Ten reasons not to circumcise your baby

You’ve probably heard that circumcision rates have sharply and steadily fallen in the US, and in 2009 only about a third of baby boys in the US had their penises surgically altered… And you’ve probably heard all the reasons why circumcision is not medically necessary, and why most of the world doesn’t do this to their babies…… But in case you are still on the fence about it, here are ten reasons not to:

1. Your son will thank you.

2. Your son will thank you for not removing one of his body parts without his willing consent.

3. Your son will thank you for not subjecting him to a painful and medically unnecessary surgery when he is only days old.

4. Your son will thank you for allowing him to experience his sexuality the way nature/God intended him to.

5. Your son will thank you for not having a damaged or dysfunctional penis as the result of botched circumcision.

6. Your son will thank you for having greater sexual pleasure and comfort.

7. Your son will thank you for being able to give his girlfriend greater sexual pleasure and comfort.

8. Your son will thank you for respecting him enough to allow him to make his own decisions about his body.

9. Your son will thank you for following your motherly and fatherly instincts over outdated notions about male sexuality.

10. You son will thank you for loving him in his entirety, exactly as he was born to be.

Thank you for your comments — I want to keep the door open for discussion ! I will, however, edit comments directed at individuals thatย  feel insensitive or inflammatory.

30 thoughts on “Ten reasons not to circumcise your baby

  1. EXCELLENT and simple and true to the core. Our sons will thank us for so very many reasons when we respect their basic human right to genital integrity and grant them all the benefits of being whole and intact as they came into this world. Keep speaking up, Erin!

  2. I almost hate responding to this post, because in principle, I agree…but the fact is that in reality, I can’t. I was not circumcised as a child, and I truly wish that I had been. Not all foreskins are created equal, and the fact is, a foreskin doesn’t add a hell of a lot to a penis. At best, it can add some sensitivity. At worst, it can take that away and add other medical complications.

    • Ryan I am sorry if you have suffered from problems related to your foreskin. What if you were circumcised as a baby and your penis was damaged or deformed as as result? It is true that sometimes foreskins have issues, just as breasts, feet, eyes, and all other body parts can fail to function normally. For the vast majority of people though, these parts work and work well enough that we don’t surgically remove them as infants in order to prevent the very small chance that they might not work ‘perfectly.’ When they don’t work as nature intended, or they cause us suffering, we generally have ways to repair them , especially here in the US. As to what a foreskin “adds,” I think we must pay attention to the growing number of men with normal foreskins, who chose to be circumcised as adults and who have come to deeply regret their decision. We have a lot to learn from them about what’s “missing” when the foreskin is gone.

    • @Ryan…… If your foreskin is as bad as you claim, YOU have the choice of getting a circumcision.

      I was born with a foreskin, but it was immediately removed by circumcision. It was not my choice to have part of my sex organ removed. I have gone to the trouble of restoring my foreskin. It has been worth every tug, every minute that I spent restoring my foreskin, to regain some of what I lost from my circumcision. I am very happy with my restored foreskin. I only wish I had the original one that I was born with.

  3. Ryan – if you wish you were circumcised, you have the option to get that done.

    There is no option at all for someone who was circumcised and wishes they weren’t.

    The foreskin is known to add an awful lot to the penis – in terms of sexual pleasure and mechanics. It is an essential part – it would not have evolved otherwise (and we know that the human foreskin has been strongly selected for during our evolution – probably because of the sexual benefits it confers).

    Some men do have problems with their foreskins, but the majority of these problems can be safely and easily sorted out, without recourse to surgery.

    If you have foreskin problems, seek advice from a foreskin-friendly doctor. Or go to somewhere like foreskin.org and read some objective information there.

    That a tiny minority of men have foreskin issues is not a good reason to advocate neonatal circumcision – the decision should rest with the individual, and no-one else.

  4. I’ve been married 21 years. Raising daughters. Intact because born in Europe. Grew up the only intact male in my family of origin, and in the typical locker room situation, was usually the only intact male in the room. I was so ashamed of my pointed penis that I did not lose my virginity until I met a woman who, from what she told me of her past, had had ample prior experience with intact dudes. She is the person I married.

