Circumcision: Why your feelings don’t matter

By Jennifer Moose © 2013

Long after the days of newborn care have passed and your son is a man, living his own life, loving his own lovers and contemplating his own upbringing, he will still have the penis you may or may not have chosen to have circumcised.

If you DID have him circumcised as an infant/child and he has the luck of turning out 'fine,' it is very likely that he will still experience problems from his circumcision without ever knowing that they are caused by you having made that choice about his body. Some of the long-term complications associated with circumcision include: erectile dysfunction, desensitization/keratinization, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse due to the immobility of the skin on the penis and/or hair on the penile shaft, tight erections and the list goes on.

If he’s lucky enough to discover foreskin restoration, he may be able to bring back some of what was taken from him as a baby, but he will never have the complete function he was born with and he may be well into his 40s or 50s before he discovers that being kept intact could have spared him from many years of suffering.

If you thought you were doing him a favor to shelter him from something inane and subjective like social discomfort, or even made what you felt was an 'educated decision' based on risks/benefits, those were YOUR feelings, YOUR fears, and YOUR misconceptions driving the decision. They are not his reality.

How will HE feel if he discovers that your feelings about his penis caused the problems he is having?

How will HE feel if he knows that you could have kept him intact and let him decide whether or not having full genitals was right for him?

Why are your feelings more important than HIS reality?  The answer is: They are not.

If your son remains intact, there is good news: he can still choose any form of genital modification (including circumcision) for himself if he wishes. By waiting until he is a consenting adult, he will have less damage, better pain control options, and will understand what is happening to his body. He will be able to communicate his needs, and take care of his wound and quite importantly, take ownership of any bad or undesirable outcomes, should they occur.

Circumcision is a gamble with your son’s penis, your son’s life and your relationship with your son.

Equal weight cannot be given to the benefits argument and his human right to bodily autonomy. If you want to model respect and autonomy for your child, start now and keep him intact. Stand up for his rights when others may flounder. Protect his body -- his one sole possession -- and preserve it for him until he can assume control over it when he is able. That is your charge as a parent and why your feelings truly don’t matter.

Related Reading: 

The Ethics of Infant Male Circumcision by Brian Earp:

Circumcision Ethics and Economics, Psychology Today: 

Circumcision vs. Intact Outcome Statistics:

Foreskin Restoration Resources:

Andy Richter, Jeff Goldblum on Circumcision with Conan

Graphic courtesy of Intact Kansas

Andy Richter:

I'm circumcised because I was born at a time when there was just no question about it…With my son, as I told the doctor, 'He was born perfect, why change him?' [Andy turns towards Jeff Goldblum] So what I'm saying is, you've mutilated your child.

Jeff Goldblum: 

I know the argument… I think you're probably right, also.

Full clip:

Circumcision Regret: Working Through and Rising Above Mistakes Made

By M. Merritt © 2015

I am a mother to three beautiful boys. When I was pregnant with my first son, I researched everything. Well, almost everything. The one topic I ignored was circumcision. Looking back, I wonder why more websites do not touch on the subject. For example, if a new or expecting mama is researching breastfeeding, there should be information pertaining to how much pain impacts feeding for a newborn, but not many sites focus on this,  for fear of upsetting their readers.

In my research, I didn’t look to any specific websites, I just did a lot of Googling. At the time, I was an aide at a local hospital in a U.S. city where circumcision was common, and proper intact care was almost unknown. My job was to watch over the patient who suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia to make sure they stayed in their beds and did not injure themselves. I witnessed many sponge baths. Many of the men were circumcised, but there were a few who were intact. I can remember one intact patient that was in a comatose-like state. He was unable to care for himself, so he relied heavily on the nursing staff to keep his body clean. At the time, he appeared to have a fungal infection in and around his penis. Every single nurse/doctor/nurses aide who cared for him remarked about his intact genitals. They would say that he was 'dirty' or that it was his own fault that he had infections because he was not circumcised. Because of experiences like these, mixed with the fact that nearly every other male I knew was circumcised, my husband and I decided to have our first son circumcised.

