Let’s talk circumcision.
This is a controversial subject, and that’s not really a surprise since we’ve been performing circumcisions for thousands of years for about as many different, yet very random, reasons.
It was done in biblical times as a covenant with God. It was done in order to keep slaves and enemies feeling subjugated and inferior to their masters. It was done as a means of enhancing pleasure. It was done as a means of reducing pleasure. It was done as a symbol of status. As a religious rite of passage. As a way to stop young boys from masturbating. As a way to increase hygiene. As a way to increase fertility.
If you can think of a reason, fictional or not, then chances are it was used as a reason to circumcise males.
What is Circumcision?
This is probably my favorite question to ask others, because most people don’t know the full extent of what it is or what it does. Everyone knows that circumcision is the removal of the penis’s mystical layer of foreskin. Removal. That’s a very cute word to describe a violent surgical procedure.
Snip, snip, right?
More like snip, snip, rip, rip.
Most people don’t seem to know that, at birth, the foreskin is fused to the head of the penis. In fact, the foreskin doesn’t naturally retract until adolescence. And so when a boy is born, you can’t simply cut the skin off without damaging the penis. You have to shear and tear it off, no matter which method is used.
It actually sets a nuclear bomb off in my mind that more people don’t question the validity or relevance of a surgical procedure that cuts and tears off a body part that is so clearly present for the purpose of protecting the head of the penis. The damn thing is actually biologically attached to the head of the penis–like fingernails to fingers–until the poor pubescent sucker is ready to use the thing.
A sword requires a sheath to keep it clean, right? Well, no. Not according to parents and doctors and people who don’t do enough reading (most everyone in America).
Instead, we obliviously defy the prowess of evolutionary progress, we ignore the protective measures so mercifully granted by the Powers That Be to our penises, and remove the foreskin only days after our boys are born. Great move. The very pinnacle of logic and rationality, to many.
Let Them Choose
This is why I’m a proponent of letting our kids decide for themselves. Not only do I very strongly believe they do have that right, but circumcision done after adolescence, because the foreskin has retracted, is a completely different operation and not nearly as damaging to the penis. Done before retraction, the removal of the foreskin also results in the removal of an additional layer of tissue from the head of the penis.
A lot of studies have been done on how much sensation was kept by those who have been circumcised as adults, but results are misinterpreted because no one understands that the operation performed on a child is very different from one performed on an adult.
And enough with justifying circumcision by saying that infants can’t remember. Just because an infant can’t consciously remember how painful, how brutal, or how cruel the circumcision was does not change the fact that it was painful, brutal, and cruel (not to mention pointless and possibly damaging in other ways).
Please wait, and please let your little one decide for himself. And if you do, then please, for the love of all that is good and holy, teach him that his foreskin will eventually retract. The classes in grade school that teach us all about puberty? They won’t teach him anything about a penis that hasn’t been circumcised. They assumed you already made the bad decision.
And since they don’t teach him, and you might not teach him, he won’t know what to do. Girls have hymens, and boys have foreskin. Both hurt when they’re first used, but boys need to retract the foreskin in order to clean it. Misinformation or lack of information causes bad hygiene, not an uncircumcised penis. So teach.
Does Circumcision Look More Normal?
A lot of people suggest that a circumcised penis looks more aesthetically pleasing. Or more normal. Well, yeah. It does. They look more appealing and more normal to me, too.
But then again, I grew up in a society that shows me mostly circumcised penises, and I’m smart enough to know when society has placed me in an evil illogical box full of perverted visions of what is beautiful and what is not. If I believed in those perverted visions, I wouldn’t think that women packing a few extra pounds can be just as beautiful as the ones who are nothing but skin and bones. But I do.
Have you ever looked at a circumcised penis next to an uncircumcised penis? Or perhaps I should ask a different question: Have you ever looked at a dried up old prune next to a brand-spanking new, voluptuous grape? Which one looks more aesthetically pleasing? I’m giving virtual high-fives to anyone who understands the analogy. It makes very little sense that many of us think a circumcised penis looks better than one that isn’t. Very. Little. Sense.
Some people don’t think African Americans walking around in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood looks normal. I however am not a racist, and so even though I don’t see it every day, I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with that situation. I’m also not a penis racist, and so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an uncircumcised penis walking around a predominantly circumcised neighborhood.
By the way: The United States of America is one of the only predominantly circumcised neighborhoods in the world. (Just a little food for thought).
Also, I live in Los Angeles, and so I happen to know a lot of Latin American men and women. Circumcision isn’t taboo or controversial to most of them. They’re perfectly willing to talk about their turtle shells. And so I’ve discovered from their nook of our society that to all those people who are more used to seeing foreskin sheltering a penis rather than being thrown in a trash can, circumcision looks quite weird.
Can’t say I’m surprised.
