March 2, 2004 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be having a baby boy soon, so I've been forced to handle a sensitive subject: foreskin! Should we circumcise him, or not? Is it genital mutilation or just good, clean hygiene? I'm snipped, so it's always seemed perfectly normal to me, but is it even necessary? Some professional medical advice would be appreciated, as well as any sociocultural perspectives/opinions you might have.
posted by waxpancake to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

You can probably get a good mix of opinions from the 60 comments in this old thread. Read it, then turn, run, and don't look back.
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on March 2, 2004

Is it genital mutilation
No, the way I've seen it performed today it looks painless. They use a plastic like capping system that makes the foreskin die and it fall off. Like when they cut your umbilical cord and it fell off making your "belly button".

An "older" friend had it done late in life for medical reasons. He said the pain was the worse thing he had experienced which did make him upset that his parents had not done it. Make sure they use the new method, as I haven't heard a bad thing about it.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:11 PM on March 2, 2004

Professional medical advice might be hard to get, here, and I'm not going to go into the argument about hygene vs. mutilation or normal vs. unnecessary. Along those axes, your own opinions matter more than the web's, and you'll find opinions at both ends of each spectrum. The best I can do is pontificate:

People generally seem to find the opposite option from their own configuration to be distasteful for one reason or another. I rather like how my bits are, and I find the other option to be funny-looking.

When my son was born, however, I wanted my personal tastes to be left out of the matter; like you, I wanted whatever was best for him. I weighed both options and decided that if he wanted his area modified, he could be free to do so after he matures. I could find no compelling reason for him to go under the knife.
posted by majick at 5:15 PM on March 2, 2004

10 years ago, I had my first son circumcized just as a matter of course; I was young and didn't think about it much. Two years ago, when I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and I decided to forego circumcision. Outisde of all the debates, it just seemed foolish to cut off a piece of his body without an incredibly compelling reason- it must have been put there for a reason, and we don't remove tonsils and appendixes just because they might be problematic in the future, you know? That's how we approached it, I hope it helps.

Good luck and good health to you, your spouse, and your new son!
posted by headspace at 5:21 PM on March 2, 2004

They use a plastic like capping system that makes the foreskin die and it fall off. Like when they cut your umbilical cord and it fell off making your "belly button".

tomcatspike: of course, that comparision breaks down when you consider that you kind of have to cut your umbilical cord, and that it's kind of designed to die and fall off. Neither of those things are true about foreskin. And, quite frankly, making skin die and fall off hardly seems painless to me.

In general, I haven't seen a good reason to cut off the foreskin. Very few males ever medical need to have the foreskin changed at all, and in many ways it's better for the glans to be protected fully by skin.
posted by skynxnex at 5:34 PM on March 2, 2004

Do it. Cleaner, less prone to infection, disease, dirt, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 5:43 PM on March 2, 2004

I have a friend who was not snipped and he has always been self-conscious about it - definitely in the locker room and in relationships. He has expressed that he wished it had been done, but he is not going to go through it now. He has said if he has a boy he will have the boy snipped for social and esteem reasons.
I was snipped and if I have a boy he will be too (for social reasons). My wife and I have discussed this topic, and she defers to my experience (of having a pee pee).
Either way you have a 50-50 chance of him liking it or not when he is older. You are the parents and this is the first of many decisions you'll be making for him. Follow your beliefs (religious or not), be well informed, and hope that he will be understanding of why and how you guide his life.
posted by sailormouth at 5:43 PM on March 2, 2004

I second majick and headspace. I'm intact, and would not want to undergo the procedure now that I have the choice as an adult; and I'm glad that I did not have it done (to me) when I was a kid. But I'm British, and it didn't seem to be an issue there at the time. Going slightly off-topic, I once met an elderly Jewish guy who also happened to be a Mohel, a ritual circumcisor; he said that the pay was lousy, but that he got good tips.
posted by carter at 5:44 PM on March 2, 2004

I didn't get my son clipped, and for reasons that grew almost fanatical the more opposition I faced while I was pregnant. Now that The Big Decision has long-since been made, I just think leaving the dong alone is the right thing to do for simple reasons. I know you've probably read all the standard pro- and anti-circumcision stuff twenty times, but in the after-effect, what I feel and think about has little to do with cervical cancer, smegma, nerve endings per square inch, oral sex, et cetera.

1) And this is the big one: the same reason you should taste before salting your food. Er, except reversed. You can always take it away, but you can't ever (conveniently) add more.

2) I'm no hole in the mattress, but I've seen some penises in my day, and a lot of them had skin tags, leans and piano wire-tight frenulums that I've been told are due to not-so-professionally-performed circumcisions.

3) Pain. Although I don't have a wang, I feel comfortable dismissing the idea that having part of your wang chopped or rotted off is pleasant. (Go put a rubber band around your finger. Wait two days. Now pretend this is your first impression of life, the universe, and everything. Now pretend it's not on your finger, but around your tallywhacker. Oh, and you can't bitch about it to anyone, so don't expect to get any cathartic relief, either.) Or maybe it feels great. Either way, if my kid decides later that he doesn't want the ski cap, I would think a 10-year-old (let's say) is much better able to communicate his or her anaesthetic needs before, after, and during a surgical procedure than is a newborn.

4) The whole idea of lopping it off just seems sort of unnatural to me. I don't prescribe to any master watchmaker theory of the universe or anything, but the standard practice of excising a piece of somebody's schlong seems ridiculous on a whole lot of levels and becomes even stranger when you consider our collective sexual hangups and the part of the body being altered. I don't think anyone who circumcises their kid is evil or anything, but even as a woman I do feel a bit taken aback by the whole notion of a doctor or a society or a mother-in-law or a football coach telling a whole gener that their junk, the stuff of which entire industries and wars are made, is somehow flawed first thing out of the hatch.

5) It looks bigger.

I'm glad we went natural. I worried about his penis a lot when he was small because I read about scary things like smegma pearls and non-retracting foreskin, but as it turned out I could have spent that time worrying about other things, because we're doing fine with the anteater version.
posted by littlegreenlights at 5:46 PM on March 2, 2004

*looks suspiciously at can-of-worms thread, enters anyway*

I've read somewhere (I am afraid that it was a women's magazine, so I don't really know how reliable that could be, sorry) that cut guys have more of a chance to receive fellatio than the uncut.

that makes one kind of reevaluate all the "unnecessary mutilation" thing, if you think about it
posted by matteo at 6:01 PM on March 2, 2004

When I was in high school I worked for a gynecologist named Dr. Gross.... No, really. I filled out the forms for all the expectant parents to sign to okay the circumcision. I was surprised how many people just sort of went ahead and did it without thinking about it. I don't think you can go wrong, whatever you choose as long as you approach it thoughtfully. My [Jewish] uncle decided after a lot of soul-searching to not have his son circumcised, and the hardest part was telling my grandmother, who was a bit miffed but got over it. Some of the things they were tossing abotu were

* If you are Jewish, circumcision is an offering and a sacrifice to the covenant with God. If you're Jewish, deciding not to have your son circumcised is a bigger deal. A bris is a really joyous occasion in the Jewish faith with a lot of meaning and whatnot.
* some conventional wisdom says that a boy should look like his father. Again, if you decide not to circumcise, this will be fine, but you may want to be proactive and tell your son that he and Daddy look different for a reason, not because there is something wrong with your son [kids won't ask, kids may worry]
* I am also "no hole in the mattress" but I've seen a lot of penises. Most of the guys I knew, um, personally were circumcised and I can still remember the first guy I saw naked who wasn't and I was really startled. My for-no-reason preference is circumcised guys, but that may be cultural. I think either choice, as long as it is approached thoughtfully, will be fine.

