The Fallen Foreskin

By: Bill The Butcher

One of the theories I have always held dear is the notion that there’s an industry dedicated to making money out of creating problems out of thin air and then offering solutions to them. For instance, in India where I live, the usual dark skin is suddenly a horrible, career-threatening problem. But rub in Fair and Lovely ointment, and you know what? Any job you want can be yours!

A mite less transparent is something I came across recently on the net, which informed me that, as a circumcised male, I was sexually crippled and was missing out on virtually all the delights coitus had to offer. Not too surprisingly, most of these sites also provided nice helpful links to nice helpful surgeons willing and ready to reconstruct my foreskin for me and return me to sexual non-dysfunctionality.

I am an Indian. Among Indians, circumcision is (barring Muslims) exceedingly rare. As I’m not a Muslim, I wasn’t circumcised in childhood. Nor was I given any kind of instructions on genital health or hygiene; this is not surprising when you consider that almost no Asian parents ever mention the genitals, or sex, or any such thing to their children. Sex education, for instance, is banned in this country since the government has officially declared that sex comes naturally and need not be taught. As far as I know, the situation is similar in Africa. This means that in an arc stretching from Senegal to the Philippines, almost nobody gets access to proper sexual instruction, including how to care for their own genital organs.

Now, being a normal teenager, I began to have erotic dreams, and, of course, I’d have erections. One morning when I was sixteen I woke to find that my foreskin had retracted behind my glans penis; the entire glans was swollen to twice its size. This literally has to be experienced before one can understand what kind of pain it causes.

I was, naturally, mortified. I could not discuss this with my parents because they had never even spoken of sex to me, or of genital health, or anything. Besides, I was terrified of what had happened, and I was – being young and stupid – hoping it would go away by itself.

Well, it didn’t. I walked that day to school and back, as usual, three kilometers either way, and spent the day in agony so excruciating it is still clear in my memory. On the second day I summoned up the nerve to tell my dad. He did nothing much except phone his brother, a doctor, who lived several hundred kilometers away. This brother prescribed some medicines to decrease swelling and that’s all he did. He made no attempt even to tell me what was wrong with me.

By the third day I was no longer capable of walking properly, and my dad finally took me to a doctor. This man pulled the foreskin back without the benefit of anesthetic. I later discovered anesthetic is compulsory for this procedure, once the swelling is as bad as mine was. Can you imagine what I went through while he was pulling back the foreskin? No? Or would you rather not think about it?

What I had is termed paraphimosis – which nobody bothered to tell me at the time. Nobody, including this doctor, thought fit to inform me that it was a medical condition.

The swelling, of course, went down swiftly once the pressure on the glans had been removed, but it left me with a phobia of it happening again. And of course it would happen, whenever I slept and had erotic dreams, which – naturally – was something outside my control. On several occasions I woke in a panic, fumbling between my legs to pull back the foreskin before it got stuck behind the glans.

Over time, this thing led to the following problems:
I developed a phobia around falling asleep. I never slept well, and would start awake multiple times a night, afraid of what might be happening. This became a health problem as anyone who’s suffered from chronic insomnia knows.

Also, I became, literally, terrified of having an erection. Remember that I was at an age when the hormones have just begun surging, and you get the full picture. More than once I had to break off proceedings with girls at a crucial juncture because I could literally feel my foreskin shifting as I erected, and I had to rush off to the bathroom to try and pull it back – a procedure that was always extremely difficult and often painful. This, of course, ruined my chances with the lady of the moment each time. Can you imagine what it did to my sexual self-confidence to be functionally impotent in my late teens and early twenties?

Most doctors I consulted were indifferent, since according to them it wasn’t a problem; the same man who pulled back my foreskin informed me that everything would be all right “when I got married”. I only wish they’d experience what I went through, and then I’d have wanted to hear their opinion.

Finally, when I’d saved up money for the surgery, I got myself circumcised at the age of 29. I had to persuade the reluctant surgeon. “Why do you want this done at all?” he was still asking, as he was about to inject the local anesthetic to do the job. I wonder if you know what it feels like to be circumcised at that age? I’ll discuss that point in a moment.

It was however, worth it. I can sleep now and have over the years had some good sex, although my sexuality was definitely shaped by what I went through in my formative years.

I don’t have any kids nor will I ever have any kids; but I’m a passionate advocate of early circumcision, and I believe that people who militate against it either don’t know what they’re talking about or have an ulterior motive. Certainly surgeons who promote foreskin reconstruction surgery have a motive, the most powerful one of all, Lord Mammon.

While reading up online on circumcision, I came across a lot of extremely vehement and usually somewhat incoherent anti-circumcision rhetoric. Much of the arguments against circumcision – if “arguments” is the word – can be boiled down to a few basic points:

Argument: Foreskins have a lot of useful functions. Response: Yes, foreskins evolved to protect the glans – at a time when people wore no clothing and the penis needed protecting from dust and dirt, and to be kept moist and sensitive. That is no longer true today.

