New Book Reviews by Steven Svoboda
The Foreskin and Why You Should Keep It. By Samuel M. Carnes. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. $12.99. December 2015. 121 pages.
The Good Mommy’s Guide to Her Little Boy’s Penis. By Adrienne Carmack, MD. Adrienne Carmack. $9.99. April 2015. 16 pages. Reviews by J. Steven Svoboda
Two excellent short books were published in 2015. Samuel Carnes is a medical dosimetrist who has written a work whose value should not be underestimated. The Foreskin and Why You Should Keep It contains just over 100 pages of text and the pages are not large ones, so clearly Carnes had no room to fit in all possible knowledge relating to his topics of intact genital anatomy and reasons for leaving your son intact.
Carnes is clearly an author passionately committed to getting the word out to the public on this topic, and he is already planning follow-up books he intends to write. His first chapter is titled, “The Basics in Plain Language,” and what could be more useful for someone new to the topic and a bit dazed by the onslaught of information from all directions that one can find online? The author sets the stage with a few brief paragraphs explaining (among other things) that seventy percent of the world’s males are intact. Carnes then calmly and in layman’s terms discusses potentially thorny topics such as the lack of need for retraction of a boy’s foreskin and the red herring of “cleanliness” that is still used to justify male circumcision.
Subsequent chapters address the intact penis and its proper care, the cultural bias behind the continuation of the practice rather than any actual sound medical basis, the need for Medicaid defunding of the procedure, circumcision as a waste of medical resources, and the lack of justification for circumcision by Catholics or other Christians. Specific “medical” claims such as HIV, urinary tract infections (UTI’s), and phimosis are discussed in detail along the way.
Carnes does seem a bit disorganized at times in that topics are not necessarily always organized in a particularly intuitive manner. Also I wondered at the exposition of “religious arguments that people give” that discussed only Catholicism and other forms of Christianity without addressing at least equally the more pressing considerations relating to Judaism and Islam.
Cliched though it may be to say so, sometimes less is more. Carnes has written a book that is an invaluable gift for any expectant parents undecided on the issue of their unborn children’s genital autonomy.
Adrienne Carmack is a urologist and a colleague who has collaborated with ARC and published academic papers supporting genital autonomy. Her self-published book, titled The Good Mommy’s Guide to Her Little Boy’s Penis, is a short sixteen pages in length. It includes nine very appealing drawings showing a happy intact male baby and--in several of the drawings--different, helpfully labeled parts of his anatomy.
Carmack provides a patient, very user-friendly description of normal male genital autonomy, explaining why no mother needs to do anything to change the wonderful system with which our boys first enter the world. One chapter answers the question that concerns many mothers (and fathers): how should the boy’s penis be washed?
Carmack ends by suggesting further reading and with a few useful conclusions: The foreskin is a highly sensitive part of the penis; cleanse the delicate foreskin gently and do not wash it with soap; the foreskin will separate naturally and painlessly as the boy ages; allow time out of diapers when feasible, and use positive language when changing diapers.
As a father of two children, I did wish that the author had made an allusion or two referring to the child’s father. Adrienne’s book is so charming and so clearly devoted to doing the right thing that I wholeheartedly recommend it to any interested reader.