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A Case Against Circumcision

When I asked him, Dad said that he didnít want Chris to feel different, and at the time, everybody was circumcising their boys.

I thought back to the Somali women I had cared for, all of which had been victims of female genital mutilation. My job as their doctor was not only to care for them but to help educate them in order to prevent them from putting their daughters through the same disfiguring surgery. When I asked them why they would want to do something so traumatic to their daughterís genitalia, they all said, ďWe donít want her to look different than the other girls.Ē

So we don’t feel… different?

Listen to us! Why are we cutting our children so that they donít feel different? I just donít understand. Why did my parents feel the need to cut my brother when his own father wasnít even circumcised? What is wrong with our bodies the way theyíre born? Why do we feel the need to mutilate our bodies in the name of religion, cosmetics, or societal acceptance?

Contrary to some reports, thereís no proven medical reason to circumcise a boy (or a girl, for that matter). Pediatricians agree that, as long as a child is taught to clean under the foreskin, penises are perfectly healthy and beautiful just the way theyíre made, and thereís no health benefit to surgically altering the penis.

So why do we do it? I understand that thereís a long cultural history in Judaism around circumcision, so I can cut them some slack (although thereís also a long history around cutting a womanís genitals in Africa — does that make it right?).† As for the rest of us, why are we even doing this? Do we think God made a mistake by creating penises with foreskins? And if weíre doing it for purely cosmetic reasons, donít you think we should allow the child to make his own decision when heís old enough to choose? What message are we giving our newborns? Why are we whisking them off hours after birth to have surgery — usually with no anesthesia? What kind of welcome to the world is that?

Loving yourself exactly the way you are

If youíre a parent who chose to circumcise her sons, Iím not trying to make you feel bad. Whatís done is done. You made the best decision you could at the time, with the guidance of those who were helping you make this decision, and I fully support you for doing what you thought was right. But if you donít have kids yet or are pregnant and have to make a choice soon, please consider allowing your boys to keep the bodies they were born with.

The website I founded, Owning Pink, is all about encouraging you to be authentic, to love yourself exactly the way you are, to appreciate and honor your bodies — imperfections included — and to live life with loads of mojo. Why not raise our boys to Own Pink as well? So what if your son looks different in the locker room. Encourage him to embrace his difference, to celebrate his wholeness, to honor diversity. And if he decides later on that he wants to undergo an elective, cosmetic surgery, support him in his autonomous decision but remind him that heís beautiful and perfect just the way he is.

7 Reasons Not To Circumcise Your Baby

  1. Thereís absolutely no medical reason to do so. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision does not make the penis cleaner — it just crosses off one more area that needs attention in the shower. It doesnít reduce the risk of STDs, bladder infections, penile cancer, or penis infections.
  2. The surgery carries risks — and yes, while I have never been personally responsible for pulling a Lorena Bobbitt on a poor, defenseless baby, I have seen little boys get the ends of their penises cut off as the result of circumcision. And remember, if you give birth at a hospital that has residents, itís often the intern performing the circumcision!
  3. Many swear that having foreskin helps prevent premature ejaculation and can lead to longer lovemaking.
  4. God doesnít make mistakes — and the body was made with foreskin.
  5. Most countries do not circumcise their boys. Why should we?
  6. A person should have the right to choose whether they undergo a purely cosmetic surgery that cannot be undone.
  7. Circumcision HURTS! While some swear that babies cannot feel, I have watched them when I cut their little foreskins. And they definitely feel pain. Maybe they donít remember it, but somewhere in their little budding psyches, they might. Do we really want a childís first experience in life to be this pain?

My colleague, best-selling author of Womenís Bodies, Womenís Wisdom Dr. Christiane Northrup (who also wrote the foreward to my book!), agrees with me. We need to stop circumcision. We just do. It has to start somewhere. Please spread the word.

What do you think? Did you circumcise your sons? Are you glad you did? Do you wish you hadnít? As a lover, do you prefer circumcised penises? Uncircumcised ones? Do you think we should be promoting this procedure? Banning it? Speak up — and feel free to disagree with me! This is worth talking about.

Related Links:
Making the Cut: The Circumcision Quandary
Stop Male Genital Mutilation

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at†LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities -†HealHealthCareNow.com and†OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

421 comments

+ add your own
4:01AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

thank you for sharing

3:09PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Yes, it should. It's no different than female circumcision.