Shaming The Uncircumcised
It’s hard for people to imagine or empathize with people when they don’t often get placed in similar situations. I for instance am left-handed, and have never been made to feel shame for this. So I don’t feel any. I’m circumcised, and have never been made to feel shame for this. So I don’t feel any. I’m also gay…and people have often tried to make me feel shame for this. Unsuccessfully, though. And all based on misinformation or fear of the unknown. Not based on facts.
It’s for this last reason that I can completely understand the feelings of those who are not only uncircumcised but also unfortunate enough to live in our culture of shared misinformation and misunderstanding and being placed in the aforementioned evil illogical box of perverted visions. Satan’s box. (Pandora’s box?)
I’ve heard many people talk about how dirty uncircumcised penises are, or how ugly they are. They talk about it in front of anyone, and with no filter. I can’t imagine the audacity of these people, and yet I’m witness to it each and every day simply because of who I am.
How would you feel if you were an uncircumcised young boy, impressionable as can be, and sitting in the same room with a bunch of other guys while listening to this bizarre and often regurgitated opinion? It’s crazy that we can think so little of other people’s feelings before we deign to open our mouths about the nature of a particular kind of penis. Absolutely and inexcusably crazy.
Regardless of your opinion on the subject: Please, please, please. Think before you speak, and don’t make anyone feel bad about themselves or embarrassed about the body they were given, even if you think your information and perspective on the subject are valid. Don’t unknowingly or knowingly shame them into thinking they’re unhealthy or unusual just for having a penis that remains as God, Allah, Odin, Zeus, or any of the other Powers That Be, intended for it to be.
Interestingly enough, there is a sizable group of circumcised men (and growing every day) who choose to restore their lost foreskin. And it’s not really too surprising.
When a boy is circumcised, he’s missing out on tens of thousands of wonderful little nerve endings, not to mention the ability to have sex or masturbate as nature intended, i.e. safely and efficiently. The miraculous reproductive organ of human males was designed to trap fluids during intercourse. This natural lubrication reduces the friction between the foreskin and the head of the penis, which are already designed to touch and rub against one another better than, say, the rough skin of a palm and the head of the penis, which are not designed to ever come into contact.
When the circumcised have sex or masturbate, there is friction of a different sort, and the natural lubrication dries up quickly. There is no swift gliding action. The vast majority of men, over time, lose sensitivity. The penis head is damaged, and the skin dries up and becomes callused. It makes it harder for us to have satisfying sex later in life (or ever), but hey, I guess we have little blue pills for that. Nothing like trading down, right?
I can very much imagine why many men would choose to discover what could have been, rather than what is. Which brings me to the next conundrum. A lot of us seem to think circumcision is healthier, but…
Does Circumcision Really Increase Hygiene?
Do you live in India? Do you live in Uganda? Yes? Good, then circumcision absolutely increases hygiene. Not all of you in have access to running water or clean water or soap, or anything else considered a basic necessity to Americans, and so it’s harder to stay clean and keep body parts hygienic. Of course, I suppose it’s unlikely that anyone reading this lives in India or Uganda, so you probably didn’t answer in the affirmative.
You probably live in the good ol’ United States of America. That’s great. Me too!
You want to know what’s interesting and unique about our country, compared to every other country in the world? We spend more on healthcare than any other country in the world. Why is this relevant to infant circumcision? Well, thing is, Americans are probably the cleanest country in the world. We’re obsessed with our health, and we’re obsessed with being clean. The vast majority of us shower at least once a day, and some of us twice. We scrub our bodies, and we scrub everything else. We scrub and we scrub and we scrub. (You can see, then, why it’s not so difficult to provide the proper incentive to fool an American into thinking a money-making surgical procedure might be worth his while).
Ironically, being so clean, and free of bacteria and germs, means we also have less of a resistance to them. We actually get sick more often than those living in “dirtier” countries because of this. The more we defend against germs outside of our bodies, the less prepared the immune system within our bodies is. Hopefully that makes sense. Maybe we should just trust our foreskins and our penises to take care of themselves.
But even if we can’t trust them to do that…
…We have running water. We have clean water. Uganda and India do not. So here’s my conclusion: If you live in a developing country, circumcise your children. If you live in the most obsessively compulsively clean country on the unhappy face of mother earth, then give your child’s penis a very much deserved free pass.
Some studies have suggested that there is a much smaller chance of HIV transmission among men who are circumcised. This might be true. I can’t suggest that it isn’t. What I can suggest is that, once again, these countries aren’t places where people can just hop in the shower after sex. These aren’t places where people can just pop on a condom. I can say that in this case, their HIV transmission rates would be high either way. But we live in America. We tend to think highly of hygiene. We have access to condoms, and understand why they should be used. The real way to decrease HIV transmission is to use one when you have sexual intercourse of any kind.
