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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Circumcision: whose choice should it really be?

Lately I've been feeling a lot of guilt over having had my son circumcised.  The truth is, I did absolutely no research on the subject (which is not like me at all).  My husband thought it should be done, and other people suggested that there were medical benefits (such as being cleaner, resulting in fewer infections, and a correlation with lower rates of STDs) so I said, "okay."  I barely even gave it a second thought until it came time to do it.  When the doctor came to take Monkey away for the circumcision, I felt sick about it.  When they brought him back and I saw his raw little penis, I cried.

So, why did I do it?

If only I had taken the time to learn more about it before he was born, I probably wouldn't have consented.  I know now that there was no legitimate medical reason to have it done.  I know now that it was painful for him.  I know now that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend it.  I know now that I made a decision that cannot be undone, and my son will have to live with it for the rest of his life.

Since there is no medical rationale, why are we still cutting our baby boys? For the sake of tradition, culture, or religion?  Just because something has gone on for a long time (e.g., slavery, female genital mutilation, hazing) or is done in the name of culture or religion (suicide bombings, honor killings, ritual human sacrifice) doesn't make it right, and male circumcision is no exception.

I don't know any men who would voluntarily be circumcised as consenting adults, so why on earth do we, as parents, subject our sons to it?

"He won't be able to remember it, so it's okay."

Really?  REALLY???  Most people can't remember anything before the age of two (and some before the age of 5), so does that mean that it doesn't matter how we treat our children for the first couple of years because they won't remember anyway?  Go ahead and slap your kid around - he won't remember when he grows up, so it doesn't matter.  This kind of "logic" helps parents feel better about the mistakes they've made along the way (and hey, nobody's perfect), but it shouldn't be used to justify abuse - or unnecessary cosmetic genital mutilation.  Besides, we wouldn't allow this to happen to our daughters, would we?

I can't undo what I have already allowed to be done to my son, but I can (and do) support the MGM Bill to end nonconsensual genital mutilation.

8 comments:

  1. I had y older son circumcised because I was young and didn't know any better...9 years later when my newest son was born I knew more, he is a very happy whole boy. I feel guilty everyday but, there is no changing the past. I will give my oldest all the information he needs about re-growing his foreskin when he is old enough to make that choice. Don't beat yourself up! Mistakes are made made and maybe your blog post will help another momma not make the same mistake we did. :)

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  2. This is a very brave thing for you to post. Know that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time and next time you will do better.
    I am sorry that you did not have access to more and better information--I get very frustrated that medical professionals who are the ones doing this procedure don't give parents an honest assessment of the pain, risk and benefits. I can't imagine that any parent who really knew what circumcision entailed would still choose it for their son, unless it were their religious belief (and the huge majority of circumcisions in the US are NOT due to religion).
    I also support the MGM bill, I'm glad you're getting the word out.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your heart. There are many other parents who also regret having their son(s) circumcised. You are using this to reach out to others, and hopefully other babies will be spared as a result.

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  4. I love how most blogs about shit like this are bull. Guess what theres a shitload of us that have had this done and its FINE. My grandfather was uncircumcised and hated it, said it had a funny smell. Even better was that on his death bed he was getting infections caused by the bacteria that was under the skin of his penis in his catheter.

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  5. I only know a handful of men who would have, or have been circumcised as adults. All I can ask is WHY? and do you regret it? I haven't gotten any straight answers.
    My siblings are intact, and my oldest brother recently admitted that he is SO GLAD that no one ever took away a piece of his penis. I hope to raise my son with the same amount of respect for his body. If he chooses it as an adult, I will respect and support him, even though I would disagree.

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  6. roger desmoulinsMarch 4, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    Dont stress over this. Simply don't circumcise your future sons. When your children are in their late teens, explain to them that routine circ is wrong and urge them not to cut your eventual grandsons. There is joy to be found in the fact that routine circumcision has probably come to an end in your descent. People raised by intactivist Moms seldom cut their own sons.

    Finally, should circ ever come up in a quiet conversation among mothers you feel close to, tell them that you regret circing your son, and share with them what you have learned about it.

    A large majority of circumcised men have happy sex lives until middle age, and many get through middle age too. The major sexual drawbacks of routine circ afflict only a minority of men. Circ does not destroy a man's sex life, but merely puts it at risk. Here's hoping your son comes out on the good side of the gamble you unknowingly took and now deeply regret.

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  7. The best thing we can do when we make parenting decisions we regret is talk it out, get through our feelings, write about it, and basically just live and learn. Don't feel guilty. <3 I sympathize because when I was pregnant, we were planning on circumcision if it was a boy. Now that I am more educated, I will never have any son we have circumcised. It's scary just how easy it is for parents to just get it done due basically to peer pressure, without doing any research on it. All we can do is get the word out that it's unnecessary and should not be the norm! The rates have been going down, so we are doing our job. =)

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  8. To Anonymous - do a bit of research. There are no health benefits and there are health and emotional risks. We can't cut off all the parts of our body that can get dirty. We can wash them and keep them clean. I mean, do we cut off the outside of a girl's vagina so the inside won't get dirty? No, we teach her to clean it. We keep our eyes clean, we don't cut off our eye lids. We brush our teeth, we don't pull them all out because they can rot and get cavities. That form of thinking makes absolutely no sense and is not at all supported by medical facts.

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