Circumcision: Update | Ask Your Dad Blog

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Circumcision: Update


Hey, remember a few weeks ago when I set the internet on fire by asking whether or not I should lop off the tip of my kid's wang? And by chop off my son's penis, I mean consent to minor cosmetic surgery to remove his foreskin, a tradition in Western culture that most likely would have little effect on my son's future development.  And by simple, elective procedure, I of course mean an invasive surgery akin only to genital mutilation and child abuse. Remember that blog? Yeah, me too. 

So do a lot of people. I still get all sorts of e-mails asking what decision we came to. Some of them are a bit aggressive, but most are very kind and concerned. So to ease inquiring minds, this week's blog is an update to my previous circumcision blog. (If you haven't read it, I suggest you start there.)

Instead of teasing it for 600 words, going to commercial, coming back, lowering the lights, opening an envelope and then going on for a few more minutes on how the votes were tallied, I'm just going to get right to it. We have decided to not circumcise our son.

Now to be fair, the first paragraph of this blog touched on the extremes of the conversation. Our decision was made with the help of the many comments from the center.  We also talked to our doctor and our family and friends. I even asked my two-year-old daughter. Her answer was something about wanting string cheese. To be honest, I probably publicized a personal decision too much.  I'm glad I did though, because with all of your help and love I know that we're making the best decision for us.

A few points I'd like to make


On the original blog and the comments:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who commented! The original blog highlighted one of my main goals with Ask Your Dad Blog, which is to have conversations about the parts of parenthood people don't usually talk about. I understood that circumcision is a sensitive topic, but it was wonderful hearing from folks on both sides.

Now… if you read the comments on the original post you know that they were weighted somewhat dramatically to one side. A bit of explanation is warranted.

The original circumcision blog was found and posted on an anti-circumcision message board hosted on Reddit.com. This brought in a lot of wonderful visitors that contributed helpful, kind and productive comments to the conversation.  They linked to great articles and sent me some very nice private e-mails that presented a rational argument against circumcision.

It also brought a few folks who were nearly militant with their beliefs and thought personally attacking people with differing opinions than theirs would help prove their point. While I left anything that made a point in the argument, any comment that was personally attacking another commenter was removed.  (These were the rare exception though.)

On our decision to not circumcision:

I do not think that those who choose to circumcise are cruel parents, less intelligent, or even less informed.  I have many friends who made the decision to circumcise their sons and not only do I consider them spectacular parents, but I also look up to them as role models of the type of parent I'd like to be in a few years.  

I do not think that circumcision is evil. Based off everything I learned, I don't think it is necessary. But it's not evil. Like I mentioned before, I'm circumcised and I like my penis just fine. I also feel no ill will towards my parent's decision. I did find it surprising that when I talked to my mom she mentioned that if she had the decision to make again she didn't know if she'd make the same one.  In fact, she said she probably wouldn't.

Lastly…

I support a parent's right to make the decision. Here's why I made mine:

One thing kept hitting home for us. If it's not a religious issue for us (it's not), and there's very little legitimate medical reasoning to do it… then why do it? I trust my communication skills enough to explain to my son someday why his little guy is wearing a turtleneck. Hell, I'll just show him this blog (which honestly, will probably damage him much more than the circumcision ever would have.) At the end of the day, there were more reasons not to circumcise than there were reasons to circumcise. And thus, our decision was made.

It was a personal decision and I am glad I (we) had the right to make it. It involved me in my unborn son's life in a way that made me feel closer to the little guy. Up until that point I had thought of him in fluffy generalizations like "ooh we'll play catch in the back yard someday" and "ooh I'll have to learn how to throw a baseball someday". Remembering that all decisions aren't simple made him seem more real than any silly day dream I've had. And while some decisions are going to need to be made on the fly, I'm glad we had nine months to make this one.

Thanks again!

Dad

Washington Monument With A Bow
This picture makes more sense if you read the last circumcision blog. 

31 comments:

  1. HOW DARE YOU!

    Now you're just torturing your son's future lovers by forcing them to deal with his slightly larger, slightly-different-looking-than-most-American-men's members!

    Oh wait, you exercised good judgment and made a personal decision that is truly yours and only yours (and your wife's) to make, after researching the issue and considering both sides! Again: HOW DARE YOU! That's not what the Internet is about!

    Seriously, though, good for you. I couldn't care less which way you go on this issue; as I've said before, there are arguments for both sides, and equally fanatic defenders of those arguments on both sides. The key here is to be reasonable and decide what you think is best, and ignore all the noise.

    I posted my circumcision blog entry on Reddit's anti-circ board too, and that was fun, in a terrifying way. Unfortunately I posted it years AFTER the decision had been made and the procedure had been completed. Which was NOT what the anti-circers wanted to hear. Oh well. Live and learn.

