Adolescent Circumcision
March 10, 2006 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Deeply conflicted, the circumcision we'd reluctantly decided upon was rescheduled until his seventh day. My husband and I got within a block of the doctor's office, our perfectly-formed week-old baby in his carseat, and simultaneously decided he was just right and we were just wrong. We turned around and never looked back, until . . .

. . . almost 15 years later. He feels "deformed" and wants to be circumcised, no matter how much it hurts.

Half of me wants to stamp my foot down and refuse flat out. He may feel entirely different in a couple of years.

The other half believes it is his decision to make and we should respect it. He first asked about this when he was eight or nine, so he's given it a lot of thought. I don't want him to feel like a freak, especially with his budding sexuality--hard enough without being different.

I've told him that we need to talk to the doctor, and not rush into anything, but that it was his choice.

Was I wrong? He may feel completely different in a few years and it would be too late.

Anyone know anything about this? How awful would it be for him? How long is the recovery? Are there long-term emotional issues surrounding adolescent circumcision? Is it exceptionally dangerous? He has Type 1 diabetes, if that makes any difference (healing, general health, etc.)

This is one of those occasions in which I feel completely unprepared for the parenting I have to do and feel pretty sure there's probably no good decision to be made.

Any insight or experience?
posted by wordswinker to Health & Fitness (91 answers total)
Does this desire for genital mutilation stem from religious impulses, or from non-specific peer pressure?

If the former I'd say get a religious figure to discuss it. If the latter I'd say, given his adolescence, there's body dysmorphia exhibiting. The desire to "fit in" will probably not be alleviated by one simple act of pseudo-castration.

Does he have questions about gender identity?
posted by meehawl at 5:49 AM on March 10, 2006

We elected not to have our son circumcised. He is now 12 and it has not been an issue, at least not yet. In the past we have talked to him about it - what the procedure was, that most boys have it and that we decided not to. These were mostly to reassure him that if he noticed he looked different, it was not anything to worry about. I have never heard of circumcision at such a late age -- my first stop would be with my doctor with the goal of information gathering and just go very very slow.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:55 AM on March 10, 2006

There's a Penn & Teller: Bullshit!: Season 3 episode on this that's reasonably sensitive, albeit opinionated, on this, if you're looking for a variety of perspectives.
posted by glibhamdreck at 5:58 AM on March 10, 2006

late-age circumcison often done in the army. My view: he may want it but he is still not old enough to get what he wants because he wants it...tell him to wait till 18 and then decide, one way or the other. (On the assumption that you ahve serious reservations about it )
posted by Postroad at 6:00 AM on March 10, 2006

I'd make sure that he had access to the studies and stories that show how much sexual sensation he will be losing for the rest of his life by becoming circumsized (especially WRT oral). I'd stress the fact that it's a permanent decision... like getting a tattoo, except that tattoos can be (painfully) removed or changed by a good artist. And it's a decision that he will probably regret in the future.

But ultimately I'd let him know that it is his body, and his decision to make, and that you're going to support his decision... but that you want to make sure that he's given it the amount of adult thought that it deserves. I'd set a date one year from today, and tell him that's the day that he gets to decide. (And of course... you need to accept his decision if he decides to get snipped)
posted by toxic at 6:06 AM on March 10, 2006

When I first told my fiancee I wasn't circumcised, she seemed surprised, but when I explained to her that it's unnecessary surgery and it's taking away a lot of the nerve endings (read: it doesn't feel as good when you're circumcised!), she accepted it. She actually claims that it feels better on her end, to, since there's more sensation from the glans popping in and out of the foreskin.

That said, I think if you tell your son that it's a lot more pleasurable for him sexually to keep his foreskin, and that circumcision is no longer recommended by ANY medical authority, and that it will hurt for weeks after the operation, and that 50% of Americans are now uncut, it might change his mind. I know a few people who made the choice to get circ'ed as an adult, and all of them regret it. Some of them actually go so far as to get foreskin restoration.

I suspect that most of his problems stem from peer pressure - that he's afraid he'll be different, and that girls will think he's gross. I can tell you from experience that I felt the same things, but the times are changing, and circumcision is starting to become rarer and rarer. I would suspect that his generation is probably the last generation who will be routinely circumcised. There is really no legitimate medical reason for it.

I'd recommend him reading all about circumcision, especially the risks of the operation, and let him make his own decision at age 18.
posted by fvox13 at 6:10 AM on March 10, 2006

I suspect that his feelings are the result of locker-room teasing. I would say put your foot down 'til he's 18. Teens often grow out of this kind of thinking, and you can't very well grow back a foreskin. Yet.
posted by lemur at 6:10 AM on March 10, 2006

wordswinker-You should probably know that circumcision is one of the most contentious topics at MetaFilter. And there seem to be more people vehemently opposed to it than the other way around, so some of the answers here might reflect that, for instance, trying to reframe this as a question about genital mutilation or in terms of specious studies (on both sides).

That said I'd agree with those who urge support and restraint. He should certainly know you will support him through his decision. He's too young to make this decision at this time, and you should urge him to wait.
posted by OmieWise at 6:14 AM on March 10, 2006

late-age circumcison often done in the army.

Is this true Postroad? Why?
posted by ninebelow at 6:16 AM on March 10, 2006

How about taking him for a consultation with a urologist, preferabley one at a children's hospital, if you have one near you?

Let him talk to the doctor about the risks and benefits; there are medical benefits, regardless of what the anti-circumcision crowd claims. These benefits include a decreased risk of certain kinds of urinary problems, and may include a decreased risk of penile cancer, and a decreased risk of cervical cancer for partners of circumcised men.

The doctor can also explain the amount of pain involved.

By the way, there have been many studies done on cirumcision and none substantiate the claim that circumcision decreases sexual sensation.

Unless there is a religious motivation at work here, you may want to consider this in the same category as plastic surgery. It's up to him what he may want to modify, but he may not be old enough and mature enough to decide now.
posted by DrAmy at 6:19 AM on March 10, 2006

I can't believe I'm the first one to say, "counseling?" Mostly because of all the things my girl 15-year-old self would want to frankly discuss with my folks, the shape of my genitals was NOT one of them.

As with any other body modification, he should wait 'till he's 18. His doctor can tell him whether the diabetes is a factor -- it may be because of healing time.
posted by desuetude at 6:20 AM on March 10, 2006

a few thoughts

- a friend in high school had the procedure done at age 15 (he was adopted and his religious adopted family wanted it - weird) -- he said it was extremely painful and he regretted it.

- I LIKE uncircumsized guys, sexually.

- what you did as parents is so much more common now than perhaps 25 years ago.

hope this helps.
posted by k8t at 6:29 AM on March 10, 2006

"The other half believes it is his decision to make and we should respect it."

Oh please. You are the adult. He is the child. He is acting like a child. Act like an adult.

A kid his age to be self-conscious about any part of his body is very common. And that particular part of his body is fairly common topic for men far older than him.

If a doctor doesn't recommend a circumsion then he absolutely shouldn't get one.
posted by raaka at 6:38 AM on March 10, 2006

If it were only a locker room teasing thing, I'd think going so far as getting circ'd at 15 to not feel deformed would incite more, worse teasing. I wonder if he's also not perhaps heard some girls (and/or gay boys) talk with disgust about how it would be gross to hook up with an intact guy. I've certainly heard grown-ups talk that way, and they're supposedly more mature than teenagers. The thought at age 15 that for the rest of your life you will be less likely than others to find sex and relationships is a powerful one. That "will I die a virgin?" feeling is very real at that age. Of course the truth is that when it comes to sex, most people really don't care, and many won't even notice at first. People may say "it would be weird..." but those are just people who've never tried it and therefore don't know that there's very little difference on their end.

