Aesthetic and cultural reasons for circumcision
On this page I will cover reasons for circumcision related to the way it looks and fitting in. Despite how often reasons related to health and hygiene are given, I believe that it's these reasons why circumcision continues to thrive the most in the United States. It's difficult to respond to these claims with documented facts, because they're not based on documented facts to begin with but personal opinions and anecdotes. What I can do is give opinions and anecdotes and contradict these arguments, and hope to provide logical counter-arguments to show how little sense these opinions make.
All of the arguments below that I'm responding to are based on actual arguments I've heard from supporters of circumcision, either online or in real life. I know that not everyone who is pro-circumcision thinks this way, but if the shoe fits wear it.
"It looks better."
According to whom? This should be an issue that is in the eye of the beholder, so you can't base an argument upon it. My own personal opinion is that the body always looks best in its natural state, and that includes with a foreskin. Circumcision leaves a scar all the way around the penis, and I tend to believe body parts look better without scars on them. I also have talked to lots of women who agree with me on these points.
Despite what many Americans may think about the intact penis now, it has not been regarded this way historically, nor is it regarded this way by everyone. Intact penises appear quite frequently in art ("Gallery of Intact Penises in Art) and lots of famous people are intact (Gallery of Famous Intact Men), many of who are still considered to be extremely attractive.
No matter what any person's personal opinion on what makes a penis look better may be, what difference does that make toward circumcising your son? It's his penis; he's the one who has to live with it for the rest of his life, not you. Since your opinion on what looks better may not be shared by your son, allow him to make the choice of how he wants his penis to look based on his own standards.
See also: The Intact Penis - Aesthetic Perceptions from The Intact Network
"He'll be less attractive." /"He'll be rejected by girls."
This reason is similar to the one above, but instead of trying to say it just looks better in general or looks more attractive to them the argument is that it will look better to a specific group, girl his age. I've heard some people argue that girls might reject your son once they find out that he's uncircumcised. This begs the question of whether it's worth going out with someone this shallow. If a girl would reject your son because his penis is in its natural state, is this the kind of person you want your son to be dating?
Here's a hypothetical situation using the same logic: suppose you have a teenage daughter who is fairly flat chested. She tries to hide it by stuffing her bra, but eventually word gets out, her boyfriend rejects her and she now has difficulty getting a date because all the boys now consider her disgusting. What would your reaction be? Would you tell her that she's perfect just the way she is and shouldn't have to change for anyone? Would you consider any boy who would reject a girl just because of the size of her breasts to be sexist? What's the difference between this situation and one involving a girl who rejects a boy because of his foreskin?
Just because someone has a personal preference doesn't mean that they will automatically reject anyone who is different and consider them gross. Lots of men have a preference for women with large breasts, but that doesn't mean they'll immediately turn down one with smaller breasts. Likewise, just because a woman has a preference for circumcised penises doesn't mean she was immediately reject a man who has an intact one. Lots of women I've known personally originally preferred circumcised men just because that's what they were used to, but were willing to try the intact penis and were pleasantly surprised.
Circumcision supporters often cite surveys that indicate that the majority of women prefer circumcised men. All this reflects is that the majority of women in the United States are most familiar with the circumcised penis, because that's often all they've ever seen. Women in countries that don't circumcise usually feel differently. The only objective study I know of that's tried to measure what is more pleasurable for the woman is the O'Hara study from England (where the majority of men are intact) which surveyed 138 women and found that the majority of them prefered intact men.
"He'll be teased in the locker room."
I've heard lots of anecdotes indicating that uncircumcised boys and men will be teased in the locker room, both from men who claim they've seen it go on and men who claim they were the one teased. I don't believe these people are necessarily lying, kids can be cruel sometimes, but I have trouble believing that a kid would be teased for this reason alone. Whether or not a kid will be teased is likely to be based on a number of factors be it physical appearance, body size or shape, athletic ability or belonging to a minority race or religion. If a kid is being teased I can imagine that if he were intact they'd throw that in as a reason but how often do you think that would be the main reason for being teased? Who do you think would be more likely to get teased in the locker, an intact football team captain or a circumcised chess club president?
Personally, the vast majority of intact men I've talked to (including my intact husband) have told me that this is just a subject most guys leave alone. One subject you're more likely to be teased about today is being gay, and pointing out that someone is uncircumcised means that you're admitting you were looking. Most men I've known would just go on with their regular business in the locker room and never acknowledge another man's penis, whether he was actually looking or not.
The same hypothetical situation mentioned above can also apply here. If you're daughter were being teased in the locker room for the size of her breasts what would your reaction be? Would you tell her that she's perfect the way she is, or rush out and arrange to get her a breast augmentation (or reduction)? What if your child was teased because his/her nose was too big? Would you get him/her a nose job? Most parents would agree that it's important to tell your child that they're perfect the way they are and don't have to change the way they look for anyone, but by circumcising them to fit in you're sending them a different message. All that needs to be explained to intact boys when they notice that they're different from other boys is that all boys are born that way but some parents have it cut off. If he's ever teased over the subject, he can probably come up with a good comeback once he knows that he's natural. (Not that I'm endorsing teasing, but kids need to be able to defend themselves.)
Finally, due to among other things an increase in multiculturalism and changing medical opinions about the value and ethics of circumcision, the circumcision rate has now dropped faster than it's ever risen. At its all time high the rate of circumcision was around 90 percent, but has now dropped to 60 percent, and 30-40 percent on the West coast. With the AAP's new statement in 1999 stating that circumcision is not necessary it will probably drop even more in the coming years. Even if you live in the Midwest where the rate is the highest in the country chances are your son will not be the only intact boy in school.
"He needs to match his father."
This might possibly be the biggest reason why fathers continue to circumcise their sons today. Why it's being made such a concern now I don't know. When circumcision first started being performed on a mass scale during the 19th and 20th centuries the sons of uncircumcised men were being circumcised and no one made a big deal about it then. Circumcision used to be performed on the majority of the population in Britain, Australia and Canada but the rates have gone done with more circumcised men leaving their sons intact and I've heard of no problems resulting from this.
The biggest question about this issue is how often do fathers and sons compare penises? I know that they will often partake in activities where their penises are visible to each other, such as changing in locker rooms or peeing together, but when they do this does it make a difference if their penises look the same or not? Lots of parents of intact sons I've known report that their son has never even mentioned that his daddy's penis looks different, and for among those who have noticed it can be easily explained. His father's lack of a foreskin probably the first thing an intact boy will notice, it would most likely be that his is so much bigger and has pubic hairs. (Not to mention that he'll certainly notice that his mom does not have a penis.) Just as those differences can be easily explained, so can the differences between the circumcised and intact penises. A boy's penis will not even begin to resemble his father's until he's a teenager, and how many teens would compare penises with their dad?
Fathers should always want to give the best to their sons, even it's not what they want. There's a commercial currently running for Rogaine showing a man playing with his young son while he explains in a voiceover how men lose their hair early in his family so he used Rogaine at the first sign of fallout. At the end of the commercial he states, "I love me dad, I'm just not in a rush to look like him." Whenever I see that I can't help think that there's a hidden anti-circumcision message in there and that this men left his son intact for the same reason.
If it's really that important to a man for his son's penis to match him, why should his son have to be the one who has to change when it's the father who has the
See also: Looking Like Dad a Reason to Amputate the Foreskin? from The Intact Network
Raising Our Intact Sons from NOHARMM
See also: Why people say they circumcise from NOCIRC of Vermont
Back to Yuki's Intactivism Resource