During my pregnancy with my son, one thing that was constantly on my mind was circumcision. I did not want to have him circumcised, but I knew that my husband did. I didn’t bring it up for the whole pregnancy because I already knew how my husband felt. When I told my husband about my fears, he was surprised.
The next day, when his parents showed up, while his father held his grandson for the very first time, he asked us if we would get him circumcised. I told him no, and my husband said no because it’s too expensive.
“Don’t worry about that, we’ll pay for it,” he generously offered.
“No thank you,” I said.
Keeping in mind that I’d given birth the day before and was still wearing my jammies.
He went into this long story about how when he was younger and in the army, he was on course with a big group of guys and there wasn’t much of a hygienic way to clean themselves, and he was one of the few guys that was circumcised and he was considered lucky. Apparently the other guys who weren’t circumcised were having problems. Therefor, I should circumcise my son.
I told him I would think about it.
The day I brought my son home from the hospital, my mother-in-law came to visit. She sat down on my bed, told my husband to close the door and proceeded to tell us (or me) that women prefer a circumcised penis because it’s better for sex. She and my father-in-law had done a little research, and informed me that being circumcised is cleaner and that there is a high percentage of uncircumcised boys that suffer from bladder infections in their first year. I sat and listened to everything she said. I was highly emotional, and incredibly overwhelmed. I told her I would think about it.
“Well, if it’s going to be done, it should be done within the next few days,”
I had a nightmare that night that my in-laws were babysitting and they took my son to be circumcised. They didn’t even tell me, either. I had to wait until I was changing his diaper. I’ve never felt so angry in a dream before. It was pretty surreal.
I did lots of research on the internet, and sent a few emails back and forth with my father-in-law, but in the end I chose not to do it. The thing that helped me finally decide was a friend of mine who is in the army. I asked him about it and he said that hygiene has improved considerably since my father-in-law’s day and lots of guys in the army are not circumcised and are perfectly fine. Even when they go on course out in the bush and are away from civilization.
I knew I didn’t want to have my son circumcised and I did as much research as I could to make sure it was the right choice. I learned more about the penis than most people could ever hope to know, and I’m more than confident that leaving my son intact was the right choice. Especially after I saw a video of what happens when a baby boy is circumcised. As far as I’m concerned, no one is cutting off any piece of my infant son, let alone his genitals!
The following was taken from the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers
Here is some information about the function of the foreskin By Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH:
What Are the Foreskin’s Functions?
The foreskin has numerous protective, sensory, and sexual functions.
- Protection: Just as the eyelids protect the eyes, the foreskin protects the glans and keeps its surface soft, moist, and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands-glands that produce the sebum, or oil, that moisturizes our skin.11 The foreskin produces the sebum that maintains proper health of the surface of the glans.
- Immunological Defense: The mucous membranes that line all body orifices are the body’s first line of immunological defense. Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins such as lysozyme.12 Lysozyme is also found in tears and mother’s milk. Specialized epithelial Langerhans cells, an immune system component, abound in the foreskin’s outer surface.13 Plasma cells in the foreskin’s mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulins, antibodies that defend against infection.14
- Erogenous Sensitivity: The foreskin is as sensitive as the fingertips or the lips of the mouth. It contains a richer variety and greater concentration of specialized nerve receptors than any other part of the penis.15 These specialized nerve endings can discern motion, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations of texture.16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23
- Coverage During Erection: As it becomes erect, the penile shaft becomes thicker and longer. The double-layered foreskin provides the skin necessary to accommodate the expanded organ and to allow the penile skin to glide freely, smoothly, and pleasurably over the shaft and glans.
- Self-Stimulating Sexual Functions: The foreskin’s double-layered sheath enables the penile shaft skin to glide back and forth over the penile shaft. The foreskin can normally be slipped all the way, or almost all the way, back to the base of the penis, and also slipped forward beyond the glans. This wide range of motion is the mechanism by which the penis and the orgasmic triggers in the foreskin, frenulum, and glans are stimulated.
