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olivier5's avatar

Did you circumcize your male kids?

Asked by olivier5 (3074points) October 18th, 2016

I was reading a piece on the history of homophobia and found this quote:

Whereas the Greek term for the male genitals, medea, was an entirely neutral term having no positive or negative connotations, the Hebrew term for the male genitals, erva, means “hideous flesh.” Virtually every psychologist, anthropologist, and student of comparative religion now recognizes that the Hebrew ritual ceremony of circumcision is a muted form of castration and a symbolic attempt at genital mutilation having virtually no justification in terms of hygiene.
http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/homopho1.htm

I agree, although i don’t see it as entirely symbolic: there is some actual damage to gland sensitiveness.

So, if you opted to circumcize your kids, why did you do so, and would you do it again today?

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25 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Circumcision is common in the USA where I live. A niece, who is a children’s doctor and jut had her first child (a male) was asked if she and her husband, also a medical doctor, had the child circumcised. She said that they did.

I asked her four questions. All were based upon a few responses from previous questions on this site about the same topic.
I
1. Was the decision based on potential health issues?. She said yes, that their medical training shows that males are more likely to succumb to disease and spreading it from nozzle being circumcised.

2. Was it the practice of medical staff to encourage new parents to have their son circumcised?. She said that, no, it wasn’t or shouldn’t be. They were trained to explain the pros and cons and let the parent(s) decide.

3. Was the fact that circumcision is a culturally influenced a factor? She said no.

4. I told her that there were men who felt violated by having a parent choosing to have them circumcised and not allowing them to have the choice. I gave the example of baby females having their ears pierced. She said that this comparison hadn’t occurred to her before (she chose not to have her ears pierced unlike her older and younger sisters), but that it wasn’t a similar comparison.

The gland sensitivities theory of uncircumcised males makes sense. So I suppose it comes down to whether to keep their son’s penis clean and free from disease or risk it in exchange for better sexual stimulation.

olivier5's avatar

I don’t understand the medical reasonning here. If it was proven that cutting one’s ears off would slightly reduce the chances of ear infection, would your friend cut her children ears off?

cazzie's avatar

No. Never. It’s child abuse.

Kropotkin's avatar

Were I to have male children, I would not ask to have their foreskins surgically removed.

It is a stupid procedure with no redeeming benefits, and is basically abuse and mutilation.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Oliver There is no proof that cutting a child’s ears off will reduce earinfections, unlike proof that circumcision can reduce a variety of diseases. It is an inaccurate comparison.

With that said, what the doctor niece shared proved no necessity to have a male circumcised without consent as they were educated on how to keep their penis cleaned and why.

janbb's avatar

I think there is so much cultural bias around this issue on both sides that it is not really productive to try to discuss it on an supposedly logical basis. My sons,born of a Jewish mother in the States were circumcised; my French grandsons were not.

FWIW my small and thoroughly unscientific experiments with male sexual pleasure have shown no apparent difference between circumcised and non-circumcised males. Of course, we have no controls.

DominicY's avatar

All I can say is, if there was some idea that baby girls should have a part of their genitalia removed upon birth, it would be seen as anti-feminist, anti-woman, abusive, and culturally backward. But since it’s men, it’s not as much of an issue.

I will not have my future son(s) circumcised, unless they were born with severe phimosis, but even that can be hard to diagnose as the foreskin is naturally tighter at a young age and loosens over time.

Even if there was no chance of reduced sensitivity (there may not even be), that wouldn’t affect my decision. The circumcision craze in the West is largely limited to the U.S. You go to Europe and it’s simply not done there, but it’s not as if everyone in Spain and Latvia is swimming in penile disease. Those reasons were brought up after the fact to justify an already extant practice. It isn’t that hard to learn how to clean down there, either way.

That said, there must be some reduced sensitivity. Speaking as an uncut male, I know how incredibly sensitive the glans is; contact with fabric can even be painful. A cut guy has to experience contact with fabric all day, so obviously some sensitivity is reduced. Doesn’t mean it will affect enjoyment of sex, though.