I challenge you to find a study about circumcision pros and cons done in America or Europe, or anyplace else that might have similar medical standards to ours. But you won’t. Those studies aren’t done here. They’re done over in Uganda and India. They’re done in places where people can’t clean themselves according to our insanely high standards. They’re done in places where condoms aren’t available or where their effectiveness and purpose aren’t understood. I’m not knocking other countries, but they truthfully don’t have the same access to water and knowledge that we do. We have access to both, and so maybe we should use them both instead of only the former.
It seems like those studies are therefore not valid in America. In my opinion, anyway. Sure, the content is technically valid, but I can’t imagine an American guy looking down at his penis and saying, “I don’t know how to clean that.” So why is it we’re always assuming he can’t?
Maybe, instead, we should just trust that we are in fact the cleanest damn country in the world and that we probably don’t need to routinely circumcise infant boys who are in all likelihood going to grow up learning how to be inhumanly, insanely, and unhealthily clean.
We do not need to routinely preemptively strike nonexistent enemies, so let’s just not. We all have enough irony in our lives as it is.
Should Infants Be Circumcised for Religious Purposes?
I used to tell people that it was only okay to circumcise infants if done for religious purposes. Then I began to realize how completely moronic I was being, and that I was unwittingly trying to find a way to give a little ground to the many proponents of circumcision. I need to be empathetic if I’m going to preach empathy, right? The Jewish religion routinely circumcises their baby boys. Other religions do the same. But is that practice really morally sound?
Well, here’s the thing: We don’t inherit religion; we learn it. We’re usually taught to believe in the very same man upstairs to whom our parents pray, and they most often (conveniently) leave out the hundreds of other religions around the world and the hundreds of other potential men upstairs. Personally, I think children have the right to choose what they believe in rather than have it forced upon them from a young age. But we’re all indoctrinated to some extent, and there’s no stopping it. So I won’t fight it.
What I can fight, however, is the physical alteration of a boy’s penis as a part of religious practice. That kid didn’t choose to be a member of your religion, and he didn’t choose to have his own member mutilated. Legal or not, what gives you the right to make that decision for him? Let him grow, develop his own moral compass based on whatever beliefs he has, and then decide how to treat his own body when he’s old enough to know what he wants and why he wants it.
When Should Boys Be Circumcised?
When they don’t live in a developed nation that has running water, then hygiene probably dictates that they be circumcised. It’s unfortunate, and it’s not fair, but neither is life, and so pragmatism wins in this case. People should do what they have to do in order to remain healthy.
We live in America, and so I’m proud enough of my country and patriotic enough to think we should have more sense than to continue routine infant circumcision without any real medical reason to do so. Sometimes reasons do exist, and sometimes they surface down the road in the form of infection, but they certainly do not routinely exist.
The operation itself can sometimes result in accidents, as any operation can. In the rarest and most extreme incidents, death can result for a variety of reasons, including infection. Imagine…an operation, the point of which is to reduce the chances of infection, which consequently leads to infection and death. We think death rates are higher than reported (they’re not even recorded or studied, which should leave you seriously considering why), but there are still those who suggest the chances of death are so small that they become moot.
But I still can’t comprehend having an elective surgery done to prevent perils that might not ever befall us, when the surgery itself could cause worse. I can’t imagine committing my child to even the most unlikely possibility of death if I don’t have one hell of a good reason.
In addition, the penis can be so severely mutilated by a botched circumcision that a sex change is the required next step. I mean, seriously! Imagine choosing to circumcise your newborn boy, and then being forced to come to terms with the fact that you just created a baby girl. Wouldn’t you feel kind of stupid? How would you explain that one to her when she’s older? “Sorry Jenny…You were supposed to be Jimmy.” My guess is Jenny isn’t destined to become the biggest proponent of circumcision, but hey, that’s probably just baseless supposition.
I was circumcised. I don’t think anyone had a reason or a right to make that decision for me, and I’m bitter about it. I don’t think the operation is really done for health purposes–I think it’s done for money purposes. I certainly don’t think anyone had the right to put me in harm’s way to make an extra buck. Being circumcised isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I still think I have the right to be angry that I was violated before I had been out of the womb for a full week.
I think I have the right to make that choice over anyone else!
I think we, as human beings, should learn what we have the moral right to do and what we don’t have the moral right to do, and what we should do versus what we shouldn’t do, regardless of whether or not the law says we have the right to do it.
If you think it’s a good idea for a child to be circumcised, then that’s okay. I can’t force you to think or believe otherwise, no matter how hard I try. But what I can do is try to make you understand that your child may one day hold an opinion contradictory to your own. You can absolutely give him the right to choose whether or not he gets circumcised when he reaches adulthood, and without any negative consequences on his end.
If you have any doubts, then watch a circumcision being performed. As Ned Stark would say: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Or at the very least watch it being swung.