Argument: Foreskins are a male baby’s birthright and having a child circumcised is depriving him of it. Response: A cleft palate or congenital hernias can also, by stretching terms only a little (and this is an argument where the other side stretches terms a lot), be considered a particular baby’s “birthright”. Doing something that may be of great benefit to the baby (see link to a medical article analyzing benefits of circumcision, below)

Argument: The circumcised penis gives much less sexual pleasure. Response: As compared to what? How do you quantify sexual pleasure? If one intends to talk about sensitivity of the penis, I can report my own experiences. After my circumcision, there was a sudden and dramatic decrease in penile sensitivity and intensity of orgasms. However, this lasted only a short while before the remaining nerves adapted. Within a year of my circumcision I could no longer detect any difference in sensitivity or orgasmic intensity. This by the way, is the number one reason put forward by Reconstructionists for why one should go in for surgical recreation of one’s foreskin.  I consider it a red herring

Argument: Circumcising babies is cruel and can cause death or penile amputation. Response: There are actually two completely different and contradictory points here. Circumcising babies can be a bloody affair because the foreskin adheres to the glans and has to be stripped away, which looks unpleasant. Anti-circumcision writers love to flaunt videos of this procedure to manipulate emotions and arouse a feeling of revulsion. In truth, it’s actually safer than the alternative which involves stretching the foreskin and blindly dividing it. This procedure can actually cause amputation of the glans. Secondly, death can’t occur from circumcision; only from failure to maintain hygiene and concomitant infections post-surgery. With proper care, death from anesthetic complications can be avoided, especially by using local anesthesia, in which case deaths are all but unknown. Of course, after using local anesthesia the child has to be strapped down to stop him moving around, which is called “cruel” by the anti-circumcisionists. None of these anti-circumcision arguments apply to children of the age of about three to five, when they are better able to handle the surgery.

Argument: Adult circumcision is NO Big Deal.
Response: Since I was circumcised as an adult, I know something about this first hand. I wonder if you can comprehend the agony of glans rubbing on clothing until the nerve endings grow accustomed to the sensation. How do you like the idea of walking around the house, doing chores, and looking back to see drops of blood behind you on the floor, something that happened to me the next day? How about the itching as the wound dries, itching which feels more like a blazing fire while you were trying to work? I went through hell for a month, and purgatory for almost a year afterwards, before the last of the irritation went away.

If you are a male, I suggest the following experiment: Pull back your foreskin and rub your underwear over your glans. Get it? Now imagine that sensation over your entire glans, all the time for weeks on end…and extreme stinging and itching at the base of the glans, besides, as the wound dries.

Even the Old Testament gives recognition to the fact; Genesis 34 records Jacob’s sons massacring all the males of a city while they lay sore from their mass circumcision.

No big deal? How I wish.

Argument: Male circumcision is equivalent to female genital mutilation
. Response: This is a red herring so large one might call it a red whale. The only – and declared – purpose of the horrendous practice known as female genital mutilation is to decrease or eliminate female sexual pleasure and thus keep women faithful to their partners. It is banned virtually universally (I think the lawless land of Somalia is the only nation still legally allowing the practice) but is still performed extensively by family members of unfortunate women. It has no medical benefit and the only point to be noted is that a banning of male circumcision for children would likely drive it underground like female circumcision, with similar high rates of infection, crude surgical practices, morbidity and deaths.

The corollary argument, that circumcision was meant to reduce male sexual pleasure, fails when one considers that it originated in West Africa thousands of years ago and was certainly practiced by the Ancient Egyptians,  murals from roughly 2300 BCE illustrates, show both willing and reluctant circumcision in progress.  The Hebrews most likely got the idea from them, and it spread eastwards with them while developing independently in other societies like some Australian Aboriginals.

Argument: Teaching proper genital hygiene procedures and teaching prepubescent males to masturbate will reduce the incidence of medically necessary circumcision.
Response: As I said above, Asians and Africans wouldn’t dream of discussing sex or genitalia with their children. An average Indian parent would have a heart attack if told to teach his or her son how to masturbate. We live in the real world and have to adapt our responses to the conditions of the real world.

Besides, I know of at least two of my male classmates from college who suffered frenulum tears and bled heavily during their first intercourse. I also, very recently, got a panicky phone call from a close friend whose friend had just had sex for the first time and suffered a retracted foreskin which wouldn’t come back, causing exactly the problem I had.

I suspect that phimosis and paraphimosis are genetically quite common in Indians and that it’s only the sheer number of males in this hyper populated nation which masks the phenomenon. Most people here do not take their children to pediatricians, even today, and only do so in case of illness. Routine genital hygiene of either girls or boys is an unknown concept. So the pediatricians don’t bother telling the parents to clean their children’s wee-wees since the advice will certainly be ignored and more than likely scandalize the parents.

I have not so far alluded here to a famous study that concluded that circumcision can reduce the incidence of HIV since that study is controversial and needs further research before one can arrive at a conclusion. However, the other health benefits of circumcision are pretty clear, and it would be nice if those parts of the world where males are never taught how to take care of their genitals began a mass campaign.

Not that this will happen in India, at least, since hereabouts circumcision is equated with Islam and Muslims are contemptuously referred to as “cut-pricks”. I’m fairly certain that precise figures of circumcision among non-Muslims in India will never be available and any estimates will be far lower than the actual, simply because most non-Muslim males will hide their foreskin-less status.

The foreskin as a fig leaf; what could be more ironic?

Further reading:

For a medical overview of the health benefits of circumcision see-http://www.circs.org/library/wiswell/index.html

Information about penile carcinoma and circumcision-http://www.circs.org/library/dagher/index.html

For information about surgical reconstruction of foreskin-http://www.e-sthetics.com/genital/uncircumcision.html

For anti-circumcision information-http://www.circumstitions.com/index.html

http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/genesis/genesis34.htm

For information on Ancient Egyptian circumcision practices- http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/medicine.htm

For More information on paraphimosis-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraphimosis

43 Comments on “The Fallen Foreskin”

  1. How sad that nobody could have taught you a simple stretching exercise that would have saved your foreskin! Yes, masturbation as a youth counts as stretching!

  2. what a wonderful article on a topic I don’t think I have ever had the opportunity to consider. As an American, you are circumcised as a matter of course, a parent could request that it not be done, but hood-less penises are the norm here. That said there is a mystique here about uncircumcised penises .. (more manly, more virile) I had a friend who was circumcised in his 30’s and he said that it was horribly painful, but that he was glad once it healed .. he just didn’t like the look and worried about, well I don’t remember what he was worried about, the very thought of having it done made me weak in the knees. Very interesting, thanks !!