4:30AM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

3:52PM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

there's NO evidence circumcision offers any protection against HIV. However, there IS evidence that having a foreskin does. Worldwide statistics certainly support the clinical evidence that circumcision increases the spread of HIV, just as it does for all infections which can afflict genitals. On top of that there are skin conditions which can only occur in circumcised penises. As far as health goes, circumcision is a disaster.

2:32PM PDT on May 16, 2012

Circumcision is wrong unless you are removing someone's foreskin 1) because of cancer or gangrene or 2) because they are an informed adult of sound mind who has decided he wants his foreskin removed.

10:32AM PST on Feb 2, 2012

Thanks.

1:57PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

@Megan Z: "There is strong evidence that circumcision reduces HIV infections"

I read your article, Megan, and it hardly qualifies as "strong evidence". Nothing is said about the correlation of HIV to number of sexual partners for either circumcized or uncircumcized men, for example. But even if this is true, that doesn't mean that circumcision is a good or preferable way to avoid HIV. Abstinence is a FAR more effective way of avoiding HIV. As is amputating the entire penis. The end does not justify the means. Circumcision is mutilation of the human body. It's not necessary to avoid contracting HIV. There are better and more humane ways of doing so. That's where our efforts are best placed. NOT in promoting the mutilation of half the human population.

Even your "study" states that the HIV infection rate in uncirced men was less than 3%. So 97% of the men would be circed UNNECESSARILY! Not only that, but circing would not eliminate the risk of HIV, just reduce it. So half of that 3% would get HIV anyway. This "study" was pushed by people with a religiuos agenda, and was not scientific at all. If someone wants to circ their own body, fine. But no one should be allowed to circumcize another person without their consent. Period.

12:19PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

Megan Zehnder, you state that there is "strong evidence" that circumcision protects against HIV, supporting your claim by referring to studies performed in Sub-Saharan Africa.
You are from the USA, right? Yet you use findings designed and performed in the Sub-Sahara as a reason to justify subjecting baby boys (who can't have sex!) in the USA!
Why do you think that findings from third world countries are projectable onto developed nations? Since the HIV pandemic is of 30 years' standing, why don't you have any evidence from your own country - or any developed nation - that circumcision offers some protection?
The AFAO of Australia (a branch of the Australian Public Health), following due research in Australia, stated in 2008: "Circumcision has no part in the Australian HIV epidemic". A similar position is taken by health authorities in Europe. As the AFAO mentioned in its report: The USA has the highest incidence of male circmcision in the industrialized world (about 80% of U.S. men are circumcised), yet ALSO has the highest incidence of HIV transmission in men!

Conversely, in Europe circmcision is very uncommon. Yet Europe has the LOWEST incidence of HIV! A large study on circumcision involving over 60,000 US men recruited from San Francisco STD clinics was undertaken by Mor et al. in 2008. It found NO DIFFERENCE in HIV infection between the circumcised and uncircumcised men

12:18PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

Megan Zehnder, you state that there is "strong evidence" that circumcision protects against HIV, supporting your claim by referring to studies performed in Sub-Saharan Africa.
You are from the USA, right? Yet you use findings designed and performed in the Sub-Sahara as a reason to justify subjecting baby boys (who can't have sex!) in the USA!
Why do you think that findings from third world countries are projectable onto developed nations? Since the HIV pandemic is of 30 years' standing, why don't you have any evidence from your own country - or any developed nation - that circumcision offers some protection?
The AFAO of Australia (a branch of the Australian Public Health), following due research in Australia, stated in 2008: "Circumcision has no part in the Australian HIV epidemic". A similar position is taken by health authorities in Europe. As the AFAO mentioned in its report: The USA has the highest incidence of male circmcision in the industrialized world (about 80% of U.S. men are circumcised), yet ALSO has the highest incidence of HIV transmission in men!

Conversely, in Europe circmcision is very uncommon. Yet Europe has the LOWEST incidence of HIV! A large study on circumcision involving over 60,000 US men recruited from San Francisco STD clinics was undertaken by Mor et al. in 2008. It found NO DIFFERENCE in HIV infection between the circumcised and uncircumcised men

11:44AM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

There is strong evidence that circumcision reduces HIV infections: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-20/circumcision-reduces-hiv-infections-76-in-south-african-study.html

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always feeding birds =)

Thanks for the ideas and always use only real organic butter .

I can't afford real butter.

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