Taking Children Seriously

Why You Shouldn't Circumcise Your Baby

Posted by Sarah Fitz-Claridge
on the TCS List on Fri, 20 Dec., 1996, at 08:01:50 -0600 p.m.

A poster wrote:

I also considered the social factor, inasmuch as most boys are circumcised, as is his father. I didn't want my son to feel abnormal. ...

Circumcision is not common in Europe (apart from in some religious cultures), so, by this logic, a circumcised child would be more likely to feel abnormal there than an intact child. However, given that non-coerced children are unlikely to find themselves in the compulsory communal showers of school, or among unfriendly others who might tease them, this is hardly worth considering. Similarly, the argument that circumcision is painful to the newborn seems, in itself, rather weak. The pain is transitory and not repeated, and all sorts of people (athletes, masochists, natural birthers) often freely choose to suffer pain for their own reasons. Even the strong link between circumcision and sexual dysfunction and decreased sensitivity are not necessarily a reason to avoid circumcision. After all, who decides what is the “right” level of sexual sensitivity? And who is to say that everyone should be sexually active and functional? Many people, not just nuns and Catholic priests, choose celibacy anyway. There might be any number of reasons for choosing circumcision and I am unimpressed by most of the arguments against it.

However, there is one argument that seems conclusive to me: consent. It is not possible to get an infant's consent to circumcision. Now it may be that some young men or boys will choose to be circumcised for cultural or religious reasons, just as some choose to have body parts pierced or removed for aesthetic or health reasons. I may recoil at their choices, and I might even try to persuade them not to if it seemed to me that they were making a mistake, but I should not dream of stopping them. It is their body, their choice. That is not so of the circumcised infant. He is not given a choice. There is no consent. It is for this reason that non-coercive parents should avoid having their young sons circumcised.

As non-coercive parents, we should strive to avoid manipulating our children into adopting our theories. Just as, in a past culture, young children might have been manipulated/forced into castration, accepting their parents' theory that it was best for then to become castrati (which provided a reliable living), today it might well be possible to bamboozle young children into giving a form of consent to circumcision for religious or cultural reasons. But such “consent” is no more evidence of non-coercion than the fact that a battered wife remains with her husband is evidence that she is not being coerced.

Children's actions should be autonomous. Their actions and choices should arise out of who they are, their own hopes, their own dreams, their own personalities. Instead of channelling them into our preconceived vision of what they should be, we should help them make their own choices, attain their own preferences, and live as autonomously as they possibly can. Consent is vital to this endeavour. If a child or man, having heard the arguments, freely chooses to be circumcised, no one can rightly stop him. But an infant cannot be in that position. Why not wait until the person makes a choice of his own free will?

From a later post

I hope that not circumcising one's babies goes without saying for TCS folks, but apparently many Americans have literally never seen an intact penis and fear the foreskin in some way. There is a superb web site that you should visit if you want to know what an intact penis looks like, and to see how the skin slides over the soft, moist glans of the intact male, protecting it from chafing, etc. This URL shows close-up photographs which provide some of the information some of you may want. The main page has some excellent links too. A really excellent educational resource, if ever there was one.

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