Circumcision: Our Bodies, Our Choices Part 2, Men and Their Members

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Tom Gualtieri voices his opinions on male circumcision in part two of his series, Our Bodies, Our Choices.

This is the second part in a series on circumcision. Read Part One: Circumcision is Not a Joke

“A remedy which is almost always successful [to stop masturbation] in small boys is circumcision… The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice…”
~John Harvey Kellogg, physician (1852-1943)

The abuse Kellogg suggested back in the late Victorian era is enough to turn the stomach of any 21st Century parent. While “abuse” may seem too strong a word for such a common procedure, Kellogg’s description of circumcision as a “remedy” is  both a misrepresentation and a gross understatement. According to Kellogg, if you find your son touching himself, you should punish him by cutting off a part of his penis – a kind of one-slice Pavlovian training. To me, that’s psychotic.

The Victorian ideal promoted a reduction of pleasure as beneficial to the health of the soul. That influence continued into the 20th Century. Here’s another bit of anti-foreskin wisdom from the ominously-named Dr. R.W. Cockshut, published in a 1935 edition of the British Medical Journal (Br Med J 1935;2:764.1):

“I suggest that all male children should be circumcised … Nature … covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often.”

Then there’s this gem:

“Another advantage of circumcision … is the lessened liability to masturbation … as a rule, pleasurable sensations are elicited from the extremely sensitive mucous membrane [the inner mucosa of the foreskin] with resultant manipulation and masturbation. The exposure of the glans penis following circumcision … lessens the sensitiveness of the organ.”
~ Ernest G. Mark, Circumcision, American Practitioner and News, vol. 31 (1901): pp. 121-126.

The ghastly motive behind the push for circumcision is clear: to interfere with male sexual pleasure. The expectation of the result was, to say the least, illogical. Boys masturbate whether they are circumcised or not – just ask one. Well, never mind asking; a teenage boy isn’t going to tell you he masturbates. But trust me on this one. My mother spent many an hour at the washing machine dealing with crunchy socks, towels and t-shirts.

Before we get to this article’s sore subject – the effect of circumcision on the adult – I should offer a caveat; I am well-aware that there are thousands of circumcised men who are perfectly happy with their penises. Noted sex advice columnist Dan Savage (whose position on circumcision has changed since the adoption of his son in 1996) put it this way:

“…most cut men are happy with their dicks… and most uncut men are happy with theirs. The thing about the unhappy cut men, though, is that they can’t get uncut, you know what I’m saying?”

This is the core of the argument against routine infant circumcision (RIC). Circumcised men cannot get back what was taken from them. My friends know that I am unhappy about my own circumcision and they often find ways of gently poking fun at my activism. Although I am vocal about my opposition to RIC, I don’t speak about the anger I carry with me and how deeply troubled I am by the fact that a part of my sex organ was removed without my consent. In preparing for this article, I interviewed men whose feelings about circumcision range from indifference to rage. Some of them are more vocal about their anger but there is one consistent thing about the expression of it: Men are supposed to put on their big-boy pants, stop whining and be glad they were circumcised because _____ (fill in the blank.)


Americans have been taught that the foreskin is a useless flap of skin: God’s mistake. There is little to no education about its function – not even within the American medical community. The foreskin, you see, is is the ONLY part of the body we routinely remove in the absence of compelling medical data. There is not one medical issue related to the foreskin in infancy which cannot first be treated through means other than surgery. The American medical community is simply ignorant of the intact penis.

The more I read about the “little flap of skin,” removed during “the snip,” the less I am able to endure the euphemisms which belittle men’s genital and sexual integrity. Why is RIC so routine in America? What is it about American culture that dictates we should remove a healthy part of the human anatomy so as to avoid talking about hygiene and (insert high pitched scream here) S-E-X? Is it really preferable to cut off a part of our sons’ genitals because it makes us uncomfortable to teach them to have confidence in their bodies as nature made them? Why are circumcising cultures like ours so desperate to believe in the dubious benefits attributed to circumcision? Why do American parents not think forward to their sons’ adult sexuality? And why, I keep wondering, is there a double standard when it comes to sexual rights?

Adam Z., a handsome 30-year-old in the computer industry, is an Intactivist, one of thousands of men (and women) nationwide who fight against RIC. Many Intactivists also fight for worldwide genital integrity and are vocal about their support for women and the intersex who also suffer choices imposed on them by others. Adam attends demonstrations and symposiums on circumcision and speaks out about it one-on-one when the opportunity seems right. He is straightforward, erudite and seemingly at ease with the most discomforting of subjects. Even when discussing his own anger at being circumcised, he remains reasonable – an impressive feat for someone who says he became “enraged” when he learned that he had lost a part of his body. In a long and compelling interview, he told me:

“…no one feels sympathy when you tell them you were harmed by circumcision… We vehemently oppose the cutting of female genitals but men’s genitals are sent to the chopping block in infancy… the sexist double standard regarding genital cutting in this society is absolutely staggering.”

