So he’ll look like his dad…

When it comes to circumcision, one of the main arguments for circumcising is so that the boy will look like his dad. Uh-huh. First, many boys don’t see their dads naked as a matter of course. Secondly, there is a lot more different between an adult male and a small boy — do men shave their chest and body and pubic hair, so that their sons will look like them? Or give their sons doses of testosterone, so that they’ll develop body hair when they’re three, so they don’t notice a difference between themselves and their fathers? For what it’s worth, neither my five-year-old nor my three-year-old have ever mentioned any difference between their uncircumcised penises and their father’s circumcised one; nor have they mentioned pubic hair, and rarely mentioned chest or body hair! And they’ve taken showers with him on occasion, so, yeah, they’ve seen him naked. But many families are more… modest (?), and wouldn’t allow parental nudity around children, aside from breastfeeding.

How far should we take this “so he’ll look like his dad” reasoning? I know many families who have adopted across ethnic lines. One (white) family adopted twin boys from Korea. Should they have undertaken plastic surgery to “correct” the boys’ eyes, so that they would look like their dad? Or give them green contact lenses, so they have the same color, not the dark brown they were born with? Should they have a procedure done to lighten their skin, so that they look ethnically white? Or a tattoo procedure so that they have freckles? Or a perm, so that they have wavy hair like their dad, instead of straight?

Even in adoptive families who adopted within the ethnicity, should my brown-haired friends dye their blond son’s hair, so that it looks like his dad? Or get plastic surgery on his nose, so that he’ll look like his dad? Or change his ears?

What if a father loses his pinky finger in some sort of accident? Should we cut off all of his sons’ pinky fingers, so that they don’t feel odd? Oh, yeah — that makes sense!

Animation from which has lots of great resources. Also Birthing Care Providers has many resources as well.

So, really, if it is not important at all for a son (biological or adopted) to look like his father in things that are constantly visible, like hair color, eye color, skin color, shape of the eyes, nose, head, ears, etc., why is it suddenly so important for them to have matching genitalia, when it is usually not visible to either father or son? If a child can handle being different from his dad in color or ethnicity, how much more should he be able to handle being different in something that is usually hidden? And if the father can handle having a son who is different in color, ethnicity, or some other feature, why is necessary for them to have matching penises?

Also, I had heart surgery when I was a baby, so I have a scar running the length of my sternum, or breastbone. It is very visible when I wear a bathing suit or any shirt with a modestly low neckline. [But my children have never mentioned it either. It’s just a part of who I am, just like the color of my hair or eyes, to them.] Should my daughter, if I ever have one, be sliced from stem to stern, just so her chest will look like mine? What doctor would countenance such a medical decision for no benefit, and with such an inadequate reason?

If you want to read some of my other posts on circumcision, click here. Also, Dr. Sears has a good article about circumcision, and the lack of any medical benefit for it.

You may have read or heard that being circumcised may reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Perhaps, but not likely, and I’ll tell you why. Most researchers that look at circumcision are very biased towards circumcision, so their results may be suspect merely for that. Also, many critiques of the published studies have highlighted serious or even fatal flaws in the studies. The main problem I have with it, though, is that the United States has among the highest rates of circumcised males (aside from countries that practice routine religious circumcision), but it also has a very high rate of HIV and AIDS — more than many European countries, where circumcision is much more uncommon. If circumcision were that protective, then the US should have much lower rates of HIV/AIDS — at least lower than Europe and Japan and other countries where routine circumcision is not practiced. And finally, in one study I read about, circumcised males in one country in Africa actually had higher rates of HIV transmission than uncircumcised males, and it was probably because these circumcised men thought that having part of their penis removed would keep them from acquiring or spreading AIDS, so they did not use condoms regularly. After all, if you’re “protected” because you’re circumcised, then you don’t need no stinkin’ condom! Except… you do. So, just like teenagers drive their cars too fast and don’t wear their seat belts because they think they’re invulnerable or invincible, and end up killing themselves or others, if men think that circumcision has made them invulnerable to AIDS, then that increases the odds of engaging in risky behavior while lowering the likelihood of them taking more precautions.