After a somewhat traumatic, induced labor and delivery, a couple doctors came in to my hospital room to ask me why I wanted to have the elective surgery performed on my baby. I feel like it didn’t really matter what I said, because after giving them my reasons, they simply nodded and were on their way. Looking back, I wish those two or three doctors had given me some information about what was going to happen to my son. If they had given me some facts or statistics, maybe I wouldn’t have allowed my baby to be cut...

Fast forward to when my baby was brought back into my room after being circumcised. The doctor (who was also my OB/GYN at the time) made a crude remark about having to use the bigger clamp on him. She said this with a huge grin and a giggle. At the time, I didn’t know what to feel. Was that supposed to make me feel proud? I don’t remember much from that day except that my baby was very unhappy. He did not latch well (if at all) after being cut, but breastfeeding was one of the things I was very adamant on. My baby boy seemed to not know what to do and when he did latch on, he would frantically suck until I began to bleed. It was awful. I would beg the nurses to help me latch him on correctly every hour, and they all said he was latching fine. They got very annoyed with me after a couple hours of this. I cried and cried, telling them I know something was wrong. Looking back, I have NO idea how I did not connect the dots. My baby boy was in pain!

When my son turned 3 weeks old, it was the first time I was able to finally latch him on properly. Up until then, I was pumping around the clock. Our first three weeks as a mother/child dyad were spent pumping, bottle feeding, and being very stressed out. All I wanted in the world was to cuddle and nurse my precious baby boy. My son was clearly upset most of the day and night post-circumcision, and still, I did not understand why.

After he healed (as best one could be after such a horrible surgery), breastfeeding got easier. Once he hit three months, I started 'liking' some parenting pages on Facebook. At first, I just 'liked' random pages, (still being new to the world of Facebook) and it was then that I was first introduced to a group of people who called themselves intactivists. I’m not sure who any of these particular people were at the time, but their comments and posts were absolutely terrifying to me. I witnessed attacking and name-calling, and after viewing many horrible photos posted for shock value, I dismissed the credibility of intactivists in general. From that moment on, I hid or clicked away from any and all information about circumcision. I went on like that, in a state of cognitive dissonance, until about a month later.

I began researching when it would be a wise time to start my baby on solid foods, and came across, and eventually found the Peaceful Parenting Facebook page, too. Once there I noticed that a lot of the posts dealt with the topic of circumcision as well. The only difference was that the information was presented in a gentle, research-based way. The posts were factual and informative. I even noticed that the readers and commenters had a more approachable style with their words. I began to wonder if maybe I had been wrong all along…

I am not sure exactly which post I read that day, but I do know that the words in it were what ultimately got me to the point of wanting to learn about circumcision. Nothing I read made me feel threatened, or scared. It was straight facts and science-based information. I think I sat at my computer for hours that day researching circumcision for the first time. That was the day I had another label to add to my name: regret mom. From that moment, my eyes were opened, I regretted having my son circumcised with my whole heart.

I eventually needed to take a couple steps back, because it was all too painful for me at the time. I wronged my son, and the guilt from that seemed as though it might swallow me whole. One day I was reading the comments of a post about circumcision over at Peaceful Parenting, and I came across a comment from a mother exactly like myself. She found herself consumed with guilt and shame, and did not know where to turn. Someone responded to her, and her words encouraged me to keep on going. She told this mama that there are other people liker her, and that there were things she could do to help herself heal. Because of those words of encouragement, I was able to move forward.

Here is a list of the things I have done/am doing to help with the guilt that comes along with being a regret mama:

1) Apologize to your baby.

It sounded silly at first to me, but doing it felt great. I let out a good cry, and I believe it really helped start the healing.

2) Plan to apologize to your son when he is old enough to understand and process the apology.

This is a huge one. My son is just about 6 years old, and I know the time is quickly approaching. I have decided to wait to speak to him about it, because he is a very sensitive and emotional being. I need to wait until the right time. When that time is here, I will make sure my son knows how sorry I am. I will prepare myself for all the emotions he may have. Sometimes I wonder if he will be angry at me. I know my little boy, and I know how big his heart is. I am sure he will offer up his forgiveness, but it may take him a while. And that is okay. Anything he feels is the right feeling. After all, it was he who had almost half of his penis mindlessly cut off for no good reason at all. He deserves to be angry. But, no matter what, he WILL know that he is a hero to his younger brothers and the countless other baby boys we've been able to 'save' from routine infant circumcision as the result of this experience. It is my hope that he knows I understand how big a deal circumcision is. I will make sure to always be accepting of any feelings he may have regarding what was done to him.

