When my son was born, he was almost three months early, and no one ever asked me about circumcising him – they were too busy saving his life in the minutes, hours and weeks that followed. He was poked and prodded and had all manner of tubes and lines going into him. It was horrible, but he was alive. The last thing on earth I would ever have thought of was to inflict more pain on him – to do anything else to his tiny body.
But. My son is now a pre-teen, and I’ve only just started to wonder if I made the right decision.
Because now that I can see my son as an adult male – not as a small child – and I’ve realised the issue is a little more complicated. I’ve discussed it with my friends, who are in a similar position, and we all agree; we worry that we didn’t consider what it would be like for our sons to be uncircumcised.
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Now my son is older, I realise I’ll need to talk to him about how to keep his foreskin clean. I’ll need to let him know that he may not look like other penises around him – especially ones in porn – which, let’s face it, he will watch.
And leading on from that – do I also need to let him know that some partners he’s with in the future may be surprised by his “shape”? The popularity of circumcision has gone in circles over the last few decades, so there’s a very good chance that his sexual partners won’t have seen an uncut penis – or won’t have one themselves.
If I don’t have these conversations with him, if I don’t prepare him – could he get a complex about his member?
Because despite trends in recent decades of parents choosing not to perform the operation on their infant sons, the negative message about uncircumcised penises is everywhere, and it’s especially reflected in female attitudes. Look on the internet and you’ll find countless stories of women being shocked by uncircumcised penises.
There was even a whole storyline in Sex and the City where a guy got circumcised for Charlotte, because that was her preference. His uncut penis was the subject of much mirth amongst the women. I love that he got the ultimate revenge and later dumped Charlotte and her superficial attitude. But the message was still clear: women will joke about an uncircumcised man.
Another example was the foreskin-shaming scene in the movie, Bad Moms:
“Uncut guys are great,” jokes actress Kathryn Hahn in the scene. “They’re always so nice to you because they know their dicks are gross.”
It’s a joke, it’s an exaggeration – but, it’s also very negative. The way uncut penises are portrayed in the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re a deformed ‘thing’ you could be confronted with. But, they’re simply a naturally occurring body part, and should be treated as such.
In the age of enlightenment about bullying and body-shaming, it’s time we were a bit more positive about the situation – and proactive. We should be talking about uncut penises as part of practical sex education. The little differences – like how to put on a condom when you’re dealing with foreskin.
But until there are more healthy messages, do our sons stand to be humiliated? In all likelihood, yes.
But also, in my research I’ve found that the head of an uncut penis is ultra sensitive. So is it possible that I’ve done him a favour? And in terms of our relationship, at least I don’t need to explain why I interfered with the way he was born – something he might not have accepted, no matter how legitimate my medical or religious reasons.
Ultimately, I’m glad at least my son will be able to make the decision for himself, as he has a right to do, one day.