[Note: The contributing author to this article is unknown. It was available on the web for several years when I helped to edit the original copy for a human sexuality course, and then the website expired and it was no longer available. I thought it was rather informative and wished to make it available to parents once again. If you are the author of the following excerpts, or know the author, please drop me a note so that I am able to post the correct citation. I have updated the links. Photos are not a part of the original text.]
Photographs: © 2008 Danelle Day
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When you make the choice not to circumcise your newborn son, you are giving him the opportunity to grow up with his God-given sexuality. Unfortunately, many American boys are not given this right because their parents are misinformed into believing circumcision is necessary for health, cleanliness or social reasons. Some parents will honestly admit that they personally prefer a circumcised penis and subject their normal and healthy newborn baby to surgery to have his penis altered to suit their own tastes. Some have their own hang-ups in regards to an intact penis such as the way it looks or the fear that they might actually have to teach their son how to rinse off his penis in the shower. Circumcision has been culturally accepted for newborn boys here in the United States, but the tides are quickly changing. Parents in the new generation are realizing that what they have been told about circumcision was based on myths. They realize that their sons are supposed to have foreskins (a prepuce) just as their daughters are, and more babies every year are being left intact.
Raising an intact son can sometimes be an interesting experience in the midst of a circumcising society. Parents of circumcised sons don't realize how different their sons are from their intact peers. I've heard parents joke about how baby boys pee across the room - or in the parents face! I've since learned that this seems to be related only to circumcised boys and my theory is that the foreskin helps channel the flow of urine downward, the way it is normally supposed to go, rather than straight out like a circumcised boy. With the foreskin removed, the glans (head) becomes callused and the urethral opening narrows slightly contributing to a "squirt gun" type flow of urine in circumcised boys. A foreskin also protects and covers the glans - keeping it the internal organ it was meant to be - so the cool air does not touch it during the diaper changes of an intact boy and there is no urge to pee.
I've also noticed that many parents of intact boys do without the "splatter guard" that can be attached to many potties for potty training. This is also related to the above statements about the squirting effect of circumcised boys.
One common myth of an intact boy is that a parent must retract and clean under his foreskin and then teach their son how to do it when he is old enough (and make sure he does it). This is a very bad myth and a potentially harmful one! Boys are born with their foreskins firmly attached to the glans of their penis, similar to how our fingernails are attached to our fingers. The newborn foreskin does not and should not ever be retracted!! Erections, growth and normal curiosity help dissolve the connecting tissue (synechia) and the foreskin will naturally separate from the glans and become retractable on its own. Care of Intact Boys
NEVER attempt to retract your son's foreskin and NEVER allow anyone else to retract it, including medical professionals. Forced retraction typically causes pain and bleeding as the foreskin is literally torn from the glans. The foreskin will then heal back to the glans and scar tissue can develop. A condition called "acquired phimosis" is caused from forced retraction. With acquired phimosis, the foreskin will have difficulty retracting or will not retract at all. This does NOT mean that circumcision is necessary. There are non-surgical alternatives to help the foreskin retract including steroid creams and manual stretching if it has been damaged due to forced retraction. If your son becomes a victim of forced retraction, leave his penis alone to heal and report the offended to the proper agency so another intact boy is not harmed.
The proper care of an intact child is to simply leave it alone. [Intact = Don't Retract! Only Clean What is Seen!] An intact boy's penis is self-cleaning during infancy and childhood. Nothing gets under the foreskin that isn't supposed to be there and it gets "flushed out" through urination. When taking a bath, you merely need to clean the outside of his penis with plain warm water.
Some parents worry that their son will be teased because he is not circumcised like some other boys may be. There will always be differences among children and always something to tease one another about. If it's not the look of his penis, it will be the color of his hair, his freckles, the size of his ears, his name... If boys are in a locker room situation where they are nude, most will not make comments about another's penis because to make such comments means he had to stare at it...and many boys do not want to admit that they were looking at another boy's penis (that could cause some other kind of teasing all together). Girls are equally at risk for teasing when it comes to breast size. If your daughter has small breasts and is teased about it, should you pay for breast enlargement surgery so she will "fit in" with her peers? No, of course not. To consider genital surgery for your son to make him fit in is equally absurd. The situation today is that your son will be amongst intact and circumcised boys alike - and as we move into the year 2010, the vast majority of boys born today in North America are intact.
