Making The Cut

Centuries ago a powerful Japanese emperor needed a new chief samurai. Word of the vacancy was sent throughout the known world.

After a year, only three people applied for the very demanding position: a Japanese samurai, a Chinese samurai, and a Jewish samurai. They were brought before the emperor to demonstrate their abilities.

The Japanese samurai went first. He opened the lid of a small box, setting free a bumblebee. Whoosh went his sword and the bumblebee dropped dead, cut in half.

The emperor nodded and murmured, “Impressive.”

Next was the Chinese samurai. He opened a small box and released a fly. Whoosh! Whoosh! The fly was quartered and its pieces flitted to the ground.

Arms crossed, the emperor nodded, “Most impressive.”

It was the Jewish Samurai’s turn. He produced a tiny box which, when opened, released a gnat. His sword went Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! But the gnat was still alive, flying about.

The emperor frowned and rumbled, “Explain yourself! Why is that gnat not dead?”

The Jewish Samurai smiled and said, “Circumcision is not meant to kill.”

§

Oh man. People get so snippy on the topic of circumcision. I personally don’t understand why there’s such a big flap. It’s binary after all: your foreskin is either on or off, and it doesn’t particularly matter which.

Full Discloser: I was circumcised, by a real specialist from the looks of it.

Being Jewish, it was an easy decision to make for our son. The only real question was who should do the catering.

As with much of Jewish tradition, there is a practical reason behind circumcision. The foreskin is highly receptive to viruses and infection – not an issue when good hygiene is practiced. But the operative word in that sentence is “when.”

[Man Law dictates I not disclose how many of us don’t wash their hands in public restrooms. And half of us who do just flick their fingers under the faucet, like they were shaking loose a statically charged piece of styrofoam.]

On occasion, the decision to not circumcise can be perilous. I know of at least two boys who, because of “complications,” had to be circumcised around age 11. Not an auspicious start to puberty.

The latest studies show a modest health benefit from being circumcised. This benefit is exaggerated in Africa, where circumcision lowers HIV infection among hetero men by 60%. (International health organizations have a goal of circumcising 20 million African men by 2015. On the domestic front, I am buying up stock in Neosporin.)

So that’s where my head is at. But all this is by way of saying my opinion doesn’t matter much. People are entitled to their beliefs, but no one should proselytize on the subject. Worry about your son’s pecker and no one else’s.

Opponents of circumcision claim it is a barbaric, painful practice. Some even draw a comparison to female genital mutilation. This is a poor analogy, given that the latter is a) without medical benefit, b) performed on pubescent girls using rusty tools and c) do you really need a third reason?

Puzzingly, many of the most vocal “intactivists,” as they style themselves, are women. I personally disapprove of women taking a hard stance on how a nation handles its penises; anyone that attached to the foreskin should really be a dude.

When I was born, the rate of circumcision in the U.S. was around 90%. Now it is roughly 50% and flagging. The medical establishment doesn’t officially endorse either decision, which means parents can be guided by their aesthetic preferences, for now.* With so little at stake, undecided parents may opt to poll the real experts: women. Specifically, slutty women. (Okay technically the real real experts are my gay friends. But being true to their minority status, they don’t discriminate.)

The only room for heated debate is between expecting parents with opposing preferences for their son. But even there I’m hard pressed to imagine a scenario where the father’s wishes don’t prevail. If only because, one day both father and son will be alone outdoors when they both experience the urge to whiz. Like firemen, they might focus their streams on an agreed target. Or in keeping with ancient tradition, they may instead elect to “cross swords.” In that moment, the overriding principle is not one of religion or hygiene or misplaced compassion, but of heritage. Pass it on.

* The CDC may be updating their recommendation soon.

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68 Responses to Making The Cut

  1. Michele February 14, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    We didnt circumcise. We arent Jewish, therefore we didnt feel there was any mandate to do so. (My husband, however, is circ’d since that was the prevailing attitude at the time, although the men in my family are not). Being the hippie dippy folks that we are, we read and analyzed the research (I was a librarian pre parenting and my husband is a scientist), and we decided it was not the decision for our sons.

    • Daddy Confidential February 14, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      Fascinating. Have your sons ever asked about the generational discrepancy?

  2. Megan Alton February 14, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Like Michele we chose not to circumcise our son for similar reasons, however my husband was not circ’d (his dad was and my husband thanks him for leaving him intact.) My father was cut however, and chose not to circ my brother and there was a conversation about it when he was young. Is it weird that I know this? In full disclosure, my dad was a fan of running around the house in the buff, so body parts weren’t very taboo. My brother turned out well adjusted and is in a stable relationship, so I’m assuming that his member has faired just fine with all attached parts. I also know of a handful of men who have not been circ’d and never had an issue with it during puberty.
    Honestly I don’t understand how folks are still doing it for religious reasons, but I don’t much understand religious people either. My best friend is Jewish for what that’s worth, and I certainly don’t judge anyone for following their beliefs.

    I was a little confused by your comment about women not taking a hard stance on the issue, what about mothers of sons who are faced with making that decision? But I suppose it’s a little like the abortion debate, in the end it’s a woman’s right to chose what happens to her body, but then again she is of an age where she is able to make choices about her body and a baby boy is not.

    The argument about passing it on seems a little silly, if you have a tattoo would you make sure that your child got the exact same one so you could look alike? Or maybe you saved all your clothes growing up so your child can look as much like you as possible until they’re able to make that choice for themselves? Ok, there’s my comment. I’m sure you were expecting at least one “inactivist” mother to say something. I still like your blog and your posts, so keep ‘em coming.

    • Daddy Confidential February 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      To clarify, only 2% of the United States is Jewish. So the overwhelming majority of circumcisions are clearly not done for religious reasons. My guess is that it’s cultural. Note also that the rate of circumcision is about 25% lower in states where it’s not covered by Medicaid.

