August 2006

I’m from Australia. I was a participant in the production line circumcisions of the 1950s. It was a fairly rough job; I noticed a few years ago there is a hole clean through the side of my penis.

It is an indisputable objective fact that the circumcision was the greatest injury in my life. I’ve had cuts and stitches and bruises, but the circumcision is easily the largest physical scar on my body.

As a child I always felt my genitals looked strange, and I was right. I was unclear about my circumcision status and felt very sad about it when my mother told me I was circumcised. She said in those days it was very difficult to have a boy and not have him circumcised.

Circumcising children was promoted by physicians in the late 19th century as a way to stop masturbation. I can tell you that as a teenager it worked on me. Masturbation was impossible. Without going into details, its cleary had a detrimental effect on my love life.

Its very important for me to have absolute authority over my body. I feel part of my body has been stolen and feel vey bad about it. I don’t obsess about it, but I’d like to see future generations protected. Unforunately, fear of change has helped it persist.

In 2001 I attended a talk in which the speaker stated that there were over 75 million American men walking around today who had been tortured at birth. I think the consequences are profound and are worth preventing.

When I was younger, I accidentally walked in on my father in the bathroom while he was naked. I remember him being circumcised, and that imprinted on my brain. I didn’t know what it meant when I was younger, but I knew that it had to do with the mushroom-shaped bump on my father’s penis. That led me to believe for much of my life that all men were circumcised, and that it was just the proper way of doing things.

Fast forward to age 14 where I had my first sexual experience with an uncircumcised penis. The vision of someone being uncut made me snap back to reality and realize exactly what circumcision was. It was the mutilation, and later on humiliation, of slashing off skin that could come in handy some day.

Summer vacation came, and I lost my virginity to a circumcised friend. The pain was so unbearable that I requested him to stop, and he asked me, “Why did you want me to stop?” I told him it was because he wasn’t circumcised. I know that sounds a little prejudiced, but believe me, at that point I was in pain and I didn’t need any more.

I did more research and found out that a lot of boys are circumcised. So, now, I’m ready to take a stand.

My message to new parents is this: If you have a son, leave his penis alone. Just because you have him circumcised doesn’t mean you’re better than parents who choose to leave their son’s penises alone. It doesn’t make you more religious, or more politically active. It makes you look like the type of parents who would harm their child by cutting off skin that can come in handy when it comes to physical contact/injury.

Sometime around or after my 18th birthday, it dawned on me that circumcision was not a choice I made for myself. Up to that point, I had always thought an intact penis was a condition of old men, such as my dad. Frankly, uncut looked old-fashioned. My awakening occurred as I began to come out as a gay man. My first experience was with an intact Mexican man I met while traveling around Mexico.

I could go into all of the physical realizations I experienced that made me resentful and then increasingly angry about being circumcised. But I would be less than truthful if I failed to admit that being circumcised never slowed my sexual exploration or prevented me from pursuing a full and satisfying sex life. Sure, there were times when I was regretful, angry, or just meloncholy at the prospect to the point of losing my hard-on. But soon I realized this issue wasn’t about me. It was about those who have yet to be born, still retain their foreskins, or anyone who may be in a position to decide for someone else. It was about choice, informed and armed with the power to say no, something I never had.

Activism to end genital cutting defines a large part of who I am. Anyone who gets to know me gets to know this issue in detail. I never bring up the subject. But I orchestrate my life so that it is inevitable that it will come up. Whether it’s the way I appoint my apartment with redundant clues to my views or whether it’s the way my schedule is defined by my activism, non-activist friends soon learn what I believe, how I feel about circumcision, and why.

I have had few negative reactions. Sure, some people stridently defend their status as perfectly ok, having never adversely affected them, and surely within the purview of their parents. But most come to understand my view and agree that this is about the individual’s right to be left alone, unmolested, and intact. Those who do not agree are frequently simply disagreeable and soon disappear.

