MicroTantrum: Battle of the Bris

November 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in The Tantrum  |  25 Comments

[Editor’s note: DadWagon has been paying attention to the petition circulating in San Francisco that aims to outlaw circumcision. Not only are we all “marked in the flesh” as part of our increasingly tenuous covenant with G-d, but two of us have had to decide, for our own sons, whether to continue the tradition. Here, in our MicroTantrum, DadWagon’s three editors weigh in on the relative merits of Making the Cut.]

Nathan: Over at TheStir, one mom wrote about how she deferred to her husband, who insisted that their boy would feel “different” if his penis looked different than his father’s. I’m fairly unconvinced by that argument. I don’t really spend a lot of time crossing swords with my 2-year-old or otherwise engaging in activities where we just look at each other’s junk. And I also don’t know that a difference in foreskin status would really stand out that much anyhow. Not to be a braggart, but the biggest difference between us is size (he is two, after all). And then possibly skin tone–as I’ve written about before, my son is 50% less white than I am. However, in the wake of talking to people behind the San Francisco petition, I do have a new ambivalence about circumcision. The thing that really got me: the realization that it’s cosmetic surgery, which seems a weird way to start off life unless you really feel strongly about this covenant-with-God idea. However: now that my first son is circumcised, it would be weird, right, to leave a second one unshorn? It would seem to invite the idea that one is favored by God. So there I am, trapped by an earlier decision that may quite possibly have been a mistake. Which is actually what raising kids is all about to begin with.

Theodore: Let’s go there, shall we? I am, to the use the parlance of certain communities found both in San Francisco and my part of Brooklyn, “cut.” As is my boy, JP. I must admit to having spent zero time investigating the health benefits or drawbacks to circumcision prior to allowing JP’s bit of man-meat to be taken from him. I just did it! Or, rather, I let our Chinese-American ob-gyn just go ahead and do it, and then… I panicked. What if he did it wrong? What if he took to much stuff? I should apologize to the doc (the very same one who delivered Matt’s Sasha) for my lack of confidence. His work was exemplary, as far as I can tell (I haven’t seen that many pricks with which to compare JP’s). As perhaps you can tell by this meandering stretch of narrative, I’m not tormented about the ritual, religious mutilation of little boys. It’s just one of the many stupid things we do as part of our culture. Really, my only thought was that JP’s thing-a-ling should look mine, thereby avoiding questions from him. Unfortunately, it seems pondering the pecker is inescapable in this day and age, as evidenced by this post. Shame on you, Nathan.

Matt: Before I say anything else, I am required to announce that my bris was a particularly joyful event—it took place the day of Richard Nixon’s resignation. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, there seem to be two things at issue for the San Francisco “intactivists” (which is an awesome nickname, by the way): 1. “Sensitivity.” Sure, it’s logical that by snipping away the foreskin, you’re losing some pretty damn sensitive material. But does that ruin what’s left over? Personally, I’d say no. I’m perfectly happy. And historically, given my gender’s many thousands of years of pursuing sexual gratification at all costs, I’d say that if circumcision were really that much of a hindrance, we would’ve given it up within minutes of Abraham’s death. 2. Consent. Can you believe we’re doing this allegedly horrible thing to our children without their knowledge and permission? Yup, I can. Just like I require my daughter to wear socks and shoes to go outside, just like I get her vaccinated, just like I make sure she’s fed three times a day, whether she likes it or not, I do things without her consent, and even against her will. She’s a kid, that’s the way it goes. Tough shit. But, and this is all anyone really ever cares about, would I get my hypothetical son cut? Yeah, probably—especially so if it is definitively proved that circumcision leads to bad sex. Why should my kids have it any better than me?


  1. Jill says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 9:24 am(#)

    You guys really do know how to kick off a Monday…

  2. theodore says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 9:24 am(#)

    Please consider some of the terms used in this post: prick, pecker, man-meat, cross swords, penis, foreskin status, cut, junk. Classy.

  3. theodore says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 9:31 am(#)

    I forgot thing-a-ling.

  4. Tim says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 10:34 am(#)

    Autumn at Dadwagon, sponsored by posts about gifted education and circumcision!

    My father isn’t, I am, my sons aren’t. We are all highly unobservant-but-baptized-just-in-case mackerel snappers, so there’s no religious element involved–we busted the living fuck out of that covenant between God and Abraham a long, long time ago.

    I haven’t had a “compare and contrast” session with either kid, just a 30-second discussion of what they need to do to keep their skin hats clean. I explained that I don’t have one and they may see that some of their friends don’t. They seem to be okay with all of this, and if the stats aren’t inaccurate, they will be snapping towels with plenty of other uncircumcised kids in the gym showers and locker rooms of tomorrow.

    I do worry that they may hate me when they are about to have sex with an HIV-positive sub-Saharan prostitute and realize that they should probably stop and put on a condom, but that’s the breaks.

    The San Francisco petition is absurd.

  5. Jack says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 10:40 am(#)

    Ever notice that many of the people crying the loudest are women. These broads haven’t figured out the truth in your post and that is if the damn things didn’t work right we wouldn’t be chasing skirts.

    I mean really, leave it to a dame to try and tell us that we could feel more sensation. When I think back to high school I am happy that I didn’t feel more sensation or I would have needed to walk around with 27 pairs of Jockeys to change into.