      As for single moms, it’s of course their decision to make. I was referring to women activists like Jena Troutman, who are actually waging war on circumcision at the expense of, say… anything else.

      I also think your tattoo and hand-me-downs analogy is flawed. All guys grow up believing their equipment is the standard issue. Our own members are the default dicks, if you will. Thus our inclination to pass it on. Your clothes and tattoos are not there by default.

  3. Janet February 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    It’s his penis. He should decide. And he should decide when he’s old enough to say if the anesthetic is working, have heaven-sent, conscious-altering drugs to subdue the pain, and will not be urinating and defecating on an open wound.

    This has been a VERY hot topic of debate in my house for almost four years now. My hubby and I still don’t discuss it due to the ensuing heated arguments. My first two boys are circumcised because that’s just what you do, right? I even fought my sister (who did not circumcise her boys, consistent with their father’s tradition) when she tried to educate me about the reasons not to, arguing that it just looked gross. When I finally educated myself about such an important decision, I opted out of it for my next boy. However, my hubby was vehemently against it, which he admits is purely for cosmetic reasons. We battled back and forth for several months before I went for the jugular. “I will not ask you to change a single diaper. Ever.” While that has not exactly held up (the kid is STILL in diapers at 3 years and 4 months of age. Ugh.), I certainly did not ask for at least the first year of his life. I threatened my husband’s life if he sneaked the baby away to get it done, as he often joked, and told him he would have to pry him from my fingers to do it.

    Our next-born son also is not circumcised. Interestingly enough, the topic of “looking different” has never come up in our home. My older boys (now 9 and 7) have never questioned why the younger boys’ penises look the way they do or how my hubby’s looks. I think they just figure every penis looks different, which is true. Having an unnecessary surgery performed on an infant to make sure he looks the same seems as silly as arguing that all breasts or all vaginas look the same. We’re all different. On purpose. Besides, infant boys do not come with pubic hair or other signs of puberty so dad is going to look different from the get-go.

    I’m not sure how to end this. But I’m done now.

    • Daddy Confidential February 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      Wait a sec: two of your boys are and two aren’t? That sounds fickle. I think consistency should trump whatever scared you off of circumcision there. I mean, what kind of message does that send your two oldest? “Well, we irrevocably messed up with you two, but we got it right with 3 & 4.”

      Naw, I’m just teasing you. But it brings me to the real point. You wrote “It’s his penis. He should decide.” Say what now?!? No one – and I mean no one, opts to get circumcised. It’s not lasik surgery. It’s not even a nose job. Nobody volunteers for cosmetic genital surgery.

      If your boys haven’t noticed yet, they will. I can’t wait to see how they choose up sides for two-on-two basketball.

      • Amanda February 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

        Can I just point out something here? You said “No one – and I mean no one, opts to get circumcised.”
        Exactly. So, why do it? I spoke to a pediatrician about my sons penis, shortly after he was born. The pediatrician, who himself had two boys, told me how glad he was that we opted not to circumcise. That circumcised penis’ are cleaner is a myth. The method of cleaning an intact penis? Wash it the same way you wash your finger.
        And who cares if the first and second are circumcised? At least she thought better of circumcising the other two. It’s ok to admit to mistakes!

        • Daddy Confidential February 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

          Some people put off needed dental work or other medical procedures that they dread. But that’s no reason not to follow good medical advice.

          You can find medical advice to validate either position, which is why I’m saying people shouldn’t worry about it and just go by aesthetic preference. That said, I predict that either the CDC or the AAP will make a recommendation to circumcise sometime this year.

          • Amanda February 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

            LOL! Argh! I wanna make a bet with you! I predict they’ll go the opposite way! :P

          • Hugh7 February 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

            But what if your aesthetic preference is not his aesthetic preference? [self-serving links deleted by D-Con]

            The AAP has been shifting its collective bottom on the fence for decades now. They would have recommended against circumcison years ago if that hadn’t risked a class-action that would make the one against the tobacco companies look trivial. If they move towards cutting American babies on the basis of studies of adult male volunteers for circumcision in Africa, they will be doing bad science.

          • Hugh7 February 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

            Self-serving links? Or point-making? They were to ugly circumcisions and first-hand reports from men who hate what was done to them..

            • Daddy Confidential February 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

              People are welcome to link to relevant content in my comments section. But it should be in support of an opinion, not an agenda. Linking to your own site is uncomfortably close to the latter. I left your point intact, so to speak.

              If you want to draw traffic to your site, do it on the strength of your own content.

            • Hugh7 February 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

              Actually, I provided links to specific pages that were right on topic, rather than cut and paste from very large pages, to save your space.

              Anyway, what gives anyone the right to permanently modify a child’s body (by reduction) to suit their own aesthetic preference? What the medical ambivalence should indicate is that parents should just leave their sons’ bodies alone (as they are required by law to leave their daughters’).

              And what do you think Janet could say if she made the later sons match the earlier ones and either of them grew up to say, “WHAA? You KNEW by then that circumcising was wrong and you went ahead with ours for CONSISTENCY in that wrongness? What kind of ethics is that?

  4. Susan February 15, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    I just had to comment on this — this is a topic that prior to my son’s birth (his actual birth, not my pregnancy…more on that later) I didn’t give much thought to. I thought, as a medical professional, that the benefits FAR outweighed any risks, had seen a ton of them done, trusted my practitioner, trusted my husband when he said this is important to boys, as it was to him, and he likes his just fine and it gets the job done, thought practically everyone in the modern world had this done because why wouldn’t they? I’m a highly educated individual, but I didn’t think to question it. Fast forward to 3 months postpartum, and I was googling something that didn’t look quite right about his penis, and it led me to discovering “intactivism.” I was distraught. What had I done to my son? How had I not seen this? I truly, honestly, did not know there was another side to this. I think many people do not know it either, especially in my circles (I’m a medical student). Now my son is 21 months old, and I’ve been trying to heal with help form my husband, God, my therapist, and many others along the way for what I have allowed others to convince me is the most heinous thing a woman could ever do to her baby boy. But all I wanted was what was best for him. That is still what I want more than anything.

