Tuesday, January 09, 2007

To Circ with Love?

Former Austinite Neal Pollack has a touching, funny and occasionally horrifying account of how he and his wife Regina decided whether or not to circumcise their son in Tuesday’s Salon. I won’t give away the ending here, but the response to Neal’s story demonstrates the degree to which circumcision is capable of working rational, sane voices into histrionic froth.

I have no religious tradition and I couldn’t care less about my hypothetical son’s hypothetical penis not looking like daddy’s. However, recent studies in Africa have demonstrated that circumcised men have a lower risk of acquiring HIV. Even though HIV incidence is much lower in the U.S., that’s enough to steer me nominally in favor of circumcision as it might apply to me as a parent for now.


booberrypancake said...

We chose not to circumcise Harrison, as we are not Jewish and have no cultural or religious imperatives concerning the removal of foreskin. I really didn't see the point in cutting off a part of my son's body unnecessarily. Would you have your daughter's clitoris removed? Or any part of her genitalia? Of course not. Then why a son's? That was my rationale, anyway.

I'm not too concerned about the HIV risk, as Harrison will NEVER EVER have sex without using a condom (unless he's trying to get his wife pregnant!!!!!!!!). Heh.

Greg said...

I think it’s good whenever parents make an educated decision on circumcision and I pass no judgment on either course of action because there’s not enough evidence at this point to suggest that circumcision is absolutely right or wrong.

However, I don’t think circumcision is analogous to removing a girl’s clitoris. The latter is done for the primary purpose of reducing a girl’s capacity for sexual pleasure. The male equivalent of removing the clitoris would be more akin to lopping off the entire penis head.

By contrast, the most recent and exhaustive evidence to date links circumcision to significant reduction in HIV risk, not to mention reduced risk of other STDs and urinary tract infections. Although it’s impossible for a man who was circumcised as a baby to know what unsnipped sex is like, the overwhelming majority of snipped men like their penises just fine and experience no lasting ill effects as a result of being circumcised.

booberrypancake said...

No, I understand that the practices are not philosophically/pragmatically analogous, and that clitoridectomies are (from a Western perspective) barbaric and unnecessarily cruel. What I was getting at was that in my hormone-addled state in pregnancy and post-birth, that was my logic for opting against circumcision. (and really, I can't stand to see my son with the merest abrasion on his skin -- how could I have withstood cutting off his foreskin?)

I'm still not personally sold on circumcision for the prevention of HIV and other STDs. I think that personal responsibility in one's sexual practices is likely to have more long-term benefits than simply snipping off the foreskin.

Again, this is up to each family's discretion; my husband and I simply chose to be vigilant in teaching our son good hygiene/peenie maintenance, and when the time comes, to teach him responsible and respectful sexual behavior. How that will happen remains to be seen -- I reckon we've got a good 15 years or so to draw up an appropriate lesson plan.

Anonymous said...


It's fine and dandy to claim personal responsibility in one's sexual practices is likely to have more long-term benefits, but have you looked around lately?

This country has worked hard to remove any semblance of personal responsibility from people's minds. It's always someone else's responsibility to protect you, apparently. (Gotta love lawyers)Most people wouldn't even know how to use a condom.

I commend you on your intent to instill the concept of responsibility in your child, but I'm afraid you may be in the minority.

David Beebe said...

Um, I remember in biology that basically the major advantage to circumcision is cleanliness. Young people are not subject to the same type of sweat (e.g. ammonia, urine, other chemical excretions) that full grown adults get down their and under their armpits, so it may not matter as long as they bathe often. However, as an active adult (non-Jewish, circumcised) I am grateful my parents had it done. one day without a shower is already bad enough. - D. Beebe

David said...

Yeah, well my wife's Jewish so I'm going to be looking at a circumcision-as-catered-affair scenario. Sheesh.

Okay, I'm going to go now - and try to forget that I ever read the phrase "lopping off the entire penis head."

Anonymous said...

I wasn't circumcised and my dick is still attached of course it is so huge it grow out of the foreskin years ago.