Seek's avatar

My son is uncut. He’s more than welcome to have any elective surgery he desires once he is of the age of majority. The state of his penis is not my choice to make.

olivier5's avatar

@janbb I think there is so much cultural bias around this issue on both sides that it is not really productive to try to discuss it on an supposedly logical basis. My sons,born of a Jewish mother in the States were circumcised; my French grandsons were not.

As an “uncut” myself, I am squarely against the practice but I can sort of understand if the parents do it for religious reason, like if the whole family will hate your gut forever for not doing it, you know? It’s just a little piece of skin right?

On the other hand, @DominicY is right when he says that if there was some idea that baby girls should have a part of their genitalia removed upon birth, [however small] it would be seen as [...] culturally backward.

@janbb FWIW my small and thoroughly unscientific experiments with male sexual pleasure have shown no apparent difference between circumcised and non-circumcised males. Of course, we have no controls.

Yes as far as the final florish is concerned. But the sensitivity of the organ must be affected. In my own thoroughly unscientific experience with a sample of 1 (one) Jewish girlfriend, she said that cut boys last a little longer than uncut ones… ;-)

olivier5's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer There is no proof that cutting a child’s ears off will reduce earinfections, unlike proof that circumcision can reduce a variety of diseases. It is an inaccurate comparison.

It was not a comparison, it was a question: IF there were proof that cutting a child’s ears off will reduce the probability of ear infections by say 3%, would you cut your children’s ears off?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@janbb My experience with male partners is different than yours.

@olivier5 “Lasting longer” is more often due to age when it comes to the male.

And no, I wouldn’t have my child’s ears cut off, just as I wouldn’t have my child circumcised or their ears pierced. It would take a deformity that seriously hindered their lifestyle in order to consider surgery without their consent.

FlutherBug's avatar

I don’t know, I’m young and don’t have kids, it just seems really weird to cut genitals, no?

olivier5's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer “Lasting longer” is more often due to age when it comes to the male.

I think there must be a difference in excitability between cut and uncut, given that an unprotected gland is constantly exposed to fabric, dryness, etc. Granted that there’s no data. I certainly agree that age is a factor there, but independent from cut/uncut.

My experience with male partners is different than yours.

So what IS your experience, then?

olivier5's avatar

@cazzie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCSWbTv3hng

That was really good, fun and informative, thanks.

Stinley's avatar

I’ve had a little look at the medical literature. To be clear, we are discussing preventative circumcision not circumcision for known and actual medical problems.

The Canadian Pediatric Society does not recommend routine circumcision. Neither does the AAP. Nor does the BMA who say that the evidence is equivocal.

I found a systematic review (a review of all the high quality trials on a topic) and the conclusions were that “strong evidence suggested that circumcision could prevent HIV/AIDS acquisition in sub-Saharan African men [...] Current evidence fails to recommend widespread neonatal circumcision”.

So it is of benefit in sub-Saharan Africa, but there is poor evidence that it is medically necessary in other populations.

Seek's avatar

I didn’t cut off my son’s foreskin for the same reason I didn’t remove his gallbladder:

If we cut out everything that might cause a problem in 25 years, there’d be no baby left.

olivier5's avatar

@Stinley Supposedly, what works or doesn’t work for an African works or doesn’t work for a non-African… Condoms work much much better than circumcision to prevent AIDS transmission, so the professional medical advice should be: use a condom, irrespective of whether one is in Africa or elsewhere. To advertise medical procedures that work once in a blue moon is like selling snake oil.

Stinley's avatar

@olivier5 I do take issue with your tone here. I’m not advertising a medical procedure, nor are those studies saying that condoms shouldn’t be used to prevent HIV. Condoms or other prevention strategies are not mentioned. It’s not what we were talking about.

