How to Do It

I’m Terrified I Made the Wrong Choice About My Son’s Circumcision

A young man in flannel standing in front of a glowing dashed line
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

When I was pregnant with my son 18 years ago, my husband (circumcised) and I decided we would forgo this particular procedure for our son. Our religion does not require it, and after seeing the place at the hospital where doctors did the procedure, I couldn’t imagine doing that to our tiny baby. At that time, I felt comfortable in our decision. (If background info is helpful: We reside in a liberal city in the Midwest; I think being uncircumcised is more common on the coasts? I remember as a new mother thinking that about two-thirds of baby boys I knew were circumcised. We are white and I became pregnant at age 34.)

Over the years, I have struggled with periods of doubt about having made the right decision for my son. Different things would push me over the edge: My parents could not believe we would not circumcise our baby; we finally had to beg them not to talk about it. When my son was 2, another boy pointed at his penis and laughed, and I freaked out at the kid. Once, I read an article about how people with uncircumcised penises have all sorts of horrible problems with hygiene and asked my son if he wished he were circumcised (eyeroll, “No, Mom, it’s fine”). Most recently, I have read in this column that wearing a condom is difficult with an uncircumcised penis. By not circumcising my son, have I made a horrible mistake?

—Uncut Gem

Stoya: So, I’m going to own my mild mistake. The column our writer refers to is one of mine. I wrote that “one downside of foreskins is they sometimes get tangled uncomfortably in condoms,” and I did leave out a small piece of important information. When you have an uncircumcised penis and a condom, you may want to retract the foreskin (depends greatly on the foreskin-having human) before applying the condom, and you definitely want to put lube in the tip.

Rich: Right, I’ve heard of this problem, but I’ve never experienced it myself. I’m cut, btw, but I mean, I’ve never had a problem with a condom coming off someone else’s uncut dick.

Stoya: I’ve never had that problem either, but I have seen discomfort over the foreskin becoming sort of tangled.

Rich: Yikes. I just got an image of my duvet cover in the dryer when it twists into a sort of spiral, locking in other garments that don’t dry properly … but with foreskin.

Stoya: I mean, I don’t have direct experience here, but that does sound a lot like what uncut lovers have reported.

Rich: If condoms were simply incompatible with uncircumcised penises, there’d already be a solution.

Stoya: Exactly. Europe would be full of solutions. And like, really, worst case, you have to put a new condom on. No big deal. That’s why they come in three packs or more.

Rich: To Mom’s bigger worry, I’ve never heard a guy complain about having foreskin, and I’ve heard quite a few bragging about it. Inversely, I have heard guys complaining about not having one. I think she made 100 percent the right choice.

Stoya: Agreed. Both styles of dick skin are great.

Rich: I prefer uncut, but I would never turn someone down just based on foreskin. There are definitely people who fetishize foreskin—they certainly won’t be pointing and laughing. He may find that whatever minor ridicule he faced for being intact will be more than made up for when he’s sexually active. Not having your childhood friends understand your penis is a small price to pay for a lifetime of being able to thrill people just by losing your laundry.

Stoya: Can I wax poetic about foreskins?

Rich: Yes.

Stoya: They’re great. They’re so sensitive. It’s fun to rub the skin back-and-forth across. They’re fun to pinch and pull. They slide nicely in and out of an anus. They generally need less lube.

Rich: I really like the glide action. It’s just so … primal. It’s like its own sort of balanced biological mechanism. It all makes sense. Very similar to a vagina.

Stoya: Foreskinned dicks do feel more feral.

Rich: Yeah. You lose some of that visceral biology when they’re cut.

Anyway: Somewhere, our writer is blushing. I hope she’s not in the room with her son. Sorry, Mom!

Stoya: Besides, this way the son has the option to get circumcised later if he really wants. He won’t end up like those guys who are stretching their skin trying to form a foreskin.

Rich: Bless those guys who get political about this. It’s just nice to be able to choose! I know someone who had to be circumcised as an adult because of phimosis.

Stoya: Phimosis?

Rich: Yes, the foreskin was too tight and sex and erections were uncomfortable.

Stoya: Oh no!

Rich: But now he’s great! He has a new lease on life.

Stoya: I wonder if there’s anything we can do to put the mother’s mind at ease regarding all the family judgment.

Rich: It might be hard from over here, as we’re on a coast where everyone is running around uncut and on drugs. But seriously, they just don’t get it. It’s another one of those religious laws that made a lot more practical sense when the religious laws were written, given the state of hygiene back then. And today, despite being just a useless rule, people still hold onto it.

Stoya: It’s still an important part of Jewish and Muslim culture, but outside of that, I don’t get what people are hung up on. It grows that way, all turtleneck-y and covered with a protective sheath. This is like people being grossed out by pubic hair or natural breasts.

Rich: Right, it’s just sort of abstract grossness for people who have no religious obligation to do it. Regardless, they believe in circumcision’s importance as dogma. It’s just such an old-school way of thinking; tradition for the sake of it with no regard for the practical. I hope this person or her husband taught her son how to clean himself. Merely worrying about hygiene problems is not gonna cut it. (Yes, I meant that pun.)

Stoya: And the hygiene is really simple. Pull the foreskin gently back and wash under it. Gently. Pull gently and wash gently. It seems reasonable that either parent should be able to impart this information. And at 18, he’s probably got a handle on it.

Rich: If it’s long enough, it makes its own handle. I think she absolutely did the right thing; her son confirmed it. A foreskin may be intimidating to the uninitiated, but there’s a rather mild learning curve to loving uncut dick. Take it from me, as someone who went through the process and came out a foreskin enthusiast. And remember, of this club I’m not only a client—I’m also the president.

More How to Do It

My son is 12½. Like all tweens and teens, he is interested in sex, he has access to the internet, and he has gone looking about. My husband and I have had age-appropriate talks with him about this. And that brings us to the issue. This weekend, during a quick check of his computer internet history, we found that he’d been looking at “softvore” imagery—pictures of sexy women swallowing men whole. He’s had an interest in stuff like this since he was around 7 or so, when he saw a scene in a movie where a lingerie-clad alien played by Lara Flynn Boyle swallows a man. He said he liked the “snake-lady scene.” As it turns out, it’s never really left his mind. If he were simply looking at run-of-the-mill sexy images, I’d be well set up to deal with it. But navigating a fairly specific kink is tricky and, honestly, weird for me! How do I talk about responsible consumption of media with this additional twist?