  3. I, not having children or a penis, thus not being able to feel your full pain, still ached a bit down there for you while reading this. That had to be hell.

    I have no real stance on circumcision, as I have never fully done research on it (other then occasional discussion with male friends, and some basics in books) and I always try to see as many views as possible before I form an opinion that I’d be willing to argue. I have no kids, nor any plans to ever have kids, but your plight definitely would be an argument to consider when weighing the pros and cons.

    It is so sad that no one is talking about sex and sexual health in so many countries. I’ve always had a fascination about sex (much to my mother’s chagrin) not the actual doing, just the mystery and hush-hushness of it all. I began openly asking questions of anyone who seemed like they might answer, I polled my friends as to what they thought about this or that regarding anything sex. I read any book I could get my hands on. I’d love to have been with Kinsey, polling the masses doing human sexuality research. But the more I asked, the more I read, the more people I talked to, I learned that Americans are fairly ignorant on the subject too. America is all proud of it’s freedom of speech but as far as sex goes, you have generations of people who really don’t know a thing about sex other then “how it looked in the movies” But still after reading your article, I suppose a bad education on the matter, is much better then no education at all.

  4. Argument: Foreskins have a lot of useful functions. Response: Yes, foreskins evolved to protect the glans – at a time when people wore no clothing and the penis needed protecting from dust and dirt, and to be kept moist and sensitive. That is no longer true today.

    Counter-Response: Incorrect, the foreskin is no less necessary than the eyelids or the labia is. Both are to protect sensitive membranes from dirt and dust.

    Argument: Foreskins are a male baby’s birthright and having a child circumcised is depriving him of it. Response: A cleft palate or congenital hernias can also, by stretching terms only a little (and this is an argument where the other side stretches terms a lot), be considered a particular baby’s “birthright”. Doing something that may be of great benefit to the baby (see link to a medical article analyzing benefits of circumcision, below)

    Counter-Response: You suggest normal and healthy tissue is comparable to Hernias or Cleft lips. This is erroneous on many many levels. Every male in the world is born with a foreskin, it is completely normal and natural. As such it should only be the owner that decides if it is to be amputated or not.

    Argument: The circumcised penis gives much less sexual pleasure. Response: As compared to what? How do you quantify sexual pleasure? If one intends to talk about sensitivity of the penis, I can report my own experiences. After my circumcision, there was a sudden and dramatic decrease in penile sensitivity and intensity of orgasms. However, this lasted only a short while before the remaining nerves adapted. Within a year of my circumcision I could no longer detect any difference in sensitivity or orgasmic intensity. This by the way, is the number one reason put forward by Reconstructionists for why one should go in for surgical recreation of one’s foreskin. I consider it a red herring

    Counter-Response: This is akin to a colorblind person saying that he experiences paintings just as well as someone who can see all shades of color. How is the colorblind person to know what amazing shades of blue red and yellow can add to something if that person has never experienced it?

    I don’t need to experience being cut to tell you that my sex life would be severely hindered. Just like you don’t need to be blinded to understand that it would reduce your quality of life.

    Argument: Circumcising babies is cruel and can cause death or penile amputation. Response: There are actually two completely different and contradictory points here. Circumcising babies can be a bloody affair because the foreskin adheres to the glans and has to be stripped away, which looks unpleasant. Anti-circumcision writers love to flaunt videos of this procedure to manipulate emotions and arouse a feeling of revulsion. In truth, it’s actually safer than the alternative which involves stretching the foreskin and blindly dividing it. This procedure can actually cause amputation of the glans. Secondly, death can’t occur from circumcision; only from failure to maintain hygiene and concomitant infections post-surgery. With proper care, death from anesthetic complications can be avoided, especially by using local anesthesia, in which case deaths are all but unknown. Of course, after using local anesthesia the child has to be strapped down to stop him moving around, which is called “cruel” by the anti-circumcisionists. None of these anti-circumcision arguments apply to children of the age of about three to five, when they are better able to handle the surgery.

    Counter-response: You are under the assumption that people will eventually have to be circumcised. This isn’t the case. The numbers of actual medically required circumcisions are closer to required medical arm amputations. You statistically have a better chance of being struck by lightning than having to be circumcised. Your circumcision wasn’t required. It was an unfortunate diagnosis of less than adequate doctors. I too had my foreskin stuck over the glans during puberty but i promptly got help for it instead of ignoring it. which is what you should have done. I simply got some soap to lubricate the skin and push it back over the glans.

    Argument: Adult circumcision is NO Big Deal. Response: Since I was circumcised as an adult, I know something about this first hand. I wonder if you can comprehend the agony of glans rubbing on clothing until the nerve endings grow accustomed to the sensation. How do you like the idea of walking around the house, doing chores, and looking back to see drops of blood behind you on the floor, something that happened to me the next day? How about the itching as the wound dries, itching which feels more like a blazing fire while you were trying to work? I went through hell for a month, and purgatory for almost a year afterwards, before the last of the irritation went away.

    If you are a male, I suggest the following experiment: Pull back your foreskin and rub your underwear over your glans. Get it? Now imagine that sensation over your entire glans, all the time for weeks on end…and extreme stinging and itching at the base of the glans, besides, as the wound dries.

    Even the Old Testament gives recognition to the fact; Genesis 34 records Jacob’s sons massacring all the males of a city while they lay sore from their mass circumcision.

    No big deal? How I wish.

    Counter-Arguement: Adults get far superior pain management. Have the superior ability to understand and consent to what is being done to them. Infants lack both of those things. Why is it under the burden of a newborn or child to deal with the stresses of childhood AND have his genitals cut without sufficient forms of anesthesia? Without any real knowledge of what is being cut off and without any understanding of why it’s being done? Denying him his healthy and normal body parts before he even understands the benefits of having them is sickening!

