Saturday, February 14, 2009

Speaking out against violence toward babies

I was trying to think of a Valentine-specific post. (Note that I'm spending my Valentine's Day night at home writing a blog post. We don't take the holiday too seriously at our house.) Marriage going great as usual -- what's to blog about there? The history of St. Valentine(s) and Valentine's Day? Too convoluted for even me to untangle it.

Then I clicked over to the V-Day site from another blog, and one thought led to another, and eventually I decided to write about genital mutilation.

Happy Valentine's Day!

V-Day is to remember and speak out against violence toward women and girls. The mention on the site about female genital mutilation aka female circumcision prompted me to think about male circumcision aka male genital mutilation, although we don't like to call it that here.

But when the rates for male infant circumcision in the US are still at 56 percent, I think it's in the spirit of V-Day to speak out against violence toward a targeted sex.

As happy wife to an intact male, I can confidently attest that the foreskin has a purpose. (That was the Valentinesy part. Here's a link if you don't mind drawings of penises.) I can't imagine why anyone thinks it's all right to routinely remove a part of the body at birth.

If you have never witnessed an intact male and don't believe me that the foreskin is useful, consider that the reason routine circumcision first began (I'm not speaking here of religious circumcision, because that is an issue I don't feel qualified to speak on) was to curb masturbation in reprobate youth (reprobate meaning, you know, all).

It seems almost silly to imagine that this was so, but, to bring it back around to V-Day, consider too that this is still the very rationale for female circumcision -- to keep those wayward sexual urges in check. See, it's not so funny when you realize that, in other cultures, we're considered the lunatic, backward barbarians, no matter how much we clean up our reasons for male genital mutilation with modern rationales that it's more hygienic or appealing to our sensibilities.

Recently a baby boy bled to death hours after being circumcised in a hospital. This irrational procedure needs to stop being routine.

If you're a parent having a boy and haven't decided what to do on this issue, please research the benefits of the foreskin and the disadvantages of the procedure. If you've already circumcised one or more sons, know that you're not alone, but don't let it stop you from doing the right thing with any future sons you may have. I don't speak about this issue out of condemnation toward individual parents, because I grew up thinking circumcision was normal, and that intact penises were what was weird. I was fortunate to have a husband who could change my mind! For most women my age, their husbands were likely circumcised at birth, so there's another step to take to choose to keep their sons intact, and I realize this.

You might visit the International Coalition for Genital Integrity, which promotes intact genitalia for all humans, or the anti-circumcision reference site NOCIRC, or read Mothering magazine's comprehensive article The Case Against Circumcision.

Our babies look to us to care for them before they're old enough to care for themselves. Whether here at home or in places around the world, the young of the world need our support and our willingness to stand up for the integrity of their bodies.

And, seriously, happy Valentine's Day.

Photo of trusting newborn courtesy of Daniel Andres Forero on stock.xchng


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for sharing this! I'm 32 weeks pregnant, husband is circumcised and I had NO IDEA. No idea about the anatomy of the penis, and had not thought about questioning the procedure. So glad to find this and get real information.

Lauren Wayne said...

I am so thankful for your comment, and your openness to considering leaving your baby intact. Circumcision is definitely a culturally ingrained procedure, so it's a big first step to realize there's another option, which I definitely realize, having had to take that step myself back when I was first married.

I've updated the link to the Mothering article "The Case Against Circumcision," by the way, because Mothering changed all their urls. It has a lot of scholarly references if that would be helpful in gathering information and talking over your choices with your husband. Best wishes to you in making this decision for your son, and best wishes in general on the upcoming birth!

Gregor said...

Thank you for writing this article about the harm that is called circumcision and the truth that it is good to be whole. It would have been good for me to be whole. It is a sad world when so many hurt children like this and do not even think twice (or even once) about it.

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