16 Responses

  1. What if he doesn’t want to look like his dad? Kids are not renowned for wearing the same clothes as their parents, listening to the same music, or having the same hairstyle.

    Everyone should be able to decide for themselves if they want part of their genitals cut off or not.

  2. Exactly. My husband is circumcised; my two sons are intact. They do hop in the shower with him a couple times a week (we don’t do baths around here) and there has never been a question/concern/conversation about the difference between them.

    Why would you perform cosmetic surgery on your new born son? If I had a baby girl, I wouldn’t schedule her a clitoredectomy, so why would I cut off the tip of my son’s penis?

  3. I don’t understand the logic of cutting a baby boy just because dad is cut. I also don’t understand why mothers let the father decide if the boy should be circumcised.

    I was circumcised at birth. I have no idea if my dad was cut or not. He passed on years ago and I don’t want to ask my 79 year old mother what his status was. Besides, I really don’t care to know.

  4. I have actually known adoptive parents who dyed their young child’s hair so it would match the rest of the family so the kid didn’t feel ‘left out’ in the family photos (as the only non blond one) All I could think was what a diservice they were doing to the poor kid. Teaching them that they only ‘belonged’ to the family if they altered their appearance, yeah, there’s love for you! My husband is uncirsumcised (as is our son) and my husband’s father was not. In fact my husband’s father was circumcised at 3 (for infection so goes the story) and remembered it as so traumatic he refused to have his own son circumcised. Now my husband does report that he had some very minor difficulties at school while changing for PE with other boys (in junior high) but he said even at the time he found the other boys ignorance (‘dude, what’s wrong with your penis??’) more amusing than anything else. Surely if a generation ago, when uncircumcision was much rarer, if my husband could be taught to roll his eyes at his peer’s differences, surely a kid in today’s generation, who is likely to have at least one other uncircumcised peer in a class of any size, can be easily taught not to be ‘traumatized’ by the difference! Another good one Kathy!

    • Oh, good grief (at dyeing the child’s hair)!! My husband and I were both blond as young children, but got dark before our teen years. I figure our kids have a pretty good chance of being either very blond, moderately blond, barely blond, brown, or dark brown. If one of our children remained blond, while the rest of us all had dark brown hair, there is NO WAY that I would consider coloring the “oddball”‘s hair! My three siblings all have dark brown eyes, and mine are light-brown, sorta hazel, and sometimes greenish. I never felt “odd” for having different color eyes (nor for having a scar, fwiw). My nephew is the only blue-eyed grandchild my mom has — he doesn’t seem bothered by it! 🙂 My son is the only brown-eyed grandchild my MIL has, and she loves his brown eyes! Diversity is a good thing. 🙂

      Re: comments at school in PE — that was the one argument from my husband that he stuck to most strongly, when he wanted to circumcise our boys, because he remembered how he and his schoolmates would tease the one or two guys at school who were intact. Fortunately, I was able to get around that argument by noting several things, including that circ rates were down, so that it would probably be close to a 50/50 split, with nobody making fun of anybody else; that we’re planning on homeschooling, so there will be no PE showers; and that there will always be plenty of things that kids will find to tease other kids about, so circumcising to try to avoid teasing will be probably pretty pointless, and it’s certainly not worth a medical procedure to avoid teasing! Far better is it to teach kids about not teasing, and about how to deflect, ignore, or overcome teasing, than to force them to undergo unnecessary plastic surgery to avoid the potential for teasing at some point in the future. (Especially, since a circumcised child might actually be the object of teasing, in an area with very low circ rates.)

