To cut or not to cut? That's the big question.
In the UK, circumcision stopped being covered by the NHS in 1949 and has since only been performed for therapeutic or religious reasons.
In Australia, however, neonatal circumcision was routinely performed up until the '60s, but numbers are slowly declining from 85% in 1959 to 6-10% today.
In a very unscientific poll of the office, when I asked people why they had been, or why they'd had their baby circumcised, the answer was generally one of two: it's more hygienic, and so they could look the same as their dad.
The responses mirror statistics, with religious, family and hygiene being the most common reasons for male circumcision in boys.
Commenting on religious reasons will open way too big a bag and I'm not game to do that, but people citing hygiene as a reason for circumcision infers that we don't think Australian men are capable of cleaning their penises properly.
Better to cut off the foreskin than give them a bar of soap?
First rule of health: do no harm
The Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) took a stand on the subject of circumcision in 2010.
"After reviewing the currently available evidence, the RACP believes that the frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand."
So why are we still doing it?
Forums I've looked at (for research, promise) tell me that most male porn stars are circumcised. And when I put the question to my colleagues I hear things like 'circumcision makes your penis look bigger'.
And that's something we want our sons to aspire to, right? 'Hey Billy, we cut off your foreskin so you wouldn't feel weird watching Pornhub.'
The US and Australia still have two of the highest rates of non-religious circumcision whereas South Africa, Finland and Sweden have made it illegal with Denmark soon to follow.
Some studies show that in developing countries circumcision can help protect against STIs and contraction of HIV.
But neither Australia nor the US are developing countries.
We have sophisticated sanitisation plus access to condoms and knowledge of safe sex practice, which is proven to be by far the most effective way to preventing STIs and HIV.
So, should we continue to circumcise on the grounds of sameness: so that Billy Jr isn't in the shower with Dad and wondering why his penis looks different, or should we be asking what are the real benefits to removing an infant boy's foreskin?
What is a foreskin?
Baby boys are born with a roll of skin that covers the penis, otherwise known as the foreskin. After infancy the foreskin become retractable but might not be fully so until they reach puberty.
Hence it's important to know how to clean it properly. If you force the foreskin back before it's ready, it can be painful and cause scarring. But it is still possible to keep it clean. You just need to be gentle with it.
Therapeutic reasons for circumcision
Balanitis and Phimosis are the two medical conditions that warrant circumcision and even in the case of phimosis (inability to retract the penis), topical steroids are shown to be highly effective.
"While circumcision has been a longstanding practice in certain cultures and religions, and has been proven to offer some health benefits, ethical concerns have also been voiced regarding the procedure," says Dr Aifric Boylan.
"It has been argued that the operation offers little therapeutic benefit and that infants are (obviously) unable to give consent."
Another pro-circumcision stance is that it reduces the risk of men contracting UTIs.
According to research, UTIs are far less of an issue for men than they are for women, and ironically, it's not young, (uncircumcised) men who are likely to contract them. The majority of men (of which there are only 5-8 in every 10,000) are likely to be over 50 (i.e circumcised) when they get said UTI.
Women, on the other hand are 30 times more likely to catch a UTI. Thankfully we can rely on cranberry juice and aren't subjected to genital surgery as a solution.
Circumcision rates across Australia
According to the World Health Organisation, 19,663 Australian baby boys were circumcised in 2007-2008. The latest figures from 2016-2017 show a marked drop with just 6309 male babies undergoing the surgery.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) states that "In Australia and New Zealand, the circumcision rate has fallen in recent years and it is estimated that currently 10-20% of newborn male infants are circumcised."
Circumcision rates across the world
According to the RACP, in the United States approximately 65% of male infants are estimated to undergo circumcision, and approximately half this number in Canada.
Circumcision is relatively uncommon in South America, Central America, Asia and most of Europe. Interestingly, South Koreans didn't perform routine circumcision until after the Korean War. Since US troops infiltrated the country, 50% of adolescent and adult Korean males now choose circumcision but they leave their babies alone.
Sweden banned circumcision in 2001 and Finland followed suit in 2006, with the exception added in 2008 of it being carried out for religious and social reasons or in a medical manner, after Jewish groups spoke up and claimed banning circumcision was anti-semitic.
In June this year, Denmark also passed a bill to ban non-therapeutic neonatal circumcision.
What do a circumcised and uncircumcised penis look like?
An uncircumcised boy has a fold of skin that sits over the penis (glans). The foreskin often reaches well past the end of a flaccid penis and is crimpled and ruched.
A circumcised penis lacks the extra fold of skin so the head of the penis is exposed at all times. When they're erect, they both look pretty similar.
Do they feel different?
A commenter for YouTube says, "I am European and was born uncut. I moved to USA when I was 2 and felt different from other boys. I didn't like having a foreskin so when I was 18 I got cut because I couldn't [bear] the insecurity. I'm now 26 and totally regret doing it. I lost soo much sensitivity. There is no need to cut your foreskin. It's not just a piece of skin."
Another man says, "At the age of 21 I allowed the US military to talk me into getting circumcised. It would prevent disease, they said, and I would be cleaner, which the girls would enjoy (not much clearer than that) and such."
"What they didn't tell me was that intercourse would never be quite as enjoyable, that the reduction in sensation while excited would make the area feel almost numb compared to before, and that the increase in sensation when flaccid would lead to make the rest of life uncomfortable."
Does sex feel different for a man after circumcision?
One of the principle reasons for non-religious circumcision in Victorian era was to reduce or prevent childhood and adolescent masturbation. Because, it was said to numb the sensitivity of the head of the penis.
The foreskin contains thousands of nerve endings so presumably yes, it's more sensitised if there's a foreskin. But if you had yours removed as an infant you'll never know what you're potentially missing and adults males who were circumcised as children aren't necessarily more likely to report sexual problems.
Does sex feel different for a woman?
For a woman, penetrative sex is no different if there's a foreskin or not. Foreplay, however is definitely different as the foreskin provides a natural lubricant and makes partner-gratification easier.
What do most women prefer?
By its very nature, preference is subjective so whether women prefer a circumcised penis will be different depending which woman you ask.
Pros and Cons?
The complications associated with infant male circumcision are infrequent, but on the rare occasions when they do happen the damage is considerable, for example you risk amputation of the penis.
According to an article in the Indian Journal of Urology, "common complications of circumcision include hemorrhage (35%), wound infection (10%), meatitis (8-20%), and UTI (2%) respectively."
"Opening of the wound, insufficient removal of the foreskin, skin bridges and inclusion cysts, amputation of the glans penis, sepsis, phrenulum breve, and buried penis are rarely seen."
The pros include keeping similarity within the family and adhering to religious beliefs. In developing countries, it may help reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections or HIV.
Should I get my baby circumcised?
Choosing whether or not to circumcise your child is an ethical issue that is at the parents' discretion.
Either way, the decision of whether to cut or not to cut, is an individual and very personal choice.