Edgy Mama: To cut or not to cut

The first time I got preggers, Enviro-spouse and I spent hours discussing all the stuff soon-to-be first-time parents discuss—baby names, cloth versus disposable, how big my breasts were growing and circumcision.

We didn’t want to know baby’s gender until it popped out, so we needed to be prepared for the appearance of male genitalia. E-spouse was initially on the fence about circumcision. I felt that I didn’t want anyone, not even a doctor, unnecessarily cutting on my newborn.

So we talked to our pediatrician. We talked to other doctors. We talked to friends. We researched the subject. Our first child turned out to be female, so we didn’t need to make a decision until No. 2 showed up three years later.

We decided not to circumcise our boy. Why?

Because we aren’t Jewish or Muslim, there’s no religious mandate.

Also, in our readings we learned that one reason circumcision has been widespread in America is because Victorian-era doctors used it to decrease penile sensitivity. Their goal was to cure both promiscuity and masturbation in one fell slice. (That clearly worked.)

In fact, according to the American Medical Assocation’s 1999 report on circumcision (my primary source for the following statistics), America is the only country in the world where the majority of baby boys are circumcised regardless of religious beliefs. As much as 82 percent of men in this world are not circumcised.

Which brings me to one of the best reasons for keeping the boy intact: The foreskin is one of the key erogenous zones of the male body. Its 240 feet of nerves and 1,000 nerve endings are as sensitive as those on the fingers and lips. When E-spouse heard this factoid, he said, “I want my foreskin back!”

In addition, circumcision is surgery. There can be complications, and it can be painful. Some studies indicate that circumcised boys have stronger pain reactions to vaccinations than those who are uncircumcised. Let’s just say that a hurting baby definitely would have tweaked my post-birthing hormones.

Finally, there seems to be a movement in Asheville not to circumcise. I’m not huge on conformity, but after talking to lots of other parents here, I figure at least half of the guys who will share a locker room with our son will be sporting foreskins.

I think because many parents have moved here from around the country (and increasingly, around the world), there’s less cultural conformity than in more homogenous regions. The Midwest has the highest rates of circumcision at 81 percent, followed by the Northeast at 66 percent, while the South comes in at 64 percent. And if we ever move back out West, less than 37 percent of the boys in the locker room will be circumcised.

On the other hand, pro-circumcision proponents cite penile cancer, STD transmission, hygiene and cultural heritage as reasons for the cut.

Although there are studies suggesting that rates of penile cancer are higher for uncircumcised males, the cancer is really rare, and the margin of difference is extremely small (like 0.6 percent). In fact, the primary causes of penile cancer are genital warts, a high number of sexual partners and cigarette smoking. So next time you see someone light up, you can say: “Do you know you are increasing your chances of penile cancer?” Great pick-up line, isn’t it?

There is some evidence that sexually transmitted diseases have a higher rate of transmission for uncircumcised men. But lifestyle, hygiene and behavior are more likely indicators of high risk for STDs. So we’ll teach the boy about condoms, cleanliness and not to sleep around.

Some folks say hygiene is an issue for uncircumcised men. Perhaps keeping the foreskin clean was problematic when most people didn’t have indoor plumbing, but lice was a problem, too. Cleaning an uncircumcised penis is a lot easier than cleaning the folds and crevices of the vulva and labia, but female circumcision is a felony in this country. Many doctors say that, like the vagina, an uncircumcised penis is basically self-cleaning.

Some men want their sons to “look” like them. Like most American men of his generation, E-spouse is circumcised. So far, our boy hasn’t noticed the small difference between him and daddy. He has noticed, however, that I don’t have a penis. I hope this doesn’t traumatize him too much.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters much whether or not folks choose to circumcise their boys, provided they look at the pros and cons. We all make decisions about our children—thousands of times during their lives. This is just one; one that’s controversial, for sure.

There was some upheaval in my family of origin about our decision. Ultimately, it was a decision based on informed research, and letting my boy keep that bit of skin still feels right to me.

Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer based in Asheville. She covers a number of topics (including parenting) on her blog, www.EdgyMama.com.

