To Cut or Not to Cut

baby boy being cicumcised

At least vasectomies are reversible, circumcision is not.

Hair grows back. A circumcised foreskin does not.

If you want to leave your mark on you boy, cut his hair and not his foreskin.

Before our son was born 14 years ago I struggled with whether to have him circumcised or not. All of my past consternation on the topic bubbled to the surface when I heard that the City of San Francisco had approved a November ballot referendum to ban all circumcisions in the city. If nothing else, the proposed San Francisco ban vindicated that I was not the only person that gave circumcision such considerable thought.

Through all the obstetric visits and birthing classes the topic of circumcision was never really touched on as far as I can remember. But I was certain someone was going to ask, if the baby was a boy, whether we wanted him to be circumcised. Consequently, I wanted to be prepared with an answer. But what was the answer, yes or no! So began a short but intense philosophical debate and research for information that could lead us to the correct decision that fit within our world view of life.

At the time, I was not a particularly religious person, and to be honest, I did not really know the history of circumcision and its meaning. All I knew was that it somehow started as a Jewish tradition but I did not understand why the Christian religions embraced it. If the Jewish tradition of circumcision was so important, why didn’t we Christians also celebrate Hanukah? It was all very confusing.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the foreskin had to have some purpose. How many body parts do we have that are extraneous and don’t serve some sort of purpose. OK, nipples on men don’t make much sense. Conversely, we are designed to lose some parts, like male pattern balding, so why wouldn’t the foreskin just drop off when not needed. “Nature is way smarter than me”, I thought. Who was I to question which body parts were necessary now or in the future.

For the first time in my life I turned to the bible for answers. After much reading, there was one passage that really struck me, Galatians 5:6 (NRSV), “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love”. That resonated with me. However, could I embrace a Christian doctrine when I wasn’t really sure I was a Christian?

I looked up. I looked down. I had to fall back on experience. My parents made many decisions for me that I did not agree with. Most of those decisions were reversible, but not circumcision. A part of me was taken without my consent. My foreskin wasn’t endangering my life, it was just there. I have had a couple of operations in that area, one to fix a diverticulum in my urethra. It was not pleasant, but I survived. Had I wanted or needed a circumcision, I would have survived.

I finally decided that I was not going to mess around with my son. If he wants a circumcision, let him make the decision. I guarantee he will survive if he wants one as an adult. For me, it had nothing to do with religion or potential disease. The bottom line is you do not F__k around with someone else’s body for your own personal satisfaction or God’s. I have gotten to the point that I am uncomfortable seeing little babies with their ears pierced. Parents should not permanently disfigure their children to satisfy some quirky identity issues for themselves. If you want to leave your mark on your kids; get their haircut. Hair always grows back, foreskins don’t regenerate.

DC protesters against circumcision

Protest against circumcision in Washington D.C.: “Foreskins are not a birth defect”

My son snapped this photo a couple weeks ago when he was on his 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. and before I even wrote this post. I think he understands at age 14.

  • Lory

    I like the simplicity of your post and how you get straight to the point. I often feel like the only one who cringes when a baby’s ears are pierced, or when I come across a picture of an infant strapped down to be cut; in the image above it looks like he’s in a straight jacket… regardless, I’m relieved that someone else finds it disturbing.

    Even though I recently decided to get my ears pierced, I’m glad that the choice was saved for me, and I’ll show the same respect to any daughters I’ll have. Any boys will keep all their parts, as well… my dad was angry that he was cut, so he left my two brothers alone. Hasn’t killed ‘em yet.

    At any rate, thanks for putting the thought into it. Your son is lucky!

    • Kevin Knauss

      May rose petals from heaven shower you for being proactive and thinking ahead. My son just returned from his 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. and he snapped a picture in front of the Capitol with protesters proclaiming the foreskins are not a birth defect. I think he is getting it at age 14.

  • roger desmoulins

    Kevin, intactivism has not only led me to deplore, like you, girls getting their ears pierced before, say, age 14, but it also led me to renounce infant baptism. Even though I go to church, my daughters are not baptised. The only baptism they should undergo is one that they request. If they are not baptised until they are 25 or 30, I see nothing wrong with that. God will give me no kudos if my adult children turn out to be reprobates even though I baptised them when they were 3 months old! We intactivists do not want to outlaw Jewish and Islamic circumcision; we merely advocate delaying it until a male believer in those traditions is old enough to make an informed decision and faith commitment.

    Let me share with you something personal. Over the life cycle, the glans gradually loses sensitivity. That is true of intact me, and I suspect it is true of all men, regardless of circ status. Sometime in my 50s, I began to notice that everything I felt during intercourse, I felt in moving bits I would not have if I had been cut at birth like the vast majority of the boys I grew up with.

    Something else. It is now socially accepted for a woman, during the first 5-10 years after she finishes high school, to live as a sexual free spirit. We hope she uses condoms. We now understand that dating a lot of men when one is of college age does not damage a woman’s ability to settle down and stay faithful. It is not at all unusual for a woman to date a Latino of foreign student when she is in college. Hence a lot of smart extroverted American women under 30-40 have experienced both cut and intact. And quite a few of these women have revealed on the internet, some even using their real names in FaceBook, that they prefer intact. Women tend to be creatures of fashion and imitation, and when today’s free spirits become tomorrow’s mothers, I predict that the circ rate will decline further.

    • Kevin Knauss

      Thank you for sharing. I am always humbled when I read people’s comment with a radically different perspective from mine, that I did not consider, but can ultimately appreciate.

  • Chelsie

    I couldn’t agree more Kevin! And bravo for keeping your son whole! I’ve had many of these same thoughts for LONG before I became pregnant with our son a little over two years ago. My partner took some convincing, but our son is a happy, intact 16 month old boy.
    His body. His choice!

    • Kevin Knauss

      Congratulations! I am certain that is one less issue he will have to deal with in this crazy world as he gets older. You may never be thanked from him about it, but we know you made the right decision.

  • Crystal Rhodes

    I love this article. Thank you for being so honest and forward about your decision. 13 years ago my first son was born and only being 18 at the time, I knew one thing. My son would remain intact. I had never seen an intact penis and my ex hysband was venomintly opposed but it made no sense to me why we would ever cut off a piece of our child’s body. Evolution doesn’t make mistakes. It’s there for a reason. My now 7 month old is also intact and I’m very proud to know I left the choice in his hands. My 5 year old daughter also does not have pierced ears. Huge pet peeve. Her body her choice. His penis, his decision.

    • Kevin Knauss

      Thank you for your comments. Today, I am learning that women are driving the change, which makes sense. Women have endured insane and asinine cultural traditions for centuries. It sounds like women are the ones who are waking up and saying, “This doesn’t make sense. You want to cut the boy just so he will look like daddy?”

      To all the women who are questioning the nonsensical norms of society…Thank you!