The conversation regarding whether babies born with male genitalia should be circumcised has resurfaced recently with more urgency due to the renewed public vigor about personal bodily autonomy and consent.
It is expected that parents make most decisions regarding their child’s health and happiness during infancy. While babies are limited to crying to communicate their needs, parents are left to make major life decisions for the child that bypass the usual realm of what they should wear or what they should eat.
A parent piercing their child’s ears so they look “pretty,” for example, is a contested issue. This issue pales in comparison, however, to the irreversible practice of penile circumcision. Many are starting to see circumcision as a question of bodily autonomy and as a form of bodily mutilation. At the very least, information about the concerns of circumcision should be available to parents.
Because a child cannot give a form of consent on a permanent cosmetic procedure, the practice of penis circumcision in infancy or in childhood should be stopped.
Penile circumcision is often a religious or cultural practice in the Jewish and Islamic faiths, and is also seen in aboriginal tribes in Australia and Africa, according to the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic also lists positive factors for circumcision, including ease of cleaning, decreased risk of urinary tract infections and the possibility that it might decrease the risk of penile cancer. It is also thought that circumcision does not detract from nor enhance sexual pleasure.
The “aesthetic” factor to circumcise children is the most worrisome argument for penile circumcision. As they grow older and start having sex, many people worry that their penis won’t be attractive unless it looks a certain way. An article by the New York Post quotes a matchmaker, saying, “Women find it disgusting to be intimate with a man who’s not circumcised.”
Another interview with a urologist stated that over half of adult patients that opt for penile surgery do so because of cosmetic reasons.
Like with any surgery, the Mayo Clinic details the risk of complication if the foreskin is not completely removed. It may reattach, fail to heal properly, become infected or remain too long or too short on the penis.
Because this procedure is irreversible and is done primarily for cosmetic reasons, the practice of circumcising the penis should be publicly questioned. The choice to not circumcise should also be destigmatized and given validity as a personal decision.
Making a permanent, cosmetic decision for another individual based on one’s parents’ beliefs is selfish. Worrying that a penis won’t be sexually attractive within a social context is an issue people must face themselves—and make their own informed decision about. Unless there is a serious medical reason to get the procedure done, surgery should be delayed until the child can make his/her own choice regarding permanent changes to his/her body.
It is up to the masses to realize that a penis is a penis, whether or not it is circumcised. No one should feel pressured to make their body look a certain way—especially if surgery is involved.