All this said, I have been restoring my foreskin off and on for many years, with a cumulative period under restoration of about four years. My body has responded poorly to stretching. But I continue nevertheless. I am covered most of the time with the aid of o-rings or tight briefs. I would prefer to have permanent, unaided coverage. But I’ll take what I can get. Ultimately, my sexual satisfaction has a lot to do with having undertaken restoration long ago. So, I can’t say circumcision wouldn’t have slowed me down or diminished my sex life. I guess in reality who can know for sure.

In any event, as I have watched this movement gain strength from its adherents, one thing is clear: we aren’t going away. We will continue to point to the hypocracy and immorality of forced genital cutting. And whether the proponents are talking up AIDS prevention or some future bogus justification, we’ll be here to point out the obvious that you can’t force surgery on someone just because you think it best. The patient must be consulted. He must be competent to say yes or no. And a child is never circumcised with consent.

In August, 2002, my wife and I, then ages 57 and 56, left our daughter at a freshman orientation session at her college and drove off into an uncertain future. I had planned numerous fossil-collecting excursions for our trip home, because collecting fossils had long been one of our favorite mutual activities, something boring to our daughter whose lack of interest was no longer a problem. This newfound freedom to do as we pleased was in many ways a delightful prospect, though edged with a familiar and disturbing fear. For the next three years, we mined several mutually enjoyable and engaging interests, including trips to historic places, household renovations, gardening, fossil-collecting, and hiking. I resurrected my long-latent interest in golf during those years and spent many hours on the golf course, but generally did this with annual leave while my wife was at work, not wanting to make her a “golf widow.”

Although we had sex occasionally during our time together, it had become clear to both of us over the years that for me, the desire to have sex was always at war with an inexplicable fear that often invaded our intimacy, stopping my excitement, leaving us both disappointed. I had gone to a urologist several years earlier with this concern and he had assured me that nothing was wrong with my genitals, hinting that I might have a psychological problem. I asked him what other men did about such problems and he said most men didn’t wish to discuss psychological issues related to sex. As I look back at this experience, the most remarkable thing to me is that the urologist could see nothing wrong with my penis, even though my foreskin, including more than two-thirds of my erogenous nerve endings, was completely gone, leaving the dry, dulled glans unnaturally exposed and keratinized. At that time and for years afterward, it never occurred to me that there was anything unnatural about my genitals.

It had occurred to me, however, that I had long had a psychological problem. When I was thirteen and people began to hint to me that I ought to be taking notice of and pursuing girls, I wondered why this in many ways enticing prospect filled me with a vague terror that caused me to blush and want to hide whenever in the presence of an attractive girl. For me there was never any doubt which gender I found sexually interesting, but the prospect of doing something about it made me feel not only afraid, but helpless as well… as helpless as an infant in some nameless, agonizing situation. The astonishing power of this feeling finally provoked me, at the age of eighteen, to ask my parents if I could see a psychiatrist. They were quite distraught over this and wondered if they had done anything wrong. I assured them they had not, though, in retrospect, I now see this was not entirely true.

The psychiatrist I first saw assessed that I was a “big sissy” who needed to grow up. To his credit, he did at one point ask me if “everything is okay down there” pointing at my genitals. I said “yes,” because it had never occurred to me that my genitals were unusual, since the few I’d seen in camp or swimming pool showers were generally like mine. This psychiatrist, and a subsequent one, took the course for the next several years of encouraging me to venture forth, dating and exploring the world of sex, in spite of whatever fears I might have.

I read Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” and many books by Albert Ellis about getting your head on straight about sex. I read books about self-esteem by Nathaniel Branden and other authors. And I did eventually meet and marry a woman I met at graduate school where we were both English majors. Our first experiences of intercourse were during the year and a half we were married, and all-in-all we were indeed able to function sexually, but the woman I’d married was also quite shy about sex and continued to feel ambivalent about it. My concerns were that I continued to feel that I was suppressing fear in order to have sex. When my wife asked for a divorce, I was devastated, but in some ways relieved to be free for a while of this fear.

