10 Reasons to Let Your Son Make His Own Decision About Circumcision

The real reason circumcision is done to babies is because almost no adult man in his right mind would agree to it.

Guest Post by Amber Clark

I’ve been researching circumcision for over eight years. Time and time again, I hear phrases like, “it hurts more as an adult,” “babies can’t feel pain,” “he won’t remember it,” and “it’s just extra skin.”

Today, I’m going to challenge these statements with irrefutable scientific evidence.

First, let’s talk about the development of the foreskin so you can understand what an infant or adult circumcision entails. At birth, the foreskin (prepuce) is fused to the head (glans) with a membrane similar to that which adheres your nails to your fingertips.

Additionally, there’s a “ridged band” at the tip of the foreskin that functions like a sphincter to protect the urinary opening, allowing urine to flow out but nothing to come in.

During childhood, the membrane breaks down and the opening stretches by way of manual tugging done by the boy himself. Once the process is complete, the foreskin will be retractable. The average age of complete retraction is 10, but it can take through the end of puberty, or longer and may never become fully retractable.

With that in mind, here are the top 10 reasons to let your son make the decision himself as an adult:

1. Infant foreskins aren’t retractable. Because an infant’s foreskin isn’t yet retractable, the prepuce must be separated from the glans before the amputation can begin. This involves first ripping the foreskin free with a blunt probe.

Then, a slit is made to widen the opening so that a bell (either metal or plastic) can be inserted and placed over the glans to protect it from accidental amputation. Then, depending on the method, a clamp is placed or a string is tied and the foreskin is either immediately cut off or the skin is crushed and left to die.

After an infant circumcision, the entire glans is an open wound at the level of a third-degree burn, which eventually turns into a large scar.

In contrast, an adult circumcision only requires placement of a clamp (as the foreskin has likely already separated from the glans) and the wound is only a scar around the circumference of the penis.

2. Infants can’t get full anesthesia or post-op pain killers. A study published in the Journal of Urology supports the claim that adults suffer less discomfort than younger patients following circumcision. Adults also have the benefit of full anesthesia during the surgery and narcotic pain relief after.

3. Eliminate risk of cutting too much. Another benefit of waiting until adulthood is that the penis is fully grown. The surgeon can accurately determine how much tissue to remove and can leave structures, like the highly sensitive frenulum untouched.

Infant circumcisions have the additional risk of removing too much or too little tissue. Too much removed can lead to painful erections and other complications and side effects as an adult. Too little removed puts the infant at risk of developing adhesions (which occur in roughly 30% of circumcised boys) where the remaining foreskin re-adheres to the glans, as the body’s way of attempting to heal and re-cover it.

4. Infants feel pain more acutely than adults. For many years, doctors believed infants could not feel pain. Up until recently, they were even performing operations like open heart surgery babies with with no anesthesia at all.

Recent studies indicate infants actually experience pain more acutely than adults.

5. Infant partial anesthesia is almost useless. None of the methods of anesthesia ever studied have shown to fully eliminate pain. All babies who undergo circumcision experience pain and stress.

The most effective anesthesia ever studied is the dorsal penile nerve block. A study of infants who received no anesthesia compared to infants who received the DPNB showed no significant difference in blood cortisol levels; (cortisol is produced during times of extreme stress.)

Another study showed that the injection alone did not raise cortisol, so it is clear it was the pain and stress of the circumcision, not the shot.

Furthermore, use of the DPNB puts babies at risk of deep internal bruising and, in extreme cases, gangrene.

There are still doctors who will perform circumcision with only a sugar water pacifier to quiet the baby.  Studies have proven sugar water does nothing to reduce circumcision pain.

6. Infant circumcision permanently alters the brain. There have also been numerous studies on painful experiences in infancy and their future effects on the brain.

Another study shows infants circumcised without anesthesia have higher pain responses to vaccines at ages 4 and 6 months than infants who had at least a topical anesthesia, and much higher than those who were not circumcised at all.

Another study took MRI images of an infant’s brain before and after circumcision, demonstrated the brain was permanently altered.

The portions of the victim’s brain that changed most intensely were those associated with reasoning, perception and emotions.

A study of rat pups indicates early injury causes more nerves to grow in the injured area. The rats were injected with an inflammatory agent into a hind paw. When they reached adulthood, they withdrew the test paw from a hot bulb much faster than rats that had been injected with saline as newborns  They also had more nerves in the region.

7. Babies remember the trauma in their bodies into adulthood. It’s often believed pre-verbal children cannot form long-term memories. Some doctors and parents are starting to question this. There is strong evidence to suggest that all experiences are catalogued in the body. Dr. Alexandra Murray Harrison had this to say after attending a conference about early trauma:

“What was remarkable about the cases was the inescapable awareness that children under the age of 1-year can “remember” trauma, although they usually at least at first remember it in their bodies instead of in their minds.”