* [on preview] that fellatio thing makes no sense to me
posted by jessamyn at 6:12 PM on March 2, 2004

carter, that's one of the oldest jokes in the world : >

You'll just have to teach the kid to keep it clean. the AAP has a good page on it. It's personal choice really, so i'll just say Mazel Tov, and you know where I fall in the matter.
posted by amberglow at 6:20 PM on March 2, 2004

At the risk of giving out too much information, I underwent an adult circumcisation recently for medical reasons - it's wasn't pleasant. Indeed, it went wrong, and I had to go back in to hospital for a day.. I'm fine now - but having suffered that, I'm still glad that I wasn't circumcised at birth. As someone said above, you can't put it back, so err on the side of caution.

Incidentally, I've never really understood why this is such a big deal in the USA - the subject never raises its head (pun alert) in Britain - so don't think about it too much!
posted by ascullion at 6:25 PM on March 2, 2004

davidmsc: Cleaner, less prone to infection, disease, dirt,

This is misinformation at worst, or cultural preference at best.

There are billions of people in the world who are not circumcised and have no issues with that status. Let your own son make that decision himself. Don't make the decision for him, unless your religion or culture demands it.
posted by gen at 6:27 PM on March 2, 2004

Absolutely not. If you're not doing it for religious reasons I'd argue it's mutilation. Most of my friends are circumcised and those that have done research on it are upset at the fact. I'm uncut and, sorry matteo, have had no problems in the plo chops department.

I posted multiple times in the blue thread so I won't rehash everything here but I implore you to do some reasearch--there are many web sites out there where men who have been cut are pleading that the practice end. There's an old issue of ICON magazine (maybe 5 years old) that has a lengthy piece on the subject and, unlike thomcatspike comment, says it can be a very dangerous procedure.

Please, leave the body intact. There is no medical or logical reason to cut off the foreskin. If there were, nature would have done away with it long ago.

Either way you have a 50-50 chance of him liking it or not when he is older.

Yeah, but if he's unhappy you didn't do it he can get it done himself. He can't (easily) grow it back.

Do it. Cleaner, less prone to infection, disease, dirt, etc.

This is simply wrong. On preview, gen beat me to it.
posted by dobbs at 6:28 PM on March 2, 2004

Best answer: Do him a favor and think of him as the man he will become, not just a little wriggling cluster of cells. It's his cock we're talking about, not his umbilical cord or his tonsils or friggin' appendix. I think you should only think about this issue while standing in the shower fondling yourself, just to keep it in perspective.

On the subject of "but he won't look like his father," I offer you this thought, from a friend of mine:

"If I needed to look like my father so bad, they shoulda put a handlebar mustache on me."

Seriously. Don't snip him. Talk about putting a big fat high-voltage footprint on his brain as soon as he's born... I know he won't remember it in any sense we can relate to, but I'm sure he wouldn't remember being burned with a cigarette for six hours either.

Cleaner? Than what? Isn't the area under your tongue just swimming with bacteria and prone to infection? Better cut that tongue out. Seriously, people, I give you modern plumbing, the ubiquitous shower, and readily available soap. Modern wonders! Don't give into the neurotically hygenic. A little flap of flesh is not going to develop into leprosy every other hot afternoon. Not worth the cutting off of part of one's cock. Sorry.

Locker room trauma? He's gonna go through a certain amount of this anyway and it's totally normal. All boys are panicked about their dicks the first time the go into a locker room. I had to face this situation all of twice, and I didn't walk in swinging confidently, thinking to myself, screw these motherfuckers, my cock is *cut*

Chances are that he will not be the only uncut boy in the room by the time he gets to that age. Lots of people are skipping the snip these days.

