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What’s A Foreskin?
I grew up in a very sheltered home. My parents did not exactly educate me about the opposite sex. I did not even know what circumcision or foreskins were until I hit adulthood. All of my siblings were girls and most every child that I babysat was a girl. When I had my first two children and they were both female, I felt completely confident in my knowledge and ability to care for these beautiful little blessings. However, when I found out that our third child was going to be a boy, I was suddenly extremely aware of my lack of knowledge concerning the opposite sex. Yes, I have a husband, and thankfully he is such that I am able to defer to him concerning questions that I have. We were both quite intrigued and disgusted by much of what we learned through the process of researching modern day circumcision.
I began to thoroughly research the history and science of circumcision and even talked to three separate doctors concerning what I had come to realize was not a necessity but a cosmetic procedure. I was very impressed that not one doctor felt the need to pressure us into the procedure. They were very clear in saying that it was not necessary and was completely voluntary. It was actually nice to hear the medical community reinforcing what I had discovered in my own personal research. My husband and I decided to not circumcise our son because we felt that the benefits of keeping our son intact greatly outweighed the risks of having him circumcised.
I had particular interest in the history of rampant circumcision in Western civilization and found it not to be such a “scientific” history at all. These unscientific beginnings to eradicating foreskins are much of what has perpetuated these fallacies that are repeated by many today. However, over the last ten years the medical community has realized much of the error of its way and are making strides to inform the public that mass circumcision is NOT a necessity, and in fact, the foreskin has great function and worth.
I would like to share with you the five most prominent myths I came across in both my personal experience and research concerning the elective procedure of circumcision:
Myth #1: The foreskin is unclean and will cause health issues.
This myth was hard for me to understand personally. We even had known a few little boys who had been left intact at birth, but had been required to have surgery later due to reoccurring infection. I just didn’t understand why God would create men with a foreskin that served no function and would actually be more apt to cause problems than not. Logically this just did not make sense to me, so I delved a little deeper. What I discovered brought all of the loose ends together.
The foreskin serves a great function. It is not just a flap of skin. The foreskin is half of the skin surrounding the penis. The foreskin is an “intricate web of blood vessels, muscle, and nerves. In fact, the foreskin contains about 240 feet of nerve fibers and tens of thousands of specialized erotogenic nerve endings of various types, which can feel the slightest pressure, the lightest touch, the smallest motion, the subtlest changes in temperature, and the finest gradations in texture. … In many ways, the foreskin is just like the eyelid. It covers, cleans, and protects the glans just as the eyelid covers, cleans, and protects the eye. Also, just as the eyelid can open and close to uncover the eye, so the foreskin can open to reveal the delicate glans. The foreskin’s inside fold is lined with a smooth red tissue called mucous membrane. This type of tissue is also found lining the lips, the inside of the mouth, and the inner fold of the eyelid. The foreskin’s soothing inner fold gently keeps the surface of the glans healthy, clean, shiny, warm, soft, moist, and sensitive.” (The Whole Network)
The foreskin is a very important organ and should not be so easily done away with. In fact its not, only one third of males are circumcised around the world, the majority of these being in North America. So why were doctors at one point claiming that it was safer to be circumcised? That surely if your boy was not circumcised he would have to go through that trauma later on in life?
Easy, it was bad information and for a bad reason.
In the mid to late 1800′s there arose a great concern about male masturbation. A few doctors and for some odd reason Mr. Kellogg Cereal himself got in on the promotion of circumcision to curb these “evil” desires of young boys. They claimed all sorts of lies such as “Masturbation causes blindness and epilepsy so the foreskin must be removed.” It wasn’t until the mid 1900′s that these myths were dispelled by the medical community but were sadly replaced by more fallacies of a more “scientific” nature such as leaving the foreskin intact will cause rampant UTI’s, penile cancer, and aid in hindering the spread of STD’s. Thankfully the 1990′s ushered in a more level head concerning the debate surrounding circumcision and the AAP issued a statement verifying that circumcision is a voluntary procedure that is not recommended for every newborn boy. (AAP, Circumcision Policy Statement) The American Medical Association and The American Academy of Family Physicians agree.
Ideas that circumcision prevents UTI’s, penile cancer, and hider the spread of STD’s has just not been scientifically proven. The occurrence of UTI’s in boys whether circumcised or not is uncommon, much more uncommon that the risk of a UTI in a female infant. Even if a boy were to get a UTI, it is rarely a dangerous infection and can be treated quite easily.
In the case of the occurrence of penile cancer being less in a circumcised man, penile cancer is a particularly rare cancer anyway (American Caner Society). Why circumcise a hundred thousand boys to head off one occurrence of penile cancer in an adult man? This is the statistical rate. That would be like removing everyone’s appendix at birth simply because they might contract appendicitis later in life. It is illogical. Actually the incidence rate of appendicitis is much higher than that of penile cancer. (NCBI.gov)
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Myth #2: Circumcision is a quick and painless procedure.
Many parents are under the false notion that most babies sleep through their circumcision or that their babies are even given an anesthetic of some sort. Sadly many newborn babies after just finishing the work of being born are submitted to the highly traumatic procedure of having a large chunk of their very sensitive penis removed without any pain medication or numbing agent to accompany the procedure.
According to Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. at Psychology Today, when anesthetics are used during a circumcision procedure, they do not always work,
“In 1997, doctors in Canada did a study to see what type of anesthesia was most effective in relieving the pain of circumcision. As with any study, they needed a control group that received no anesthesia. The doctors quickly realized that the babies who were not anesthetized were in so much pain that it would be unethical to continue with the study. Even the best commonly available method of pain relief studied, the dorsal penile nerve block, did not block all the babies’ pain. Some of the babies in the study were in such pain that they began choking and one even had a seizure.”
One survey was performed among physicians who performed circumcisions and it was found that, “Only 45% of doctors who do circumcisions use any anesthesia at all. Obstetricians perform 70% of circumcisions and are least likely to use anesthesia – only 25% do. The most common reasons why they don’t? They didn’t think the procedure warranted it, and it takes too long.” (Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., Psychology Today, emphasis added)
If a newborn is given pain medication or a numbing agent to help him during his surgery, there is still an open wound that will cause him discomfort and/or pain up to ten days following the procedure. This open wound that is left by the removal of the foreskin is also a breeding ground for infection, and if hemorrhaging occurs at the surgical site, which IS a possible complication, the results can be deadly. To read more about the possibility of hemorrhage from circumcision and testimonials please CLICK HERE.
If you would like to suffer through watching a routine infant circumcision CLICK HERE. I will warn you this video is very graphic.
Myth #3: Circumcision is better for the adult sexual experience.
I believe that this myth is only perpetuated by our over-sexualized culture. When adults have multiple partners and are given the ability to choose preferences among these partners, well, you have more problems than just a cut penis. If you are raising your children according to the Bible, teaching them to be chaste, pure, and save themselves for marriage, then their sexual appetites will not be as burdensome.
Yes, we very much want our children to enjoy sex, but under God’s covenant of marriage. If a child is not exposed to different “styles” of genitals then there will be no question as to whose he or she will prefer when they are married.
Does the foreskin diminish sexual enjoyment? Absolutely not! During an erection the foreskin is fully retracted and enjoyment and pleasure will not be diminished in the least. In fact, it is actually circumcision that can lead to diminished sexual enjoyment. The skin that covers the penis which would be constantly protected and lubricated by the foreskin actually becomes more rough and “calloused” when not protected by this important piece of flesh. Sexual enjoyment can actually be dulled by the removal of the foreskin.
Image By FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Myth #4: Circumcision is important so that the boy will feel more confident in front of other men and boys.
This myth was actually the most difficult myth for my husband and I to get past. My husband is circumcised so we did wonder how our son would feel later in life if he did not “match” his dad. We home school so the whole boys changing in the locker room argument wasn’t as important for us, but it is still something to consider. Will your child be ridiculed for being intact?
It was very interesting for me to learn that the World Health Organization just came out with new statistics showing that only about 30% of the world’s men are circumcised, and only 50% in the U.S. Numbers in the U.S. have dropped steeply since the early 1990′s (CDC). It will become more and more difficult to argue that every boy in your son’s school is circumcised and your boy is the odd one out. This is just not the case anymore.