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48 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: To cut or not to cut

  1. restless

    Living with Mr. Western Medicine, I yielded to his expertise, which of course was “to cut” both of our boys. My youngest doesn’t seem deprived of sensitivity as he can often be found humping his comforter.

  2. Ken Hanke

    For what it’s worth, you can put me down in the firmly (so to speak) pro-circumcision category. Although I know things are different than when I was subjected to the realm of the locker room, it was the uncircumcised kids who stood out (so to speak) as “different” back then.

  3. Rio

    Almost 14 years ago, we decided not to have Sonny Boy circumcised when he arrived – for the same reasons you list here. It was not an issue at all until he was in 1st grade, and apparently there was some comparison going on in the bathroom. He asked me why most the boys had that funny bell shape on the end of their penis. I told him part of their penis had been cut. He was horrified, and thanked his dad and me for not doing that to him!

  4. Restless, you two are so yin and yang. Guess Mr. Western Med keeps you from becoming total yogi hippie mom pouring Chinese herbs down the wild kids’ throats. I think the humping is instinctive. After all, my pup’s still doing it weeks after having his testicles removed!

    Yowza, Rio, it’s skin, not like tissue. But I get your point. One doc said to me, “We don’t remove your eye lids to prevent eye infections.”

    Well, Ken, I think it is a generational shift. How old are you again? And since I’m bringing up a boy, I do need to learn more about locker room politics. Help?

  5. Ken Hanke

    “Well, Ken, I think it is a generational shift. How old are you again? And since I’m bringing up a boy, I do need to learn more about locker room politics. Help?”

    Oh, I’m sure it’s generational. I’m 53. When I was in school (in Florida if that has any bearing) uncut was definitely unusual. It was also something of a class distinction thing, because it was pretty much limited to the poorer kids. (Actually, that’s kind of peculiar considering that the doctor who delivered me — in Concord NC — charged a whopping $2 extra for a boy for this reason. Guess $2 was considerably more of a factor in 1954.) In any case, I have to say that I find circumcision more aesthetically pleasing — and that’s also either generational or simply what one is more used to.

    As for locker room politics, you’d be better advised to look for help elsewhere on that topic, I think, since my experiences are so long ago.

  6. kmjohn

    My husband and I are about to have a boy and keep going round and round with this. I just don’t see the point and he keeps saying its a guy thing, I wouldn’t understand. I just think its a painful thing to do to a newborn. It’s funny too because he wouldn’t let our daughter have any shots or blood drawn after she was born but he wants to mutilate his son’s penis.

  7. john

    EdgyMama,

    You did the right thing. That is, you declined to do the wrong thing. That’s no mere “bit of skin,” it’s protective and erogenous tissue. You can watch a medical school quality video about what it really is for free here: http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/video/prepuce.html

    I don’t think *anyone* would cut off that part of their son’s body if they really understood what they were doing.

    Your son is lucky!

  8. Kriss

    Edgy Mama, your article is well written and you made the right decision. It always seems the ones that defend that practice have been circumcised themselves. Of course they’ve never known how it would have been had that not happened to them. I’ve never heard of a single uncircumcised person who has said he wish he had been circumcised as a baby. It just never made any logical sense to me to do that to male babies. If that skin were not meant to be there, why would God, or nature, put it there? And as to the odds of infection or disease argument, of course some part of the body that’s no longer there is not likely to get or cause any disease. Removing the breasts can prevent breast cancer. Why isn’t that routinely done? As to comparisons with other boys in locker rooms and such, again it seems to be only the circumcised ones who see that as a potential problem.

    I’ve had to deal with this situation in my life from several perspectives. I was not circumcised, but my brother was. I was told by my mother that I was supposed to have been, but the doctor “forgot.” (Thank God for those kinds of medical “mistakes”!) That was sixty-nine years ago. She made sure that two years later when my brother came along that the deed was done to him. Was my dad circumcised? I’m not really sure. I saw his penis many times, but just never really noticed, but I don’t think he was. So, growing up, this situation was just no big deal. I soon learned that some boys were circumcised, and some weren’t. No shame in being either way. When I joined the military was when I realized that a lot more males in this country were circumcised than not. And that was a little shocking and somewhat disconcerting that the practice was so widespread.