Finally: better orgasms! If you had the chance to take the pleasure of sex up a notch, wouldn't you? I know I would. As good as it is, if I could get more of it I wouldn't hesitate. Too bad my parents decided to lop off one of the most sensitive parts of my equipment before I was able to roll over and tell them what a bunch of easily programmed cock-haters they were.
posted by scarabic at 6:37 PM on March 2, 2004 [3 favorites]

If you choose to have your child circumcized, make sure they use proper anesthetic. Some surgeons use none, or only a bit of topical. Some people think babies' pain is insignificant because they have no ability to articulate or remember it.
posted by theora55 at 6:48 PM on March 2, 2004

I've read somewhere (I am afraid that it was a women's magazine, so I don't really know how reliable that could be, sorry) that cut guys have more of a chance to receive fellatio than the uncut.

women's magazine my ass -- that was a
dan savage column you were reading!

mr. savage went with the uncut with his kid, by the way.

the only downside i've ever experienced is that when I was thinking about getting an apadravya* i wasn't too sure what would happen with the whole hoody dealy.

but then i didn't get one. so there.

*(photos there are obviously NSFW, unless you're in a tattoo shop)
posted by fishfucker at 6:49 PM on March 2, 2004

Yup, we don't do it here much. And the Cheif Medical Officer has - as far as I can tell - no opinion on it.

I would have thought the default would be...leave it intact, no?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:54 PM on March 2, 2004

Cut and wish I wasn't. If you're worried about differences between father and son, don't. I saw my father naked often as a child and it wasn't until very recently that I found out my father is uncircumcised. I just didn't notice when I was a kid - the differences that I noticed involved size and hairiness.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:00 PM on March 2, 2004

Before hearing about it on MetaFilter, I would have never thought to NOT snip the tip. But because of this thread (and the ghosts of threads past), I am now firmly in the "Leave it be" camp.

We're having a baby this summer, and if it's a man-child, he's going to keep the luggage he arrives with until he's old enough to decide if he wants to clip it, pierce it, tatoo it, or stretch it into a small coin purse.

Convincing the wife may take a bit, but you've provided some good ammunition. Keep the tip! *fist raised high*
posted by ColdChef at 7:11 PM on March 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

I vote Leave It Be.
posted by rushmc at 7:17 PM on March 2, 2004

Response by poster: This was extremely helpful, thank you all.
posted by waxpancake at 7:25 PM on March 2, 2004

I met that same mohel, carter, looking to get a battery changed for my watch. There were lots of clocks and watches in his shop window. "You're a mohel? Then why the clocks?"
"You tell me - what would YOU put in the window?"
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:27 PM on March 2, 2004

I also say leave it alone - if he wants it done, let him be the one to choose, it's his penis. Arguments about uncut boys from foo years ago feeling self-conscious aren't really all that relevant to a kid not yet born and who's unlikely to be the only one with a turtleneck in his gym class (since more and more people are choosing not to circumcise these days). In my nursing school days I saw more than one done, and I'll say this: it DOES hurt (even if only for a short while), and if you do choose to have it done, get an experienced Mohel to do it, and follow the bris tradition of giving the kid some wine beforehand - I've seen a few religious circumcisions done, and they were far less stressful for the poor kiddie than the ones I saw in the hospital.

Have a safe labour and delivery, and congratulations on your son in advance.
posted by biscotti at 7:30 PM on March 2, 2004

* [on preview] that fellatio thing makes no sense to me

neither to me.
maybe it's about cleanliness, or the appearence of cleanliness. I'm a straight guy so I've never given much thought to that topic, obviously.

and no, fishfucker, I don't think it was the Savage column. I'm not a fan of his, and I certainly wasn't reading him 5 years ago. I still think it was Elle or Glamour or something

and anyway Queen Victoria decided that all newborn males of the royal family were to be circumcised, and by a mohel of all people -- the reason being that they were supposed to be the descendants of King Salomon.
It was Diana who broke the tradition and refused to have her boys go under the knife
posted by matteo at 7:33 PM on March 2, 2004

If it matters, I'd say uncut is the norm among my son's classmates, at least among the mommies I've polled.

