Circumcision Guidelines

Several leading medical organizations (CDC, AAP, AAFP) are considering recommending circumcision right now. Many people (including myself) believe that this is due to a faulty understanding of circumcision, its risks and benefits, as well as the flawed studies done on the subject. Click here for more information, and to sign a petition asking the organizations not to recommend this painful medical procedure that causes more harm than good when used routinely. If you’re not sure whether circumcision is recommended in the case of your family or your son, you can use the Circumcision Decision Maker to help you. Did you know that some people promoted female circumcision as good or beneficial even up until the 1950s in America?

Here’s a picture of a girl being circumcised, and another of a circumcised woman. [Obviously, the pictures are graphic, as are the ones below.] Even putting aside the horribly invasive and painful procedure that it must be — particularly without anesthesia, and on children who cannot give consent or on older children or women who are cut against their wills — the healed “after” picture just looks uncomfortable. Exposed. The clitoris must rub against clothing in an irritating fashion, and eventually cause a loss of sensation with repeated exposure (much like when you cut your fingernails too short — at first the freshly-exposed skin is super-sensitive and most everything feels painful, but eventually it becomes calloused and less sensitive… which is not something I’d want happening to my clitoris). I don’t have male genitalia, so perhaps I cannot speak directly to the question of male circumcision, except that the male genitals correspond to the female ones, and I wouldn’t want my female bits to be messed with, and I can “feel” the pain that these women whose genitals are mutilated must experience… and also the corresponding pain of male circumcision. Just as I would not want my clitoral hood cut off, or my labia cut off, or my clitoris partially or completely removed, [can you imagine the pain???], so I would not want my sons’ genitals to be similarly cut or cut off. And just as I can imagine from looking at a picture like this that normal clothing and activity would surely dull sensations, as the body would work to shut down the communication lines from these exquisitely sensitive areas, in order to cope with the constant exposure — in males and in females. And imagine the loss of sensation from not having labia! Even assuming that it wouldn’t interfere with a vaginal birth or cause any other problems (which I have a hard time believing), the labia are sexually stimulated and provide sexual pleasure even aside from clitoral or vaginal stimulation.

One argument that some people give for circumcising is that it “looks better.” Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that’s for sure — you’ve surely seen certain cultures’ idea of beauty that is foreign to America — things like those gold rings that stretch women’s necks, or the huge rings or sticks in nose or ears, or the tiny feet of Chinese women of old. Most American women are used to circumcised men, so since that is “normal” (with 90% or more of boys having been circumcised for at least a generation or two), then intact men look “weird.” [Somehow I doubt that a woman would make a relationship decision based solely on whether or not her boyfriend was circumcised, simply because of the look of his penis.] But this is not a reason to continue circumcising boys, any more than the fact that 97% of Egyptian female teenagers have had parts of their genitals cut off, so that is “normal” in their country and should be continued. The only adult male I’ve seen naked is my husband who is circumcised; for this post, I did an image search for uncircumcised man. You know what? I prefer the look of an uncircumcised penis. Even though the first uncircumcised penis I ever saw was when I was probably 14 years old (all the boys I babysat or happened to change diapers up until that time, and even after were circumcised); and aside from my own boys, I can probably count on one hand the intact boys I’ve seen. So I should be heavily biased to find that a circumcised penis “looks better.” But I don’t. And reading that while more women prefer the look of a circumcised penis, those who have had both intact and cut sexual partners prefer the feel of the intact penis, makes me feel like perhaps I’ve missed out on something, as well as my husband. And I can imagine the loss of pleasure that a man must have, with a cut woman, being dry and uncomfortable since they’re missing so much mucosal tissue. Of course, if he only knows cut women, he may not know what he’s missing out on.

