Circumcision - To Snip or NOT to Snip

Advice over the years about whether to circumcize your son.

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Original Question:

 

"Hello,

I am expecting my second child in early November and it is a boy. I come from France and there, the norm is for men to be uncircumcised. Yet I have watched Sex and the City and heard comments from TV where it seems girls find uncircumcised men unappealing, bordering on gross.

I have mixed feelings about this and I am not usually someone who does something because everyone else does, but this is not all about me here, this is about my child and whether he will suffer unduly from my decision as he starts socializing, playing sports, and meeting girls (in a long, long, long time!). I would love to hear everyone's perspective on the subject.

Many thanks for your opinion!"

 

Replies:

 

From the OP:

"Since I have just been asked a couple of times to provide a summary, here is below all the answers I received offline (there are just too many answers to summarize the rest). Many thanks again."

 

"We decided not to circumcise our twin boys because it's medically unnecessary, seems clearly painful, and it can be done later if they choose but not undone. Plus there was no male pushing for them to look like him (we're a lesbian couple) and we had no compelling religious beliefs we felt we needed to follow. (I'm Jewish, but not really observant. My dad wishes we had circumcised them, but, oh well.)

I have two sons, and with my first, circumcision was something I really struggled with. My husband is Jewish and it was very important to him to circumcise our son for religious and cultural reasons, but I was still a bit uncomfortable with it. What helped me come around was knowing two men who had to be circumcised as adults - my father had to have this done in his late 40s, and a good friend had it done in his mid 20s a few months before he got married. I would think that adult male circumcision (for medical reasons) is very rare (I never looked at stats), but watching two men I'm close with go through this made an impact, and so I'm happy to know that my son will never have to have this surgery as an adult. Probably not a good reason to circumsise your son, just wanted to throw it out there since I didn't see it in the thread.

With my younger son, when he was born the doctor took one look at his penis, which was very obviously crooked (because of too tight foreskin, I believe it was, which they were worried would have an effect on urination) and said that she would strongly recommend circumcision to fix this. We had already planned on circumcising him, so it wasn't an issue. Before that, I had never considered that you may not have much of a choice if there is something abnormal about your son's foreskin. (Again, probably something that doesn't come up very often).

Our 8 year old son is intact. Looking different from his dad has not been an issue. It is quite easy to explain the difference, when the foreskin is retracted they do look alike.
A midwife friend of ours told me a story about her son's first encounter in a locker room type situation being questioned by other circumcised boys. Her son simply said, emphatically, something to the effect that "my penis wasn't cut and yours were" which quickly shut them up and turned the tables. Those boys went home and wanted to know from their parents why their penises had been cut as babies!

As for the girls reaction question, I don't know yet how that will play out."

 

"I wanted to respond to your circumcision question. I am Jewish, my husband is not. We chose to circumcise our son at birth using a Jewish mohel partly because I felt strongly as a Jew that my son should be inducted into the "tribe", and partly because there are some statistics that indicate a circumcised penis decreases the chances of cancers. However, I have many friends who did not circumcise their sons, and it is definitely not expected in the U.S. I would very strongly advise against a hospital-based procedure should you choose to do a circumcision. In hospitals they strap the baby down to a board, and the procedure is done by a young resident. A home-based circumcision done by a mohel is very gentle and nurturing. The baby is held in arms and the mohel must undergo rigorous training. Our son did not cry and there was no blood: it was much more like a nail trimming than a surgery. Our mohel's name is Dr. Emily Blake, and she trained as an ob/gyn at Columbia U. She does namings, non-religious ceremonies, etc too. Check her out mymohel.com. She also helped support us when we lost a baby at 5 months gestation, so she's a great person to turn to for guidance too.
Best of luck with the baby!"

 

"We are Jewish and decided not to circumcise. My father will never forgive me. Given you don't have the religion issue, however, I do think it depends where you live. If you plan to raise your child in more progressive parts of the country/world, less and less people are choosing to circumstance. If you are, however, longing to return to a more conservative part of the country, from what I understand, it remains the norm.
I don't regret not circumcising, I am not worried that he doesn't look like his father. My kid is a fluke of nature anyway: a blue eyed, blond haired beauty from Jewish parents. I wouldn't dye his hair dark brown to better resemble us!
Good luck. It's a really tough decision, I know."

 

"My husband is French and we decided not to circumcise our son. My husband was definitely against it and I also think it's not a big deal. I'm in the medical field and I can tell you that more and more people decide to not circumcise. You should do what you feel is right."

 

"Congratulations on the new baby! I would not recommend circumcision. There is no reason to circumcise him. It is still surgery with a risk of complications, etc. I did some research on this before the birth of my son and I really came out against it personally. I cannot imagine having a newborn with a wound also.
I have a 3 year old and 5 year old and many of the children I see are not circumcised. I would say it is at least 50/50."

 

"We were living in Hong Kong when we had our son, and it is uncommon to get a baby boy circumcised there. We looked into it for the same reasons you are thinking about it: we didn't want him to feel/be ostracized when he got older . We were encouraged by articles we read from the New York Times and other sources. It seems to be at least 50% of parents are not choosing not to do it anymore.
Once we had our son and held him, I couldn't imagine making him go through something that would cause him pain for no reason (no religious or medical need for us). And the hefty price tag (over 1500 us dollars) also made us feel like we made the right decision.
I have no regrets about keeping him in tact at this point...though we have a long way to go!"