I have been present for a circumcision. The child screamed a lot, which blew the "it's painless" theory out of the water for me. Here is a set of step-by-step photos of the procedure (not for the squeamish). Best of luck!
posted by whatnot at 7:42 PM on March 2, 2004

Where did you hear that, matteo?
posted by dash_slot- at 7:44 PM on March 2, 2004

Here's something to think about. We had my son snipped before coming home, and it wasn't done correctly. The foreskin has partially grown back causing infection, and to correct the problem means having it done again at 12 months.

If you don't have to get it done, don't.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:46 PM on March 2, 2004

We also chose not to snip our son when he was born last year. I will more than willingly pay for the procedure and accompanying pain relief if he chooses to get circumcised when he gets older. But I saw no reason to perform surgery on a perfectly healthy body part without his permission. That just seemed rude.
posted by dejah420 at 7:54 PM on March 2, 2004

I had no idea so many people were anti-snip. I always thought snipped just "looked normal" but after reading all this stuff I'm sure whenever I have a kid it won't be snipped.

I can't imagine having the procedure done as an adult though. Egads that must be painful.
posted by mathowie at 7:59 PM on March 2, 2004

I figure that pain relief will be a thousand times better by the time it matters to my hypothetical son. If not, well...sorry little dude. I tried to talk your mom into snipping it! :)
posted by ColdChef at 8:03 PM on March 2, 2004

I'm cut, and I wouldn't cut a son. And for no reason other than that it's not necessary.

I have what I guess is a "good" cut: no weird frenulum, no tightness, no etcetera. And I have great sex. And I don't give a good g.d. whether someone in the changeroom shower figures it's weird. And my wife seems happy with it. In short, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being circumcized, based on my experience.

But it's unnecessary. So don't do it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:24 PM on March 2, 2004

Mothering Magazine has a couple of articles, "The Case Against Circumcision" and how to answer doctors/critics.
posted by Feisty at 8:26 PM on March 2, 2004

I'm uncut and I like it that way.


No matter what you do, talk to your kid when he's old enough (but not too old, maybe 10 years old) and explain why his penis might not look like other boy's penises. It will save lots of worry later on.
posted by crazy finger at 8:38 PM on March 2, 2004

You know, I cannot remember if we had our son cut or not.
For whatever that's worth.
posted by mischief at 8:40 PM on March 2, 2004

my buddy's father is romanian, and uncut. he nearly divorced my buddy's mother when she went and got him snipped.

reason being? sex for an uncircumcised male is supposed to be WAY better than for circumcised males. he was thinking ahead. oh pun intended.

also, if you're christian, you don't need to have your son circumcized for religious reasons. circumcision is part of the old covenant with God, and because Jesus marks the new covenant, you don't have to worry about it. read it all, cause it spends a lot of time talking about jewish heritage.
posted by taumeson at 8:45 PM on March 2, 2004

I guess I can appreciate people wishing they'd been cut, for "social reasons," after growing up with a foreskin. People hate their bodies in general for all sorts of "social reasons," and especially as a kid the grass is always greener on the thinner, taller, blonder, more muscular, *cut* side of the fence.

Still, I'm not the kind of person who generally cares what people think of me, and I fully intend to raise my kid to be the same. I like to think it won't be as big a deal in the future, with more people turning away from the practice.

But I can sympathize with those who were actually the only one at their school, etc. It probably appeared incredibly abberant, and it's always easy to wish it had simply been taking care of before you could remember.