    My two sons were born in the early ’60’s. With our first child, my wife had been seeing a highly recommended obstetrician in Asheville all the while since she’d become pregnant. About two weeks before the baby was due, in an office visit she casually mentioned that if it was a boy, we did not want him circumcised. She called me in tears, saying the doctor was so adamant about the need for male babies to be circumcised that he said he’d refuse to deliver the baby if he were not allowed to circumcise it. I couldn’t believe such ignorance and arrogance, especially in person who should have known better. We scrambled for a new doctor and luckily found one who was not only enlightened but understanding and respectful our wishes. I hope times have changed. I think they have, or at least are going the right direction, and this wonderful article proves it.

  9. kmjohn,
    See if you can get your spouse to watch the video that john linked to below your comment.

    Thanks, john and Kriss. Like I said, I just want parents to make an informed decision, although I do think, if they really research the issue, they’re most likely to decide as we did.

  10. Ken Hanke

    “It always seems the ones that defend that practice have been circumcised themselves.”

    This, of course, runs both ways, since you’re so vocally against it and are not circumcised.

    “Of course they’ve never known how it would have been had that not happened to them.”

    True, but again it goes both ways.

    “I’ve never heard of a single uncircumcised person who has said he wish he had been circumcised as a baby.”

    That’s interesting, because I’ve known several who did indeed say that they did. Of course, neither what you have heard or what I have heard is exactly a scientific cross-section of opinion.

    I’m in the minority here and it’s really not worth arguing about, but I’m perfectly cool with having been circucised.

  11. Ken,
    I’m actually surprised we haven’t heard more from the pro-circumcision side. So, thanks for taking on the “minority” stance. Of course, the article’s only been up for 24 hours!

  12. I can’t say the subject has ever weighed heavily on my mind. Then again, I’m late-era Gen-X, and if there wasn’t an after-school special about it, it usually doesn’t register with us as something to worry about.

  13. “For what it’s worth, you can put me down in the firmly (so to speak) pro-circumcision category. Although I know things are different than when I was subjected to the realm of the locker room, it was the uncircumcised kids who stood out (so to speak) as “different” back then.”

    We decided against it (our boy is now 8). After talking to other parents, I think that there are going to be enough uncircumcised kids his age to where there won’t be too many problems.

    Besides, if he gets any taunting, we told him to tell the other boys that no circumcision makes his penis longer.

    marc

  14. Kriss

    Kriss: “It always seems the ones that defend that practice have been circumcised themselves.”
    Ken: “This, of course, runs both ways, since you’re so vocally against it and are not circumcised.”
    I’ve heard people who are circumcised speak against it as well. Being circumcised does not automatically make one a proponent of circumcision, but it’s very easy and practical to defend something about yourself that you could never change. People do it all the time.

    Kriss: “Of course they’ve never known how it would have been had that not happened to them.”
    Ken: “True, but again it goes both ways.”
    I’m not so sure that necessarily goes both ways. When you’ve never had something, there’s no way to ever know or experience what it’s really like to have it. But when you have something and have experienced the benefits of it, it’s easy to understand how it would be to lose it. As all uncircumcised males know, much of the foreskin is highly erogenous tissue, and one can easily imagine what a loss of feeling and sexual pleasure that would be it that skin were not there. Plus, if any uncircumcised male has ever kept the foreskin pulled back for an extended period of time under clothes, the area the foreskin normally protects will get very sore, sensitive, and uncomfortable, leading to the conclusion that after a while, that area would loose it’s normal feeling.

    Kriss: “I’ve never heard of a single uncircumcised person who has said he wish he had been circumcised as a baby.”
    Ken: “That’s interesting, because I’ve known several who did indeed say that they did.”
    It is never too late for anyone who wishes they had been circumcised. There’s nothing to prevent them from getting it done anytime during their lives. Why were these people that you knew that felt that way still uncircumcised?

    Ken: “Of course, neither what you have heard or what I have heard is exactly a scientific cross-section of opinion.”
    I don’t think anyone should make a decision that will irreversibly forever affect his or her child’s life by listening to any one person’s opinion or by bowing to pressure from friends or family members, or even religious edicts. In this enlightened day and age, surely knowledge and logic will eventually prevail over what I feel is a somewhat barbaric and outdated social custom.

