Our second realization came from the parents of twin boys who told us that not all doctors are equally talented artisans when it comes to genital whittling. “One of our sons has a much better circumcision than the other, which really annoys me,” the mother said. “If we have another boy, I seriously might consider getting a mohel (even though I’m not Jewish).”
I’d never thought about circumcision quality control—asking to see examples of previous work seems pretty awkward, but it looked like that’s one more thing we’d need to do.
The twins’ parents, who both have advanced degrees, based their original decision to circumcise not on sound reasoning, as one might expect, but rather on what was the most common deciding factor we heard—whether or not the father had been circumcised. When our pediatrician told us that this is also the most common reason she encounters, I started referring to this as the golden rule of penises: Do unto your son what was done unto you.
To me, this seems a little irrational. I wouldn’t allow my daughter’s nose to be broken, just so her cute little button nose would more resemble my own crooked honker. But after this factor was so often cited, I realized that a father’s desire to have his son’s penis resemble his own is inexplicable to those of us without a fifth appendage. And similarly, a woman’s preference is likely to be influenced by the men she has been intimate with.
I believe this reasoning comes from a desire to protect. We all want our kids to feel comfortable, confident, and accepted (particularly when it comes to genitalia). I’m no social scientist, but it seems to me that this could be an explanation for why circumcision rates vary so much based on cultural groups and geography (for example, in 2009, 87 percent of boys born in West Virginia were circumcised compared to only 12 percent of boys in Nevada).
That being said, the dads’ concern might also be motivated by their interest in their sons getting laid—as absurd as that sounds. Almost half of our friends admitted that they considered the best way to help their sons procure oral sex as adults when making their “circumcision decision.”
For example, one of my husband’s ex-jock friends wrote a surprisingly thoughtful, persuasive, and well reasoned emailed argument to my husband in favor of circumcising our son. After the analysis though, his final—and key—factor was, “And it’s hard enough for a guy to get blow jobs as it is.” Shockingly, the misguided belief that uncircumcised men have more difficulties procuring oral sex is shared beyond the male college athlete demographic. An OBGYN mother-in-law asked my friend, who was carrying her grandson-to-be at the time: “Don’t you want him to get blow jobs some day?”
Still, it seems that a groundswell against circumcision has begun in our country. Circumcision rates in the United States are dropping. They decreased 8 percent from 1999 to 2009. Interestingly, in my circle, the movement against the procedure seems to be led not by men, but by women. Predictably, these are the same mothers who are also advocating for natural childbirth (more midwives and birthing balls) and less medical intervention (fewer oxytocin drips, monitors, and less laboring while laying one one’s back) during delivery.