I agree that he should wait some predetermined amount of time, during which you should encourage him to do as much research on the subject as possible, including talking to doctors about the pros and cons. (And yes, a religious leader if that's an issue, though I suspect it's not). Unfortunately, it will probably be tough to find objective resources, since it is such a contentious issue.

This does feel to me sort of like a young girl wanting a nose or boob job, (unless of course it's a religion thing), which I would be very wary of. It's your decision as a parent, of course, but were it me I'd try my best to teach my child to be content with and learn to love his body the way it naturally is. He's not deformed. I know you know that, but he apparently doesn't.
posted by lampoil at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2006

Now this question is really pertinent - I'm a 26 y.o. and I was circumcised two days ago for medical reasons. I can't answer all your questions, but I would tell your son that the recovery from the operation is incredibly painful so far (I've already had mild hallucinations from the painkillers that I'm taking), that the loss of sensation that I have already noticed is extreme and that if I didn't absolutely have to have this operation I would not have undertaken it.

If he had to have a circumcision for medical reasons then I would go along with it, otherwise I would advise you to put your foot down and give a resounding "No" and to then investigate some form of psychological therapy to treat his imagined dysmorphia.

On preview - what fvox13 said.
posted by KayTerra at 6:54 AM on March 10, 2006

what you did as parents is so much more common now than perhaps 25 years ago.

True. But the 50% number quoted above? No way that's right. In the US (if that's where you're from), most people are "cut" and those who aren't do often get teased for it. The pain from this, and general difference in the way people treat him, may be worse than a week of surgical pain. And that's not even counting what gets said behind his back.

Your son is one of the few who actually gets to decide. So that's good. Is he old enough? I don't know. He's not old enough to get it pierced (though to me, this is much tamer than that!), but he is just about old enough to be, ahem, using it. And that's what's motivating this, I'd bet.

I would definitely speak to a doctor soon. He can answer everything, including the diabetes question. If your son hears what he has to say and still wants to do it, well... maybe he should. He might change his mind, but given that he's been talking about this for half his life, don't hold your breath. It's too bad that whatever decision y'all make is permanent, but again, at least he gets to have input, which makes him luckier (?) than most American men.

I'd say err on the side of caution for now, but in a year or so, if he still wants it, you should let him. Fitting in does matter, in this situation.
posted by SuperNova at 6:56 AM on March 10, 2006

Look, the anti-circ folks are going to come out of the woodwork, swarming to the foreskin symbol projected against the sky. They're a bunch of morons and ideologues, most of them looking for any opportunity to stump for their cause (the "genital mutilation" thing will be common).
Thing is, and I say this as a circumsized guy with a fairly rational view of the proceedure, they're probably right in this instance. If the kid is dead-set on it, I would consider it, but it's an elective surgery for something that really won't matter in a couple of years. A dispassionate urologist is the way to go (OmieWise is nearly always the smartest person in any AskMe he's in), and really, you should discourage it. It's going to hurt, he will regret it, and if he really, really, really wants it done later, he can get it done. Guys in locker rooms get teased. Ask him why the guys are staring at his dick anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 7:02 AM on March 10, 2006

I don't think he necessarily needs therapy or counselling. Many kids feel deformed at his age. If his anxiety is indeed caused by teasing, maybe he needs some help coming up with retorts or other strategies to deal with it. It would be a great pity if he decides, two years from now, that having a foreskin was pretty neat and that he misses it.
posted by lemur at 7:02 AM on March 10, 2006

I know a kid in my town had it done when he was 12 or 13. He was Jewish but his parents didn't have it snipped when he was 8 days old, so he waited. Then he wanted it done, so he elected to do it before his bar mitzvah.

I'm sure recovery is not that plesant, but I don't have first hand advice or knowledge of how painful it is.

I think that it's a wash sexually, and a slight win medically.

Circumcision is a weird practice, that's for sure. "Prove that you love your god and snip off the end of your son's penis..." But it's not negotiable for me.
posted by zpousman at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2006

As others have said, a 15 year old should not be permitted to make a major decision about modifying his body. This is why he has parents. But help him educate himself on the issue, explain that when he is older it is a choice that he will get to make.
posted by LarryC at 7:06 AM on March 10, 2006

Response by poster: I have to say I am absolutely floored by all the "enlightened" comments here that are so full of venomous judgment!

Insight was what I asked for, folks, not the kind of thoughtless, hurtful, reactionary condemnation one might expect from a hateful mob of right-wing fundamentalists! I had truly expected a gentler response and have never been so roundly disappointed in a community I usually admire.

"Oh Please? You're the adult?" What an assumptive, insulting, belittling bunch of crap. Do you not think I haven't considered every off-the-cuff response spouted here and seven layers deeper? I realize it can be satisfying to pass judgment on a stranger, but that's tantamount to public masturbation at my expense. It may feel good to you, but it's not doing a thing for me except making me wish I hadn't looked this way in the first place.
posted by wordswinker at 7:07 AM on March 10, 2006

Just to give the opposite experience to KayTerra, I had it done at the age of 24 and didn't find it very painful at all, merely uncomfortable. Still, bleeding out of your cock is never a fun experience.

Otherwise I agree with him. I had it done for medical reasons and that is the only reason I would have had it done.
posted by ninebelow at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2006

Just for reference...
More nerve endings = more sensation = faster ejaculation.
Not that that's the case in every situation (I realize control has a lot to do with it) but it makes logical sense.
The anti-circ people never talk about that, and for the life of me I can't figure out why...
posted by baphomet at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2006

I wouldn't let him do it. Although it's anecdotal I've also got a friend who had it done in his teens and regrets it to some extent. I don't think it ruins your sexual pleasure like some people say, but from talking to a couple of friends it does make some difference to sensitivity, and he needs to decide when he's an adult and preferably had some experience whether that's what he wants.

I was thinking of having it done in my late teens as my foreskin seemed to be getting in the way during sex, but glad I didn't as more technique sorted it out.

If you're the kind of kid that's going to get teased, then they're always going to find something to pick on. I think that's unfortunately part of growing up.
posted by lunkfish at 7:09 AM on March 10, 2006

It's elective surgery so I think that means you have the call. I'd suggest saying no until he's 18. Then encourage him to think about it for as along as possible. Hopefully he matures and figures out what he wants to do without all those hormones running through his head.

I like klangklangston's last two sentences.
posted by ruwan at 7:11 AM on March 10, 2006

He's a teenager and desperately wants to look just like everyone else, to the point of wanting to chop off the end of his penis.

Put your foot down, tell him he's not old enough to decide to mutilate his body. He'll surely live to regret it if he gets the circumcision.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:11 AM on March 10, 2006

Also, tell him he has to have sex first, and then he can consider it.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2006

I've found that I like uncircumsized penises. Having discussed this with my girl friends on several occasions, the only ones who were averse to an uncut penis were the ones who'd never encountered one. Everyone else just cared a lot more about the person the penis is attached to.

Although I'd suggest waiting until he's an adult would be a good idea, more importantly he should re relatively sexually experienced. If he gets it done now, he'll never know what he's missing out on.
posted by saffron at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2006

wordswinker: I'm so sorry that you regret coming to AskMeFi for help. I know from my own experience on this web site that even a well meaning comment can cut very deeply when the issue is so personal.

Only he truly knows how much this issue is affecting him. But I think you have a pretty good idea. That being said, it's difficult for a 15 yo to talk to his parents about such a personal issue. I make my recommendations based on the fact that I frequently wanted to modify my body as a teenager, whether through piercings, tattoos or cosmetic surgery. My parents always refused to let me, and today, I'm very glad that they did. Teens are insecure about a great many things, and often know that they will feel the way they do for life. This is one of the illusions of youth. A irreversible surgery, is, unfortunately, irreversible.

