No, I Don't Think Circumcising Baby Boys Is OK

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Your husband is circumcised. Every boyfriend you've ever had was circumcised. And neither you nor they have ever noticed anything wrong or strange about that fact. In fact, you’ve (maybe) never seen an uncircumcised penis in your life. You don’t feel like you were "missing anything," or that your romantic partners were missing anything. The idea of a foreskin may even seem icky and weird. So why not get your baby boy cut? Anyway, it’s just a little snip, and a little skin, right? Except it's not. I'll be honest with you. Circumcising baby boys isn't OK, and doing so before they can give their consent is dangerous.

The World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that, globally, one-third of men are circumcised, and of that number, two-thirds are Muslim. And contrary to what you may have seen in college, it’s becoming less common among American men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 64.5 percent of males were circumcised before leaving the hospital in 1979; by 2010, that number had dropped to 58.3 percent. So numbers have become just about split, though it's worth pointing out that these numbers don’t account for non-hospital circumcisions. The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) circumcision recommendation, published in August 2012, noted that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits were "not great enough" to recommend universal newborn circumcision. So my intact baby boys won’t have the only foreskins in the locker room. They may be joined by a generation of girls and boys who'll be used to looking at foreskins — and having sex with uncircumcised partners.

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In fact, girls growing up now may even have partners who'll report higher levels of sexual satisfaction. Men cut as either children or adults claimed less intense sexual pleasure and orgasm than their uncircumcised counterparts, says a 2013 study out of Belgium's Ghent University Hospital, published on Reuters. One possible explanation for experiencing less sensitivity could be, as Psychology Today noted, the foreskin is half the penis’s skin, or 15 square inches in an adult male. What looks like a little snip in a bitty baby is a whopping chop in an adult man. In fact, The Circumcision Decision stated that the foreskin contains somewhere between 20,000 and 70,000 nerve endings. The next most sensitive part of the penis is the glans, and when the foreskin is removed, that becomes less sensitive as well. So when you give your little boy the chop, you’re impacting his future sex life, as well as the future sex life of his partners. And not in a good way.

I couldn't imagine cutting off a part of my son's body. And once I read the research on circumcision, I knew I was making the right choice. I didn't want them to suffer complications or go without a vital body part for the rest of their lives. My husband agreed.

But unlike women living abroad, who are used to seeing and manipulating intact penises, many Americans have never seen an uncircumcised penis. Many of them think the idea of a foreskin is, well, gross. But it has an actual purpose. A foreskin keeps the glans clean and protected, which keeps it more sensitive. In uncircumcised men, the glans is actually mucosa, and it provides not just moisture, but lubrication. This lubrication helps out during sex — uncircumcised men are less likely to need artificial lubrication, according to EmpowHer. And yes, there’s smegma. Once a boy’s foreskin retracts, he needs to clean underneath it. But with decent hygiene, a uncircumcised penis should not be smelly or otherwise repellent.

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The only reason to circumcise? A reduced rate of HIV transmission by as much as 50 percent, according to TIME. However, in a developed nation such as the U.S., with condoms readily available and safe-sex practices part of the culture, I don't think it's worth hacking off part of your kid’s body for a minuscule risk. We don’t, after all, chop off a girl’s breasts to prevent her from getting cancer. And neither is the surgery painless or risk-free. Psychology Today pointed out that even the best pain medication, the dorsal nerve block, doesn’t totally take away the pain of a circumcision procedure. Only 45 percent of doctors, in fact, use any anesthesia at all, reported Psychology Today. So you’re cutting off part of your kid’s body without any anesthesia. One to three percent of all children have complications in the newborn period alone, the site — run by "renowned psychologists, academics, psychiatrists, and writers" — noted, from a narrowed urethra to adhesions as the foreskin attempts to re-adhere. And, they report, more than 100 infants die from circumcision every year in the United States alone.

I couldn't imagine cutting off a part of my son's body. And once I read the research on circumcision, I knew I was making the right choice. I didn't want them to suffer complications or go without a vital body part for the rest of their lives. My husband agreed. We shocked family members with our decision, but they've since accepted it.

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If your reason to circumcise deals with the fact that your child will "look like everyone else," I'm calling bullsh*t. Your kid isn’t going to exactly resemble his dad or any other man in looks, height, or any other number of ways. So why should his penis have to be identical? The decision ultimately rests with the parents, but my husband and I felt that it was important for our boys to have the choice. It's their bodies we're changing, not our own.

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