    Argument: Male circumcision is equivalent to female genital mutilation. Response: This is a red herring so large one might call it a red whale. The only – and declared – purpose of the horrendous practice known as female genital mutilation is to decrease or eliminate female sexual pleasure and thus keep women faithful to their partners. It is banned virtually universally (I think the lawless land of Somalia is the only nation still legally allowing the practice) but is still performed extensively by family members of unfortunate women. It has no medical benefit and the only point to be noted is that a banning of male circumcision for children would likely drive it underground like female circumcision, with similar high rates of infection, crude surgical practices, morbidity and deaths.

    The corollary argument, that circumcision was meant to reduce male sexual pleasure, fails when one considers that it originated in West Africa thousands of years ago and was certainly practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, murals from roughly 2300 BCE illustrates, show both willing and reluctant circumcision in progress. The Hebrews most likely got the idea from them, and it spread eastwards with them while developing independently in other societies like some Australian Aboriginals.

    Counter-Response: Male circumcision HAS indeed always been used to reduce sexual pleasure for both males and females. Also, There indeed HAVE been studies done showing that female circumcision reduces the chance of HIV in females as well. From as far as we can remember, circumcision has been used to cure nearly every ailment from arthritis to syphillis to now HIV and UTIs. Benefits of male genital cutting have been made up from the dawn of the procedure.

    Argument: Teaching proper genital hygiene procedures and teaching prepubescent males to masturbate will reduce the incidence of medically necessary circumcision. Response: As I said above, Asians and Africans wouldn’t dream of discussing sex or genitalia with their children. An average Indian parent would have a heart attack if told to teach his or her son how to masturbate. We live in the real world and have to adapt our responses to the conditions of the real world.

    Besides, I know of at least two of my male classmates from college who suffered frenulum tears and bled heavily during their first intercourse. I also, very recently, got a panicky phone call from a close friend whose friend had just had sex for the first time and suffered a retracted foreskin which wouldn’t come back, causing exactly the problem I had.

    Response: I’ve never heard of these tearing problems in the many intact men I’ve talked to. This seems to be a fabrication that many people wish to hand down to others under the guise of “I had a friend who’s friend..”
    My frenulum has never torn, nor has my foreskin. Of course just because i haven’t experienced doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. However tearing wouldn’t suggest amputation. It would seem to indicate less vigorous sex should be practiced.

  5. This is really not a coherent argument.

    The premise is that valuable sensory tissue should be cut off babies because some % of men may have a problem. The problem you note is believed to affect less than 1% of men worldwide. This continues with the irrational concept that even though babies feel more pain when membrane is ripped from glans (worse than fingernails being pulled out)and then nerves and blood vessels and erogeous tissue is amputated, it is better to cut the tissue from all babies instead of just treating the men that actually have the problem. That is really outrageous. And yes babies die from this operation each year (bleeding to death, heart failure and MRSA are because of the surgery — they would be alive but for this heinous practice)

    You further have the silly notion that cutting off the tissue that caused you the problem is better than treating it though non-drastic means. That is ok if you really have no modern medical facilities, but the treatments, including phyincal therapy are actually cheeper and less severe.

    Yes, most of us men enjoy the pleasure of all of those nerve endings and do not want to lose that capacity for pleasure. You could have been helped to achieve what is normal for the rest of us, but you took a different path. There is no reason that men that have the problem you had should not take the approach that saves the function and pleasure that you did not have a chance to experience. There is certainly NO reason to mutilate all boys and deprive them of normal sexual pleasure, because of your rare problem and non medically advanced approach to dealing with it. Further, as you had a problem, you did not experience the pleasure zones that these parts provide. You are not the person to advocate that men without your problem must also suffer your fate.

    If you have a problem with your hand, don’t cut it off. If you have a problem with your foreskin, you can be helped, DON’t cut it off and shame on those that advocate this brutal practice on helpless infants.

    BTW, in America this practice is falling out of favor like a stone. The parts of the foreskin provide great pleasure and Americans are finally getting the information that advanced countries have long known.

  6. @JackiNo it should be pointed out that this was less of an arguement and more of an experience shared. Also as I assume you are not Indian, how can you possibly speak to how sexuality is handled in India?

    Two men in my family had this problem one of them was my Grandfather who was quite scarred by the whole thing and also grew up in America at a time when it was unacceptable to talk about “such things”. He was an outspoken advocate of circumcision because of his horrible experience. Another is still alive and of a younger generation, he decided on the “different” path which is alluded to of working with his foreskin a lot. It was not all roses for him either and he had the misfortune of many girls he dated calling him a serial masturbator and other nasty things as they didn’t take the time to understand his situation.

    Either way this is a good topic of discussion and should be looked at from all angles.

  7. Bill, my mother was an ICU charge-nurse, with her prior practice being as a field-nurse during WWII. The FIRST thing she did to me was to have Little Willy circumcised. We discussed it at some length when I was grown; she shared some stories with me about the lack of hygiene among troops in the field in the tropics which make your own story tame by comparison.

    I’m convinced now, as then, that she did me a favor – and anyone who states that your argument ‘isn’t coherent’, or that the practice is ‘heinous’ simply has no base of experience or education from which to make that statement.

    Bravo for you in sharing your own experience in the matter, and for making such a ‘coherent’ case!

