The Locker Room Argument

January 22nd, 2010 by Dionna | 28 Comments
Posted in Circumcision/Intactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Healthy Living, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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I read a post today by a blogger who is pregnant with a son. She is against circumcision, but her husband is adamantly in favor of it, primarily because he doesn’t want his son to be made fun of for having an intact penis.

The “locker room argument” is one advanced by some people who advocate for circumcision. And, in my opinion, it is one of the weakest arguments for performing this unnecessary surgery.

Circumcision Rates Are Falling

Circumcision was at its heyday in the United States in the mid-60’s, when almost 80% of newborns were cut. Rates started dropping as more and more research was published that showed circumcision does not have the health benefits doctors had been touting for decades. (1) Today, we know more than ever that intact penises are actually healthier because of the foreskin’s protective qualities. (2) In the United States, your intact son has just about as much of a chance as “looking like” the boy in the neighboring locker as he does “looking different” – nationwide, only 56% of our boys are cut. (3)

Education is Key

As with any self-esteem issue, our children should be taught that they have inherent value. Their self-worth should not be dependent on what someone else thinks is “normal.” “Boys who are taught from an early age that they are normal, whole and healthy will have a lesser chance of suffering embarrassment in the locker room, especially if some of the other boys are also intact.” (4)

Cutting part of a child’s sexual organ off so that he will “fit in” is ridiculous. We don’t encourage our children to dress the same as their peers, get the same haircuts, listen to the same music, watch the same shows and movies, drive the same cars, etc. The argument is the same logic as a line my mother used to give me:

“If your child’s peer group all jumped off of a bridge, would you drive him to the edge and wave good-bye?”

I didn’t think so.

I hope my son values himself more for having an intact, uncut penis, than for what someone might think about his foreskin. I hope my son has enough self-esteem that he won’t crumble when children make fun of him for the way he dresses, or the way he looks, etc.

Cultural Acceptance Does Not Make Something Right

Just because circumcision is culturally acceptable does not make it ethical. It’s the same argument as nursing in public: people might be uncomfortable seeing me nurse my child, but if breastfeeding mothers were all to hide away then breastfeeding would never be normalized.

There are many things that were once popular, culturally sanctioned, and/or legal. In the United States, it used to be perfectly legal to discriminate based on race, sex, and national origin. Our society used to turn a blind eye on spousal abuse, and slavery was a fiercely protected (and barbaric) practice. The fact that our country once protected these practices does not make them right.

Societies change. It is up to us to be the force behind that change.

A parent should never cut their son for a cosmetic reason, especially a reason as flimsy as wanting him to “fit in” with the kids in the locker room. If an intact male wants to fit in someday, he can make the decision to circumcise himself after educating himself. Parents should not take that choice from him.

Someone explain to me why the foreskin is rumored to be such an object of ridicule.

The decision to physically alter your child’s genitals should not be based on aesthetics. It should be an informed decision based on your child’s lifelong heath and well-being, and it should only be made if there is a valid medically necessary reason.

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(1) United States Circumcision Incidence, http://www.cirp.org/library/statistics/USA/
(2) Fleiss, Paul, MD, “The Case Against Circumcision,” http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/fleiss.html
(3) United States Circumcision Incidence
(4) FAQ About Infant Circumcision, http://www.cirp.org/pages/parents/FAQ/

28 Responses to:
"The Locker Room Argument"

  1. Restoring Tally   RestoringTally

    I was circumcised at birth, but the doctor did not take my balls. I think the pregnant blogger’s husband does not have any. There are kids who will tease other kids about anything. There are kids who get teased about anything and everything. And, then there are the kids who learned tolerance and self respect and are neither teasers nor teasees (?). It is pathethic that a man wants to circumcise his son just because of the man’s insecurities.

  2. Heather   xakana

    You know, I’ve now seen infant circumcision (both the old videos that are condemned by the pro-circ movement AND those with anesthesia) anyone who says that those boys aren’t in agony is seeing what they want to see. The baby exhausted from screaming so that he can’t anymore is their prize video, but you see him screaming, even if they’ve edited the sound out, while they shove that huge needle in over and over to numb the area. I’ve seen teenage and adult circumcisions, too. “Ouch.” Huge difference. In one, the boy played playstation through the video, didn’t even look up when the cut was made.