    I’ve gone through all the stages of grief multiple times over, and on my good days, I land on the fact that this is one minor thing about my son. The medical data is still not clear, recommendations are wishy washy, and this can lead to confusion or to make decisions that you later may feel were not completely “informed.” This is something that he may or may not wish his father had decided for him, but there will be many other things about him which he has no control over. I am hoping he feels wonderful about his body, and will fight like mad to make sure he knows all decisions for him were made out of love. I resent people that say I mutilated my son. I did no such thing. He is altered, perhaps unnecessarily, but he is not mutilated or disfigured. He has as much potential for all that is good, sexual or not, than anybody else.

    I feel much like Janet does now. My husband, once completely pro-circ, has been convinced. He does not feel any wrong has been done to him or to our son (and why should he?!) but when/if we have another son, he will not be circumcised. In fact, we will not need to have any conversation about it at all – it is that decided. I took some offense to your suggestion that not making all boys look the same would be admitting a fault. I do not know whether my son will think a mistake was made with him. I will not put those thoughts or ideas in his head. I do not think many boys care about the differences or even notice, as Janet mentioned, especially when all penises are different, and no two penises, often whether circumcised or not, look exactly alike. If we had more sons, when and if the topic came up, we would talk about making decisions with the best of intentions and using the information available to you at that time. We would talk about risk and benefit assessment with regards to medical decision making and the fact that parents (and children) can change their minds and decisions do not have to be made the same every time if you come to feel or know differently. We would talk about how each of them are perfect the way they are, and different in many ways, not just this one. I would hope that this would be enough to make them feel secure and loved. I do not think it is possible to feel that circumcision is the most heinous thing imaginable and raise a confident, circumcised son at the same time.

    I beat myself up on a daily basis when I think that this choice could cause grief for my son. However, it helps to step back. This will not be my “hill to die on” and I do not believe it will be his, either. Just because I would do differently now does not mean I did not make my decisions as lovingly back then as I would moving forward.

    OK, rant over. This definitely helped me clear my head tonight. Thanks for making it this far, if you did. :)

    • Daddy Confidential February 15, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      You went through the stages of grief? For what, your son’s foreskin? And you’ve been trying to heal? Um, I don’t mean to pry, but did you omit an important detail?… perhaps something implied that I didn’t pick up on?

      You need to stop feeling anguished over your son being circumcised. Immediately. Guys (and boys) really never give it much thought. We think a lot about our penises, but never along those lines. It doesn’t even merit a shrug.

      • Susan February 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

        Haha, thanks for the comic relief. :) I really need it sometimes.
        As far as an important detail I may have omitted, what are you referring to? Like postpartum depression/anxiety? You could say I had a bit of that going on.

        I may have been feeling a bit melodramatic, but yes, I’ve grieved. Perhaps for his foreskin, but perhaps just as a result of realizing that I made a decision for him that I now would make differently, wanting to reverse the irreversible, and and coming to terms with that.

        I think your second paragraph says it all. Men (most healthy, loved, well-adjusted typical American men) will not give more than a second thought to this. The internet would have you believe otherwise, that there are scores of men crying their eyes out over the injustices of their circumcision they did not consent to, but over time I’ve come to feel that this is not the rule, but a very, very rare exception. There are also online forums full of women bemoaning what they’ve “done” to their sons, saying that it is the biggest mistake of their lives. I know this is being blown out of proportion, but when I am weak, I get dragged in and pulled under.

        Overall, I truly hope you’re right, and my son loves what he has and knows we always tried to do what was best for him, and doesn’t every give it any more thought than necessary. It’s exactly what my husband would say, and has said to me many times. And until he says he is unhappy with his penis for some reason, who am I to imply it or even expect it? I appreciate your candidness.

  5. Shoshana February 15, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    First off I have to give the disclaimer that I’m the Jewish best friend from Megans comment :) and I totally support her decision not to circumcise her son just as I know she would understand why if I have a boy I will. But I also have to say I get nervous when I see comments here about how circumcision is mutilating and scaring a boy… I have never once found that a circumcised male has had less pleasure from than a non cicumsed guy… I have never heard any of my guy friends pine over the loss of their foreskin… In fact I think the blogger is right that the charge is being fought by women… Which in someways I very much understand … I am extremely protective of the little girl who is growing inside of me… And I will turn into a protective mama bear if anyone tired to hurt her… I am sure it’s incredibly painful for a mother to watch her son have a circumcision but please know in the Jewish culture we do not preform circumcisions without care for the baby boys health and welfare. Every mohel( person who performs the circumcision) I have ever met is a urologist.. A trained dr… They numb the area so the baby does not feel pain and they give the baby a small amount of wine to calm the baby… Every circumcision I’ve beento the baby is total unfazed by the process right afterwards… This is my culture, this is my religion and it makes me nervous when I see bill out like in SF trying to ban them and my religious freedom… I am sure I will upset many by this comment who will think I’m barbaric but I promise I’m a really nice person who also happens to be a very proud Jew who plans on carrying on our traditions…. I very much respect all of your decisions not to circumcise but please respect others choices too.

    Also I find it interesting only women have responded to this blog

  6. Ginger1 February 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    As a contributor to (at that time) a small order of cannibal calamari, I can say without question that while a foreskin might appear to add a half inch, it’s wasted space. And it’s probably a waste of soap.

    Well you said you wanted male feedback.

  7. RD February 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    I’m an American male and was really hurt to find out what my mother had consented to. I hate what was done to me because of some pushy Jewish doctor. My mother said no twice.

