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Should parents circumcise their sons?

Circumcision, long one of the most emotionally charged surgical procedures performed in the United States, has become the focus of yet another intense debate as leading health authorities are about to issue major new evaluations of the potential health benefits of the operation.

The war of words over the procedure has been sparked by a decision by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue recommendations for the first time about whether newborn boys and possibly even adult men should undergo the common surgical procedure, just as the American Academy of Pediatrics is poised to revise its position of not recommending the operation. Read the full article.

By Jodi Westrick  |  January 19, 2010; 10:05 AM ET  | Category:  National Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The idea of proposing circumcision to prevent HIV transmission and other STD's has already failed miserably in the USA. 90% of men born in the last 40 years (before 2000) were circumcised and we have some of the highest rates of STD's and HIV of any developed country! As a registered nurse, I consider it my duty to educate parent's about why their children have the right to genital autonomy and the right to be left intact. My own son is intact (un-circumcised) and he will be taught to use common sense to protect himself - use condoms consistently, be in a monogamous relationship and be tested regularly. Cutting off sexually sensitive and healthy body parts is not the answer to this problem. Sex education and correct information is the real answer for all. That is what the CDC should be recommending, look at countries that do not routinely circumcise, as in Europe. They have substantially lower rates of HIV and STI's and 90% of the men in these countries are intact. Condom use and sex education from an early age is the norm, that is the real answer.

Posted by: Tora941 | January 19, 2010 2:21 PM

The foreskin is not some extraneous part of the "real" penis. It is fully part of the penis, and contains thousands of nerve endings and specialized structures such as the ridged band and frenulum that play critical roles in normal sexual functioning. One reason that Europe and other traditionally non-circumcising cultures have not jumped on the "prevent HIV by circumcising" bandwagon is that intact men are fully aware of how important the foreskin is to adult sexual experience.

We wouldn't cut any part, no matter how small, off a baby girl's genitals to prevent any disease, nor would we offer her parents prophylactic breast bud removal at birth to prevent her from developing breast cancer later on.

It is simply cultural ignorance and arrogance on the part of Americans, up to and including members of the AAP and CDC committees considering this issue, to maintain that any female genital cutting is mutilation while male genital cutting is appropriate preventative health care.

It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that male and female genital structures are more similar than they are different, given that they develop from the same progenitor structures in utero.

Baby boys should enjoy the same basic human right to bodily integrity at birth that baby girls do. Circumcision is not legitimately a parent's choice -- only the person who owns the penis in question should decide how it looks, feels, and functions. Her body, her choice -- and his body, his choice, too!

Posted by: JaneWP | January 19, 2010 4:09 PM

I had a baby boy last year, and until I was pregnant I was totally indifferent to the controversy. Then I talked to my friends with boys about it. Without exception they (with strong opinions on the matter from their husbands) chose to circumcise their sons so they would "look like everyone else." No one used the argument that it inhibits the spread of STDs, except as a buttress to the main concern of being different in the locker room. My husband and I decided that since we had no strong religious conviction for circumcision, to have it performed would be absurd. We might as well have had eyeliner tattooed on our daughter just after birth, since the procedure would only be done for fashion's sake.

Posted by: foreoki12 | January 19, 2010 7:31 PM

There has been a remarkable propaganda campaign to promote neonatal genital cutting of healthy male babies in the last few years. Study after tendentious study claiming to show that circumcision is beneficial, harmless, preferred by women and good for sex, have been published, yet all by the same handful of interconnected researchers (Daniel Halperin, Robert Bailey, Stefan Bailis, Stephen Moses, Malcolm Potts, Thomas Quinn, Helen Weiss, Brian Morris, Jeffrey Klausner, Edgar Schoen and Thomas Wiswell and others). The motivation of at least some of them is less than scientific. Halperin is on record as thinking his descent from a ritual circumciser means “maybe I’m destined” to promote circumcision. Morris never saw a reason for circumcising he didn’t like and thinks “The Bathroom Splatter” and zipper injuries are good reasons for circumcising. Schoen has written poetry in praise of circumcision. I wouldn’t call it a “conspiracy”, but many of them have authored papers jointly, and their common interest seems to be in promoting circumcision, rather than any particular benefit. And whenever such a study is published, it gains uncritical headlines world wide - while the many studies finding no benefit from circumcision, or harm, find it hard to make it even to the back pages.