  15. john

    Kriss: “About two weeks before the baby was due, in an office visit she casually mentioned that if it was a boy, we did not want him circumcised. She called me in tears, saying the doctor was so adamant about the need for male babies to be circumcised that he said he’d refuse to deliver the baby if he were not allowed to circumcise it. I couldn’t believe such ignorance and arrogance, especially in person who should have known better.”

    Ignorance and arrogance sums that up pretty well. As you say, doctors more than anyone else *should* know better, and yet, religious practitioners aside, doctors are the ones performing these vast numbers of circumcisions (only) in the United States.

    While parental education is important, another problem is that insurers (many private, and about two thirds of state Medicaid programs) pay for it when there’s no medical indication.

    Watch how much more carefully parents research this when it’s a chunk of change out-of-pocket, and there’s no implication that it’s the “normal” thing to do by virtue of it being covered.

  16. Kriss

    Hey John, I just now watched that video. That’s the best and most comprehensive bit of information about that part to the body I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to believe that some people want to cut that off and throw it away. Thanks for the link.

  17. Ken Hanke

    “Being circumcised does not automatically make one a proponent of circumcision, but it’s very easy and practical to defend something about yourself that you could never change. People do it all the time.”

    Yes, just like you are defending non-circumcision and aren’t circumcised. Yes, you can say that you could change that, but having spoken with several people who have been circumcised later in life, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. The thing is I’m not pro-circumcision because I feel cheated by having been circumcised. It mostly comes down to the simple fact that I think it looks better, which is, I’m sure, grounded in it being what I’m familiar with. As a decision it never factored in, because I only had a daughter.

    This is why I really don’t have any interest in going ’round and ’round on the topic, because no one is likely to change their mind on this. The current trend is away from circumcision. Will it last? Who knows? There was a time when circumcision was all the rage in England because Queen Victoria had her son circumcised. It’s a lot less common now — and was during the same era when it was pretty much standard practice in the US.

    The question of why people have said they wish they’d been circumcised is another matter. I’ve heard guys who think their penis is too sensitive. I’ve heard guys who simply find it a pain to keep clean. And I’ve heard gay guys complain that an uncut willy is a turn-off to some folks.

  18. “There was a time when circumcision was all the rage in England because Queen Victoria had her son circumcised. It’s a lot less common now—and was during the same era when it was pretty much standard practice in the US.”

    With all the uncut penises that I’ve seen in British films, it looks like circumcision is dead over there.

    Mama, I never thought of circumcision until our boy popped out (we had a girl first, and didn’t find out either sex beforehand). I just couldn’t do it to him, and the doctors here aren’t pushy, unlike other areas of the country. I’m glad we decided not to cut.

    marc

  19. orulz

    Count me as one of those who is circumcised but will never, ever do this to a son.

  20. Rob Close

    “It is never too late for anyone who wishes they had been circumcised. There’s nothing to prevent them from getting it done anytime during their lives.”

    Actually, there is – sheer terror! Babies simply aren’t as attached to their penises, and never has one volunteered for it. I’m sure adults have done it through the ages, but I can’t imagine it being worth the pain. We’re too rational upon adulthood.

    Then again, I appreciate being snipped myself – yet somehow I doubt I can do it to any future child of mine. Go figure.

  21. Iggy

    “The question of why people have said they wish they’d been circumcised is another matter.”

    Guys who wish they had been circumcised can just go do it as an adult. It’s their penis. If they want cosmetic penile reduction surgery, they can go pay a doctor to do it. If they don’t like the result, they only have themselves to blame.

    The issue I have with infant circumcision is what happens to the men like me: circumcised as an infant but wish I wasn’t. When we get mad that we are missing a part of our penis, the only things we can do is protest infant circumcision and protect our sons from getting circumcised. There are methods to grow the shaft skin into a faux foreskin, but it’s still missing the mucous membrane and all the removed sexual nerve endings.

    This was not my choice, and I’ve made it clear to my parents that it shouldn’t have been their choice to make. In their defense, they just didn’t know any better, and it’ll take more education of parents to be to keep driving circumcision out of our culture.

    Thanks Edgy Mama for making the right decision going public with this article.