    Not all men are into man law. I’m a straight male who loves taking care of my body. I don’t spend Saturday or Sunday watching football, drinking beer and farting. I’d rather be at the gym or hiking or rowing or something. I think men who have self-respect and dignity would be offended by this kind of violation. I think most of the males that I attended boarding school with would not be into your man law. They try to be dignified.

    All circumcised males have lost sensation, especially a good deal of light touch sensation. Intact males feel intense sensation just by having their lover blow air over it. The dried up circumcised penis does not have the same response. The foreskin is gliding mechanism which moves back and forth and reduces chafing in women. Circumcised males are more forceful because of reduced sensation and this can affect female pleasure. College women who have studied abroad notice the difference. Middle-aged women are also likely to notice the difference.

    These African HIV studies are seriously flawed. Once Africans were told circumcision would prevent HIV, they went to be cut and then dropped out of the study at higher proportions than the men who had to wait to be cut. Condoms were also introduced and participants were encouraged to practice monogamy. The ones who were cut had to wait weeks before having sex and the studies were ended early. Another study where the circumcised men had higher HIV rates was scrapped. Israelis and Americans have always tried to link the foreskin to some disease and it always turns out to be wrong. Lastly, intact Europeans have lower STD rates in all diseases.

    • Daddy Confidential February 16, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      Hmm, not sure where you were going with the “man law” thing. But you’re coming through loud and clear with the “pushy Jewish doctor” thing. And I’m sorry you were the only one attending your boarding school without his foreskin. Sounds awkward.

      The circumcision & HIV study to which I referred was published in The Lancet. Being a British publication, one can safely assume it is not an [ahem] organ of an Israeli-American conspiracy. The methodology is clearly explained, and it flatly contradicts the flaws you claim. But feel free to name the reputable source of your information… but no fair citing The Protocols of the Elders Of Zion.

    • Shoshanna February 17, 2012 at 12:53 am #

      RD,
      I have a couple questions for you first off how do you know your mom’s OBGYN was Jewish… I could not tell you my moms Dr’s race, religion or even his name ..it was just never part of my birth story.. I find its interesting you know this detail
      The second question is do you feel that your penis is dried up? I am really sad for you! As a women who has had relations with circumcised and uncircumcised men I have never had the experience of circ guys having any less sensation or being more forceful than intact males… I am not sure where you are getting these facts but from my experience they are all false.

  8. Elder of Zion February 17, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    RD

    Totally know what you mean about those pushy Jews. I mean, look at Joan Rivers’ face. You think a Pakistani plastic surgeon would be able to convince someone to get 400 procedures on a nose alone?

    I had a Bolivian dentist once. She was so weird about flossing! And a Roman Catholic proctologist who kept seeing “signs” in my anus creases.

    And don’t even get me started on the Cambodian GP.

    Anyway, glad you gave us fair warning. Pushy Jews = so many fewer foreskins.

    Well the game is starting soon, and I have to moisturize my dried up schlong (many times a day! Thanks Dr. Finkelgoldenbaumenstein) so I can at least enjoy my last 2.23 limp inches while Kevin Garnett gets all “Da Big Ticket” on the Raptors.

  9. maria February 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    The article and subsequent comments are interesting in that they are completely lacking the obvious. Whose penis is it?

    It’s the boy’s penis. It is not the mother’s or the father’s or the family’s. That’s the obvious and rational and unemotional realization civilized, intelligent, and aware people of the 21st century come to. You don’t cut the genitals of a child. End. Regardless of tradition, religion, father’s status, or any other myth or propaganda spewed your direction.

    It took us five minutes of looking at pictures of the procedure, the faces of the baby’s before my cut man announced that civilized people don’t cut the genitals of children. How are we still missing this very obvious fact? How are we still so naive and blind and (ahem) ignorant?

    Babies aren’t sexually active, and I’d rather teach my son how to use a condom than giving him misinformation and false security in his cut penis. So all that BS about studies in Africa, give me a break. Wear a rubber, keep your foreskin, and keep any snip happy doc away from your son’s wiener.

    • Daddy Confidential February 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

      “Babies aren’t sexually active?” Hey speak for your own babies! No seriously, Maria: would you not vaccinate your child against HPV until they were sexually active? That sort of misses the point of preventative medicine.

      And “wear a rubber”? Tell that to the young girls from Soweto who contracted HIV when they were raped by their cousin.

      Having witnessed a few circumcisions up close, I can assure you it looks only slightly more painful than getting your ears pierced. Compare that to the horror of AIDS. Anything that significantly reduces the spread of HIV is good social policy. As I said above, do what you like with your own kids. But don’t lecture people about “human rights.”

  10. Susan February 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    OK, Maria, then I guess 70% of new American parents are either uncivilized, unintelligent, or unaware. Cool, thanks for letting me know where I stand. I would like to welcome you to get off your high horse for a sec and join the rest of us. If you read my comment above, you would’ve seen that I’m a mom who circumcised and will not circumcise another. But I am not one of this nasty things you suggested- and I would venture to guess neither are most American parents, the majority of whom still circumcise. If you want to blame someone, blame the American medical institution, which has not clearly made up it’s mind on circumcision and still vocally defends it’s purported benefits in many cases. The literature simply is not clear cut, and any aware, well-meaning, intelligent parent (which I consider myself to be, in fact) could bcome confused while tying to do what is best for their son. It is a high-and-mighty stance to take that anyone who didn’t choose like you did is a backwards dummy. Be careful with that. But please, oh please yourself do not be ignorant enough to blame well-meaning parents who are often following the best advice available TO THEM by people and sources they trust.

    • maria February 17, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Hey Suze, I get your defensiveness. You got bad information from someone who was emotionally vested in the status of your son, not unbiased, ethical medical information. And the medical community outside the U.S. is very clear: don’t friggin cut your son’s penis. But we live in a FOR PROFIT healthcare system which makes BILLIONS of dollars from cutting up baby boy sex parts. And, where is this 70% stat coming from? The national average is about 50/50, but accurate stats are hard to come by. And yes, most parents blindly, ignorantly, and naively cut their son’s penis. People who do even the slightest bit of research on the topic don’t. Which is why most of MY friends and family left their sons intact.