Meanwhile the ethical question - who has any right to have an integral, healthy, non-renewable part off a (male) child's genitals cut off (when it would be specifically illegal to cut an exactly equivalent part off a female) but the person himself, once he is old enough to make an informed decision? - remains unasked.

Posted by: hugh7 | January 19, 2010 8:33 PM

I researched this issue quite a bit before having my son. In the end it came down to this - remembering from my college embryology class that the glans of the penis is analogous to the clitoris, I tried to imagine having the skin that covers my own parts cut off, permanently exposing the clitoris. The horror of that thought sealed the deal. My son was left intact and I have never regretted it.

Posted by: leeellen40 | January 19, 2010 8:56 PM

I was circumcised, and my wife and I chose to have our son circumcised.

It was a pretty easy decision, based on the best medical advice out there -- including our pediatrician's.

It wasn't done for fashion reasons, or religious reasons... solely medical reasons. I know that science isn't infallible, but it's what I go by, it's the best choice I have.

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | January 20, 2010 2:29 AM

More to the point: Can doctors be performing non-medical procedures on non-consenting individuals, with or without consent?

When performing non-consenting procedures on non-consenting individuals in any other context, wouldn't this constitute medical fraud?

So how does this become any sort of "choice" parents can make?

Americans, consider your doctor could not be acting in the be$t intere$t$ of either you nor your child.

Posted by: kogejoe | January 20, 2010 3:37 AM

to Kogejoe: You ask about medical fraud for drs. performing non-consenting procedures -- I ask you if the same babies were consenting to exposed to the things that their mother did while they were pregnant -- smoking cigarettes, drugs, alcohol? Nobody seems concerned about the after effects of these things. Removing a small piece of skin for personal, religious or medical reasons IS the parents choice.

Posted by: tecatesdream | January 20, 2010 9:15 AM

This should NOT even be a debate anymore. It's illegal to sexually mutilate and torture(circumcise) females and it should clearly be illegal to do the same to males. It's disgusting what these corrupt people and those who are in DENIAL will lie and say to either deceive other people or make themselves feel better. First of all The foreskin is NOT just a piece of skin. That is the biggest lie ever! In this day of age it is very clear that it is a very complex organ that is Needed for a lot of things. It's crazy that people are even coming on here and saying these lies. Whether these people want to deceive other people or they are just in Denial themselves, they are clearly Not dealing with the truth. This is completely insane to keep circumcising(the nice way of saying sexually mutilating and torturing) baby boys. They do the same to females in other countries for the SAME bullshit reasons. This country NEEDS to wake up! If it's illegal to do it to females then males deserve the same protection. This NEEDS to STOP and parents who want to do this to their kids need to wake up and think about the mutilation and torture they are really doing with their baby boy. No parent or doctor has the right to do this to any baby.

Posted by: nkolasi | January 20, 2010 10:00 AM

Every cell and part of the body (unless medically interfering in life)is created by GOD or by evolution for a set of purpose. Medical idiots (some scientists) believe on statistics (See the definition of it) and decides the fate of others by creating these studies. How ironic and sad yet people believe on it.

Posted by: shashikantsharma001 | January 20, 2010 10:20 AM

If I had a son, I don't think I would get this done, but I also don't think its the end of the world if someone is circumcised. My friend's son got an infection and had to have a circumcision done later, when he was 3 or 4. Sometimes things happen.
If someone thinks his life was ruined by an otherise successful circumcision, I think he would discover some other reason to complain if he was intact. This is something that rich Americans fret about.