    Maybe it's just easier to have a daughter? (I kid, I kid).

    www.dadandburied.com

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    1. I think daughters are easier to start. Then they become teenage girls. I'm keeping my fingers crossed my daughter is a lesbian, at least through college.

      But yeah... it's nice to have the circ decision taken care of. And honestly, the majority of the anticirc subreddit was very helpful. Now I just need to work on how old he should be before we let him have a mohawk.

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    2. Haha, this made me smile :)

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    3. I saw a 2-year-old with a mohawk at my kid's soccer game the other day. It was awesome!

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    4. My son was circumcised overseas on a military base. My then abusive husband insisted that it be done. He, however did not come to the appointment. My son was taken into another room and I heard blood curdling screams from my infant which caused me to run into the room like a crazy woman as my breasts filled up with milk because he was nursing. I tried to stop the procedure, but it was too late and I couldn't do anything. My poor baby was nude, legs and arms strapped down to a weird table and was in distress. It was horrific. The doctors insisted that I leave the room but how could I? I stayed and kissed my sons head and told him how sorry I was while they finished brutalizing him. When they finished I immediately took him into my arms and nursed him to comfort and calm him.
      He was perfect just the way he was at birth. I felt horrible about allowing this barbaric torture session to occur and swore to never let it happen again. 4.5 years later I was blessed with a little girl. Thank God!

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  2. Sadly, I missed your original post. I would have sent you to this great website devoted to helping parents struggling with "the decision."

    http://circumcisiondecisionmaker.com/

    Interestingly, a point that most people don't get, is that "those folks" aren't anti-circumcision. The points most of them make are pro-baby. That is, its his (or her) body, and therefore his (or her) choice. It has nothing to do with the particular body part being removed.

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    1. Thanks Dan! And thanks for the website. I'll check it out.

      I see your point about being pro-baby. I have no doubt they are pro-baby, but that doesn't mean people who are against circumcision can't be called "anti-circumcision". They are, and that term better defines them within the context of a conversation about circumcision. Especially when using the term pro-baby in the context of a circumcision discussion would then make those who circumcise their kids "anti-baby"... which they aren't.

      Lastly, I hope the term folks didn't come across as dismissive. I honestly appreciated 95% of the feedback I got from the people who spoke out against circumcision on my previous blog. I call everyone "folks". It was in no way intended to come across as demeaning.

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. Now I didn't delve into it too fully, but I'm guessing every option except "I'm Jewish" in the so-called decision maker will come out as a "don't."

      I'm all for addressing concerns one-by-one, but it seems deceptive to portend a multi-branching decision tree that in fact all leads back to the same place.

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  3. Hmm... Parents who circumcise their daughters are considered anti-baby, so perhaps that's a legitimate label. Time will tell. With the current US circumcision rate at 50/50 and still dropping at some point parents who circumcise their boys will be in the same group as those who circumcise girls.

    BTW: That website is a favorite of thousands of birth-care providers like doulas, midwives, and maternity nurses.

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  4. Well done! I wish my parent would have taken the time to consider this the way you did. I can't wait to see what kind of awesome your kids create in the world based on your epic parenting. Seriously. My parent chose genital mutilation... I'm glad you aren't going to.

    I think children - even infants - are smarter then we realize. When we welcome a new life into the world by dominating them, forcing our will upon them, and changing their bodies in a brutal way, what are we *really* saying to them? I think we're setting them up for a life without boundaries, self esteem, sexual integrity, or the ability to find power in saying NO.

    You rock!

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  5. Just stumbled across your blog via your wife's which I stumbled across from somewhere else I don't even remember anymore. Anyhoo . . . just wanted to say that we made our decision much the same way you made yours. It's a very polarizing topic, but you did it justice while still being respectful of all opinions.

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  6. I'm commenting here, to a comment on your original post, since this is the more current one.
    One of the replies you received was from an Englishman, who made the remark about an uncircumcised penis being more sensitive, and I wanted to call him out on that. Using this argument is purely speculative, until someone is willing to be a test subject, and have a brain scan during sex, then be "trimmed" and have another brain scan session during sex afterwards. Any other statements regarding sensitivity are just personal opinions.

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  7. I was just introduced to your blog when a friend tweeted a link to your
    letter to your Hypothetically Gay Son. I loved that, and I decided to dive into the rest of your blog.

    Obviously I missed your original post on this subject. I commend your bravery for putting that out there. We went through the same process when I was pregnant, and we ended up with sons both times. After all of the research we did, we came to the same conclusions you did: we have no religious reasons for it, and it seemed unnecessary. Also, I was fully prepared to be a spaz the first few months, and figured that if there was one less thing to worry about, that would be a good thing.

