Nine years ago on our old Circumcision Debate board I offered my own view on the subject of genital cleanliness.
I repeat it here because it is parents like you, bringing up intact boys, who are eminently able and entitled to answer this question. Your views will impact upon your sons' genital well-being. My opinion may be controversial but I ask you to read what I have to say, then freely comment with your own personal outlook and experience.
It's a lengthy treatise but I have tried to make it as 'readable as I can!
I'd like to explain something which may be revealing to many Americans. I have touched on this before but perhaps not as fully as I should.
Until I began visiting and contributing to online websites discussing and/or debating male circumcision, I had not come across - ever in my life - the notion that a retractable foreskin/prepuce needed specific 'care'.
Initially, I noted North American anti-circ parents stating unequivocally that while the foreskin was still adhered to the glans, the penis needed no more cleaning than any other part of a boy's body. This I was pleased to see because I knew it already. I visited pro-intact support boards and the message was the same. But then I soon became aware of further advice regarding the retractable foreskin; and at this point I was left non-plussed and not a little shocked...
"Just retract - rinse - and replace," was quoted over and over again - often referred to as the 3 Rs. [The 3 Rs to me meant Reading, 'Righting and 'Rithmetic!] It smacked of a combination of well-meaning intent, of ignorance or (at worst) sexual abuse. Some advice told parents to do it for him at first, showing him how; other parents advised a verbal explanation on a DIY basis; yet others stated that the boy should be left alone to discover his retractable skin himself and encourage him to retract it when he is ready. But ALL maintained a single end-purpose - which was to wash away absolutely anything between the inner foreskin and glans. I'm sorry, but my reaction to this is an astounded: "WHAT?"
Who tells a little girl to discover her prepuce/hood and retract it to expose her clitoris and wash it? Put simply, it's her 'penis'. But, niceties apart, and silly as it may seem to equate one with the other, male and female genitals are there as nature made them for very good reasons.
Some will immediately think 'smegma' - a word that, by its sound when spoken, suggests something nasty. The word is derived from the Greek for 'soap'. Male and female, we secrete smegma naturally - an odourless, translucent substance with protective, beneficial bacteria... and an ever-ready lubricant. It is replenished cyclically. Stale smegma is generally flushed away when we urinate - males more effectively, perhaps - and fresh urine is sterile. The same is true of stale semen or stale female 'wetness'. All emit an unpleasant odour, but are usually eliminated after urination. And in any event, smells don't carry disease, as we used to think in Tudor times! Today we wash to rid ourselves of germ-laden dirt - and to smell 'nice'.
This brings me to my final point. In the UK our boys almost universally live with their foreskins until their life's end. We neither make them, instruct them nor encourage them to retract their foreskins for the purpose of 'cleaning'. Some parents may monitor their son's ability to retract and allow him to 'play' with himself freely (as boys do) to keep his foreskin supple. But most parents don't give a thought to the condition of his genital development. They are born as nature made them and they live with nature's sexual benefits with no more problems than any other part of their anatomy.
It distresses and confounds me that the US anti-circ community has reached a point of near total acceptance of a natural penis - but has somehow clung to a belief that it still requires our intervention. The 'cleanliness' issue is the last bastion of pro-circ advocates, yet its anti-circ opponents continue to give them the very fuel they need - a 'dirty' penis!
Please reply... frankly and honestly. We all love our children.