This blog is part two of a series. Please be sure to read part one here.
Circumcision is a hot topic these days among many parents. Often times, people only hear what their doctor tells them, and neglect to do any actual research. I was one of these parents. It is a hard road traveled to know that you did not hear both sides. I am a big believer in informed consent, thus I want to give you as many details on this topic as possible to help you make an informed decision. You see, I’ve noticed that nobody who fully researches circumcision still opts to have it done, unless medically necessary. There are rare circumstances that arise that require medical attention, but I’ve also learned that the term “medically necessary” is tossed around far too often. Infections, phimosis, prevention of STDs and UTIs are all medical reasons given to inflict circumcision on babies. The truth is, infections, phimosis and UTIs can all be treated with creams or/and stretching the foreskin. STDs are prevented by practicing safe sex and using condoms. Circumcision does not prevent STDs, hence the United States and African countries having very high rates of both circumcision and HIV.
Here in the U.S., we view the forced genital cutting of females as totally atrocious. It is something that “they do in third world countries” and “we would never do that to our own.” But what many fail to realize is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was still legal in the United States until 1997! And, the rest of the world views us for cutting baby boys the same way we view those who are cutting girls– cruel and barbaric. It is a culture that has desensitized us to the core, enough to make us think we are doing it for our children’s health and well-being.
Many people say they’ve never heard a circumcised man complain. There are several reasons for that. In our culture, men are taught to be tough and not complain. They are told to stifle their feelings and “man up.” The comments that some victims hear are absolutely degrading while others are simply uninformed. This is why many men don’t speak up. Another reason why some men choose to keep quiet is because to admit there is something wrong, is to admit to something that is embarrassing and painful to deal with. It requires a lot of self-examination and willingness to open up, sometimes to total strangers on the Internet. Before you are so critical of these men, put yourself in their position. Imagine if you were forced to be strapped down, legs spread and a knife taken to your genitals. Now, you are a grown adult and people want you to relive this situation, a situation you don’t remember every second of, yet it affects your sex life, mental frame of mind, and so much more. THIS is why you don’t hear your everyday Joe speak up. THIS is why so many men say “I’m glad I was circumcised.” Those same comments come from women who are victims of FGM as well. It is a common way of dealing with trauma.
These types of attitudes keep men quiet, but not all men. Some of them speak up, some very loudly. Below I have collected statements from men who are educated about circumcision and regret that it was done to them. For the men who participated in this blog, THANK YOU! You are changing the world, one voice at a time. It is difficult to write your thoughts and expose your inner most sacred sexual issues, but I really appreciate your participation in this project. The world needs to hear you. Your voice will not be silenced.
- Brother K, born October 1947, American:
“No man can admit his feelings about circumcision without embarrassment and humiliation. All the defensive jokes, evasions, and braggadocio notwithstanding, it’s a painful and mortifying admission of harm. Anyone who glibly announces his satisfaction with his partial penis is the perfect victim for the circumciser because circumcision survives on the self-deception of the circumcised man—an eternal wound that he passes on to posterity.
I became aware of weird feelings in my penis a year before I went through puberty. Doing my sixth-grade homework one night in New Orleans, I was suddenly struck by the sensation of a large roach scurrying up my penis. It was so real that I actually pulled down my pants and felt in my underwear for the roach. I thought it was hiding from me, and I was terrified it would come out of nowhere again. An 11-year-old boy has no way to understand such an experience.
I might have forgotten the roach, but to my horror it returned every few weeks, about 20 times in the next year or two. I couldn’t tell anyone about it. How do you say, “There’s a roach on my penis.” I had no inkling that something had been done to me that caused this bizarre sensation during the course of my puberty. In retrospect, it’s clear to me that the normal structure of my penis had been altered when I was a baby, causing strange feelings in my penis during normal adolescent development. At some point, the roach simply vanished, leaving me with a mystery that I would not solve until some years later.
In college I read a book by Gore Vidal, Myra Breckinridge, that brought circumcision into my conscious mind for the first time. I had the usual preoccupations of a college senior, however, and nothing came of my newfound awareness, but I did not forget it. A few years later, I developed a loving, intimate relationship with a woman, and only then did I begin to realize the damage that circumcision had inflicted on me.
After deep, penetrating sex with her on numerous occasions for the next several years, I became aware that the moment of withdrawal afterwards caused my penis discomfort—not pain exactly, but a strange cold feeling, an uncomfortable sensation, far from the intimate pleasure that had preceded my withdrawal—so I began to study the sensation.
It happened every time. There was no avoiding it. She and I tried every variation of timing and circumstance to stop my sensation of discomfort at the moment of withdrawal after sex. Nothing changed it or made it go away. That’s when I began to read about circumcision. After several years of research, I concluded that the absence of vital skin structures was the cause of my discomfort after sex.
That awareness of loss connected me to a more dreadful awareness—the realization that I had in fact lived with a vague discomfort in my penis all my adult life. I won’t repeat all the horrors and side effects of circumcision here. The destructive effects have been researched and discussed by others, but the intrusion of circumcision into the most intimate aspects of my life has been real, permanent, and infuriating.”
- Keith Rutter, age 66, British:
“Most young guys know very little about their penis except that it is for inserting into another body. The cut guys probably haven’t experienced the loss of sensitivity that comes with age, as I know to my cost. Now, I am working on restoration, a long, slow process, which still won’t bring back the Meissner Corpuscles, which a doctor relieved me of.
