The start of another fascinating thread:
I feel for the couple with the seven year old whose foreskin won’t retract. We went through that with both of our boys. My husband is cut, but I put my foot down and demanded that both of our boys be left intact. The older of the two started having problems with his foreskin when he was around four (he’s eight now). It wouldn’t retract and the doctor thought it was very tight. The urologist gave us some steroid cream and said, basically, “good luck, it probably won’t work; see you back in two weeks to schedule the circumcision.”
Two weeks later his foreskin was retracting like it was supposed to. Yea! Problem solved.
Fast-forward two years to when our youngest was two. Same problem. We went to a different urologist (for insurance reasons). He spent less than two minutes looking at my son’s penis and said: “He’s fine, leave it alone. A lack of retraction isn’t an issue until he is at least eight or older.”
Guess what: both foreskins now retract normally. I’m very glad I pushed for alternatives and didn’t immediately agree to a circumcision. So definitely get a second opinion before you cut.
I’m sure you’ll have some doctors who can speak to the medical aspect of your reader’s question, but I may be able to offer a useful personal perspective. I wasn’t circumcised when I was born, but I did get circumcised when I was 15 for medical reasons that sound similar to your reader’s son’s.
In my case, the foreskin was fused with the bottom of the head, which meant I couldn’t pull it back very far (and the few times I tried, growing up, were quite painful). I just thought that was normal. I heedlessly peed into the damn thing for years and never got any infections to indicate something was amiss. I think I just nodded when doctors would ask if I was careful to pull the skin back when I used the bathroom. At a physical when I was 15, I finally understood the question, so the doctor sent me to a urologist who proscribed a circumcision. Things were pretty swollen and grody for a few weeks; after that everything worked fine.
One thing that gets elided in the hyperbole “male genital mutilation” is the distinction between a medically-indicated procedure and a purely cosmetic one. It doesn’t make medical sense to circumcise all boys at birth, but being circumcised is not a particularly onerous condition.
My dad may have gone through some of what your reader is going through when we decided I needed to get circumcised. He was adamant that I not be circumcised at birth – partly for the reasons you bring up on this site, and partly because he was very not cool with the idea of some doctor cutting on his newborn’s dick without anesthetic (which was the standard in the mid-’80s, when I was born). When I later had to get circumcised, he expressed some guilt: in an attempt to not mutilate his son, he mutilated his son!
This was ridiculous, of course: I was (and am) grateful that I wasn’t circumcised at birth, just as I’m grateful my idiosyncratic problem was so easily treatable, just as I’m content now to live without foreskin. And I told him as much, with more respect than I was usually able to muster at 15. For one thing, I was very much looking forward to sex, and with a mostly immovable foreskin there can be complications. At 15, I would have hitchhiked to the hospital and panhandled for my copay if it meant I could have sex sometime in the future.
It is important to note that I was able to consent to the procedure. I knew what was going on and I was very clear as to the reasons we were doing it. But I can’t imagine I would have harbored any ill-will if I’d been circumcised a few years earlier for the same reason.
More stories to come. Follow the whole thread here.