Most men who are circumcised think that it’s no big deal to cut off a piece of their son’s penis, like theirs was also cut. But then, they don’t really have the equipment to make a good comparison, not remembering what it was like to have a foreskin (most of them being cut within a day or two of birth). Looking at the pictures of the mutilated women and girls just makes me so sad. I’m extremely aware of my own genitalia, by thinking on this topic, and imagining if it were gone. Don’t tell me that it makes no difference if you have a clitoris, clitoral hood or labia, or not. If your husband doesn’t have a foreskin, he can’t tell whether or not it makes a difference either — he only knows one way. I couldn’t really know what it might be like to have three arms, or to really “have eyes in the back of my head” because I’ve never had those body parts; but I can imagine the loss of a fully functioning and sensitive body part, like losing my arm, and how I might adjust to that, but I’m sure I’d always miss it. Now imagine somebody cutting off your clitoral hood — for your own good, to lower the risk of getting a UTI, so that it “looks better” or is “cleaner,” or so that you’ll be less likely to get an STD or cancer, or eventually have to undergo an extremely rare but necessary medical operation in the future (all reasons given for both male and female circumcision by the various proponents [which is like cutting off your fingertips to avoid having the “hassle” of having to continually trim your fingernails, or to avoid ingrown nails or torn cuticles; or like slicing off your lips to cut down on your need for Chapstick, or to reduce the incidence of cold sores]) — imagine somebody cutting or cutting off your most sensitive body parts without your consent — dwell on it — think about your external genitalia right now, become aware of the sensations that you have right now as you’re sitting in your chair reading this post, and tell me that you wouldn’t feel different if it were gone. Now think about how you feel during sex, with your husband touching and caressing you, gently preparing your body to be ready to receive him… and then think about if your genitals were gone. Why do that to your son? Why deprive him of the full range of sensations that are rightfully his?

If you wouldn’t do this to your daughter or yourself…

…why would you do it to your son?

“First, do no harm.” Click here to sign the petition.

Update Someone forwarded me the names of some of the members of the AAP organization that is considering recommending circumcision. The more letters they get before making their decision (since it will do little or no good afterwards), the better. The person who forwarded me this information encouraged anyone who opposes routine circumcision to put this information on their blog or website or otherwise spread the word.
AAP Task Force on Circumcision

Susan Blank, M.D.
AAP Task Force on Circumcision, Chairman
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013
212-788-4406
sblank@health. nyc.gov

Errol Alden, M.D.
American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest point Blvd.
Elk Grove, IL 60007
EAlden@aap.org

Jay E. Berkelhamer, M.D.
Children’s Health Care of Atlanta
1600 Tullie Circle
Atlanta, GA 30329
jay.berkelhamer@ choa.org

Michael Brady, M.D.
Pediatric Academic Association
700 Children’s Drive
Columbus, OH 43205
michael.brady@ nationwidechildr ens.org

Douglas S. Diekema, M.D.
Department of Emergency Services
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
4800 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
diek@u.washington. edu

Andrew L. Freedman, M.D.
Pediatric Urologist
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
8635 W. Third Street, Suite 1070
Los Angeles, CA 90048
andrew.freedman@ cshs.org

Renee Jenkins, M.D.
Department of Pediatrics and Child Health
Howard University Hospital
2041 Georgia Avenue, NW, Room 6B02
Washington, DC 20060
rjenkins@aap. org

Judith S. Palfrey, M.D.
President-Elect, AAP
Children’s Hospital Boston
300 Longwood Avenue
Hunnewell 201.3
Boston, MA 02115
Email Contact Form at:
http://www.children shospital. org/cfapps/ research/ data_admin/ email.cfm? s=219&c=0& u=Judith% 20Palfrey

Roger Suchyta, M.D.
Associate Executive Director
American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd.
Elk Grove, IL 60007
rsuchyta@aap. org

David T. Tayloe, M.D.
Goldsboro Pediatrics
2706 Medical Office Place
Goldsboro, NC 27534
dtayloe@aap. org

Dan Walter, M.D.
Senior Policy Analyst
American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd.
Elk Grove, IL 60007
dwalter@aap. org

36 Responses

    • First things first.

