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Tuesday, September 2

I Get On My Soapbox Because I Have Something Important to Say

Disclaimer: I will be talking about penises in this entry. I will not be talking about them in a crude, joking, or otherwise innapropriate manner but I thought I should give a heads up anyway.

If you never, ever read another post on my blog again I won't mind as long as you read this one! While my baby girl will be born sans penis, circumcision is a very big issue for me. And that is why I feel the need to get on my soapbox. If you are having a baby, may someday have a baby, or know someone who is or may be having a baby please please please read this post!

I've recently been reading The Meanest Mom blog. Jana, the author, has an excellent sense of humor and excellent writing skills to boot. I have, however, found myself becoming more and more disenfranchised with the blog. After a while the relentless negativity (even if for humors sake) wears you down. And you have to wonder if someday her kids will read this blog and feel as if Mom didn't like them (95% of her content is complaining about her kids' behavior). But, seeing as I woke up around 2 something this morning and didn't get back to sleep until after Adam left for work (shortly before 7am) I had some time to kill so I dove into the archives.

I came across this post concerning circumcision. My feelings on the matter aren't exactly a secret (unless you've completely missed the banners and buttons to the right and at the bottom of my blog). And it wasn't exactly the post that upset me but rather the comments. After all, while ignorance is unfortunate and certainly not a quality to seek after, Jana can hardly be treated as if she committed a capital offense because a doctor failed to get informed consent before circumcising her boys. So while it's sad that her boys had that done to them it (unfortunately) happens like that every day. What got me so upset that I had trouble sleeping once I went back to bed were the things people said in response to her post (which was about the use of skin from circumcisions for skin grafts).

And now on to the nitty gritty stuff. I'll start with the comments that angered me/annoyed me/broke my heart/etc. Some of my responses might seem out of left field at first. But I assure you, by the time you get to the end of this post you will understand entirely where I am coming from.

"Also, I think this is just a great answer in the pro/con circumcision debate. I think all the anti-circumcision people would probably just have to shut up if you mentioned that your son's foreskin had been used as a skin graft on some terribly mutilated burn victim."

I'm sorry...not only will I not "just have to shut up" I will feel compelled to point out that cutting off a healthy part of your baby boy because someone might use that TINY piece of skin in a graft is not only not a "great answer in the pro/con circumcision debate" it's about as ridiculous as suggesting we surgically remove any healthy (irreplaceable and needed) body part from a living person (especially one who cannot advocate for his or her own rights) to give it to someone else. Removing the foreskin is not exactly the same as donating a kidney folks...if for no other reason than a little baby boy doesn't get to make the decision.

"Awesome. Now when people try to give me guff about circumcising my sons I will just tell them they were part of an organ donor program, saving lives. It sounds so much better than saying I didn't want to clean un-snipped peepees"

After I picked my jaw up off the floor this one made my blood boil. Aside from the fact that there are any number of sources for skin for grafts aside from baby penises (and really, is it that hard to use the actual name rather than "peepee?") did you ever stop to think why it sounds so awful to say you circumcised your little boys because you "didn't want to clean un-snipped peepees"? It sounds awful because it is awful. You let a doctor perform cosmetic surgery and remove a normal, healthy, and beneficial part of your babies' bodies because you wanted convenience?! That's not only incredibly selfish it's silly. Know why? Because uncirmcised penises are no harder to care for than circumcised! In fact, seeing as you don't have to care for the bloody mess after the surgery intact penises are easier to care for (I will address the care of intact penises further down, please, keep reading).


One of my favorite articles on circumcision was written in a question and answer format. So please pardon my appropriation of that style for my own use.

Isn't it cleaner?

No, no, and no. An intact penis is healthy and happy with just one little step: washing; as in washing the same way you would a finger. There's no need to retract the foreskin (in fact do not EVER EVER do that)! And as for concerns about infection (such as yeast) if one should occur it is treated in the exact same way you treat a woman's yeast infection (which is most certainly not cutting off parts of her genitals). And cutting off body parts or parts of body parts to prevent the chance of a possible problem in the future is an awfully dramatic step, don't you think? Or would you advocate removing baby girls' breast tissues to prevent cancer?