That being said, if you genuinely feel that this issue is causing him a great deal of stress and negatively affecting his quality of life, let him go through with it, after consulting with a doctor and thinking about it for a set period of time. In the end, having or not having a flap of skin on the end of his penis will not affect him that much. Maybe it will be worth his peace of mind.
posted by lemur at 7:20 AM on March 10, 2006

Does this desire for genital mutilation stem from religious impulses, or from non-specific peer pressure?

Wow, meehawl, way to be a fucking troll from the gate. Flagged.

Wordswinker, you sound conflicted enough that at a minimum you should wait to discuss this with your physician, or anyone else whose opinions matter to you, unless the collective responses here are exactly that to you. I think his diabetes is likely enough of a dealbreaker from the start. You truly, absolutely, are seeking wisdom in the wrong place (here) and need to speak with your Urologist. Before you even need to wrestle with this, there are likely tangible issues that can guide you toward the right decision. You haven't told us anything about the longevity of his DM, or control, etc., which is the elephant in the room, imo.

Also, tell him he has to have sex first, and then he can consider it.

There's something oddly germane to that argument.
posted by docpops at 7:21 AM on March 10, 2006

Remember there's a lot of time between him saying he wants to do it and you guys actually going into the hospital and having it done. So if I were you I'd start the discussion with your doc and see where it goes. This shows respect for your son, who at 15 is getting quite close to adulthood. And you can use this conversation as a time to learn more about why and to make sure everybody understands the ramifications. If he has thought about this since he was 8 (!!) then he probably has a lot of thoughts on it that he may not have shared with you yet. Maybe he can spend some time with the doc without you there. Even if you decide you won't let him do it till he's 18, you have nearly 3 yrs in there to make sure he really understands what he's getting into.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:23 AM on March 10, 2006

I think the amount of strong feelings on either side of the debate is the reason why you have to be an adult to make the decision.
posted by lunkfish at 7:26 AM on March 10, 2006

Yeah wordswinker, I just read down to your comment. It is regrettable. Everything you said is completely reasonable and only a fucking idiot would treat your concerns so dismissively. This isn't the same thing as contemplating holding off immunizations. And a fifteen year old isn't behaving like a child for having these thoughts. Good for you that it's a topic that gets handled with dignity in your house. God help the poor fuck that comes to some of these posters with a problem that disagrees with their enlightened sensibility.

Again, there are some specific issues here regarding his diabetes that need to be sorted out before anything further is considered. I'm sure this will work out.
posted by docpops at 7:28 AM on March 10, 2006

Oh please. You are the adult. He is the child. He is acting like a child. Act like an adult.

The poster likely has no idea what it is like to interact with a teenager nor what it is like to give your child respect.
posted by k8t at 7:30 AM on March 10, 2006

Had that done. Would be happy to expand on my experiences if you want me to. Email in profile.
posted by Leon at 7:30 AM on March 10, 2006

I agree with those advising him to wait. I don't doubt that he feels very strongly about this—15 is an awful age—but those feelings could be a function of adolescent insecurity, pubsecent confusion, implicit peer pressure, youthful impulsivity, you name it.

I'm not devaluing or dismissing your son's feelings; this is a big deal to him. He's fortunate to have a reasonable and trustworthy parent like you to see the big picture and help him consider that these feelings may be temporary, and that circumcision is a fairly drastic solution to what may only be a temporary problem.

The counsel of a doctor is obviously paramount.
posted by S.C. at 7:45 AM on March 10, 2006

I second the viewing of the Penn and Teller Bullshit! Episode. Very insightful. Get a copy, give to your son to watch, then let him make up his mind.
In the past couple of months I stumbled across this American Circumcision phenomenon in articles, the Penn and Teller episode, a Sex and the City episode etc. For me as a European it seems really a strange thing that circumcision has become such a big deal outside of religious traditions. It's neither more hygienic nor more aesthetic nor does it make you a better lover or something. Somehow men with foreskins are looked upon as some sort of freak of nature. The foreskin is not some kind of weird tumor or mutation. The whole discussion to me seems as weird as cutting off your thumbs because it suddenly inexplicably becomes culturally en vogue to have only eight fingers. ("Dear Dan Savage, I fell in love with this boy. He's great. Witty, charming, treats me like a princess. It would be perfect if not for one thing! He has ten fingers! Says that mother nature gave him ten and he's not willing to change that. Looking at his five fingered hands makes me nauseous. Why can't he be like the other boys and gets his thumbs cut off.....")
posted by ollsen at 7:58 AM on March 10, 2006

But the 50% number quoted above? No way that's right.

It's getting close. From 1997: "The neonatal circumcision rate in the western US has now fallen to 34.2 percent." And the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its infant circumcision policy in 1999 ("the benefits are not significant enough for the AAP to recommend circumcision as a routine procedure"). I'll try to find more recent stats.

[wordswinker, I hope you try to focus on the non-judgmental comments and ignore the others; you seem to be doing the opposite. There have been plenty of kind and helpful answers posted; please don't let a handful of bad ones determine "the community."]

It seems the primary issue here is your son's desire to fit in with his peers (in the shower? in gym?) In other words, he seems to be asking for cosmetic surgery. As a parent, I think it's well within your rights to stamp your foot down and refuse to provide cosmetic surgery for a 15-year-old, focusing instead on discussing the underlying issues of difference, peer pressure, etc. Basic information about non-circumcision (both in the US and around the world) might help, too.

Also, I think the comment attacking folks who are anti-circumcision as "a bunch of morons and ideologues" was way out of line given what had come before. The burden of proof has been on the wrong side of this issue for a long time; that it's finally begun to switch intelligently is a Good Thing.
posted by mediareport at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2006

Wordswinker - Metafilter is simultaneously one of the most interesting, enlightened and informed places on the web and one of the most opinionated, insensitive and arrogant. I find it quite remarkable (in both good and bad ways) actually. I hope you can separate the two in going through the comments to your post - as has been said, this issue is likely to bring out the extremes of Mefi (see the recent post on the Blue for more vitriol)
posted by bluesky43 at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2006

Currently, around half of the infant males in the United States are being left intact, up considerably from 23 percent in the early 1980's.

If your son was born around 1992, it seems fair to assume that between 25% and 35% of U.S. boys in his age group are uncircumcised. That's a pretty common "deformity." I think you should explore the facts with him while telling him he can make the decision himself when he's 18. In short, go with the part of yourself that thinks this is a bad idea.
posted by mediareport at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2006

Would you let him get a tattoo or breast implants?
posted by glibhamdreck at 8:16 AM on March 10, 2006

Tell him to wait one year when he's sixteen. If he still wants to do it then let him do it. Frankly, at this point, it's his decision and it's out of your hands. Simply refusing his desire will lead to major resentment or worse. He obviously has some issues he wants to work out so you might try talking to him about why he really wants to do this but, in the end, you have to trust him on this.
posted by nixerman at 8:27 AM on March 10, 2006

at this point, it's his decision and it's out of your hands

Elective surgery on a 15-year-old (14-year-old, really, if I read the question right) is out of his parents' hands? What do you mean by that?
posted by mediareport at 8:37 AM on March 10, 2006

I had late circumcision for medical reasons too. It didn't hurt that much. I mean, it hurt, and my dick felt and looked mutilated for a fairly long time, but I got along just fine without major painkillers. I also would emphasis him the permanence and uselessness of the operation and give him an arbitrary age limit so he is forced to have time to think about it. Also tell him that he is a teenager and that even though he might come in his pants now, it doesn't mean that he will forever be a premature ejaculator.
posted by insomnus at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2006

I looked up the diabetes angle, and found this page, which seems to be a guide for worst case scenarios, but does imply that any surgery he has needs to be carefully planned. Also, a few other sites mentioned that infections are easier to catch for diabetics, which would have the potential to make the whole operation way more uncomfortable.