      I am now 24 years old, apparently male and I just got circumcised 2 weeks ago. It is true that it is horrible to remove a female’s genital parts, which I think is just stupid anyway. But on the other hand, for males there IS a big difference. There is no actual difference between what I felt before and what I feel after my circumcision. Some men report that they even had even more intense feelings after theirs. I could maybe agree a little but that shall not matter for now. Fact is, there are cases when male circumcision becomes necessary, e.g. phimosis. I have not heard about any females’ comparable problems so I cannot think of any reasons of health for a female circumcision. Anyway, it wasn’t really necessary for me either, but it neither killed me. That decision was my very own. I actually even prefer the look of uncircumcised penises myself, haha. It just helps me now having sex using condoms since I had a lot of foreskin before which kinda got them stuck sometimes. That was my only reason.🙂
      I can still masturbate very well and I haven’t lost anything. I might feel a little more naked now, but it was worth it.🙂

      My comment on female “circumcision”: Well, literally “circumcision” means some circular cut which is in my view only possible on something ROUND. Since female genitals are not round shaped at all… just don’t do it. It only hurts. Removing a woman’s clitoris would be like removing a man’s bell end. Just spooky. DON’T DO IT!

      This site should consider medical health reasons FOR male circumcision though. Improved hygiene is another one by the way.

      • I would say that “circumcision” is not necessary a “circular cut” necessitating something round, but just “cutting around something” — just like a circuit judge does not necessarily travel in a circle, but just travels “around.” Even so, some types of female “circumcision” cut around the clitoris, removing the prepuce — just like male circumcision cuts around the glans, removing the prepuce. [Other types of “circumcision” do not truly “cut around” but just “cut off,” as you know, with girls and women losing not just the prepuce like in modern-day male circumcision, but losing the clitoris and also some or all of their labia — analogous to men losing the glans, the whole penis, and/or their scrotum (not a perfect analogy, since women don’t lose their ovaries, which are the female equivalent of the testicles, but the skin is analogous).

        There are a few, very few reasons, for circumcision to be necessary (although I daresay that less drastic measures than removing the entire foreskin would alleviate the problem most of the time — for instance, you said you had a lot of foreskin — could you not have just gotten the extra cut off rather than all of it?) but I am concerned about the routine prophylactic removal of foreskin from non-consenting children for no other reason than that it *might* cause a problem 80 years down the road. We no longer routinely remove tonsils, nor do we routinely remove the appendix, gall bladder, spleen, or any other functioning organ of the body that may end up causing a problem in the future. Appendicitis is a lot more common than penile cancer, yet we would not think of cutting them out of the body, especially right after birth, without anesthesia, based on the possibility of a future problem.

        Finally, you touched on a very important point — “the decision was my own.” Most of the people who are circumcised (male and female) are *not* making the decision on their own, but it is made for them by their parents, *and* it is done without anesthesia. There are very many men who were circumcised as infants that now can only wonder what they lost; and there are men who were, like you, circumcised as adults, who regret their decision, and say that the difference sexually is “like trying to read Braille with your elbows” or liken it to the difference between color and black-and-white TV. Write again in 6 months or a year and let me know if you still are happy with your decision and the results; some men say that the difference was not immediately noticeable, but as time went on, their once super-sensitive glans lost sensitivity from constant exposure to clothes, and after several months, it got calloused and they needed more stimulation to receive the same amount of pleasure they had when they were intact.

      • The clitoris has/is protected by a “hood” so its the same as cutting off the foreskin of a penis. Not round huh?

        To this comment:

        circular cut which is in my view only possible on something ROUND. Since female genitals are not round shaped at all

        • And also: Men being intact provides sexual benefits to women. Male genitals were made the way they were for a reason. Fits perfectly with females. The mechanics are there. Read up on it a bit more maybe.

      • You may not feel different now but when your skin becomes keratinized because there is no foreskin you will lose some sensation. I believe that circumcision should be the persons choice. A baby has no choice and therefore seems barbaric. Most of the time there is no anesthesia used and therefore very painful. If you could strap some of these doctors and circumcise them they would ask for ;pain killer.