Other doctors, like Dr. David B. Chamberlain, have demonstrated that humans can remember their births. Is it such a stretch then to believe an extremely painful experience like circumcision would be remembered?

8. Not crying doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing trauma. Many people mistakenly believe that because their infants didn’t cry, they didn’t experience distress. Dr. Berry Brazelton, a pediatrician who developed the newborn assessment, observed that newborns have different coping mechanisms. Some cry when stressed or startled. Other infants go to sleep or shut down.

Infants experiencing pain do not always cry hysterically. Many appear to be in a quiet state, yet physiological studies show they are in fact in a state of distress.

Additionally, many mothers report that their sons would not readily breastfeed or make eye contact following the procedure.

9. Nerve damage and loss of sensitivity. Circumcision causes permanent damage to the penis and nerves of the lower body. For example, only 27% of circumcised men passed a penilo cavernosus reflex test, while the reflex is present in 92% of men with intact genitals.

This is evidence that the glans of the penis is not as sensitive as the foreskin. The foreskin has many important nerves and structures not found anywhere else on the penis.


Another study showed there are no areas on the circumcised penis as sensitive as areas of the foreskin. Also, the glans of circumcised men had significantly higher pressure thresholds than the glans of intact men, showing that much higher pressures were required to obtain a response (less sensitivity).

Additionally, the study revealed that there were five areas on an intact penis that were more sensitive than any of the areas on a circumcised penis.

10. Loss of sexual function. Not only does the foreskin provide protection of the glans, it also serves important sexual functions for both partners during intercourse.

You can see an example of how the skin moves by rubbing the top of your knuckle. The skin bunches and shifts as the top finger glides back and forth over the bottom finger. Now rub the underside of your finger. The lack of movement on the underside demonstrates the loss of shaft skin mobility that circumcised men have. This can result in pain during intercourse due to increased friction for either partner, especially if the skin is very tight.

For more information, visit drmomma.org or savingsons.org. Watch “Elephant in the Hospital” and read “Myths About Circumcision You Likely Believe.”

Amber is a waterbirthing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping mother of two intact sons. She volunteers as an educator with The Intact Network.








10 responses to “10 Reasons to Let Your Son Make His Own Decision About Circumcision”

  1. Jen Avatar

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have an 11 year old who is mad because he says he wished we had circ’d him. It breaks my heart and makes me question. He says his foreskin has an odor yet he’s good at hygiene. His brother was not circ’d either. I can share all but the last reason with my 11 year old. Do you have any research of how men feel about not being circ’d?

    1. Hugh Young Avatar

      11 is not too young to start to learn about sexual function. You can express it in a child-friendly way, something like “When you’re quite grown up and making love to your wife, it feels much nicer if you have your foreskin.”

      I’m intact and I’d fight to keep everything. It was awkward being different from the others as a child, but three little words might have saved me a lot of heartache if only I’d known them: “Different isn’t wrong.” Several surveys and one scientific study show that intact men are MUCH more likely to be happy to be intact than cut men are to be cut.

      Here is a page for intact boys (www.circumstitions.com/Different.html) and another for young teens (www.circumstitions.com/Teen.html), also available in leaflet form.

    2. tom Avatar

      I am German, circumcision here is, except for the jewish and muslim population, really rare (restricted to medical circumcission, if the foreskin is too tight).
      As neither I, nor anyone I know, has had any issue with not being circ’d, it has to be a social issue. If you are different, you wonder why, and sometimes wish you were the same.
      However, there was a time when everyone smoked. Being a non smoker set you apart as well. Not smoking was still the obvious right choice…

    3. Mark Lyndon Avatar
      Mark Lyndon

      Personally, I’d pay a year’s salary rather than be circumcised, but anyone who wants to be circumcised can go right ahead and have it done though. It doesn’t work the other way round, and there are lots of men who wish they hadn’t been circumcised.

      It’s actually very unusual for babies to be circumcised. Only about 12% of the world’s circumcised men were circumcised as babies. Around two thirds of the world’s men (88% of the world’s non-Muslim men) never get circumcised.

      I’ve always said that if my son wants to get circumcised when he’s 18 (16 if he knows what he’s doing), then I’ll pay for it, and help him find a good surgeon. Most men, if they’re given the choice, choose to stay intact though.

      Your son may be interested in hearing from some of the men circumcised as adults who regretted it:

      Adult film star Rocco Siffredi (the “Italian Stallion”) called his decision “catastrophic” and that being intact “you can feel much more fun”.

      Adult film star Erik Rhodes
      “So to answer the question, after getting all that out… yes i do regret it. I should have just looked for other options before letting some crazy a–hole take a knife to my d-ck and yes i have lost sensitivity. It’s just not the same.”