  6. Nathan says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 10:42 am(#)

    Awesome, Tim. I am so pleased that you added the term “skin hat” to the elevated dialog here. It’s right up there with Sleeve of Wizard.

    And your family definitely seems to roll with the zeitgeist (to use a non-Jewish term): it may be that circumcision for the unobservant and the mackerel-snapping populations will one day be seen as a passing medical fancy that faded away in the early aughts. We’ll see.

  7. Bob says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 11:04 am(#)

    Great write-up guys on the decision (or lack of) process for/against circumcision. There is plenty of research to prove the benefits of circumcision, so it is not a cosmetic or cultural procedure.

    Parents should research circumcision and make an informed decision for the health & well-being of their son.

    More information can be found at the following sites:







  8. JP says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 12:39 pm(#)

    They should take my parent card away the day I start making decisions for my life and how to raise my kids based on petitions circulating San Francisco.

  9. karen says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 11:27 pm(#)


    My baby guy is a shift-and-shoot. The decision was easy as his dad is too. But I’d already knew that it would be over my dead body that any kid of mine have an unnecessary cosmetic procedure done before they can choose it for themselves.

    My body my choice? Unless it is life/death, that’s the bandwagon I’m on.

  10. David says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 11:34 pm(#)

    While I don’t agree with your decision or decision-making process regarding a penis not your own, I at least see that you are thinking about this issue of circumcision without consent of the penis owner. While it may seem weird to leave future sons intact after you’ve circumcised one already, I can assure you many have done the right thing after realizing they’ve been doing the wrong thing for far too long. Life’s about learning from our experiences and sometimes our mistakes. For the other people in your post and the commenters as well, if you’re going to write about circumcision, you would be well-advised to learn how to do it correctly.


  11. Matt says:

    November 23rd, 2010at 8:08 am(#)

    @David: I’m unclear: To write about circumcision, we should learn how to do circumcision correctly? Uh, okay?

  12. Marlena says:

    November 23rd, 2010at 9:56 am(#)

    Living in Madison, another hobnob of liberalism, the question is batted around without shame when people are pregnant. According to some study which I’m too lazy to look up, Madison is 50/50. That means, one day, there might be a lot of pecker peeking in the locker room, but that will be what’s “normal,” I guess.

    What gets me is when people say it’s for religious reasons, but then eat bacon, shell fish and don’t practice the high holidays. Just have it done if it’s what you want.

    My other irk is when people say they want their son to look like their dad. As a woman with a daughter, I will spend way more time talking to her about her body parts, yet we’ll never look at one another’s. I think sometimes it’s a free pass to not talk to one’s son about his wee bits and the need to keep them clean.

    But again, I don’t have one and only have a little lady toddler. So do what makes your family happy, one peck and snip at a time.

  13. Nathan says:

    November 23rd, 2010at 11:37 am(#)

    Yes, I’m not surprised that Madison would be leading the same discussion. I’m very happy to add “pecker peeking” to the list of excellent terms surrounding this debate on DadWagon.

  14. Jack says:

    November 23rd, 2010at 4:04 pm(#)

    For the other people in your post and the commenters as well, if you’re going to write about circumcision, you would be well-advised to learn how to do it correctly.

    I am a believer in tradition. You take a sharp rock, some rope and a shot of some strong alcohol and then…

  15. Restoring Tally says:

    December 2nd, 2010at 10:26 pm(#)

    My parents never gave it a second thought and they let the doctor cut off part of my sex organ. I dislike my circumcision so much that I am restoring my foreskin. The more I restore, the more I realize just what a raw deal circumcision dealt me. With my restored foreskin I regained my lost sensitivity and I have the gliding action, something I never knew about before I started restoring.

    My body, my choice. Not my parents’ choice.

  16. Jack says:

    December 3rd, 2010at 5:42 pm(#)

    Tally, you are not even a real person. We know who you are and are aware of the myths you propagate in trying to convince men to become turtles.

  17. dadwagon says:

    December 3rd, 2010at 6:38 pm(#)

    Perhaps, but turtles with “gliding action”. Sign me up!

  18. Matt says:

    December 3rd, 2010at 8:24 pm(#)

    How about we make “Gliding Action” an official Dadwagon category?

  19. Jack says:

    December 6th, 2010at 2:30 pm(#)

    “turtles with “gliding action”

    Coming soon to toy stores everywhere.

  20. Matt says:

    December 6th, 2010at 2:54 pm(#)

    @Jack: “Take that, Lalaloopsy!”

  21. Michael Mooney says:

    March 15th, 2011at 5:46 pm(#)

    Circumcision decreases penile sensitivity as much as 80%. Women have half as many vaginal orgasms with circumcised versus uncircumcised. Facts. Mother Nature or God, as you may choose didn’t make it that way because it needs to be cut off. Circumcision does not reduce the potential for STD’s. It increases the potential. See: http://wehonews.com/z/wehonews/archive/page.php?articleID=5792


    Battle of the Bris: A Move to Outlaw Circumcision in San Francisco – TIME Healthland
  1. Battle of the Bris: A Move to Outlaw Circumcision in San Francisco – TIME Healthland
  2. Mommy Groups: Things Thank God I Don't Have To Do | DADWAGON
  3. Who Lacked Such Armor and Swords As They Would Have Wished | DADWAGON

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