I don't actually know anything about circumcisions, so I don't know if it actually is 'surgery', but the infection thing is relevant anyway.
posted by jacalata at 8:40 AM on March 10, 2006

In general: it's a lot harder to reverse this than it would be to get it done later, so if you're really not sure, there's much less possible harm in not circumcising than in going ahead with it.
posted by jacalata at 8:42 AM on March 10, 2006

*things learned during my parent's divorce. as a side bar, never discuss your spouses genitals with your child even if you are very angry with the spouse. it will disturb your child until she dies*

My dad apparently had a circumcision that went as an adult he tried to 'fix it' himself with (as I am to understand it) a swiss army knife. This is because he was too embarrassed to see a doctor about it.

I suggest (with many others) having a consultation with a urologist. He can answer concerns on both sides and help you all make an informed decision. If the end result is that you say no for now, it shows your son that he can get it snipped later and will already give him much of the needed info.
posted by nadawi at 8:42 AM on March 10, 2006

Does he have a girlfriend? My guess is that he's worried how girls will take it, and some girls DO prefer guys uncut. In fact, I would imagine it would be a much bigger issue for a younger woman still squimish about sex then for an adult.

I personally feel that 15 could be old enough to make this decision, though. Just consider how mature you think he is. Do you think he's old enough to make decisions that will effect his whole life afterwards?
posted by delmoi at 8:48 AM on March 10, 2006

mediareport writes "It's getting close. From 1997: 'The neonatal circumcision rate in the western US has now fallen to 34.2 percent.' "

Oh, that's just wrong. This is even worse than Bush misconstruing data to support his own cause.

First of all, here is a copy of the relevant report from the government website. Now, if you read it, you will see:

1) 65.3 percent of all newborns in the U.S. in 1999 were circumcised. And also note that this only includes neonatal circumcision (babies circumcised right after they were born in a hospital environment), so excludes any circumcision that may have been done later on.

2) It is true that Western US has fallen to 34.2 percent, but the number was at a very strong 81 percent in the Midwest (I guess you accidentally overlooked that part of the report). Moreover, both the Midwest and the South actually exhibited 5% growth in circumcision rates from 1980 to 1999. The Northeast was statistically unchanged at 66 percent (which by the way is still makes it the majority of the people by my calculations).

3) Finally, the report specifically states that the one of the leading contributors in the decline in the West (a trend which, I emphasize, is not seen in any other part of the country) is mostly due to the increasing population of Hispanics in the West, a race that is less likely to circumcise their newborns compared to whites or blacks.

I have no position on the issue (as a person that was circumcised as a small kid and with no kids of his own), but the one thing I can't stand is people misinterpreting data to defend their cause.
posted by tuxster at 8:49 AM on March 10, 2006

Oh, FWIW, I was thinking medical counsel, not therapist-counsel, in case that wasn't clear.

You can explain all about how he'll feel differently in a few years, just so that it's been said, but that's not going to matter much to most teenagers. It's as impossible to explain to a 14-year-old how he'll feel at 20 than it is to explain to a 40-year-old what 80 will be like. I like the arbitrary age-limit idea to give him time to think about it and research the ramifications. (And to stall.)

Simply refusing his desire will lead to major resentment or worse. He obviously has some issues he wants to work out so you might try talking to him about why he really wants to do this but, in the end, you have to trust him on this.

I find this statement puzzling. Teenagers form all kinds of ideas about what they want or need, but parenting is about imposing limits and providing guidance to help your kids make smart decisions. That's why we don't spring from the womb fully-formed. Or get tattoos at five, no matter how cool we think Batman is.
posted by desuetude at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2006

This does feel to me sort of like a young girl wanting a nose or boob job

Lampoil makes a remarkably good analogy. What would you do if it were your 14 year old daughter wanting breast implants?
posted by Neiltupper at 9:07 AM on March 10, 2006

I am a woman who's had a 2 year intimate relationship with a man who was circumcized at the age of 8 and it doesn't heal up as nicely as it does when you are an infant. There is more scar tissue - you can tell there's been a surgery. It doesn't bother me, but 15-16 year old girls might be freaked out. I used to be freaked out by uncircumcized men but that was only because the first one I experienced didn't clean himself properly, but I changed my mind later after falling in love with a guy who was a little anal about being clean :) It might help him to know that there are women (myself included) who either have no preference or like foreskin. Foreskin is kind of nice, I think (as long as you feel secure that it's clean and there's no smegma hiding out).

If he were my kid I would make sure he knew and understood both sides of the story. But even still.. He's 15.. And I'd be VERY hesitant to let him make a decision at that age.. Maybe tell him to wait until he's 18? I wouldn't want him to resent you either, though. Tough call ....

Here are some arguments for keeping foreskin:
Foreskin has erotic purpose (Beware, there are graphic images)
Do women prefer a circumcized man?
An Artificial Retractable foreskin for men!
How Male Circumcision May Be Affecting Your Love Life
Dan Savage of the Savage Love column on circumcision
Phoebe's Guide to Sex with the Uncircumcized Penis
posted by mojabunni at 9:21 AM on March 10, 2006

I don't doubt that he feels very strongly about this—15 is an awful age—but those feelings could be a function of adolescent insecurity, pubsecent confusion, implicit peer pressure, youthful impulsivity, you name it.

Yep. And this may be the elephant in the room, wordswinker, but do you know whether your son is gay or straight? Or, more to the point, does he?
posted by holgate at 9:23 AM on March 10, 2006

How much has he told you about his reasons for feeling "deformed"? Would he be comfortable telling you if he had something like phimosis?

Sending him to talk to a urologist or family practitioner is probably your best starting point, as several people have mentioned.
posted by dilettante at 9:31 AM on March 10, 2006

Postroad writes "My view: he may want it but he is still not old enough to get what he wants because he wants it...tell him to wait till 18 and then decide, one way or the other. (On the assumption that you ahve serious reservations about it )"

This is my view as well, unless your willing to let him get tattoos and genital piercings this is probably something that should wait.
posted by Mitheral at 9:35 AM on March 10, 2006

I've been following the discussion for the last couple of hours and can't stop being amazed.
How can a woman be freaked out by a foreskin? Untidiness aside (a circumcised penis can also be dirty).
We are born this way. We have foreskins. This is not wrong. It's not like running around with two feet of umbilical cord still attached to your belly or something.
posted by ollsen at 10:01 AM on March 10, 2006

I have rather strong opinions on the issue of neonatal circumcision. It seems that it's a permanent body modification without consent of the modified. So, you have my accolades for not having it done when he was an infant.

Now he's now asking for it himself. But, he's still a minor. Would you let him get a tattoo?

I would show him the 34% statistics mentioned above, and maybe the Penn and Teller episode (I didn't see it, so can't specifically recommend it). Then, I would tell him that he is perfectly welcome to go and get this done at the age of eighteen (perhaps even that you'll pay for it at that point).

For what it's worth, I am uncircumsized and was teased occasionally during my teenage years (in swimming pool showers and the like); but, hell, kids that age ridicule anybody for anything that they possibly can. No sexual partner I have ever had has said anything negative about it (to my face). And, early in my sexual career, I actually got laid once specifically because she'd never seen an uncircumsized cock before.
posted by Netzapper at 10:18 AM on March 10, 2006

How can a woman be freaked out by a foreskin?

For myself, I was 16 years old at the time and had never seen one before. I likened it to a corndog. That particular guy was out to take advantage of me, he was dirty in general, and I think his entire penis was pretty much disgusting to me, not just the foreskin. At that inexperienced age, I thought the foreskin was a bunch of extra icky stuff that had crud in it and it reminded me of the way a dog's penis stays sheathed most of the time -- not sexy or positive associations. By the time I was 17/18, I changed my mind though, and I think most mature women worthy of being with aren't going to remain freaked out by foreskin forever ... hehe, how's that for alliteration?
posted by mojabunni at 10:26 AM on March 10, 2006


Look, I'm a circumcized dude with absolutely no regrets about it. But for the sake of all that's good and fuckable, it is absolutely insane to go get one's winky chopped for a non-medical reason.