Several years later, while I was teaching English in high school, I met an attractive woman who seemed interested in having a sexual adventure with me. I remember pacing back and forth in the living room of my apartment for hours before our first scheduled rendezvous, psyching myself up for making the “move” on her I sensed she wanted. This did happen, but nervousness prevented me from being able to follow through until I finally relaxed enough to genuinely have sex with her three days later. This affair continued off and on for a year or so, but she ultimately chose someone else for a sex partner… someone less nervous. She gave me a book this other fellow had given to her, called “The Primal Scream,” by Arthur Janov. She said she knew of a place in Washington, D.C. where people were going “primal.” She thought it might help me to think about how I could solve my problem.

Within a month I was signed up for a three-week intensive of primal, gestalt, bioenergetic therapy at the Community of the Whole Person in Washington. The Center was different from Janov’s, I have learned, in that it borrowed from various related disciplines. I discovered that I could cry very easily, particularly when women in my group cried. I spent much of my time “getting into my anger,” often pounding mattresses and saying “I am a MAN!!” in defiance of whatever force it was that seemed to contradict my assertion. In the third week of this intensive, I was encouraged to make the movements a baby makes when having a tantrum. To everyone’s astonishment, I proceeded to have a full-throttle baby tantrum that ended with a wonderful sensation of having expressed a long inhibited feeling of rage at some unknown assault. No one ever suggested what this assault might have been, and I now suspect none of the therapists actually knew or even guessed that it might be something like circumcision. That awareness would only come to me thirty years later.

My first primal therapy experience gave me a degree of energy and confidence that helped me move forward in new directions socially and professionally. I began to date more frequently and developed a degree of sexual confidence in casual relationships that was new to me. During this time I introduced myself to the woman who is now my wife. A couple of years after we met, she and I got married and settled down in an apartment in Washington, D.C.

I was surprised by how frightened I was as the marriage date arrived. After our small, private courthouse wedding I sat on a curb and wept, much to my wife’s embarrassment and chagrin. I discovered that I was still unequipped for a long-term intimate relationship. Our sexual relationship seemed to awaken all the demons I’d feared in adolescence, and my uncorked anger led to episodes of violence. I sought help and got back into psychological counseling which helped me steady myself enough to pursue a good job as an editor and to behave decently toward my wife. Eventually she got pregnant and our focus shifted toward our wonderful daughter… the one who is now in college.

While on one of our fossil-collecting trips, I was resting on a bed in a motel when my wife came over to speak to me affectionately. I was astonished as I looked up at her by a profound sensation of being a baby in pain, looking up pleadingly at my mother. I hid this feeling from my wife, but the experience started a train of thought leading back through a lifetime of inexplicable fear. As we drove home from that trip, I realized that my brief experience with primal therapy had just scratched the surface. I needed more.

It turned out that the Washington, D.C. area was no longer a haven for primal or bioenergetic therapists. Determined to face my fear, I found an online guide to how to do primal therapy by Paul Vereshack, called “Help Me, I’m Tired of Feeling Bad” (the printed version has the title “The Psychology of the Deepest Self”). This guide enabled me to do what is called “self primalling,” which I began to do during long lunch breaks, driving home from work, primalling, then returning to work. I did this routine because my wife—though supportive of whatever I needed to do—was clearly uncomfortable with the idea of my doing primal therapy while we both were at home.

In a nutshell, primal therapy involves steps one can take to recall and even relive, in a therapeutic context, unresolved or otherwise forgotten traumatic experiences. Reconnecting to these early experiences helps a person become fully aware of memories underlying current reactions to experiences that are difficult to understand in any other context. Reconnecting to an early trauma turns out to be a step-by-step process over a long period of time, because assimilating the intense pain of these traumas usually cannot occur with a single episode of reexperiencing. The process involves developing a sensitivity to areas of feeling that we ordinarily are obliged to ignore. Tensions we try to disregard at work become, in primal therapy, the focus of our attention.

My experience was that my earliest years involved much crying and pleading for help, usually aimed at my mother. Although I found the experience alarming, it was enlightening to realize the extent to which, as an infant, I was desperate for my mother’s help to ease my suffering. Part of this that I could distinctly remember related to the pain of eczema, which led to scratching and bleeding at night, and pleas that my mother come to help ease the pain. My early recollections of my father were of an angry, impatient, disapproving person.

