September 2006

The first time I heard the word circumcision was when I was still a young child, it was mentioned on TV for some reason that I cannot remember. When I asked what it meant my mother told me, “Just a tiny little piece of skin cut off the penis, you were circumcised.” I felt my jaw drop to the floor and my eyes get as big as saucers at this news. She then said “Oh don’t worry, it’s nothing. Your dad is circumcised too. Just a little useless piece of skin.” I still had the feeling in my gut that something was off, but my concerns were dispelled for the time being.

Fast forward to Middle School and the best friend I ever had. We’d talk about anything and everything and were as close as 2 straight men would ever want to get. One night when he slept over we did a little compare, he must have had a short foreskin or been partially erect because the only difference I noticed (besides the fact that he was bigger and still is) was that his glans had a sheen that mine lacked. When I pointed this out he said it was because he had never been circumcised. There’s that word again… but I didn’t continue this line of questioning and we sat down to play video games. Besides, there was no internet back then to do research on the subject.

The real epiphany came after I became old enough to legally purchase porn. In the first scene of an amateur audition the girl comments, “Uncircumcised, hmm?” as she peels back a tube of skin from the guy’s penis revealing a bright pink and very shiny glans before commencing oral sex. That was enough, I had to find out what was going on here. By that point the internet had taken off and I immediately logged on and typed circumcision into a search engine, and it changed my life forever. There it was, “…keeps the glans covered and lubricated, nerves and receptors, diminished sensations, medically unnecessary.” I felt sick. I was in complete and utter shock. For the next few days I spent hours on the net finding out everything I could about the subject. The self pity permeated my life, “Why did they do this to me, they had to know it would destroy my sex life?” It was time to talk to mom and dad.

As I expressed my outrage at what had been done to me at birth without my consent, my mother would say that all male babies were being circumcised at that time; it was automatic. She would also say that it was necessary to avoid the problems that would come up with 100% certainty if I retained my foreskin, making it sound like male babies were born broken and had to be fixed at birth. My father (a good and loving man) said nothing and kept his eyes averted. Clearly uncomfortable and surely never expecting to be confronted with this. As my mother and I volleyed back and forth the one thing I never heard anyone say is, “I’m sorry,” or “I’m sorry that they did that to you.” That day my feelings towards my parents were forever changed, they are still my family but there is a distance in my heart that remains.

To this very day I find it hard to accept the loss of my foreskin. They say you can’t miss what you never had, but what do they know? I can only imagine what it would have felt like, but I know what it feels like now. As I age I find myself experiencing the penile numbing described in other men’s stories. The responsive organ and mind blowing orgams of my youth seem to be gone now, rushing to orgasm seems to be my goal now. I had read in another man’s story about feeling helpless in sexual situations, and tracing the cause to circumcision through primal scream therapy. I have had those same feelings, and now I know why. It makes sense when you’re still an infant and the first time someone pays attention to your genitals is to skin it alive. Knowing I have been brutally altered in this way also causes me resentment towards women since they apparently are protected from this, and men are apparently not worthy of such protection.

I have been told, “What’s the big deal? There’s nothing wrong with it.” Although I have been spared the skin bridges and excessive scarring that are the complications of “routine” circumcision, it is still a mutiliation and a violation and is still a life altering event. When my cousin had her boy a few years back, she had him circumcised shortly after birth. I said to her “Why the hell would you do that?” She replied, “Better to get it over with now then when he’s older.” I said nothing, just gave her a sideways look. There was no point. Society is still populated with mindless sheep and die-hard fans of penis chopping. I am, and forever will be a victim of their unbridled stupidity. I am ashamed to be a human being.

On July 1st, 2004, my Wife and I welcomed a healthy 7lb, 10oz. baby Boy into the world. A few days after the birth of our Son, we took him back to the hospital to get a circumcision. My Wife could not watch the procedure so I stayed in the examination room with my Son while the procedure was being done. I watched as the Doctor stuck a needle into my Sons penis with anesthetic to numb him from the pain and put this metal contraption on it to hold back the foreskin for circumcision. My Son wailed like a banshee in pain and it was an incredibly heartbreaking procedure to witness. Part of my heartbreak was that my Son’s arms were bound to his side and he could not move. After it was over, I gave him a bottle and he seemed to calm down right away.

I’m telling you this to lead up to what is somewhat bothering me. I read an MSN article entitled, ‘Mohels to Mozambique’, which talked about the issues concerning circumcision, which mentioned how Dan Bollinger had flashbacks of his circumcision even though he was only a few days old. They made it seem like that was a ridiculous notion because at that age it was “biologically impossible”. Well, I believe it 100% because that seems to be an issue with my Son.