Don't let your kid do it. He can damn well wait until he has outgrown the living hell that is called "teenaged." When he's twenty, has had a relationship or two, and has pulled his damn head out of his ass, then he can make an informed and rational decision about it all.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2006

This has to be the oddest topic I've yet seen, but it's not like I spent any time going through the archives searching for circumcision.

Anyway, you are a good parent for attempting to allow him his own decision. It does indeed seem like he may want to do this to avoid teasing or 'fit in' or be normal to girls. Talk to your family doctor before him, explain that you think it may be some 'fitting in' issue, and then let him talk to the doctor alone and make the decision.

I think if your insurance will cover the procedure, get it done before he turns 18 and you drop him from your insurance as a child. I havn't looked into my adult insurance on this, but I'm thinking it wouldn't be covered unless required for a medical reason.

I don't buy the losing sensation thing. If this was totally true, more then half the women here in the US wouldn't joke about men not lasting long enough. :)

I wouldn't have done it myself at that age, or any age. I'm glad my parents elected to do it when I was a baby and I don't have to remember it.
posted by Phynix at 10:38 AM on March 10, 2006

If it weren't this, it would be something else about himself he didn't like. He's 15!

He is nowhere near old enough for elective cosmetic surgery.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:41 AM on March 10, 2006

Wasn't there some study done in Africa which suggested that circumcised men were something like 70% less likely to contract HIV?

You may want to research that angle and take it into consideration. Except for that study, I'm anti-circumcision, too.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:53 AM on March 10, 2006

I'm totally guessing that he's afraid girls (assuming he's straight) won't want to have sex with him if he's uncut. Completely an assumption and maybe presumptuous.

I'm kind of on the side of those who say he's too young to make such a huge decision on his own. Even if he's *thought* about it since he was 8, he doesn't necessarily have enough information to make the decision. I do agree with those who compare it to letting a 15 year old girl get breast implants. Hey, fine if she's old enough to do it without her parents consent, but I don't think *most* parents would go along with it before then.

Anyway, about the worries about sex. I don't know if you and your son talk frankly about sex or not. I'm guessing you might be more comfortable with it than others are since he's comfortable bringing up circumcision with you. This is only a personal anecdote, but feel free to share it with him: I used to think that I would be kind of skeeved by an uncut penis. Until I actually encountered one and found it was no big deal at all.

Obviously, also check with a doctor about the diabetes being a concern. I'm type I, too, and definitely have a longer time healing from cuts and such than non-diabetics. I also have a hard time controlling my sugars after an injury -- which, in a completely non-judgemental either pro or con way, I think this would count as.
posted by INTPLibrarian at 11:50 AM on March 10, 2006

Do it. Naming your boy Sue may work for some, but do you really want your son to be that guy?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:53 PM on March 10, 2006

I like the idea of making him wait only one year as opposed to the age of 18. If you tell him he can have it done when he's 18 he'll think "damn straight I can, i'll be an adult then and you won't have any say whether I do or I don't." Also, when I was 15, it felt like 18 was millions of years away. I think he'll perceive that as you brushing him off. However, a year is something that I think a teenager can deal with and yet still be enough time to let him change his mind if he's really not that serious about it. Say he just got some locker-room teasing at school and decided he wanted to be circumcised. A year from now he's not going to put that much emphasis on the teasing and may decide the pain's not worth it.

A little side story. My best friend's parents wanted to buy her a car for graduation. She was 17 and extremely flat-chested and asked for breast implants instead. They very firmly refused and bought her the car instead. At 25 she realized she was still felt the same way she did in high school and got the breast implants anyway. The confidence she received from the operation has really benefited her, everything from not slouching to hide the flat chest to ultimately feeling more comfortable in social settings. Her parents now tell me if they had it to do again, they would have given her the implants at 17 so she could have had that many more years to enjoy the benefits.
posted by Ugh at 1:13 PM on March 10, 2006

My son is circumcised. My dad was an old-school urologist who felt strongly that it prevented disease. The only uncut guy I've been with was not a nice person - no causation, but my correlation is negative.

I think it's proper to respect your son's wishes and listen to his thinking. And, especially, respect his feelings. He should talk to a number of experts - preferably 2 urologists - cut- and un- and maybe a rabbi, and some men who are cut- and un-. If he's only around circumcised boys and men, no wonder he feels really odd. Good reason to travel to nude beaches in Europe, where he can see more diversity (only partly joking).

The key is to deal with his feeling of deformity, and make sure that his decision is extraordinarily well-informed. I think it's along the lines of a nose job. It's a permanent surgical procedure, with some risk. 15 is probably too young to make the decision, but old enough to being the research.
posted by theora55 at 1:26 PM on March 10, 2006

way to be a fucking troll

If you disagree with my deliberate choice of words, then I'd suggest that it's more productive to contest their meaning or applicability, rather than resort to knee-jerk censorship that just makes you look like an arse.

Here is my continuum of word symbol maps when it comes to messing about with genitals:

Shaving of genitals.
Temporary modification.

Tattooing of genitals.
Semi-permanent modification.

Piercing of genitals.
Permanent modification.

Excision of portion of genitals.
Permanent mutilation.

Removal of genitals or modification so extreme as to result in their transformation from a former category object into a different category object.

You should note that I made a distinction between a mutilation for ritual purposes and a mutiliation for non-religious purposes. Many different cultures and subcultures throughout the world allow parents a lot of leeway when it comes to ritual genital mutilation of their children without consent.

The key issue, as many have put forth above, is consent. My own feeling is that in the absence of attaining an age of majority, a child so young cannot be held to be able to give consent to genital mutiliation stemming from a vague desire to fit in. My hunch is that by acceeding to those wishes parents risk creating a feedback loop that could enhance body dysmorphia issues in someone so young.

Practically every child that age is at high risk for developig some form of dysmorphia. I further believe that the only way to move beyond such issues is not to reinforce them with procedures and behaviours that validate those feelings, but instead to help the child to learn to become more confident in their presentation of their body and their self to peers.

In the case of a family with strong religious motivations, I would be more inclined to investigate how much of the desire for mutilation stemmed from an understanding of a religious or spiritual compact or union with a deity that could result from the ritual. Despite my own atheism I would give a stronger weight to a desire on behalf of both parents and children to proceed with this ritual on religious grounds. This is because such religious perseverance is more likely to be lifelong, and proceeds from a more durable and complete analysis of motivations than dysmorphia accentuated by peer pressure. Some people might call this a double standard. however, we live in a society of deists and our rationality is circumscribed by cultural norms and expectations.

Of course, disentangling the two can be quite challenging. Based on your reaction I I suspect that if were we talking about a clitoridotomy versus a clitoridectomy, you would have little desire or motivation to distinguish between the two but would term them both "mutilation". For my part, I would class the former as "modification", and the latter as "mutilation".
posted by meehawl at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2006

I'm type I, too, and definitely have a longer time healing from cuts and such than non-diabetics. I also have a hard time controlling my sugars after an injury -- which, in a completely non-judgemental either pro or con way, I think this would count as.

