| Danielle Palmer-Friedman
Today, approximately half of the male population of the United States is circumcised at birth, meaning approximately half of American parents are making the choice to remove part of their son’s body before he is able to provide any sort of input.
If I gave birth to a baby boy and decided I wanted him tattooed — we’re talking full back piece, something epic — I’d probably have to deal with a lot of dirty looks. People would try and stop me. They’d tell me I was an unfit parent and that I was making a mistake.
But if I decided to have the same baby boy circumcised, instead of tattooed, not many people would give it a second thought. I would be following a popular social norm, and not even a doctor would question me.
This decision, as permanent as a tattoo, needs to be reconsidered. What seems like an obvious option may be way off base.
Many UW students are members of an intact activist group, The Whole Network. You might have seen their handiwork around campus — little chalk messages on the walkways that share messages about the dangers of circumcision.
“117 babies died last year from circumcisions,” said Amanda Morse, a member of The Whole Network and the source of these chalked up warnings. “Only 11 died in car seats.”
These sorts of facts, however daunting, seem ridiculous. And they don’t seem to provide enough of an argument against circumcision because, in the minds of many Americans, circumcision is still considered to be a harmless procedure. And foreskin is considered to be completely unnecessary.
And there are indeed health benefits to being circumcised. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared in 2013 that some of the benefits include prevention of urinary tract infections, HIV, penile cancer, and some sexually transmitted diseases.
However, the penile foreskin contains 20,000 nerve endings, with more nerve endings in the foreskin than any other part of the penis. The foreskin serves other functions as well, such as providing natural lubrication during sexual intercourse.
It’s likely that most boys who are circumcised don’t know what they are missing. They probably don’t feel cheated by their parents or miss their foreskins. But their views are somewhat of an automated response generated by American culture.
Not many uncircumcised penises are likely to be seen on the pornography circuit. For one reason or another, the porn industry has decided to perpetuate the image of hoodless penises. This image — and the coinciding idea that it is “normal” to be circumcised — is communicated to countless impressionable viewers.
And this is exactly the image activists are forced to fight against.
Morse and the rest of The Whole Network view male circumcision as a human rights issue, plain and simple, rather than a health issue.