  22. Kriss

    “Yes, you can say that you could change that, but having spoken with several people who have been circumcised later in life, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.”

    It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun for minutes-old babies either. Unfortunately they are helpless and are unable to prevent it from happening.

    “It mostly comes down to the simple fact that I think it looks better, which is, I’m sure, grounded in it being what I’m familiar with.”

    It’s absolutely grounded in what you’re familiar with. It’s all in your mind what “looks better” or not. But can you imagine a circumcised David (Michelangelo)?

  23. caroline

    this is one of those topiccs that bugs me just as breast feeding fanactics. Why do people feel the need to even discuss these issues over dinner parties? Are there just somethings that should not be considered rude to ask people. my son has had this surgery and I am very glas he did. However, I will say that I believe this procedure should not be done until the boy is atleast 6months and under anethesia. Unfortunatly my son had to have it done twice, but I know he will thanks me someday.

  24. Caroline: But, why have it done at all? Why are you glad you had it done to your son? Do you worry that he’ll come to resent it, like Iggy does?

  25. Caroline, It is not “surgery” it body mutilation. And no one– unless they are starring in a Hitchcock film– thanks their mother for chopping off the tip of their junk.

  26. Ken Hanke

    I’m not starring in a Hitchcock film, but am perfectly glad that I was circumcised. But all that to one side, I am left wondering just how many of the children cited on here will one day thank their mothers and fathers for discussing their genitals in public?

  27. Kriss

    “…but I know he will thanks me someday.”

    A good way to rationalize I guess, but rather than thank you someday, I think at best he’ll most likely just learn to accept it as something that happened to him as a young child over which he had no control. At worst, he’ll resent your having done it to him.

  28. Kriss

    “But all that to one side, I am left wondering just how many of the children cited on here will one day thank their mothers and fathers for discussing their genitals in public?”

    Good point. Not many I’m sure. I’m pretty sure my sons don’t read this forum. Nor my brother either. Even discussing my own genitals on here is not something I’m really comfortable with – but I don’t see how I could express an informed opinion on this topic without citing some personal examples and experiences.

  29. Kriss

    “And since I’m bringing up a boy, I do need to learn more about locker room politics. Help?”

    Edgy Mama, a few have commented on this, but I just wanted to sort of share my thoughts as well. I realize I am somewhat older than most folks here, so my experiences may be different from what others may have found.

    There are no “locker room politics.” The reality is that this issue is pretty overblown, yet always seems to be brought up by circumcision proponents. I’m not saying teasing never happens, but come on. I’m a guy. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been in lots of locker rooms. I’ve never been teased, and I’ve never seen or heard of anyone else that’s been teased.

    First and foremost, as a rule, guys, regardless of age, don’t check out other guy’s penises, much less make comments about them. As I mentioned before, I was not circumcised and my brother was. Nudity around other family members was not uncommon as I grew up, so my brother and I were well aware of the look of each other’s penises. We played, we fought, we did everything together, including bathing as little kids – not one time did either of us ever make a remark about the other’s penis. It just wasn’t a big deal.

    In locker rooms at school, as I recall, if we had to completely undress, nobody made any special point of walking around butt naked in front of everyone else. One might see a glimpse of a penis, but to make some comment would have been unthinkable. I admit that was a long time ago, so things could be different now.

    Later in the military, especially in boot camp, there were numerous times when we were forced to be completely naked in front of one another, I would say in a controlled situation, but other times voluntarily, as people showered together, used the toilet without privacy and all kinds of things one gets used to in the military. Nobody, and I mean *nobody*, would ever make some kind of remark about somebody else’s genitals. That’s because if you did, it would mean you had to have been looking with more than a glance, and if you did that, your sexual orientation was certainly brought into question.

    My sons, who grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s were never teased or had any problem with other kids in a locker room about not being circumcised. One of my sons later spent many years in the military, and it seems things were pretty much the same then as when I was in.

    If there ever were some situation where your son got teased because of the way his penis looks, I think that would indeed be an exception, and I would sure question the emotional and mental stability of the perpetrator. A kid who would call attention to and make some kind of issue over some other kid’s penis indeed has a problem, in my opinion, and I just don’t believe things like that happen anything close to the extent that pro-circumcision people make out. Boys or teenagers just don’t go around comparing penises as a rule, unlike what might be depicted in a few raunchy R-rated movies.

