Last night, I asked my mom why she and my dad decided to circumcise my brother when he was born. She replied that she’d left the decision entirely up to my dad, and, apparently, part of my dad’s rationale was that he didn’t want him to stand out from the crowd and be subjected to ridicule in the locker room in gym class. (In retrospect, it’s ironic now that my brother killed himself as a result of other social ostracism.)
The topic of circumcision has come up in conversation with friends numerous times over the years. I know many men who were circumcised early in life and are glad to not have foreskin. Other men I know are proud of their “intact” status and are thrilled to have their foreskin.
(See also: Male Genital Mutilation, my previous post on circumcision)
As a teen, I assumed that because I did not have a penis, deciding whether or not to circumcise a baby boy would primarily be up to his father — knowing full well that his father would probably do to our son what was done to him. After all, dick-splicing seems to be a tradition in many families, with or without religious justification. It wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me that the majority of circumcised men have no memory of having foreskin, so why should their opinions be any more valid than mine?
Hearing that my brother was given an unnecessary surgery as a partial result of a social norm made me sad.
I reflected these feelings to a friend of mine who had recently been circumcised.
My friend, now in his twenties, had suffered with phimosis (where the foreskin cannot retract over the head of the penis) for a number of years. Although the condition usually strikes men much, much older than him, the pain he experienced got to be so great that on a holiday break, he had his foreskin surgically removed.
What’s unique about my friend (at least in the context of my social circle) is that because he was circumcised later in life, rather than in infancy, he has experience living both with and without foreskin. Because of the pain he endured, he has vowed to circumcise his sons at birth as a preventative measure, since phimosis is common among older men. Part of me questions if his bias is partially motivated by the heavy shame he felt growing up as the only fellow in his friend group who was uncircumcised, and the self-hatred of his penis that it bred.
Now, I’m curious.
Beschlonged creatures of the internet, what are your thoughts on circumcising children?