I recently watched a show on telly about circumcision and it got me thinking.
For the record, unlike me, my two boys haven’t been done. I didn’t want them snipped primarily because the idea of circumcision causes me to retract into myself quicker than stepping naked into a butcher’s cold room. Needles scare me, with their sharpiness and jabbiness, so you might imagine how I feel about cutting bits off. For me it was a no brainer, but apparently some people need more articulate reasoning than, ‘Ouch. No way. Uh-huh,’ before they make up their minds.
According to the report on the telly, there are two opposing camps in Australia: those who want every baby boy born trimmed for health reasons, and those who feel strongly circumcision should be totally banned as barbaric & a human rights violation. The trouble with such hard core ‘all or nothing’ stand points is they tend to be blind to any points which oppose their own.
But for me, watching them preach from their soapboxes, the question which popped into my head was: why was it ever even considered necessary in the first place?
“Congratulations, Mrs Jones, it’s a boy.”
“Oh, he’s beautiful. He’s almost perfect. Except for that bit between his legs what looks like loose chicken skin. That’s a bit ridiculous.”
“Oh, I can fix that in a jiff, Mrs Jones. Nurse! My scalpel, if you please.”
Once I’d asked myself the question, I had to know the answer. So I did some rigorous and thorough research into the origins of why someone thought it necessary to take a knife to my frank and beans. Maybe the idea was I’d perform more substantially between the sheets, or maybe they thought I’d gain a better chance of aiming well at the bowl. I had to know.
I entered my Google search and a click later was on Wikipedia, where all the really useful knowledge on the internet is stored.
As I sat staring at the list of reasons proposed for the popularity of circumcision through the ages, I marvelled we, as a race, had managed to crawl from the sludge, let alone develop the technology where Wikipedia even existed:
A means of humiliating enemies and slaves by symbolic castration. Surely something less drastic would have done. They could have made them sing Karaoke, for example. ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ usually does the trick.
A means of differentiating a circumcising group from their non-circumcising neighbors. I’d have moved to the sane neighbourhood.
A religious sacrifice. You know, if they offered this up as a choice at Sunday services – your foreskin or forty bucks – the plate might do a little better.
A rite of passage marking a boy’s entrance into adulthood. I’d still be sitting at the kiddy’s table. I’d be the oldest child in the village.
A form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility or fertility. Not sure where the sympathetic bit comes into it. Maybe for all the men who’ve endured this ‘magical’ moment themselves.
A means of enhancing sexual pleasure. Oh, I see the problem now. Someone confused foreskin with foreplay.
An aid to hygiene where regular bathing was impractical. If regular bathing wasn’t an option I can’t imagine a baby was made at all. There certainly wouldn’t have been any canoodling in our house, let alone the pitter pattering of little feet.
A means of marking those of higher social status. Seriously? Goes to show money is no guarantee of intelligence. If I had the higher social status I’d have instructed all those with lower statuses to take a snip and have left mine intact.
A means of removing “excess” pleasure. I have seven children. The most pleasure Tracey and I have together is when we manage to sneak off to a cafe for a private coffee together and get to finish sentences and other crazy stuff. Not sure having or not having a foreskin would help in this scenario.
A means of increasing a man’s attractiveness to women. I think flinging open a trench coat and showing a woman your wanga actually decreases your attractiveness and lessens your chances of scoring, but how else would she know?
A demonstration of one’s ability to endure pain. I am not the one, I am so not the one. Neo is the one so go check his pain threshold and leave my nethers alone.
To copy the rare natural occurrence of a missing foreskin of an important leader. Lucky the bugger didn’t have an arm missing.
A display of disgust of the smegma produced by the foreskin. It seems a bit drastic. I mean if the car is covered in mud you don’t start removing panels, you just give it a wash. Right?
A means of discouraging masturbation or other socially proscribed sexual behaviors. I can assure you this hasn’t worked. That or in another dimension there’s another ever so slightly heavier me who never, ever leaves the house.
A male counterpart to menstruation or the breaking of the hymen. Now they’re just making shit up.
Okay, so most of these wouldn’t be considered reasonable in this enlightened day and age, but I have to tell you it wasn’t that long ago one of the above was actually brought up to me as a pro-circumcision argument. It was Master21’s tackle we were dangling a sharp instrument and the major point in favour of circumcision amongst the girls where I worked at that time was how much better his penis would look if we doffed its hat.
Which is to say, they were seriously making this point, not that we seriously considered this as a reason to snip his bit.
Fourteen years later, when Master7 came along, we bypassed the girls at work altogether and had a chat to our doctor. I think the discussion went for half a dozen sentences and was along the lines of:
Doctor: “What are your thoughts regarding circumcision?”
Tracey: “I’m not interested.”
Me: “And I’ve been done. Thanks for asking.”
Tracey: “He means for Joshua.”
Me: “Ouch. No way. Uh-huh.”
Tracey, to doctor: “He might move somewhere chilly and need the extra length. Better not.”
You may already have caught on that, on the whole, I come out against circumcision.
I understand there are health considerations and circumcising an adult male is a big operation, if it needs doing, but this is the decision we’ve made for our boys and we’re comfortable with it. My parents went a different way, and they’re comfortable with that. And I’m comfortable with their decision.
So don’t beat yourself up. I say, let’s allow the independent scientific studies inform us all and let people make the best informed decision they can. Whatever you decide for your boy, I just hope you get balanced advice and don’t only listen to the hard cores on either side of the fence.
After all, it’s a big decision for your little man’s little man.
Bruce started his blog because friends and family kept wanting to know how he managed to feed and clothe such a large family while still having fun and being able to afford holidays and beer. He had no idea, but thought if he started writing things down some sort of pattern might emerge. When not at work Bruce enjoys reading, writing, hiding from his children and not changing nappies. He’s recently taken up the cycling challenge with a view to surviving long enough to see all his kids out the door so he can finally sleep in.