    It took me decades to come to terms with my penis, one that was perfectly natural in fact, but very unnatural in American eyes. But I don’t regret my life. Being intact in the 1970s meant that while I walked along the open sewer that was college sex, I never fell in. I made a rule around age 18 “no sex with a woman unless the idea of being married to her strikes you as a very pleasant one.”

    Erin, I want you to know that the bits that would have been sacrificed to circ stand at the Ground Zero of my sexual experience. American sex and medical research have not been honest about how those bits contribute to his and her pleasure. And I predict that they won’t be until the typical educated adult American male is intact. In our early years together, my sexual sensations were more intense than I would have preferred. But now, almost everything I feel comes from bits I would not have had my mother gone with American middle class fashion and had me cut in 1949.

    • “…until the typical educated adult American male is intact”

      And that is what was so exciting to me about the recent statistics that show a majority of intact baby boys. The cut one will be the odd man out in the locker room in the class of ’25!

      • I don’t believe the talk at the 2010 World AIDS Congress, claiming that only 33% of boys born in USA hospitals were cut. That conclusion is based on an unfamiliar dataset that is not in the public domain, and the underlying scientific paper has never been released. The only data I trust are from HHS’s annual Hospital Discharge Survey. Those data show a circ rate of around 50%.

        I fear that most boys born into mainstream suburban families living east of the Rockies are still circumcised. And the likely but unspoken reason is that the parents are not comfortable seeing a natural penis every time they change his diaper or give him a bath.

    • dear cosmo~
      lucky you! (good 4 mom:) and lucky wife~!!
      mom 2 an intact son who im sure will thank me later & his wife will too!
      its good 2 know that standing my ground (his dad is intact 2) will bring pleasure to him&his partner years from now as well~i think you were a wise lad not not have sex w a girl unless marrying her was a pleasant thought~i made the same decision at 18 & never regretted it~even tho i was married at 18 to an intact dude (great lover, but sadly 4 me he felt the grass was always greener)~
      3 great kids i wouldnt trade and at 29 i was looking for a new partner took me 17years to find a soulmate~unfortunately being cut he was fully functional in his younger days and is no non=existant~cialis doesnt help:( wish is mom hadnt cut him~we love the same movies & music & he is great about clitoral orgasms~but your wife knows the cervix orgasms are what rock the house! (mine is really high)
      but we could at least try~if he didnt have ed~why is every other commercial 4 viagra~because of all the cut men who lost their sensation & their ability to become & remain aroused with it!!~so glad my son & his mate will enjoy many years of bliss~so pissed that i am denied the joy that all peoples rich&poor, young & old, blk,white,brown&golden should enjoy without fustration&sadness wives of cut men feel~

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You know, growing up I knew a number of guys — all circumcised — who dreaded the locker room situations. And I knew a number of young girls, including myself, who also hated such situations for one reason or another. Growing up with hatred toward one’s body seems fairly common in our culture, sadly.

      • 40-50 years ago, boys and men were completely relaxed in locker rooms. That is gone and I don’t know why.
        Erin, I have long suspected that when a woman emerges from puberty, she falls into an emotional hell as far as being naked around other women is concerned. My wife has told me that she can deal with being naked around men (she speaks from experience before meeting me). What they do is totally predictable; they are fascinated with her groin. She says she can take that in stride (she doesn’t shave). But being naked around women is hell, she says, because women judge each other silently and coolly. Most teen and college women are convinced that their breasts are too large or too small, or their butts are too fat, or fear they have thunder thighs. How to groom pubic hair without being judged for it? But by age 30, say, most women are more positive about their bodies than men of that age are.

        Circumcision is driven by a mindset that says that the fiddly bits on the end of the genitalia are shameful. Women are now vulnerable to this weird obsession. Look at all the adult women who have had plastic surgery done to their vulvas. Thousands of women are convinced that their protruding inner lips make them unlovable. You cannot imagine how dead wrong they are.

  5. Do you know for example the normal age of first retraction is 10-11 in a boy? Do you know that if the foreskin is interfered too much in early childhood or even washed too often in bubble baths it can become inflamed, get infected and scarred? A similar thing occurs with women but we tell them not to have too many bubble baths, and not to cleanse too harshly with soap…not to get their folds of skin cut off! The chance of an intact man treated properly needing to be cut in his entire lifetime is around 1%. Not a reason to institute routine cutting of the healthy – that would be to expose 2-10% of men to complications and 100% to loss of a joyful multi-functional part of their sex organ.

