Why Isn’t Circumcision OK?

I had both my sons circumcised. At the time, it seemed like a no brainer – since my husband and everyone else we knew had it done. I wasn’t even aware that there may be an issue or consequence regarding it, and am not sure what the facts are since my doctor was a conventional OB (I had 2 C-Sections due to breech babies). Can you help share some specific information with me regarding circumcision?

This is a difficult time because, as the USA is becoming a non-circumcising country, we are learning that the foreskin is a normal, protective body part and it belongs to our sons. Some of us learned that too late. I have three circumcised sons because my doctor lied to me (“It doesn’t hurt, only takes a minute, and will protect him from a myriad of ills”), and I didn’t know enough to protect my precious babies. You didn’t either. We both should have been given all the facts before we signed the consent form but, like so many other mothers, we didn’t even know what to ask. Years later, when my sons were 20, 17, and 10 years old, I was a nursing student and witnessed a circumcision. As I watched the baby struggle against his restraints and scream, I began to cry. The doctor looked at me and said, “There is no medical reason for doing this.” That May day in 1979 literally changed the course of my life, which I’ve dedicated to bringing an end to an unnecessary, harmful  practice. The USA remains the only developed country in the world to circumcise the majority of its baby boys without medical or religious reason. Fortunately, that’s changing. Most of the world has never practiced circumcision.

What I’ve learned during the past 31 years is that circumcision infiltrated western medicine during the mid-1800s, first in England and then in the other English-speaking countries, as a way to prevent or curb masturbation, which was thought to cause disease. Of course, that didn’t work, nor have any of the other fear-based excuses that have been used since then to perpetuate this billion-dollar-a-year industry.

Circumcision is a primal wound that interferes with the maternal/infant bond, disrupts breastfeeding, and undermines the infant’s first developmental task of establishing trust. Then, too, there are these important considerations:

The foreskin is a normal, protective, sexually functioning organ.
Circumcision is an amputative surgery with inherent risks, including hemorrhage, infection, surgical mishap, and death.
Circumcision is painful, even when analgesia is used.
Circumcision leaves both physical and psychological scars.
Circumcision denies a male’s right to a fully functioning penis and leaves him with decreased sensitivity, pleasure, and sexual fulfillment.
Circumcision denies a male’s right to genital integrity and self-determination.

Basically, circumcision is not a nice thing to do to a baby or the man he becomes. So, what can we do about it after the fact? We can love our boys with all our might and, when they are old enough or when they ask about their circumcision, we can explain that, when they were born, we thought circumcision was a good thing. Now we know better. And, we can apologize! That’s important.

Then, we can do everything possible to end to this harmful traditional practice, which has no place in civilized society. I now have four intact grandsons, so we’ve ended circumcision in our family. It’s crucial that we welcome our children into the world gently, with love and respect. For as Karl Meninger said, “What we do to children, they will do to society.” And, Gandhi said, “If we ever are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.”

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