Tough one, but my choice is made.
posted by scarabic at 8:51 PM on March 2, 2004

I always thought snipped just "looked normal" but after reading all this stuff I'm sure whenever I have a kid it won't be snipped

I still think snipped "looks normal", but a lot of the thinking and casual research I've done over the last few years about things like performing gender assignment surgery on newborns (and the effects it has on them later) left me with fairly strong opinions about the "rightness" of cutting bits off babies for no good reason. There are some things we have to decide for our children, but I've come to the conclusion that circumcision isn't one I'd ever feel right about deciding for a kid of mine.
posted by biscotti at 9:00 PM on March 2, 2004

biscotti: I still think snipped "looks normal"...

Sure- in America maybe.

I repeat myself, but there are literally billions of people on the Earth who are not circumcised. To those people a "normal" penis is uncut. To them, a cut one is certainly strange.

I appreciate the fact that this thread has widened the perspectives of some who may never have questioned circumcision in the past. It's certainly something worth considering seriously, especially if you will be a parent soon.
posted by gen at 9:38 PM on March 2, 2004

I haven't found good data to back this up, but my impression is that the percentage of infants circumcised in the US is going down and that it has generally been lower in Europe. I think that what is normal/modal for a particular age group is changing. I've only come across one unsnipped myself and it was awkward. Clearly there were different rules of engagement, but the owner wasn't particularly forthcoming as far as instructions and helpful hints. I think things would have been easier if unsnipped/intact had been more common to me. So I guess the point is that if you end up in the minority (by a significant amount), good communication skills are helpful/necessary.
posted by noether at 10:17 PM on March 2, 2004

From this thread (linked above):
I went through the process of deciding whether or not to have my son circumcised just over 12 months ago, just when this thread was discussing the issue. In the end, my partner did not want it done (only because she was concerned about the pain) and I did. We discussed it quite a bit but, at the end of the day, I could not really come up with a compelling reason to do it, although I still wish that we had done so. The decision was not finally made until after he was born, when it was discovered that he was going to need several operations in his first couple of years, when my partner put her foot down and said "no way, no how" because she figured he was going to go through enough pain already. If the choice was completely up to me, I would have said yes in an instant, but it is a hard thing to convince someone else to agree to.
Six months later, I still wish it had been done, but it is hardly the biggest decision you will have to face, no matter how important it seems at the moment.
posted by dg at 10:50 PM on March 2, 2004

This is more recent data, so doesn't show the improving rates for leaving boys intact, but it is interesting to see the "trend" broken down by Northwest, South, Midwest, and West.
posted by Feisty at 10:51 PM on March 2, 2004

Why do you wish it had been done, dg?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 PM on March 2, 2004

I haven't found good data to back this up, but my impression is that the percentage of infants circumcised in the US is going down and that it has generally been lower in Europe.

As has already been pointed out, it's uncommon in Europe (certainly in the UK, at least) to the point of being restricted almost entirely to the Jewish and Muslim communities and for medical reasons - it would never even occur to non-Jewish/Muslim parents of a newborn son to think about getting him circumcised, as there's none of the 'we want him to look normal/like his father' or 'it's cleaner' business, because most men are uncut, and seem to manage just fine with sex and hygiene etc. At least, that's the overwhelming impression I get - not speaking from personal experience, as I'm Jewish, so the boy babies in my family have all been circumcised.
posted by kitschbitch at 1:41 AM on March 3, 2004

Y'all might be interested in this article in today's New York Times.

I like the part about how they hold the baby up to the microphone so the 400 guests can hear the screaming.
posted by PrinceValium at 4:30 AM on March 3, 2004

This is a very insightful thread.

The thought of having my son circumsized never occured to me. As the other Brits posting here have mentioned, it is not the norm in his country of birth.

I do notice that a lot of people here talking about giving the child the choice later in life and I would just like to mention about the impact of the operation on an older child.

My brother was circumcised for medical reasons at the age of 10. It was incredibly painful for him and subsequently, acutely embarrasing. He wore a kilt for a while after the op as this was the only thing he could comfortably wear. He ended up being off school for quite some time due to the utter humilation he was subjected to by his peers.