    @cosmopolite I prefer sex with intact men for the reasons you cite. Orgasm is more likely with an intact man and that orgasm is more likely to be simultaneous – the kind that gives both of you the best glow! However much you like him sex with a cut man is more likely to be dry and abrasive and he’s more likely to practice a strange sexual gait which puts the emphasis on out and down rather than up and in. That’s because circ not only desensitises it changes the most sensitive area from the top tip of the foreskin (which is in the middle during sex) to the area of the frenulum/the frenular scar (nearer the end and on the bottom). That’s a fundamental change in sexual dynamics and not a good one as the female internal clitoris is at the top of her vagina. Hundreds of years ago Maimonides referenced the harm to female pleasure through circ so it’s been known a long time. The difference between his view and my view is… he thought reducing a female’s pleasure in sex was the BEST thing about male circumcision!

  6. Thanks for this post. Does my heart good to see another midwife raising her voice to defend baby boys. It’s a cause worth supporting and I support it totally. Foreskins for Keeps–an idea whose time has come.

  7. ann – have you heard of foreskin restoration? a lot of men are doing it – and a lot of women are helping them ‘tug’. i like the idea of manual tugging best. pull the skin to the point of tingling but not pain for a few minutes here & there throughout the day, especially just before sleep. there’s also a device – the TLC tugger that is put out by an engineer and has helped a lot of men. if i was a guy, i think i’d do both – and if i had a guy, i’d be his ‘assistant’. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Ann – I’m restoring my foreskin non surgically. Doing so grows by duplicating the existing remnants. See what this says about what can and can not be restored;
    http://www.norm.org/lost.html “The Lost List” What is lost to circumcision and what can be restored.

    Personally I chose circumcision at a very young age, so I remember my foreskin and the exquisite feel. (“exquisite” is the word used by intact men ONLY). Biggest mistake of my life. But for you, it’s important for me to tell you the (http://www.circumstitions.com/Sexuality.html Sorrells et al. Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis) was first done preliminary that included restored men too. Their restorations nearly restored I think 10% less than intact sensitivity by de-keratinizing the mucosa and glans. Further, having gone through the very noticeable loss of sensation from keratinization (callousing) I know how much can be gained. Just on this point alone, restoration is worthwhile. Restoration also enables a more correct firing of the sexual receptors because they work best by more graduated elongated stretching of the skin. Also he would be growing new sensitive mucosa surface area. Restoration also allows full erections releasing longer length 3/8 inch average along with girth. Sensations gained are felt in depth AND breadth. It’s not linear. He’ll also feel not naked when fully covered (unexpectedly my first thought when this happened to me). There are many ways to restore. Each way works, some faster than others. Much depends on the man, his skin, and what works for his daily habits. I’m now at Circumcision Index CI4. http://www.newforeskin.biz/CI/CIchart.htm
    Many restoration groups on the net and facebook, twitter.

    Consider helping all circumcised men by donating to:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEJhTYK3Z2E Intro to Foregen.org, a non-profit agency to promote foreskin stem cell regeneration
    http://www.foreskin-restoration.net/forum/showthread.php?t=5095 Foregen Financial Disclosure

  9. Thank you SO MUCH for this article, Erin. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think it is SO important that midwives and doulas be proactive in talking to parents about this issue.

    It can make such a difference, and even if you don’t convince every parent – at least you make THEM responsible for what they choose. After you inform them, they can never claim to have “not known better” the way so many parents from the last few generations can legitimately claim.

    Unlike the commenter Ryan, I feel SO fortunate that my parents realized that it was MY body and MY choice – especially in a time when so many parents weren’t even questioning the practice. I have to say – it is absolutely a body part I treasure. The foreskin’s mobility adds functionality that I don’t even want to think about not having.

    Please keep speaking out on this issue! Routine Infant Circumcision is a painful and permanent removal of normal, healthy, sensitive, functional, erogenous VALUABLE genital tissue – this is not a legitimate practice for parents to be choosing for their children, or for ethical doctors to be performing.