      • look at that, ANOTHER reason I like your blog! I’m dedicated to homeschooling too! (after personal experiances with homeschool, private school, and several public schools, there is no way I am submitting my children to the public school system)

  5. This is an issue I discussed endlessly with the father of my children. He wanted our would-be sons to look like him; I fought for the rationale that the owner of the penis gets to decide for himself. We ended up having one girl and one boy. We left him intact. Although father doesn’t really get it, or like it, he has come to accpet it. It is soooooo engrained in our brains that a circ’ed penis is what a normal penis looks like. He’s had to justify it to family and friends time and time again when the subject came up. I admit to knowing NOTHING about it one way or the other until I was pg with #1…and I was 30 years old!

    I like the studies, stats, and scientific info, but at the end of the day, it seems like most people can’t get past the penis look alike contest (I’ve blogged about this myself!). And that’s the final determining factor. I even know of fathers whose first son’s circ was botched and they go on and circ subsequent sons!!! Why?!!! It’s like dumb peer pressure all over again.

    I had 2 homebirths but was transfered 7 hours postpartum to the hospital (for hemorrhage) and thee very last question we were asked by the OB, 18 hours later, with son in my arms,sitting in the wheelchiar waiting to be wheeled out was…dun dun dun…”Do you want me to circ your son real quick before you go home?” Maddening!!

    A boy’s foreskin is his business and no one else’s.

    • Wow if someone asked me “Do you want me to circ your son real quick before you go home?” I would likely be arrested with the reaction I would give 🙂 How completely ridiculous. Like they are just cutting his toenails.

  6. I have two boys, both intact, and neither of their penises looks at all like the others. I think there’s so much variety in penises that they never look alike. I’ve never seen one and said, “You know, your penis looks just like…”

    We take showers together and like others have said, we talk about what is unique about each of us. What is the same and what makes us uniquely special and who were are as individuals. Why that is important and how to honor yourself and your special parts.

    My husband was circ’d and while he doesn’t regret his own, he wanted something better for his sons. He said that if they decide to be circ’d later in life (although I can’t imagine they would) they’ll have the benefit of being treated as a fully-feeling human that deserves anesthesia and full surgical recovery, that is not afforded to newborns.

  7. My two boys are both intact and have never asked questions of me and we have showered together often. Unlike my father who is also intact I was cut at birth as the doctor that delivered me talked my parent’s into having it done. I never questioned my father about it or compared mine against my father due to size, shape, hair & length.

    Growing up my parent’s also taught me that everyone was different and as a parent I also teach my children this.

    So why is it that parent’s think that their penis should look like the father’s when in reality it never will due to obvious reasons?

    A friend of my wife’s shared with us a few websites before our boys were born which you too might find helpful.

  8. as a point of information [; son to look like father]
    i was circumcised as a infant which i regret but
    I didnot know until my father was elderly an I had to
    bath him that he was not circumcised and I didnot know that my older brother was not circucised either
    so much for the addage the son has to look like his father.

  9. Great comments and great points made by the blogger! I have two intact sons, ages 7 and 4. My husband is circ’ed and fully supported leaving our sons’ penises intact. Most of our friends also have intact sons — I can safely say that AT LEAST half, if not more of the boys in my son’s second grade class are intact! And the only question my 7 year old has asked my husband is “why is your penis so hairy?” so much for differences…

  10. Great blog with excellent points!
    I’ve always felt that people who circumcise never really read up on the facts. Knowing there is no medical benefit, how could anyone put their son through that procedure?
    And you are right about kids not noticing or caring. I’m a single mom now so I did all the potty training with my son. We look drastically different down there and I didn’t have to endure a sex change in order to match my son – LOL – we both did just fine and it’s okay not to match!

  11. Excellent arguments Kathy.Circumcision can be botched so easily.I have read of one boy who was mutilated to such an extent that he had to undergo a sex change operation and was brought up as a female.When he grew up,he had another sex change operation to become a male.Imagine the trauma.His whole life destroyed just because of circumcision !

  12. […] Excellent arguments Kathy.Circumcision can be botched so easily.I have read of one boy who was mutilated to such an […]

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