I was born in New York to Reform Jewish parents. I was circumcised at eight days in a traditional Jewish circumcision ritual. This means that my parent’s family and friends were all there to witness and celebrate the occasion of my public genital mutilation. I am told that a lovely brunch was prepared for everyone attending.
On the advice of her friends and family, my mother chose to leave the room where the ritual was taking place before the actual cutting of my genitals, and only returned after I was done screaming. Not one Jewish parent I have spoken to finds this remotely hypocritical, a fact that amazes me. The one time I asked my mother about it she said she just couldn’t stand to see me in that kind of pain. Couldn’t see it, but had no problems arranging for it and absolving herself of her clear guilt by simply not being present during it. I love my mother, and I understand that her person faith prevented her from even considered not having me cut, but the fact that she would not witness what she was cheerfully helping to prepare brunch for, makes me hate her just a little bit.
Because my genital cutting was a traditional Jewish ritual, it was done freehand with only a guide plate to prevent damage to the glans (well damage right then, circumcision could be said to “damage” the glans in the form of desensitization). It would be many years before I realized how dramatic the damage to my penis was.
Growing up Jewish, a religion I should disclose that I no longer belong to, I had no idea that circumcision was anything but the norm. I was a sexually interested child (and gay) from a young age and over the course of many sleepovers I saw many of my non-Jewish friends’ penises as well and, this being the early ‘80 they were all altered in the same way as mine.
I still remember the first time I ever saw an intact penis. I was eight years old and attending a Jewish sleep-away camp for the first time. The boys section of the camp had group showers for the different age groups, but the grounds keeping crew used the same shower rooms and they were mostly European college students who would come to America to work for two months and then spend another month touring the United States before class resumed. Most of them were not Jewish, and being European, not circumcised. The first time I saw an intact penis I had no idea what I was looking at. The only conclusion I could come to was that the man’s penis was diseased or malformed in some way. It would not be until I was a teenager, taking sex ed, and more importantly looking at gay porn, that I would realize that his penis was the “normal” one.
Looking back now, I can clearly see that my adolescent sexual development was strongly shaped by (more…)