  1. I completely agree….I will never understand how anyone can do that to their baby (male or female.)

  2. That heartbreaking photo of the boy baby should be required to be shown to anyone before they sign a circumcision consent form. This is another example where I can’t believe there is true informed consent. People go along with the procedure just because they think everyone does it, not ever thinking hard about what’s involved: a helpless screaming newborn strapped down with a blood-covered penis. Thanks for writing about this. I hope the AAP doesn’t change their guidelines, that would be tragic.

  3. Kathy, thank you so much for posting this. Female circumcision is so foreign to Americans, despite the fact that we used to do it in a medical setting. I hope your post will help more women identify with the harms of male circumcision, and more cut men realize the damage done to us for generations.

    It’s really a no-brainer. Nature doesn’t make design mistakes. Leave the genitals alone.

  4. Be sure to write to the eleven members of the AAP Circumcision Task Force to let them know that recommending circumcision would be an unacceptable position for them to take in any new Policy Statement. They are finalizing their statement, so it is important to write to them NOW.

    AAP Task Force on Circumcision

    Susan Blank, M.D.
    AAP Task Force on Circumcision, Chairman
    New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
    125 Worth Street
    New York, NY 10013
    212-788-4406
    sblank@health.nyc.gov

    Errol Alden, M.D.
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest point Blvd.
    Elk Grove, IL 60007
    EAlden@aap.org

    Jay E. Berkelhamer, M.D.
    Children’s Health Care of Atlanta
    1600 Tullie Circle
    Atlanta, GA 30329
    jay.berkelhamer@choa.org

    Michael Brady, M.D.
    Pediatric Academic Association
    700 Children’s Drive
    Columbus, OH 43205
    michael.brady@nationwidechildrens.org

    Douglas S. Diekema, M.D.
    Department of Emergency Services
    Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
    4800 Sand Point Way NE
    Seattle, WA 98105
    diek@u.washington.edu

    Andrew L. Freedman, M.D.
    Pediatric Urologist
    Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
    8635 W. Third Street, Suite 1070
    Los Angeles, CA 90048
    andrew.freedman@cshs.org

    Renee Jenkins, M.D.
    Department of Pediatrics and Child Health
    Howard University Hospital
    2041 Georgia Avenue, NW, Room 6B02
    Washington, DC 20060
    rjenkins@aap.org

    Judith S. Palfrey, M.D.
    President-Elect, AAP
    Children’s Hospital Boston
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Hunnewell 201.3
    Boston, MA 02115
    Email Contact Form at:
    http://www.childrenshospital.org/cfapps/research/data_admin/email.cfm?s=219&c=0&u=Judith%20Palfrey

    Roger Suchyta, M.D.
    Associate Executive Director
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Blvd.
    Elk Grove, IL 60007
    rsuchyta@aap.org

    David T. Tayloe, M.D.
    Goldsboro Pediatrics
    2706 Medical Office Place
    Goldsboro, NC 27534
    dtayloe@aap.org

    Dan Walter, M.D.
    Senior Policy Analyst
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Blvd.
    Elk Grove, IL 60007
    dwalter@aap.org

  5. Post updated with information to contact AAP members *before* they make their decision. Spread the word…

  6. Thank you for posting this. I was circumcised at birth and I really wish I had been left normal, just the way I was born. Blogs like yours will help educate people of the harms of circumcision.

    It is a shame that there is no publicity for the one study that shows male circumcision increases the risk of HIV for the female partners. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60998-3/abstract This study is one of the many that are not being publicized because they do not support the circumcision campaign.

