Sex and Circumcision
I knew intuitively when I became pregnant for the first time, many years ago, that if my baby was a boy I did not want him to be circumcised. I didn’t have any health or medical reasons for feeling this way, I just couldn’t imagine having the top of his penis cut off – at just a few hours or days or weeks old. Hello? Really? People do this to their children?? Yowzaa, I knew I wanted no part of such a mentality, even if it meant that he would grow up with penile infections, look different from every other male and feel like a weirdo.
Then I did some homework. Holy cow, suffice it to say that the only possible way that I would consider such an act would be if I was Jewish, and I’m not. I couldn’t find any medical or health reason to circumcise. There were some old wive’s tales floating around about penile infections, but it turns out the only reason folks were committing this act of violence on their baby boys was because….. everybody else does it and it’s just what you do. Huh?
Once the decision not to circumcise was made, I never gave it another thought. My two boys went through childhood and into adulthood with completely happy and healthy penises. Turns out they had many friends who were not circumcised, and turns out they didn’t compare penises anyway or care whether theirs was alike or different. It wasn’t until recently that I learned alot more about the long term effects of circumcision.
I happened upon a documentary called ‘Cut,’ made by a Jewish young adult who wanted to get to the bottom of this Jewish ritual and come to terms with his own circumcision. (see www.CutTheFilm.com) Before watching Cut, I’d really had no idea how fundamentally different the circumcised penis is from the uncircumcised. Even though it makes perfect sense to me now, I had no idea how ‘fully alive’ the adult uncircumcised penis is vs. the ‘dead’ circumcised penis and what a difference it makes not just for the owner of the penis but for the owner in a sexual relationship with a partner. My world expanded.
It’s taken me a lot of thinking to put fingers to keys on this one. Guilt is not useful. Remorse can be if it inspires change. In this situation, I cannot change what I did. I had my son circumcised at one week old. That was 9 years ago. Much has happened in my life and mind since then. Recap- Yes, at one week old. I considered it a good decision to wait (despite the fact that I knew his nervous system was developing exponentially) because I had a specific pediatrician picked out to do a ‘good circumcision.’ I wavered, cried, and was horrified by the act of circumcision. My husband never wavered until he held his baby boy. The enculturation was still too great for us to go against the grain. My husband is circumcised. It was the predominant choice of the new parents where I worked. My coworkers and mothering friends considered it a given. I was a registered nurse at the hospital where I gave birth. His birth changed everything. But not soon enough to save his foreskin or me from the continued remorse.
Yes, I knew all the research. I’m that kind of girl. I knew it was personal choice. Even 9 years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance on circumcision was that it was cosmetic. That’s what I told all of my childbirth education clients and my postpartum patients. And yet I must also share that cosmetically my son would have been perfect left alone. His circumcision came out uneven (performed by ‘the’ doctor at the time) and was repetitively infected until he was out of diapers. The exposed, delicate skin that remained was continually abraded and often inflamed because of contact with his excrement.
I am grateful for the recent surge of advocates for keeping infant boys intact, Intact America, and an ever-increasing awareness of parents that cosmetic circumcision is abuse. I am interested in your phrasing of ‘fully alive’ versus ‘dead.’ My husband’s penis sure seems alive and my son seems pleased with himself. What are we missing?
Oh Sarah, I did not know about your mothering circumcision trauma! As much as it hurts, it certainly provides for opportunity to grow and learn. I bet if your daughter born later had been a boy, you would not have circumcised him, would you? Or would you, just so their penises could look the same?!
Regarding the fully alive vs. dead reference, this was the subject matter of the Cut documentary that was so enlightening to me. A circumcised penis is dramatically less sensitive than an uncircumcised penis. Imagine if the head of your clitoris had been lopped off, just to give you an analogy you can probably relate to. If you never knew any different, you just come to think that sexual pleasure is, well, what it is. For the male with an intact penis however, their level of sexual pleasure is magnificently intensified. According to Cut, the original circumcision procedures were consciously performed by people who consciously believed that men did not have a right to that much enjoyment, that it somehow caused them to act irresponsibly. If the penis could be desensitized, the desire for sexual pleasure would be as well.
Hmmm… and now I am wondering if the end result of circumcision has had just the opposite effect of the intended effect. I wonder if is true that the male spends MORE time in attempted sexual stimulation to satisfy what seems unsatisfiable.
There are a great many things I would do differently with subsequent children. No, I would not circumcise another child. There are so many different things about each member of our family, an intact penis would be the least of it!
This makes total sense. I’m not sure I agree with the ‘dead’ description but desensitized is accurate. Circumcision is another one of those fucked up things that people do as we swim along in the stream of cultural consciousness and (supposed) homogeneity. There is not a single shred of evidence to suggest that altering our boys’ bodies is medically or even cosmetically preferable in the grand scheme. There is no additional care required for infants’ or young boys’ intact penises. In fact, the continued care that resulted from my son’s circumcision could have been avoided. Maybe the growing database and increased awareness of evidence of decreased sexual sensitivity will be influential in parents’ decision-making.
Coming back to intuition, however, there is no discussion.
Check out our websites and sign up for your FREE subscription to one or ALL of our THREE magazines!
Have you shown us some LIKE? Each magazine has its own Facebook page: