Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Son Intact

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Photo by Beth

10.  80% of the world’s male population is intact.

9. It is easier to clean an intact infant’s penis than to deal with open wounds in a diaper which is routinely filled with urine and feces.

8. Foreskins are functional, protecting the glans while containing sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels.

7. It is a parent’s duty to protect his/her child. Circumcision is painful.

6. Pain and shock from circumcision disrupt bonding, breastfeeding, and sleep patterns in newborn infants.

5. Complications include infection, abnormal bleeding, removal of excessive amounts of skin, loss of part or all of the glans, urinary issues, and death.

 4. It is illegal in the United States to circumcise a female against her will or who has not reached an age of majority. Circumcising infant males is discriminatory.

3. There is NO medical benefit to routine circumcision. Removal of the foreskin does not prevent STDS. It does not lessen the chance of developing penile cancer.

2. Once done, it cannot be undone.

1. If it isn’t your body, it’s not your decision to make.

Circumcision is a deeply personal decision. Let’s leave the decision to the person who owns the penis. Say NO! to routine infant circumcision.

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31 thoughts on “Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Son Intact

  1. Great post. I’ve written my story and reasons for keeping my son intact on my blog as well. My hope is that the more we voice these terrible truths the more penises will be saved!

  2. A few years ago a close friend found out she was expecting a son. She told me she planned to have the baby circumcised before leaving the hospital because “a boy should look like his (circumcised) father.” I was practically hyperventilating, but I managed to ask her calmly, “Shouldn’t it be HIS choice whether or not he wants his genitals to look like his father’s?”

    She didn’t get him circumcised.

    I love your list. I will bookmark it to send to other friends who think that circumcision is the ‘normal’ way.

  3. My main reason for having a son circumcised was because everyone else did it. I now know what exactly they do to circumcise a boy baby and don’t want any part of it anymore, especially since it’s not needed. As a natural parent, I choose to leave my son natural! =)

  4. Thanks for sharing. I think that a lot of people have never put much thought into this. It is so sad for the boys who get “routinely” circumcised for no good reason!

  5. Excellent list! I’m more thankful everyday we left that choice up to our son. Every person has the right to bodily autonomy.

  6. Excellent Top 10 list for the carnival! I like that it is a quick run down of the reasons compared to the TONS of reading you can do online. Thanks for participating!

  7. I really wish my husband and I wold have discussed this before my son was born. I left the decision up to my husband and after it was done he mentioned to me that he only did it because he thought he was supposed to. He is very natural minded and he read some articles once we got home. It made him feel like he had violated our son. I really did not want it done, but we never even thought to talk about it tell we were asked after he was born. If we have another boy we are going to break the chain, we should have discussed it more and left it up to our son.

  8. Your list of reasons why is weak.

    10. 80% of the world’s male population is intact. The majority of the world thought that the world was flat once upon a time but we all know that is wrong.

    9. It is easier to clean an intact infant’s penis than to deal with open wounds in a diaper which is routinely filled with urine and feces.

    It is not hard to clean an infants penis. If you leave the foreskin and don’t do a proper job of cleaning he will develop problems too.
    8. Foreskins are functional, protecting the glans while containing sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels.Sometimes its function causes sickness.
    7. It is a parent’s duty to protect his/her child. Circumcision is painful. Vaccinations are painful too, but still get our children vaccinated. Boys do not remember their circumcisions any more than they remember any shots that they receive at that age.

    6. Pain and shock from circumcision disrupt bonding, breastfeeding, and sleep patterns in newborn infants. That is not necessarily true either and without factual support it is just as easy to blame on gas.

    5. Complications include infection, abnormal bleeding, removal of excessive amounts of skin, loss of part or all of the glans, urinary issues, and death. All these things can happen from dropping your baby. And might I add that the frequency of children being hurt from being dropped is the same as problems from circumcision.
    4. It is illegal in the United States to circumcise a female against her will or who has not reached an age of majority. Circumcising infant males is discriminatory. They are not the same by a long shot. It is like comparing apples to orange. Circumcision doesn’t prevent men from enjoying a normal sex life or any other function.
    3. There is NO medical benefit to routine circumcision. Removal of the foreskin does not prevent STDS. It does not lessen the chance of developing penile cancer. Actually there is medical information that suggests otherwise.
    2. Once done, it cannot be undone. We could say the same thing about removing an appendix.
    1. If it isn’t your body, it’s not your decision to make.
    As parents we make decisions all the time about what is right for our children. If you don’t want to circumcise your child than you don’t have to do it, but base it upon something stronger than the red herrings in this list.

    • 10. Normally I would agree with you that it doesn’t matter what everyone else does. I parent based on research and what I believe is correct. However, the locker room argument is a long held argument in favor of circumcision in the US. In light of this, this statistic does become pertinent.
      Your analogy actually works in reverse. People believed the world was flat until science proved otherwise. It has been believed in the US for a couple of generations that performing routine circumcisions on an infant male is beneficial. However, scientific research shows otherwise.

      9. After the initial healing, when infection is at a much higher rate for circumcised penises, cleaning is actually the same for both. Based on that, there is no reason to circumcise.

      8. The function of the foreskin actually does not cause sickness. You might want to check your information on that, as it is grossly incorrect. Even if it was to be true, that would only be an argument to circumcise in the event of an issue – not for routine circumcision of all.

      7. While the argument of vaccination and its effectiveness and the problems and complication it causes are an entirely different argument, it is not comparable to circumcision. Vaccination does not cut off a healthy body part. Memory of a traumatic event does not change the event nor possible problems from it.

      6. There is research supporting the effects of pain on newborn infants. While some families are able to overcome these problems, it does not make it any less true.

      5. I’m not certain how accidental dropping of a child results in excessive amounts of skin loss, loss of part or all of the glans, or urinary issues. Perhaps you would like to explain that? Also, I don’t think that anyone would advocate dropping a child. Again, double check your statistics.

      4. Normal sex life by definition refers to the biological process. Altering the biological function of the penis by definition changes that. While circumcised men can still attain sexual enjoyment and release, that does not mean that it is biologically normal. You might also want to read about how circumcision in men affects sexual enjoyment of their partner. It is illegal to cut off (or to commission such a procedure) any other body part.

      3. The medical information which I assume you are referring to is not valid science. There were many, many problems with the research. Carefully conducted scientific research shows no medical benefit to routine circumcision and is supported by most medical associations globally.

      2. True. However, I don’t see anyone advocating routine appendectomies at birth.

      1. It sounds like this a very emotional topic for you. I would gather the following: you, yourself, are circumcised and/or you chose to circumcise your son, and therefore feel threatened. Considering that there are no medical reasons to routinely circumcise an infant male, I will continue to speak against an unnecessary cosmetic surgery. Just as children must be much older to request other cosmetic surgeries, I think they should also be given an opportunity to learn about the procedure and make their own decision when it comes to circumcision. Informed consent.

  9. However, scientific research shows otherwise. Actually there is a bit of a stand off on that one. Research has proven that there are benefits such as a reduction in the transmission of HIV.

    cleaning is actually the same for both. Actually cleaning is not the same for both. It is easier to keep a circumcised penis clean.

    Memory of a traumatic event There are no memories of a traumatic event so the argument is invalid.

    I don’t think that anyone would advocate dropping a child.
    Of course no one recommends that but statistically speaking the dangers are the same for both situations so your suggestion that it is dangerous is specious.

    You might also want to read about how circumcision in men affects sexual enjoyment of their partner. Scientists agree that the largest sex organ in the body is the brain. Circumcision plays an insignificant role in that.
    The medical information which I assume you are referring to is not valid science. There were many, many problems with the research.

    Since you don’t provide any source we can assume that you don’t have valid science to rely upon and that there were many, many problems with the research.

    It sounds like this a very emotional topic for you. I would gather the following: you, yourself, are circumcised and/or you chose to circumcise your son, and therefore feel threatened.

    I am not threatened in the slightest. I simply am better educated about some of this than others. If it makes you feel good to come up with straw man arguments by all means go ahead.

    • Research showing a reduction in HIV in circumcised men was actually very poorly done. Men were circumcised and given condoms and information on safe sex. Numbers from that group were then compared with the intact population, who did not receive the same information. The actual research was inconclusive, although given the shoddy science, it was later thrown out. Regardless, since infant males are not at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, it’s rather a moot point. With adults, information and safe(r) sexual practices are what lowers risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

      Cleaning of infant penises is the same after the initial wounds have healed from circumcision, as you should never retract the foreskin of someone else. It is adhered to the glans in infants for a reason. In adults, the micro second it takes to pull the foreskin back while washing is negligible. It is not easier to keep a circumcised penis clean. In fact, circumcised infants and men are more likely to develop UTIs, as the foreskin serves as a barrier to dirt and debris while it also has glands to secret proteins which aid in both keeping the glans clean and have antibacterial properties.

      Your claim that children don’t remember circumcision prompted my comment on memory. Memory (or lack thereof) does not negate an experience.

      Dangers of circumcision do exist. Out of 100 Circumcised boys: 75 will not readily breastfeed post-op, 55 will have adverse reactions from the surgery, 35 will have post-op hemorrhaging to one degree or another, 31 will develop meatal ulcers, 10 will need to have the circumcision surgery repeated to fix prior surgical problems/error, 8 will suffer infection at the surgical site, 3 will develop post-operative phimosis, 2 will have a more serious complication (seizure, heart attack, stroke, loss of penis, death), 1 will require additional immediate surgery and sutures to stop hemorrhage, 1 will develop fibrosis, 1 will develop phimosis, 1 will be treated with antibiotics for a UTI (urinary tract infection), 1 will be treated with antibiotics for surgical site infection, Of those who do receive pain medication for the surgery (about 4% of those boys undergoing circumcision in the U.S.) some will have adverse reactions to the pain medication injected

      The foreskin contains 240 feet of nerves, 20,000 nerve endings, 3 feet of veins, and up to 80% of the penis’s skin. That is quite a bit to lose. The extra skin alone allows a penis to enlarge when erect and for the penis to move in and out without abrasion. Let alone the other things that the foreskin does for the penis. That is hardly insignificant.

      While I have not cited my sources, rest assured that I have researched the topic in full. The fact is, the onus is not on me to cite why a biological norm should not be altered. The onus is on the person who wants to cut a healthy body part from another person against his will.

  10. and Jack? To be fair, I did not mark your comment as spam. Askimet placed your comment in my spam. I usually go a week or so before checking spam and deleting it. I just happened to check it today. If I had intended to delete your comment without addressing it, I would have deleted it.

  11. It’s strange to me that this is still a topic for debate. My husband is circumcised but we chose to leave our son intact. No pain! No problems! Easy decision.

  12. Just a few things I’ve learned in my own research:

    * “Circumcision harms the developing brain: . . . [C]ircumcision has long-lasting detrimental effects on the developing brain, adversely altering the brain’s perception centers. Circumcised boys have a lower pain threshold than girls or intact boys.” There is also evidence of “deeper and more disturbing levels of neurological damage . . . .”

    *The foreskin provides immunological defense: “Just as the eyelids protect the eyes, the foreskin protects the glans [the "head"] and keeps its surface soft, moist, and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. . . Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins . . . . Plasma cells in the foreskin’s mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulins, antibodies that defend against infection.”

    *Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, doctors have been claiming for decades that circumcision prevents all kinds of diseases: from AIDS to tuberculosis, cancer to poor eyesight, epilepsy to mental retardation, and many more in varying degrees of incredulity. No other medical procedure has been credited with preventing such a wide variety of diseases. In reality, circumcision began in the United States during the Victorian era. Its function? To punish boys for masturbating.

    *The foreskin provides numerous sexual functions: erogenous sensitivity, stimulation for both the man and his partner, skin needed to glide pleasurably when erect, etc.

    (all of the foregoing from http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/fleiss.html)

    For research on how circ interferes with breastfeeding: http://www.nocirc.org/statements/breastfeeding.php

    HIV: Fauntleroy, Gussie, “The Truth About Circumcision and HIV,” http://www.nocirc.org/2008-07_Mothering-Fauntleroy.pdf

    The United States “has the highest rate of circumcision of any Western nation (by FAR the highest as our rates are about 50% and the next closest is Canada with a rate around 10%). We also have the HIGHEST rate of all STDs of any Western nation (including HIV). Developed nations where 98-99% of their boys/men remain intact have the lowest rates of STDs (including HIV). If circumcision ‘protected’ against diseases[,] . . . we would NOT see these figures to such an extreme and obvious degree.” (see “Circumcision: A Response to Skeptics,” http://www.drmomma.org/2009/07/circumcision-response-to-skeptics.html)

    *Cleanliness: “The most common myth is that it’s cleaner to be circumcised. It’s hard to imagine how this has persisted in an era of soap and running water. But certainly it’s understandable that people do get upset with moist places in the body.
    A woman’s reproductive tract is certainly moist and contains lots of bacteria, yet no one would suggest circumcising females to make them cleaner. Intact boys and children have nothing to ‘clean’ and a post-puberty man can rinse his penis just as he would wash any other part of his body, and just as a woman washes her genitals.” (Edell, Dean, M.D., “Dr. Dean Edell Statement on Circumcision,” http://www.drmomma.org/2010/02/dr-dean-edell-statement-on-circumcision.html)

    etc. etc. etc.

    I have to agree with Mandy – it is my opinion that no healthy, functioning body part should be removed from another individual without his or her consent.

  13. Awesome post – Simple and to the point. It is ridiculous that people will come up with (and pass along, which is worse) so many false reasons for circ just to justify an aesthetic preference. If nothing else, I’m for keeping boys intact because the sex is better for all!

  14. If I had known what I know now I would not have circumcised my son. I left the decision up to his (circumcised) father. After he was circumcised, he did not want to breastfeed for TWO days, which could have killed both my supply and our breastfeeding relationship. After those two days, with some perseverance, I was finally able to get him to latch on and nurse.

    Oh, and Jack, I believe that dropping your child and circumcising them are two different things, with two different sets of injuries and complications. And I hope that neither your nor anyone else would drop their baby to test your theory.

  15. I come from the UK where circumcision is pretty much only ever done for religious reasons. I’ve never understood what the big deal is here, since having a son whilst living in North America. As I understand it the rates of infection/UTIs in the UK are no higher than any other part of the world so either circ has no effect or us Brits are really good at keeping penises clean! lol I’ve also found the argument that a son should ‘look like his father’ rather odd. I don’t recall ever comparing private parts with my mother. Is that what fathers and sons do? If so, how peculiar!! Perhaps that’s another North American tradition, along with Thanksgiving and advert filled telly? ;-)

  16. I’m just speaking to the “memory” portion of the discussion since others have more facts for the other items being discussed.

    Just because a trauma occurs during the preverbal stage of development does not negate the resulting effects on the body’s physiology.

    Anyone who has studied or endured trauma can speak to how body chemistry is permanently altered, memory of the actual event need not be present.

  17. I am a caregiver and have looked after several elderly men, both circumcised and uncircumcised and the UTI’s were higher in the men that were not circumcised. I remember this one man in particular who was not circumcised and had a catheter and it was extremely painful for him to have it changed. The foreskin could not be pulled back without it hurting him tremendously, so it was only done when the nurses changed his catheter on a monthly basis. To clean it in the morning and at night we took small viles of saline to squirt under the foreskin, but that was not enough. He was always suffering from UTI’s. I do believe that if he was circumcised and the head of his penis could be cleaned properly he would not have had as many, and he would not have had to have gone through as much pain when it was time to change his catheter. There was another instance with another man when I had gone to wash him up in the morning I discovered that his foreskin was stuck halfway over the head and it was cutting off circulation to the end of the penis (the same as an elastic band would.) I had to go get a nurse to pull it back down properly, which was quite painful for him. And there were several other men who were not circumcised and it was quite difficult to clean properly, because they didn’t keep it cleaned before they came to the home and it would often hurt them to pull it back to clean under it properly. If it wasn’t cleaned they were at greater risks for UTI’s. So damned if you do (clean it), damned if you don’t.
    Everyone is concerned about how it will affect an infant (which is extremely important to consider), but also consider how he will be affected when he is elderly and might not be able to clean himself and will be at greater risks for UTI’s. Incontience in a senior is a lot different than in an infant.

    • Phimosis can be a problem in men when the foreskin is not properly retracted and cleaned. As you mentioned, in the men you saw, this was not done on a regular basis. In fact, the adhesion that you observed, is actually the body’s response to the dirt and bacteria to which it was being subjected. It’s a defensive mechanism to keep these things out of the urinary tract system. Poor care of the elderly is a very sad state. However, that doesn’t justify a procedure done on someone against their will, when they have a healthy, functioning foreskin.

  18. I’m another mother who regrets the decision I made. At the end of my pregnancy I was so tired and didn’t have the energy to fight my husband. We didn’t know what we were having and I was hoping for a girl. My husband wanted reasons why we shouldn’t do a circumcision. It seemed so important to him, I let him have his way. I made him sign the consent form, I should have known then that I really didn’t want this done to my son. The 1st diaper change after had me in tears. My nephew born a few months after my son just had to have his circumcision fixed. The poor little boy is 3 and knew exactly what was happening (to the extent a 3 yr old can). I know that I can’t change what was done to my son, but the if the baby coming in July is a boy, he will have a penis that is different from his father and brother.

    • I’m so sorry, Kerri. I think the onus should always be on the person who wants to change the biological norm to present research to change the other person’s mind. The fact is, it doesn’t exist. It’s one thing for someone who is pro-intact to do research. There is a lot of research supporting that side, but there isn’t anything a pro-intact person has to do to keep the infant in its healthy intact status. The person advocating circumcision is the one wanting to perform surgery on an infant, ripping the foreskin away from the glans and then cutting it off. Health organizations across the globe empirically state that routine infant circumcision is for cosmetic purposes only. Good for you for standing up for your unborn child. When the time comes that your older son asks about why he was cut, I’m certain your honesty and caring will show as you explain.

  19. What a wonderful post. Thank you so much for drawing attention to this important issue — even as it draws critics to you. Is Jack recommending routine infant-dropping? ;)

    My husband is intact, and I’m sooo thankful, because it made me question routine circumcision before the decision ever needed to be made. He was able to educate me on the function of the foreskin in a very practical way, and I’m amazed that anyone thinks the foreskin doesn’t have a beneficial role in sexual function for both partners.

  20. Thank you for posting this. You finally gave me the courage to share my own feelings with my friends via Facebook. Also, thanks for the information-rich rebuttal to circumcision advocates.
    @Dionna — thanks for the links!
    @Tami — laughing out loud!

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