      Because we have the courage, in our circles, to discuss genital cutting as a human right’s issue.

      Aware, informed, and rational people leave their sons perfect and whole, just like they do their daughters. I’m truly sorry you didn’t get good info from your healthcare provider. My midwife very boldly and courageously gave us info from Intact America. I wish more doctors/midwives would have the courage to do so, and our sons and daughters would be better for it.

  11. maria February 17, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    and in case you don’t believe me about the universal medical consensus against non-therapeutic neonatal circumcision, here is a helpful link where they are all nicely catalogued for you. “http://www.cirp.org/library/statements/”

    • Daddy Confidential February 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

      You showed your hand here Maria. CIRP and Intact America both have clear agendas. If these are the types of sources to which you turn when making informed decisions, you are in no position to rail against propaganda. This also disqualifies you from calling anyone else ignorant.

      • Hugh7 February 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

        Yes, CIRP and Intact America do have clear agendas (and a vast amount of informatiion culled from a wide variety of sources). Whereas the agendas of all the US medical bodies run by circumcised men have hidden agendas. Why else are they at such variance from the policies of equally competent bodies in other countries where the men are not circumcised – notably the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG)?:

        “There is no convincing evidence that circumcision is useful or necessary in terms of prevention or hygiene. Partly in the light of the complications which can arise during or after circumcision, circumcision is not justifiable except on medical/therapeutic grounds. Insofar as there are medical benefits, such as a possibly reduced risk of HIV infection, it is reasonable to put off circumcision until the age at which such a risk is relevant and the boy himself can decide about the intervention, or can opt for any available alternatives.”

        • Daddy Confidential February 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

          “US medical bodies run by circumcised men”?!? What the hell medical bodies are you referring to?… and how would you know they’re run by circumcised men?

          Advancing paranoid conspiracy theories does not help your cause.

          • Hugh7 March 22, 2012 at 12:43 am #

            There is a prima facie case that any US medical body is run by circumcised men, just based the circumcision rate in the US 50-60 years ago, Some of them, such as former AAP circumcision task-force chair Edgar Schoen have made it abundantly clear that they are circumcised. And it comes through their policies, which show no indication of any first-hand knowledge of the structure or functions of the foreskin.

  12. Susan February 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    I’ve seen all those positions you linked. I am now aware. However, I disagree and take offense to your statement that anybody who does research chooses not to. Some people don’t consider pages like Intact America research. They simply don’t. If you search PubMed alone, and read articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as I had prior to deciding, I believe you could feel that you were making the right decision after conducting scientific research. Some people don’t think that reading others’ opinions qualifies as research. And why would our sons be “better” if they weren’t circumcised? You can’t assume that either. Your tone is belittling and rude.

  13. Susan February 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Oh and it’s Susan, not Suze. Should I call you Mar?
    Thanks D-con for being the voice of reason here. I like you…

  14. Dana K February 18, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I had a big comment that got eaten the other night, so I’ll summarize it this time. The US Navy did a study and I find it to be far more relevant to the US population than the studies in Africa.

    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA458066

    For as long as the US has been circumcising baby boys, you’d think our HIV rates would be among the lowest in the world instead of the highest if circumcision was the great HIV preventative it is touted to be. Condoms and abstinence are the best ways to prevent STIs, not surgery. I prefer educating my son on safer sex & hygiene than cutting off part of his body.

    My husband also assured me that he has absolutely no idea what his dad’s penis looks like and would prefer to keep it that way, so that was never an issue when we decided to leave Klaw’s penis alone.

    I don’t believe parents circumcise their sons in order to hurt them but I do consider it a human rights issue. I am very grateful that I worked for a Jewish family that did not circumcise their son because that was the first time it ever crossed my mind that not everyone circumcises their sons years before I had a son of my own.

  15. Dana K February 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Oh – relevant quote from the US Navy study for people who don’t want to read it:

    “Conclusions: Although known HIV risk factors were found to be associated with HIV in this military population, there was no significant association with male circumcision.”

  16. NotCut February 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    My son was cut on day 8th and we are not Jews. No regrets!
    My wife thinks I should be circ. she is a nurse and says that a Dr. told her it helps prevent cervix cancer in women. News to me. She just thinks I will smell better and help my dripping, hey I am clean. I refuse to do it because I can’t stand pain. And what would it look like after? i like him the way it is..

    • Daddy Confidential February 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      I think your wife was referring to how circumcision reduces the spread of HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer.

      As for pain, a couple of weeks ago the New York Times ran this piece on an innovation that makes circumcision relatively painless: AIDS Prevention Inspires Ways to Make Circumcisions Easier.

      Mind you, I am 1000% not suggesting you do this. You leave that bad-boy as is. But interesting that there’s a painless path to adult circumcision where a clear health benefit exists. Or course, it was developed by Israelis, which will send “intactivists” into apoplectic conniptions.

      • Hugh7 February 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

        The “health benefit” is far from clear. Circumcised or not, HPV is just a very common (and self-limiting) virus.

        Yes, we’ve been using a device like that in New Zealand for generations, on sheep, but not on their foreskins. It’s called the Elastrator.

        • Daddy Confidential February 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

          I’m really in no position to comment on what New Zealanders have been doing to sheep for generations.

