we were out at breakfast a few months ago with a couple of friends, and one of them asked us if we’d be circumcising the baby if he was a boy (we didn’t know fruiby’s sex at that stage). the question hadn’t crossed my mind even once before that moment, what with penises not generally being at the forefront of my consciousness, and i didn’t know what to say. so i asked him, as the only possessor of a penis at the table, what he thought. i was surprised by the vehemence of his response. he was very much against infant circumcision, and said that he hoped we wouldn’t circumcise our child.

i came away from that discussion wanting to learn more about the pros and cons of the procedure. my initial gut reaction was against it as well, not really wanting to irreversibly alter my kid’s body before they’re old enough to have an informed say in the matter, and generally being sceptical about the relevance of a tradition developed by a bronze-age nomadic desert tribe to a 21st century australian body.

‘the circumcision of christ’ by friedrich herlin, 1466

… and the more i read the more i was convinced that circumcision is really not desirable.

  • none of the major medical authorities (eg the royal australasian college of physicians) endorse routine infant circumcision.
  • while it’s often downplayed as ‘just a little snip’ circumcision is a surgical procedure and can result in infections, complications, and death. even if these complications are rare, i would never want to expose my child to such risks unless it was entirely necessary.
  • circumcision is not normal – only about 20% of men in the world are circumcised, so it’s not as if boys will grow up feeing weird because their penis doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
  • the foreskin contains a huge number of nerve endings (comparable to the number in the clitoris in women), so removing it is not only excruciatingly painful, but it reduces the extent to which men can experience sexual pleasure as an adult. it’s also been found that women experience greater sexual pleasure with men who have intact penises, so if he grows up attracted to women, they’ll benefit too.
  • circumcised penises are not ‘cleaner’. if a he is taught simple genital hygiene, there is no reason his penis should be any dirtier with a foreskin than without. cutting a foreskin off because it’s dirty is as logical as removing a girl’s labia for the same reason. it’s brutal, and complete overkill.
  • contrary to widespread misinformation, circumcision does not protect a man from contracting sexually transmitted diseases. you know what prevents sdts? condoms. i wouldn’t want my son engaging in unsafe sexual behaviour believing he was protected by his lack of foreskin.
so, no. we won’t be circumcising our son, because it’s painful, irreversible, and unnecessary.
if, when he grows up, he feels that he would prefer the look/feel of a circumcised penis, this is a procedure that he can elect to have as a consenting adult.