Also, the recent studies indicating circumcision may help prevent AIDS were so poorly done as to render the results useless. Besides which, chopping off the foreskin hardly seems like a logical preventitive measure when abstinence or condoms have been shown to work just fine.

It's just a little snip, right?

Wrong! Circumcision is a notoriously inprecise procedure. As much as HALF of the sensitive foreskin gets removed. And anyone who tries to tell you it doesn't hurt little baby boys is either frightenly ignorant or lying. Most circumcisions are done with no anethestic. And when one is used they don't tend to be effective. The argument some make that it must not hurt that much because babies fall asleep right after the procedure fail to tell you that falling asleep like that is actually a defense mechanism. It's easier for the baby to fall asleep than to stay awake and cope with the pain from being strapped down and sliced up (yes, they strap your baby down). And while it is extremely rare it is not completely unheard of for circumcisions to be botched so badly that a baby dies.

Is it really that big a deal?

I don't know. You tell me. How do you feel about female circumcision? Pretty barbaric that someone would "intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons" huh? Guess what. That's exactly what male circumcision is. But at least people have the decency to call female circumcision what it really is: "genital mutilation."

No really. I'm serious. Circumcision of the foreskin is not medically indicated (as Doctors Opposing Circumcision will tell you). It is cosmetic surgery (and anyone who thinks a baby should be circumcised so he looks like his dad or older brother needs a serious priority check). And it's something that cannot be undone (while there are some methods of foreskin "restoration" they only provide some of the benefit of being intact, the true damage can never be fixed 100%). Circumcision is also a violation of the rights of a child. Ultimately it is not your penis. Only the owner of the penis should get to decide if he wants to lose all the benefits of having an intact penis.

There is so much more that can be said on this topic. And while I like to think of myself as a pretty decent writer I also know there is no use in reinventing the wheel. So please, visit the following sites. They'll address some of what I've addressed and also some things I've left out (like the fallacy of "the locker room argument").

The Case Against Circumcision (article)

The Case Against Circumcision (forum)

Circumcision (Dr. Sears)

Deciding Whether or Not To Circumcise Your Baby Boy (also Dr. Sears)

NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers)

In closing I want to say a few more things:

If you've already circumcised your boys because no one told you these things please know my anger is not directed at you. You have my deepest sympathies. Your doctor did not do his job by giving you the facts so that you could provide informed consent. He (or she) should be blamed, not you. $ometime$ you have to wonder what motivate$ doctor$ to continue performing the$e $urgeries even though the American Academy of Pediatrics reccomends routine infant circumcision NOT be performed (among many other medical organizations). My anger is caused by people who continue to spread complete nonsense about the issue in an attempt to defend a mistake they once made, or worse, by people who knew ahead of time the facts about why circumcision is a bad, bad idea but went ahead and did it anyway.

I only get so riled up because I believe so strongly that routine infant circumcision hurts boys (and men). So please, check out some of the great resources I've linked to. Please, protect any future baby boys you'll have the joy of bringing into this world. And please, please, please if you're ever in a position to make this choice remember this: it's not really your choice to make.

14 Stubborn Stains:

Claire said...

You rock mama.

Holly said...

Someone made a comment anonymously. I chose to remove it and re-post it within a separate comment for the following reason:

It contains a link that, while informative, does contain photos/videos that might make some of my readers uncomfortable. I wanted to give fair warning (it's meant to be informative/medical not pornographic but I still think you should get a heads up before visiting the site).

So, now that I've given you that information here's the comment:

"what a great post! also, male circumcision causes a lot of the female pain during sex, which is commonly attributed to female dryness." http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com/10F/1hook_scrapes.html

Mandie said...

Good for you for standing up on your soapbox! Such a powerful message for so many people. I appreciate your take on it and I enjoyed reading your post. I discoverd too late for my son about the horrors of circumcision. Sadly, I followed the trend in my family and allowed my son to be subjected to this. It hurts my heart every day. It is the single biggest regret of my life. Thankfully, I have learned what harm was done. My husband and I have educated ourselves and he is in the process of restoration. We can't undo what was done to our son, but we can help fight the fight of circumcision for the future.