  7. I was very careful to not view a naked male form before my marriage, my husband is the only naked full grown male I’ve ever seen. He is intact because his father was circumsized at age 3 (the story is due to a medical reason) and remembered the precedure. Now there have been a few times when, unintentionally, I’ve come across pictures of male genitalia (either drawings or actual pictures) and they’ve always been of circumsized members (also had a few baby sitting jobs involving male infants who had been circumsized). I’ve never stopped to look, but, unfortunately, I do have some idea of what that looks like. I find the circumsized male member to be pornographic in nature, like some grotesque facsimily frozen forever in a view that only happens naturally in the midst of intercourse or masterbation. I know there are racial and religious reasons to do it (and I suppose there must be some sort of medical reason, however rare), and I respect those, but doing it just because ‘everyone else is’ I feel is a sexualization of children in a way. If a man wants to be circumsized because all his peers are, let him do it when he’s 18+ when he can consent and the procedure can be done under pain meds.

    • Jespren,you are so right.There is an element of sexualization (and molestation) when it is done to an older boy especially.

  8. thanks for this write up.

    The foreskin belongs ONLY to one person.. and that is the person born with it.

    It is a healthy, sensitive, functional, erogenous, VALUABLE body part. There is no choice for parents to make. The fact that they often do is a violation.

    The blame largely rests on our medical community for not making sure people are more informed about what is lost, and the inconsequential nature of the “so-called benefits”

    There is a lot of money to be made, and I suspect that is quietly a large reason why. Partly though, its that many circumcising families would be outraged.

    Informing people through word of mouth, and online is perhaps our best chance at this point, as well as making sure the medical community knows it cannot get away with what its been doing for TOO long now.

    Please keep speaking out on this topic!

  9. The one true God says to cut it off! If its done as a baby you don’t remember🙂

    • And what was the reason given for circumcision? A sign in the flesh to show who were the physical descendants of Abraham.

      What else is it okay to do to babies simply because “they don’t remember”? How do you know they don’t remember? Even if they don’t “remember” as adults remember past events, does that mean it didn’t affect them?

      • Well, actually the New Testament says numerous times that the procedure is no longer of any value. Perhaps the most clear example is Galations 5. Read it if you have any doubts.

        Also, Kathy, it has been shown that circumcision permanently alters the brain, including the cortisol levels. It is well known that the brain makes record of any and all traumatic events stretching as far back as pre-birth…

        You also make a good point, just because someone doesn’t consciously remember, doesn’t mean it has no effect. I don’t remember learning the names of my family, or learning the ABCs or learning how to walk, yet, I find all of those formed the basis of many of the things I know today. Also, one study showed circumcised infants cried harder almost a month afterward, in comparison to intact infants, when receiving their vaccinations over a month later.. the researchers concluded that the infants could thus still remember the pain of their circumcisions.

        • Thank you, Joel.

          Since the anonymous commenter did not post whether s/he was Christian, I decided to leave open the possibility that s/he was Jewish (or perhaps Muslim), and thus unconcerned with what the NT says. In the side-bar I have several links on circumcision, including “What the Bible Really Says about Circumcision.” I’ve also blogged about it here and here, though not dealing with specific NT Scriptures.

        • Ive read that as well that it alters the brain

    • If the “one true God” wanted it cut off, why did he put it there in the first place?

      • Some might argue that He created it in order that it could be cut off; others might say that He created man to be naked, but with the advent of sin and shame, clothes became necessary though they were not part of the original “very good” creation, and it is the clothes that are the problem and are what make circumcision necessary/beneficial. (Someone recently told me that intact males would get lint in their foreskin, which is why circumcision is “necessary.”)

        • Which is a reason to cut out your navel, too…? Think about it: A man can wash his penis. I want to emphasize that the hygiene of an intact foreskin is no matter at all. It only gets improved, but I hope you other guys also take a daily shower – like I do. That’s fairly enough.
          There is no question of a foreskin’s purpose or its removal’s either. The only reasonable answers why circumcision makes sense are medical problems, stamina support and asthetics. Everything else is just made up.

          Since more than half a year has passed now, let me answer your questions, Kathy: “could you not have just gotten the extra cut off rather than all of it?” – the answer is plainly yes of course. It would have grown back just as it has grown back partially now. And yes, it does take me a little more time to receive the same amount of pleasure now which is actually one of the reasons why I wanted my circumcision, to maximize endurance. I am still able to reach an auto-erotic orgasm in a few minutes though. My libido is not at all suffering either.
          Everything is completely healed and my doctor did a great job. I am enjoying the greatest sex with my girlfriend. Especially fellatio is even more fun now.
          For further queries just don’t mind bothering me.