    So, “locker room politics”? – that’s really not an issue you need to worry about, in my opinion.

  30. Kriss is pretty much dead on, at least in my experience. I can’t recall anyone making a point of someone else’s cut-or-uncut status in a locker room. I mean, if some dude had a Prince Albert or something, maybe you could get away with bringing it up, but otherwise you’d probably be viewed as a potential homosexual.

  31. Squiggly Merfhausen

    This seems like a thread of people who have insecurities to gather around one another and make each other feel supported on the decision they made. Are you getting the positive feedback you need? I hope so.

    I got circumcised and guess how much influence it’s had on my life… none! That’s right none. It’s skin around my penis. Cut it or not, who the hell cares. Good lord people, you’re bordering on being smug.

    Are you the same people who like to dole out crap advice and tell me how you hate vaccinations, distrust the medical community, and why we should breastfeed our children until they’re 12…

    If whether or not you or your child were circumsized is that big of an issue to you then there are some deeper ones you need to address first.

    There I feel better.

  32. Ken Hanke

    Hey, don’t look at me, I’m still trying to figure out what would be wrong with a statue of a circumcised Jewish king.

  33. Kriss

    “Hey, don’t look at me, I’m still trying to figure out what would be wrong with a statue of a circumcised Jewish king.”

    It’s certainly historically logical that the real David would have been circumcised. I had never even thought about it before. I always just considered the statue a classic depiction of a perfect male body. And apparently that was what was in Michelangelo’s mind as well. Consider this quote from Wikipedia:
    “There was controversy over the statue’s supposed Biblical reference, since the statue seemed to portray an uncircumcised male, whereas the historical King David was undoubtedly circumcised. It was also suggested that this was a conscious decision in Michelangelo’s endeavor to emulate the ancient Greek aesthetic ideals, which regarded the circumcised penis as mutilated.”

  34. Ken Hanke

    I don’t see any “apparently that what was in Michelangelo’s mind” about it — not based on a Wikipedia quote that merely notes that “it was also suggested that this was a conscious decision, etc.” That’s a pretty stunning leap you’re making. All it says to me was that Michelangelo had a taste for the uncut and indulged it. No crime in it, but it’s about as historically dubious as those paintings of baby Jesus with a foreskin. Then again, considering that Jesus almost always comes out looking like a pale Englishman, I suppose anything is possible.

  35. Mountain Mama

    I have a nine month old boy who is uncircumcised. I was against circumcision from the start-the thought of someone performing painful and unnecessary surgery on my newborn was enough to make me rabid. My husband wavered for a while (thanks to his mother, who is a nurse and freaked out when we said we were not having him circumcised), but when we spoke to our pediatrician, he said there were absolutely no benefits to removing the foreskin. I agree that there is a big shift going on, and my son will not be the only boy in the locker room with foreskin. My husband’s best friend has a boy who is a few months older, and really regrets having him circumcised. I know we made the right decision. Of course, this is a very personal choice, but leaving him intact felt, and still feels, right to us.

  36. Kriss

    “I don’t see any ‘apparently that what was in Michelangelo’s mind’ about it—not based on a Wikipedia quote that merely notes that ‘it was also suggested that this was a conscious decision, etc.'”

    Wikipedia is certainly not the only source that speculates on the reasons the sculpture of David was depicted as an intact male. It goes all the way from political correctness of the day to inattention to detail to a joke by the sculptor.

    “That’s a pretty stunning leap you’re making. All it says to me was that Michelangelo had a taste for the uncut and indulged it.”

    That statement in itself is a stunning leap. Although actually there may be a germ of truth to it, as it apparently was and is widely believed that Michelangelo was a homosexual.

    “No crime in it, but it’s about as historically dubious as those paintings of baby Jesus with a foreskin. Then again, considering that Jesus almost always comes out looking like a pale Englishman, I suppose anything is possible.”

    Yes, and God may not be a white man with a beard and a booming voice. Nobody knows what people really looked like from ancient history. Artists have depicted them from their own perspective and perhaps with their own agendas, whether purposely or just simply based on the thinking of their day. Other parts of the sculpture of David may have been technically inaccurate as well, including the simple fact that he is nude.