I cannot imagine sitting my son down one day and talking about it unless it is medically necessary for him to be snipped or he sees a circumcised penis and wants to know why it looks that way.
posted by davehat at 6:10 AM on March 3, 2004

I have always felt, personally, that I would not circumcise any future male children for most of the reasons mentioned above (but mostly an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" view). My decision was solidified by the experience of a dear friend who, after some debate with their child's father, capitulated to his wishes to have their son circumcised (for the "I want him to look like me" reason). She didn't feel strongly enough about it to go against her SO's wishes.

She waited for the doctors to complete the procedure in an adjoining room and when she heard the child scream in pain (the first time she had heard her newborn son, and first child, scream like this) she had to be restrained from going after the kid and stopping the doctor. She said it was the most regrettable decision she had made, because she knew how badly the child was hurting, and because it was her decision that allowed this pain into his life.

Then to cap it off, the circumcision didn't heal properly (it was possibly botched, which would account for these difficulties and possibly the pain) and the boy is faced with numerous future surgeries to correct the problem.

I blanch when my cats wail from having shots. Aside from all the other arguments, I just don't think I could knowingly subject my son to that kind of pain.

And there is also my SO's opinion that we shouldn't mess with the boy's sliding mechanism.
posted by jennyb at 7:07 AM on March 3, 2004

You are going to hear so many different opinions on this, but frankly they're all totally biased by personal experience.

Cut is not necessarily better than uncut or visa versa. Ultimately; it wouldbe respectful of you to allow your boy a chance to decide this for himself when he gets older. I think the statistics on complications with uncircumcised penii will show you that giving him the option is not a life-or-death-risk, and doesn't require too much extra maintenance on your part.

My parents and godparents opted to give me and my godbrother the choice in our teens. One of us took it, the other didn't, and both are happy about it, and we both really appreciated and were empowered by the respect our parents had for our bodies.
posted by krisis at 8:14 AM on March 3, 2004

Circumcision = genital mutilation, simple as that. It is a barbaric, tribal practice involving the removal of some of the most sensitive, nerve-packed tissues from the sex organs. It is done for reasons which have nothing to do with health or hygiene and everything to do with societal preferences.

This is true of both male and female versions, and both should be illegal unless done with the informed consent of the individual concerned.
posted by cbrody at 8:53 AM on March 3, 2004

I am so happy to see this being talked about (again). It is astounding to me that so many parents in the US choose to have a part of their son's anatomy cut off simply because that's the done thing. To each their own, but I wish parents would at least make the decsion consciously after weighing the pros and cons. To those of you in this thread who volunteered 'too much information': thank you. It is great to hear all your different experiences so we can learn and make better decisions.
posted by widdershins at 9:45 AM on March 3, 2004

FWIW, I've been to a few brises in recent years, and the child usually cries *before* the actual circumcision, because he's cold. The snipping itself happens quickly and followed by a drop of wine (for both baby and parents), and the baby calms down and everybody eats. At one of them, the baby didn't cry at all.

If anything, I'd rather circumcise a week-old baby than have a preteen or teenage boy grapple with the thought of changing his body. "I'd let him decide" is fairly equivalent to "he's never going to be."

Mazel Tov from me, too. I suggest you ignore the heavy-handed admonishments to do it or not do it and decide on your own.
posted by werty at 12:12 PM on March 3, 2004

I'm going to agree with the "leaving the choice for later really means never". Really, in the US, most everyone is going to be circumsized. Girls I've talked to say they're afraid of the uncuts and once they see it they try to, um avoid it? Yeah, they shouldn't be blah, blah, blah and if your son really finds someone who loves him it won't matter, blah blah blah. But the truth is it's not the social norm and he'll get teased in the locker room and possibly girls will be afraid of casual sexual encounters with him. This could be good/bad depending on your outlook.