He just turned 2, and from the moment he received his circumcision until now, he does not like his Mother or myself to touch anywhere near his penis. If we need to wipe him while changing his diaper or clean him in that area when he gets a bath, he
makes a fuss, sometimes cry, or may just try to block you from touching his penis or the undercarriage at all. Myself or my Wife is with him 90% of time so we are positive that he has not been touched down there inappropriately by friends, family members, or childcare personnel. First of all because we dont have him around anyone who has that type of history, secondly, because we had him checked out at our family pediatrician, and thirdly, because he has disliked any kind of touching in that area since
his circumcision.

So, I strongly believe that people can have flashbacks. I cannot explain any other reason why my Son hates any kind of attention to his genitals, except that he has some kind of memory of the horrible pain he experienced while getting his
circumcision. Of course, the article went on to talk about how more and doctors are not advocating circumcisions like they used to and how the benifits are “not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcisions”, and that, it is an unnecessary procedure that has no known positive bearing on a Man’s life.

After all is said and done, I am glad that my Son was circumcised. What I don’t like is the fact that my Son may still have some residual memory of the experience he had at the hands of his pediatrician. It could have been a bad experince because the doctor may not have given him enough anesthetic, cut him wrong, or just the experience itself. Who knows?

My reason for this letter is to say that I do believe that men may have flashbacks because of the reaction my Wife and I get when we are near our Son’s genitals, and to say that I do not believe it is “biologically impossible.”

I was an expectant mother for the first time, in 1972. I was 25, college educated, but still incredibly naive about birth and babies. Maybe I was a little more motivated than others to educate myself about everything I possibly could. So I attended La Leche League meetings. I took Lamaze classes. I read everything I could, which was a paucity compared to what is available now. I thought I had educated myself about everything I could possibly know about having a baby. But circumcision was a blank spot.

The only thing I knew was that my husband was Jewish; I am not Jewish. Jewish males were “always circumcised”, so if our baby was a boy, he should be circumcised. A lot of people blame women for perpetuating it. But I know for a fact that the majority of American mothers, especially back then, don’t really know what circumcision and non-circumcision is. The word “circumcision” sounds good.

When I was in the hospital in labor I remember them handing me a circumcision form to sign, and all I can remember thinking was “Isn’t that strange that they are giving me this now when we don’t know if the baby is a boy or a girl?” I signed it.

The baby was born later that night and we named him Eric. I did not think about circumcision again until we went home two days later. The nurse pointed out his circumcision. I remember his penis was a little bit red and sore at the end. I was given a little tube of Vaseline and instructed in how to care for it.

After we got home, I did find that he screamed every time his diaper was changed. The rest of the time he was fine and he nursed well and he slept. I thought, “Well, maybe all babies do this. I wonder why he doesn’t like his diaper to be changed. He doesn’t like to be messed with.” Looking back on it, it was not as much a pain cry as it was a mad cry. It was “Waah, waah, waah!!” A very harsh, angry cry. And this persisted with every diaper change for about the first three weeks of his life - longer of course than it took the circumcision wound itself to heal up. But I went on with it. I did successfully breastfeed. I formed a happy relationship with my child. I never thought about the circumcision again. Maybe ignorance was bliss from my perspective back then.

I had our second son in 1974. I had a much better hospital birth experience. I had rooming in. I had the immediate contact with the baby that I had missed out on the first time. Our son’s name was Jason. The following morning after the baby was born the doctor came in to circumcise the baby. It was an interesting situation because it was a new hospital and Jason and I were the only patients there. The circumcision room was right across the hall, within earshot. So I was feeling very apprehensive thinking “Oh, no, I’m going to hear a lot of screaming and I’ll know that’s my baby because my baby’s the only one here.” It had never occurred to me not to have it done.

About 15 minutes later the doctor brought the baby back to me. Although I had been expecting to hear a lot of crying I didn’t hear much noise. The baby had spit up a little bit when it was over, so I didn’t think much about it until many years later. Last summer my son, who is now 14, slammed his finger in a car door. I did some observation of his reaction. I was watching how he reacted to this. Instead of yelling and screaming he was “uhhhh”, and going on and on like that for several minutes from the pain without crying out, perhaps just as he had done at his circumcision.

Two and a half years later we had another baby. During my pregnancy every time the subject of circumcision would come up I’d say, “Well, this baby’s going to be our girl and that won’t apply to me.” Then all of a sudden we had this beautiful little boy and, kind of, - the decision had been made. One day during my pregnancy I did bring up the idea to my husband that maybe it would be nice not to have a baby boy circumcised if we did have a boy. And he immediately said “Oh, no, they can get terrible infections.” I had always figured our sons were circumcised because Steve was Jewish. But we had never talked about it. He said, “Oh, being Jewish wasn’t important to me.” (in terms of circumcision.) It wasn’t a religious thing with him. It was like getting their immunization shots. “…They can get terrible infections if they are not circumcised.” So I backed down.