    -W

  8. You should not generalise from your own personal case. You’ve had an illness and you’ve finally been cured. Otherwise, having a complete penis is something natural, and respecting nature is also a way of respecting human beings and men, specifically.
    Health benefits is an argument totally wrong. In fact would you dare use this argument to convince women to accept mastectomy after a certain age since breastcancer is so widely spread and dangerous? You see there what I call the double standard: integrity for women and, on the other hand,these socalled “good reasons” for men to give up their own integrity.
    Only some Americans and of course superstitious people circumcising for ridiculous religious reasons will agree with your reasoning.
    Most men never have no significative problems with their foreskin throuhout their entire lives.
    Renouncing to your foreskin or lung because it’s sick is one thing, finding false reasons to cut is violation of children and men.
    Human rights must be promoted on this earth where so many crimes happen.
    Respecting nature, respecting human beings and children, that’s my conviction

  9. This article doesn’t really make sense – it sounds like a man who knows he’s lackign something trying to justify himself and going over the top – kind of like small man syndrome… Sorry but that’s how it read. It is rare for circumcision to be required for a problem and it certainly doesn’t sound like it was in your case – you had psychological issues which you could have treated, and a slightly tight foreskin – also treatable non invasively. To take a huge leap and say everyone needs a circumcision because you got obsessive and chose one is very poor ethics.

    WD Noble’s argument makes me sad and very angry with his mother. What kind of mother looks at a tiny newborn son and judges him as someone who will grow up to have hygiene issues!???

    The mothers I know believe in the abilities and value of their children – yours WD Noble appeared to know that from birth you were not up to much. That’s desperately sad and probably not true. I’d stake my own bits that actually you’re pretty good at washing, just like most other people.

  10. Sounds to me like you still have a lot to learn about foreskins of both male and female.

  11. The most intersting thing about the responses here is how vehement the anti-circumcision brigade gets. The one I loved best was, of course, “Laura” saying it sounds like a man who knows he’s lackign something trying to justify himself and going over the top – kind of like small man syndrome… Sorry but that’s how it read..

    Lady, I doubt you read what I’ve written; a very, very common failing of people with short attention spans. If you had, you’d have found that I took considerable trouble to get myself circumcised as an adult, and that I consider this the best thing I’ve ever done to myself (apart from curing myself of obesity and keeping myself thin.)

    As for the rest of you, I’ll begin with Michael, who says How sad that nobody could have taught you a simple stretching exercise that would have saved your foreskin! Yes, masturbation as a youth counts as stretching!

    There are different ways of masturbating, and not all of them are possible for everyone.To this day I for instance am unable to masturbate in the “conventional” fashion.

    Josh says Counter-Response: Incorrect, the foreskin is no less necessary than the eyelids or the labia is. Both are to protect sensitive membranes from dirt and dust.

    Incorrect. The foreskin is the evolutionary remnant of the penis sheath, which most mammals possess because their penises are not protected by skin (ever see a dog’s penis?). It is the equivalent of the nictitating membrane, not of the eyelid.

    Every male in the world is born with a foreskin,

    A typical piece of anatomical ignorance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aposthia

    As such it should only be the owner that decides if it is to be amputated or not.

    As I think I have stated, the “owner” can have considerable difficulty getting it “amputated” (another attempt at emotional manipulation, that word) when he has no alternative to having it done.

    More in a bit.

  12. I am sorry to read about your foreskin problems. Unfortunately, you were never properly treated and you became unusually troubled by your foreskin problems. I cannot understand why anyone would advocate to cut part of the sex organ of another person.

    I was circumcised at birth. I am restoring my foreskin and the difference is amazing. One function of the foreskin is to provide a gliding action during sex. It is not all about sensitivity. It is about different sensations.

  13. Josh again: This is akin to a colorblind person saying that he experiences paintings just as well as someone who can see all shades of color.

    You know those condoms which are sold with anaesthetic gel applied on them for increased duration of intercourse? Just how do you imagine they work? Your point is invalid in several ways.
    1. Male glans may be TOO sensitive. (ref the condom above). In this country, the commonest acknowledged sexual disorder is premature ejaculation, by the way.
    2. Your analogy fails because I told you clearly I have had orgasms before and after circumcision. I have a basis for comparison.

    Your circumcision wasn’t required. It was an unfortunate diagnosis of less than adequate doctors.

    Another person who didn’t read, apparently. I said clearly I had to persuade them to circumcise me because nothing else was working out.

    More later…have to go cut teeth now.

  14. Josh, indefatigable as ever, continues instead of ignoring it. which is what you should have done. I simply got some soap to lubricate the skin and push it back over the glans.

    Now I am convinced you didn’t read what I wrote before replying. If you had, you’d have seen that 1. I far from ignored it and 2. That it was a recurrent problem which continued to trouble me for years.

    Adults get far superior pain management. Have the superior ability to understand and consent to what is being done to them. Infants lack both of those things.

    What gives you the notion that adults have superior pain management? What about having to carry on a normal lifestyle, work, chores and so on and at the sme time have to put up with the healing of somethiing that could, and should, have been taken care of decades in the past? What about the far more insidious and far more damaging things done to kids without their say-so, for instance, religious brainwashing?

    And aren’t you confusing inadequate anaesthesia or analgesia, basically technique failures, with the rightness or wrongness of the procedure as a whole?

    Male circumcision HAS indeed always been used to reduce sexual pleasure for both males and females.

    How do you know this? What is the basis on which you claim to be able to tell the motivations of ancient peoples living 4000 years in the past? Of course I know where you got it from – you’re parroting the unsubstantiated claims of the anti-circumcision lobby – but still, how do you justify the claim?

    It’s perfectly possible that circumcision arose as a painful but neither fatal nor ultimately impairing manhood ritual for warriors, and this is how, by the way, it’s presented in the book “Roots”. As the West African protagonist was told, the operation would make him fit to have many sons. And at a time when life was short and many offspring were essential, a surgery that would make it less likely for the recipient to engage in sex would have little or no survival value.

    Incidentally, my last partner, who has had experience of intercourse with many uncircumcised men before being with me, told me several times there’s no difference, all other factors being equal, in the female partner’s pleasure if the male is circumcised.

    Sorry for submitting this in parts; I’m at work and writing this between patients.