Damn skippy. My husband actually discovered he was a type I diabetic after he had a horrible experience healing from a vasectomy. And that was just an itty-bitty hole, as opposed to the whole megillah--although, granted, his diabetes had been untreated up to that point (he went on insulin almost immediately afterwards). I'm sure your son's isn't--but I think that this kind of operation would be very traumatic and would really throw him out of whack sugar-wise, even if it doesn't result in full-blown infection. Talk to the doctor about this!!
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:10 PM on March 10, 2006

This article (I can email you the pdf if you want) suggests that ~70% of women with circumsized partners do not experience regular vaginal orgasms while only ~30% of women with intact partners do not experience regular vaginal orgasms - in part due to that anatomical differences result in different styles of intercourse as well as the stimulatory/space-filling properties of having a bunched up foreskin at the nadir of a stroke.

So, getting cut might be a disservice to his future partners.

Also, the nerve receptors in the foreskin are a different type than the receptors in the glans - not only is sensation reduced but a kind of sensation is (pretty much) completely forfeited.

So, getting cut might be denying himself a normal sensation.

Or what mojabunni says.

I had a partner in college in the US who had never experienced a foreskin before firsthand. Creeped her out for a bit but she eventually got used to it and ended up considering the foreskin "cute" and would amuse herself playing with it.

I had a friend who was circumsized at age 12 (I have no idea why). He woke up from general anaesthesia in the middle of the procedure due to pain and reported that it was extremely uncomfortable for several months afterwards.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:15 PM on March 10, 2006

There are a few episode of the show Nip/Tuck which cover exactly what you are going through, in a serious manner. I highly suggest you watch it. It starts in Season 1, episode 2 and continues through episode 3. It might give you some insight into what your son may be dealing with. The show accurately portrays what the teenage son (who is not circumcised) goes through on an emotional level, and the lengths he goes to (trying to cut it off on his own) when his parents refuse to let him have it done professionally.

Yeah, 15 is young. But it's not that young. He's old enough to know and understand what bothers him about his body, and he's old enough to have a choice in something as important to his self-esteem and self-worth as his own penis. You stated that this has bothered him since he was a young child. If he's thinking about it this much, he's probably already done a bunch of research about it on his own already. It doesn't seem likely that when he turns 18 that he's just going to magically change his mind and suddenly embrace the fact that he has a foreskin. Allowing him to do it now, and get used to the changes in his body at this point, before he becomes sexually active (if he's not already) I would think could make the transition easier for him rather than if he had to do it when he's older. Sure, you could make him wait a year or two or even three. I bet that if you do though it's the first thing he'll have planned for his 18th birthday, and allowing it to occur sooner rather than later is just going to save him those 3 years of grief in the meantime.

I'd also suggest sitting down and talking with him about it frankly. If he's old enough to be thinking about it, he's old enough to talk about it with you like an adult. Has he actually done any of the research on his own? If not, he needs too... he needs to find information for himself on both sides of the argument. He needs to make up his own mind. Make him share his research with you so you can discuss it openly. Allow him the chance to prove his case. Discuss the drawbacks with him and allow him to voice his counterpoints. Many here have suggested that he's just too young. I disagree, and hope that he can be allowed to at the least share with you his position, and that you will take it into consideration. Even if he does regret it in the end, he's going to do it anyway, having the support of his parents is going to make it that much easier for him.
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:15 PM on March 10, 2006

For reference, here is the American Academy of Pediatrics' Circumcision Policy Statement.
posted by alms at 2:59 PM on March 10, 2006

Your son knows what he's in for if he gets snipped. At 15 he should be able to decide for himself.
posted by spork at 3:26 PM on March 10, 2006

This question seems very hard to answer because at no time have we been told why he feels deformed, neither in the original question or the follow-up.

Isn't that kind of an elephant in the room thing? Is it religious, is it the locker-room, is it about his (possibly purely theoretical) sex life?

Surely there would be different approaches depending on those different reasons?

So, wordswinker, do you know, or not? Are you relunctant to tell us, or reluctant to ask him, or what?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:03 PM on March 10, 2006

I don't think his calendar age is as important as his level of maturity. Have him see a medical doctor who will carefully explain the benefits and the drawbacks of the procedure, including how the diabetes will add to the risks. Then have him see a counselor who can evaluate whether he is making a rational decision and understands the facts. The reason for his decision doesn't matter as much as his ability to understand the consequences. Rely on what the counselor says.

There are definite medical benefits for circumcision. It does reduce the risk of urinary infections (though not as much as doctors used to believe it did), penile cancer, penile skin disorders, and AIDS, and possibly syphilis. The first two benefits appear to primarily benefit those who at circumcised as an infant. Circumcision also enables far less painful and more effective care of male geriatric patients who are no longer fully able to care for themselves.

The question, of course, is whether these benefits make circumcision worthwhile. Obviously, it is a surgical procedure, which is painful (especially if the patient isn't anesthetized properly) and there is a limited amount of danger. The more longterm question of how it affects sex is one that has generated a lot of noise and little real information; I'm not even sure if it is possible to generate accurate information in that area with modern technology.

By the way, the AAP didn't really change its policy seven years ago; it merely affirmed the policy that it and most medical organizations have always espoused - that parents/patients should be given all the facts so they can make up their own minds Unfortunately, in 80% of all cases the facts don't end up mattering; parents have already decided yes or no based on their preconceived notions before they talk to the doctor.

For the record, I was circumcised at 8 for medical reasons. I would have been circumcised at birth but there were other pressing medical issues at hand, like keeping me breathing. The surgery hurt, but not as much as the hernia surgery I had at the same time. I would say that if you are going to be circumcised, the younger the better.

And personally, I think anybody who goes nuts over this issue - on either side - deserves to have his mouth sealed shut. The way meehawl has been treated here by some is simply not civilized.
posted by spira at 7:24 PM on March 10, 2006

Response by poster: Pandora's foreskin!

Sorry for my emotional outburst earlier, my mama bear came out for a bit there. This is an emotional issue, ain't it?

Update: the pediatrician today told him that 80-90 percent of the boys in his practice are circumcised, including infants, (this is in an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis). He took my son's concerns with the respect they deserve, referred us to two pediatric urologists, and didn't seem inclined to dissuade him at all, nor to pass judgment.

Done well, he said, a circumcision at this age is not major league surgery, there are issues of infection and the risk of surgery on a type 1 kid, but it's not a monstrous wound or a long recovery time, nor is the diabetes a deal-breaker.

I put forward every argument set forth here (and a few others) against it, as I have for the last several weeks every time the subject came up.

This has pained him no end. Imagine having actually invited a conversation in which your mom feels compelled to discuss things like nerve endings on the tip of your very own penis, sexual satisfaction, oral sex, penile cancer, UTIs, succumbing to some ill-informed social norm, individuality vs. herd mentality, etc.

I did suggest, as one of you suggested, that he should have sex before he makes such a personal decision. The look on his face! "OhmygawdcanIjustdienow?"

There are long-term emotional consequences to growing up with a sense of shame about such an important body part that should not be minimized. Nor is this frivolous. Nor is it merely an adolescent reaction to heavy petting or locker rooms. He's been talking about this since he was in second-third grade. Not a passing fancy at all.

This kid is not a foolish child with a passing fancy to be dismissed. I'm a veteran parent with nearly 30 years in the trenches. I know the real deal when I see it.

This is the plan. We will speak to both pediatric urologists (from one of the top children's hospitals in the country). We'll get more information, wait a year, then if he still wants it, we'll see what we can do.

After all, foreskins are not noses, implants, piercings or any other banal fashion trend or vanity. Proof? Show me a male whose nose is more firmly connected to his most basic sense of self than his penis, and I'll show you Michael Jackson.

My faith has been restored, btw. It's so easy to be harsh and judgmental with the "evil other." I think that was the dynamic earlier in the thread, one I've been guilty of myself. Live and learn.
posted by wordswinker at 7:37 PM on March 10, 2006

FWIW - i wish i had mine :(
15 isn't old enough to get what he wants when he wants.

tell him he wont be able to play with it for a month. see if that changes anything.

try your best to help him understand that "fitting in" becomes insanely less important after highschool.

in the end, it is his body, but you can make him pay for it. something along the lines of "i think its a bad decision and i wont help, but if you REALLY want to, i wont stop you either."
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 7:43 PM on March 10, 2006

Ah, y'know, I've changed my mind: he should get it done. He's obviously never going to feel complete until he has it removed.

