Monday, 2 January 2012

Making the cut

The only reason that I sometimes have the thought that I wish Ross had been right about the sex of our child is when I try to wrap my brain around the decision of whether or not to circumcise.  It is one of the issues that, the more I research, the more confused I am.  I feel like I get further away from an answer whenever I think about it.


So here are our factors:

-Ross is Jewish.  BUT he doesn't practice.  We will not be having a bris, regardless of what decision we make.
(A side story:  I was discussing the question of circumcision with my parents on the phone last night [my mom is pro; my dad offered no opinion] and mom told me that my G'ma expressed concern to her that we would be having "one of those cutting ceremonies".  My told her that it was highly unlikely.  I find it pretty funny that G'ma was so nervous that we'd be having a bris, given that I'm fairly certain she'd be disapproving at the thought of not circumcising.  I don't get why it matters to her if it was done ceremonially by a doctor [as it would be where we live], or in a hospital by a doctor.  Maybe she's picturing a shakey-handed old mohel and that makes her nervous?)

-We live in the UK.  Circumcision is not common here.  Whereas in America, it's fairly common and often considered a no-brainer of a decision (though less so these days), here the only people that routinely circumcise are the ones who do so for religious reasons.

So my initial instinct, before I even did any reading about it was: Yes.  Circumcise.  
I think all of my friends who have sons are circumcised.  
My dad and brother are circumcised.  Growing up in America, I just always assume that men are circumcised. 
My husband is circumcised.  The baby should "match" his dad, right?

But then I started thinking... Are those good reasons?  I mean "father and son" genitalia isn't on any of the must-have lists in fashion magazines this year.  And the rest of the world seems to view the US as strange in it's predisposition towards cutting.  

I asked Ross, and he's no real help.  He says he doesn't have strong feelings one way or the other.  When I said "If I left it entirely up to you, what would you do?"  He said he probably wouldn't, because why do a procedure that doesn't NEED to be done.  

So I just don't know.  I get both sides.  I really do.  I guess we need to talk to the midwife to find out what our options even are...  I'll keep you posted on what she says.

What are your thoughts on making the cut?
(And I know this topic can get heated, so please... be respectful!)


  1. The stats for America is actually approx 70% are NOT circled. It is very regional of course, but overall, the majority of the US is not. Check out the Peaceful Parenting page on FB. Also Saving Our Sons. Both pro keeping boys intact. I tend to agree with your husband, why do a procedure that isn't medically necessary. We don't routinely cut girls just because that is what everyone does, so I don't see why we do boys. People would be appalled if we started doing unnecessary surgery on baby girls. Read the recent literature on health benefits. Many new studies discount the general belief that circa men are cleaner and healthier. Good luck. It's a tough decision!

  2. We had both of our boys circumcised (sp?), and to be honest I couldn't tell you our exact reasoning. Not that we were cavalier about it AT ALL; I think we felt that the cleanliness argument made sense and we were swayed mostly by it. I can't imagine trying to teach either of my boys about keeping themselves clean - they can barely keep their faces and hands clean. I worried about infection and pain from uncleanliness and felt the best route to go would be to eliminate the potential for anything to go wrong. It's not for everyone, but it was for us.

  3. I agree with anonymous - the number of boys being circ'ed in the US is dropping and circ'ed boys will no longer be in the majority. Also the US has one of the highest rates of circumcision for non religious reasons (ie, cosmetic reasons) in the Western world.

    Our son is not, but he was born in the UK so it wasn't really an option unless we sought it out. I don't know about the whole 'looking like daddy', women don't sit around and compare breasts with their mom, so while I see the point I don't know how valid it really is. Our son has friends who are and they pee outside (not my choice) and he has noticed and it is just the way it is, it isn't some big thing.

    At the end of the day you have to do what is best for you guys as a family and not worry about what other people say!

  4. Unless it's a medical necessity what's the point?

  5. Male circumcision is a safe, popular, healthy & beneficial procedure for individuals & parents to choose. It provides benefits such as 12x less likely for UTI, +22x less likely for cancer, decreases HIV acquisition by 53% to 60%, herpes acquisition by 28% to 34%, and HPV prevalence by 32% to 35 % in men. The risks are about 0.2% and are typically minor & easily corrected.

    Parents should research circumcision and make an informed decision for the health & well-being of their son.

    In case you're interested, circumcision is still the choice by US parents by over 60% (reliable stats are hard to come by & anti circumcision activists (posting above) want to believe it is going away).

  6. Bob, you should really think about the statistics you're throwing around and who is being an activist.

    It's the boy's body. It can be done later. It's a horrible procedure to witness.
    You would never do anything like this to a daughter despite the vagina being generally more problem prone than the penis.

    Imagine being your son if the circumcision is botched. That would be fun.

    Leave it alone until there's a problem, if there's a problem.

