Wednesday, January 09, 2008

To Cut, Or Not to Cut...

I wonder when a baby is no longer a newborn. E. has completed his first day on Earth. He seems to be quite a bit better adjusted than yesterday. I guess that's to be expected. It's fun to see his eyes open, and scanning his environment for anything at all that makes sense. I'd love to see through his eyes for about thirty seconds (and then of course recover my own imperfect eyesight). I don't believe he'll ever have any conscious memory about what he's seeing, but in some ways he's laying some important foundations for his ultimate life perspective. That's an intense idea. It's easy to want the very best for him, but hard to figure out just how to give it to him. I'm not sure at all what he wants when he cries, and that can be frustrating.

I think I can say with some confidence that he probably didn't want his foreskin clipped. Yet that was exactly what happened today. I have to say that neither of us really considered doing anything but going ahead with the procedure. Whatever controversy exists over the idea of routine circumcision has been so far on the periphery of our lives that it hasn't even registered with us. Bumper stickers like "100% of babies oppose circumcision" strike me as inane and a bit annoying. We have heard too much about respecting nature's way when it comes to childbirth and rearing. The reality is that humans have developed many health practices that seem counter to what "nature" or "god" intended. To me that entire approach is simplistic.

A major argument against circumcision goes something like this- "My baby is born perfect, and why should I alter it in any way?" Besides being arguably naive and idealistic, there's simply not a lot of substance behind it. More galling is the contention that male circumcision is akin to female circumcision. For contrary evidence, just consult the pornography industry. I can speak to this point from personal experience- I am circumcised and I have had no deficit of sensory pleasure throughout my life. In fact, I think more feeling might possibly be a bad thing. Other people don't seem to have the stomach for "hurting" little boys... as if any and all pain should be avoided at all costs. Well... immunization is neither natural nor pain-free, but science suggests that it is often beneficial.

The skeptical reader may oppose my comparison between circumcision and immunization. But the latest research is very interesting, and directly applicable to this dialog. It turns out that studies have shown that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from heterosexual sex by 50 percent. Similarly, it decreases by half the chance of getting other STDs. Men with foreskins also get significantly more urinary tract infections and suffer higher rates of penile cancer. When confronted with such dangers, the "flappers" suggest that many of those problems can be staved off with condoms (which also happen to decrease sexual pleasure- the supposed advantage of not being clipped in the first place). Sure- precautions, rigorous hygiene, and antibiotics can make living with a foreskin safer- but why take that chance at all?

Maybe when men roamed the Earth on all fours, the foreskin played an important protective role. But now that moist enclosure is nothing more than a snug Petri dish waiting to house all types of bacteria. If we apply the logic of the "intactivists" (which is the self-selected title for those who believe parents DO NOT have a right to make the decision to circumcise), we should hesitate to remove the vestigial tails that some babies are born with. The same concept should apply to tonsils, suspicious moles, unwanted hair, the appendix and long toenails. How dare human society ever remove these sacred birthrights?

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Anonymous jefg said...

Well, at first I was going to say "Too much information", but then I thought, "he just validated a decision we made many years ago", so I suppose that's a good thing indeed. Back then, it really wasn't much of a consideration, as pretty much everyone did it (or at least I think so, and I've not taken it upon myself to do a survey). Thanks for the enlightenment, I think.

7:28 AM  
Blogger FredR said...

Superstitious people are easy to confuse with pseudo-scientific misinterpretations of the signs and symbols nature gives us. If you knew in the first place the function of the male and female prepuce, which is to stimulate sexual desire, like taste buds stimulate appetite, then it would be clear that cutting it off is to lessen sexual desire, not eliminate it. Lessening sexual desire decreases the chances of HIV infection from having reproductive sex with HIV infected prostitutes. Doing it to infants is not advisable because the reproductive nervous system is not matured and can also cause other dysfunctions related to sexuality. As you may know, brain chemistry malfunctions caused from nerve dammage accompanied by infections and toxins, are the main suspects in the cuases of autism and schizophrenia. Pro circumcysts are trying to blaim it on genes. Science blaims it on tradition. Both, inherent from parents, confounds the results of circumcision to prevent HIV studies.
If the pro circs are right in justifiing baby circs to curb HIV then we will not become extinct, if they are wrong then a few circed loons will invent weapons of mass distruction and holocaust humanity. The prepuce is not our true enemy, but the gods who take it away.

6:08 PM  

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