Posted by: didnik | January 20, 2010 2:20 PM

I was circumcised at birth. I never thought about it until, as I aged, I realized that I was enjoying sex less and less. Something was changing and I did not like it. I began restoring my foreskin and discovered that the decrease in sexual satisfaction was because of my circumcision. As I restored my foreskin, sex became as pleasurable as I remember it used to be. The difference between being circumcised and having a restored foreskin convinced me that I lost a lot with my infant circumcision.

Posted by: RestoringTally | January 20, 2010 6:08 PM

I personally prefer my partner to be circumsized as a big part of enjoying intimacy, for me, is good hygiene. It's more difficult for a male to maintain good personal hygiene when they're uncircumsized and the resulting funk isn't something I care to get close to.

But that's only my opinion.

Posted by: AmbrosiaBlue | January 21, 2010 2:23 PM

Ambrosiablue, I hear you, but "the funk" should not be there if a man is vigilant about cleaning. And, well, all things being equal, uncut = more pleasure for the woman.

Posted by: chunche | January 21, 2010 3:43 PM

I was cut at birth and for as long as I can remember I always knew something was different. My father and younger brothers are all intact. I am currently in the process of restoring what was taken from me without my consent. Without my permission. I was born happy and healthy there was no need to do this to me. I should have been given a choice. What was done to me was wrong on so many levels.

Many call it just a "flap of skin", those are the uneducated, ignorant fools that feel all little boys should be cut at birth. Little boys aren't using their penis for sex so HIV and STD risks aren't even a thought. UTI's and other developmental issues are all normal no matter whether you are cut or intact. Don't be lazy show your son how to clean and care for his penis. And NO your son doesn't want to look like his daddy.

There isn't anything attractive about a dried up, desensitized, scarred and mutilated penis. Let your son decide when he is old enough what he wants to do with his penis. It's his. Not yours. Educate yourselves.

Learn more: Nocirc.org, NORM.org, Google search Foreskin Restoration.

Enough said!

Posted by: mikeyboy2k | January 21, 2010 8:37 PM

And what do the child development experts know about this subject? I get the idea that they are on the sidelines? So there is all this hype, and no one is asking how the baby feels about this experience as one of his very first life experiences? No one has a hypothesis about how this affects the child?

I do. I hadn't thought about it, when I had a baby boy. When the dr. asked me, I guessed that we would because I thought everyone did this. Baby boy was not a day old, but he was doing the procedure this afternoon. I asked him if it wasn't painful, and he said that the nerve endings were not developed, and there was really no concern. When the baby came back, he would begin to scream at no apparent cause. I soon realized that when he urinated, he was screaming with pain. Dear God.

So the little boys are born, with however much pain and fear they are dealt. Next: the knife with no anesthetic. Then burning pain as they urinate.

One has to wonder how this beginning life experience affects our boys. But it doesn't take a Ph.D. to have a pretty good idea, if you think about it.

Are moms and dads feeling too guilty to think about this later, as they face the daunting 24-hour a day job? I weighed in as a grandma. Son-in-law was getting the "expert" advice from a nurse friend that this would prevent UTIs--how common are they, anyway, in boys?!? (So far, the 7-year-old has not had one. My circumcised son did have one.) I did my son a disservice, but I have grandsons who were not mutilated for no reason.

I am just amazed at the results of this poll. In the Year 2010? If one were Jewish, it would be a different discussion, but where is the bunk coming from, in America, in the 21st century? How much money do they make on this procedure? must be the key question.

Posted by: anne32 | January 24, 2010 12:12 AM

This is about human rights human advancement. Fortunately western society no longer tolerates anyone performing a clitorectomy on a baby girl. Society rightfully does not tolerate a molester fondling a child. Then why do we tolerate parents who allow doctors to mutilate their boys?

Posted by: lekeniston | January 27, 2010 11:42 PM

Is it possible, for a doctor who has already performed many circumcisions, to psychologically deal with the irreparable harm they caused?

Is it possible for a parent who authorized circumcision for their child and then watched him suffer to deal with the possibility that it was not needed and in fact caused great harm?

