In America in 2006, a little over half of all boys were circumcised and in the Western states, where we live, only a third were. We didn’t circumcise our son because when I questioned why we would cut some skin off his penis, I couldn’t think of one good reason. I just couldn’t help but feel like there is a reason why that skin is there. And was it really worth an extra trip to the hospital, since he was born at home, to get him circumcised? Not for me. Yet, there are six reasons that I primarily hear among people who circumcise for non-religious reasons.
It looks weird
The first, and this is definitely the most common, is that an uncircumcised penis looks ‘weird.’ Well, that’s because in America, most grown US born men were circumcised so that is what we are all accustomed to seeing. It’s entirely cultural.
In other parts of the world, female genital mutilation (FGM), also called female circumcision or female genital cutting, is common. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as “procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” and includes practices such as the removal of the clitoris, the removal of the labia majora and minora (the “lips” surrounding the vagina), and the narrowing of the vaginal opening.
What is normal and beautiful?
These sound like brutal practices, but when we look at the social and cultural reasons behind FGM, we can see many parallels between it and male circumcision. (View a full list on WHO’s “Female genital mutilation” fact sheet.)
Cultural pressure and the desire to conform: “Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice” (WHO, 2012).
Perception of beauty, normal, and cleanliness : “FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are ‘clean’ and ‘beautiful’ after removal of body parts that are considered ‘male’ or ‘unclean’” (WHO, 2012).
Cultural acceptance/ tradition: “In most societies, FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation” (WHO, 2012).
Two thoughts…. First, cultural acceptance, pressure, and the desire to conform. Sound like the reasons for male circumcision we hear in the States? And the second comment, aesthetics. People who practice FGM think it looks better to have your labia shaved off and your vagina sown smaller. It’s entirely cultural. That, to them, is clean and feminine. It is what we, as Americans, are accustomed to seeing that defines what we think is ‘weird’ versus ‘normal.’ And since only 50% of boys are currently circumcised, that norm will soon change. Thus, not a good enough reason.
Look like daddy
The second reason, “we want our sons to look like our circumcised husbands.” I asked myself, “If I was the victim of FGC, would I want that done to my daughter just so she would look like me?” And the answer was, “No.” Someday, our son will notice that he looks different than his dad and we will explain it to him. It will likely be a conversation less than five minutes long. I didn’t find this to be a compelling reason.
Look like other boys
The third reason, “we don’t want our son to be made fun of in the locker room.” First, we are homeschooling, but even if he went to school, he would not be a freak because 70% of boys in the Western states are intact. He will be the norm, not the exception.
The fourth reason is that it decreases the chance of penile cancer. Using that same rationale, shouldn’t I remove my breasts now that I’m done having children to avoid breast cancer? Or take my ovaries out so I don’t get ovarian cancer? Yes, when you remove a body part that eliminates the risk of cancer. But is it worth removing a piece of your child’s body, that serves a function, for that small chance?
The fifth reason is that it’s cleaner. We’ve already seen that cleanliness is a reason for FGM, which sounds so odd to Americans, yet we use the same rationale for male circumcision. This is clearly a cultural perspective/rationale. I also have to wonder: How did the human race survive if the presence of a foreskin was dirty in a time where cleanliness, as we define it today, was almost impossible? And then I wonder: If it was cleaner to be circumcised, and uncircumcised penises are threatened with constant infection, why did the penis evolve to have a foreskin?
It has a purpose?
Which brings us to the sixth reason: the foreskin, or prepuce, has no function. It’s just worthless skin, so it’s not a big deal to cut it off. The video below, by Doctors Opposing Circumcision, rebuts that quite well.
And I just have to say one more thing. When my son was admitted to the hospital at 13 days of life for jaundice, he had an IV put in. The nurses came into our room to take him to the Procedure Room and I wanted to stay with him. They looked at me questionably and when I insisted they ‘allowed’ me to come. (I say ‘allowed’ because there was no way in hell I was going to ‘allow’ my son to get an IV, and the pain that entailed, without me being with him.) My son, my little baby boy, was screaming and crying, with tears going down his face, as multiple nurses tried to place the IV in one wrist and then the other. It was horrible to watch, but I stayed with my son and spoke to him. I didn’t want him to go through that physical pain and fear without hearing my familiar voice and feeling my touch. Over the course of his 4 night stay, his IV “blew” a few times and back to the procedure room we went. It was horrible, but I’m glad he didn’t have to experience that alone. I can’t imagine a child being circumcised in a room full of strangers. That pain (some doctors use local anesthetic) and fear and not a familiar face.
You might also want to view a circumcision to really understand the procedure.
Click here -> The Prepuce: A D.O.C Video
Click here -> Circumcision video
After you watch the videos, check out: