Humor by Mark Bazer

Sometimes all it takes to get the day started right is an upbeat headline about circumcision.

Recently, it was: "Circumcision Tied to Lower Prostate Cancer Risk: Study."

Man, I love an upbeat circumcision story!

Like most American males born in the 1970s, I was circumcised. For our generation, it's "normal."

My penis wouldn't look at all out of place in a biology textbook over the caption "The American Penis." (But ... that textbook should be removed from schools and burned.)

Now, my family is Jewish, but my parents held no ceremony. A doctor, rather than a mohel with a long gray beard and hopefully not questionable eyesight, performed the procedure.

In the eyes of whoever decides these things in Judaism, it still counted as adhering to the covenant God made with Abraham, even if there wasn't a nice deli spread afterward.

And so, I grew up, well, whole in both the eyes of my religious community and my secular one.

But the tide in secular society has turned. The presumed health benefits of circumcision have been questioned. Fewer newborn American males are getting snipped. Studies show the number around or even lower than 50 percent.

The central anti-circumcision argument -- and, look, it makes sense -- is: Why cut off a piece of your body you were born with? It's not like you can use the lopped-off foreskin to plant penis trees in Israel.

It's a question I thought a great deal about when my first son was born -- before, during and after the mohel showed up and did his thing while laughing like a raging maniac the whole time.

(No, no, he was great and also had no beard. He also told us to pay what we could, contrary to those who claim circumcision continues to exist so people can profit.)

Another argument -- namely, that male circumcision is akin to female circumcision (aka female genital mutilation) -- doesn't hold any weight with me. Why? Because ... it's absolutely ridiculous. It's also insulting to the women around the world who were and still are mutilated.

Lastly, there's the "Does sex feel better with an uncircumcised penis?" question.

Obviously, I have no idea. It seems an impossible thing to study, unless a statistically significant sample of uncircumcised, sexually active adult males make mohel appointments and compare the before and after. That's not gonna happen, though I'd love to see the subway ad trying to get people to sign up.

What I can say is that sex without foreskin has always seemed pretty fantastic, and the works of Philip Roth back me up.

Still, why would anyone these days have his or her newborn son circumcised?

If you're Jewish, you've got either a religious conviction or a guilty one. Sometimes those are one in the same. And sometimes, in a world too often disconnected from the past and from where we came, it just feels like the right thing to do.

For Jews and non-Jews alike, there's also evidence (though people argue about it!) that a circumcised male is less likely to contract AIDS. It's the reason the World Health Organization started advocating circumcision in 2007.

(OPTIONAL CUT) That said, The New York Times noted a couple years ago, "Even advocates of circumcision acknowledge that an aggressive circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact on H.I.V. rates here, since the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk, men who have sex with men." (END OPTIONAL CUT)

Finally, there's another, largely unvoiced reason people have for circumcising their children. Basically it's: I don't want my son's penis to look different than mine! Or, to put it more maturely, I don't want my son to think he's weird for having a significant part of his body look different than mine.

Is this a ridiculous argument?

Again, I see the anti-circumcision folks ready to pounce. I'll save them the trouble: It may well be a ridiculous argument. I'm honestly not sure. But I know it's a very human one. And sometimes we're ridiculous creatures.

But that brings us back to the headline.

"Circumcision Tied to Lower Prostate Cancer Risk: Study."

The study has its open questions. One of the studies' leaders says, "We see an association, but it doesn't prove causality."

But -- and obviously I'm betraying my own ambivalence about having my sons circumcised -- the headline pleased me.

I, of course, wouldn't wish prostate cancer on anyone, circumcised or not. But I also can't hide my pleasure that wisdom can lie behind my family's particular tradition.

Ultimately, I'm not in the business of telling any other parent what to do. That seems like a terrible business. I can only speak for myself and say I hemmed and hawed (mostly to myself) about circumcising my first-born but then felt the bris was special, the results (a circumcised son) right for my family, and the deli spread delicious.

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