      Regular guy Nick Kusturis
      “After the circumcision I felt nothing, no sensation at all. I knew something wasn’t right, but I just thought if I waited, everything would get back to normal. So I waited, I was in denial for the longest time. One day it just hit me that this was not going to change.”
      (search for “Circumcised at 18” on YouTube to hear his story)

      Kim and Pang 2006 studied 255 men circumcised as adults and found that:
      “About 6% answered that their sex lives improved, while 20% reported a worse sex life after circumcision.”

      1. Paul Mason Avatar
        Paul Mason

        Make that 10 years’ salary, Mark!

    4. Paul Mason Avatar
      Paul Mason

      Hi Jen, I’m 65yo from UK. Just as G*d made me. Tell him to wash. You got any daughters? Ditto. Do his feet smell? Ditto. No diff.

  2. Tora RN Avatar
    Tora RN

    Why does it take so much convincing? 80% of men in the world have a normal, intact and whole penis. Approximately 50% of baby boys are being cut in the USA now and the rates are decreasing so the majority of men have a foreskin. When you change form, you change function. That alone is a reason not to cut your son, so that he can have his whole sexuality and full sensation. No mom wants to recover from childbirth, breastfeed and do wound care for their infant.

  3. tom Avatar

    I am German, circumcision here is, except for the jewish and muslim population, really rare (restricted to medical circumcission, if the foreskin is too tight).
    As neither I, nor anyone I know, has had any issue with not being circ’d, it has to be a social issue. If you are different, you wonder why, and sometimes wish you were the same.
    However, there was a time when everyone smoked. Being a non smoker set you apart as well. Not smoking was still the obvious right choice…

  4. Mark Lyndon Avatar
    Mark Lyndon

    The evidence for right after birth being a good time to circumcise is surprisingly weak. In Scotland, you have to wait till a baby is six months old before getting a circumcision on the NHS, and in Switzerland, they make you wait two years.

    Even for people who think male circumcision is a good idea, there are very good reasons *not* to circumcise babies. I’m cutting and pasting a similar list to yours:

    You can’t use general anesthetic for a start – it’s not that you don’t have to, you can’t.
    The foreskin has to be separated from the glans (the most painful part). If you wait, it separates naturally, usually by around puberty.
    The post-operative pain will also be worse, and the wound will be in a diaper which is primarily there to contain urine and feces.
    The risk of major injury or death is higher, since you’re working with something smaller. The record payout for a botched circumcision is $22.8 million. It was said at the time that the victim “will never be able to function sexually as a normal male and will require extensive reconstructive surgery and psychological counseling as well as lifelong urological care and treatment by infectious disease specialists.” Sure, cases like that are very rare, but why should they happen at all?
    A newborn can die of blood loss after losing about three tablespoons of blood – way less than will be absorbed by a modern diaper.
    There is a 5-10% risk of a “revision” (effectively a second circumcision) after circumcising a neonate, versus almost a zero rate for juvenile or adult circumcision.
    Babies don’t have much of an immune system. At least one baby died after circumcision in New York after being infected with the coldsore virus for instance, and another got brain damage.
    It’s almost exclusively males circumcised as infants that get meatal stenosis.
    The child can’t give informed consent, and there are lots of men out there who are seriously unhappy about having parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *his* body, so why shouldn’t it be his decision?
    Two recent papers also show a strong correlation between infant male circumcision and autism/ASD. The problem might be neonatal exposure to paracetamol, but it’s still another reason not to operate on babies.
    Bauer, Kriebel, 2013 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23656698
    “For studies including boys born after 1995, there was a strong correlation between country-level (n=9) autism/ASD prevalence in males and a country’s circumcision rate (r=0.98). A very similar pattern was seen among U.S. states and when comparing the 3 main racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.”
    Frisch, Simonsen, 2015 http://jrs.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/01/07/0141076814565942.abstract (free to download)
    “Results: With a total of 4986 ASD cases, our study showed that regardless of cultural background circumcised boys were more likely than intact boys to develop ASD before age 10 years (HR = 1.46; 95% CI: 1.11–1.93). Risk was particularly high for infantile autism before age five years (HR = 2.06; 95% CI: 1.36–3.13). Circumcised boys in non-Muslim families were also more likely to develop hyperkinetic disorder (HR = 1.81; 95% CI: 1.11–2.96).

  5. Anna Avatar

    I’m torn (no pun I intended) because I’ve never wanted to get my sons circumcised, but my husband is one of the “lucky” few uncircumcised men who have major frenulum issues, which have led to discomfort and injury his entire adult life. Thankfully, there is minor surgery available to fix the issues, but the price is much more than a baby’s circumcision, and scar tissue can be a continuous issue. So it’s not 100% accurate that circumcision is always the wrong choice– we’ve both wished he had been circumcised because in his rare case the benefits would have outweighed the negatives. And believe me, I have researched a lot on this.