I remember coming across mentions of circumcision in the Bible when I was a teenager (yes, I've read it 3 times now and it still hasn't led me to salvation) and asking my mother about it. She told me that it was just something that they do to little boys, they cut off a piece of extra skin that he doesn't need but can get infected (I guess like an appendix?). They do it when they're babies because it doesn't hurt as much then as when they're older and they get infections and have to have it removed as an emergency procedure. She told me Grandpa had to have it done when he was a young man and he said it was horrible. I remember also doing some informal polling of the males in my life about the subject and getting evasive answers that led me to believe they either didn't know anything more about it than I did or they didn't want to talk about it. Probably both.
When I was 21 I had my first son and saw my very first intact penis. To say I was horrified would put it mildly. I thought there was something seriously wrong with him. The nurse patted me on the shoulder and assured me that they would "take care of it in the morning" and that was all that was mentioned. The next morning as I changed my son's diaper in preparation for bringing him home I discovered his bloody stump and was even more horrified. The next few days with it sticking to the diaper, and him grabbing it and screaming in pain when I decided to leave the diaper off of him to avoid the sticking where pretty horrific. I would have felt guilt if I had any idea at the time that I had had an option to refuse the procedure. Now I know and I do feel some guilt, but mostly anger.
I was told at the time that circumcision was necessary to be able to keep my son's penis clean. That an uncircumcized penis involved a great deal of manipulation to keep clean and infections were common. This was a lie. The intact penis is simple to clean, you just wipe it off like a finger. You don't retract the foreskin (this can break the skin and lead to infection), you just wipe it. It's not complicated at all.
The truth is, circumcision is not only medically unnecessary and dangerous, it's a Abrahamic religious procedure that is thrust unceremoniously upon the rest of the society under the disguise of medical necessity. Circumcision is a Jewish, Christian and Muslim rite of passage that symbolizes the covenant between the Jehovah God and His people. Not me, and not my kids. It, like baptism in many Christian faiths, is often forced upon these children before they are old enough to make the choice to even accept this covenant. Genital mutilation of children in the name of religion is okay. Not only is it okay, it's got the seal of approval of most of our doctors.
Muslims often wait until the child reaches the age of reason and that is fine with me. To me, a rite of passage should be something that you choose to undertake, otherwise it has no meaning. There are Paleo Pagan tribes that also use circumcision as a rite of passage, usually as a transition into manhood. This is cool. I am totally down with that. But babies? I can't get on board with that.
For Neo-Pagans, however, circumcision is not only unnecessary it is, in my opinion, merely another reminder of how our religions are completely ignored in our society. The attitude of the auto-circumcision industry is simply that everyone Christian or Jewish or something along those lines, everyone must want their kid circumcised. When I had my second son I had to sign a paper telling them not to circumcise him. Now, most things you have done to your kid you have to sign a paper giving permission… not requesting they lay off. That's weird and creepy to me.
When I was pregnant with my second son I did a lot of worrying about the circumcision issue. Although I believe circumcision is a Judeo-Christian thing and I, as a Pagan, want nothing to do with it, the fact remains that my grandfather did get an infection as a young man and had to undergo a painful adult circumcision. But you know what, that was a long time ago. My grandparents also had all their teeth pulled by the time they were 30 - not capped. Pulled. Gone. Medicine is not today what it was then. Further, I don't believe that it is less painful to circumcise a child than an adult. Just because you don't remember it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. People have psychological issues all the time due to things that happened to them that they don't remember. An adult is better equipped to deal with the pain and to understand the reasoning behind it. And an adult can make the informed choice.
Yes, I thought a lot and vacillated. My husband was no help as he had no opinion. My older son was unconcerned (and forgives me, doesn't care, really why are we talking about this, mom?). Ultimately my decision not to circumcise my youngest son was simply this: It is not my penis. It's not my place. If he wants to be circumcised when he's older because he is concerned about keeping it clean, he's worried that his penis doesn't look like everyone else's, or he joins and Abrahamic cult that encourages circumcision. Or any other reason he comes up with. He has my full support. I will not take that choice away from him.
It's been a year since we made that decision and we haven't regretted it yet!
While I realize that Pagans don't like to be told what they should do, it is from a very Pagan perspective that I believe boys (and also girls) should not be circumcised as infants and there are many arguments that I can make from this angle; not the least of which because it symbolizes a commitment to a religion we have nothing to do with and that would be more than happy to pretend we don't exist. It is also an irreversible medical and cosmetic decision that we make for our children before they are old enough to concede or object. Most Pagans are pretty much against interfering with the free will of others. I think this should apply to our children. I know that we make decisions for the welfare of our children before they are old enough to make them themselves, such as whether to vaccinate, what to feed them, what sort of childcare they receive, but I don't think circumcision falls into the same category. Unlike vaccinations, there isn't much evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks and, unlike vaccinations, the risks of forgoing circumcision can be mitigated with other methods, such as observing good hygiene, responsible sexual behavior, antibiotics if need be and, if all else fails, a circumcision can be performed later. However, you cannot be uncircumcised. (Oh yes, I know there's a cosmetic procedure, but it's not the same.) And finally, I think a group of people who are so fond of Nature could trust that She knew what She was doing when She designed the human penis.
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Comments, questions, criticism?