Answers for Boys
By J.C. Jensen, M.S.W.
Illustrated by Linda Harrison
Whether a boy is circumcised or not, he may have questions about circumcision. This booklet has been written to help boys of elementary school age to learn more about it.
To Eli Harrison for his helpful suggestions.
First written: October 1984
Second printing: February 1987
Updated for website: 2001 (Revised 2013)
(Edited and distributed by Rosemary Romberg)
( Download this booklet as a Microsoft Word .doc file. Right click on booklet link, choose “Save As” or “Save Link As” )
SAME AND DIFFERENT
Boys are the same in some ways and different in others. You may be the same as some of your friends in that you like the same kind of sports, TV shows and clothes.
But boys are different from each other in many ways, too. You may be interested in certain subjects at school that some of your friends are not. You may have different hobbies or like foods that your friends don’t care for.
It’s good to be the same as others in some ways and it is also good to be different because the differences help you to be the only person like you in the entire world. No matter how we are, we are all special and important people.
The way boys are the same and different also involves their bodies. Boys’ bodies are the same in that they all have arms, legs, hair, eyes and other parts that go into making a human being. But there are differences in the color of the hair, eyes and skin. Some boys are tall and some are short. Some are heavy, some are thin. Again these differences are part of what makes us all special people.
If you take showers in a physical education class with other boys, have gone to summer camp, or have had friends stay overnight at your house, you may have noticed that some boys’ penises look different from others. Some boys have skin which covers the end of the penis. This is called the foreskin. Other boys do not have a foreskin.
All boys are born with a foreskin, but as babies some boys have an operation, called circumcision, in which a doctor cuts off the foreskin. Usually this is done in the hospital right after birth, although sometimes circumcision is done when the baby or little boy is older. Also, some people have their baby boys circumcised for religious reasons.
WHY DO THEY CUT OFF A BABY’S FORESKIN?
Years ago many people in the United States thought circumcising right after birth was the best thing to do. They believed that circumcision prevented diseases and made it easier to keep the penis clean. Others didn’t know why circumcision was done, but still thought it best because it was such a common operation. In some hospitals circumcision has been done automatically to nearly all baby boys born there.
Today, however, many people know that it is perfectly okay to leave a baby the way he is when he is born instead of cutting the foreskin off. A boy who is not circumcised can be just as clean as a circumcised boy and is not going to get any diseases just because he has a foreskin.
In some ways cutting off the foreskin is like taking out tonsils. Every person is born with tonsils. If you still have your tonsils, you can see them in the mirror as two round lumps in the back of your throat. Some people have had their tonsils removed by a doctor. Years ago many doctors believed that this operation would make people healthier. Now doctors know that it is usually better for a person to have tonsils. So most children today have not had their tonsils out.
Some boys have not been circumcised. They have penises which have skin that is longer and covers the end. The skin covering the end is called the foreskin.
Some boys are circumcised and have skin on their penises which is shortened and does not cover the end.
SOME BOYS ARE CIRCUMCISED
As you grow up you will find that many boys and men, especially in the United States, are circumcised. Not having a foreskin is something like not having an appendix or tonsils. Although a part has been removed, the body can still do what it was meant to do.
If you have been circumcised, it is important to remember that your parents chose what they believed was best for you at the time. Possibly they did not know anything about it, but agreed to what their doctor thought was best. Your parents may still believe that circumcision is best, or they may now wish that they had not had it done to you.
SOME BOYS ARE NOT CIRCUMCISED Boys who are not circumcised have a foreskin which covers the end of the penis and protects it from being hurt or irritated. (Some people now use the word “intact” instead, because “not circumcised” can sound like “something should have been done that wasn’t.”)
If you still have your foreskin, you may have friends who are just like you. You may also have friends who are circumcised. Boys, whether circumcised or intact, sometimes feel a little different from their friends who are not like them, but remember that being different from others is okay. Today there are many parents who are choosing to leave their babies the way they were born, so you will find that there will be more and more boys like you. In fact, in most countries other than the United States, circumcision is not practiced. Throughout the world most males keep their foreskins their entire lives.
WHAT TO SAY IF THERE ARE QUESTIONS Sometimes boys who are circumcised do not know that they had this operation because it happened when they were just a few days old and they do not remember it. Some boys who are not circumcised do not understand why the end of their penis is covered with skin. Now you can explain that some boys have had their foreskins cut off, while others have not. Parents whose sons are circumcised have usually believed that this was right. But now many people know that it is okay to leave the body as it is, naturally.
WHEN YOU GROW UP
When you grow older, you may have a son of your own. If so you may choose not to have him circumcised. Cutting off the foreskin is not necessary and is very painful for the baby. This is why many parents today would rather not have it done.
In the United States there are now many boys who are left the way they are born. In the future most baby boys will probably not have this operation.
Originally published in 1984 by Peaceful Beginnings
Second printing – 1987
Updated for website – 2001 (Revised 2013)