  15. Josh: I’ve never heard of these tearing problems in the many intact men I’ve talked to. This seems to be a fabrication that many people wish to hand down to others under the guise of “I had a friend who’s friend..”

    Please do click on this link here

    http://www.male-initiation.net/frenulum_studies2.html

    You do not have to take my word for it.

  16. JackieNo: The problem you note is believed to affect less than 1% of men worldwide.

    How do YOU know this? Barring China and India, virtually everyone between Senegal in the West of Africa and Indonesia in the east of Asia is circumcised. Circumcision is mandatory for Muslims and Jews and is also practised by Africans of all faiths. Since this stretch is the world’s most heavily populated part of the globe, and since in India at least data is certainly deficient to fudged for reasons I have alluded to, aren’t you basically saying “It affects less than 1% of white, non-Jewish men who haven’t been circumcised at birth”?

    And yes babies die from this operation each year

    So how about improving the conditions under which it is performed and waiting till they’re 3 to 4 years old? Again, technique problems are made an excuse to condemn the procedure as a whole.

    Yes, most of us men enjoy the pleasure of all of those nerve endings and do not want to lose that capacity for pleasure.

    Sigh…read what I’ve written again about the recovery of full orgasmic intensity. Also read the bit about anaesthetised condoms in my response to Josh.

  17. Germain Truman: Otherwise, having a complete penis is something natural

    Red herring. We aren’t talking of removing any part of the penis or of disrupting its structural integrity.

    Health benefits is an argument totally wrong. In fact would you dare use this argument to convince women to accept mastectomy after a certain age since breastcancer is so widely spread and dangerous?

    Red herring. Breast cancer can be checked for by the woman herself and mammograms done at regular ages. Also, mastectomy is in no particular comparable with circumcision.

    Only some Americans and of course superstitious people circumcising for ridiculous religious reasons will agree with your reasoning.

    Will (WD Noble) is an American but I’m not, and both of us are flaming atheists. Your point?

  18. Restoring Tally: Somehow, you sound very, very much like a shill for the reconstruction industry to me. Can’t think why.

  19. A Jewish friend was wondering over on my blog at the foaming-mouthed vehemence of the anti-circumcision lobby. After all, pro-circumcisers never get so heated.

    I think, after reading these responses, that I know the answer now…

    Castration envy.

  20. Bill, reading these people, I wonder if any of them have ever thought about anything longer than it takes to just form a dissenting opinion and then mouth-off.

    The quotes which leap out at me the most are these: “WD Noble’s argument makes me sad and very angry with his mother. What kind of mother looks at a tiny newborn son and judges him as someone who will grow up to have hygiene issues!??? The mothers I know believe in the abilities and value of their children – yours WD Noble appeared to know that from birth you were not up to much.”

    The lack of logic here astounds me.

    One in 10,000 children every year in America is born with a vestigial tail. These are surgically removed; there aren’t any questions asked about it – the reasons are obvious; as we now use tools and conveniences, and actually sit on our backsides rather than lie or stand all day, the tail is simply a piece of ‘equipment’ from which we’ve not yet fully evolved. I don’t see the ‘tailhook brigade’ demanding to keep it – likely because it’s not as sensational as a foreskin.

    PLENTY of procedures are preventive – and they don’t have squat to do with ‘believing in the abilities and value’ of the patient.

    Laura, until you gain some credentials as something other than a nature-worshipper, please refrain from comments regarding things about which you clearly know nothing at all – and that includes my mother, who DID have credentials.

    _______________________________

    “having a complete penis is something natural, and respecting nature is also a way of respecting human beings and men, specifically…Respecting nature, respecting human beings and children, that’s my conviction.”

    Crap.

    So, getting a circumcision is not ‘respecting nature’ or ‘respecting children’? I’ve news, pal – taking a bath is altering ‘nature’, also. So is cutting one’s hair; shaving; treating our drinking water, and sewage-treatment, by that logic.

    I’m doubting the author of this fine piece of crapillogic gave much thought to it.

    -W

  21. Bill. Thank you for sharing your expirience. I learned a lot about male sexual health issues from the perspective of one growing up in an Indian culture (and other cultures for that matter). Your perspective will help me in my practice to have more cultural sensativity and men’s health issues. I really enjoyed reading your article. And some of the reactions! Wow! I guess that’s what I like so much about Subversify. Interesting issues and discussions. Keep up the good work.

  22. Thank you for including a link to the Intactivism Pages. I like “castration envy”!

    You can pretty much tell the responses from circumcising cultures (“circumcised mind” we call it – the mindset that circumcision is “normal” and the foreskin is “extra”) which you have adopted, and those from non-circumcising cultures.

    This culminates in “We aren’t talking of removing any part of the penis or of disrupting its structural integrity.” which I will add to my page of “circumsurdities“. I guess in the Land of the Blind they don’t consider the eyes to be part of the body either.

    Several of your arguments are straw: absolutely nobody says “Adult circumcision is no big deal”, we just reject the claim that it is much worse than neonatal circumcision. Foreskins have <A HREF="http://www.circumstitions.com/Functions.html"many more functions than the one you dismiss.

    I love the way you do your statistics – “barring China and India…” – and you assume there is an ethnic component to phimosis and paraphimosis when there is no reason to suppose there is.

    I don’t buy the “respecting nature” argument either, but if a uniquely movable organ with ~20,000 specialised nerves on the distal end of the penis does not have an erogenous function, what was God/evolution thinking of? This is in sharp contrast to a vestigial tail or a cleft palate, which may accurately be called birth defects. (I imagine a vestigial tail is subject to injury when e.g. riding a bicycle or sitting on any hard seat, and a cleft palate impairs speaking, eating and drinking.)