A female acquaintance of mine has said, regarding the pro-choice movement, “Men have no rights when it comes to women’s bodies.” She also indicated that religious motivation should have no bearing on reproductive choices but she hesitated when asked if the same applied to men in regard to circumcision, which is part of her own religious heritage.

Men have feelings too – about a whole bunch of stuff (shocker!) and their regard for their genitals is almost universal. Men protect their manhood, metaphorically and physically. Freud’s “castration anxiety” follows us around, even unconsciously. But when it comes to circumcision there seem to be two camps: the “man up” camp and those who refer to their circumcisions as a betrayal, robbery, mutilation and even rape.

Thirty-one-year-old intactivist Jonathon Conte is open about his anger but finds it a difficult subject to revisit. He channels his feelings into “the human rights movement to abolish non-therapeutic, non-consensual genital cutting. I believe that all individuals – male, female and intersex – have a fundamental right to bodily integrity.”An events coordinator for Bay Area Intactivists, Conte wants people to understand that “circumcision negatively impacts a man and those around him throughout life.” With Americans in denial that the foreskin serves a necessary function, the job of activists like Conte becomes doubly difficult, struggling with their own resurfacing feelings while trying to educate.

Another Intactivist, here referred to as “Leo” asks, “Why do you think the foreskin covers the head of the penis? Why does it exist? Why does it move the way it does? One moment of scientific thought should get you thinking.” Leo tries to get people to understand that there are no mistakes in nature’s design.

Genetic anomalies and deformities notwithstanding, why do Americans consider the foreskin an evolutionary mishap? Like every part of the human body, it is functional. The foreskin, or prepuce, protects the glans, which is meant to be an internal organ (look at the penis of any mammal). It also provides a natural “gliding mechanism” which eliminates the need for extra lubricant during penetrative sex. It is this gliding mechanism which makes sex more pleasurable for men and women. It is also loaded with nerves (some 10,000-20,000 of them in 12-15 inches of tissue) which provide additional stimulation and then there are the blood vessels needed for proper flow to and from the penis during erections.

“Why?” Leo says, is one of the first things a child learns to ask but they are quickly taught to stop asking because there are some things parents and society don’t want to acknowledge. “I kept asking ‘why’ about my circumcision and when I found out the answer, I was disgusted that something so delicate would be cut from a baby’s body. It was mine. What right did anyone have to take a part of my sex organ!?”

Visually at least, the glans penis and the clitoris seem correlative, but a 2007 study led by Morris L. Sorrells determined that the foreskin itself, not the head of the penis (the glans), is the most sensitive part, making the foreskin more analogous to the clitoris in terms of its nerve function. The study also concluded that the head of the penis is more sensitive in the intact male. The clitoris, which is protected by a prepuce embryonically analogous to the foreskin, remains hyper-sensitive because it remains covered.

“The glans of the circumcised penis is less sensitive to fine touch than the glans of the uncircumcised penis. The transitional region from the external to the internal prepuce [the muco-cutaneous junction] is the most sensitive region of the uncircumcised penis and more sensitive than the most sensitive region of the circumcised penis. Circumcision ablates [the muco-cutaneous junction], the most sensitive parts of the penis.”

The removal of the specialized mucosal tissue which protects the glans also causes, over time, keratinization, a process through which skin cells lose moisture, making them tougher and less sensitive. Keratinization is the process referred to by Dr. Cockshut. The more leathery surface of the glans makes it less sensitive.


A Belgian study released just this year concluded the same thing as the earlier study; a circumcised penis is less sensitive than an intact one. (Bronselaer GA, Schober JM, Meyer-Bahlburg HF, T’sjoen G, Vlietinck R, Hoebeke PB., Department of Urology, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.) A loss of sensitivity may not seem important – to some – but the question of how that loss affects sexual function is the subject of a Danish study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in October 2011 (Frisch M, Lindholm M, Grønbæk M.) In that study, circumcised men reported various types of sexual dysfunction 3x more often than intact men. According to Morten Frisch, who led the study, “there were differences… the circumcised men reported orgasm difficulties much more frequently than the [intact] men.” The most common problem was unnaturally delayed ejaculation and even anorgasmia (inability to achieve orgasm.) Female sexual partners of those men were 10% more likely to report incomplete sexual fulfillment.

