The strangest question asked by parents researching circumcision is probably “how do I care for an intact penis?”. That one question highlights so much for me. Foreskin is so foreign to people, especially Americans, that they need to learn even the most basic things before they feel confident declining cosmetic surgery on their son’s genitals.
As the mother of three intact sons, and as an Australian mother, the idea that foreskin would require special care and knowledge never crossed my mind. I figured I’d feed my sons, change their nappies, wash them, and that the foreskin would just go along for the ride. Actually, I had all those thoughts without ever considering the presence foreskin.
That’s right. I never gave a moment’s notice to how I would manage foreskin. Sleepless nights, teething, tantrums, breastfeeding, I thought about all of those, but foreskin never entered my mind. It seriously never entered my mind. Not even once.
It’s a testament to the overwhelming power of money driven obstetrics and paediatrics that they have managed to create such hysteria over the end of a baby’s penis. However, it’s worth noting that this hysteria doesn’t affect the whole world. There are very specific pockets where people freak out about foreskin.
Families have a wide range of reasons to circumcise, from cleanliness, to prevention of HIV, and cancer, and the more insidious “because it looks nicer”. From a mother’s perspective, I can see why the health reasons are appealing, we all want what’s best for our children, but altering your child’s genitals for your own personal aesthetic preference is seriously perverse.
Of course with a little research anyone can see that the purported health benefits of infant genital mutilation don’t withstand the test of science, but how do you argue with someone’s personal preference? On the one hand it’s simple to say that other people’s genitals aren’t any of our business, but people simply don’t believe that when it comes to circumcision.
People actually believe that it is their right to alter the appearance of their son’s penis, and that their son will be grateful for it. Remarkably they cannot grasp the concept of allowing children to decide for themselves how they would like their genitals to appear, or to function, once they are adults.
The troubling reality is that cosmetic genital surgery for babies is very profitable. Whilst some surgeons may still believe that they are doing what is best for babies, it’s impossible to deny that they also earn money for it. And not just for the surgery itself because many of them sell the foreskin for an impressive profit after they’ve removed it.
The contradictions of circumcising sons for health reasons are enormous. Just one example of this is that parents believe that it will prevent urinary tract infections, despite the fact that the only treatment necessary for a UTI is antibiotics (there are very effective natural treatments too). On the other hand one in fifteen people will develop appendicitis and require surgery to remove their appendix, yet people don’t remove their children’s appendixes to prevent appendicitis.
I think it’s important for families to be aware that the reasons given for male circumcision, align very neatly with the reasons given for female genital mutilation in other countries. Which shows us that circumcision – male or female – is an undeniably cultural practice. In the case of westernised countries, like the US, it’s driven by culture, and by profits as well, and yet people believe it is purely for the health benefit of their children despite the vast quantity of evidence to the contrary.
As the mother of intact sons, the aunt of intact nephews, the friend of other mothers with intact sons – in fact I don’t know anyone who has opted to have their sons circumcised – I can honestly say that I don’t know a single boy that’s had any need for surgery. Foreskin just isn’t complicated. It doesn’t require any special management, or knowledge. You just leave it alone, and wash it any time you wash the whole baby. I’m completely baffled by the lack of common sense applied to a very small, but very significant, part of male anatomy.
This slogan sums it all up very neatly:
IF INTACT, DON’T RETRACT, ONLY CLEAN WHAT IS SEEN
It takes 9 words to explain it, so it really can’t be all that complicated. However no one ever had to explain it to me, because my culture didn’t spend decades saying to me how much cleaner, healthier, and more attractive penises are without foreskin. To be honest, we Australians don’t spend all that much time thinking about penises. Well …. not in this light anyway!
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