07.05.2010 10:08 AM

To snip or not to snip, that is the question

This story – I swear to God – is the blackline story on the front of today’s Toronto Star:

“To some, it is a cultural ritual. Others consider it a cosmetic procedure that ensures a son will look like his father. A growing faction believes it can save lives. Still others say it is a desecration of the human body.

Male circumcision has long incited debate over its merit.

But the controversy over preserving an infant boy’s foreskin has reached a new frenzy as Canadian and U.S. health authorities are poised to issue major evaluations on circumcision and its potential health benefits.

The reassessments by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics are being welcomed by pediatricians who say the new guidance for parents is long overdue. Critics, however, are incensed the procedure – which they liken to genital mutilation – is even being talked about in medical circles.”

What do you think, Internet?  Vote now, vote often!  Results will become government policy, so don’t lose this important opportunity!


  1. William M says:

    Snip away!

  2. matt says:

    The results of the new findings will not influence the decision of whether or not I circumcise a son, given that I live in North America. And I’m therefore surprised that there is a local debate about the issue. Circumcision is a cultural ritual. It provides cultural benefits, during both childhood and adulthood. It is not medically necessary. It entails some pain. None of these facts are controversial. Quantifying these costs and benefits and choosing how they ought to be balanced is the difficult job of a parent.

  3. The Other Jim says:

    It is an interesting debate, but the HIV prevention stuff is a total red herring. My brother-in-law and his wife used this as their reasoning for having their boy cut last year, and its just silly. The studies out of sub-Saharan Africa are very rudimentary and, critically, deal with a population living under exceptionally poor health and hygiene conditions. There are a whole bunch of “but what abouts” with the data and, until similar data can be presented for North American and Europe, it should be taken with a healthy grain of salt. Few diseases have been the subject of as much research over the past thirty years as HIV/AIDS, and its fairly unlikely that such a dramatic difference in transmission rates (various articles cite it around 60%) would have gone unobserved for three decades in the West. It bears noting that the chances of contracting HIV in the West are extremely remote, and that proper use of a condom is a far more reliable and proven method of preventing transmission of the virus. There are just so many other REAL decisions that you can make as parent that can positively affect your child’s health and well-being. Using this data to justify even a minor surgical procedure like circumcision is just plain foolish.

    Anyway, the argument that truly baffles me is the “wanting the son to look like the father” that’s mentioned in the opening paragraph. I mean, seriously? In the fifty or sixty years that a typical father and son have together, how many times does this even come up? I certainly get the whole religion / tradition angle, but do other dads stand around and compare wangs with their kids? Okay, there’s always the incidental stuff but, if the matter does come up whilst writing your names in the snow, how is the difference something that would cause even a flash of envy, disappointment, or regret? Like, how hard is it to say “yeah, son, my parents had my foreskin cut off, but we didn’t bother doing it to you”? Do people really believe that their kid is going to lose sleep over something like that?

    I’m circumcised but my 10 year old son isn’t. We’re pretty open about discussing body parts, sex, etc. and I’ve of course had various discussions about the importance of personal hygiene in that regard. Not once has he ever said “Gee, Dad, I wish that the tip of my penis looked like yours!”, nor can I recall a single moment during his countless diaper changes that I looked down and thought, “his damn uncircumcised penis is preventing this from being a real father-son bonding moment”. I should note that I have no idea if my own father is circumcised and, frankly, have no desire to risk the potential visual that might arise from contemplating the matter for any longer than it takes to finish this sentence.

    I’ve now officially spent more time since lunch writing about foreskins than doing any actual work, so I should probably just hit submit and get on with my day…

  4. allegra fortissima says:

    At this point of time 31% of the guys are uneasy with the “snip or not to snip” question.

    Must be Freudian “Urangst”. Or “Realangst”.

    Who knows – I am not a guy:)

  5. Abigail Thomas says:

    The CPS and the AAP have not changed there position on circumcison – the article states that they may reassess based on the new data.

    I would suggest better, and earlier, sex education (using condoms to prevent the spread of disease and as a barrier to pregnancy). Elective surgery on a newborn should be the last option, not the first.

