Day 120: A Dad’s Opinion about Circumcision

I have had something on my mind for a few days, and regular readers will find this a little more seriously written than other posts.  I don’t apologize for it, but it’s fair to tell you that up front.  Nonetheless, it should be interesting and entertaining to read, at the very least.

I was reading a blog the other day where the author mentioned quite passionately how wrong it is to circumcise your baby.  On and on she went, talking about how you shouldn’t hurt your baby, how it’s not necessary, etc., etc.

I read with interest as I always do when reading about the whole “circumcision debate”.  And I also read with growing annoyance, as I always do when reading about the whole “circumcision debate.”  It’s a debate that is largely discussed by moms in a very one-sided manner, and it’s a debate that many men have very simple opinions about but often don’t get involved (ironically).

I was born in the midwestern states of the USA in 1979.  It’s a no-brainer to figure out I was circumcised as part of what the hospital did when you were born back then.  It was done for health / hygiene reasons, I think, or because of tradition.  I don’t really know or care why they did it, and I don’t have a problem that it happened.

Here’s the problem I do have.  Why does the debate make ME feel bad that I am circumcised?  Don’t those who write about circumcision with such passion understand that by making it into this horrible thing that nobody should have to endure, and stating that it will damage the baby’s psyche, and so on – that they are in effect saying that I, a circumcised male am also damaged, and have a damaged psyche?  It’s called “association”.  For example, if I write that I am a great dad because of xyz reason, I am also by association saying anyone else who does this is a great dad.

Maybe one reason the “debate” is so one-sided (not many people writing “pro-circumcision” blogs), is because the anti-circumcision side of the topic are often so close-minded about it.  Many are using the same tactics as a lot of right-wing politicians when they want to shut somebody down.  The tactic is to point out how stupid you must be.  So, if you think circumcision is OK, you must be stupid, because all the enlightened people in the world, and all of Europe (everyone’s favorite point in the US), is uncircumcised.  The only time it should be OK in their opinion is for “religious reasons”, and even that point is added in with a hint of xenophobia.

There are a few main arguments on top of the “don’t be stuck in the past” argument.  Another main one is the argument that “it’s not our right to modify his body”.  It’s a relatively hollow argument.  We modify our children’s bodies every day by how we choose to feed them, by how we play with them and encourage physical development, and so on.  I am not arguing for circumcision or against it, but it’s worth making this point.

If you talk to guys, there are basically a few schools of thought.

  1. we did or did not circumcise our baby boy because my wife made the decision for us.
  2. we did or did not circumcise our baby boy because I am / am not circumcised.
  3. I don’t care / have no opinion.

The first point is seeming to become an increasingly sad trend.  How is it that a guy’s opinion about a penis is not being heard?  Interesting.  I have heard stories of guys not getting a voice in any of the decisions for the child, but finally taking a stand on this one thing.  Again, interesting about what this says about gender relations and raising a child, in a world where men are constantly accused of not participating or being present for important decisions (not participating, or are being pushed away / blocked from participating?)

The 2nd point is more about the mentality of a new dad, I guess.  Like this: I have a son, and he will be like me.  This one is probably why the guys who fight for one way or another fight so hard.

And the 3rd point.  Usually people who say they don’t care are of this opinion because they are trying to completely side-step the issue.  Like if you ask me about certain political topics, I will say I don’t think about it.  Of course I think about it, but I don’t want to talk about it because I know it will not result in a pleasant conversation.

My advice to anyone who believes strongly in ending circumcision is to ask yourself why you are so passionate about other people’s baby’s penises.  If you are a mom who will not listen to your partner (if it is a man), ask yourself why your opinion about your baby’s penis is more important than your partner’s, and ask if this is setting the right tone for how the parenting relationship will be.  After all, a man has a penis, so he might have some thoughts on it.  And finally, ask yourself how you should talk about circumcision.  Do you want to make circumcised men feel bad?  If you do, what is wrong with you?  If you don’t, then be careful what you say and/or write.

As for us, with the little guy, we did not circumcise him.  The decision was made by my wife and me as a team, because we will raise him in Sweden where very few men are circumcised, and kids are mean, and teenage girls (and boys) are mean.  If it were the midwest in the USA, we would have had him circumcised, for the same reasons as above.  Basically we considered the social reasons for circumcision, which may or may not be right.

My wife was way more passionate about the topic than I was, and she wanted to leave him uncircumcised because, “why should we hurt our baby?  In Norway it’s illegal!”  My answer was, “who cares about Norway?  and it doesn’t hurt the baby.”  My main argument was that we don’t need foreskin, and it can possibly prevent future problems if you simply remove it right away (for example I know of at least 3 babies & boys who had to be circumcised later on because of problems the foreskin was causing).  Plus, I’m circumcised, so I just assumed my baby would be too (wrong!).  At the end of the day, you have to take into consideration a bunch of factors and just do your best to make one of the many decisions that will impact the baby for the rest of their life.

If we really want to do something important for our sons, maybe instead of focusing on circumcision, we can focus on raising boys who will grow up to be real men.  Who have respect for all others, who care, who love, who are not a-holes.  Why not focus our energy on this, instead of if there is a bit of skin left on (or removed from) the penis?

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