    My boys are now 8 and 10, and participate in sports, including travel sports where they're staying in hotels with teammmates and coaches. They haven't yet said anything to me about their being "different." As for that, they've never, to my knowledge, questioned being "different from Daddy," which is a concern I've seen raised. It also seems like not circumcising is becoming more common, at least in my area, so I'm sure my boys aren't alone.

    Congratulations on making a tough decision in your own way. Similar to your mother, my sister has a son who's older than my boys. When she had her son, she didn't even realize that NOT circumcising was an option. Having options is a wonderful thing.

    Keep up the good work on your blog.

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  8. I was just introduced to your blog when a friend tweeted a link to your
    letter to your Hypothetically Gay Son. I loved that, and I decided to dive into the rest of your blog.

    Obviously I missed your original post on this subject. I commend your bravery for putting that out there. We went through the same process when I was pregnant, and we ended up with sons both times. After all of the research we did, we came to the same conclusions you did: we have no religious reasons for it, and it seemed unnecessary. Also, I was fully prepared to be a spaz the first few months, and figured that if there was one less thing to worry about, that would be a good thing.

    My boys are now 8 and 10, and participate in sports, including travel sports where they're staying in hotels with teammmates and coaches. They haven't yet said anything to me about their being "different." As for that, they've never, to my knowledge, questioned being "different from Daddy," which is a concern I've seen raised. It also seems like not circumcising is becoming more common, at least in my area, so I'm sure my boys aren't alone.

    Congratulations on making a tough decision in your own way. Similar to your mother, my sister has a son who's older than my boys. When she had her son, she didn't even realize that NOT circumcising was an option. Having options is a wonderful thing.

    Keep up the good work on your blog.

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  9. Congrats on reaching a decision, that must be a big relief for you and your family!

    I do want to mention that: circumcision does not involve cutting off the tip of the penis. It’s actually more like… skinning the penis; I guess that could be a way to describe it. Scalping it?

    I'm not sure why that was bothering me, or why I absolutely had to say it, or even if it was important. Hmm, I think it was important.

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  10. Cutting any amount off of any person without their consent shouldn't be legal, in my mind.. so, I'm just glad you decided not to.

    I'm not one of those people who will call a parent who circ'ed their son as "bad parents" or anything.. but coming from a culture where this is not the norm.. well, I just really don't get what it is about foreskin that Americans are so afraid of. :/

    Thanks,

    & good blog! keep going, man.
    I found you from someone posting the Gay-son letter on FB.

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  11. For folks worried that an uncut son will be upset that his penis looks different from his cut daddy's, I have had moms say that their sons were more fascinated by the fact that daddy has a bunch of hair, and they don't. That's a much more obvious difference. The kids aren't worried, just interested. But you don't hear about daddy's shaving so that their sons aren't traumatized by the big difference.

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  12. It's kind of like my decision not to trim my dog's ears. Unnecessary cosmetic surgery just so my dog can look like the other dogs of his breed?? Yeah... not so much. And, frankly, his big bat-ears are kind of his "thing" now. People love them. Hopefully people will similarly love your son's unaltered penis (when it's appropriate for that kind of thing to happen.) :)

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  13. As a mom to a circ'd 9year old, this really hit home with me. Especially the comment made by your mother. I feel the same way. I probably would not have made the same choice if I had to do over again. However, I do not believe my son will have any ill effects due to being circ'd. Every parent has choices to make in their kids lifetime- some they'll be happy with, some they won't. But we have to do what we feel is best at the time.

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  14. we have a 5m boy and a 3yr girl... just went through this too. it was a tough argument. statistics flying around the room like crazy, it all came down to my heart not wanting to cut a wee thing for no good reason. My husband finally realized his horse in the race was named Pride, and we called a truce. The boy is whole. phew. and it's funny what a non issue it is; friends and family and random strangers who see his pecker in the Target when I'm changing his diaper don't comment.

    I think I'm finally realizing that the decisions we fret and fight and sweat over in these days right before and right after our children come aren't the ones that really matter. No one can tell a breastfed from a bottle fed baby or whether or not you cloth or disposable diaper. I can't tell to this day whether a persons Mom had a scheduled C Section or went through natural childbirth. I hope we can all cut each other some slack.

    I wish you happy times and happy peckers!

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  15. My son was not circumcised - and I don't think he suffered for it. He is 30 now. We found a pretty even mix of circumcised and non in the area where we lived. We agonized over what to do. His father was circumcised - I grew up in the UK where it is not a common procedure.
    I heard arguments that kids with foreskins get infections - I never saw this. We didn't make a big deal out of it - when he was small - and we taught him how to wash properly, it was part of the drill - ears, toes, tummy, penis, bottom, hands, feet etc (well we may have used the term 'pee-pee').
    I think nowadays more of my friends are opting not to circumcise.