By explaining the functions of the foreskin and circumcision to your son, he will be better prepared if he ever faces a situation with other boys when questions about his penis arise. It is not polite to teach your son to tease circumcised boys because they had no choice in the matter of whether they were circumcised or not. Many circumcised boys don't realize that an organ (the prepuce) was amputated from their body at birth. Most parents of circumcised boys do not discuss this issue with their sons, or understand themselves the purposes of the prepuce organ. I know I would much rather explain to my sons why they are intact as they were born, than why I had a large portion of their penis cut off at birth. [The prepuce composes 1/3-3/4 the penis of a newborn baby.]
I do not believe it is healthy to teach your intact sons that they are better than boys who are circumcised. While it may be true that they have the advantage of having their whole penis, circumcised boys are a victim of unnecessary amputative surgery perpetrated upon them when they were a vulnerable baby. It would be unfair and cruel to hold this against them. It's not their fault they are circumcised. If anything, we should teach our sons to have compassion for their circumcised peers.
Circumcised fathers occasionally circumcise their own sons out of ignorance and anger about their own circumcision. Children seem to accept and understand issues sometimes better than adults, so it is important that circumcised boys realize that what happened to them does not have to happen to their own sons if/when they someday become fathers. Many circumcised fathers today are raising intact sons. If a father really desires to have a penis that more closely resembles his son's penis, he (as an adult) can restore! Intact sons have inspired circumcised fathers to begin foreskin restoration to reverse some of the damage that their own neonatal circumcision caused. Men who have restored report vastly improved results, physically and emotionally for themselves and for their partners.
The excuse to circumcise a boy because his father is circumcised is incredibly narcissistic. Whether both father and son are circumcised or intact, there will be many differences merely because of age and development (size, hair, etc). There is also no one look of a circumcised penis and no one look of an intact penis. Everyone is created differently and no two circumcisions look exactly alike. The only similarity a circumcised father and a circumcised son will have is the fact that they both underwent painful unnecessary genital surgery as babies and both are missing their foreskins as a result. Fathers and sons do not stand around comparing penises! If they do, then they have more issues than circumcision to deal with.
If a father is circumcised and his son is intact, a simple explanation can be provided (if it is every brought up). For example - at the time that "Dad" was born, we thought circumcision was necessary for medical reasons but we now know these were myths used for cutting both girls and boys in the United States. We did not want to put you through unnecessary painful surgery or amputate a healthy, vital body organ from you without your consent. Parents today also make sure their sons understand the purposes of the prepuce so that they are educated on their body in a culture that rarely discusses or teaches this part of the anatomy.
If you are the parent of a circumcised son, you may have feelings of guilt and regret. You were not informed when you made the decision to circumcise your son but now you are. It is time to heal. Apologize to your son and help educate those around you so that other parents will know the facts before any harm comes to their son.
If you are expecting a baby, make sure your midwife, doctor and nurses at the hospital you are going to give birth in know that you wish to keep your son intact. Carefully read any papers you are asked to sign and clearly mark on the paper that you don't want your son circumcised.
Submit a birth plan to your doctor and the hospital and be sure to verbally remind them at the time of delivery. It would be wise to arrange for someone to be present to advocate for you if you cannot and to make sure the baby is not "accidentally" circumcised, especially in larger teaching hospitals where "assembly line" circumcisions occur and circumcision is considered routine. In this setting, foreskins are used for research and/or sold to cosmetic companies and the more circumcisions that take place, the more $$$ is brought in. There ARE cases where babies were circumcised AGAINST the wishes of his parents. Room-in with your baby if possible. If your baby must be taken to the nursery, make sure someone who knows about the care of an intact infant accompanies him. Accidents do happen and it would be very unfortunate for it to happen to your son. Be sure to remind everyone not to retract his foreskin as well. Intact Care Agreement
If you are the parent of an intact son, congratulations! Whether you realize it or not, you have spared your son from the pain and trauma of an amputative circumcision surgery and the post-surgical healing period and have allowed him to enjoy his body, his babyhood, and his development the way it was intended to be.