Monday, November 21, 2011

Foreskin Is The New Black

One of the big decisions my wife and I faced when our son was born, coming up on five years ago (the days are like years, the years are like days!), was whether to have him circumcised. Circumcision seems to be falling out of favor these days, and though I never gave it a lot of thought before my wife was pregnant, I certainly made up for lost time in the second and third trimesters.

Fortunately, this decision was free of any outside pressure. Neither my wife nor I grew up with a religion that prescribes it (or, indeed, any religion at all -- thanks, Mom, Dad, Keith and Linda!), so no pressure there. Nor did either of our parents seem to have any strong feelings about it (or at least if they did, they kept it to themselves).

So it was our choice to make, and as with any big decision, I tried to look at both sides and weigh the pros and cons, which I will do my best discuss as un-graphically as I can.

Firstly, the idea of taking a small, defenseless baby and cutting off part of his body that does not, in any medical sense, need to be cut off was a hard idea for me to process. On a gut level, it doesn't feel a lot different to me from foot-binding or female circumcision (which needs a better name). The last thing I wanted to do to my newborn son was take a knife to any part of him. It feels like an unnecessary relic from religious rites that I never took part in. And, the Wikipedia page on the topic drives home in semi-graphic detail exactly what each technique entails, and it is more than a little disturbing.

Moreover, word on the street is that circumcised men have reduced sensitivity in the area in question. It's a little weird to look at bump in your wife's belly and imagine the future sex life of the person inside, but once I got over that hurdle I felt that, while I personally would probably have been grateful for some reduced sensitivity more times than I could ever hope to count, it's not really my place to make that choice for him. If he wants to reduce his sensitivity, there are plenty of ways (tequila, sedatives, topical anesthetics, Saran Wrap, Ace bandages) that he can do it on his own, when the time comes.

On the other hand, they say uncircumcised men are more susceptible to HIV. I certainly don't want to put the boy at greater risk of HIV, but I also can't help thinking that our greatest safeguard against the virus -- a condom -- doesn't work any less well on the uncircumcised, does it?

Since secular circumcision took hold in the U.S. around 1900 (thanks again, Wikipedia), most men in the States have been circumcised, and the common sentiment on this topic has been that "a boy should look like his father." The fear being that a young man will get a look at his Dad's piece, and see that it looks different from his own, and feel like his is weird, or deformed, or something.

The arguments for seemed much less compelling than the arguments against, and as you have probably guessed, we decided not to do it, and for the first four years of our son's life it was not a problem at all. But over the last year or so some practical issues have begun to surface that, if not enough to make me reconsider that decision, leave me at a bit of a loss.

It was a triumph, right around his fourth birthday, when he graduated from sitting on the toilet to standing when he goes number one. But pride quickly turned to horror when it turned out that about half the time, despite aiming straight into the bowl like a good boy, his pee was shooting out at weird angles, very often missing the bowl entirely, even at point-blank range. A couple of times he's had more than one stream coming out in different directions. Clearly, his wild foreskin is creating an obstruction, but no matter how much I remind him to pull it back when he has to pee, he just doesn't have the small motor skills to really pull it off (pun accidental). On one occasion, when he had a steady stream shooting out at 45 degrees, I reached in and tried to help him do it myself, but my fingers are too big and he's too small and he started giggling and saying it tickled and I felt like a member of the Penn State coaching staff and I quickly gave up and vowed not to touch him there again.

And what about keeping it clean? This isn't something I worry about too much for myself, as [SPOILER ALERT!] I am circumcised so everything's easily accessible and generally powder fresh. I don't really know, but I have to imagine there are some hygiene issues he's going to have to deal with, and I am not *ahem* equipped to instruct him. Including his, I don't think I've even seen more than 3 or 4 uncircumcised men in their full glory, and even then the total gaze time would add up to less than ten seconds over a lifetime.

Which raises another issue: I'm not the only one unfamiliar with the uncut male form. Most (American) women have very little experience with uncircumcised men (as do, to be fair, circumcised men -- at 4, my boy's orientation is unclear). I hate to think that we've hobbled his prospects, or that he will not enjoy the, uh, full spectrum of pleasure (trying not to be graphic) because his thing looks weird/unsanitary/icky. But circumcision seems to be going out of fashion (foreskin is the new black), so hopefully time is on his side.

As more and more children of the '70s and '80s (80 to 90% of whom are circumcised, according to Wikipedia) have kids and go with this whole not-circumcising trend that's sweeping the nation, more and more fathers are going to find themselves in this predicament.  Here's a million-dollar idea: an agency where uncircumcised men can be hired to teach young boys how to operate and care for their own private parts. We'll call it Bigger Brothers.

On second thought, maybe it's a thousand-dollar idea. It would probably lead to a lot of lawsuits. The insurance premiums would be through the roof. And the background checks on potential Bigger Brothers would have to be exhaustive to the point of being prohibitively expensive. Yeah, let's just not do it.

In the absence of a better solution, I have decided to solve most of these problems in one fell swoop by having my foreskin put back on. Which leaves only one question: is there actually a Father of the Year ceremony, or will my trophy be mailed to me?

1 comment:

  1. "Most women have very little experience with uncircumcised men... "

    This should read "Most AMERICAN women..." as circumcision never became commonplace in a number of other industrialized nations.

    There's also rarely advertised or discussed "little bit off the top" option, which seems to provide a ground. Ask me how I know.