Dear America, Your Love Of Circumcision Is WEIRD!

Do Americans have bathtubs? I've never been there, but the insistence that penises are only clean after surgery is .... odd.

Dear America, Your Love Of Circumcision Is WEIRD!

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!

FOR FURTHER READING 

circumcision - two whole brothers
Washing babies keeps them clean
License: Creative Commons CC0.

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34 Responses to "Dear America, Your Love Of Circumcision Is WEIRD!"

  1. concerned cynic  6 June, 2016 at 4:32 am

    You do not seem aware of the history of routine infant circumcision (RIC) in the English speaking countries, including Australia. For boys born in Australian urban hospitals 1920-75, to parents of British isles ancestry, RIC was the norm.
    http://www.historyofcircumcision.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=category&sectionid=6&id=71&Itemid=50

    New Zealand gradually gave up RIC, 1960-85. In the UK, the NHS defunded RIC in 1950, which caused the procedure to go into free fall. Francophone Canada never went for RIC. Over the past 40 odd years in Anglophone Canada, the rate has declined from 80%+ to about 35%. Setting aside Latinos and other recent immigrants to the USA, the rate in the USA attained a maximum of at least 90% in the 1970s. Today, 55% of American boys are circumcised in the maternity ward. No one counts RICs done in the surgeries of American paediatricians, but their number has been rising in recent years.

    I submit that America parents often have their sons undergo RIC for unspoken psychosexual reasons. Dad is circumcised. Mum grew up with circumcised brothers, and has dated only circumcised men. The parents don’t want to be reminded, every time they change a diaper or give a bath, of something missing from their marriages, namely the male foreskin. They also fear that an intact son will be ridiculed in the locker room, and rejected by the women he tries to date. The greatest evil of circumcision is that it produces future adults obsessed with circumcising their own children. Circumcision is a self-perpetuating meme, unless doctors are free to put their feet down.

    Reply
    •  6 June, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      No it’s not that we’re unaware of that, it’s just that the article wasn’t talking about the history of circumcision.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Reply
      • concerned cynic  19 June, 2016 at 9:41 pm

        When comparing Australia and the USA, a bit of history is essential.
        Note that the third paragraph of my comment contains not history but my psychosexual speculations.

        Reply
  2. Janice  7 June, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Dear Concerned Cynic, Excellent comment!

    Reply
  3. Trisha  7 June, 2016 at 11:08 am

    This is kind of a personal question, but since we’re talking about it anyway… is your husband circumcised?

    Reply
    •  7 June, 2016 at 11:18 am

      I just can’t imagine asking someone this!? WEIRD.

      Reply
  4. Martin  8 June, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Actually, the article did mention history: “my culture didn’t spend decades saying to me how much cleaner, healthier, and more attractive penises are without foreskin.”

    Australia did EXACTLY that. Not that long ago it used to have a circumcision rate even higher than that of the United States, and clear-cut the forest of infant foreskins for decades.

    I love the message of the article, and it may even change several minds. I hope so. But the attitude I encounter most often in the US is, “Foreskins may be acceptable in your family, but they’re not in ours.” It’s ignorant and harmful, but pervasive. Social media and the internet are slowly changing that mindset. Thank you for this article.

    Reply
    • concerned cynic  20 August, 2016 at 6:36 am

      The single most powerful weapon against the American cult of the bald penis, is the fact that Google Images and Wikimedia Commons are both chockers with images of something that Polite America doesn’t want us to see: flaccid intact penises. This is the Weird Unsanitary Dick that violates conventional American sexual propriety. There are even a few Tumblr blogs devoted to fans of the natural penis who are not gay men. A fair fraction of younger American women have commented that they learned what the intact penis looks like via the internet, and have decided that there is no aesthetic reason to stamp out the foreskin of the human male. Some even prefer the natural look. The internet will reveal one day, 20-30 years from now, that RIC will have become the choice of a minority of parents, whereupon RIC will go into free fall.

      Reply
  5. djbiviano  8 June, 2016 at 4:22 am

    Thanks for this – you’ve made my day!

    Reply
  6. Moe Love  10 June, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Money isn’t the issue, religion is. Period.

    Reply
    •  10 June, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Not for non religious people it isn’t. And there’s no shortage of those who are still harming babies. And every time one of them harms a baby, money exchanges hands. Am I pro-religion? Not on your life! But we could argue that money is a religion.

      Reply
    • Ashvin  18 June, 2016 at 10:44 am

      It’s definitely money. Religion might play a part for Jews and Muslims, but they are the minority According to this wikipedia article, they make up less than 2% of the population of the USA, yet the circumcision rate is around 50%.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

      Reply
    • Marg Robson  27 June, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      it is money too! Iagree there is some sick type of fashion preference in some countries/families. See Saving babies blog spot “The other market for foreskins is in the medical field. Did you know that you can buy a milliliter of frozen foreskin for $399.00 to $559.00? These fibroblasts have many applications. The website of ATCC (the biological resource center selling these fibroblasts) says they can be used in response to pathogens, skin aging, wound healing, gene delivery and skin diseases. One single foreskin can actually pull in $100,000 in total. Bet the owner of that foreskin won’t see a dime, poor kid. He could go to college a few times on that amount of money!”

