The subject of circumcision is back in the news since the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently published a theory that circumcision reduces the spread of HIV in Africa.
"We have a significant H.I.V. epidemic in this country [in Africa], and we really need to look carefully at any potential intervention that could be another tool in the toolbox we use to address the epidemic,” Dr. Peter Kilmarx, chief of epidemiology for the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention, told the New York Times. “What we’ve heard from our consultants is that there would be a benefit for infants from infant circumcision, and that the benefits outweigh the risks."
According to various reports, “over 70 percent of adult American men are already circumcised, though circumcision of newborns has dropped to about 65 percent in recent decades” and is expected to drop more as fewer pediatricians recommend the procedure as routine. In fact, after my only son was born in 2000, my pediatrician, a veteran of 30 years in her practice, shrugged off the idea when I asked her, “Should I have him circumcised? Is it necessary?” She said I could if I wanted to, but that no, it wasn’t necessary. Although all the males in my family were circumcised, I decided not to have my son undergo the procedure and instead allow him to make that decision for himself when he was an adult. After all, it’s his body, not mine. I could not justify the pain and potential risk of having him subjected to something as sensitive as circumcision when he had no say in the matter.
For whatever bizarre reason, Rush Limbaugh decided to weigh in on the circumcision issue on his radio program by stating, "We're in a world where the tiniest measure of government suggestion about sexual health equals a full onslaught against privacy."
Apparently, Limbaugh is unaware of the irony of his remarks, considering his views on abortion; nonetheless, I have to agree with him for a change. Since most of the health claims of circumcision have been refuted over the years, and modern sanitation and the prevalence of condoms have reduced the risk of retaining one’s foreskin, the only reasons a parent would opt for circumcising their baby boy would be to honor a religious tradition or for aesthetic preferences. I won’t characterize circumcision as “genital mutilation,” although it can be argued that it is precisely that, but I will point out that uncircumcised males (which represent a majority of non-Muslim and non-Jewish males around the world) enjoy higher sexual stimulation and their partners report greater satisfaction. Besides, the foreskin protects and lubricates, and like tonsils, appendices, and spleens, serves an important function.
I didn't want my son one day to accuse me of ruining his sex life. As a mother of four, I can only take so much guilt.
Any intensely personal decision parents make regarding their baby’s upbringing, education and medical care, whether or not to circumcise is better left behind closed doors and not in the forefront of public debate, especially by someone like Rush Limbaugh, who is statistically pretty likely to be already circumcised, and nobody — I mean nobody — wants to go there. Sorry.