    That being said, it is a profoundly personal decision. While my own son is not circumcised because I believe it is unnecessary, I accept that other people may disagree. That’s okay, too.

  6. William Murray says:

    Yarrah… Hard to assess the experience in some African countries a) with the rest of Africa (since, as far as I know, the continent is still not a monolith) and then b) the North American experience. Like all things medical, these are probabilities, not certainties. So, methinks it remains a private decision between two parents (one, or possibly both, of whom may be wincing and wriggling noticeably during the discussion).

  7. Namesake says:

    That’s what’s on your mind immediately before your audience with the Queen: the family jewels? A little nervous she’ll decree, “Off with his head” for the republican jibes?

  8. Mulletaur says:

    Better to be a Roundhead than a Cavalier.

  9. David says:

    Lack of informed consent says no. We don’t have a major STD problem in Canada — so it’s mutilating people to solve a non-problem.

  10. PolyGon says:

    I’m coming in at the end of the discussion here, but no skin off my nose – hope you get a chance to present the poll results to your lunching companion today!

  11. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Finally. Something really cutting for the coalition to ponder! (You can kill me later, but personally I blame my editor.)

  12. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I’m told hung only starts after seven, with all seats filled.

  13. Namesake says:

    I’m look forward to the headline and my retroactive intactness three or four decades from now, when interventionist time travel is perfected, and our newly enlightened host goes back to implement a permanent injunction against this barbaric ritual maiming:

    ForeWarrened is Forearmed: Foreskinned Thank They’ve No Unlucky Scars Thanks to Foresight of Forceful Attorney Fourscore Years Ago

  14. Namesake says:

    I look forward to the headline and my retroactive intactness three or four decades from now, when interventionist time travel is perfected, and our newly enlightened host goes back to implement a permanent injunction against this ritual maiming:

    ForeWarrened is Forearmed: Foreskinned Thank They’ve No Unlucky Scars Thanks to Foresight of Forceful Attorney Fourscore Years Ago

  15. Hugh7 says:

    “I dare you to find a circumcised guy who wishes he wasn’t.”
    See http://www.circumstitions.com/Resent.html for dozens (and the estimated 200,000 who are non-surgically restoring their foreskins), but even one is one too many, when it was a healthy, normal, non-renewable, functional (and most intimate) part removed without his consent.

    “to snip or not to snip” (I wish I had a dollar for every article with that witty and original title) is NOT the question. The question is whether to just leave the baby’s body ALONE, or cut a healthy, normal, etc. Should be a no-brainer.

  16. Gay men have an interesting perspective on the circumcised penis vs. the intact, unaltered penis. A gay man can see first-hand how dysfunctional a cut penis becomes, and how much harder it is to get off when one is circumcised vs. for the uncircumcised man. Circumcision removes up to 30% of the total funcionality (not to mention 30% of the overall sensitivity) of the penis. A circumcised man has a reduced “realm of pleasure” than an uncut man, given the foreskin is loaded with nerve endings. Take it from someone who has seen this firsthand, and who therefore understands the psychological impact that occurs once a circumcised man realizes this. Much of the first world has had running water in their homes for 100 years. If a woman can wash a vagina, so can a man wash a foreskin. It’s a horrifying procedure, which gained momentum in the 19th century by various faiths to reduce the instance of masturbation. That failed miserably of course, but not before societal and cultural conditioning (“it’s cleaner”) took effect. Why “correct” nature? I’ll argue this until I’m blue in the face. I feel badly for circumcised men who have yet to realize what they have lost. We only live once. Most men who argue for circumcision are themselves circumcised and don’t know any better, given it’s almost impossible to think that something so integral could be taken away from them without their consent. Women who argue for circumcision should ask themselves if they would want any part of their own genitals removed for supposed aesthetic or hygenic reasons.

    Circumcision is genital mutilation, and should be outlawed. It is an unnecessary procedure, and I’m glad it made the front page of the Toronto Star, as much as I wish it hadn’t been positioned as an ongoing debate, which I admit it is, to a degree.

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