    • Thank you Joel! I’m loving all the male voices here. I hardly ever get male comments, but this obviously is the issue I want to hear from men about!…..Men’s words and stories can speak to other men and fathers in a way that women can’t.

  10. Nowadays, most of the strong smart voices speaking out against routine infant circumcision in the USA are women. Most new facts I learn about the most intimately masculine part of my body, I learn from women’s posts and blogs. In recent decades, many women have worked hard to understand their own bodies and choices, reagrding parturition, child rearing, as well as sex. I side benefit of this growing female sophistication has been the ability to think through male sexual and genital issues. This is not rocket science; it mostly requires an alert common sense, and an everyday sense of compassion, and a willingness to question practices inherited from the recent past.

    Nurses, midwives, and doulas have done a great deal to overthrow the American circumcision juggernaut. Pediatricians (e.g., Paul Fleiss) have done a bit. But the obgyns (overwhelmingly male BTW) who perform the vast majority of circs have done nothing to halt the practice.

    Many parents circumcise for reasons they are too embarrassed to say out loud. That seeing an intact boy puts unsettling sexual thoughts and doubts in their minds. The squeamishness and prudishness of the parents. The belief that fellatio is a necessary part of sexual interaction, and that the foreskin makes fellatio impossibly disgusting.

    • Many parents circumcise for reasons they are too embarrassed to say out loud. That seeing an intact boy puts unsettling sexual thoughts and doubts in their minds. The squeamishness and prudishness of the parents. The belief that fellatio is a necessary part of sexual interaction, and that the foreskin makes fellatio impossibly disgusting.

      I think you have hit the nail on the head there.

      But in my mind, that thought makes about just as much sense as the “it will stop them from masturbating!” one–hubby wants to know how many generations it took before people would admit that did NOT work? As for fellatio…surely I’m not the only woman who finds it a bit icky even with a circumcised man unless he has JUST washed off?

    • So true, I am included in that group of parents who circ for reasons they are too emabarrassed to say out loud! Except not so much embarrassed anymore, b/c the need to speak up against rountine circumcision to far more important than my embarrassment.

      We had our son circ’ed 7 years ago because…well, I don’t really know why! I guess I didn’t know any reasons NOT to. I knew, deep down inside, that there really wasn’t any medical reason TO circumcise. But c’mon, intact penises just look weird…don’t they? Except that I’d never seen an intact penis. So my entire perception of “normal” was skewed. Circumcision is just something we do, I thought to myself. And I even had a family physician who I thought was low-intervention. What if, when I asked him about the procedure prior to my birth, he’d respectfully said to me, “Are you familiar with any of the normal functions of the foreskin? It’s actually a very important part of the penis!” That simple question could’ve changed so much!

      Great post, Erin! Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I, too, am glad that so many intact are restoring males are weighing in here.

  11. Thanks, Erin, for these beautiful reasons. My husband and I were torn about what to do with Ezra, being of Christian and Jewish background, but in the end I just could not allow someone to scar him. In the New Testament, it is written that now “circumcised and uncircumcised” are welcome in the kingdom of God. I know that this has become one of my biggest questions for God: Why did you initiate the act of circumcision for the Israelites? For us, our faith was the only reason that we considered it, but just found too many cons to outweigh the pros for doing it. Thanks so much for the insights! Hope you are doing well.

  12. amy, THANK YOU for not circumcising your child.

    most jewish parents i’ve met are relieved to find that there is really no spiritual requirement need for circumcision. i hope this will put your mind to rest too, about “why did god …?” the answer is, god did not. humans did.

    please find a copy of “The Book of J” – the original history of the jewish people. in it, there is no circumcision covenant. jewish scholars know this. jesus also said that circumcision was not of god but of the ‘fathers’, the patriarchs. circumcision was a political control tactic. certainly worked to keep people in line… still does.

  13. I’m a mother of 2 boys. The first had hypospadius, and he is effectively circ because the surgeons used the foreskin to correct the bent penis. Obviously he’s going to be happy that what could be done was done.

    My second son was born in a hospital. He was perfectly healthy. He was routinely circumcised. They asked me and I sort of didn’t think one way or another about it. He was away from me for five or ten minutes and then back, sleeping peacefully without anything in the area that looked in pain. He wasn’t fussy or anything in the hours and days following.