One day I decided to try to relive an episode of my reactions to my father’s angry disapproval. He once told me that he had found me at home one time in a puddle of urine I had peed onto the floor. He said he’d given me “living hell.” I didn’t consciously remember this, but I tried to establish in my mind a congruency with the situation and to react defensively to whatever his “living hell” must have been. Part of what I did to recreate this involved a flailing of my arms and legs, as if I were trying to deflect his blows. Much to my surprise, this effort immediately triggered a long series of sharp pains in a circle around the shaft of my penis. The sensations were so specific and intense that I immediately stopped my flailing in order to try to assimilate what I was experiencing. The word “circumcision” popped immediately into my mind.

Although I was 60 years old at the time, I knew next to nothing about circumcision and had always vaguely assumed that something may have been done down there when I was little but it must have been a necessary thing like severing the umbilical cord. I knew my father surely wasn’t the person who would have done this, but something about the impulse to fight back, flailing arms and legs, must have brought back the memory. I didn’t realize immediately, but soon figured out, that flailing arms and legs in an effort to ward off circumcisers is precisely what is prevented by the plastic circumstraint boards designed to restrain baby boys while doctors do their work. My effort to fight back freed feelings of rage that had been suppressed for 60 years.

I drove back to work to look up circumcision on the Internet to learn about why this is done and its value or rationale. You can imagine my astonishment upon discovering website after website decrying the barbaric practice of circumcision and its effects on male sexuality. A lifetime of inexplicable, humiliating reactions to the opportunity of sex suddenly became understandable. My genital integrity had been brutally and agonizingly violated the day of my birth. Most of my erogenous nerves and the sensitive sheathe that protected the mucous membrane of the glans had been severed and ripped from my remnant penis. I had deliberately been deprived of much of my sexual capacity because men like John Harvey Kellogg believed male sexuality was wicked and excessive and needed to be tamed or muted by medical procedures. Moses Maimonides similarly believed the love bond between men and women would be too intense if men were allowed to have all their natural genital equipment. Both men believed the weakening of the male sexual organ was a great benefit to civilization.

I would like to say that this knowledge has made me immensely happier, but in fact I have been seriously disillusioned by what I have learned. I have discovered that my parents did not do all they could have done to protect this important part of my life. In fact, I’m angry that they never owned up to or apologized for what they had allowed to happen to me. I have learned that the doctors who oversaw my birth did not care about my eventual sexual happiness and may have performed this procedure out of revenge for similar treatment they had received as babies. I have shed many tears over these betrayals of my best interests and the interests of the women I have known and the woman I am married to.

I have taken up the task of stretching my existing shaft skin to create a new foreskin and am hopeful that this will help as time goes by. But meanwhile I and my wife are growing older and our days are limited and there is much that has been lost irretrievably.

I would like to think that modern times would bring enlightenment and the practice of circumcision would seem certain to end in light of so much suffering as others besides myself must have experienced. But the daily news of studies purporting that circumcision is a cure for AIDS and the way these studies are heeded and used to justify genital mutilation makes me very angry and sad. I would like to think that my own story might make some difference, but I am doubtful that many (except my friends in ICGI, NOCIRC, and SICsociety) really will care. I am glad, nevertheless, that there are organizations of like-minded men who are helping me to see that my objections to this practice are not crazy and that it is justified to do whatever one can to alert those who can read and feel that circumcision is an act of criminal violence on the bodily integrity of a human being. In the name of humaneness and human rights, this practice must end.

It was at age 10 that I remember asking my mother, “What is the dark ring on my thing?” I don’t recall her exact response, but it was something about it being the scar from the removal of some skin. Possibly it was for my own good, maybe authority knew best as they are the adults, etc. Nevertheless, the scar looked odd and unnatural. I remember also telling my mother, “I’ll cut it off if they try to make me go to war.” She replied, “You’ll bleed to death.” How did I survive when they removed the mystery skin? Did they put the band aid on really quickly? How did it heal so fast without me dying? Imagining that it must have really hurt, I was glad for my lack of recollection. She had also informed me that playing with my penis could lead to what happened to my mystical Uncle Benny, Grandmother’s brother. “It would turn green and fall off.” I knew that really wasn’t true.

