“Do you want to see some dicks?” Jaime, hunched over her iPad, asked me when I came to bed one night recently. She was researching circumcision–has been for weeks now–and part of that research includes staring at screen after screen of uncircumcised penises and possibly asking herself, “Can I really look at one these for the next 18 years?” Well, probably more like the next four or five, depending on how long our son takes to learn how to use his and whether or not he becomes one of those little boys that needs to show everyone his penis. (We all knew one of those kids growing up.)
One of the things I love most about Jaime is that she’s a tireless researcher, learning the ins and outs of any subject of interest to her, even if that means staring at uncircumcised penises for hours and developing such a deep understanding of the circumcision process that she’s compelled to share it with me over dinner while I double over in phantom pain. Jaime’s knowledge means I don’t have to read anything about a subject as painful as losing 50% of your penis skin sounds (Yes, it’s true–half!); she’s my own personal Ask Jeeves.
But before we even began the dinnertable discussion where we would decide the fate of our son’s foreskin, I had already made up my mind: Baby Mac’s (That’s what I’ve been calling this thing growing in Jaime’s stomach until we decide on a name.) penis would remain intact. Every parent wants their child to have what they didn’t, and for me, that begins with the foreskin. Jaime’s intensive research only validated how strongly I felt, especially when, after she promised not to say anymore about how circumcisions are performed, the phantom pain subsided and I learned the reasons why we circumcise are bullshit. Circumstitions, as the Intactivists, the pro-foreskin sector of the Internet, call them.
I didn’t know the foreskin was the most sensitive part of the penis, though it explains why circumcision began as a preventative measure against masturbation (Yeah, that didn’t work.) in the UK. Why would I want to take away the most sensitive part of my kid’s penis? That’s like making Kool-Aid without sugar, like ice cream without sprinkles (I really like sprinkles.), like baseball without home-runs. I can picture the birds-and-the-bees conversation where I tell my son, “Sex is pretty cool, pal, but it would be way cooler if mom and dad didn’t let the doctors chop off half your junk skin.” Seems like a, um, dick thing to do.
I also didn’t know most men in the world are not circumcised, a fact reinforced by all the “foreign penis,” as Jaime called it, on the message boards. (Apparently, she also has the gift of determining nationality with a glance at the nethers.) I was raised Catholic–everyone gets circumcised, and in the U.S., circumcision is still the norm, though it varies by region. (The West Coast is the exception.) I only know one guy who isn’t circumcised actually (I’ve been taking an informal poll of friends, which–let me tell you–has made some people feel uncomfortable.), and he doesn’t have any complaints, though he did advise me, “Dude, you gotta wash that shit.” Some extra cleanliness hasn’t stopped the rest of the world.
And the whole circumcision-prevents-HIV-thing–well, there’s debate about that, too. Then again, we could just papier-mache this kid in condoms when he turns 13 (Let’s call it a rite of passage…), and he won’t have to worry about any STDs.
Some other things Jaime has told me about circumcision until I’ve shouted at her “Please stop!”: circumcision can cause PTSD (Makes. Total. Sense.); babies are strapped down when they are circumcised (Probably because they would instinctually defend themselves against the person attacking their baby junk); and (SPOILER ALERT!) before the foreskin is cut–or crushed (Yes, crushed.) off– it must be torn away from the glans.
Honestly, I’d rather be stabbed.