    For no other reason than that those boys/men are making the decision for themselves and understand what is happening and can deal with the pain. All that b.s. about “so they won’t remember” — you know what? It’s remembered in their brain chemistry, how the neuropathways form, just like with CIO. That doesn’t happen to an adult. He’s not lying there gasping for breath, shaking and terrified.

    To do that to a baby so that he might look like his schoolmate (whose penis he probably will never even see–I didn’t see my unclothed schoolmates)… that’s ridiculous. He’s going to be more worried about it being the same size (which it will look bigger being intact) than he will about whether Johnny has a scar just like him.

    Such a ridiculous argument.

  3. Restoring Tally   RestoringTally

    I disagree with your final comment: “The decision to physically alter your child’s genitals should not be based on aesthetics. It should be an informed decision based on your child’s lifelong heath and well-being after thoughtful research.”

    There should not be a decision about circumcision unless there is an immediate medical need, which is very rare. Parents don’t think about cutting off ears to prevent ear infections. Likewise, they should not think about cutting off part of their healty son’s sex organ. Circumcision should not even be a consideration for a normal healthy infant.

  4. Amber   AmberStrocel

    As more and more people choose not to circumcise, the locker room argument REALLY loses any credibility. Not that it had much or any in the first place, either. All the same, it’s valuable to let parents know that half (or, where I live, more than half) of boys aren’t cut. It reinforces that circumcision is not the necessary or default choice.

  5. Ted

    I’m one of five brothers and our parents were against any type of genital cutting. As far as locker room comments go – the only two comments that I ever experienced was in the shower – the comments were how lucky I was to still be natural(intact foreskin). It goes to show you, that not all locker room comments are negative.

  6. When I was a kid in the UK the circumcision rate was about 50%, based on empirical observations in the school showers.

    We made fun of each other for many reasons, but never because of the circumcised or uncircumcised state of their penises. In fact the only time that a penis was even important in a teasing sense was for those whose implements had grown with puberty’s onset teasing those unlucky enough to be awaiting the hormone rush and having smaller willies. And even that was just good natured, though being told I had a tiny dick was a bit annoying, even if it was true.

  7. Monty

    I am not saying by no means to cut or not to cut, what I am saying is as parents our teaching of our children should be of respect to one another. I hope that this generation that is being produced can change the world. Lockerroom teasing continues on everyday, if you say you didnt get teased then you were in that clique that no one touched. I have two teenagers and yes gym class is still in school as of now, until your child comes home crying about subjects as this or boobs or fatness or hair color or whatever, teasing will always happen and there is nothing we can do but teach our kids they are just as good as them, but I know that as teenager this means nothing especially if you are the in clique.
    thanks, just a parent

  8. Monty

    edit: if you say you were not teased in the lookerroom then a couple of reasons you didnt see it, one: you were smokin hot and had the cool boyfriend or girlfriend, the others didnt want to get beat up. two: you were the one that was teased behind your back.

    sorry sis, this is a two part subject and you and the AP want to raise your children a whole lot differently than the what we were raised.

    • My dear Monty, do try to understand words as written. Putting your rather silly spin on them shows a lack of respect.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Ok guys. I can understand what Monty was saying about teasing. I would hope that Monty isn’t arguing that not getting teased is a good enough reason to circ, I think what his point is that most kids are just going to tease regardless of whether it’s being intact, being overweight, etc. We should teach our children to respect each other no matter what they look like. I agree.

        Let’s all be civil, please! Tit for tat squabbles don’t make anything better.

  9. Mandy

    I asked my husband about the locker room issue a few years back when someone cited that as a reason for circumcision. According to him, and the large number of friends of ours that I have questioned, there is teasing in the locker room. However, that teasing isn’t about someone’s penis, because anyone teasing another guy about his penis would have a lot of explaining to do about exactly *why* he was staring at the guy’s penis to begin with. For the record, my husband and his brothers are intact and spent years in sports and locker rooms.

    For me, this isn’t a decision for parents to make. Not your penis? Not your decision! I wouldn’t mutilate my daughter’s genitals, and I won’t mutilate my sons’.