    I think if I would have birthed at home, as I did with my daughter recently, I would have had time to weigh the decision. It would have made me consider circ and how it is part of a legalistic side of current Christian practices. I would have come to the conclusion that God created boys with a foreskin and therefore it must have a purpose. I would have decided that if he wanted to be circ later on for a rare health reason, some personal legalistic reasons, or for cosmetic reasons, it would be his decision to make.

    I hope that my second son will forgive me for not thinking through it. If I have a 3rd son I don’t think I will circ, now that I have worked through my thoughts on this (which might make for interesting discussions with his brothers and father).

    I also ask that all those passionately outspoken on this issue, please continue to speak and to educate, but please also be compassionate and respectful in how you are voicing it. All too often (not in this particular blog, thank you!) I’ve been confronted in the past as if I were one of some fabled generalized group of brutal mothers or uncaring mothers or stupid or fundamentalist, or any other mean label that has little basis in reality. I think most of us just have come from an American tradition that includes circ, and we are in a system that makes it readily available. None of us hate our sons or are hurting them intentionally. First off, penises are just not common conversation for most of polite society, so it’s not really a topic that’s regularly considered and thought through a head of time. Secondly it’s too easily available and almost pushed for in some hospital procedure. Further, most of us are just used to our circ husbands, and many of us whose minds you are trying to change already have circ firstborns and cannot undo a decision already made. We also may have family that will be changing diapers and will be critical of our decisions. We need some grace and peace too as you approach this topic with us.

    thank you!

  14. I’m a little late to this…But with all the responses I’m hoping someone might have something to add. My husband is circumcised…and we have 2 daughters. We’ve been thinking that adding a 3rd child to our family would be nice. I never thought about circumcision much until recently…We didn’t know the sex of either of our girls until after they were born…So obviously circumcision wouldn’t have come up until that point. Since they were girls – it never did!

    My husband says if we have a boy, he wants to have him circumcised. I’ve said, “Let’s compromise! We’ll leave him intact…and if he hates it and wants to be circumcised he can do it when he’s a little older (maybe after 16). This way he can be anesthetized more easily, and will be old enough to take pain killers during the recovery!” My husband absolutely thinks circumcision is the ONLY way. (He was actually adopted by European immigrants to America, I told him had he been adopted as a baby, or even BORN to his parents, he probably would not have been circumcised.)

    At this point…I’m saying “no” to another child, since we can’t come to an agreement on circumcision.

    So…This is a man…FOR circumcision who is throwing out all the standard arguments (I’m cut, my son will be, too!). We’re not religious, so that has no bearing on the decision. I just think like many do…If you’re born with it, why mess with it? None of the info I’ve found online has helped sway his thinking…I’m kind of at a loss.

    • MXeno, very interesting. “Cut is the only way”, “the child should look like the father”, these were things I heard my mother quote or paraphrase when talking about the traditional thinking. I am an intact man, and I simply cannot find reason in your husband’s point of view. If he had a foreskin for even one day he would understand. Not only is it clearly what nature intended as you point out, but it is also one of the essential mechanisms from a sexual point of view. I went through the typical awkward stage over it when I was a kid. Men of my Dad’s generation were almost all circumcised, as were most of my peers. But when I reached a certain age of sexual discovery I realized I was very fortunate. In my 20’s I actually thanked my mother and told her I couldn’t imagine my body or my life without it. I’m simply trying to give voice to the concerns of your son and young men anywhere who are curious or perhaps even disdainful about the decision that was made on their behalf based on nothing real or practical in this day and age. While it is true that the risk of infection was considerably greater during for example the middle ages, that is of absolutely no relevance now. To be intact is to be a man. Period. My attitude has only been reinforced by sexual partners who said that sex with an intact man was simply more intimate and greatly increased the frequency of orgasm. To my way of thinking it’s not even a choice. I also connected with your post because I pray to God that my future wife will share my feelings about circumcision. I am unmarried, but if I were to have a son and his mother would insist on circumcision and I were not able to dissuade her, it would be a deal-breaker. No marriage, end of discussion.

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