The Atlantic/Screenshot

The Atlantic/Screenshot

When my sister was pregnant, we talked at length about whether or not she would circumcise my soon-to-be nephew. It was only then that I realized this is a particularly difficult decision that parents face when having newborn sons: to snip or not to snip?

In my opinion, the answer was pretty simple and straightforward: Hell no (unless completely necessary for medical reasons)! After years of research, I found that there was conclusive evidence that the procedure had health benefits that outweighed the loss of pleasure and possible trauma a baby would have to endure to get their penises snipped. So, I’m going to be honest that I am biased in that way. Still, I think I can provide clear-cut reasoning, supported by fact to establish why this procedure is typically wholly unnecessary.

Baby boys are strapped down to a “circumcision board,” which essentially immobilizes them so they cannot move their arms or legs during the procedure. Then surgeons inject the baby’s penis with a local anesthetic and finally get to snipping. Babies are especially irritable because they are hungry and are not allowed to eat for hours before the procedure because doctors do not want them to throw up. Honestly, I could barely get through watching a circumcision video, but if you are so inclined to give it a try, here is one:

So, what are the health benefits to circumcision that would prompt any parent to participate? Well, here are a list of them, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Easier hygiene. Circumcision makes it simpler to wash the penis. Washing beneath the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis is generally easy, however.
  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections. The overall risk of urinary tract infections in males is low, but these infections are more common in uncircumcised males. Severe infections early in life can lead to kidney problems later on.
  • Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections.vCircumcised men might have a lower risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Still, safe sexual practices remain essential.
  • Prevention of penile problems. Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis can be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis). This can lead to inflammation of the foreskin or head of the penis.
  • Decreased risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it’s less common in circumcised men. In addition, cervical cancer is less common in the female sexual partners of circumcised men.

After reading this very short list of “health benefits,” my stance against male circumcision is most certainly not swayed in the least. I would imagine that a boy/man, circumcised or uncircumcised should most certainly practice good hygiene and otherwise, circumcision only minimally decreases the risk of already rare diseases. Then why, precisely, would anyone opt in to doing this to their newborn? The answer is pretty depressing: religion and tradition.

Per Mayo Clinic, once more:

“Circumcision is a religious or cultural ritual for many Jewish and Islamic families, as well as certain aboriginal tribes in Africa and Australia. Circumcision can also be a matter of family tradition, personal hygiene or preventive health care. Sometimes there’s a medical need for circumcision, such as when the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back (retracted) over the glans. In other cases, particularly in certain parts of Africa, circumcision is recommended for older boys or men to reduce the risk of certain sexually transmitted infections.”

Some have begun to compare female circumcision (which has come to be known as “female genital mutilation” after widespread Western condemnation of the procedure) with male circumcision. An article published today by The Atlantic presented various arguments that likened the two procedures, arguing that both are merely antiquated religious practices that should be outlawed. Atlantic commenter, Lilymanyx, went so far as to argue that advocating against female circumcision (typically practiced in Africa), while disregarding male circumcision (still popular in America) is a form of racism and cultural bias:

“Africans who cut their children’s genitals are seen as more backward than Westerners who cut their children’s genitals. Maybe that is not conscious hypocrisy, but it certainly shows a cultural bias. The effects of cutting on the children do seem to me much worse for the girls than for the boys, but the reason for cutting seems to me to be equally custom-bound and irrational in the two cases.”

Many who advocate against FGC also staunchly stand against male circumcision, including famed Black feminist Alice Walker who wrote of the procedure:

“I think [male circumcision] is a mutilation. In working with FGM we often find that the battle is such an uphill one that we hope that the men who are working on this issue of male circumcision will carry that.”

While many argue the legitimacy of the comparison between female genital circumcision and male circumcision– since the former results in almost complete loss of sexual pleasure and sensation while the former does not– the fact that both of these procedures may actually be unnecessarily imposed based on tradition and religion remains.

In the case of my sister, she decided to have her son circumcised, as many new American parents continue to do. The question still remains though: to snip or not to snip? What do you think?

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