      Reply
      •  27 June, 2016 at 8:53 pm

        Really :O That much? That’s astonishing! And sick ….

        Reply
    • concerned cynic  20 August, 2016 at 6:46 am

      When socialised medicine stops covering RIC in a country, RIC gradually goes away. That convinces me that medical venality is part of the picture.
      Religion has had little to do with RIC coming into fashion in the English speaking world, and then going out of fashion. Some American evangelicals and messianics claim that God prefers that all men be circumcised, but no mainstream theologian would agree. Mainstream Christians decline to critique circumcision for fear of antagonising Jews and Muslims.
      If I had to bet on what the real driver behind RIC in the USA is, I would bet on psychosexual conformity, grounded in deep seated insecurities about sexual propriety. Look at all of the young adult American women who undergo cosmetic surgery to their breasts and vulvas. I submit that the no foreskin look is a meme analogous to the trimming and shaving of women’s pubic hair. Of course, pubic hair grows back but foreskin doesn’t.

      Reply
  7. Sarah  18 June, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Why is there no share to FB button?

    Reply
    •  18 June, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      There is a facebook share button at the top and at the bottom of each article, if it isn’t showing up for you you can either re-load the page, or you can try just sharing the link directly. Let us know if you have any trouble with it though! Maybe there’s a glitch

      Reply
  8. ERF Mama  19 June, 2016 at 10:55 am

    This is such a good article! I’m from Norway and I live in the UK – and just like you…. I shake my head and wonder what on earth is going on!

    It was by pure accident I came across FB pages like ‘Saving our Sons’, ‘Dr Momma’ etc etc. And I had a complete jaw drop! I sat there thinking; WHY?! Why would you do this to your sons?!
    I then learned all about the history and how America came to have this tragic routine – and interestingly enough Canada has a very very small % it’s not at all common and they are just next door…

    And all the stories you hear about babies who have wrongly been circumcised because they took the wrong baby?! I would have a heart attack if I gave birth in a hospital over there I think – I mean they are literally writing “DO NOT CIRCUMCISE” on the baby boys!!! 😮 It’s baffling.

    No, it has to stop. Genital integrity is a human right! And circumcising is a human right’s violation – it doesn’t matter if it’s girls, boys or intersex.

    This quote sums things up very nicely:

    “Being IGNORANT is not so much a shame, as being UNWILLING to learn” – Benjamin Franklin

    Reply
    •  19 June, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      Yes! It baffles me too! It’s certainly a very convincing argument for homebirth …..

      Thanks for your thought provoking comment!

      Reply
    • Bryan  7 July, 2016 at 2:48 am

      Here’s another quote that strongly applies to the genital mutilation of boys: “Preconceived opinions effectively insulate the mine from receiving truth.” I don’t know who said it.

      Reply
      •  7 July, 2016 at 10:46 am

        That is a good quote! Thanks for stopping by to share it!

        Reply
    • concerned cynic  20 August, 2016 at 6:49 am

      Sadly, while RIC is gone from the Maritimes, and was never taken up by francophone Canada, the circ rate in Ontario and Alberta is still around 40%. The overall Canadian circ rate is still about 30%.

      Reply
  9. ian wilkinson  23 June, 2016 at 10:46 am

    only the person being circumcised should have the right to make that decision, therefore infant circumcision is morally wrong and medically unethical

    Reply
    •  23 June, 2016 at 11:45 am

      We agree completely!

      Reply
  10. Tim Hammond  24 June, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Excellent article. America’s obsession with circumcision is not just weird, it’s harmful. The medical community has never researched the long-term adverse physical, sexual, psychological or self-esteem consequences to men from infant circumcision. It has been the burden of circumcised men at the grassroots level to document their harm. See: Global Survey of Circumcision Harm at http://circumcisionharm.org/ and a video of a presentation of the survey findings at

    Reply
    •  25 June, 2016 at 10:58 am

      That’s exactly right. As with so many medical practices – and a truly staggering number in obstetrics where infants begin their journey – the surgeons are in it for the money, and they don’t look past that.

