She vs. Her: The Decision About Circumcision

BlogHer Original Post

Why I Chose Not to Circumcise My Son


Circumcision is part of my Jewish cultural heritage. All of my relatives -- my father, uncles, and older brothers -- are circumcised.

Yet after researching circumcision, witnessing it, hearing from men who feel badly about not being given the choice, and talking to women whose husbands are intact, I now believe circumcision is a procedure that should not be done in infancy.

Most parents don’t watch their baby being circumcised and don’t know that the procedure causes excruciating pain, even with anesthesia. Since the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis, like a fingernail attached to the nail bed, it has to be forcibly pried away. Imagine someone separating a newborn’s nail from the nail bed by inserting a metal object between the two.

Circumcision can be dangerous. In March 2009, an Atlanta jury awarded $1.8 million in damages to the parents after a botched circumcision.

It's also a procedure that can cause lasting regret. My cousin so laments being circumcised that he tries to dissuade the rest of the family from doing it.

My husband never really thought about it until our son was born. After reading extensively, he said, "I feel gypped. I could have made my own decision as a teenager if my parents had left well enough alone."

Arguments in favor of circumcision are supposedly based on scientific research.

Recent health studies in Africa suggest that circumcised heterosexual men are less likely to contract HIV than non-circumcised counterparts. But if they wear a condom, circumcision makes no difference.

Proponents argue that urinary tract infections are less likely, it’s necessary for cleanliness, and preventative of penile cancer. Yet the American Academy of Pediatricians claims the medical data “are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.”

The male foreskin is not a superfluous body part: It protects the penis when a boy is a child and also plays a key role in male and female pleasure when a boy is a man.

If there’s really a correlation with STDs, then adult men can choose to have the procedure done once they’re sexually active.

Bucking a cultural legacy of thousands of years, we did not circumcise our son.

If he chooses circumcision as an adult, either for medical or cultural reasons, that’s his decision.

As a contributing editor for Mothering magazine and an investigative journalist, Jennifer Margulis exposes how corporations and private interests skew the way we parent. She has championed the rights of children on PBS Frontline and on live prime-time TV in France. She was recently featured in an AP story about unassisted birth, and has been quoted in many major parenting magazines, including Pregnancy, Parenting, Parents, family.com, and on MSNBC.com.

Why I Chose to Circumcise My Son


Think about the man in your life: What do you think he would say if you asked him to name the first body part that came to mind? Do you think he's going to say it's his elbow? No, he's probably going to say it's his penis.

The male penis has become a very sensitive topic (pun intended), especially when it comes to circumcision. Whether or not to circumcise infant boys has gone from a private decision between parents, to a very vocal and public debate.

I have two sons and they were both circumcised. I didn't take the decision lightly and I didn't want to hurt my kids. There were a number of points I considered before my husband and I talked about our choices and ultimately decided to circumsize:

There are medical benefits to circumcision: Circumcision can reduce the risk of penile cancer and in a previous study, a research team found that circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases.

It's painful: Yes, I'm sure it is. But so was the punch the nurses did to my baby's heel to draw blood, and oh, yeah, so was childbirth! I'm sorry but having those kids was probably the most painful, but very best thing I ever did.

Appearance: I don't agree that it's vain to want a father and son to have bodies that appear the same. I didn't want my son to feel different from his father, because children notice these things and at a very early age. I didn't want my sons to question it or wonder why they were different.

My child can't voice what he wants. He should ultimately be able to choose: This is where I draw the line. We are his parents. We get to decide. Mothers and fathers make hundreds of decisions for our children in their best interests every day. This is no different in my mind.

I've written about this before, over at The Stir, where I received a whole lot of comments from people who didn't agree with me and I read every single one. I still believe that in relation to parenting a child, a decision regarding circumcision shouldn't warrant this much controversy. If the worst thing I ever did to my kids was have them circumsized, I will be perfectly fine with that.

Amy Jo Jones heads to an office each morning, but considers her real job to be working and playing along the shores of Lake Michigan with her husband, two sons and her big, bad poodle. She writes about it all on her personal blog, Binkytowne. You can also find her as a contributor to Cafe Mom's The Stir. Don't let the fact that she is one of the authors in the anthology Sleep Is for the Weak: The Best of the Mommybloggers Including Amalah, Finslippy, Fussy, Woulda Coulda Shoulda, Mom-101, and More! fool you. She would love nothing more than a nap.

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