It wasn’t an earlobe, finger, or tongue. It was different and mysterious. She was largely not credible due to my experience of self exploration, which had proven otherwise. My father, slightly less mystical than Uncle Benny, didn’t speak to me at all about down there, so I never asked.

In school, half asleep from a sugar coma or breathing related sleep disorder, those “morning erections” would commence on queue as my hormones were surging during the usual daily testosterone peak. My glans would strain against my trousers causing discomfort and agitation. The few classmates I knew intimately had scars too, and we really didn’t give it much thought. That’s just the way it was.

Seeing my father naked on one, brief occasion, I saw his glans. He wasn’t any different from myself. Much later, he told me he actually had been left intact. Was it that I had given him a mental “circumcision,” or was he in a state of retraction?

Feelings of tiredness, depression, anger, and frustration were part of my life. Emotional and sleep disturbances, self hitting, low self esteem, and learning disorders may not have been related to my genital disfigurement. But what if they were? There are no dress rehearsals, right? There were no white coats saying, “Run him through again, only this time…”

The male Greek drawings either had fig leaves covering their genitals, or something that looked pointed, worm like, and different than anything I had ever seen. There were the testicles, but I had no idea why the artists hadn’t finished. Was this cheating? Where was the helmet? They were either lazy, prudent, or acting under some law that forbade them from drawing the real penis precisely, which was taboo of course. Somehow upon discovering that theirs was the truth, and I had been the one cheated out of a real penis. Someone had erased my mystery skin. Slowly the truth became evident. My sex had in fact been redesigned by this bombastically deceptive, socially, and psycho-sexually puritanical society. My helmet was missing it’s hood. The mystery skin was revealed to be the foreskin.

Throughout my young adulthood, there was the faintest spark of sensation in my glans. Why did others say oral sex so great? I could never feel it. That’s where the action happens, right? It was as if I were a child, looking through one of the distorted glass windows in church. There were people, but no fine details. Quite fitting for a church where a man stands on a stage, shakes his fist, and rants about something concerning a man in the sky called God who I couldn’t sensate either. My penile sensations were phantom, but slightly more real than God. If the orgasm didn’t happen within a certain amount of time, the sensations in my glans would fizzle with a numb tingling, then it would be gone. And forget about a second attempt after the first success. The second would have to be the first on another day. It always seemed as if God had assembled my penis on a Saturday at 23:00, and a circuit board was missing, or there were some dislodged wires.

After learning about N.O.R.M., I began non-surgical restoration of my foreskin by dermal expansion. Within a week my glans became moist and pale pink. The sensations left me saying, “Wow! I could’ve had a foreskin!” I had solved part of the mystery. However, the newly developing foreskin would only be a panacea. No amount of restoration could never replace those nerve cells or remove the curdled, jagged scar. But there was no turning back. What I had regained was too good to lose. If this is more 3 dimensional, I thought, what could the missing nerve cells have brought to my life? My anger increased, and the investigation went further.

Studying photos left me wondering what it must be like, feeling quite cheated and wishing for baptism instead of circumcision. The former would have left a mental scar from the fear of drowning in that glass mini-pool-fish-tank behind where the man stood on the stage, but nothing visible, or irreparable. (The fabric from the Preacher’s robe would flower up in the water, reminiscent of some exotic jelly fish that had escaped the fisher’s net. Was he wearing anything under that robe, and was he “circumcised,” too?)

On my hospital records, beside the printed words “reason to operate,” are the scribbled words “live birth.” Since when is live birth a pathological disease? After filing a complaint, I am told that , “there is no reason to investigate as all of the proper forms have been signed.” Mother claims not to remember signing anything. Had they forged her signature?

Wanting to get the word out to unsuspecting parents, I enquired about booth space at a local human rights fair and was informed by the organiser, “Just because a few thousand men are unhappy with their penises doesn’t mean we should let your organisation have a space at our fair.” Trying the baby fair route, the mother-of-three-boys organiser said, “We don’t want to step on the mother’s toes.” After my questioning the safety of the babies’ toes, she turned me away. At least I can watch the sad faces in the rear-view mirror roll their eyes, snigger, or ponder morosely after they read the words “Circumcision: A Crying Shame” on my bumper.