As for the argument that the son should be able to identify with the father, well, we wouldn’t use this same argument when it comes to any other part of our appearance. Children are born all of the time with different hair color eye color, and even build. A young man might have a significantly different sized penis in comparison to his father. What’s more, we would never use this argument in adoption cases where a child looks nothing like his adoptive father. The point is that a relationship between a father and son is so much more than a penis and a foreskin. A father builds his son’s confidence by supporting him, teaching him, and spending time with him. The son should identify with the father in these ways.
Myth #5: Circumcision is Biblical.
I felt the need to delve deeper into this argument, simply because my husband is a pastor and when it comes to the Bible I definitely want to understand what God’s Word says about a subject. My research was quite interesting.
If God commanded that His people at one time circumcise their children, then I knew that I could not be opposed across the board to circumcision in every case, simply because God ordained it. However, I learned that Biblical circumcision is absolutely nothing like the circumcision performed today. In fact if circumcision was performed back then the way it is today, all of the babies would have died from hemorrhaging to death and severe infection. It just wasn’t possible without killing the child.
I also found it interesting that God commanded His people not to circumcise their babies until the eight day following birth. According to studies, the body’s clotting factor piques at the eight day following birth, whereas a baby would be deficient before then in certain properties to coagulate blood properly. God’s wisdom is boundless, and He always protects His people.
PeacefulParenting.org has a very thorough article concerning this ancient practice:
“What we now call ‘circumcision’ was not performed in the same manner in antiquity. At that time it was a ‘cutting of the blessing’ – a very small slit made at the end of the penis to allow a few drops of blood to fall (or, actually, be sucked out by the mouth of the boy’s father or a Rabbi).
‘Cutting the Blessing’ in antiquity was very different than today in modern U.S. culture where we amputate the entire prepuce organ. Hebrews and early Jews made this very small slit in the tip of the prepuce to allow the few drops of blood to be shed as the blood sacrifice of the covenant. The Hebrew words used for the practice are ‘namal’ and ‘muwl’. In Hebrew, namal means ‘to clip’ – like one would clip the ends of our fingernails. Muwl means ‘to curtail, to blunt.’ Neither of these words mean ‘to cut’ ‘to amputate’ ‘to remove’ ‘to cut off,’ etc. There were very different words in Hebrew to represent ‘the cutting off’ or ‘the removal of.’ The difference was obviously clear to people at the time.
You could not possibly amputate the prepuce organ in antiquity and expect the child to live. Even today we deal with a 1-in-3 rate of complications associated with prepuce amputation and approximately 200 deaths per year (in the U.S. alone) due to circumcision surgery. At this time in early Hebrew culture, babies would have hemorrhaged if this organ were removed, and if they lived through the blood loss, they would have died of disease.”
God did not ordain the mutilation of the male genitalia. He ordained a simple cut that healed easily and left the child’s foreskin intact. This practice commanded by God was to give an outward showing that the Israelites’ hearts belonged to the only one and true God and to no other. Christians are no longer required to follow this command which was part of the old covenant. Under the new covenant, God is concerned about the heart, not the physical marker when it comes to our status in Christ.
A Difficult Decision
I understand that for many this is not just a simple decision. Our heads have been filled with certain rhetoric for years concerning the subject of circumcision. Maybe you even know a small boy or two that had to have a circumcision done later in life because of recurring infection. Decisions like these are not always the easiest to make when you read conflicting evidence yet maybe even have many people pressuring you to do one thing or another. I was there. Many women have been.
One thing to consider, is that circumcision is an irreversible decision. Once it is done, it is done, and you cannot take it back.
Secondly, there is an ethical decision to be made. Is it proper for a parent, when not medically necessitated, to take such an important organ away from a young boy that is meant to protect him and bring him great enjoyment sexually later in life?
I am not here to beat you up if you did circumcise your son. I strongly believe that we should not demean parents for decisions which they have made in the past that they did out of a true love and concern for their children’s well being. I do not think that you necessarily should go and apologize to your son for his lost foreskin either, even though I have heard of women doing such a thing.
What I do think is that it is very good for us to realize that the medical system and its authorities are flawed just like every other human being on this earth. They make mistakes. Just looking into the history of modern day circumcision really lends itself to fear mongering and religious practices and ideals gone wrong. When we research these topics from both sides and are able to make an informed decision for ourselves and for our children then we can truly have confidence that we did the best thing for them and for their future.
For information concerning how to care for an intact penis please CLICK HERE. Reoccurring infection and circumcision later in life is often due to improper care of an intact penis.