3) Write.

This is something else I struggle with, but writing down my feelings about such a traumatic time has been therapeutic for me. It forces me to really face my fears and look the practice of male genital mutilation right in the eyes.

One thing I suggest to all the regret parents reading this is to never force yourself. Take your time and treat yourself gently. You deserve that, and pushing yourself too hard can actually be counter productive in your journey to healing.

4) Get the word out!

At first, I did not think I was capable to something like this because I am a very introverted person, but I had this nagging feeling that something had to be done, and I was perfectly capable of doing it! It is hard at first, but there are gentle ways to inform expecting mamas, raise awareness and take part in public education. For the most part, people welcome genital autonomy information happily when it is presented in a way that meets them where they are at. Today, I am Co-Director of Intact Rhode Island, our state chapter of Saving Our Sons, and take part in numerous educational expos, demonstrations and events each year.

5) Keep ALL future sons intact.

For me, this was a no brainer. After all the pain my son dealt with, there was no way I could put another child through such a barbaric procedure. My eldest son suffered, and still does suffer, in so many ways because of being circumcised. No child deserves to deal with that. I went on to have two more sons after my first, and keeping them intact has helped me on such a deep level.

Someday, when all of my sons are curious as to why their big brother looks different, I will tell them the truth. I will apologize to them as well. I wonder if they will be upset with me for allowing someone to hurt their brother. I will prepare myself for anger, which ever direction it may come from. Ultimately, I will tell my younger two sons that their big brother is a hero. He and his daddy are their heroes. They both survived male genital mutilation, and lived to save other boys from it. Someday I will make sure they realize how amazingly brave and strong their big brother is. And their daddy, he is the bravest of them all. Admitting he was violated as a baby was not easy for him, and because of his strength, two of his sons will never know that pain in childhood, or that loss in adulthood. That is a hero! ♥

If you're a regret parent, like myself and so many others, who are raising both circumcised and intact sons, you can connect with me at Keeping Future Sons Intact, or in the private KFSI group:

Further experiences from parents with circumcised sons who are keeping future sons (and grandsons) intact:

Regret parents welcome and respected in the following groups:

Saving Our Sons Community

Intact: Healthy, Happy, Whole

Peaceful Intact Education

Raising Boys


Malawi HIV Infection Rate Doubles with Circumcision Push

Passing by a circumcision propaganda billboard. Further images in Africa:

allAfrica report:

Following up the reports that Malawi24 released on July 25, 2015, that circumcision does not help in the reduction of HIV, but exacerbates it, reports have emerged that have agreed with the facts that we had earlier established.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), one of the world's renowned NGOs working on public health, has released statistics showing that HIV infection rate in Malawi has doubled in recent years despite a range of interventions put in place to tackle the spread of the virus that have included relentless campaign on condomisation and circumcision.

According to the statistics by MSF, HIV rates have doubled in Malawi moving from 10% to 20% in 1 year. Strangely, this has been the same period that Malawians have been manipulated and forced to go through circumcision in masses with the promise that it reduces the contraction of HIV.

The results, which were published on BBC, and revealed that of every 5 people, 1 person is HIV positive and have pitted Malawi as the country worst hit by the HIV pandemic of all countries in the world.

Commenting on the development, some Malawians trashed the results claiming they were sensationalised and exaggerated for the sake of tarnishing the image of the country to the international world to achieve what they called MSF's own hidden agenda. Others faulted the BBC, saying it was one of the broadcasters' crusades against the African continent which they have tirelessly aimed to present in a negative light.

Related Reading:

HIV / AIDS and Circumcision Resource Page


Men Speak: When I see a circumcision video...

When I see a circumcision video, I see myself being strapped down to a cold board.  
When I hear a baby shrieking in pain, I imagine that I must have shrieked the same way while someone's hands ran a blade across my genitals.  
And each time, I am reminded that this was an intentional wound. A wound that was discussed, planned, bought, and sold.  
And yet I am forced to face the reality that there will never be justice for victims such as I. 
                                                                                -Jonathon Conte, Bay Area Intactivists

More Men Speak


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