I’m an artist, and once didn’t feel as if it were okay to draw nudes without shame. Like me, the men in my drawings had penile scars. Upon beginning restoration, my drawings were restored as well. In my act of pentimento, they magically regained their foreskins. If only that had happened before the show. However, they are more lucky. Although part of my numb glans has revived, gone are the circuit board of nerves, mucosal tissue, and unique structure which no surgeon could recreate. There is almost no ventral dermal tissue remaining, as the quack had excised around 60 percent of my total skin. And there’s a limit to what can be expanded upon by restoration. It’s a bit like pulling and retaining an extremely shrunken, loose shirt sleeve around my wrist. Everyday I use a tape ring to recreate the missing frenar band and think, “That bastard quack. If only I had been born in Europe.”

When in Europe, “the land of the foreskins,” I look at every man and think, “I know what he has, that lucky bloke! He doesn’t have to wear that damned tape.” I’ve realised that I’ll never recover, but only cope. On those trips, I wear a clear, waterproof, rubbery tape ring on my restored skin allowing me to appear authentic upon a quick glance when I’m at a urinal. (Oh, admit it, everyone looks.) But then there’s the truth, which they don’t see. Those of us with scars, hidden or visible, are forced permanently into a censored minority category for the rest of our lives.

As a medical student at America’s oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital, I was happy to be on the obstetrics rotation. While still in college, I had heard an obstetrician speak enthusiastically about his optimistic specialty. So now I was enjoying helping to bring babies into the world. While professors provided good background information in formal lectures, my real teachers were residents only a few years older than I was. They took turns talking me through normal deliveries.

Almost every doctor can recall the joy of delivering a healthy normal infant. This joy was shattered one day when one of the residents said, “There are some circumcisions that need to be done, go and do them.” At the time I guess I knew what a circumcision was, but that was about it. I had certainly learned nothing about the subject in medical school. Obediently, I proceeded to the newborn nursery, where another medical student was already waiting. I felt nervous, and he looked quite nervous, too. Strapped to a board on the long counter in front of each of us was a bawling male infant. Beside the infant was a surgical tray filled with instruments. Imagine our consternation when we found there was no one to tell us what to do. Obediently, we put on surgical gowns, then surgical gloves. Then we began to try to figure out how to use what I later learned was a Gomco Clamp.

As far as I know, I made a fairly neat job of it. But my abiding memory of that day is of my colleague. He was one of the more brilliant members of our class, and was planning to become a radiologist. As for surgery, forget it. He was all thumbs. I still remember him, standing beside me, fumbling with the complicated instruments, proceeding to use them on the helpless penis before him, all the while just shaking his head!

I look back on the only time I have ever performed any circumcisions with regret and resentment. I resent having had no opportunity to study circumcision in medical school or to consider whether I thought it a treatment for anything. I resent the resident commanding me to do it, while offering no further guidance or help. In fact, I was treated just as the medical profession treats innocent new parents today. Doctors tell them a circumcision needs to be done. Before the new parent has time to consider, it is all over. Then it is too late to say no, and everyone has to live with the consequences. I was a medical student, so a lot of the responsibility was mine. I clearly violated, all in one instant, the Golden Rule (I certainly would not have wanted that done to me), the major tenet of medical practice, First, Do No Harm, and all seven principles of the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics. Mind you, I did not realize it then, just as unwary medical students do not realize it today. Now I know there are no valid medical indications for routine neonatal circumcision. I realize much harm can be done, evidenced by the thousands of men who have written their testimony and who have told me personally of the harm done to them. Now I also realize that I violated my patient’s basic human right to enjoy his entire body intact, while all he could do was scream his tiny head off. That was some years ago, but it might just as well have been last year.

The United States is the only country in the world that, for no religious reason, severs part of the penis from the majority of its newborn males. I speak out in the hope that many parents and doctors will read this before getting swept into the cultural madness of routine neonatal circumcision. What should one do if called upon to consent to or to perform circumcisions? Just say NO! In so doing, you will be taking the only ethical position there is on this issue.