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  16. We didn't circ our boy. His cousin, age 5 and circumcised, said, upon seeing our boy's 6 week old penis, "His penis looks funny." Not in a mean way, just observing. I wasn't really prepared and the conversation went like this: Me - "really?" Cousin - "yeah, funny." Me - "well, don't all penises look a little funny?" Doh!

    So... hopefully you'll be more prepared with a more sensitive line like, "Everyone's bodies are a little different!"

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  17. Hi I have 3 uncircumscised boys ages 11, 10 and 8. No problems so far. (we went through much the same process in deciding and reached the same conclusions you and your wife did- I also left it up to my husband)They have never asked about it or noticed their father's circised penis and commented (although I have had plenty of questions about my total lack of a penis) The other issue I'd ask you to research and contemplate is your treatment of your son's forskin- I'm pretty sure there are some ignorant doctors out there (my pediatrician being one of them-although she is wonderful in many other ways)who will recommend that you yank your son's foreskin back and clean under it... based on the research I did (11 years ago) its seems best to leave the foreskin totally alone until the kid yanks it back themselves as they will sometime between 9 months and 12 years old. Apparantly the foreskin is attached around the tip much like a hyman and that skin attachment keeps the area under the foreskin completely germ free until its detached... some foreskins that are detached actually reattach.... anyway this is all based on old research so I can't link for you- but I can tell you that so far I've never "pulled back" any of my sons' foreskins nor did I clean under them when they were in diapers and we've never had any sort of infections or bladder problems with any of them. They are all responsible for their own hiegene at this point and we've not heard of any issues from them either.

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  18. I also want to comment as a grown-up lady about ummm "hanging out socially" with both circumcised penis's and uncirmcised penis's- they both look pretty nuch the same when erect... it never bothered me....

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  19. We didn't circumcise our first, but we did our second. We were against it when we had our first and so didn't have it done. Then it turned out his foreskin was too tight and could not be pulled back. We had to repeatedly apply steroid cream and forcibly pull it back so that it would loosen. The steroid cream was irritating to his skin and having his foreskin pulled back pained him. We had to do this for months and they still wanted to circumcise him at age 2 because it still wasn't pulling back easily. We were not comfortable with having that done at his age. When his brother came along a couple of years later, we chose to do the circumcision rather than possibly having to put him through all that.

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    1. The foreskin may not naturally retract until age 12 or so, so the fact that they were telling you to apply steroid cream and forcibly pull it back at age TWO is terrible! I'm so sorry they did that to you and to your son. Poor little guy. Most doctors are more educated now about foreskin, although there are still some out there who try to scare parents about the foreskin not retracting early.

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    2. The foreskin may not naturally retract until age 12 or so, so the fact that they were telling you to apply steroid cream and forcibly pull it back at age TWO is terrible! I'm so sorry they did that to you and to your son. Poor little guy. Most doctors are more educated now about foreskin, although there are still some out there who try to scare parents about the foreskin not retracting early.

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  20. Late coming to the discussion but had to tell it.... a relative of mine had a chainsaw accident where the chainsaw kicked up and -- crazy enough -- sliced through his eyelid - his eye ball only ended up being scratched (this was the 70's, no eye protection). The Dr. used part of his foreskin to replace his eyelid - apparently foreskin tissue is quite a valuable type of tissue.

    Anyway, the moral of the story is... good decision on deciding not to circ. As I see it, why throw away a perfectly good part of the human body when one day it might come in handy? Amongst other reasons... :)

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  21. Thank you so much for leaving your son intact. That ending to the story MADE MY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!

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  22. You chose to leave your son intact for the same reasons I did. Something to consider on the final "what if he's teased?!!" front: I hear about 30-50% of parents do not circumcise their boys nowadays, which means when the little guys reach the locker room there will be a healthy mix of both. No teasing. Well, not about that. :)

    Cheers for foreskins!

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  23. I'm so glad to hear you chose not to circumcise your son. I had a baby boy in Feb 2012 and decided not to have the procedure, as well. Sometimes I return to the decision I made, wondering if I really made the right choice, so I'm glad to see affirmation from other people. The fact remains that my son was born with a foreskin. Who am I to alter anything about his perfectly formed, little body?

    My husband was ambivalent about circumcising our son, but I was against it from the start. He's such a great person to let my decision stand. It seems sort of an aesthetic procedure for many, akin to getting a baby girl's ears pierced. We had no religious or other reasons to circumcise, so we left him intact.

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