  10. Mandy

    oh..and just in case there is any confusion about the AP issue (can I roll my eyes here?), my husband was raised anything but AP.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Right – this isn’t an AP issue. It’s a bodily integrity/ethical issue that has been closeted for far too long.

  11. Ted

    In a word, there are no indications.
    15 January 2010
    George C Denniston, MD MPH,
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Family physician & President, Doctors Opposing Circumcision

    The foreskin is at least half of the skin of the normal penis. The complication rate of circumcision is 100% because in every case the ridged bands are either removed, or in relatively few cases, exposed to desiccation. The ridged bands contain thousands of the most sensitive nerve endings in the entire penis.

    Regretfully, it is necessary to state that a person who circumcises is violating the Golden Rule; First, do no harm; is torturing his or her patient, by definition (look it up); is mutilating his patient, again by definition; is committing fraud; is violating 8 of the 9 Principles of Ethics of the AMA Code of Ethics; is violating the Nuremberg Code of Ethics. If these facts are not enough to stop someone from removing normal body parts from another person without their permission, I do not know what will.

  12. Monty

    I am not saying anything bad or disrespectful about AP, dont take it that way just was saying your raising differently than what we were!

    • Mandy

      Genital mutilation doesn’t have anything to do with the type of parenting. Most countries take a very hard view of genital mutilation, whether it be female or male. In the US, it is illegal to circumcise a female minor. It is very unfortunate that males are not granted equal rights in this aspect.

  13. “18 Dispelling Myths About Circumcsion”:
    http://pharmtips.com/2008/11/27/dispelling-myths-about-circumcision/

    “Top Ten (10) Ways Circumcised Male Sex Hurts WOMEN, Too”:
    http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com/

    You simply CAN’T read all this and STILL think circ is a “GOOD” thing. It defies LOGIC! I’m not only a proud intactivist, but a blissfully intact male myself. I’d feel deep hatred to my parents — personally — if they had mutilated me at birth. I wouldn’t trade my foreskin for $1 million dollars… LITERALLY!

  14. Monty

    thank you dionna, that is all i am saying

  15. Parsnip Milkdud

    Universal acceptance of uncircumcised penises is an issue obviously very dear to you. That being said, why do you use slang terms such as “intact” and “uncut”? Use of such slang implies a lack of seriousness about the issue and in my opinion encourages what you are fighting against. Your dream of a foreskin filled world is not going to happen overnight. If young boys are constantly reminded of how superior their intact, uncut penises are, they will end up making fun of the poor boys whose parents had them circumcised.

    I think you make some good points, but I also think you should be a little more careful with your approach. Think about it, what is the opposite of “intact” and “uncut”? It would be altered and mutilated.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      How are “intact” and “uncut” slang terms? Would you rather I call it “uncircumcised”? Uncircumcised implies that “circumcised” is the normal or correct way to do something, and anything else is aberrant. Intact describes exactly what an uncut penis is: “untouched especially by anything that harms or diminishes.” (Merriam Webster) Uncut is, again, exactly what I want to convey – a penis that has not been cut.
      And yes, the opposite of intact and uncut is, indeed, altered and mutilated. Have you checked out the pictures/video I posted here? http://codenamemama.com/2009/10/03/our-perfect-son/
      What would you call that if not “altered” and “mutilated”?
      Circumcision forever alters a penis. I’m not going to mince words.

    • Mandy

      Intact is not a slang term. It’s actually the most accepted term, as the natural state of a penis is intact. As Dionna stated, uncircumcised refers to the opposite of circumcised – which is not a natural state.

  16. Ted

    I prefer to use the word ‘Natural’ to describe having a foreskin.

  17. cosmopolite

    “Intact” has been the preferred term of the anti-circ movement. I use “natural” as a synonym. “Uncut” is USA gay male slang that has achieved a suprising degree of respectability in recent years.

    I am a Baby Boomer who grew up intact in the midwest, the only intact male in my family of origin. Almost every time I used a locker room or had to undress for a group medical exam (especially the hernia check business!), I was the only intact boy in the room. It took me more than 40 years to see myself as normal and sexually fortunate. When it comes to being ashamed of having foreskin, I’ve been there in spades.

    That said, let me remind you ladies out there that once men are out of high school, they never comment about each others penises, except gay men in the bedroom. So this foreskin ridicule business is a possibility only in middle and high school.

