Monday, April 18, 2011

It Is Not My Penis

A few weeks ago, I was helping a friend find links on circumcision to give to her husband.  She doesn't want to circumcise their sons, and he does but wanted information.  I put a general call out on my facebook status, not thinking that my family would see it and wonder why.

About a week later, I had a talk with my mom.  She wondered why I wasn't going to circumcise my sons, if we are lucky enough to have any, and I told her the bare minimum knowing that she would disagree with me.  My dad even offered to pay for the procedure if it was about money.  The entire situation was laughable, if it hadn't been so sad.

One saying that kept coming to my mind through the entire conversation was, "It is not my penis."  Once I said that to my mom, she huffed and changed the subject.

The thing is, it truly is not my penis to choose to cut.  Just as my daughter's body isn't my own to pick and choose what she will have done, my sons will be the same way.

There are so many factors to think about when choosing to circumcise your son.  With your daughters, it is a no-brainer.  In the United States, female circumcision has been outlawed for over two decades.  Yes, it is a much rougher procedure, and the effects are longer lasting, but in the end, you are saying that your daughter's body isn't yours to control, but your son doesn't get that luxury.

The labia in a female has more folds, has deeper recesses, and can get so much dirtier than the foreskin of a male.  You don't worry about teaching your daughter to clean her vulva when she bathes.  You don't worry about the bacteria that can grow or the infections that she can receive if it isn't cleaned properly.  It is just something that you teach her as she is growing up.  You would never think to cut off the folds of her labia so that she doesn't have to worry about cleaning within them.

It is no different if you have an intact son.  For the first few years of his life, his foreskin will be adhered to his penis.  You do NOT retract, you do not do anything but clean it like you would his finger or toe.  Once he pulls it back himself as he learns his body and explores, you teach him to pull the foreskin back and clean inside.  It takes less than thirty seconds!

The midwife I work kept her new son intact.  When I change his diaper, I am amazed at how much foreskin he has.  Just as a baby, he has almost half an inch overlapping the head of his penis.  That is a lot of skin to cut off your perfect newborn!

If when my son gets older and understands what circumcision is and decides he wants it done, I will pay for it.  It isn't my body to make the decision for.  I will support him whatever he decides, but I will help him with information so he can make an informed decision for his own body, just as I made an informed decision now, before he was born.

If you were a child right now, depending on your parents to make decisions for you that will help you grow and learn and be the person you want to be, would you be okay with them cutting you to help you save thirty seconds in the shower?  Would you be okay with having less sexual function as you aged, thus depending on drugs like Viagra?  The United States uses more sexual dysfunction drugs than any other country in the world.  And, we have the highest circumcision rate in the world.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

When you cut the foreskin off your son, you are cutting enough skin to make a 3x5 index card.  "This 3x5 card represents the amount of tissue missing from your penis.  It represents one third to one half, or approximately 15 square inches, of the total tissue coving the normal penis.  It contained over 20,000 nerve endings, 240 feet of nerves, and several feet of blood vessels."  (You can get a 3x5 printout of this information by going to to hand out as a visual representation).

In the end, regardless of what you believe about circumcision, whether you have a boy or a girl, that part of their body does not belong to you.  Your daughter's vulva/clitoris and your son's penis are not your property to change.

Just repeat over and over again, "It is not my penis.  It is not my penis.  It is not my penis."


anowlsnest said... [Reply to comment]

This is great! Thanks! You said it all perfectly.

Kacie said... [Reply to comment]

I had a similar sort of discussion with my own mother when we found out I was having a boy.

She was telling me all sorts of reasons why to circ and how "this one boy she knows who didn't get it had an infection, and had to have the surgery done when he was a toddler" and stuff.

I was like MOM. You only had daughters. And you are female. You don't have a dog in the fight!

She didn't press the issue, and even if she did, so what? It's not her penis! :)

Kacie said... [Reply to comment]

And I'm totally with you! If my son, at a much older, mature age, tells me he wants a circumcision, then we will pay for it. And he will be able to communicate with his doctors and anesthesiologist to make sure he doesn't feel the surgery.

No matter what, we'll explain our reasons to him when he's older. I hope he appreciates our decision! And if not, he can undo it.

But if we went ahead and circed him as a baby, it would be much harder for him to undo, you know?

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

@Kacie, exactly!!! I would rather him have the choice to do it himself than for me to take that choice away from him.

Mandi Spencer said... [Reply to comment]

Great post! I had two boys before I had a daughter, and they were *much* easier to clean. Both sides of our family were opposed to our decision not to circumcise, but it doesn't matter. It's not our decision to make!

AM said... [Reply to comment]

Repeat after me: "IT IS NOT MY PENIS".

I LOVE IT! Thanks for writing this Kacie!

patricia said... [Reply to comment]

that is the best argument i've heard yet against routine infant circumcision: It is not my penis. thank you for your very thoughtful article, connected mom. you are obviously connected to your heart.

Naoki said... [Reply to comment]

Well if your son wanted to have his hand cut off would you also pay for it? It is a rather strange thing to say you would help your son be amputated from body parts, or to permanently alter (read "severely damage") his body. I doubt anyone (who is well informed on circumcision) free of serious psychological problems would want the most sensitive part of their genitalia cut off (self-mutilation perhaps? and in this case paying for it would hardly be helpful.) My two cents.

Aside from that, great article. Many pro-circ people are dangerously irrational sadly.

Endless Rain said... [Reply to comment]

I agree with Naoki. If either of my kids want cosmetic surgery then they can pay for it themselves. Otherwise excellent article.

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