  17. Kayla February 20, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    Yoiks, there’s enough misinformation here to choke a giraffe. I’m going to work my way upwards, if no one minds…

    - HPV myth? Debunked: Dickson N, van Roode T, Paul C. Herpes simplex virus type 2 status at age 26 is not related to early circumcision in a birth cohort. Sex Transm Dis 2005;32(8):517-9. and Aynaud, O.; D. Piron, G. Bijaoui, and JM Casanova (July 1999). “Developmental factors of urethral human papillomavirus lesions: correlation with circumcision”

    - CIRP is a library of research which is endorsed by The British Medical Journal. Those who are inclined to shoot it down entirely must be able to debunk all the studies contained therein. I haven’t seen it done yet and don’t expect to.

    - To Susan: I know many loving and completely well-meaning parents who circumcised their children. I sincerely believe you are a wonderful mother who has her child’s best interests at heart. That being said, I also believe that you were not given all of the information you should have been given by your doctor. For example, I suspect you were never told that the complication rate of infant circumcision far outweighs the possibility that your son would ever need a circumcision later in life. You were also likely not told that this procedure, being non-therapeutic, violated universal human rights and standard bio-ethics. The industry attached to this taboo subject is very hidden but very powerful. The more I learn about it, the worse it gets, frankly. The other very real and very frightening component of this is the circum-fetishists, some of whom are doctors. I refused to believe it myself until I started reading things they had written and researched their secret societies. It’s the stuff of nightmares for any parent.

    - To Shoshanna: the adult male foreskin is approximately 15 square inches of highly innervated erogenous tissue. To claim that removing this, which amounts to roughly 240 feet of nerves and tens of thousands of specialized nerve endings, would not reduce the sensitivity is completely illogical. In addition, circumcision causes the glans penis to be exposed to constant chafing and again, we know that this leads to keritanization, drying of the tissues, and a reduction in the glans sensitivity (Morgan WKC. Penile plunder. Med J Aust 1967;1:1102-03.)

    - HIV studies? Debunked here to save my fingers & time (I have a midterm tomorrow, I beg your forgiveness for somewhat slacking off here) “http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2012.10917.x/pdf” and also “http://dontgetstuck.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/denied-withheld-and-uncollected-evidence-and-unethical-research-cloud-what-really-happened-during-three-key-trials-of-circumcision-to-protect-men/”

    Anticipate lots of unpleasant responses, will check back tomorrow after the midterm is done – promise ;-)

    • Daddy Confidential February 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      It took me about 11 seconds to ascertain that CIRP is absolutely not “endorsed” by the British Medical Journal. But I invite you to spend as long as you like finding evidence to the contrary.

      And one needn’t debunk everything on CIRP’s website to discredit them. In fact, one needn’t debunk anything. It’s enough to note their total dishonestly in portraying themselves as a neutral source of information.

      If CIRP is your idea of academic integrity, I must view everything else you cite with grave skepticism.

  18. julianna February 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    Alright Kayla- you make a lot of valid points, but suggesting that baby boys today are circumcised as a result of “secret societies” of “circumfetishists” is ludicrous. I am sure there are those that get off on circumcision, as I am sure that there are those that do so on anything you could imagine. These people are creepy as are pedophiles, murderers, and tons of other people. That doesn’t mean that parents have to fear them because these people, from what I understand, troll forums and wikipedia, not our living rooms. Wyn parents choose to circumcise, they do not do so because some creep prefers it, they do so most likely in the absolute best interest of their child, uninformed as they may be. Is an abortionst a “fetus fetishist?” Not likely. WHAT they do is seen as offensive AND heinous by many, but probably not because they enjoy killing babies. I hope u catch my drift.

    • Kayla February 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      Jonathan thought I was off my rocker too, Julianna – and the following is what I shared with him, via email:

      “I became involved in an online discussion about circum-fetishists about 6 years ago. I *personally* spent time reading on their lists, fouler places I could not have imagined. You have a child, I know you would be as repulsed as I to know that there are people out there that would sexually enjoy tying down our children and hurting them in their most private places or watching this take place. Like my partner, I don’t doubt that you would be as angered and protective of your child from such predators. The quotes have been archived in a number of places, one site that focuses primarily on quotes is here: hXXp://www.circumcisionquotes.com/fetish.html

      (Fair warning: NSFW or children – I’ve killed the link to spare Jonathan another post to review so to view it, you’ll need to change XX to tt)

      If this wasn’t disturbing enough, I soon realized that one of the most active circum-fetishists was preying on expectant parents on the popular Babycenter website message boards. He encouraged parents to circumcise their babies and asked them to share the story of the procedure, what style of circumcision they chose (eg. “High & Tight” is a popular choice for fetishists), what the wound looked like, how they cleaned the penis afterward and so on. The administration banned him on a daily basis, he kept switching IP addresses and using new usernames. It was unreal. I witnessed it happen and sometimes I still don’t believe it myself.

      There are definitely people that aggressively promote mandatory universal infant circumcision. One of them is a professor who happens to be a publicly known member of circum-fetish societies. Another, who is a physician, enjoys writing (lousy) poetry about babies’ genitals. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. I am sharing all of this in good faith as a fellow parent and someone who, like you, appreciates hearing truth even if it is uncomfortable. I do not consider myself a crack-pot conspiracy theorist. I hope you haven’t gotten that impression of me.”

      So, to be clear, Julianna – I do not believe that forced genital cutting continues solely because of the influence of this group of fetishists. But it would be dishonest of me, given what I have witnessed, to not discuss their existence and foolish to believe that it was impossible for them to exert some influence. I hope that helps clarify my purpose in sharing on that topic.

      • Daddy Confidential February 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

        “Circum-fetishists,” whether or not they exist, are so irrelevant to this discussion that I am considering restricting comments that are pointlessly distracting. I have already held back a few comments from “intactivists” who’ve been spewing hatred, threats and blatant disinformation.

        Just today some doofus posted a link to his “Circumcision Decision Maker” site, where all paths lead to never circumcising. (Here’s the URL to the absurd site if anyone wants to check it out: “http://circumcisiondecisionmaker.com/”)

        Having corresponded with Kayla, I am satisfied that she comes by her positions sincerely. But the intactivist movement has so many dishonest adherents that I’m having a hard time distinguishing them, intellectually, from those organizations pretending to counsel pregnant women about abortion – and then sending them to watch fetal snuff films.