I'm uncut so I guess I'm biased, but if it really was painful, bad and barbaric would men still have their sons do it? Not the best logic, I know, but you never hear of anyone going "Christ, my infant circumcision was a bitch". So I think it's really just personal preference, just keep in mind you could spare him some uncomfortable social situations in life later on.
posted by geoff. at 2:10 PM on March 3, 2004

The statement of "most everyone is going to be circumcised" is proven false by the data cited above, which shows that in three of four geographic regions intact rates near or above 35% (the midwest ranked below 20% intact). Citing personal experience is fine, but don't falsely correlate it to national trends.

A lot of people bring up locker room teasing as a co-factor to their stance on the matter. This is pretty lame in my book. I got teased mercilessly in middle school for having big ears; they are, thankfully, still just as big as ever.

I'd wager that girls being /reluctant afraid partially has to do with a lot of pre-college-level American text(book)s showing illustrations of circumcised members, which is boggling to me, as well as the prevalent (mostly false) hygiene stigma. I suppose it goes to show how widespread the practice was previously, even compared to today.
posted by krisis at 3:02 PM on March 3, 2004

"New Recommendations: The American Academy of Pediatrics released its new circumcision policy statement on March 1, 1999. The AAP has withdrawn its previous recommendation for neonatal circumcision but states that, if a circumcision is to be done, analgesia should be used. The AAP says the ring block method is the most effective. Furthermore the AAP states that all methods reduce but do not eliminate pain."

"Circumcision makes baby boys far more sensitive to pain than girls and their non-circumcised counterparts, a Hospital for Sick Children study suggests.

And circumcised males may continue to be less tolerant of injuries and painful ailments in youth and adulthood, said Dr. Gideon Koren, whose study was published in this week's issue of the British medical journal The Lancet."
posted by Feisty at 3:49 PM on March 3, 2004

The thought of having my son circumsized never occured to me. As the other Brits posting here have mentioned, it is not the norm in his country of birth.

Ditto, until reading threads on Mefi about it, I had never given the old turtleneck much thought.

Girls I've talked to say they're afraid of the uncuts and once they see it they try to, um avoid it?

Really? You're obviously talking to different girls than me, the ones I know seem to be totally indifferent. Again, I think it must just be a cultural thing.

A lot of people bring up locker room teasing as a co-factor to their stance on the matter.

Well I think the locker room is clearly more of an issue here than the end of the 'wife's-best-friend'. Where I come from, school kids don't see each other naked (in school hours anyway). If you have PE on wednesday, you wear your PE uniform all day, and if you stink out the classroom in afternoon History, so be it.

Slightly whiffier, but less traumatic for all concerned methinks.
posted by backOfYourMind at 8:16 AM on March 11, 2004

I was cut as a child, but somehow they messed up and had to stitch me back up. now, the scar left by the stitches is in the form of a hole that I can actually hang things off of like a piercing.

um, I hope that helps!
posted by mcsweetie at 3:51 PM on March 24, 2004

I'm arriving in the thread a bit late but I had to chime in.

It is a barbaric, tribal practice involving the removal of some of the most sensitive, nerve-packed tissues from the sex organs.

Indeed. Read that again. It's the frenulum that's being referred to here. It has a richer concentration of pleasurable nerve endings than any other part of the penis, and it gets lopped off during circumcision. What right does anyone have to take this away from someone?

The arguments about what females prefer to look at leave me aghast. If males preferred to look at female genitalia which have had the labia completely removed at birth, leaving the sensitive moist tissues inside exposed to air and the rubbing of clothing so that they eventually keratinize and become much less sensitive, would that be a good reason to perform routine female genital mutilation at birth?
posted by boredomjockey at 4:02 PM on March 24, 2004

Leave it be. Let him decide for himself whether he wants to get cut. I was cut, and I wish I hadn't been. Nobody I've known who is uncut (short of those who have a tight foreskin that makes erections painful) has said they wanted to get cut.
posted by at 9:03 PM on March 24, 2004

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