Teenage circumcision

So I was blithely searching the Internet when I came across this surprising topic: teenage circumcision.

I was surprised because I understand circumcision to be a useless operation that causes a lot of pain for absolutely no gain. No, it’s nowhere near as bad as female genital mutilation. But there just doesn’t seem to be much point to it. So why, I wonder, would a teenager get circumcised?

Well, there’s no real comprehensive sources of information about teenage circumcision out there. I’m not too surprised about this. Most sites on infant circumcision have a strong message to send about circumcision being either good or bad. The sites with information on adolescent circumcision seemed similarly opinionated. However, most of the sites I found on a google search were message boards, with teenage boys asking questions about teenage circumcision. Mostly they seemed interested in circumcision because their girlfriends were interested in them being circumcised.

So what’s important enough to teenage boys to entice them to get circumcised?

Of course. Getting laid.

I have to admit, I’m pretty horrified that teenage boys are out there getting circumcised because their girlfriends have some misconstrued idea about what a penis should or should not look like. This is every bit as outrageous as teenage boys dictating unnatural beauty in teenage girls (rail thin, gigantic breasts).

I would like to hope that we can teach teenage girls to appreciate both circumcised and natural penises. I would like to think that we can teach teenage boys to appreciate real women’s body shapes.

However, both of these perspectives need to begin being taught at a younger age than teenage. Pictures of beautiful women need to include all shapes and sizes. Pictures of beautiful naked men need to include cut and uncut penises. I honestly don’t understand why this seems so impossible for our society.

What are your thoughts/reactions/questions on adolescent circumcision?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. My first thought is that circumcision for anyone under 18, absent real medical reasons, should be illegal. I can’t imagine how much those boys are going to regret what they did when they get older. How awful!

  2. In my uneducated opinions about this topic, it seems to me that the Jewish tradition of circumcision might have started with some health reason / benefit. (The same way that the kosher prescription against shrimp and pork make sense, for health reasons — shrimp being bottom-feeders and all that.)

    Just as Alice suggested, it makes sense to me to make any circumcision (absent medical reasons) illegal for minors; but of course, it is a religious tradition, and I can’t see legislating against religious beliefs, even for medical reasons.

    (Parents who withhold medical treatment due to religious beliefs have sometimes been charged with child abuse/neglect, and I totally disagree with that — the state has no business in that arena.)

    But, Alice, I don’t know why you think those boys will regret a teenage circumcision when they get older. Why would they?

  3. Because the operation itself would be painful, and then they’d lose all that extra sexual sensation and pleasure for the rest of their lives and never be able to get it back.

    Why should religious people get special privileges denied to the rest of us?

  4. “Parents who withhold medical treatment due to religious beliefs have sometimes been charged with child abuse/neglect, and I totally disagree with that — the state has no business in that arena”

    I’d have to strongly disagree with you. If they were withholding medical treatment from themselves, that would be one thing, but they’re withholding medical treatment from another person. They’re forcing their religious beliefs on the child, whether or not the child wants to believe them or wants treatment or not. We forget in our society that children are people too, and deserve to have the basic rights of choosing their own religion or to getting the medical care they deserve. They are not just extentions of the parents, but rather are individual human beings with all the rights conferred within.

    As for Jews circumcising, it is a religious tradition, but so was slavery and burnt sacrifices and complete female submission to men (with no right to refuse sex) and a number of other traditions that Jews no longer practice. Baby/child circumcision is the non-consensual removal of part of a persons body, one that can have disastrous effects later, and no group should be allowed to violate the human right of an intact body just because their religion says so. We speak out against the religious circumcision of women… why not also men?

    There are groups of Jews questioning circumcision (including a group called “Jews Against Circumcision”), and even a beautiful alternate naming ceremony for boys that doesn’t involve removing part of the penis. (It’s called a Bris Shalom. Here is an excellent link on it: http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/brisshalom.htm)

  5. It’s a difficult question, because I do believe in an individual’s right to make their own decisions to what happens to their body.

    I would say that before a young man would be allowed to get it done, he have a prerequisite course about what the foreskin is, its importance, the risks involved in the surgery and the after affects. Basic sex ed for all young men and women should involve the education of the variety of ways that genitals can look and the beauty of genitals just as they are.

    If a young man still wants to remove his foreskin, he should have to go through counseling, much like a transperson goes through before going on hormones or before having sex change surgery. He’ll have to show his reasons for changing his body, his knowledge of the possible after effects, and have to have a waiting period (a year? 2?) with counseling during that period. If after all of that is done, he still wants a circumcision, he should be able to get one.

  6. For more on parents, children, circumcision, and bodily integrity, I found this on http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/

    Those of you with an interest in reading how the US Supreme Court balances children’s bodily rights vs. a parent’s rights to the free practice of religion might considering reading Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 US Sup Ct 158: “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free to make martyrs of their children.”

  7. That is a really fabulous quote from the Supreme Court, Cableflame. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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