Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community in New York City, it is embedded into your genital thought process that boys have circumcised penises. Period. And every penis I’ve seen thus far (and the list is not extensive, hold your applause) has been “chopped.” Years ago while discussing having children, a friend turned me on to leading gender and sociology expert, Michael Kimmel’s seminal piece “The Kindest Uncut.” Talk about an “aha” moment. My world was rocked. A million questions popped up, including a deep guilt. Am I bad Jew for thinking this is something that needs to change? I had to remind myself of one of my favorite adages; “If you can’t change your mind, are you sure you have one?”
Here are the philosophical questions that came up for me that day, and never left;
- Why is male circumcision any better than female circumcision? We call that barbaric, and yet, here we are cutting off our boys foreskins, unnecessarily. In fact, The MGMBill.org, is attempting to get a bill passed in Congress to make male genital circumcision a crime (as currently are “mutilation acts” – ie circumcision on females.) The proposed congressional bill which the group hopes will become law can be viewed here.
- If I don’t follow every rule of the bible, (pre-marital sex, anyone?) then why on earth would this one silly, painful rule linger? How about; Deuteronomy 25:11-12; “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” Is this really a book I should be taking verbatim?
- My child is going to have my (and my Jewish partner’s) nose, will anyone really need to unbutton his pants to guess his ethnicity? I jest. However it’s worth mentioning that Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, refused to allow his own son to be circumcised. Ethnic or religious pride and comfort comes from within, not via a scissor.
- Isn’t my hypothetical baby’s little penis absolutely lovely and perfect as is? Why would a penis be born with a foreskin that is unnecessary? Is our clit hood unnecessary? I began to research the amount of feeling boys lose in those few inches of skin. Dr. Christina Northrop, An Internationally respected obstetrician/ gynecologist, says; “The primary pleasure zones of the natural (uncircumcised) penis are located in the upper penis, which includes the penis head, the foreskin’s inner lining, and thefrenulum –the hinge of skin that connects the foreskin to the head of the penis. When a male is circumcised, some of the most erotically sensitive areas of the penis are removed: the foreskin that normally covers the head of the penis (the glans) and some or all of thefrenulum. The frenulum contains high concentrations of nerve endings that are sensitive to fine touch. The glans was designed by nature to be covered all the time except during sexual activity. Upon erection, both foreskin layers unfold onto the upper penile shaft, leaving the highly innervatedfrenulum , glans, and inner lining exposed and readied for sexual activity. This is one of reasons why the penile tip is the focus of sexual excitement.” Once again, why would I take away the sensitive and wonderful nerve endings of my child’s penis? Anyone?
- As per Kimmel; “male circumcision is the most common surgical procedure in the United States and medical insurance carriers routinely cover hospital circumcision (which raises the incentives of medical practitioners to advocate the procedure).” Is this not another case of big Med pushing for more procedures to make more moolah?
- Any chick (or fellow) who’d judge my child on his foreskin being intact or not, is not someone I’d want my kid to partner with anyway, and wouldn’t be welcome at my table. Don’t you love old school Grandma expressions like that? “Not welcome at my table.”
- The American Academy of Pediatrics’ disapproves of this procedure, and basically likens it to a cosmetic procedure. 8 days old is too young for plastic surgery. And where is the kids voice in all this? How do we know he wants his penis skin lopped off?
- Noharmm.org states; “The foreskin contains several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development… All of the human mucosa (the linings of the mouth, eyelids, vagina, foreskin and anus) are the body’s first line of defense against disease. This benefit of the foreskin could be one possible explanation why intact men are at lower risk of chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
- If you live a life of ahimsa, a commitment to non-violence to animals, humans, and the environment – how does electively hurting your child fit in to that doctrine?
My Partner is concerned that our (hypothetical/ unborn/ perhaps not even a boy) child may suffer psychological distress by looking different from his Pops. Kimmel’s take; “That our son would look different from his father was easily negotiated. We decided that we will simply tell him that Daddy had no choice about his own body and especially his penis, but that now, as parents, we loved him so much that we decided we didn’t want to hurt him like that–turning something that could be a cause of embarrassment into a source of pride.” I’ve never been too concerned with what others think. Why should we be? Should we not just do what seems right to us, ethically?
Many Doctor’s (see video below) – including the legendary Dr. Spock weighed in on the issue. As per “The Kindest Uncut”;
Even the redoubtable Benjamin Spock changed his mind over the years. Having always stood for the conventional wisdom that parents know best, Spock told Redbook in an interview in 1989 that his preference “if I had the good fortune to have another son, would be to leave his little penis alone.” In a pamphlet, “Circumcision: A Medical or Human Rights Issue?” one doctor went so far as to suggest that removing the foreskin for strictly hygienic purposes was analogous to removing the eyelid for a cleaner eyeball.
Below, ParentsAsk.com experts, Scott Cohen, MD, Cara Natterson, MD and Bob Sears, MD weigh the pros and cons of circumcising a baby boy and offer differing opinions;
Circumcision Indecision: Making the best choice for your son
I recently sat front row at a family member’s childs circumsion. We were all sitting in a room, watching some guy hold down a perfect newborn boy and slice off the top of his penis. I couldn’t believe how strong my reaction was, I literally wanted to grab the child and RUN. It felt incredibly barbaric and entirely wrong to my sense of scruples. I’m pretty sure I want to leave my potential future little man’s pee-pee alone, I dig some tradition, but I don’t live by it. I’m a modern, thinking woman, and I’m guessing most modern, thinking women would seriously consider elective surgery on a newborn (really researching the pros and cons) before blindly following the pack… or at least I’d hope so.
Do you have strong opinion on circumcision? I’d love to hear it! Please leave your input in the comments section below.