Thanks again for your thoughtful post. I found your blog through Mothering. I will be reading...


Emma said...

Thank you for this post! I can't wait until the day when this barbaric practice is no longer performed.

Not my penis, not my decision!

Who am I? said...

I wish more people would stand up on their soapbox's and shout out to the world how barbaric a procedure this is! Good job mama.

Here is my blog on the issue..

Take care and never forget the shouting :)

Betsy said...

Kudos to you for getting on your soapbox about this issue! It's such an important issue and not nearly enough people talk openly about it.

I just wanted to add that all my friends (so far) have left their sons intact (not circumcised) and none of them have had any issues. My in-laws, very wisely, also decided to leave my husband intact and he has never had any issues either.

My father-in-law is circumcised and my husband is very grateful that he and his father don't have "matching" penises. My husband actually considers that reason to be the worst one of all. It was quite a non-issue in my in-laws' home. My husband said that when he was little he mostly noticed his father's pubic hair, not his circumcision status.

I firmly believe that any unnecessary body modification should be chosen by the person whose body it is - his body, his penis, his choice - after all, he's the one who will have to live with an altered penis for the rest of his life. It's not the family's penis nor the father's penis (even if he wasn't given a choice about his). It's the baby's penis!

I hope more people examine this issue closely because of your post! Keep up the good work :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and heart-felt post, Holly. This is an issue, and not an easy one. I think what happens a lot is that people mix up medical reasons and justifications (which as you point out don't really exist) and social desires (which do exist, but change, and need to change).

In Australia, where I live, few male babies are circumcised anymore. When I was born, in 1969, the vast majority were. Now it is unusual to see circumcised boys. So, things change.

For me, it comes down to preventing unnecessary and mutilatory surgery. If an adult wants it, let them have it. They can make a choice. An infant or young boy can't.

My blog has some posts on this issue: http://blog.thepastoralcompany.com - it does contain some pictures of penises, however. A warning to those who'd rather not see them!

Kamity said...

Well, everyone else has already congratulated you for your soapbox *hands you gold stars*

I just want to say I didn't think TMM was negative about her children. She just talks about the silly/embarrassing things they do.

Howard said...

Holly, Thank you for getting on your soap box over this barbaric custom. It is absolutely a violation of a baby boy's basic human rights to be deprived of the most sensitive tissue on his body. In this day and age, with information at our fingertips, there is no excuse for parents not to know the truth about this scam that has been foisted on us by the medical profe$$ion.
I have be believe that those parents who insist on mutilating their precious son's penis will have to answer some very uncomfortable questions in the future.

Anonymous said...

Circumcision is absolutely wrong. It is performed on unconsenting individuals for no valid medical reasons. I urge anyone interested in changing the barbaric practice to write to their senators regarding the male genital mutilation bill. mgmbill.org
thank you

specialaffinity said...

I couldn't agree more with you. Let the owner decide, what he wants to do with his penis. It's no one else's business.

Upstatemomof3 said...

What a great post!! I completely agree with everything you say. When asked about cleaning it my husband says, "If he does not want to clean behind his ears I am not going to cut those off either." I love that answer :)

I will add that to my mind the Jewish people do not get my anger for their decision to circumcise. I realize that in their case all the same things hold true but I guess I feel like they have reasoning I cannot argue with.

Lynda said...

This is a wonderful post. It astonishes me there is any argument at all.

I didn't know anything about circumcision when I became pregnant with a boy. I found out about the procedure and listened to the reasons for and against. The decision was clear to me.

The doctors are a problem, but parents who refuse to research whether ELECTIVE surgery on a days' old infant is truly needed or come to their conclusion based on what Daddy wants or what Daddy's penis looks like, don't hold high regard in my book.

Jen said...

I don't know why it took me this long to find this post of yours... But BRAVO. Consider it bookmarked.

When Blake was born, my gut told me not to circumcise him. The thought of it made me physically ill. Still does.

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