Opponents point out that in the U.S. there is a lower overall risk of HIV. Regarding hygiene, they say, an intact penis really isn't that difficult to keep clean. And urinary tract infections and many STDs (other than those caused by viruses such as herpes and HIV) are treatable with antibiotics. "We don't cut off eyelids because they attract gunk in the morning or cut off girls' breasts so they don't someday get breast cancer," says Mark D. Reiss, M.D., executive vice president of the Seattle-based Doctors Opposing Circumcision. "The bottom line is that circumcision is being done for conformity and custom."
One of the biggest objections to circumcision is that it's a surgical procedure performed on a nonconsenting human. It carries risks, though rare, such as bleeding, infection and the chance that a botched surgery will leave the foreskin too short or long. Circumcision critics also argue that the procedure may decrease sexual sensation, though this hasn't been proved.
On the way to the hospital to give birth, my husband and I settled on the name Nicolo. And while I was recovering, we decided to circumcise him. We weren't impressed with the medical benefits but were concerned about—we confess—appearances, that he would "look different." Before the procedure, though, my husband paced the floor nervously. He was practically in a panic when he said he couldn't go through with it. That was fine with me.
One summer day when Nicolo was 1, we were at a party where toddlers were splashing in a baby pool. One took off his water-soaked swim diaper, flashing his intact penis for all the world to see. Nicolo didn't look different after all.