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Friday, January 13, 2006

Ah, turns out LOD had an opinion after all. The most interesting part of his post was the one perspective my panel of helpful dads failed to mention: a lack of personal knowledge about how to care for foreskin could be a challenge when it comes to answering penis-related questions for his foreskin-wielding sons.

As the primary-care parent who answers a never-ending stream of questions, I'll bet that when the time comes, at least some of Toddler in Chief's penis questions will start with me. But instead of immediately deferring to Father in Chief, I'll be an equally-unqualified candidate to answer TIC's questions about foreskin. Thankfully doctors and books and the Internet can be useful in demystifying that part of his body and for providing guidance when the time comes to do something.

I'm up for the challenge. And if that turns out to be the hardest part of having an uncircumcised kid, then it will reconfirm that we made the right choice.

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It shouldn’t be all that revelatory that fathers straddle the fence (ouch) more than the mothers do when it comes to snipping the snake. Women can afford a clear-cut (ouch) opinion about circumcising penises because they don’t have penises. Women can’t fathom how much our penises mean to us, how much of our identity is wrapped up in them, or why we dream up so many nicknames for them.

Women also don’t understand how “otherness” can be a big deal in the locker room, as well as between a father and son. All we can do as fathers is share MIC’s hope that, as the uncut proportion continues to rise in this country, society will become more open-minded toward our hooded brethren. Hopefully, a generation hence, my sons' decisions will be easier than mine was.

And speaking of an open mind: As far as the religious angle goes, I suppose we should expect that someone with no use for religion would also have no use for religious rites. I don’t understand or agree with them, either, but that doesn’t give me the right to dismiss them outright as “barbaric.” They say that having a foreskin improves one’s sensitivity. Let’s hope TIC’s foreskin affords him a little more sensitivity than his mom has.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This site is "Opinionated Parenting," and LOD could not have written a circumcision post with less of an opinion. He never actually said whether he is for or against circumcision. We just have to infer that he is against it, based on his three "things."

Disappointing. Very disappointing. It would have been helpful to read a dad's thoughtful perspective on why he chose not to circumcise his sons--presumably a tough decision. Of the parents I know, it seems like the dads grapple with this more than the moms. After LOD's non-opinion, some helpful dads I know provided insight as to why it can be a difficult choice for a guy to make for his son:

1) The dad is circumcised. So when moms argue that it's genital mutilation, this is hard for them. The dads don't consider themselves mutilated.  2) Getting frustrated with parents who choose to circumcise their sons might imply that circumcised dads are angry at their parents. Most aren't. 3) Dad is concerned that if mom doesn't want a circumcised penis for her son, she might not like her husband's penis. Wrong! 4) We do not know any man who is disappointed (except Ron) or emotionally scarred because he was circumcised.

For moms, the choice seems to be about protecting our babies, plain and simple. But for dads, it seems to be about not wanting to predispose their sons to being different. Thankfully many of them have chosen not to cut their sons anyway. And hopefully when those sons become fathers, they won't grapple over what to do.

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OK, I admit it. That first post was a bit evasive, mostly for the sake of protecting my boys. I've been mining their antics for blog fodder for years now, but I feel strongly about guarding their dignity. I have no problem sharing my exquisite, circumcised penis with the world, but the nature of my kids' little mini-schlongs is theirs to divulge.

I do think circumcision is unnecessary, but I really wavered about it. I've survived just fine as a cut male, and I have no memory of the procedure, so what's the big deal?

Everyone I knew growing up in my boring suburb was cut. Every penis I ever saw when my friends and I sneaked into XXX movies was cut. Just about every penis I see at the gym is cut. Leaving my boys intact would mean putting them in the minority, which can be daunting when you're a kid. But that's becoming less of a problem as the minority continues to, um, enlarge. And besides, there was no way in hell I could base an argument for circumcision on mere social convention.

I also didn't care whether my boys looked like me. I mean, really. The odds of a conversation like this are pretty slim:

Policeman: I can't drop the charges unless you can prove that this boy is your son.
LOD: [drops pants]
Policeman: I see. Thank you. You're free to go.

However, there was the concern that I don't know anything about having a foreskin; how could I answer questions about intactness from my uncut sons? As usual, a decision about penises came down to concerns over inadequacy.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

It was a matter of time, right? If you're gonna write a blog about parental issues, you have to get around to the Big C sooner or later. MIC and I have three boys between us, so naturally for us it's a big deal. For those of you raising only girls, off you go.

Now that my own blog has gained a scintilla of notoriety, I get e-mails every so often from expectant parents asking about circumcision and whether my sons are circumcised. So before we go any further, let's set the record straight: It's none of your business.

I did a lot of reading when I learned we were having a boy, and the most startling fact I learned from the International Coalition for Genital Integrity is that there is such a thing as the International Coalition for Genital Integrity. The second thing I learned is that private companies make a few extra bucks selling discarded but viable foreskins to "private bio-research laboratories and pharmaceutical companies who require human flesh as raw research material." And the third thing is that since most medical reasons--hygiene, UTIs, cancer, STDs--are either losing steam or have been debunked entirely, all that's left to consider is culture and religion. Are those reason enough to knife your newborn's nads?

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When I was pregnant, I cradled my belly for nine months and looked forward to holding, nurturing, and protecting my newborn. And even after my exhausting labor, I would have pummeled anyone who tried to cut him for cosmetic reasons. Circumcision is not painless, and foreskin is not useless.

As a woman, I don't buy into the he-should-look-like-all-the-other-guys-in-the-locker-room justification. Kids will pick on kids whether or not they have foreskin. I'm also baffled by the "boys should look like their dads" reasoning. Is there some practice of fathers and sons standing around and comparing penises that I don't know of? If so, the sons probably notice the size and hairiness before they notice a lack of foreskin. And if the son does notice, the dad can explain the difference. The kid will likely respond, "I'm sure glad you didn't let them do that to me."

Then there are the women who cut their boys because they never wanted to sleep with an uncircumcised man. This is infuriating because these people are placing their own sexual taboos and insecurities onto their baby sons. To not seem so shallow, these people may fall back on faulty "medical" excuses. They might say circumcision protects against penile cancer and urinary tract infections. Wrong and wrong. The research that suggested a link between circumcision and penile cancer was flawed. As for urinary tract infections, girls and boys get them. Only we treat girls with antibiotics, not "preventative" surgery.

Then there's the religious angle. I know it's an ancient Jewish custom, but that does not mean that it's not barbaric. There is even a movement among Jewish couples to not circumcise their sons--a baby born to a Jewish woman is Jewish, whether he is circumcised or not. And finally, I don't even know why this is a choice. No one wonders if they should circumcise their baby girls.

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