Compared to the dude with the star lumps embedded in his forehead, it's no biggie at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:04 PM on March 10, 2006

Let him wait until he's 18. You did the right thing. Circumcision is bodily mutilation. Yes, it's relatively harmless but it is still, unarguably, bodily mutilation, every bit as much as piercing or tattooing is. As such it must be the decision of an adult. Anything else is child abuse.
posted by Decani at 8:23 PM on March 10, 2006

Great post wordswinker.

I must say, I'm really impressed. You seem like a great parent. You are handling this situation very well. Kudos. :-)
posted by jahmoon at 8:53 PM on March 10, 2006

Wasn't circumcision started by the guy who invented Cap'n Crunch so people would stop masturbating? What a psychotic, illogical cultural trend. If I was still a pissed off teen and wasn't circumcised, I'd be wearing my foreskin as a badge of honor. It'd be like the first Pashtun dude who says beards are for gaywads.
posted by dgaicun at 8:57 PM on March 10, 2006

One one hand, waiting till he is 18 sounds reasonable. On the other hand, the taunting he'll have to experience for the next three years might be worse than some loss of sensation for years to come. What he might go through for the three years might have such a long-lasting effect, enough to regard his penis with shame (wow, that is a strange thing to write).

At the end of the day, he is the one who needs to make this decision. Sure you are the adult, but he is the one with the penis. As long as he is presented the pros and cons by a neutral, unbiased source, he is just as prepared to make the decision now as he would be at 18. To those suggesting that it might be something he'll regret, what about the regret he might experience at 18 for not being about to have it done sooner?

One thing to consider, if this is motivated by social issues (instead of self-initiated self-loathing), I can't help but wonder if the mocking will be just as bad - maybe worse - if the kids in the locker room find out he got circumcised? Neither here nor there, just a random thought.

Something to remember, you were not wrong to make the choice you made, and you won't be wrong for letting him make his own choice in this matter.

I agree, you should rent Penn & Teller's Bullshit. Also, maybe rent the first season of nip/tuck. There are a few dramatic episodes that deal with this exact subject. I'm pretty sure that was the 1st season, though it could have been the 2nd. Can anyone here verify?
posted by necessitas at 8:59 PM on March 10, 2006

^ Already done ;-)

*goes back to masturbating furiously with right hand while eating Cap'n Crunch with left hand*
posted by jahmoon at 9:02 PM on March 10, 2006

I'm not circumcised, and my own anecdotal experience suggests that women find the au naturel experience rather more pleasurable.
posted by EarBucket at 10:02 PM on March 10, 2006

I'm uncircumcised and I'd like to put in a good word for it.

If he's heterosexual, he should really be caring what women think about his penis rather than men.

I'm extremely lucky to have been physically intimate with an awful lot of lovely women and let me tell you that the responses to my foreskin have been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone likes something extra.

And it just *feels good* to have. It's part of your penis... it feels good to touch it! The idea of chopping away a lot of the external nerve endings of your penis is crazy to me.

(And, he should improve his masturbation technique. You can get, er, memorable effects by using the foreskin to stimulate the penis instead of pulling it out of the way. If he'd caught onto this technique then wild horses couldn't drag his foreskin away from him.)

Why does he feel "deformed"? It sounds like some bad person or people were cruel to him about his penis. He should be proud of who he is!

Circumcised men are in the minority in the world -- whole areas like South America, China and Europe are uncut. Objectively, you'd be easily as correct to say that circumcised men are deformed.

You should get much deeper into this. It's strange he's so obsessed with this over so long a period. There must be some cause.

(of course -- at some point, it's his body, you should give him your blessing! but I think that point is 18...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:47 PM on March 10, 2006

More nerve endings = more sensation = faster ejaculation.

Pure nonsense and something advocates for circumcision like to tell themselves to puff out their chests. It's utter bullshit. Every cock's as unique as a snowflake and blanket statements like this are silly.

I'm uncut and this is most definitely not the case with me. In fact, I've been told many times that I am the most "difficult" partner my partners have ever tried to "get off".

To the OP, I went to a school that was 94% Jewish--ie, I was the only uncut kid in gym. I never once got teased but had issues when I saw the other boys. I was raised by a single mom who never discussed the issue with me and I didn't even know what circumcision was when I was young. I just assumed the other boys matured faster and mine would eventually fall off (hey, what do you want, I was young).

However, I thank my lucky stars that I'm intact. All of my friends are cut and many of them complain about it. One has severe psychological issues as a result of it (thinks his mother is responsible for mutilating him) and has tried multiple precedures for growing it back.

As for women I've been with, the better lovers I've had prefer it (ie, the ones that have had different types of partners). The less experienced women, or ones that have been with only Jewish men, seem to be on the fence about it. It's only been an issue in one relationship I've been in.

My advice to you and your son is to keep it. Nature/God/whatever put it there for a reason.

The only real issue with it for a youngster is that someone should properly teach him how to deal with the foreskin when it comes to condoms. Most packaging/instructions don't take it into consideration.
posted by dobbs at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2006

Metafilter: every cock's as unique as a snowflake
posted by mimi at 2:29 PM on March 11, 2006

Another vote for this not being the right place to discuss this. See a professional.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:14 AM on March 12, 2006

I posted this question to an "intactivist" (intact genital activist) mailing list and a kind gentleman responded with this:

For the parents: Congratulations. You made the right decision 15 years ago.
Don't make the wrong decision now. You are adults. Make an adult decision to
help your son learn how to think for himself, for now, and especially for
when he's an adult. Don't let him fall prey to his peers who are probably
jealous he has something they don't. Talk it out; if you get the truth,
you'll hear he's had some cruel teasing about it. Don't trivialize his
concerns. Listen to him. Give him understanding and support, but don't give
in to adolescent angst. He could change his mind a month after the operation
if he has it now. A fifteen year old may still be growing the last few ounces
of his brain. He can change his mind 180 degrees in one hour.

What if he comes back a month from now and says his friends' parents are
letting them drive without a driving license? Are you going to go for that?
And a month after that, all his friends are now drinking beer with parental
approval [some will be]? Going to go for that one? What about when he's 18
(will be prosecuted as adult) and wants to have a 15 year old girl (below age
of consent, as in "15 will get you 20," or "jailbait," the "statutory" in
front of "rape" doesn't cut the maximum) over for the night (hey, all my
friends get to do it at their homes [there will be some who do], why not
me?)? Going to go for that one?

Here's something to teach your son: "What's popular is not always right.
What's right is not always popular." Let him know that your decision to leave
him intact was based on serious consideration of the loss of sensory tissue
he would suffer and the possibility he might be one of the few who loses the
whole penis and have to be turned into girls (_As Nature Made Him: the boy
who was raised as a girl_, by John Colapinto, HarperCollins, 2000.) Or even
one of those who dies from the operation. He needs to know all that. Heck,
tell him you loved him more than other parents loved their sons, or you
wouldn't have given it the thought it took to make a difficult decision. Most
likely you do love him more, and it's alright for a parent to say that.

