An Intact Man's View of Circumcision

After you get over your initial shock, you call him a few days later to talk some more. You ask him why you should choose circumcision. He says, "Well, there are some studies which suggest that circumcised boys have less urinary tract infections (UTIs) than intact boys." So you ask, "How risky is this?" He says to you, "I don't know. It looks like intact boys have a rate of 1 in 100 and circumcised boys 1 in 1000, but I don't know if those are caused by anatomical problems or because parents are retracting their sons or what." So you ask him, "How big of a deal is this?" and he says, "Girls get way more UTIs and they're treated with antibiotics. That's the way we treat them in circumcised boys too. Of course, repeated UTIs can damage the urinary system, but usually only happen in kids with serious urinary or kidney problems."

But he says, "There's also a theory about penile cancer. Some researchers believe that circumcision virtually eliminates that risk. But circumcised guys get penile cancer too, plus, you'd have a better chance of having male breast cancer than getting penile cancer. The rates of men with penile cancer are so small and it usually happens to the elderly. And anyway, any part can get cancer."

He says, "There's also been some studies that suggest that circumcision could reduce the rate of transmission of several different STDs. But all of the studies are inconclusive at this point. So, it is unclear if they're valid, let alone applicable to our country. But it's a possibility. Of course, there's always abstinence and safe sex."

Then he says, "There are also several problems that can occur with the intact penis. Like phimosis. You can usually treat phimosis with a steroid cream. If necessary, you can also do a surgical procedure that keeps the foreskin or you could just do a circumcision." So you ask, "What are the chances of getting phimosis?" And he says, "About 1 in 100. But most cases are in elderly men with chronic health problems. Surely you know about this condition in your country?" You reply, "Yes, I do know one guy who got circumcised at 67 because of this. He was diabetic."

So then you ask, "How about the risks of having it done?" And he says, "There's a lot, but the chances are small. Most commonly there are adhesions, but most resolve by themselves. And then there are post-op infections but most are treated with antibiotics. Meatal stenosis is another one. This might require further surgery, but it's usually minor and can be done right in a doctor's office. And excessive bleeding is the other complication. But there are known incidences of severe complications, including death. Its really rare, but has happened. Probably around 1 in 100 have a complication."

So you say to him, "It looks like the risks just about equal the benefits." And he says, "Well, that's what the American Academy of Pediatrics says." And you say, "But how about the sexual value lost? And the pain and trauma suffered by many of these boys?" And he says, "I don't know what to tell you about that because no one really considers that part of the equation. Look most American guys don't know what you know. They've never had the parts so they don't know if they're missing something."

So, at this point you can see that the benefits and risks of the procedure are about equal. You know the details of the procedure itself and can't deny that it's not something you'd willing subject yourself to. That there's a good chance it is extremely painful. You also have first hand knowledge of the parts in question and you know that they are functional, sensitive, and you would not want to part with them. If you don't find these reasons compelling enough to allow yourself to be circumcised, then why would you allow your son?

Nutty Professor is a 37-year-old father of a six-year-old boy and husband to his American wife of 8 years. He grew up in Germany where circumcision is an oddity and moved here to America to attend university when he was 18 years old. He is now a political science professor and has taught at various colleges and universities.

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