  7. Meg, you know my husband is from the UK and not Jewish. He isn't circumcised and neither is his son. The cleanliness issue is really hyped up. Urine is sterile unless there is already an infection in the body. God designed the penis to have the skin...did he make a mistake? It's easy to teach the boys to keep clean and neither my husband, his three brothers or our son has ever had any sort of urinary tract infection. My thinking is that the body is a very complex system and the natural way is usually the best because we don't always understand the exact reasons why that is there in the first place. The surgery (lets call it what it is...not a "procedure")is not pleasant and can leave some pretty horrendous scars, even when done "right". My opinion would be that the decision would be left up to the boy later (especially since Ross doesn't have a strong religious feeling about it) but I would doubt the boy would choose to do it later on.

  8. I'm Jewish (if you couldn't tell from the name), and American, and my son is not circed. I think it's mutilation and I'm ashamed that my religion continues to advocate for it.

    While I assume that most of my son's friends are circed (we live in a very backwards region of the country, so even the gentiles still circ at a high rate here), I don't know for sure. I don't see their penises. It never comes up. My son didn't even know what circ was until this past year - and I wish I had taped his reaction to having it described, as I think the conversation might have persuaded some other Jewish parents not to circ.

    If that has been my son's experience as a practicing Jew in boondocks of the USA, a nonpracticing half-Jew in the UK is wildly unlikely to ever have problems resulting from forgoing circ.

  9. Let your son decide when he's old enough to do so.

  10. Let your son decide whether he wants to be circumcised.
    If you have him circumcised as a baby you take away his choice forever. But if you leave him uncircumcised he can easily have his foreskin removed later if thats what he wants..

  11. Hi! i'm a mom of two girls so I feel weird getting into this discussion, but when I was pregnant I went through the same thing before we knew the baby's gender. We're Americans so it's even harder to "go with your gut" which in my case was screaming NO.

    Here is a link to the discussion on my blog last year:

    Good luck and congrats!

  12. Circumcision became popular in America as a way to prevent masturbation. Your Son does not need to have a piece of his body removed. And having a wound wrapped up in a diaper full of pee and poop just can't be a good idea.

  13. I very rarely post comments anywhere but I feel I have to now.

    "Bob" 's twitter account is the twitter account of a circumfetish site.
    A circumfetish is a person who is sexually aroused by circumcision. As the name could tell you.

    Oftentimes this is linked with being aroused by the non consent of neonatal and child circumcision.

    If you want more information on circumfetishists please go to

  14. What the anti-circumcision fanatics DON'T want you to see:

  15. I'm uncut, myself, and A.'s comment about it being difficult for young boys to keep clean is a load of hogwash. The foreskin has something called smegma underneath it that keeps it clean, almost all by itself. Furthermore, at birth and at young ages, your son's foreskin is attached to the glans, and as he ages it will separate naturally, at which point it will slide back easily and be easy to rinse. Your young man will have a harder time cleaning his back and under his toenails than he will cleaning his foreskin.

    I am terribly grateful that my parents were enlightened enough to offer me the decision myself when I was old enough... and I'm extremely glad that I kept my foreskin.

  16. I just went through this myself. As a circumcised male I always assumed that I would get my son cut. When my son was born I asked the doctor to remind me why we do this and I was stunned at his response "Its completely cosmetic or religious, there is no reason at all to have it done". Despite my wife's objections I refused to put my son through it. It boggles my mind why parents are so obsessed with their son's penises.
    There is no debate on this issue any more, if its not for pure medical reasons it should not be done, it's your son's body part let him decide what to do with it.

    Maybe we should obsess over how our Daughter's Vagina's look when they are babies. After all, I don't want my daughter to have an ugly Vagina!

    That statement above should say it all.

  17. I'm happy to circumvent the circumfetishists. I can't say I've ever missed my foreskin, it seems like it's an issue that bothers people in warmer climates, hence the reasons the ancient religions of the warm climates of the Middle East have it as part of their religious practice.

    From what I've seen the only significant pro or anti statistics come from those pro or anti, those without an axe to grind (probably the most brutal way of circumcising) seem to have statistics in the 0-2% for benefits for and against.

  18. I too live in the Uk, I'm Scottish. I am also male and know 2 men who have been circumcised, both due to phymosis. When I ask them if they would prefer to be intact they both say yes. There is no time limit to being circumcised so why not leave it up to your son to decide when he is an adult and has his own free will and agency.

    Also please watch this video about circumcision prior to making your decision.

  19. You can't miss a foreskin if can't even remember ever having one. You can't think either is better or worse if you didn't have a circumcision on a later age and you can compare the two from direct experience. Even then you still can't generalize; if you had phimosis I dare say you never really enjoyed your painful foreskin anyways so being circumcised is obviously better. For you.

    Every time I see this very debate come up in an online discussion, it's always more or less the same story. I feel like it's the circumcised men themselves that feel threatened the most by the debate. After all, nobody likes the idea that other people think there is something wrong with their body because they were circumsiced. And that they were circumcised because it's common practice and now all of a sudden people are saying it's potentially 'abnormal' or wrong. "Well shit, I don't have a foreskin. Well fuck you abnormal, foreskins suck and you suck too".