Is it possible for a Jew to imagine their people have been wrong for 3000 years?

Can a Jewish mother who handed over her innocent perfect 8 day old baby for penile mutilation deal with the fact that it was never needed, and in fact, great harm occurred?

Until a task force in convened that includes intact men, and excludes practicing Jews, we cannot expect an unbiased decision from the AAP and CDC.

Of course circ does not protect against HIV. We have the highest rate of circ in the world and one of the highest rates of HIV. Duh.

It is up to parents to protect their baby boys, and say NO WAY to circumcision.

Posted by: p_fenton | January 28, 2010 7:33 AM

The bigger question should be, not SHOULD, but COULD doctors even be performing circumcisions for parents?

A child is born healthy. The foreskin is NOT a birth defect. Nor is it a disease. It's as normal and natural as the labia on a woman.

If there is no medical problem to address, how is it doctors are even performing circumcisions, let alone pretend to be letting parents make a "choice" on the matter?

Don't fool yourselves; circumcision can't prevent ANYTHING.

You name it. There is not a single study that says that circumcision can prevent anything.

The African studies?

Have them give you a money back guarantee.

Let's see how "sure" circ prevents HIV THEN.

Posted by: kogejoe | January 29, 2010 9:56 AM

Parents have no right to decide how a little boys' genitals look and feel no more than they have the right to decide how little girls' genitals look and feel.

It's a completely absurd idea, and yet so many Americans today still hang onto to this illogical, paranoid, ignorant idea that somehow little boys are born wrong and have to be corrected fresh out of the womb. You would think that most people would see that this is obviously a fraud, but it seems that common sense and rationality get thrown completely out the window whenever a little boy is born here in the USA.

Nowhere else but in America is this ever considered to be even remotely "medical" in nature. It's seen for the crock that it is.

The fact that this sort of "medicine" is dealt out on little boys as if they were on a factory line and John Q. Public just lets it happen is one of the handful of reasons that I am ashamed to be a American.

I'm sad this for country, I really am.

Posted by: Kruger_von_Kruger | January 29, 2010 11:35 AM

Unfortunately the pole is not valid since any single person can enter as many votes as they want. I have verified this to be the case for this pole as of 1/29/2010 11:36 MST. This is shoddy workmanship on the part of The Washington Post.

Posted by: fluidguy | January 29, 2010 1:39 PM

The text accompanying the poll is a lie; The CDC has not recommended circumcision and I doubt they will.

Most of the US men who have died of AIDS were circumcised at birth.

Research by and Sorrells and by Taylor proves the foreskin is the most pleasure-receptive part of the body.

Posted by: TLC_Tugger | January 29, 2010 4:29 PM

At the Circumstitions website they list 20 reputable studies that show circumcision does not reduce HIV risk, 4 of those studies show that circumcision increases HIV risk. In at least 7 African countries circumcised males have higher AIDS rates than uncircumcised males. So there are also strong evidences that show circumcision does not reduce HIV risk, which is being ignored by much of the pro-circumcision media in the U.S.

Circumcised males are missing about 15 square inches of penile skin and around 20,000 erogenous nerve endings. It amazes me that any parent can be willing to let that much sexual damage be done to their baby son.

Posted by: Steven61 | January 30, 2010 9:24 AM

In Europe, almost no-one circumcises unless they're Muslim or Jewish, and they have significantly lower rates of almost all STI's including HIV.

Even in Africa, there are six countries where men are *more* likely to be HIV+ if they've been circumcised: Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, and Swaziland. Eg in Malawi, the HIV rate is 13.2% among circumcised men, but only 9.5% among intact men. In Rwanda, the HIV rate is 3.5% among circumcised men, but only 2.1% among intact men. If circumcision really worked against AIDS, this just wouldn't happen. We now have people calling circumcision a "vaccine" or "invisible condom", and viewing circumcision as an alternative to condoms.

The one study into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw.

ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost lives, not save them.

Posted by: Humanist3 | January 30, 2010 10:05 AM

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