Feature Archive

Should Your Son Be Circumcised?

Circumcision.

WebMD Feature

Aug. 21, 2000 -- In the 1960s, when I was born, cutting the foreskin of a newborn American boy was about as routine as cutting his umbilical cord. I didn't really think much about circumcision until I was faced with the prospect of having it done to my own son. After the amazing ordeal of his birth, my wife and I agreed that the last thing we wanted was to send him into surgery to have the end of his penis cut off. A nurse bolstered our sentiments, telling us -- wrongly, it turns out -- that there was really no medical advantage to being circumcised. Without a compelling medical or religious reason, we felt, why would we choose to have this done to our son?

Today, a growing number of people are looking at the issue as my wife and I did. While two-thirds of Americans still choose to have their sons circumcised, according to 1997 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, there is a strong counter-trend among people like us: educated, middle-class folks in sophisticated urban areas like San Francisco and New York. For these people, amputating the healthy erogenous tissue of newborns who have no say in the matter seems unfair and unnecessary. Indeed, in recent years, some activists have turned their opposition to circumcision into a crusade for the human rights -- and future sexual pleasure -- of infant boys.