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Isn’t circumcision just genital mutilation?

Bear with me here.

I know it sounds like I am going off the grid, but as a young parent, I remember being distinctly asked if I wanted to circumcise my son.

I was horrified when I heard it, truth be told. To tell me you’re going to cut a little tiny baby’s natural-born skin off for… what exactly … was not something I could really put my heart behind.

Then they wanted to charge me money for it?


After I made my own personal decision with my partner, I started talking to some other parents, and other mothers mostly, said things like:

  • Oh it just doesn’t look as good if it isn’t cut
  • It’s cleaner, really..
  • That’s just how it should be done

….and I clamped my mouth shut because all I could think was: Is this not the definition of genital mutilation?

I mean, I am truly 100% against female genital mutilation – there is NO basis for this to ever happen, and it is not “cleaner” either – and I know plenty of other people who are equally as against it as I am.

It sounds like the same thing to me honestly — the reasons that some mothers do it to their little girls in other countries, are exactly the same ones I am hearing for why it is done to little boys here.

But for some reason, when it comes to little boys, we have a completely opposite reaction.

Even for non-religious reasons (yes I know the Jewish have this as part of a ceremony), we as a society, tend to lean towards doing this to our boys as a normal surgical procedure and then condone it when it is done to little girls.

If my son in the future, wanted to do this, that is up to him to decide. I know some adult men who did this as they got older, but honestly, it was just societal / peer pressure that they did so, so that they wouldn’t feel “different” in the bedroom.

I am not the one to decide if he should or should not get it done, and my stance was: It is his body and I cannot make that decision for him.

Am I off base here?


  • Jaime

    I’m actually with you on this one. No you’re not off base and I do think it should be a child’s choice once they are old enough to understand. I won’t circumcise my future boys either. I refuse to surgically alter my kids. Also have you ever heard of the David Reimer case in regards to circumcision? Scary stuff. We learned about him in my psychology class.

  • Jamie

    My husband and I discussed it when we found out we were having a boy. My husband isn’t circumcised and he does say sometimes cleanliness can be an issue but men learn to deal with it. So, we didn’t do it for our son either. Unless its medically necessary (one of the commenters mentioned a reason) I don’t see why it needed to be done. If he wants to later on, that’s his decision. His body, his choices.

  • LX

    I feel a little surprised by what has opinion. It is in no way correlated to female circumsion. This procedure is widely encouraged by the medical community in North America to prevent a condition called phimosis. Most doctors don’t encourage vanity procedures in general let alone in newborns. Surgery to correct phimosis is brutal especially for men that are older. As someone who didn’t even pierce her daughters ears because I wanted her to have the choice in permanently altering her body, I was initially hesitant to circumcise. Like anything in medicine it was a risk/benefit analysis to having the procedure done and we felt the health risks were greater to not have it done.

    • Sense

      Oh fascinating! I didn’t know about this. TIL

    • raluca

      Phimosis, the bad one, not the normal one, is not exactly a wide spread condition, though, since the rest of the world’s men go about their daily life without having been circumcised. I would be interested to see studies about the risks of phimosis(percentage of men affected) and the risks of circumcision(percentage of men that had complications after the procedure).

      I think there is no clear cut decision here, since even the American Academy of Pediatrics only says “the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it”, meaning, yes, it has benefits, but it’s a choice for the parent to make, not something that has enough benefits so that they recommend to be done to all boys.

      WHO (world health organization) has studies that say that circumcised men get less HIV infections, but well, the reduction is minimal and actually, condoms are way more effective in the first place and then you don’t have to cut off a piece of yourself.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      So if that’s the case why did my doctors not tell me to do it? it was just a “if you’d like to”… option, not something they medically recommended.

  • Cassie

    You’re not wrong, it’s not appreciably different than the female version. There’s a lot of other factors at play, such as the quantity and type of tissue removed, the age of the child, and the setting it’s performed in, but in essence you’re not wrong. It’s totally a cultural thing.

    I remember going back and forth on this with my husband when our munchkin was born and talking to the doctors about it. We were told that there is currently a higher proportion of people who do it in North America than in Europe, but that the practice came over with the Europeans. I don’t know if this was a theory or if there was documented proof of this, but she said that during the world wars the Nazis used whether or not a man was circumcised as a way of determining if they were Jewish or not, so the practice fell out of favour among other religious groups in Europe through the early and middle portions of the last century. As we didn’t experience the Nazi’s directly in Canada and the US, the practice has continued relatively unchallenged. Since I heard this from a doctor and haven’t seen any studies or documentation of this personally, I’d be curious if your significant other had heard of this.

    At the end of the day, I don’t have a penis, so I don’t know how having or not having a foreskin would affect a person in day to day life. I told my husband that since there didn’t seem to be any distinct pros or cons from a medical perspective, and I don’t have any personal experience on the subject, I would leave that decision up to him.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I have not even heard of this link versus Nazi + circumcision as a way of ratting out Jewish people. That sounds terrible, and not at all what I would have considered…

      Between my partner and I, we decided that it was his body and he could decide to do it later or not.

  • raluca

    I think this is more of an North American thing. This is not done at all in my country, except for, as you stated, the Jewish community. I don’t know any man that has had this done.
    I don’t believe there are any real medical reasons to do it, so, to me this reads like an elective procedure that really, parents should not make on behalf of their babies. Sort of like mothers encouraging their daughters to get breast implants, which is horrifying to me.
    Regarding female genital mutilation, this has 2 huge problems. 1. It’s mostly done outside of medical facilities, by people who are not doctors and this results in a lot of infections and complications for the girl. 2. The long term impact is that the woman can no longer take pleasure in the sexual act. I do not think that circumcision has the same impact on boys, meaning I think that even without the skin, everything still works down there, which is not the case for the girls.
    But as I said, most European men blissfully go through life without any removal, so I really don’t see the point of this.

    • NZ Muse

      Yeah, this is only something I’ve ever heard about online usually in a North American context. Not done here to my knowledge, hasn’t even crossed my mind! And you can probably infer my opinion on this…

      Randomly… I remember reading/watching something where a couple of girls were talking about how weird uncircumcised p-s look, though as someone who never seen a circumcised one I reckon those would look weird to me… I can’t imagine what it would look like and I’m scared to google!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I don’t either. Perhaps that is why I am not really keen on this as a “medically approved” procedure..

  • Sense

    I guess it is more accepted in Western culture for boys because it (incorrectly) started as a cleanliness thing or common religious practice. Also, boys don’t lose any normal biological function due to the procedure (in fact some men get ashamed/made fun of in the locker room & have trouble (?) with women if they haven’t had the procedure done), whereas the female mutilation is rooted in serious power/control over women, and is (rightly, I think) viewed as much worse. I agree with you, though, it doesn’t make sense to do it to anyone, no matter the sex of the child.

    Re: this quote:
    “Even for non-religious reasons (yes I know the Jewish have this as part of a ceremony), we as a society, tend to lean towards doing this to our boys as a normal surgical procedure and then condone it when it is done to little girls.”

    OMG. WHO is condoning it for little girls?!?!! Where?!? I haven’t been keeping up with the news on purpose lately, but that is simply and utterly horrible. UGH. It is seriously time to ban together as women and get rid of all of this kind of crap talk & toxicity.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I can understand them being made fun of in the bedroom later, but I am not so certain then, that they are someone you want to be with. If they cannot accept you for who you are, just because of some stupid skin that is naturally there, that is nonsense to me. It is like a man making fun of me for not having a perfect hourglass figure.

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