    Most of the time, this seems to be the main reason why circumcised men revolt in this debate. They don't want to feel awkward or insecure about themselves. Not circumcising your son would be in fact acknowledging this and not everyone can cope with such insecurity that easily. Most of us would never want to accept it. You can call this bullshit and cite all the research about cleanliness or whatever you want, keep in mind that most of those studies are just to comfort and shield yourself from those very potential insecurities (e.g. "you see, science says foreskins suck so I'm better off without one; so fuck you I'm not abnormal")) and thus intended solely to maintain the status quo. Those studies would never be conducted if it wasn't to protect the nation from global male insecurity and self-awareness about penises (and piss of a few religions too).

  20. Good for you for questioning circumcision! When it's something that you've been exposed to for your whole life, it can seem very normal, even desirable, and many people do not take the time to question whether or not neonatal circumcision is an acceptable practice. I thought it was was perfectly acceptable until I began questioning it a few years ago also, and this lead me to become very much opposed to it. Regardless of what conclusion you come to, you're still way better off questioning the operation before it happens than afterward.

    Circumcision at birth is not medically necessary, so it's basically unnecessary cosmetic surgery, performed on a healthy infant that can't consent to the operation. If you were going to have a girl, it would be illegal to perform any non-therapeutic surgery on her genitals. If parents request other types of non-therapeutic procedures for a child, such as an unnecessary blood transfusion, doctors will refuse. Because of the power of tradition, male circumcision is the only case where parents have the option, for absolutely any reason, to have an unnecessary surgical procedure performed on a healthy child. This is changing though, and as Andrea alluded to above, you will likely have difficulty finding a doctor who will perform the procedure in the UK.

    There is a general ignorance in society about the foreskin itself (at least in North America, I'm not entirely sure about Europe). Even some medical organizations are guilty of this ignorance, evidenced by the trend to weigh the benefits of circumcision against the risk of surgical complications, without giving any consideration for the benefits of the foreskin itself. Many believe that the foreskin is simply extra skin, but that's not true. The foreskin has numerous protective and sexual functions. For example, it protects the glans from urine and feces while the child is still in diapers, and it is one of the most sensitive external parts of the penis, particularly to light touch and stretching. Because the foreskin has functions and benefits, removing it is no more justifiable than removing any other body part from a healthy child.

    Here are a few links on the subject that may help with your decision:

  21. Agreed with the majority! No cutting! And yes, i too also like that you've questioned it as apposed to blindly and uneducatedly following a trend. You guys are going to be good parents!

  22. Wow, Meg...I don't think you've ever gotten so many comments! Maybe you should hit on these controversial topics more often. At least you know how many readers you have now. I agree with several other posters. The fact that you and Ross are even questioning this "tradition" since both of you would have thought it was commonplace just shows how wonderful you'll be as parents and that you seek out what's best for your child no matter what the cultural norm would seem to be. But that's just who you are, nothing new really! :)

  23. The same arguments for circumcising boys apply to the removal of girls' clitoral hoods. Apply the arguments for boys' circumcisions (cultural, religious and "medical") to girls and you will get an entirely different reaction.

    Do not circumcise your boys (or girls). If they want this unnecessary procedure, they can decide for themselves when they reach 18. Unless there is a medical condition such as phymosis, it is really not for the parents to arbitrarily amputate part of their childrens' bodies.

  24. If you are still in doubt, this is a perfect list on why you shouldn't make the cut:

  25. I came back today to see if there was an update... thanks for the list, Anon! I can't stress how useful that was; I'll be bookmarking it for later. Mostly I love how the first and last reason on the list are "It's his."


    "50.) It's his. I know, I said it already. but it's really the first and last reason - and perhaps the only one you really need. It's his body, and unless medically necessary, it should be his choice. You wouldn't give him a nose job without his permission, you wouldn't tattoo your infant. This is the same thing. If you really look at your motives, why would you want to take the risks? Leave the decision where it belongs - in your son's hands."

  26. LOL at father-son fashion trends. :) Although I haven't researched the pros and cons or had to make this decision myself, I have a relative who got painful infections and had to be circumcised as a preteen, and it was horrible. For that reason I'm inclined to go with the hygiene argument. :\

  27. There are so many things that can get infected by so many reasons, but there's absolutely no reason to cut off perfectly healthy and normal skin because of the unlikely event it one day might get infected and needs treatment.

    The hygiene thing is terribly exaggerated. Being an uncut man, when you shower you just pull back the foreskin, let the water stream over it, wash it a bit (don't even need soap) and you are done with it. Washing your feet is ten times harder and is such a chore really. Let alone cleaning a vagina, with all that skin folds and stuff. Women produce far more smegma than men, but we don't cut off their baby girl labia to keep things "clean."