Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fighting for Foreskin

Would you let doctors cut off part of your child's penis for no real reason at all?

In 1995, my wife and I discovered (by accident, courtesy of a sloppy ultrasound technician) that we were going to have a boy. It was our second pregnancy, and we were asked fairly early on if we wanted him circumcised.

I had long been vaguely annoyed that I had been circumcised without my consent as an infant, and had long since come to the conclusion that there is no real reason for this procedure. I am not of the opinion that males are born "defective" and need to be "fixed" before they can live their lives as males.

It took some months of convincing my wife about this; despite the fact that she was not born with a penis, she bought into all the rote arguments made in favour of the procedure. I showed her enough scientific evidence that it is unnecessary, even cruel, and she and I eventually agreed that our son would live his life intact, with all the parts his DNA instructed his growing, unborn body to have.

Convincing my wife was easy; the real arguing didn't happen until late in her pregnancy, when we were asked to come in to the doctor's office specifically to discuss the issue of circumcision.

We were taken into a quiet office and a middle-aged woman sat down...I don't remember now if she was a nurse or physician's assistant, but she asked us to tell her what we wanted to do regarding my son's foreskin.

We told the woman that we were not going to have him circumcised. Looking very discomfited and somewhat condescending, she asked us to explain our obviously ridiculous decision.

Assuming as the parents we were allowed to make this sort of decision, I somewhat flippantly told her that "I don't believe boys are born with things that need to be snipped off of them."

At that point, the brow-beating began.

The argument (and I am certain this was a standardized meeting that occurred with all parents negligent and degenerate enough to make the sort of decision Lora and I did) basically boiled down to three points:

1. "He won't 'look like you.'"
2. "He may need to have a circumcision as an adult."
3. "He'll have to learn to clean his foreskin."

My responses to those grave concerns:

1. I don't want him "looking at my penis." I frankly don't want anyone looking at my penis. Even me.
2. What are the odds? I made her look it up. 7 out of 100, she informed us. "So there's a 93 percent chance that if we don't cut off part of my son's penis, he'll grow up happy and healthy?" She had no convincing rebuttal to that argument.
3. This one really pissed me off. My response: "He'll have to learn to clean his ass, too; should we cut that off too, while we're at it?" My wife was not amused.

Call me a prick (many have), but I didn't find any of these three arguments particularly compelling. One of my main points all along had been that Americans generally find it laughable and horrifying that there are African tribes that circumcise baby girls, and yet think it is normal, in fact necessary, to do the same thing to boys.

To me it is all symptomatic of the post-intelligent, Planet of the Apes-style culture we live in. The vast majority of sheep-like Americans follow the mystical rituals laid down by our "Fore (skin) fathers" eons ago, without ever really questioning whether anything we're doing in the name of Jeezus or Cleanliness in fact is desirable, ethical or even just not laughable.

My son turns 12 later this year. His intact foreskin has never once been a problem for him, and I have successfully managed to not have him see my penis once in all those years. Snip-happy doctors aside, I think we both prefer it that way.