 

"Leaving aside the raging debates about circumcision in this country and abroad, I can tell you that in my own experience with non-Jewish, American-born men (I am Jewish and eventually married a Jew, so circumcision is not "optional" in that case), I never encountered even one man who was not circumcised. The matter hasn't come up with my sons yet, because the younger one is too young still, and the older one attends a Jewish school so even if he were to see another male classmate undressed, he would not see anything different.
Sigh. Our son is intact. Unfortunately he's now 19 so of course it would be wholly inappropriate for me to ask him, but I've been wondering the same.
We wrestled with this when I was pregnant, and my then-husband and I finally agreed that we didn't feel we needed to "improve" upon evolution or God's design here. Even Jewish families we knew were deciding against circumcision, and having simpler "naming" ceremonies instead of the traditional b'ris. We're Unitarian, so that wasn't an issue.
The statistics our doctors gave us was that in the U.S. over half the newborn boys were uncut, and that percentage was growing among the MORE EDUCATED population (along with breast feeding, etc) - not what we expected.
There is always the potential for complications with ANY surgery, they explained; why put the wee child through such an unnecessary procedure?
Here I was advocating most vocally against FEMALE circumcision in other cultures, yet waffling about cutting my own boy-child, as an American cultural ritual.
The most convincing argument we heard FOR circumcising was that sons would be confused if they were different from their dads in this area - until one day my Italian-Catholic husband said, "Wait, my own father was born in Italy, HE wasn't circumcised! I'm different from MY dad! It never bothered ME!"
We were still not wholly decided until the moment he was born and getting his vitals checked, when the nurse looked at my husband, pointed to the baby's teeny penis, and said, "I recommend you leave that alone." We did.
I told my little boy in the tub to be sure to wash himself thoroughly, and gave him a single strong embarrassing reminder as a tween, ("I *KNOW*, Mom! Jeesh!")."

 

"It's entirely up to you. Circumcision was the norm in the United States up until about 20 years ago. It is still more common here than elsewhere but there is certainly no stigma attached either way, so please don't let that influence your decision. If it helps, among our friends it's evenly split. I'm sure whatever you decide will work out great. PS And don't believe everything you see on Sex in the City."

 

"I agree with David that the number of uncircumcised males is no longer small in USA.
On a more personal note, I am a grandma and my first true love in my 20's was uncircumcised and I found it made him even more special than I already thought he was!
My friend's 21 year old son is not circumcised and he is on his 3rd serious sexual relationship.
My friends 11 yo son is not circumcised and neither is my 2 yo grandson.
A colleague at work who I have talked with this about has 2 babies who are not circumcised. And that is just my small little world. It is just not that a big a deal here either any more.
I think whoever is telling you that females find this gross, is way off base."

 

"We quickly came to the decision not to circumcise our son, because
(a) it's an intrusive and permanent procedure with no medical justification (and some risks)
(b) we had no cultural/religious reason to do it
(c) the notion that boys are traumatized by not matching others' look never made much sense to us. Do you know any uncircumcised men in the U.S. who say they've had trouble and grief due to their anatomy? I don't. I've actually asked uncircumcised friends about this; none has reported any trouble.
Moreover, this social aspect is less important now than it was when we were kids, because the percentage of boys who are circumcised is much lower than it was 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. IOW your son is very unlikely to be "the only one" in gym class.
(d) if we're wrong, our son can decide himself to be circumcised (admittedly it's more complicated when older, but it is done). Why not let him decide about his own body?
That's how we thought it through, anyway."

 

"It really distressed me that so few PSP folks opined positively about circumcision, especially considering that the majority of our sons have probably had the procedure. Before making your decision please google something as simple as "health benefits of circumcision." Bottom line, circumcised males are afflicted by fewer infectious diseases and are less likely to spread them. The foreskin serves no particular purpose, and if your son wants to get the procedure done later in life it's an infinitely more risky and painful procedure. I've never heard of any women preferring men to be uncut, and I think a substantial percentage find it gross (I certainly do!). I've also never heard of any man complaining or feeling like they are missing a piece. There are also wackos out there who are against vaccination, but if you want your son to have the best shot at good health and a more accepted and desirable look I think the procedure makes sense."

 

"Circumcision of males represents a "surgical vaccine" against a wide variety of infections, adverse medical conditions and potentially fatal diseases over their lifetime, and also protects their sexual partners. In experienced hands, this common, inexpensive procedure is very safe, and can be pain-free. Although it can be performed at any age, the ideal time is infancy. The benefits vastly outweigh risks.
The public health benefits are enormous, and include protection from urinary tract infections, that are common over the lifetime, inferior genital hygiene, smegma, sexually transmitted HIV, oncogenic types of human papillomavirus, genital herpes, syphilis and chancroid, penile cancer, and possibly prostate cancer, phimosis, paraphimosis, thrush, and inflammatory skin conditions such as balanitis and balanoposthitis. In women circumcision of the male partner provides substantial protection from cervical cancer, genital herpes, bacterial vaginosis (formerly termed "gardnerella"), possibly Chlamydia (that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy), and other infections.
Circumcision has socio-sexual benefits and reduces sexual problems with age and diabetes. It has no adverse effect on penile sensitivity, erectile function, or sensation during sexual arousal and is reported to enhance the sexual experience for men. Most women prefer the circumcised penis for appearance, hygiene, lower infection risk and sexual activity. At least half of all uncircumcised males will develop one or more problems over their lifetime caused by their foreskin, and many will suffer and die as a result. The benefits exceed the risks by over 100 to 1, and if fatalities are taken into account in men and their sexual partners the benefit is orders of magnitude higher than this. Given the convincing epidemiological evidence and biological support, routine circumcision should be highly recommended by all health professionals."