    You use that bad analogy to dismiss “his birthright” but that glosses over his rights to genital integrity and genital autonomy. “Integrity” just meaning the whole penis, including the foreskin, until he is old enough to decide for himself (autonomy) to have any of it cut off. (This is where the comparison with FGC comes in: MGC and FGC may be very different, but genital integrity and genital autonomy are the same for both, and if you want to attack it for one sex you have to justify an equivalent attack on the other.)

    You seem to have a thing about surgical foreskin restoration. Even the surgeon you first cited was half-hearted about it, and provided a link to non-surgical methods (not this one) before even mentioning it. The restoration community doesn’t like it at all. It’s costly, produces poor aesthetic results and may cause further damage. Its only advantage over non-surgical means is speed.

  23. I am surprised at the vehemence here too. This was one guy sharing his one experience.

    “I only wish they’d experience what I went through, and then I’d have wanted to hear what they said.” I cannot agree more with Bill about that. On a side note, I have spent 3/4 of my life with severe arthritis in my hip and spine–you guessed it, diagnosed only one month ago. I’ve been told by doctors it was all in my mind, couldn’t POSSIBLY be a bone problem. No X-rays were taken by doctors…until last month.

    ANYhoo.

    On to the topic: I have some experience in this field as well, as, when my son was born I did not plan to get him circumcized. Imagine my surprise when my preemie suffered severe lethargy from a 105-degree temperature (also all in my mind according to his first pediatrician) that turned out to be a kidney infection. He spent the first 6 years of his life on preventative medications after that, till he could have kidney surgery, but in the meantime…

    Yep, you guessed it. He NEEDED to be circumcized.

    I wasn’t allowed to be present for the operation, but cringed when I heard my tiny preemie scream from a back room. I cannot even IMAGINE what you went through at an adult age.

    In our case, however, cleaning and care was simple, and he took baby Tylenol, and I am happy to say he’s never suffered any problems thereafter. His kidneys are fine and there are no problems.

    However, this expierence totally changed my mind about circumcision “not being necessary.” In some cases, it truly is!

  24. @SapphireSavvy: you are right that some males (very few) need to be circumcised. In countries where circumcision is not customary and doctors know more about the foreskin than how to cut it off, the lifetime risk is one in thousands. I’m not sure that a kidney infection is sufficient – many doctors seem to be scalpel-happy in that regard – but there may be more that you haven’t mentioned.

    But Bill has gone way beyond this, to advocating universal neonatal circumcision, apparently to prevent experiences like his, which was almost entirely caused by the conspiracy of silence around all things sexual that prevails where he is. Changing the culture to talk about such things (it happened in the west in my lifetime) is better than cutting healthy parts of billions of babies.

  25. I can somewhat relate to some of the pain in your article. It seems that I was born with my urethral opening positioned downward. I received countless beatings for urinating on the toilet seat when trying to direct my urine flow as my father showed me. Finally, one day my mother noticed that the opening of my penis was unusual and they took me to the doctor. I was five years old. They put me in the hospital and the doctor brought a scalpel to the bed. The doctor cut my glans to position the opening in a more usual place WITHOUT ANESTHETIC after saying it wouldn’t hurt a bit. If I ever find out his name, I’m going to hunt him down and show him what it feels like using a razor blade. Well, maybe not, but the thought certainly cheers me up.

    I always wondered if I was missing something of the sexual experience being circumcised at birth. I’m glad to see that I am not. Besides, if I were any more sensitive in that area, I believe it would be harder for me to have a prolonged sexual experience with my partner. I think I’d be glad to trade a slight bit of sensitivity which could cause premature ejaculation for hours of prolonged pleasure. I do not believe I will be having a “foreskin replacement surgery.”

  26. Hugh: “Universal neonatal circumcision”??? I advocated no such thing. I specifically said it would be better done at 3 to 5 years of age.

    You ever saw a Muslim circumcision without anaesthetic, when the kid is ten or eleven years old?

  27. Hugh, your objection is a fair and sound one if Bill had been advocating universal circumsision; however, I didn’t see that he was. Can you point to a specific moment?

    My son also suffered from urine reflux. To be fair, the doctors did allow me an option, but “strongly” recommended the procedure in order to prevent further infections. He spent 6 years on a penicillin-type substance preventatively anyway. It was a difficult and traumatic decision, but–yes, definitely better at birth than at a conscious age!

  28. Bill said “I’m a passionate advocate of early circumcision”. I see no room in that for choice by the person most concerned, or any medical diagnosis, and I missed the part about 3 to 5 years, which is not as “early” as neonatal.

    If anything, 3 to 5 years is probably psychologically worse because 1) he will have some experience of being intact 2) he will remember the operation 3) he will probably think it is punishment for something, either playing with himself, or whatever he was doing when they made him go with them.

  29. I think that this is a really personal and important account about circumcision. I don’t know why people are pointing out that it isn’t a “coherent argument,” considering you weren’t necessarily trying to make a single argument, but pointing out problems that you see concerning how people view hygiene and circumcision. Anyway, have you ever seen the show “Embarrassing Bodies”? It’s a British health show that I’ve been watching a lot recently, and they taught grown men how to clean themselves and prevent infections, such as the ones that you mentioned… and that DO exist, despite people playing the ignorance card and saying “I’ve never heard of that happening!” I think that while there may be surgical complications that mainly have to do with age, it is so clear that people with a foreskin have to do more cleaning! It makes sense… logically! Obviously things are going to build up underneath, which doesn’t necessarily happen when you don’t have a foreskin. Also, I may seem “bias” now, but my boyfriend got circumcised at about 7 years old, and he has no problems whatsoever, sexually or otherwise… He’s actually pretty indifferent to the fact that he’s circumcised. I like how you provided us with further reading from both perspectives as well, and how you mentioned that the HIV study was inconclusive… the opposition doesn’t mention this though, of course. I am currently writing a research essay about this and it has been difficult to find sources that aren’t just completely against it, with pictures of crying babies, and whatnot. News Flash: Babies cry all the time… what about vaccinations? Not that I’m saying that circumcision is equal to vaccination… but you are injecting your baby with chemicals via a huge needle, and I’m pretty sure that I even remember crying, and having to go back several times. There are also complications with vaccinations as well… so I wonder where people who are against circumcisions stand in terms of those? They aren’t necessarily required either.

