birth in December. Reading birth stories here was inspirational to me in the time leading up to the birth of my son. Please be open-minded enough to post comments from both standpoints so that some new mama can hear both sides of the story.

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Mrs. BWF February 21, 2013 at 6:03 pm

AAP revised their statements after years saying there are no benefits to saying if you want to, do it, if you don’t, don’t do it. They do NOT say that benefits outweigh risks.

It is double talk.

After a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The AAP policy statement published Monday, August 27, says the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs.

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Linda April 3, 2013 at 4:18 am

I would never circumcise my baby. Googling ‘circumcision’ is enough to make you feel sick. Screaming babies. Just horrible. There would be no ‘potential benefits’ that would make me put another person through that.

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Alicia April 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I have a question: With our first son, we ended up getting him circumcised. I knew at the time I didn’t want it done, but I knew nothing about leaving him intact to have a good argument against my husband. Now that we’re pregnant again (we don’t know the gender) I don’t want to get this baby circumcised if it is a boy. But now we kind of have a problem. My husband thinks if it is a boy we should have him circumcised just because we had our son done and he doesn’t want there to be any competition or mean teasing between them, which I can understand. However, I don’t want it to be done if this baby is a boy. So I guess, my question is this. Does anyone have sons where one is circumcised and the other one was left intact? And has it ever been an issue between them? Thanks.

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Kate April 11, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Great article, thank you. If my husband and I are ever blessed with a boy, there is no way in hell I will be getting him circumcised!!! We had discussed it when I fell pregnant with our daughter and we agreed that we would get it done if it was a boy, but after reading this article, and other information from BWF I know there is no reason to do it to a perfectly healthy baby.
I really should not have watched that video link on circumcision, oh man, I feel ill. I had to turn the volume off and I was cringing just watching the poor baby’s breathing while strapped to the table. Awful! I just wanted to pick up that baby and give him the biggest hug of his life. I would have liked if the video continued till someone picked him up and soothed him.
If my husband ever questions my reason for changing my mind, I will be heading straight back here and letting him read this post and watch that video.
Thank you for opening up my eyes to a ‘whole’ new world. I am so glad I found BWF!! And thank you Lauren for all of this information!

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Rachael April 11, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Thank you for this post. It gave me the idea to find a video on infant circumcision to show to my husband. He couldn’t even make it all the way through. After all the months of debate and stand stills, it took less than 2 minutes for him to change his mind. Even though practically every Muslim considers it a requirement for men to be circumcised, more education (both scientific and religion) is showing that it is not required or necessary. And frankly, I still say that it is sexual abuse and genital mutilation. If a man wants to circumcise himself, he can do that voluntarily. But parents shouldn’t be allowed cut their children.

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Cassandra Willard April 12, 2013 at 11:22 am

Thank you so much for posting this. I am 6 months pregnant with my first boy and my husband and I had been struggling with this decision. The decision for us is clear now. I hope this article reaches many other parents in the same place that I am. :)

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Liana W. April 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm

While I appreciate the original article/post in its objectivity, I have to say that I’m disappointed in more than a few of the responses. It seems that no matter how respectful a person tries to be in passing along information/opinion, there are always people who are going to respond less than tactfully. I respect any parent’s decision to circumcise or not; it’s THEIR choice as parents. I don’t respect the “intactivists” who are so busy lecturing other parents that they forget (choose to ignore?) that we are all just trying to do what we believe is best for our babies. I am all for passing along information, and this post is an excellent example; I am not for telling another mother that she made the wrong decision and has forever hurt/damaged her child.

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Seren Lyerly May 7, 2013 at 9:16 am

Thank you so much for this article-it is by far the best I’ve read on this subject. You brought together all the pertinent facts and statistics in one, concise, effective article. Effective particularly because simply after having my husband read this, he went from insisting that we were going to have our son circumcised, to agreeing that it wasn’t necessary. Of course, I also explained how I felt about it, and why I thought we shouldn’t do it, but this article convinced him. I am seriously grateful that I found this. THANK YOU!

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