Full Disclosure: I’m Going to Circumcise My Son
If I ever have a son, I am going to circumcise him. *cleans out inbox to make room for fun emails*
I remember the first time I heard the word circumcision. I was in fourth grade, and it was the first year students at my elementary school were allowed to take sex ed. The boys were separated from the girls and escorted into separate classrooms. A sense of excitement, but mostly fear prevailed through the class. What was going to be discussed? Was I developing like my peers? When could I expect to get my period?
Thankfully for me, my parents had been pretty forthcoming with the basics of sex education from the time I was quite young. I knew that boys had penises, girls had vaginas, and when you put one in the other, babies were made. But who the hell knew girl parts were UNDERNEATH the woman, and not behind your mom’s circa 1974 bush? I remember growing up and hearing diaper commercials touting “leak protection in the front for boys, and in the middle for girls”. DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND THERE’S GOING TO BE BABY GIRL PISS EVERYWHERE? For this kind of in-depth detail, I had to rely on modern public sex education.
So I recall being particularly baffled when my teacher was describing the proper technique for cleaning your penis, in particular making sure to pull back the foreskin (gently as to avoid discomfort or bleeding), and washing with soap and water both inside and outside the foreskin. I had never made any special effort to clean my penis beyond simply running the bar of soap over it like and other part of my body, and it was then that it occurred to me that I had been living my entire life with an unclean penis, and I much preferred it when Miss Bryson was reading A Wrinkle in Time to us.
I went home that afternoon confounded and scared. I went into my room, and tried to pull back my foreskin as our teacher had instructed. I tugged and tugged. Nothing. Over the next few days, I had discussions with my fellow friends. All seemed to have some sense of how it all worked, but no one quite clearly. This demanded that I speak with my next door neighbor, Joe, who was three years my senior, and at 11 years old, would surely have all the answers.
When Joe’s explanation mirrored that of Miss Bryson, my heart sank. I began to wonder if I had it backwards and circumcision was actually a procedure of cutting the penis in order to create a foreskin.
“What’s the normal way?” I asked him.
“Well, you’re born with the foreskin, and that’s normal, but it’s most common here that parents have their kids circumcised.”
I had never had any operation or elected to have parts of my penis removed. There were no scars, no pain, yet I could not for the life of me find my foreskin. Something felt awfully wrong, and violating.
Later that evening I confronted my dad. “Dad, I can’t find my foreskin.”
“That’s because you’re circumcised.”
What followed was 20 minutes of me yelling at my dad, telling him how I’d had something taken away from me against my will, how it should’ve been left up to me to decide. I was 8-years-old. My dad’s main retort – one echoed even more strongly by my mom, would be one that would continue to confuse me as one of the most inane explanations I could hear a parent giving a child regarding their circumcision:
“We wanted you and your dad to look the same.”
I wouldn’t know it at the time, but there were countless reasons beyond my schvonce looking like my dad’s (which no 8-year-old’s looks 1/2 the size of it) that I’d come to be glad I was circumcised, all unmentioned by my parents. I remember the first such argument I heard against circumcision came from a fellow high school classmate of mine.
“You know the foreskin is the most sensitive part of the penis? You could be way more sensitive down there.” You mean to tell me I could come in even less than 30 seconds? Sexual pleasure isn’t enough of a driving force in my life already, so sign me up! All my life I’ve been wishing I had a less sensitive penis, and this argument was immediately lost on me.
It wasn’t until I started escorting that I encountered other penisia and began to form an opinion on what it’s like to interact with someone else’s uncircumcised penis. One such occasion led me to a prospective client with cerebral palsy who it turns out was a horrible person (@ 1:45:45). This might come as a shocker, but it turns out that having CP doesn’t make washing your junk any easier, especially if you’re uncircumcised. It was because of this encounter that I came to learn what smegma was. While I’m not making the case that uncircumcised penises are less hygenic, it has been my understanding that more care is required to keep those penises clean, and it has been my experience that that care is paid less often.
There are numerous conflicting studies and reports backed by legitimate scientific communities supporting both sides of the circumcision debate, but one of those sides clearly advocates that circumcision reduces the risk of STD transmission, something noteworthy in impoverished areas (Africa) with restricted access to condoms and sex education. If that argument holds true, it certainly could have a tremendous impact on healthcare in those areas, but I’d imagine the argument holds little bearing in places where Miss Bryson teaches.
So in Western societies the surgery is frequently classified as cosmetic, and I think that’s a fair description. I do have friends who have been circumcised as adults, and there seems to be a healthy online community of men who’ve elected to have the surgery. Most of the complaints I’ve heard from uncircumcised friends concern their foreskin not fully retracting when they achieve an erection, or discomfort wearing condoms. But all in all, it seems like most men, circumcised or otherwise, range from contentment to staunchly in support of their penis’s current state.
And I guess that’s my own view today. I’m glad I’m circumcised. I’m glad I get away with only the most cursory of washing. I like the look of my penis, and prefer it to the look of uncircumcised penises, a view which most of my female friends echo (though this would presumably be different in a culture where foregoing circumcision was prevalent). I was teased throughout school for having exceptionally large ears. When I was an infant, my parents considered having them pinned back, but ultimately opted not to. 18 years later, I found myself under a surgeon’s scalpel for elective cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately, due to the incompetence of my surgeon and the increasing difficultly to alter the ear’s cartilage with age, the surgery was botched. There are times when I really, really wish my parents had elected to have that surgery when I was younger, enhancing its effectiveness, alleviating much of the harassment I received growing up, and saving me the memory of my recovery time, and oh yeah – several thousand dollars.
There are lots of cosmetic procedures children undergo, braces being one of the most common. Even manually severing the umbilical cord at birth is believed to be an unnecessary procedure as discussed here and shown here. Maybe kids would be better off if they didn’t endure those procedures, but most seem to be doing alright.
There is defense of circumcision that does fascinate me, and that’s Jews who say they aren’t religious or practicing, but who use the religion they don’t practice specifically when defending circumcision. That’s one helluva practice to choose not to discard when it comes to being a non-practicing Jew.
While researching circumcision I read a variety of articles and videos concerning the matter. If you want a non-biased, medically straightforward depiction of circumcision, I suggest you watch this (NSFW, contains graphic content). It was tough to watch some parts of the procedure for sure, though I don’t know of any surgical videos that put me in the mood for lasagna.
There are most certainly medical complications (some historically tragic) that have resulted from circumcisions gone awry. But there are medical complications that have compelled many to circumcision, and the practice seems to be regarded as safe by the medical community. What is clear is that it is not necessary outside of extreme circumstances. What is unclear is what impact the procedure, having a penis that looks different, etc. might have on a child psychologically. I’m glad I was circumcised, but had I not been, I’m sure I would be equally satisfied. The benefits of being uncircumcised have never really resonated with me, but similarly the benefits of being circumcised seem to mean little to my penile counterparts.
It’s a complicated, charged issue to be sure. But it also seems like there are far greater causes affecting United States children right now that could be taken up. Focusing on reproductive rights, education, and job preparation all seem like issues having a far greater impact on our children’s future than what their penis looks like. And whatever decision is made, parents should let their sons know that it was made with careful consideration and love. Personally, I hope that’s a decision I don’t have to make for a long time.
FREE Porn Pick of the Week (NSFW): Brianna Banks Gets F*cked by her Stepdad (this scene and others will be part of next week’s article discussing ethics within porn plots themselves)
For more from Eric Barry subscribe to the Full Disclosure sex-positive podcast now and follow him on Twitter.
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