If you want to get an idea of what a cut penis feels like, compared to an intact one, try this. With your index fingernail, stroke your thumbnail, and then your palm. Quiet different isn’t it? That’s because your palm has Meissner Corpuscles under the skin, just like the inner surface of a foreskin; your thumbnail does not, and the glans of a cut man has a layer of thumbnail-type tissue, not the delicate mucous surface of an intact man’s glans.
Another reason genital cutting is harmful: when tissue is cut and joined, whether by accident or otherwise, the nerves and blood vessels cannot join up as they once were, they must take a new pathway. This explains why a cut penis is less sensitive. For example, two years ago, I gashed one of my fingers. Although it has healed up without a scar, my fingertip is nowhere as sensitive as it once was. The cut only went a little way around my finger, but the doctor completely severed my foreskin, cut a large piece away, and sewed it together again. Is it any wonder that my penis is numb and I don’t have orgasms?”
- Jeff Cowsert, born 1971, American:
“The following is my response from a question: How do you feel circ has psychologically affected you?
Circumcision has had a lifelong psychological impact that started, on a conscious level, when I learned about the topic and that I was a recipient of it at age 8. I was immediately appalled as my Christian peers explained to me that the bible says to do it and that it was just some extra skin that was removed. I immediately knew this must have been related to the brown ring around my penis. Although I didn’t know what the foreskin would have looked like and had know idea of its function, I mourned the fact that I no longer had a complete body. I knew something was missing and I lived the rest of my childhood in fear that my parents or doctor would require me to give up other body parts. By the time I was a young adult, I let go of the issue and accepted it – although I always felt robbed and looking back I think it effected my attitude toward my parents, women, doctors and society. I felt sexually discriminated for the reasons that I heard for doing it. I always knew that if I someday had a son, I wouldn’t do it to him.
When I was in my mid 30’s, I started learning about the function of the foreskin, and understood that men who still had it were more sensitive. A resident physician friend uttered the words “There is no medical reason for doing it”. This was the first time I understood that what was done to me was actually for no reason at all. This outraged me. As I lived through my 30’s, erectile dysfunction began to set in. I tried Viagra to combat the issue, which I learned affected my breathing, gave me a headache and made me vomit. What a horrible drug to use for such a horrible issue. A year ago, when I finally realized that I am a victim of genital mutilation, I had a violent mental breakdown. I actually tore a bedpost off the foot board of my bed and destroyed several things in my home. Today, I am outraged that it was done to me and I am outraged that society continues to force it onto children, without question or guilt. How can such a horrible act, so thoughtlessly be “chosen” for me and by someone I am supposed to love unconditionally! I am so angry over this that I wish nothing more than a slow painful death to the doctor who did it to me – and whom I have met in my adult life. I love my parents but I resent them for doing it to me. I have days that I do not want to speak to them. Their failure to allow me to make the decision to amputate a functional part of MY reproductive system is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t trust doctors and I don’t trust US law. I resent the female population on grounds that they would find me to be unacceptable if I were whole – as they are. I resent the AAP for their failure to acknowledge the function of the foreskin, human rights, ethics and their failure to actually formulate a fair and unbiased committee to rewrite their circumcision policy. Finally, I will always wonder if the assault that was allowed to happen to me relates to the fact that I am homosexual.”
- Chris, age 38, American:
“I was mutilated Sep 23rd 1974 at age 36 hours. My assailant was right handed and wore glasses and green scrubs. I can still see him when I close my eyes. I immediately stopped breastfeeding due to “colic.” I wet the bed nightly until I was 14. I suffer from night terrors and addictive behaviors. My left lumbosacral spine is abnormally fused, causing pain. I am convinced this was caused by the muscular convulsions of my attempted escape from the restraint. My penis is abnormally curved due to the scarring. Sometimes I suffer from premature ejaculation and difficulty achieving orgasm. Sex is painful for me and for my partners; I’ve had blisters and abrasions. I’m expecting it to get worse. Circumcised men do complain. If ANYONE treated a rape victim the way male victims of genital mutilation get treated, they’d be pariahs. When victims talk, people should listen instead of ridiculing them and calling them whiners.
- E. Cameron, born April 1973, American:
“Circumcision is the single worst decision ever made FOR me. I did not consent. I was held down and my prepuce was unceremoniously amputated without the benefit of anesthetic. It hurt like hell. Ever ripped your fingernail up into the quick? Well, it felt like that…except on my genitalia. My mother explained that there was no medical need to remove my prepuce, she just didn’t want the kids to laugh at me in the locker room. And the a**hole that cut if off, well he later shot himself in the head (I don’t believe there was any connection, he just offed himself). So, now I have no one to seek restitution for a procedure I did not need, did not want, did not consent to. AND it never really healed. To this day, if I’m not careful that somb*tch splits open and bleeds. You can imagine an organ under that much pressure bleeds quite a bit. Or maybe you can’t imagine so take my word for it, it bleeds. A LOT. So, thank you mother for sexually hobbling me for the rest of my life *just* so that I wouldn’t be laughed at over having all of my body parts.”
Photo credits: Soggy Mommas
I would like to say a special thank you to Soggy Mommas‘ Maria for helping me find the photos I needed to complete this blog. You rock and your kindness is greatly appreciated. Much love.