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Monday, January 09, 2006

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.

Permalink | Circumcision | Comments (17)


It's not an "ancient Jewish custom."

It's a religious commandment and a really basic one:

"the biblical text states the reason for this commandment quite clearly: circumcision is an outward physical sign of the eternal covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. "

Read more here:

You have the right not to do it for your son, you have the right to be opposed and lobby others not to do it, even Jewish people. But you really shouldn't underestimate how big a deal it is, and how hard it is for any Jew with a strong tie to their background to make that decision. Raising a kid with a strong Jewish identity and yet not circumcising him is really really problematic -- it sends a hugely mixed message and can cause him real problems in the future. You need to be understanding of that.

Posted by: Allison | Jan 9, 2006 5:16:19 PM

Allison -- I appreciate your comment and I read through the circumcision information via the link you included. I thought it was interesting that it said, "If a father does not have his son circumcised, the son is obligated to have himself circumcised as soon as he becomes an adult." This sounds like a good compromise for people of Jewish faith who are torn over circumcision. Then it truly would be the boy/man's dicision to do it, when he is old enough to decide.

Posted by: Mother in Chief | Jan 9, 2006 11:17:19 PM

Ouch. Please don't say "torn."

Posted by: LOD | Jan 10, 2006 12:54:29 AM

I avoided the issue by having a girl, but I classify circumcision as genital mutilation. It may be an accepted practice in our culture and certain religions, but I can't get past the physical act. When I mentioned this to my mother, I discovered that no thought went into the decision at my birth. These days she regrets it (at least while talking to me) and actually gave me an unsolicited apology.

By the way, what's this talk about locker rooms? In my seemingly average high school locker room (California), few guys took showers (we just went around smelly the rest of the day), and those who did spent no time inspecting other kids' privies, let alone issuing critiques?!?!?

Posted by: AJ | Jan 10, 2006 4:13:59 AM

I was with you 100% of the way right up until you started talking about the religious angle. I am vehemently opposed to circumcision, and I can't imagine why anybody would subject their baby boy to a meaningless cosmetic surgery - except that it's not meaningless to Jews. Since I'm not Jewish, that's not my call to make.

In Ontario, the public health plan doesn't even cover routine newborn circumcision. Aside from a semi-private or private room, it's the only expense in a routine labour and delivery that you pay for out-of-pocket - you have to pony up $200 or more.

The Canadian Paediatric Society concluded in 2004, "The overall evidence of the benefits and harms of circumcision is so evenly balanced that it does not support recommending circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns." (

Posted by: Danigirl | Jan 10, 2006 9:38:44 AM

Hey Danigirl -- Since I'm not Jewish, I don't know what it's like to feel compelled by religious law to circumcise my kid. That said, that doesn't mean I then no longer have a problem with circumcision because it's a religion thing. That's why I liked what I found at the URL that Allison provided. That made it seem more of an option at birth and leaves the responsibility on the boy/man when he is older.

Posted by: Mother in Chief | Jan 10, 2006 12:35:03 PM

I only wish my parents had been as enlightened as yourself. It isn't a good feeling to know that your body was only intact on this Earth for a few hours, then you were subjected to an excruciating procedure that reduced the fuction of what would come to be one of your favorite things about life. And who does this to you? A deranged scientist who steals into the hospital at night to mutilate babies? Nope - your own parents. The ones who love you. Because they don't know any better.

Posted by: Ron | Jan 10, 2006 3:41:24 PM

I saw a documentary on public television about a circumcisum that went wrong in Canada.. The doctor accidently cut off the penis and he convinced the parents to raise the child as a girl. This male was unhappy throughout his childhood, adolesence and adulthood. He was eventually told what happened. This man said he felt like a male throughout his entire life and hated being a girl. He eventually had an operation to bring some kind of normalsy to his life. This man also married.

Posted by: Gail Galante | Jan 11, 2006 10:41:54 AM

I only wish that we as parents knew there was an option back in the 60's and 70's. We were taught that circumcision was for sanitary reasons.and we did not argue. HMM!! my have we woken up since then.

Posted by: Mother in Chief | Jan 12, 2006 7:05:31 AM

This was a really tough decision for me as a mother. My husband had no hangups about it and didn't hesitate when asked if we wanted it done. So we did it. I felt out of my husband and I he would be the better one to make the call. Who am I to say the right way is to live w/a penis, he has more experience in that department. Personally I wish it was something our culture never started doing.

I still feel bad about doing it 6 months later but the only thing that brings me some peace with it is that my uncirc'd nephew who is now 20 despises the fact he was never circ'd. He was supposed to but b/c of an infection at birth it couldn't be done. He looked into having it done in his teens and by then it was too expensive. I think it's more sad in his case since as of now he still is the minority around here. I would hate to live w/a penis that I was ashamed of. Hopefully since my son is circ'd and "the norm" then he won't feel this way (can't control the size mind you). It's such a personal choice only the person who owns the penis should decide so it puts parents in a tough spot. Never seems like a win/win.

Posted by: Mama C-ta | Jan 13, 2006 5:50:54 PM

Thank you for addressing this important topic! Circumcision effects a man's sexuality for a *lifetime* (and also his partners pleasure), whether he or his partner realize the repercussions of his altered penis or not. Men are born with a foreskin for a GOOD reason, people!

Read the following for more info:

Anatomy of the Penis, Mechanics of Intercourse

How Male Circumcision May be Affecting Your Love Life

Effects of male circumcision on female arousal and orgasm

Separated At Birth

As far as Jewish circ is concerned, many Jews are taking a stand AGAINST the practice. If you are born to a Jewish mother, you ARE Jewish. No need to circ. And once a baby reaches adulthood they can certainly make that decision for themselves if they want to be circumcised (and who says your baby is going to choose Judaism as his religion anyway?)

For more info on Jews AGAINST circumcision, read:

Top 10 Values of Judaism
(click on "jewish" link on left, then "Top 10 Values of Judaism" at the top)

"Brit Shalom - A peaceful Alternative"

Letter from Dr. Jenny Goodman

A Mother Questions Brit Milla

Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective

Circumcision: A Source of Jewish Pain

Brit Without Milah

PLEASE - leave your baby boy's intact with their foreskin - the way they were born to be!!!

Posted by: ABC | May 31, 2006 10:02:25 AM

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