Recently, a Facebook friend posted an article about a comic titled “Foreskin Man“, produced by a San Diego group supporting efforts to ban circumcision in San Francisco and Santa Monica.  This is a topic which has long plagued me.

First, I’m not Jewish or Islamic, so I don’t have any religious imperative guiding my view.  With that said, I can — generally speaking — get behind the theory of religious freedom, and I understand that in Jewish culture, circumcision is essentially mandated by God.  I am disinclined to criticize someone else’s religious beliefs.  Especially since I can see that the dogma of my own (loosely) chosen religion is pretty wacky.

But, with that said, I can’t imagine intentionally causing pain to my child.  Before Mini-K was born, Mr. K and I had many, many conversations about what we would do if she were a boy.  (We had chosen not to find out what we were having.)  I just could not, could NOT, agree that we would have a baby circumcised.  It just seems so cruel.  My husband couldn’t agree that we wouldn’t circumsize.

And so I began arguing my cause:  Medical reports show that circumcision is no longer the across-the-board medical necessity it was once thought to be.  (See, e.g., here.)   “Over a dozen studies confirm the extreme pain of circumcision.  It has been described as ‘among the most painful [procedures] performed in neonatal medicine.'”  (Link here.)  The argument that the child might “look different from his peers” in the locker room — well, that I couldn’t really respond to, having never been in a men’s locker room — but how different could it be than girls each having different sized chests?  And finally, how could we possibly say that it is any different than female genital mutilation, “internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women”?  (WHO.)

But, as Mr. K noted, I had several relatives for whom circumcision had become a medical necessity when they were kids with long-term memories (and so they remembered the pain they went through after surgery.  Of course, they were eligible for anesthesia, too).  Mr. K, on the other hand, had been circumcised as a infant, was no worse for it, and didn’t remember any pain he might have experienced.  Plus, 80% of little boys in the US are circumsized every year — would we want to make our kid look and feel different than everyone else?

We never resolved the issue.  We’re both firmly in our respective camps.  Fortunately, we’ve had two little girls so far (and nobody is making any arguments for FGM).  But with comics like “Foreskin Man”, I don’t think it’s an issue that the culture, at large, will be able to avoid for much longer.



3 Responses to Circumcision: Religious tradition? Barbaric practice? Locker room necessity?

  1. Emma says:

    Interesting…our ped says that he expects the AAP will start recommending circumcision again soon, not on the basis that it has medical benefits for the individual, but that the epidemiological benefits are significant. Though it isn’t often a medical necessity, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have medical advantages, unlike FGM, which has no health justification. Also unlike FGM, circumcision does not inhibit normal sexual function or enjoyment unless there is some error or complication (and parents who chose it do not do so with that aim). Anyway, it’s not a question that I think has an obvious answer either way.

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