      Reply
  11. Mary Ross  9 July, 2016 at 2:13 am

    I have worked in Surgery of a major US hospital for 25 years. The most common elective surgery for males, age 14-90 is circumcision. They are making this decision for themselves. For multiple reasons. No one is forcing this on them. And having known several adult males in their 40’s that opted to do this, they all agree that it was a great decision and they are very happy that they did it. My son was adopted at age 1 from another country. Due to less then hygienic conditions his foreskin had adhesions and circumcision was the only option.
    He is now 17 and we have had the discussion about it. And he is adamant that had we not done it as an infant then he would have had it dive himself. I think the most opinion is from men. Not what moms think about it

    Reply
    • concerned cynic  20 August, 2016 at 6:54 am

      Only in the USA is circumcision common adult elective surgery. And the reason for that is seldom admitted to: embarrassment in the locker room and the dating bedroom.
      I have met in social media American men circumcised of their own volition after puberty, who deeply regret it.
      Adhesions between the foreskin and glans almost always resolve by puberty. If they do not, these adhesions can be broken with a blunt probe under local anesthesia. Hence adhesions are not a valid reason for circumcision.

      Reply
    • Wendy  20 August, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      As others have pointed out, Mary, the adhesions you describe were most likely those normally present at birth, and usually present until at least age three. These adhesions are designed to protect head of the penis while the child is still in diapers.

      The fact that all of the men who present to your hospital for elective circumcisions want to be circumcised 1) is not surprising, since it is elective surgery and 2) doesn’t mean every man wishes to be circumcised. Do you also believe that, since facelifts are the most common cosmetic surgery performed on woman that all women want to have a facelift? Would you further encourage parents to force these procedures upon their children?

      Your anecdote about your son has already been thoroughly addressed below. I find it mind boggling that so many people defend the removal of a body part by speaking to those who’ve never used one. Isn’t that like asking someone who has only ridden a bike if he likes driving a car?

      Reply
    • Steinn Andersen  3 November, 2016 at 12:53 am

      That “adhesion” was the normal binding between the glans and the foreskin. The foreskin is usually fused to the glans like your nails are fused to your fingers. Most American doctors, nurses and health care workers are ignorant regarding foreskins, they have never been taught the functions and structure of the foreskin, and how to treat intact baby boys. It’s weird that all of the intact men in the world (70-75 % of the world’s male population) lives quite happy lives with their foreskin, but in the US there are all sorts of problems. Perhaps the USA is a magical place where foreskins turns against their owners. I think the reason are those ignorant docs, nurses and health care workers. 😉

      Reply
  12. Miriam Angelheart  15 July, 2016 at 5:48 am

    Mary Ross,

    Too bad men who were cut as babies HAVE NO CLUE what having foreskin would be like. How could they know the difference and what can they do about it now? It is so much “safer and easier” for them to be in denial about the loss of 50% of their penis skin and instead opt to feel good about their circumcision and prefer believe in the bright side. The only other option is to admit how messed up society is and work to change it and get educated on how to care for an natural unaltered body.

    Only about 1 in 10,000 intact adult men opt to have their most erogenous tissue amputated.

    It is ridiculous for a man who never remembers the joy of having his intact penis to say, “Well geez thanks Mom! You know, if you had not had my foreskin amputated, then I sure would have got it done myself!” Because he doesn’t have any knowledge about what he lost.

    Even if you offered to thousands of intact men a FREE circumcision, they would almost ALL say, NO THANKS – I love my penis the way it is.

    Because unless you get the joys of experiencing your whole complete healthy, unaltered body – then how would you know the difference?

    If a man decides to get it done for himself, good for him, that is his choice as an adult. And with toddler fore skin adhesions it is possible that only minor surgery and not full amputation are possible to repair it.

    Essentially the foreskin is not given the respect it deserves otherwise we would all be trying to preserve it whenever possible. It has over 16 functions and is considered an organ unto itself by some because of its multiple functions.

    Reply
    •  15 July, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      We agree with you! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment so thoroughly.

      Reply
    • Enrico Monaco  19 August, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Nothing but sanctioned perversion to help feed a greedy US medical industry, fed to ignorant, illiterate Americans as a normal operation. There is NO need for it, and it should be outlawed. The female genitals are far more prone to bacteria, disease and poor hygiene. Beware the deceptive medical care person who suggests this. Mary Ross is a prime example.

      Reply
  13. Sophy  30 July, 2016 at 10:37 am

    To Mary Ross, in the vast majority of males the foreskin is fused to the glans until at least age 3-4. The “adhesions” you described were probably not that, but normal foreskin anatomy. Now if your son was forcibly retracted in infancy this could have caused bleeding, scarring and infection. That is the real cause behind most of the “my mothers cousins sisters nephews friend HAD to be circumcised later because infection!” In cutting cultures like the US, misinformation about the intact penis is rampant (yes, even from doctors and in fact most often from doctors, though that is changing thank goodness.). Leading to many baby boys being hurt by misinformed caregivers….which again, oftentimes leads to scarring and infection (not to mention pain for the poor baby!). Imagine if parents douched their baby girls at every diaper change? Unthinkable, right? It’s worse to forcibly retract a boys foreskin….it’s like ripping off a fingernail in a newborn…

    Reply

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