        • That is hilarious! lint?
          wow your ears get dirty too. let’s cut them off too.

      • God makes no mistakes. Amen

  10. I am a Muslim.I was forcibly circumcised at the age of eight.I was lying in a ward full of women and children after my circumcision.The experience scarred me deeply.It led to great psychological trauma and behavioural problems in later life.I can write in greater detail if you like,Kathy.

    • If you would like to share, I would like to hear it. If you want to put it as a comment here, feel free; if you’d rather email it to me, my email address is kathy_petersen_283 at yahoo dot com. If you want, I can post it as a new post, so others will have better understanding of what you went through, and what circumcision entails.

  11. I guess my biggest issue with female circumcism is that the female sex organ is being removed. With men, only the skin is being removed. Which is bad enough, but at least they can still enjoy sex. For many women, there is no or very little feeling sexual enjoyment for them. This is why many of the men from those cultures can have several wives and no one complains about it, because the majority of the women don’t get to enjoy the sex anyway. Circumcising a woman is equal to chopping of the head of the penis and leaving the shaft. Sorry for the vulgarity, but I personally know women who have gone through this and their tears cannot be comforted especially when they realize what they have truly lost.

    • @Starchildisis,

      The inner foreskin is mucous membrane, the foreskin contains thousands upon thousands of highly-specialized nerve endings, similar to those found in the fingertips and lips. It is highly sensitive. So, before I continue to reply to your message, I just want to say, the foreskin is not “only skin”.

      However, I get that your message is really about just how much damage is done when part of the clitoris itself is removed.

      If you would say, though, that you support female genital cutting that removes the labia minora and clitoral hood, so long as the clitoral glans is spared… I would say that is pretty enormously disgusting on your part.

      There are numerous woman who undergo these “less severe” forms of genital cutting, and by saying the clitoral cutting is the only mutilating part is definitely a belittling of their suffering.

      The truth, is that parents should NEVER get to decide what healthy parts of their children’s genitals they should be allowed to value and which parts they should have cut off. That is not, and it has never been, the role of a parent.

      Infant or child genital cutting violates the rights that every human being is born with. That is the important message we must not lose sight of.

    • The foreskin plays a huge part in sex for both the men and their female partners. It would be wise to really read about it some time.

  12. Those who want to minimize the physical and emotional harm that male circumcision causes can learn how many circumcised men are suffering as well at:
    http://www.sueeasy.com/class_action_detail.php?case_id=258

  13. […] Posted on March 27, 2010 by Kathy A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled Circumcision Guidelines. One of the people who commented was Akram, who said this: I am a Muslim.I was forcibly circumcised […]

  14. I’m in Europe and I would find it strange to be with a circumcised man. I heard the tip of the penis goes hard and becomes less sensitive, as the tip shold be covered until sex. It seems sick to me to cut off parts of a baby’s penis and leave the end exosed all the time.

    • That is true. The glans (tip) of the penis is covered and protected. Just like the clitoris is covered and protected by the hood.

  15. This email was edited by me, the moderator, to remove unnecessary bigoted language. Other parts that are less hateful are left intact.

    You must be a Muslim, who has no choice about it as you have been circumcised before you are old enough to raise a voice against it. Just Google it for benefit of foreskin and you will know about it. But what can you do now as you have been already mutilated before you could fight for it.

    It is our own body, as we can brush our teeth, we can also clean our genital area everyday as we bath. Just because our mouth stinks in the morning and the tongue gets dirty, we will not cut our lips and pull out our teeth.

    Sorry for your loss. You will never realize what you have been missing as you have already been mutilated before you could raise a voice against it.

    Do not ever try to misguide others just because you have been victimized by some orthodox Muslims.

    Feel pity for you.

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