Photo Credit: Cultura/JFCreatives/Getty Images
I have two happy and healthy sons. And yes, they’re both circumcised.
It was a decision that turned out to be a lot more difficult than I ever expected. I knew there was a lot of medical research to review – and a lot of conflicting opinions out there. But before I could get to all that medical research, I faced a much more basic problem – disagreeing with my wife.
She and I were married for years and had known each other most of our lives when we learned she was pregnant. Yet even though we had discussed having kids and a million different ways we might raise them, the topic of circumcision never once came up in conversation. So imagine my surprise when halfway through the pregnancy when we found out we were expecting a boy, the pediatrician asked us what we wanted to do, and she flatly stated that she didn’t want to circumcise our son.
But as it turned out, that was the best thing that could’ve happened.
When my wife asked me later why I wanted to circumcise our son, I realized I didn’t have a very good answer beyond “Well, I’m circumcised.” Not that I wanted us to have matching penises or anything crazy like that, but because I figured it must be medically beneficial -- though I had no idea what those benefits were. And my wife, on the other hand, couldn’t really articulate why she was against it, other than the fact that she couldn’t fathom why it might be necessary.
So we both made it a priority to do research and come to a more educated conclusion.
Having worked as a journalist for more than a decade, research is an essential part of my life and I understand you can’t just look at the information on its own, you have to also consider the source. And since this is such a controversial and heated topic, it can be difficult to determine facts from propaganda. But we had to because we both wanted what was best for our then unborn son.
I tried to avoid the hyperbole and stick to medical studies, and the ones I found showed slightly decreased rates of penile cancer, AIDS and UTIs. I consulted sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics, which doesn’t outright endorse circumcision but basically says the pros outweigh the cons. And I consulted with our pediatrician, who didn’t try to sway us one way or the other but said either choice is acceptable, and the risks of complications during an infant circumcision were negligible.
My wife became very worried at one point after reading several “intactivist” websites. That’s the informal name of those adamantly opposed to male circumcision on the grounds that it is “male genital mutilation.” They use that term a lot. They also aren’t shy about calling you “barbaric” and claiming parents who circumcise their sons are “butchers.” They also claim circumcised boys have desensitized sex organs that will ruin their future sex lives.
I don’t blame her for being worried after all of that hyperbole. But as a circumcised male myself, I can say with certainty I’m not suffering any ill effects in that department. And it took several visits to reputable medical websites and consultations with our pediatrician to calm my wife’s fears that we were in fact not butchering our son if we chose circumcision.
That parents have to endure that propaganda is the most difficult and unfortunate part of the process. Parents – especially first time parents – are already consumed by fear and uncertainty, so they don’t need fear-mongering and the disconcerting emphasis on their sons’ penises from complete strangers. Whatever parents ultimately decide will be the right choice for them, and they should be free to make that choice without all the extra nonsense.
In the end we both chose circumcision and my two boys are healthy and doing fine. They don’t remember their procedures done in the first 24 hours of their lives, and I’m confident we made the best decision possible for my boys.
I have no interest in swaying anyone on this subject. I’m not part of the medical community, I don’t profit from it, and I have no dog in this fight. All I hope for is the ability to make an informed and educated decision without being subject to attacks and unnecessary judgments on a topic that simply isn’t anyone’s business except for the parents.