Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Circumcision Decision

Like many sensitive/wimpy, hippie-leaning parents in the Seattle area, my husband and I chose not to castrate—er—clip our son’s foreskins. We took the position of the American Pediatric Association that circumcision is essentially a “cosmetic procedure” as proof that we did not need to have it done to our boys. It seemed somehow barbaric to welcome a child into the world and then immediately clip the skin away from the tip of their penis.

In our area of the world, fully fifty percent of young parents are making just this choice, and so the dread “locker room question” (how will your son feel getting undressed in a locker room as a teenager?) was easy to resolve. They will be in good company.

However, being old farts that grew up in a uniform world of foreskinlessness, we had no personal frame of reference for this particular choice, and so it was with horror that we had the following conversation with a male friend recently:

R (who shall remain nameless as I am writing about him without his permission): I was a homebirth and never circumcised. I paid to have it done as an inpatient procedure in my twenties.
Me: Good heavens. Why?
R: Ever tried to have sex with twenty year old girls?
Me: Ugh. No actually.
R: it’s excruciating if you have a foreskin. Young women are too tight.
Me: Umm. Anybody want some coffee? Ice cream?
My husband: Oh no! Now you tell us! I wish someone had told us before this! Our kids are never going to get laid! Ever.
Me: Let’s look on the bright side. At least they won’t ruin their lives by impregnating their high school sweethearts.
My Husband: We’ve ruined our children’s lives forever! Aggghhhh!
Me: I’m just going to go make that coffee now…


  1. I don't mean to discredit whoever this guy is that told you that sex for (or with) an uncircumcised man is painful, but this is really not the experience for the majority of uncircumcised men. Many people say just the opposite- that the foreskin serves important physiological and sexual functions.

    I think you did the right thing for your kids. You preserved their right to make decisions about their own bodies. Good for you.


  2. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong. :)

    Seriously, if you have a basic grasp of physics, it follows that the "rolling bearing" function of the intact penis *should* facilitate less painful sex for both parties. In addition, the 20,000+ fine-touch nerve receptors that are amputatted in circumcision give more control and exsquisite pleasure to the intact male.

    From one hippie-Seattle-non-mutilating parent to another...


  3. Your sons do not have a primal wound, they have their whole bodies. Your friend doesn't have a primal wound either, but he lacked the ability to research the issue so that he could understand his organ of pleasure and precreation and how it works. I suspect that he was also a product of a circumcising culture and therefore found it easier to cut off the most sensitive part of his penis than he would had he grown up in an intact (non-circumcising) society.

    As the previous commenter said, there are fine-touch specialized nerve endings (20,000-70,000 Meissner's corpuscles that encircle the opening of the foreskin). They are not found in the glans, which can be likened to a dead organ by comparison. Without them and the feedback they provide to the brain, the most common complaint of circumcised men is premature ejaculation. A circumcised man can't ride the wave to orgasm because he lacks the nerve endings that will allow him to do so. His accelerator (all those nerve endings) was replaced with an off-on switch. It's why a circumcised male says, "Ooh, ooh, oops. Sorry, honey, it's because I'm so sensitive." No, it's the lack of sensitivity that causes the problem.

    You'll be happy for your sons when you learn what C.J. Fallier wrote in the 1970 issue of the the Journal of the American Medical Asociation, "...the fundamental biological sexual act becomes, for the circumcised male, simply a satisfaction of an urge and not the refined sensory experience that it was meant to be." You have lucky boys. You have protected them. And, when they grow up and have concerns about their sexual experiences, just know there are people you can ask, there is information on the Internet now that will help answer their questions. They can become educated rather than circumcised.

    There is one more quote that may help you relax with regard to your son's intactness, which comes from Sir James Spence of Newcastle Upon Tyme: "Nature is a possessive mistress, and whatever mistakes she makes about the structure of the less essential organs such as the brain and stomach, in which she is not much interested, you can be sure that she knows best about the genital organs..."

  4. Some men have a short frenulum or tight foreskin. These can be remedied without circumcision. Sometimes losing virginity does involve pain for both the man and woman--is there something wrong with this? Seems to me, the looser and more stretchable the foreskin, the less pain, so stretching techniques could've been recommended for him. Your sons are in good company as 80% of the world's men are intact. Do you really think all the intact men in promiscuous cultures like Scandanavia, or the famed Italian, French, and Latin lovers are rushing to the doctor to have their foreskins hacked off? No, of course not, they are--for the most part--thoroughly enjoying their foreskins, as are their women. You did your sons a favor--don't let one man's personal opinion sway you. Intact men are generally more gentle for the woman and many women experience pain and abrasion with a circumcised man.