    In retrospect, probably not a good example for me to have brought up, due to all the religious aspects of it which I had not even considered. What I saw was a beautiful example of a perfect male body. And a perfect male body would not have had its genitals surgically altered, whether based on some kind of religious ritual or any other reason. And again, I do think that’s what Michelangelo had in mind.

  37. Ken Hanke

    “Wikipedia is certainly not the only source that speculates on the reasons the sculpture of David was depicted as an intact male. It goes all the way from political correctness of the day to inattention to detail to a joke by the sculptor.”

    That wasn’t really my point. My point was that you jump from “has been suggested” to your own conclusion that that suggestion (or speculation) translates into what Michelangelo “apparently had in mind.”

    “That statement in itself is a stunning leap. Although actually there may be a germ of truth to it, as it apparently was and is widely believed that Michelangelo was a homosexual.”

    I didn’t know that his homosexuality was even in dispute any more, but that wasn’t so much what I meant, since you yourself have an obvious preference for the uncut willy, albeit not grounded in your sexuality. This comes back to prefering what you’re used to with what you’re used to being the standard. The prevalent fashion in Michelangelo’s time would have been uncut, so it follows that his ideal would be grounded in that.

    “And a perfect male body would not have had its genitals surgically altered, whether based on some kind of religious ritual or any other reason.”

    At that time, that’s likely true, but in light of today’s cosmetic surgery — not to mention body piercings, tattoos etc — I’m not sure how that plays currently — except as a subjective call.

  38. Kriss

    “…since you yourself have an obvious preference for the uncut willy, albeit not grounded in your sexuality. This comes back to prefering what you’re used to with what you’re used to being the standard.”

    The “uncut willy,” as you put it, is hardly what I’m used to (though my own indeed is uncut). And it hardly is the standard – perhaps in the rest of the world, but not in this country. At least not yet. But Edgy Mama’s article and some other comments made here are very encouraging.

    “At that time, that’s likely true [that a perfect male body would not have had its genitals altered], but in light of today’s cosmetic surgery—not to mention body piercings, tattoos etc—I’m not sure how that plays currently—except as a subjective call.”

    True, cosmetic surgery has become popular and makes it easy to alter one’s appearance in an attempt to conform to some personal or societal concept of perfection. But as a rule it’s used to enhance (such as breasts) or change the shape of something (such as noses). Liposuction and facelifts essentially do the same things. Outright excisions of some normal, natural body part for the purpose of conforming of someone’s view of a more pleasing appearance are rare indeed; in fact, I can’t think of any examples at all. To rationalize – or probably better said, to actually believe – that a circumcised penis looks better than a natural uncut one apparently isn’t causing men to flock to their doctors to get their appearance altered, and I don’t think the surgery not being “a lot of fun” has much to do with it. No surgery, cosmetic or otherwise, is “a lot of fun.” I think men who have been lucky enough to escape the after-birth experience with all their body parts intact realize there are good reasons and benefits for the way their penis was constructed; and it’s unfortunate that those who were circumcised at birth will never be able to experience that for themselves.

  39. J W

    We decided not to have our boys circumcised, but now (several years later) we’ve had to go back and have the operation for both, for completely different medical reasons. I won’t go into the details, but there are good reasons that it sometimes has to be done. Doing it later is a big “pain.” I don’t know how the odds work out, but it is worth avoiding doing it later if you can guess that it is likely to be necessary. This perspective was not something we came across when making our decision. Not sure we would have done differently but . . .

  40. Ken Hanke

    “True, cosmetic surgery has become popular and makes it easy to alter one’s appearance in an attempt to conform to some personal or societal concept of perfection. But as a rule it’s used to enhance (such as breasts) or change the shape of something (such as noses). Liposuction and facelifts essentially do the same things. Outright excisions of some normal, natural body part for the purpose of conforming of someone’s view of a more pleasing appearance are rare indeed; in fact, I can’t think of any examples at all.”