After the baby was born it seemed like we had a beautiful first seven days and then all of a sudden I found myself driving to this doctor’s office a week later. My husband had made the appointment. I met him there. It was for the baby’s circumcision. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office holding my sleeping, peaceful, beautiful newborn baby that had never been separated from me for the whole first week of his life. He had not been through any typical hospital traumatic procedures. My stomach just felt like a lump of lead as I was thinking, “I just don’t want to do this. This is wrong!” The next thing I knew we were relinquishing our baby to the doctor and then we were being shoved out of the building. I’d assumed we’d stay there. I want to stay with my children for the medical things that they have to go through, but we were being shoved out of the building and were kind of stunned and helpless and making silly jokes and small talk, until I could stand it no longer. I went back into the building and the whole doctor’s office was just filled with our baby’s screams. We walked into the room and our baby was lying there. There was blood on the diaper, - he was screaming. The end of his penis was raw and bloody. With my first two sons it had seemed as if they had been born that way, with all the awareness I gave it. But this baby had not been born that way. I felt that we had something very beautiful and very special and very rare in a home born baby, and we ruined it. That was destroyed.

I attempted to nurse the baby, and soon, mercifully he fell asleep, which we now know is a very deep, abnormal type of sleep, a common response to the stress of circumcision. I brought the baby home, he was wailing again. But I was able to put him down and he slept for two or three hours. He screamed again upon waking up, but then to be honest after he got up and after I nursed him, from then on he did not seem to be in any more stress. By that night he seemed to be back to normal. But these kind of things come crashing back and weeks later I was starting to have nightmares about it. I felt like something very beautiful had been shattered. I was going a little bit crazy. The baby was 3 and 4 months old and I was imagining that he was still in pain from it. I was not dealing with this well as a mother.

If you had come over the next day and asked me how the circumcision had gone, I probably would have said, “Oh yes, fine, the baby is fine.”

Why had I been so highly, unusually motivated to have this out of the hospital, at home birth, making everything non-traumatic for the baby? It was so important to me to not put any drops in the baby’s eyes. It was so important to me that the lights be dim and that we speak softly. And then I turn around and do this. It made no sense. Finally, after five months of this I woke up and said “I’m going to write a book!” It was not until I was a good 7 or 8 months into my research that I was fully convinced that circumcision was wrong and that there was no way that I could ever do this to another son.

Once again I was pregnant and the ultrasound confirmed I was carrying was a boy. And I’ve got to admit, even in my position - I’d spent seven and a half years writing this book, I was everybody’s resource person on circumcision, and well known throughout the world by this time as an opponent to routine circumcision, and yet there was this gut feeling inside of me of “uh-oh!” Like “This is it!” Theory was one thing. I’ve written a book. I’ve got all these papers and everything. But now I was going to have another little boy. Obviously I’d be the hypocrite of the century if I had my son circumcised after what I’ve been through, and no way could I ever put another baby through that. But there was still an unexplainable, maybe a little bit of panic that I’m going to be faced with - I will have an intact child, a child that is different from all the males on both my husband’s and my side of the family. After Kevin’s birth, it was very healing for me to have the eighth day of his life go by with nothing happening and the baby was still peaceful, and then he was nine days old, and nothing damaging had happened to him. That was a healing, turning point for me.

Excerpted from my speech at the 1st NOCIRC Symposium in 1989

All throughout my childhood, I could not understand my genitals. I remember that when my clothes would rub on my penis, sometimes it would briefly feel good while other times it would hurt. Eventually, I realized what erections were. When I was about eleven, I understood that society was telling me that my penis should give me pleasure. I started experimenting for the hope of finding that pleasure.

I learned how to masturbate, and for years, I searched for pleasure, but to no avail. I got into pornography. I tried everything from vibrators to lubricants. Lubricants make me feel good, but always with some pain, too. I found that I preferred the plain old flogging of molly without the aid of lubricants or devices, but not because it was pleasurable, rather, because it was the least irritating way to scratch my itch of sexual desire.

When I was about twenty, I learned about circumcision. I felt so sick. For the first time, I realized that I was missing something. After several years of more experimenting and learning, I have come to terms with the state of my genitals. I now know that I do not feel genital pleasure easily. I now know that I was using pornography in an attempt to counteract my numbness by focusing my sexual excitement visually rather than sensually. I now know that my penis is not my sexual center for it has been rendered incapable thereof. I now know why men are known for rushing: there is no pleasure but only orgasm for men like me.

Because of these realizations, I have since been able to get over porn, which I am glad about. I had merely been trying to compensate for what had been robbed.

After all of my experiences with sex, I understand that orgasms are mainly what I can achieve if I am disciplined. I have not been able to find pleasure during the act, at least not with my penis. I have read and heard that men can have pleasure during sex, but, for me, such sensations are occasional, accidental, and fleeting.

Orgasms are great, but I do not need a penis for that. I have experienced sensations that are identical to orgasms without any genital contact. You know what? Those body generated orgasms can go on indefinitely unlike what my penis generates which lasts for mere seconds.

Tell me: where is the pleasure in my genitals? I have been looking for it since it was stolen so long ago.

All images, content, and stories are copyright 2006 for Project: OUCH!

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