When I had just become pregnant with our darling daughter, Josh and I started discussing all sorts of parenting-related things (as you can imagine). We were on the same page about a lot of issues, but there was one statement Josh made that really made me furrow my brow.
"If we have a little boy he's not getting circumcised."
I was confused, curious, and honestly a bit disgusted. I asked him why he said that, and he responded simply: "Because I wasn't asked to have this procedure done. I didn't give my permission. If he grows up and decides he wants to be circumcised, I won't have any problems with it. But I don't think it's fair that I didn't have the choice."
I could understand that much of his argument but I frankly wondered if that was the best decision to make. After all, I hadn't much experience with uncircumcised penises - but with the experiences I did have, I knew *I* certainly liked them more circumcised. Also, circumcision exists for a reason outside religious beliefs - it helps keep the area cleaner.
Folks who know me will know that it was time for me to do some research and soul-searching. Through that research I have changed my mind about circumcision and, at this point, whole-heartedly agree with Josh. If we have a little boy, he will absolutely *not* be circumcised (at least until he reaches an age where he can make that decision for himself if he so chooses). Why the change?
The first analogy I reached hit me like a ton of bricks. The question was posed, "How do you feel about female genital mutilation?" I was instantly enraged. How could you compare female genital mutilation (FGM) with circumcision? FGM has no medical reason to exist. It's the act cutting parts of a baby girl's (and sometimes older girl's) genital area resulting in less physical enjoyment during sexual intercourse, sometimes performed so that the area looks "neater" and cleaner".
Oh, wait. After discovering that there is no medical reason to circumcise, and that removing the foreskin from the penis results in a lowered number of nerve endings and, therefore, less physical enjoyment during sex, I made the connection myself.
Take just a moment and let this idea sink into your mind.
- FGM = done for cosmetic purposes, has no medical advantages, and sometimes done to reduce a woman's enjoyment of sexual activity.
- Circumcision = done for cosmetic purposes, sometimes done for religious purposes, has no medical advantages, and results in reduced enjoyment of sexual activity.
These two issues are the same, yet in our culture we fight *against* FGM and we continue to circumcise our boys. How's that for a double-standard?
That information alone was enough to make me change my mind about circumcision. I don't want to take a part of my boy's genitals without his permission. I don't want to cause him pain as a tiny infant for aesthetic purposes. I don't want to take part of his body without his permission. I don't want to limit his sexual enjoyment later in life for a ritual within a religion of which I do not subscribe. My mind is made up.
But now as I learn more and more information about the topic, I'm becoming more passionate about it. Not only is circumcision not necessary and not medically helpful, but it can be dangerous as well. I was a bit skeptical when I found out this information. How can a circumcision, a tiny cut, result in the death of an infant? More so - if it's such a dangerous practice, why haven't we heard about this before?
Why is circumcision potentially dangerous? If just one ounce of blood is lost, a baby will critically hemorrhage and result in hypovolemic shock and death. Once ounce. If 2.3 ounces are lost, death is imminent.
I know that there are some out there who don't understand how little fluid is one ounce, much less 2.3. Just to give you an example, one fluid ounce is equal to two tablespoons of fluid. That means that after losing roughly four and a half tablespoons of blood, your infant can be gone. Why am I trying to emphasize that so much? Because the penis is an extremely vascular area and one can reach the conclusion that if the knife slips, much bleeding can occur.
At that point I was becoming less skeptical, but I still wondered why we have yet to hear about this problem if it is such a potential problem. As it stands, hospitals are not required to report deaths caused by circumcision, so a newly-circumcised infant's death is often incorrectly entered as SIDS, heart-failure, or seizure. How *can* we know as a people that circumcisions are harmful if they are subject to such a huge misnomer?
What I'm attempting to say here is that I thought it bad enough that circumcision is an invasive procedure that we do to our boys without their permission . . . it's even worse to know that deaths could be prevented by skipping the unnecessary procedure.
I know that we humans tend to be creatures of habit. I realize that for generations the majority of the residents of the USofA have been cut. And I know that there are some parents getting their children circumcised simply because they want their little boy to "look like Daddy".
Would that be the case if we all knew the dangers associated with it? And if we all realized that genital mutilation is genital mutilation - regardless of whether it occurs on female or male genitalia?
***Note: edits made 10/08/10 to strike through previous statement because my source of information was de-bunked. Woohoo!