    The vast majority of boys have no occasions to be naked around other boys except in locker rooms. Naturism is a hobby for older men. In my opinion, men are more bashful and circumspect in locker rooms and public showers than they used to be. The drivers here may be size insecurities and an awareness than about 1 male in 40 is gay.

    The urinals in the grade school I attended made no concessions whatsoever to male modesty. Hence I was a bit ridiculed in first and second grade for having a Weird Dick. (I never heard “circumcised” until I was in college. I never heard “foreskin” spoken until I met my wife.) By the time I started using locker rooms without my father being present, I knew how to hide my foreskin. It is easy for an intact boy to appear cut; the converse is impossible. In any event, while I was very afraid I would be “outed” for being an AntEater, I never was. Only my mother, wife, and a half dozen close friends know that I am intact.

    My regret is not that I was intact, but that in my youth there was ZERO support in print for leaving a child intact. Hence my mother could not explain her decision, and hence said nothing to me about being uncut until I was 19. And she did not really open up about this issue until after my father was dead, and after I told her I was an intactivist.

    We should not presume to know what boys will think and know 10-15 years from now. It is quite possible that in a few years, American popular sexual culture will come to accept the pointed penis is fully normal. As someone posted above, in the locker rooms of tomorrow, the intact boys may be envied and admired instead of bullied.

    Whether or not that happens, parents of intact boys can still tell them that they are healthy and normal, and that when they are grown, the moving sheath of skin covering the tip of the penis will have important uses. I have read many anecdotes from amused parents sharing that their 6-8-10 year old son fully appreciates that that sheath is the most sensitive part of his body. If we simply tell our boys that that sensitivity is a fine thing, and that’s why we did not let a doctor cut the sheath off, that might suffice to help them to laugh off any ridicule they may face because their penises are pointed.

  18. cosmopolite

    You asked:

    “Someone explain to me why the foreskin is rumored to be such an object of ridicule.”

    Fair question. I am too old to have anything to say about what it’s like in a school locker room today. Or to be playing the youthful dating game.

    But in a midwestern city 50 years ago, every boy was circumcised.
    In my place and time, men and boys did not conceal their penises when they urinated in a public rest room. Middle class non-ethnic Dads were cut, and we all saw our Dads in locker rooms at the Y or at swimming pools.

    We boys never talked about this among ourselves. I assure you I never heard a dirty joke refer to it. We all thought that what we had was what Mother Nature intended. I have concluded that the vast majority of parents did not speak to their boys about this tender subject, probably because they simply did not know what to say. In many cases maternity wards cut boys without asking, so the parents were not involved in the decision.

    In the world I am describing, if anyone were to chance on a natural pointed penis, it was seen as deeply Weird. Sex ed didn’t talk about the long sleeve on the short arm and we had no idea how that look came about. An uncut boy looked like he had a giant earthworm hanging between his legs, LOL! I never heard a boy remark that the penises in fine art nudes looked different from what we all had. I suspect that 25 years of intactivist agitation has done a lot to end this weird state of ignorance about what nature intends.

    It was very easy to convince ourselves that it trapped pee in a disgusting way. That it was dysfunctional for sex and masturbation (we did not know how the foreskin nicely peels back during erection). That it was effeminate. We jumped to the conclusion that girls were repulsed by it as well.

    Every statement in the preceding paragraph is evidence that American popular culture had gone off the rails insofar as the tip of the penis was concerned. Americans are still digging themselves out from the shambles. But women have done a better job so far…

  19. cosmopolite

    Wikipedia forthrightly depicts the natural penis. The penis photographs used in all editions of Wikipedia are collected in one place called Wikimedia Commons. No pop-ups, no garish come ons, no invitations to lewd chatting. Most of all, no image reveals both a man’s face and his penis. Wikipedia alone may have done a lot to educate this and future generations of parents.

    When I was growing up, it was almost impossible to find an honest image of the male genitalia. And what images there were, depicted circumcised. The only place that depicted intact was classic art, and this fact was never commented on, even in the lewdest college bull sessions. The sexual advantages of being intact were never mentioned until the 1990s. Is it any surprise that people raised in this fashion grew up to be parents who had difficulty not circumcising their boys?

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