When I knew I was pregnant with a boy I had no dilemma to face about his penis. I am a Spaniard and circumcision in Spain (as in most European countries) is a procedure you only know about if you have met someone who has suffered phimosis (a condition of the penis where the foreskin cannot be fully retracted) in his adolescence or adulthood, or if you are Jewish. I knew about circumcision because in my twenties I had a boyfriend who suffered phimosis when he was fourteen years old. Before that, I only knew it was something Jewish people would do to their male babies, but I had not a clue of what it involved exactly. My son´s penis was not an issue and was not in jeopardy of any kind.
My son is Aboriginal. When my son´s father knew I was pregnant with a boy, he also had no dilemma to face about his penis.
It was clear to him that by the age of fourteen he would be initiated by the male members of the family and become a man. He would be taken into the Aussie outback escorted by his uncles and other relatives and one of the clan elders would pull his foreskin forward and twist it for an easier and cleaner cut in a sacred ceremony. As he was calmly explaining me the procedure and how important it was for my child to go through this ritual, my face was contorting in funny ways, not being able to cope with the terror that this was causing me. I could only point at his penis and state he did not go through that ritual himself, to which he replied: “And I am ashamed of it.”
When I knew my son´s father wanted to get him mutilated I was determined to stop him: not even an Aboriginal ritual, regardless of my son´s ancestors, was an excuse to cut my son´s doodle. Over my dead body!
There once was a reasoning for it, though: hygiene. If you lived in the bush with limited access to water, dirt could accumulate under the foreskin and cause an infection. In the old days, that made sense. But it doesn´t anymore. We have access to running and potable water and hygiene can be maintained with very little effort.
I don´t know about the Jewish reasoning, so I cannot give my opinion about it. But living in a country where circumcision is practiced on babies as a normal procedure, I learned that the non-religious reasons are hygiene and prevention of phimosis.
Well, I had a look at the Internet and it seems that only one percent of adult males suffer phimosis. Which makes “prevention” a very poor motive to take a baby through the mutilation of part of his genitalia. When it comes to hygiene: as pointed out before, we are lucky enough to have running water and the possibility to wash the penis (nice and clean) before having sex. I think we can very well eliminate that reason as an absurd excuse for mutilation.
However, I understand that prevention is important even if we know that statistically, 99% of men are out of danger and that hygiene is essential for 100% of them. If you are a parent and are worried about that 1% of possibilities or your son having a stinky doodle, I have a solution which is far nicer to your baby boy. Although I found that it can be culturally confronting.
This is what doctors in Spain tell parents when they take male newborn to their first check-up: some extended knowledge that most parents already know about it prior to this visit: “When you are bathing the baby, pull his foreskin backwards very gently”. And that is what a boy´s parents do. The warm water helps the skin to dilate and it makes it easier to draw it back. You don´t force the foreskin back, you do it gently for months or years, not even every time, it doesn´t even need to be very often. When the boy is old enough he does it himself.
This procedure results in two things: the foreskin being able to retract easily after time and while the boy is young, thus phimosis won´t be an issue later on. Also, the boy learns to keep his doodle clean, as every time he does it in the bath or the shower he is washing anything that might accumulate under the skin at the base of the glans (like skin fat in young kids).
Now, the first time I told an Aussie friend about this, and here comes the cultural confrontation, she opened her eyes very wide and told me straight that to touch my son´s penis in that way was sexual abuse. Allow me to say that whoever thinks that this is sexual abuse is quite stuffed in the head. From my point of view, a culture that accepts genital mutilation as the norm and with no good reason whatsoever is perpetrating a massive and very violent abuse on their children, and I could foresee one of those cultural clashes that end up nowhere.
In a video posted on The Good Man Project (Dude Dad Debate) about circumcision, I also knew that “weirdness” is a factor for parents to decide whether to circumcise their boys. I do have an opinion about this: seriously?! If a parent asks females what they think about a non-circumcised penis and he gets an answer like “oh, it is so weird…”, I think the right answer is not to circumcise their sons in order to be mainstream but to consider if they would like their sons to mingle with women that are capable of making that judgement about their physical appearance. It would be a good answer also to send them to Europe to have sex when they grow up, where the mainstream is a perfectly healthy penis with its foreskin included.
The first time I saw a circumcised man I was 25-years-old. This is in my tenth year of having sexual relationships. I saw his penis and said: “oh, what happened?” To what he answered: “Never seen a circumcised penis? I had phimosis at fourteen”. Me: “ok, cool”. End of the conversation, back to the situation.
If you think that in the opposite circumstances, your son can have any other remark about his penis by the woman he is having sex with, don´t circumcise your son, teach him to spend his time with people who are worth it and can see beyond the physical appearance of his penis.