- Sexual Functions in Intercourse: One of the foreskin’s functions is to facilitate smooth, gentle movement between the mucosal surfaces of the two partners during intercourse. The foreskin enables the penis to slip in and out of the vagina nonabrasively inside its own slick sheath of self-lubricating, movable skin. The female is thus stimulated by moving pressure rather than by friction only, as when the male’s foreskin is missing.
- The foreskin fosters intimacy between the two partners by enveloping the glans and maintaining it as an internal organ. The sexual experience is enhanced when the foreskin slips back to allow the male’s internal organ, the glans, to meet the female’s internal organ, the cervix-a moment of supreme intimacy and beauty.
The foreskin may have functions not yet recognized or understood. Scientists in Europe recently detected estrogen receptors in its basal epidermal cells.24 Researchers at the University of Manchester found that the human foreskin has apocrine glands.25 These specialized glands produce pheromones, nature’s chemical messengers. Further studies are needed to fully understand these features of the foreskin and the role they play.
by James E. Peron, Ed. D.
In a society where routine circumcision has been common for many years, even parents who choose to protect their sons from routine circumcision may have questions regarding hygiene of the intact penis.
Should the young child’s foreskin be retracted for proper cleaning? At what age should the child’s foreskin be retractable?
- Leave the foreskin alone; wash only what is external and readily visible.
- Never forcibly retract your son’s foreskin and don’t permit anyone else to do so.
- Make certain your son’s medical attendants understand his foreskin is not to be retracted or tampered with.
- Always stay with your son during his doctor visits and exams.
- When teaching the child to bathe and care for himself, let the child retract his own foreskin if he wants to. He will not retract it beyond the point of discomfort.
- A child’s foreskin does not need to be retracted regularly for cleaning until the end of puberty. It should not be retracted during early childhood.*
What about “smegma” and hygiene?
Parents are frequently told that the foreskin must be carefully cleaned to remove “smegma” from under the foreskin. Smegma is a natural oily, waxy lubricant formed between the foreskin and the glans. Rarely does it exist in the uncircumcised child whose foreskin has not been forcibly retracted; the substance we are warned to carefully wash away is rarely produced during childhood. During puberty, these natural secretions tend to increase, providing a natural lubricant between the foreskin and glans for protection and to permit the foreskin to slide easily over the glans as nature intended for this age. By mid-teenage, the foreskin is retractable and hygiene is a simple matter. Any accumulation of these natural lubricating substances can easily be cleansed during the boy’s shower or bath.
What about irritation or itching of the foreskin?
- If the infant boy has redness or irritation of the foreskin area and tip of his penis, simply apply a protective healing ointment such as A&D ointment, Oil of Vitamin E, anti-biotic ointemnt, etc. Don’t try to retract his foreskin. The irritation will usually clear up in a few days.
- Some baby boys develop little “pearls” under the foreskin between the glans and the foreskin. These are shed cells from the glans and foreskin gradually separating that will eventually work their way to the opening and be discarded. Rarely do they present a problem.
- An older uncircumcised child may complain of foreskin irritation or itching. Interestingly, this seems most common with those boys whose foreskin has been regularly retracted from early childhood.
- Active young boys playing outside may occasionally get dirt or sand in the foreskin opening. It may lodge between the inner foreskin and glans tip causing minor irritation. If the foreskin is partially or fully retractable, you may very gently retract his foreskin and rinse the area with warm water.
- If the foreskin will not retract or is swollen, do not force it. Wash the area and apply a soothing lubricant to the tip and exposed surfaces. Remember always return the foreskin to its normal resting position.
(*Improper retraction by force can cause small tears in the foreskin and the mucosal fold under the foreskin where it is normally adherent to the glans. This may cause bleeding and considerable pain, and open the route for potential infection and irritation. If this is a regular practice, restrictive scar tissue may form around the opening of the foreskin or between the foreskin and the glans.)