I knew nothing about circumcision for the first six years of my life. Then one day, a friend showed me his penis which was all covered in skin.This led me to think that there were differents sorts of penises and I could not undertand why. Gradually, not least during two years at boarding school, I realsied that I had been cut in infancy.

Two things happened in my early adolescence:

  • One day I overheard my mother telling a neighbour that I had been circumcised at 10 days. She expressed her great approval of this act.
  • Not much later I was examing my penis closely and came across a series of small bumps round it, which when squeezed produced the remnants of the stitches from my circumcision. I have always deeply resented this.

I did not get married until I was in my thirties. My circumcision may have contributed to this; I was too uncertain of myself to make a commitment. My wife had never seen a circumcised penis and she found it rather odd. I found myself apologising for it. My sexual life was adequate but not ecstatic. However my wife died at an early age and I felt no desire to remarry. So masturbation became a regular part of my life.

While heterosexual, my early experiences led me to be obsessed by foreskins. I used every opportunity I could to see pictures of them. But I never had any homosexual experiences—I would have been too frightened. I needed very badly to find out what it was like to have a foreskin. Until this year I searched in vain for some way which would give me that sort of feeling.

Early this year I found an advertisement on the web for a SenSlip. This is a latex foreskin prosthesis, designed to restore senstivity to a circumcised and keratinised penis. I have been using it ever since. This has enabled me to think more clearly about the matter in two particular ways:

  • In physical terms, the resulting more senstive glans has led me to realise that my sex life was never really good because I had very little sensitivity. I now, through masturbation, have some glimpse of what sex should really feel like. I realise that I have been denied one of the real joys of life.
  • Even more important, are the psychological effects. While I have never had the sort of dreams or memories of my circumcision some have described on this site, I have always been a cautious and somewhat withdrawn person. I could never trust my own intuitions. Walking around wearing a SenSlip has give me a sense of self confidence and adequacy that I have never known before.

There is clearly something about genital integrity, which relates to the whole personality in terms of identity and personality. Clearly circumcision undermines this aspect of personality. It is not just the penis which is affected by the removal of the foreskin, it is the nature of a man’s identity. We are meant to be whole people, and God made us that way.

I do wish those who advocate circumcision would see what damage they are doing, not only in terms of pain and harm, but also to the identity of every person involved. It may not have helped that my parents never talked to me about sex. I remain very angry, but as they have been dead for many years I can do nothing about it. Moreover, they were the victims of their own culture.

I grew up in a predominantly Jewish community and remember first being curious about circumcision when I was about eleven years old. I was reading a book on sex and saw a diagrammatic illustration of an non-circumcised penis. It made no sense to me. I did not know how to reconcile the drawing with how my penis looked. I simply dismissed the illustration and remained puzzled.

About twenty-five years later I was invited to my first bris (ritual circumcision). As one who is very sensitive to the pain experienced by children, I was reluctant to go, but I attended in order not to offend the family. The event is indelibly impressed on my mind. The infant was born naturally without any drugs given to the mother. I remember the sound of his cry. I can’t imagine an infant crying any louder or with more agony, pain, and sense of urgency in his voice. Using every bit of energy he had, the infant protested vehemently what was being done to him with the best of adult intentions. A few people were crying quietly, including the parents.

Most observers were silent. Discomfort and anxiety permeated the room. I retreated to the kitchen, the farthest I could get from the living room where the cutting was taking place. A young woman who was also in the kitchen sympathized with my feelings of questioning this practice. I wanted to protest to others what was happening, but I restrained myself because I believed that people would not listen to me. This conflict caused me much distress. I resolved never to attend another bris.

I also resolved to do something about what I had witnessed. My subsequent reflection, study, and experience with this issue have convinced me that there are extremely important aspects of circumcision that are not being recognized. My realization motivated me to found the Circumcision Resource Center, a nonprofit educational organization. I have since had hundreds of contacts with men, parents, and mental health and medical professionals. Small group meetings with circumcised men, clinical experience, and independent surveys of attitudes toward circumcision have contributed to my greater understanding of the deep feelings some people have about circumcision.

Excerpt posted by the author from Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.

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