It’s Not Your Penis

bananaThere is a lot of media attention at the moment on the topic of circumcision. This is largely due to protests in the States recently from ‘intactivists’ as they call themselves, looking for legislation to ban the practice of circumcision. I am not entirely comfortable with legislation governing medical procedures on either view point, but I am against circumcision as a routine and unnecessary procedure.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking all those things that you have been taught to think; that’s its safe, that it’s cleaner, more attractive, prevents STDs. Well, I am sorry to say to you that you are wrong on all counts. These are all clichés repeated ad nauseum to the point where people have heard them so often, they believe them to be fact, but they are not. There is no scientific basis to support ANY of these excuses for mutilating a child. Some practitioners argue a small benefit, but the overall cost is not born by them or the parents, but the poor boy who has had his penis snipped. Let’s address these fallacies one at a time.

It’s safe

In the USA alone (one of the biggest perpetrators of this circumcision for non-medical or religious reasons), well over a 100 babies die every year due, directly or indirectly, to circumcision, the most common causes being haemorrhaging or infection. On average, 117 neonatal deaths are attributed to the circumcision procedure. Compare this to 115 that die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a terrible occurrence, the prospect of which petrifies most new parents, yet they happily submit their perfectly healthy child to the horror of circumcision. The fear is that the number is actually higher, as many neonatal deaths will be recorded under the indirect cause, so the true scale of the problem remains unrecognised.

It has further been proved that the pain management medication given is completely inadequate in most cases. Usually this procedure is performed within 24 hours of birth, so they are limited to what meds can be prescribed. Brain patterns measured during the procedure have shown that the pain is so severe, for most children, they do not return to normal. While the child may not suffer any physical problems, it can lead to attachment issues and other behavioural changes in later life.

It’s cleaner

At birth, a child’s foreskin is fused to the head of the penis. Cleaning a baby boy’s genitalia is no more complicated than cleaning a girls. You just wipe, and it’s done. As the child matures, the foreskin loosens from the head and becomes more mobile. Your child should be able to pull it back himself at this point and clean it if necessary. Until that stage, it is self-cleaning. The foreskin protects the sensitive glans. The only ‘dirt’ likely to be present is smegma, a build-up of epithelial cells and oils, and a little of this is necessary to keep the glans moist and lubricated.

As they reach puberty, a gentle retraction and wash with water or a mild soap is more than enough.

It’s more attractive

Let’s just forget that you are willing to mutilate a child for aesthetic reasons for a minute and be honest here. Genitals are part of our bodies for functional reasons. Neither intact or cut penises would win any beauty competitions, nor would vaginas for that matter. It is not meant to be beautiful, it is meant to be entirely functional.

One of the long term side-effects of circumcision is that it can cause severe deformities as the child matures. The lack of cover and moisture on the glans causes it to harden (keratinise). Other side-effects include buried penis, meatal stenosis, skin bridges, chordee and poor cosmetic appearance. So, how is this more attractive again?

Other aesthetic excuses are that the child will not look like the father if left intact. Would you advocate rhinoplasty if his nose didn’t look the same? I have also heard that they may be mocked by their peers. In what situation do you imagine your child’s penis ever to become the topic of public humiliation? How would anyone even see it?

It prevents AIDS , STDs and penile cancer

STD are really only a concern once your child is sexually active in which case, buy him some condoms if you are worried, and teach him to be responsible. You should be doing this anyway!

Penile cancer is an extremely rare form of cancer, and smoking is the biggest contributory factor. There has been studies that suggest there are slightly less cases among circumcised men. However, the average age of penile cancer sufferers is 64. Let a grown man make the decision to fractional lower his chances of penile cancer, if he wants to. Don’t do it to a baby “on the chance” he may get it in 60+ years. Breast cancer is a major killer of woman. By this logic, we should be cutting off the breast buds of newborn girls.

What is involved in circumcision?

At less than 24 hours old, your son’s foreskin is fused to the head of his penis. Using surgical tools, the doctor inserts them under the foreskin, bluntly separating the inner lining of the foreskin from the penis head. A cut is made along the dorsal slit and clamps are used until the bleeding subsides, then the loosened skin is amputated, leaving a raw open wound.

When did it become routine?

Our puritanical ancestors were so prudish, they hated everything about sex. It’s a wonder we didn’t die out as a race, really. They tried to remove the pleasure from sex, and make it all about procreation. Nature has evolved humans and other mammals to enjoy sex because you are likely to do something more often if you enjoy it, thus aiding procreation. Part of the process of our developing sexuality often includes masturbation. The puritans believe that if you masturbated then you would be possessed by demons. You all know that’s bullshit though, right?

In an effort to prevent masturbation, circumcision was performed. While masturbation is entirely possible with a circumcised penis, it is not nearly as pleasurable an experience. We all know how sensitive the clitoris is, and this contains 8’000 nerve endings. The foreskin contains 20’000. When you cut off the tip of your baby boy’s penis, you are essentially ruining his sex life. Sure, he can still have sex (as long as he uses lube), but that moment of exquisite pleasure would be vastly greater if you had only allowed him to keep all his nerve endings.

Why do Doctors offer this procedure if there is no medical reason for it?

Money. Religious reasons aside, the most common motivator is money. Isn’t it always? Not only does the Doctor receive money from your medical insurance, but also the foreskin of your previously perfect little boy is sold to companies where it is turned into high-end skin creams. The skin products contain fibroblasts grown on the foreskin and harvested from it. One foreskin can be used for decades to produce fancy face cream like the SkinMedica products hawked on Oprah. All those cruelty-free cosmetics you buy? Some of them are tested on foreskins. This apparently yields better results, since it is human skin.

Still need convincing?
  • Only 20% of the world routinely circumcises (not a third like the outdated figures Wikipedia uses), and while I cannot speak for all of them, I am fairly confident the other 80% of penises are just fine and healthy.
  • Most sensible people, religious fervents aside, would agree that female circumcision is abhorrent, and it is, so I have a hard time understanding why male circumcision is not viewed in the same light. The reason is societal conditioning. I am sure you agree that slavery is wrong, but if you spoke to some white folk back in the 17th century, they would probably think there was nothing wrong with it.
  • No major medical organisation recommends routine circumcision.
  • Your baby is born perfect.

Ultimately, the reason for not cutting off the end of your son’s penis is it’s ethically questionable for parents to make a decision for a child that precludes the child from making a different decision for himself in later life. Pro-circumcision people will always argue about choice. Yes, but as a parent, it is not yours to make. In other words, IT’S NOT YOUR PENIS.

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Post Script: May I just add that I am fortunate enough to live in a country that no longer routinely circumcises babies, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t feel passionate educating people on a topic that they are largely ignorant of.

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