Also stating that the circumcision in sub-Saharan Africans works once in a blue moon is factually incorrect. A systematic review, with strong evidence is not an insignificant, minor piece of research. It’s not perfect but science never is. It is more than good enough for most people though.

Seek's avatar

Medical advice is to use a condom. Unfortunately condoms are hard to come by in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s especially hard to come by when one of the most reliable sources of food and clothing is from a church that literally tells them condoms cause AIDS.

olivier5's avatar

@Stinley i was not attacking you, i was taking issue with your linked article. I read it in full and could not find an estimate of the effect magnitude, and the text does not include a methology note on the three trials it summarizes. Fortunately the same three trials (in south africa, uganda and kenya) have been analysed in greater detail by another team:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-1293.2008.00596.x/full

In this article, the conclusions are that circumcision reduces the chances of female to male transmission by about 50% because the foreskin is believed to be more easily infected than the gland. So if uncut male X had say 30% chances of being infected by doing it with female Y, cut X would have about 15% chances instead. That’s still Russian roulette but with only one bullets instead of two bullet in the revolver… and if you do it long enough, without condoms, you WILL get infected. Cut males only need to do it twice as often as uncut ones to stand the exact same chances of infection. I quote: In addition, circumcised men may have an exaggerated sense of protection from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV that could influence their behaviour. Currently, we do not know how circumcision will impact upon behaviours; however, a modelling study from Uganda indicated that an increased number of sexual partners will counteract the beneficial impact of circumcision.

The article concludes that: Media attention has focused on the ‘60%’ reduction in infections observed initially in the trial by Auvert et al. [11]. However, our pooled analysis indicates that the protective effect of male circumcision may be somewhat different and that the actual population effect of the intervention may be less compelling. The NNT of 72 (95% CI 50–143) suggests that approximately 72 circumcisions will have to be conducted over a 2-year period to prevent a new infection, although this will differ in populations with varying baseline risks.

Yep, you would need to cut 72 sexually active males to prevent one single infection, on average. It works once in a blue moon.

Stinley's avatar

@olivier5 I think we are on the same page here really. I linked to the anti-circumcision policy statements from 3 professional bodies, which, in my experience, they do not issue lightly. If we want to pay attention to experts then let’s go with these experts as they seem quite expert.

I may have been over-cautious in including the review which found a benefit for SSA adult male circumcision. I wanted to add some balance to the evidence. However this result was not what we are talking about, so apologies for that. The very last sentence from the actual paper (my link was to a critical review of the paper) is unequivocal as it states “As the efficacy of prophylactic nontherapeutic male circumcision has not been comprehensively studied in neonates, it would be inappropriate to recommend widespread neonatal circumcision for this purpose.”

I would never get a son of mine circumcised for these reasons. However if more studies were done that were high quality and showed that it had a strong benefit in preventing disease, then I would be willing to change my mind.

olivier5's avatar

@Stinley I would never get a son of mine circumcised for these reasons. However if more studies were done that were high quality and showed that it had a strong benefit in preventing disease, then I would be willing to change my mind.

What about a daughter of yours? If studies showed that the ablation of the labia had a strong benefit in preventing diseases, would you be willing to do it to her as an infant?

Nobody in his right mind is saying that neonates should be circumcised for health reasons. To the extent that some US doctors may be peddling that, they are just rationalizing a purely cultural genital mutiliation practice.

Even WHO, that advocates for circumcision as one possible technique to reduce AIDS spread in Africa based on the trials discussed above, is only recommending it to be an available procedure for consenting adults. As explained above, it takes an estimated 72 circumcisions of consenting adults to avoid one innoculation. The success rate for neonatal circumcision would most probably be even lower.

Stinley's avatar

@olivier5 It would have to be extremely compelling evidence for me to agree to such a procedure for any child of mine. I’m just pointing out that I would be willing to change my mind.

olivier5's avatar

Alright, point well taken. It does look like we are on the same page.

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