    Well, first of all, there are such things as breast reductions, as well as enhancements, and large noses made smaller. Those breasts and noses were also natural, normal body parts that are being altered for a standardized view of what is pleasing. Then there’s the whole business of folks having a stud pierced through the tip of their penises. In any case, this is a completely separate issue. My point was an remains that having one’s body surgically altered is no longer the outrage it might have been in ancient Greece — not that I particularly care about adhering to the ancient Greek ideal anyway, nor am I inclined to any piercings or current cosmetic surgeries.

    “To rationalize – or probably better said, to actually believe – that a circumcised penis looks better than a natural uncut one apparently isn’t causing men to flock to their doctors to get their appearance altered”

    Personally, I’m not rationalizing anything. I know full well that I think a circumcised penis looks better. That doesn’t require convincing myself of anything. It’s also not a belief. It’s a fact that that to me it looks better. I’m not trying to persuade anyone else to think so, nor am I suggesting they run right out to the nearest bris mill. Then again, you’re saying that the uncut penis is not the norm, so perhaps there isn’t a burning need to. That is pure speculation on my part. I am not claiming a scientific survey here.

    You still haven’t made me feel that I’m a poor unfortunate soul for having been circumcised.

  41. Kriss

    “Then again, you’re saying that the uncut penis is not the norm, so perhaps there isn’t a burning need to [run to the nearest bris mill].”

    Among adult males, I think there’s a lot more desire and interest in restoring a foreskin than removing one, not that there’s a lot either way. Usually what’s done is done, and what’s not done, remains that way.

    “You still haven’t made me feel that I’m a poor unfortunate soul for having been circumcised.”

    I’m happy to hear that, because that was never my intention. However, I do feel that I am a very fortunate soul for that not having been done to me.

  42. Kriss

    J W, you said, “…but it is worth avoiding doing it later if you can guess that it is likely to be necessary.”

    But how could you make such a guess? Wow, if we all had some sort of amazing clairvoyance or crystal ball how different our lives might be. “If I had only known…” is on the lips of many people when some sort of tragedy or misfortune happens, such as, “If I had known a drunk driver would crash into my car I would taken a different route home.” A woman who develops breast cancer could easily say, “If I had only known this would happen, I could have had my breast surgically removed while it was still healthy and avoided all this pain, suffering, and possible death.” The obvious fact is that cutting off any part of your body will remove it from any potential disease or infection, no matter how remote the possibility. It’s also been reported that men who are castrated at a young age will not develop prostate cancer.

    Intact men make up about 82% of the men in the world, and the vast majority of intact men never have any problems with their foreskins. It is unfortunate what happened to your sons, but to let your situation color your view for the future or the view of others would be wrong. It’s almost like where you may have heard of someone who lived to a ripe old age while smoking like a chimney. Would that prove that smoking is harmless or even healthy?

    After all, at least the decision you made at your sons’ birth was reversible. A decision otherwise would not have been.

  43. James

    This has been an interesting discussion. I have recently been doing some research and asked some close friends, one told me that he was circumcised as an adult due to some medical condition, he has said that the level of sensitivity during sex has fallen significantly. His partner has said that she prefers the cosmetic appearance but the sexual experience of the uncircumcised person. Hearing from people with first hand experience was very interesting and I found it highly useful. If only to provide me with more information to make my mind up regarding my future children.

  44. Jessica

    What a great article! We’re native NYers relocating to Asheville early spring; we live in the Hudson Valley which is a very progressive place. Both our kids were born @ home, and our one boy is uncut. I, myself, simply didn’t want to mess w/ nature. I’d never cut my girl, so why my boy?
    My husband, on a different note, was cut against his father’s will while he was @ work. There’s a deep feeling of betrayal there. He wishes he was uncut. So, we will leave it up to the boy. He wants it cut when he gets older: I will pay! I don’t care. If he’s old enough to tattoo, and get scarification, and vote, and smoke, etc, he can choose to cut his foreskin.
    Anyway, EdgyMama, you crack me up. Maybe we could meet up sometime when I get down there.
    J

  45. Josh

    Holy Crap, You’re an awesome mom. Congratulations on being one of the growing number of couples who are actually morally capable of becoming parents.

    Researching this instead of just handing your child off to be mutilated, you’ve earned major Kudos and unlimited respect from a lot of people. Including your son when he’s old enough to know what you’ve done (or rather didn’t do).

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