Even if circumcision is very popular in the US, worldwide 80% of men are NOT
circumcised. US Americans and Muslims make up most of the 20% who are cut
(Jews are only about 1% of world population, Muslims 16%). Actually, west
coast rate is very near 30% now. I live in California, where it may be
slightly higher than in Washington and Oregon. Maybe you live where it's very
high. Tell him he may live somewhere else some day. The rate may go up again
before it goes down to nearly 0%, but it's going to go there, eventually.
Right now the pro-circumcision lobby is spending tons of money to get the
rate up again, by sponsoring "studies" that show circumcision prevents this
and that, but it's the same old story. They don't have all those problems in
countries where no one is circumcised. He can't grow it back after it's cut
off. When he gets much older he will have a lot less sensitivity without a
foreskin. Will he like sex enough to want to be able to do it when he's
middle aged or old? Tell him all this, and tell him you don't want to be
responsible for him making a bad decision while he's still half child, half

Diabetes? Who is planning to have it? Why not plan to NOT have it? Get
healthy. Get blood sugar under control now. Washing under the foreskin alone
(daily rinse with clear water is all that's needed) will likely prevent any
problem with the foreskin, even with diabetes. With blood sugar under control
and washing, there won't even be a chance for anything to grow there. With
diabetes you have to get blood sugar under control to stay alive. Having a
circumcision to avoid diabetes caused crud may mask a deadly symptom. US
American doctors always say, well, let's get the circumcision first, and then
we can see about what you need to control your diabetes. That's because they
can't stand to know someone has the foreskin they don't have. That is NOT
done in other countries.
The world standard of health care is to get diabetes/blood sugar under
control and let the intact penis take care of itself once the diabetes is
under control. You don't treat a symptom and ignore its cause. If you treat
the cause, the symptom goes away.

Can he retract his foreskin? If so, he can keep it retracted when he's in a
locker room or other communal shower. No one will know he's not circumcised.
He should be pulling it back in the shower, anyway, to rinse off the
"inside." If he can't retract, he should start getting it to move now. He
will discover sexual sensations he won't want to give up. Has he mastrubated
yet? If not, he should start pretty soon. There is overwhelming evidence now
that regular, frequent, life-long discharge of semen contributes to a healthy
prostate, while sexual abstinence/celibacy may help cause prostate cancer.

My opinion in a nutshell? Tell him you will help him get it done if he still
wants it after he's 18. If he has no medical problem, your insurance isn't
going to pay for it now, unless you and a doctor arrange some insurance
fraud. There are doctors who will urge you to do just that, just so they can
collect the money they will get. Don't get youself caught up in that; it
could lead to jail time. What if the operation is botched and there is an
investigation about why it was being done? It will all come out then. It is
not foolproof, failsafe surgery; it sometimes leads to total penis amputation
or a horrible staph or strep infection (hospitals are loaded with the germs).
If you are going to have to pay for it out-of-pocket, it will cost about the
same three years from now as it will now, maybe a percent of two more due to
inflation. If he goes in the service they will do it if he wants it. They
don't force it on recruits as they once did, but the military is still a
pro-circumcision community for the most part, and military doctors are US
Americans who are circumcised men, and who, therefore, want to see all men
circumcised so they can feel good about their circumcisions. That said, the
percent of men in the service with a foreskin is probably at its highest
since the beginning of World War II, and most who go in with one, come out
with one.

Here's something to consider: When physicians are urging parents to have a
newborn circumcised, they often tell those who hesitate, that after three
months there is no medical benefit, that it must be done now to receive all
those magical benefits that prevent all kinds of diseases. There are
"studies" that say it's so. If a doctor now tells you that it really is
benficial to do it now, you have to know that someone is lying about the
supposed medical benefits of circumcision. Well, maybe not the one who tells
you that now: There are "studies" that show it is beneficial to have it done
on an adult body. Maybe the doctors just need to get their lies coordinated a
bit better.

For the son: You are a very lucky boy/man (you're both right now, and should
enjoy it while you can). I say you're lucky because your parents didn't let a
doctor cut off the very best part of your penis, the part with all the nerve
endings that make sex so very special. Yes, a circumcised penis can still
engage in sex, and it can get an orgasm for the man it's attached to. Orgasm
is so good, some men can't imagine how sex could be any better. Well, it can,
and your foreskin will insure that you enjoy every little bit of sexualy
activity just as God/MotherNature planned it, not just the orgasm. Even the
best, most successful circumcision takes away about 50% of the epithelial
tissue of a penis, and more than 70% of the sensory (nerve) tissue of a
penis. Circumcision results in less penis, every time. Men circumcised after
13 years of age often notice that their penis feels "empty" or "hollow" after
they are circumcised.

I work in mutual support groups where men injured by infant circumcisions
come for help and understanding. Some recent cases come to mind: One man has
a penis that curves downward so severly he can't have intercourse with a
woman. At least two urologists have examined him and declared that his injury
was caused by a botched infant circumcision, and cannot be fixed now. His
wife divorced him and married a man with a foreskin. There are two men who
have never had any feeling in their penises. They can sometimes masturbate to
orgasm, but more often cannot. They have almost no control over orgasm when
they have sex with a woman. It is most often a frustrating, failed activity.
One has fathered a son, but the other has never been able to maintain a
relationship with a woman more that a few months. Sometimes a baby dies from
circumcision: They bleed to death, or an infection enters the circumcision
wound and cannot be controlled, resulting in death. These cases are very
rare, and almost never put in the news. Sometimes a baby boy has his entire
penis cut off by mistake and has to be changed into a "girl" (one who will
never have a baby).

This is not to scare you, but to point out why your parents had very good
reasons to avoid all those risks for you. You will have even less risk from
such dire consequences if you are circumcised now or later in life, but you
will still have some very real risks. Why take such risks when you don't need
to? A success rate of 98%-99% is very good for surgery, and is considered
safe enough when you really need the surgery. But that means one or two out
of every hundred have a serious problem with the surgery. Even if the success
rate is 998 or 999/1,000, if you are one of those one or two, it doesn't
matter how successful all the other ones were. You want to avoid surgery
unless it's the only way to solve a medical problem, or it's the best way
when it's not the only way. You don't have a medical problem. You have an
imaginary problem put into your head by someone else, whether it's something
someone has said or because you believe you need a circumcision because you
believe everyone else is circumcised. There's nothing wrong with you, but
there may be something wrong with those who are causing you to think you have
a problem. Here's an important thing to remember: "The biggest problem most
men ever have with a foreskin is that someone thinks they have a problem."

Is anyone kidding you about your "anteater" or "elephant's trunk"? Ignore
them, they are jealous. They want you to lose what they lost. Most of your
friends, if they weren't afraid you'd be upset at them, or that the "others"
would make fun of them too, would tell you that they wish they were NOT
circumcised. It's too bad you can't poll 30 or 40 classmates and get honest,
private answers. You really want to be like your friends now, don't you? But
who will be your friends five years from now? Ten years from now? I guarantee
you most, maybe all, of the persons you consider freinds now, will not be a
part of your life five or ten years from now. Would you have all their names
tatooed on your arm, in honor of your friendship with them? Why have your
penis permanently altered in honor of your friendship with them?

I hope you don't decide to do something you will regret the rest of your
life. Why not think about it for several years, and decide after you've seen
a little bit more of the world? It's an irreversible decision, one you can't
change after you realize you've made a bad mistake. Good luck.
posted by telstar at 4:33 AM on March 12, 2006

"Right now the pro-circumcision lobby is spending tons of money to get the
rate up again, by sponsoring "studies" that show circumcision prevents this
and that, but it's the same old story."

This is what you get for asking an activist. I believe that the "pro-circumcision lobby" also faked the moon landing.
Listen to people like OmieWise and Ikkyu2. Don't listen to people who have more riding on this than is healthy.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on March 12, 2006

I'll be having a boy in a few months, and in researching circumcision, I ran across a site about medical issues that are overlooked in both circumcized and uncircumcized boys.

I encourage you to read this site. Try to figure out whether your son is already experiencing pain during erections before deciding whether to circumcize him. Circumcision might or might not be a solution to the problem.
posted by landtuna at 9:09 AM on April 12, 2006

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