Making the Cut: The Circumcision Quandary
“The first cut is the deepest, Baby I know” –Cat Stevens
I am Jewish and I am circumcised, both of which were not of my choice. This is not to say that I have any problem or issue with being Jewish, it was just the bloodline I was descended from. On the other hand, if somehow I could wind back the clock and do it all over again, I would remain Jewish, but kindly refuse the circumcision when offered.
This thorny issue became an issue when my son came into the world a few years back. My wife and I were adamant about “not carving” the boy, and while we weren’t ready to become anti-circumcision activists, we just really didn’t see the point in subjecting our boy to something that seemed wholly unnecessary. A few family members (why is it always the family?) that are a bit more conventional than myself, took issue with my lack of enthusiasm for circumcision, cautioning me that it was both a heritage thing, as well as a cosmetic obligation. “He won’t look like his father!” a certain family member cautioned me. My response was a mix between incredulous and mild indignation.
Without overstating the obvious, the issue of circumcision (in this case I am only contending with male circumcision, as female circumcision [or genital mutilation] remains illegal in the United States along with most of the world and is beyond any sane rationalization) is knotty and highly emotional. Recently, a group of “intactivists” marched on Washington D.C. to honor Genital Integrity Awareness Week, as well as protest a practice that many deem at best, unwarranted, and at worst barbaric. In the U.S. the only industrialized western country to practice circumcision, 56 percent of male infants were circumcised in 2006, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics claim the benefits of circumcision are not sufficient enough to recommend the procedure. Still, the majority of Americans unflinchingly and obediently adhere to the status quo for religious reasons, perceived health and hygiene benefits, as well as cosmetic preference.
Back in 2005 much noise was made about the proactive benefits of circumcision in regions of Africa where the AIDS virus was highly prevalent. According to reports, the incidence of contracting HIV was somewhat decreased among circumcised males who practiced unprotected sex. While I am all for taking a stand against the AIDS epidemic, I find obvious holes in this argument that are too numerous to list.
The real issue here is whether to cut or not to cut. This common procedure, while many in the medical profession would argue is relatively painless and benign, has been proven to be physically impactful on both the short-term as well as the long-term. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for circumcision, I would argue that the decision should be a personal one, and if you do elect to carve your child, you should be prepared to answer some awkward questions down the road–questions that will no doubt be more troublesome than “why doesn’t my weenie look like yours?”
So it goes without saying that this is a highly charged subject matter, and I am genuinely curious how my readers feel. Do you think it is barbaric and should be outlawed post haste? Should this be a personal decision among parents and families? Do infants have rights on this matter? Is this an issue best left to God and medicine? Or is all this talk about weenies just yucky?