  30. Hugh:
    Just saying, but babies can’t be traumatised. Babies and even young children don’t remember. Just because they cry, doesn’t mean that they are traumatised. Babies and young children hurt themselves and cry all the time. My tooth went through my lip/chin when I was young apparently, and I don’t remember, even though I have a scar (Just as a bit of an example.) As for sensitivity, I know a lot of circumcised guys (who had it done at various ages, birth – 7 years old) who are quite promiscuous (i.e. they sleep around a lot, I’m university age), and who are NORMAL. So really, I find it hard to believe that the supposed “trauma” and maybe slight decrease in sensitivity make as much difference as you and others theorise. As I’ve said, my bf got it done at 7, and he remembers the pain, but nothing else really, and he doesn’t have any health or psychological issues because of a brief period of pain during his childhood 😛 He’s rather indifferent and so are other people that I know.

  31. The “natural” argument is so flawed. Most people get their wisdom teeth out because we’ve evolved to not need them, and they cause more harm than good. I’ll also raise the point again of vaccinations – is that what you would call “natural”? What IS natural?

    Funny how somebody wrote “what kind of mother would assume that their child would have hygiene problems!” lol That’s just really funny. “Even” in Western countries, men don’t know how to wash themselves properly… just like the many women who think that it’s a good idea to always wash their vaginas with soap (which causes infection.) Most people don’t know what to do with their own bodies, so it’s safe to assume that there are quite a few cases of bad/not adequate hygiene, in both the East and the West, thus, infections galore. People don’t necessarily go around spreading the news that they have them though.

  32. “… so I wonder where people who are against circumcisions stand in terms of those? They aren’t necessarily required either.”

    Over here on this side of the pond, there’s a TV drama (House; M.D.) regarding the behavior of a rather-acerbic physician. He made a comment about vaccinations which mirrored my mother’s (the ICU nurse) attitude:

    “Don’t think they work? The antibodies in ‘yummy mummy’ only protect the kid for six months, which is why these companies think they can gouge you. They think that you’ll spend whatever they ask to keep your kid alive. Want to change things? Prove them wrong. A few hundred parents like you decide they’d rather let their kid die then cough up 40 bucks for a vaccination, believe me, prices will drop *really* fast.”

    Ever since we were able to fashion a crutch from a stick, humanity has been making things to interfere with the natural order of dying. Wheelchairs; contact-lenses; cosmetics – they all ‘interfere’ with nature.

    Nature is a cold-hearted bitch, with little regard for us humans.

    To my mind, screwing with nature – including vaccinating against everything from allergies to smallpox – is a damn good thing.

  33. hahaha, yeah, I know about House… I’m actually from Canada. Yay, Hugh Laurie! He’s an amazing actor. BlackAdder!

  34. @Nicole: “babies can’t be traumatised”? Are you crazy? Of course they bloody can! You abuse a baby, you’ll get a twisted adult. (And with any luck, a long jail term.) This is akin to the “babies can’t feel pain” myth that prevailed for decades.

    They may not remember, but how long does it take them to forget? Taddio et al. found circumcised babies reacted differently to the pain of vaccination, months later.

    Your anecdote about your boyfriend is hardly overwhelming statistical evidence for anything. Many men now – more thanks to the Internet – bitterly resent that the most sensitive part was cut off without any consideration for what they might want as men.

    I avoid the “natural” argument for the reasons you mention. But that doesn’t mean that the foreskin isn’t useful and valuable, and wouldn’t have evolved away if it had been harmful. (It differs from the appendix in this regard. Apparently the appendix is genetically linked to the rest of the intestine, and can’t be naturally missing without severe abnormality elsewhere. Aposthia – no foreskin – is a natural variant that would have become the norm long ago if it had been at all advantageous.)

    As for the HIV studies, a study has just come out (Bassler et al., JAMA. 2010;303(12):1180-1187) showing that stopping a trial early makes it more likely to seem to show a benefit, even if there is none. All three of the African trials on which the claims for circumcision are based were stopped early. This is especially so where events are few (less than 500). The total number of events (men becoming HIV+) in the three trials was 201 (65, 69 and 67).

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  37. I just wanted to mention that when a mother decides not to circumcise her child, she is supposed to be aware of the smegma (hate that word lol) which actually has a purpose, its like a lubricant to pull back the foreskin, like each change of diaper to clean the area and that actually “stretches” the foreskin at an early time which isnt painful to an infant, then as the child gets older it naturally moves easily and the child doesnt experience that horrible thing you went through, it is a shame that you had to go through that. i have two brothers, 48, and 35, that are perfectly happy being uncircumcised i guess it is a mothers choice then later the adult, thank god i had girls!!! good luck to you, you need to have a talk with your mom lol:)

  38. i want to add or clear up how i said one remark, you arent supposed to be rough or forceful when cleaning that area but the foreskin when cleaned properly will retract on its own by age 5, it is the parents responsibility to be sure that they note if it has or hasnt, but the studies out there do say the majority of them retract on their own, so i guess it is still a chance you take, but they did teach me in pediatrics that the smegma helps to lubricate and that when you clean it you are supposed to gently push it back, either way, parents should be aware so what happened to this guy doesnt happen!!! that is terrible!!

  39. Quit blowing smoke. I was circumcised when I was 28 and it was the among the worst decisions I made. I regret the loss but at least it was my choice. It worst part about the whole thing was the itching caused by the stitches.

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