        People are entitled to their opinions, but not to deceptive practices and misleading propaganda masquerading as information.

        • Hugh7 February 22, 2012 at 12:45 am #

          You may be right (I haven’t noticed it – I do notice a few who are honestly self-decieved), but the circumcison industry has been bombarding the public for decades with misleading propaganda masquarading as information.

          For example, every time someone sounding authoritative says circumcision “reduces the risk” of this or that disease, without mentioning how very low the risk was to start with, that is what they are doing.

          And it is not true that all paths in the Circumcision Decision-Make above lead to “never” circumcising: several of the adult pathways lead to “Circumcision partially recommended”. People who throw stones…

          • Daddy Confidential February 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

            Who is behind the circumcision industry and can I buy stock?

            As for your “Circumcion Decision-Maker” [<-typing that induces involuntary laughter], sorry for not playing your Choose Your Own Adventure long enough to land on the “partially recommended” page. Clearly I have disparaged a valuable tool in making an informed decision.

  19. Harmed February 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I’m Jewish, had I been male, my parents would have celebrated the cutting of my genitals. I thank the lord everyday I’m female. My brother on the other hand stopped speaking to my parents when his son was expected and he learned what was done to him while researching it for his son.

    It’s not your body and it’s not your decision to make for someone else. Your religious freedom ends where someone elses begins.

    I have to ask how many of the other 613 commandments do you follow? Or do you just follow the one that causes someone else harm. I refuse to believe it really has anything to do with religion unless you follow all the other commandments.

    • julianna February 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      And are we supposed to believe that your brother’s relationship with his parents was all peachy prior to this realization he had? Because regardless of your beliefs, reducing and erasing all other potentially positive parent-child experiences when one learns that his parents made this one decision that he is not comfortable with is not realistic. There are other problems and issues there at play, with the person himself, within the relationship, or elsewhere. I refuse to believe that parent-child relationships can be reduced to this one decision.

      Check out this link and consider sending it to your brother: Criminalizing Circumcision: Self-Hatred As Public Policy

      • Harmed February 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

        My brother is a die hard atheist and the fact that his parents had him mutilated in the name of some higher power that someone made up put him right over the anti religious edge. I think he may have been better if they were just following the herd at the time and had it done in the hospital like all his other friends. That they chose to mark their religion in his flesh was more than he could handle.

        • Harmed February 21, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

          The link is hogwash! A man has the right to feel any way he chooses to feel…his genitals were mutilated – the same as a woman has the right to feel that her genitals were mutilated if she was circumcised. Cutting up genitals is cutting up genitals, it doesn’t matter what kind f spin you put on it. They aren’t yours, leave them alone!

          Look up the definition of mutilated.

          • julianna February 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

            Let me see if I follow your logic.. what you’re saying is a man has the right to feel any way he wants to feel… as long as he feels mutilated.

            I see. So is a circumcised man allowed to feel completely fine with his penis and not mutilated in the slightest bit? Because, contrary to the internet, that is how the vast majority of American men feel.

            As long as this would fit into your definition of a man being able to feel “any way he chooses to feel,” then we can agree. But I don’t think it will, and that is the bigger problem at stake here, and that’s what makes you a total hypocrite.

            • Hugh7 February 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

              But when what was done to them all was unnecessary, is “the vast majority” enough?

              And what is your evidence that it i s the vast majority? There’s been no scientific study done (the studies in Africa were all of men who had volunteered to be circumcised), but Informal polls suggest that only about half of circumcised men are happy about it, but something like 95% of intact men are. So if you want your son to be happy, it’s about 19 times as likely if you leave his genitals alone.

            • Julianna February 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

              Hugh,

              Just because most men are happy wig their status, circled or not, is nit a valid reason to circ more boys. But the point I want to make is that for many men, what’s done is done, and these men have the right to feel good about their bodies. I am not implying that this means they should “pass it on” as a circled man can feel completely sure in himself and at the same time completely fine with not circumcising a son. I should know- I’m married to one. The tone people often take is that all circled men should and do feel mutilated and harmed and this is far from the truth in my experience and to think

            • Julianna February 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

              or as some do – require that these men feel impaired serves nobody. Regardless of how you feel about the procedure, it is also a human right to feel good about oneself and to imply that a person should feel harmed or should feel that he/she has irreparably damaged another human being is irresponsible and reprehensible. Do we ask that people with other “handicaps” or defects” beyond their control feel a certain way because we think they should? This is no different.

            • Hugh7 February 22, 2012 at 12:51 am #

              Best wishes to your husband. That is an admirable state to be in. Much more often I see men who say “I feel good about being circumcised, therefore my son will too.” It’s not their feeling good that we challenge, it’s everything after “therefore”.

              And rather than men saying “I feel bad about being circumcised, therefore you must” I see men saying “…therefore your son might.”

            • Harmed February 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

              I’m saying that if we stopped chopping up baby genitals no man would ever need to feel harmed or mutilated. Leave the choice to the person that owns the genitals.

      • Hugh7 February 22, 2012 at 12:56 am #

        Your link is to a “sex therapist” who can’t remember his foreskin, has no idea what it is, how it works or what it does, and discounts the feelings of men who resent being circumcised. (I suspect that in Europe such a man would not be able to get professional accreditation.)

        No wonder men are unwilling to admit to hating being circumcised, when they risk encountering an arsehole like him in a position of professional power.

    • Daddy Confidential February 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      We make all sorts of decision for babies. (It turns out they are terrible decision makers.) Given the option, most babies would probably opt not to be vaccinated with syringes.

