In a move practically guaranteed to set a world record for Most Angry Emails Received, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has finally taken a formal stance on circumcision of baby boys. Their conclusion? It doesn't reduce sexual pleasure in adult men, prevents a host of diseases, and is a practice they endorse for families who decide it's appropriate for them. Predictably, this has galvanized both pro- and anti-circumcision camps and uncomfortably drawn the attention of the country to baby foreskins.
Today's updated statement reflects the organization's first policy change on the issue since 1999, when the physicians' group declined to rule either way on the practice of surgically removing the foreskins of baby boys. But in the last decade or so, the number of American parents opting to circumcise infant boys has declined significantly — just before Y2K, 63.5% of boys were circumcised as infants, but by 2008, only 56.3% were similarly altered.
According to TIME, the AAP's updated stance is in response to studies that have demonstrated that circumcised boys are significantly less likely to suffer from urinary tract and other penile infections. As adults, research shows that circumcised men are less likely to pass on HPV and other sexually transmitted infections to female partners — including HIV and syphilis. Men who are circumcised are also less likely to suffer from penile or prostate cancers.
But anti-circumcision groups don't buy it, saying the research the AAP cites in its statement is bunk and that the act of altering the genitals of babies too young to consent is akin to the sort of genital mutilation endured by young girls in some developing countries.
And of course, no debate about circumcision would be complete without wild speculation on both sides of the issue. A quick search for the word "circumcision" on Twitter today leads the user down a veritable rabbit hole of paranoid ranting, some by people who claim that refusing to circumcise baby boys is akin to creating a public health hazard and others who claim that some kind of Jewdoctor lobby is controlling the media again. THE CIRCUMCISION MACHINE WANTS TO KEEP THE PROFITS FLOWING IN vs. YOUR BABY BOY IS LITERALLY SPREADING AIDS. Super nuanced.
The AAP stopped short of fully endorsing circumcision for all baby boys, saying in a carefully worded statement that "preventive health benefits of elective circumcision of male newborns outweigh the risks of the procedure," but that families should determine on an individual basis what's best for their son's penis.