      I am not religiously observant. You can refuse to believe whatever you like, including that the earth is round. But as I already mentioned, only 2% of the US is Jewish. This indicates that circumcision has almost nothing to do with religion.

      By the way, why do you call yourself “Harmed” if you are really female?

  20. Josh February 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Wow, What an imbecile! It truly amazes me the effort these pro-cutting freaks will go to to validate this horrendous act of sexual assault. Minimizing the reality that Jewish Circumcision is child blood sacrifice, something no rational person can ethically argue in favor of. Misleading and outright lying about the foreskin and it’s purpose. Billions of men have lived and died not having any issue with theirs, only in societies that routinely and forcibly amputate the foreskin from it’s unconsenting victims seem to have any sort of issue with it.

    Minimizing the fact that there ARE victims who wish that they never had some dirty mohel/doctor take a knife to their genitals to deprive them of a highly functional body part. Males aren’t family pets that are appropriate to castrate at birth, Jewish men, Muslim Men, American Men, ALL men have the right to bodily autonomy. That right is denied when some sick sadistic freak decides they are superior enough to decide for someone else which normal and healthy body parts an infant or child will take into adulthood.

  21. Amy February 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    I meant to post this last week but was on my phone when I read it. My grandparents and mom don’t know (not that I’m keeping it from them, but future children don’t come up in conversations often–yet), but if or when I have a boy I don’t plan on having him circumcised. Ideally I’d still like to have a bris (or as close to a traditional Jewish naming ceremony as one can get without actually circumcising), but I don’t know if I could find a Rabbi who would be game for something like that. Honestly haven’t looked in to the religious side of it so much.

    I’m willing to be completely honest with myself and recognize that I am totally guilty of picking and choosing which tenets of Judaism I follow in my daily life. I don’t keep kosher or fast, I love pork, I don’t shave my head, I rarely go to services, I work on the Sabbath, I’ve never been to Israel, and I don’t plan to take away a part of my child’s body before they’re old enough to choose for themselves. If they decide to do it later, cool! It can always be removed, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. I just don’t think there are any relevant medical risks as long as proper hygiene is taught and observed. It’s harder to clean your ears than it is to clean an intact penis.

    You know how Jews aren’t supposed to tattoo, pierce, or mutilate their bodies, to distinguish themselves from Pagans? Or how we aren’t supposed to be embalmed after death? Many scholars argue we shouldn’t have cosmetic surgery, either. Leave the world the same as we entered and all that. I’ve always wondered why circumcision is an exception to this.

    Anyway, I guess that makes me an “intactivist” ….and I’m not insane. :)

    • Hugh7 February 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

      Contact details for more than 60 celebrants (more than 20 of them rabbis) of Brit Shalom (Brit B’li Milah, covenenant without cutting) are at http://tinyurl.com/britshalom

  22. Amy March 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I am a proud mother of two circumcised, ie “mutilated” boys (three if you count my husband) and have been contemplating tribal tattoos and ear gauges to enhance their mutilated appearance. Shoot….do people really think that circumcision has a lasting negative effect on the lives of newborn males? Have they ever watched a baby come down and out of a vaginal canal?

    The more important question that no one seems to ask is: how would you have liked to be the first of the homo sapiens to experience foreskin removal? And really, what enterprising surgeon, ie crazy person with a sharp tool, looked at a penis one day and said, “hmmmm, I wonder what is underneath this layer of skin?”

    And finally, for all of those that are completely opposed to the act of circumcision: perhaps circumcision is the trigger for those dormant genes that once activated lead to exceptional mental acuity and brilliance??? Just sayin’…

  23. Jessica Austin, Birth Doula March 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    In the nature of good debate, I wrote a critique of your post on my own blog so as not to mess with your road rules here. I encourage you to take a look at at. You make some extremely common arguments that come up all the time in the circumcision debate, so I thought it was really important to spend some time addressing the flaws in the arguments. I encourage you and your readers to check out the post I made on my Birth Takes a Village Blog called:

    Female Intactivist vs a Circumcised Dad: The stereotypical pro-circumcision arguments and why they are wrong

    Blog love to ya!

  24. David March 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    Well, I’ll say that, as a soon-to-be-father trying to decide wether or not to circumcise my son, (if we have a son, we don’t know what’s coming out of my wife, but as long as it’s human and healthy…) I’ll say that I lean towards thoughtful reasoning that is presented in a non-judgemental, hysterical way.

    I’ll also say that, while I respect the female POV on all issues, this is one area where my opinion matters more than my wife’s. We respect one another though, so we’ve talked a lot about it, so when I decide, that decision will me influenced by my wife’s thoughts on the subject.

    And anyone out there who accuses me of mutilating my own child will either be ignored for the judgemental fool they’re acting like, or will be taken to task for same.

    So far, I see a lot of folks opposed because the medical profession can’t justify it either way, so they default to “don’t.”

    I’m a little fairer than that and will make my decision based on what I believe is best for my son. How about you do the same and I’ll opt out of offering my opinion to you?

    I appreciate everyone’s passion and caring on the subject, but really. Butt-the-hell-out.

    • Hugh7 March 22, 2012 at 12:56 am #

      “Butt-the-hell-out.”
      Your son may well grow up to wish you had done just that, and not made any decision, based on letting HIM decide what is best for HIM. (Daddy Confidential won’t let me post a link to the first-person stories of 140 such men.)

  25. ALYSSA FRITTS March 20, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Again…haven’t read through all the comments…but I will tell this funny little story…

    My first boyfriend had NO IDEA if he was or was not cut. He asked me one night in bed and it took all I had in me to not laugh. He was…in case you’re wondering.

    I am so on the fence on this subject that I’m not even going to go into it. But I agree…it’s a personal decision each parent must make for their children.

  26. nevermind May 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    as someone who has given head to men with foreskin and without, I can tell you I have a definite preference for the circumcised… not trying to persuade anyone here, I’m just saying.

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