Frisch is careful to point out that his study does not indicate all circumcised men have problems. Anecdotally, anyway, we know this just isn’t true but cut men are more likely to report dysfunction. Even in the absence of sexual dysfunction, circumcised men report changes in sensation after surgery. Dragging a scalpel through the flesh is bound to cause damage. You’ve surely heard of it happening in face lifts, caesarian sections, and hair transplants. The difference with circumcision is that once the tissue is amputated – along with its connecting nerves – it is discarded. The nerves are permanently severed and cannot be regained.

Peter C., a Filipino man residing in New Zealand after being raised in the Philippines, was circumcised in adolescence. He says there was a notable change after his circumcision. Before, he says, the tip of his penis was so sensitive it made him pleasurably “…weak at the knees.” That changed after he was cut. Then, he says, he ceased to produce any noticeable pre-seminal fluid and lost much of the pleasure in masturbation. “Getting cut,” he maintains, “didn’t really stop me from [masturbating.] It only made it less enjoyable.”

Immediate complications from infant circumcision also occur though there is no adequate study data to tell us the numbers. (An Intactivist might argue that a denuded penis IS a serious complication.) Some of these require direct medical attention and follow-ups for years.

In a Savage Love column from 2004, a young man wrote to Dan Savage to say, “I am 24 years old and lost my entire glans penis, the head of my dick, in a botched circumcision. Basically I have a shaft but there’s no head at the end…” (As a man, I can think of nothing more horrible happening to my body than damage to my genitals as a result of someone else’s flawed decision.) Savage used this young man’s example in response to a reader’s inquiry about circumcising her  infant:

“…even if the odds are low–even if they’re infinitesimal… I would rather teach my son to wash under his foreskin than assume even the tiniest risk of him losing the head of his penis in a botched circumcision.”

Dr. M. David Gibbons, Associate Professor, Pediatric Urology at Georgetown University School of Medicine (who has an impressive list of affiliations in his field) says:

“In my practice, as a pediatric urologist, I manage the complications of neonatal circumcision… in a two-year period, I was referred greater than 275 newborns and toddlers with complications of neonatal circumcision. Forty-five percent required corrective surgery – minor as well as major, especially for amputative injury. [With] 300 pediatric urologists in this country who have practices similar to mine… one can do the math.”

Jonathan Friedman was circumcised in a bris, the Jewish religious ceremony which is performed on the eighth day after birth. As he matured, he realized that his “shaft skin was very tight. I always injured myself and had to stop masturbating or having sex,” because of it. “I don’t feel anything when I have penetrative sex,” he says, “and I orgasm unexpectedly or not at all.”

Loss of sensation, lack of sensation, flesh on the penis too tight – none of this is normal. The knowledge that parts of the sex organ have been removed without their consent and, possibly, that the highest quality of sensation has been lost is partly what fuels the frustration of the Intactivist movement and a connected offshoot: foreskin “restoration.”

Foreskin “restoration” is the process of applying tension to the skin of the penile shaft in order to induce mitosis – a subdivision of cells which produces more skin. Mitosis is used in post-mastectomy reconstruction and to create skin grafts for burn victims. Men looking to “regrow” their foreskins apply manual, non-surgical stretching techniques periodically throughout the day or wear a specialized device for many hours which accomplishes the same thing. A cottage industry has sprung up around the movement, with private manufacturers making devices just for this purpose. The process takes years and is only partially successful in that there is no way to regain the specialized parts of the intact penis. At the very least, it can restore some of the lost sensation in the glans penis by bringing it back to its previous state of suppleness.

It may seem desperate, or crazy or just kinda weird to think of men trying to re-grow their foreskins. But re-empowerment is part of the allure. Some restoring men, who gather in internet groups online and in support groups such as NORM (the Nationwide Organization of Restoring Men), report physical as well as psychological recovery through restoration. Jim K. from Arizona insists that he has experienced new sensations since his restoration. Circumcised at 5 years old, Jim believes his restoration has been successful. “It was like having the lights turned on…I had no idea of the vast increase in sexual sensation that a foreskin provides.” Jim also reports, “…it is highly empowering changing something that was done without my consent.”

“Ian” has been restoring as well. Having been cut at birth, restoring is “as much a psychological healing process as a physical one… The closer I get to calling myself restored,” he says, “the more whole I feel.”

Ian, like most of these men, has battled the negative feelings that come along with the recognition of loss. “I’ve had to work past the feelings of betrayal and the acknowledgment that I have suffered…” Betrayal is a theme repeated by men who feel they have been awakened to their body’s true functions. Ian emphasizes “It was mind boggling to me how it could never occur to someone how cruel, barbaric, and tortuous a procedure it is… that parents still believe this is beneficial and swallow the medical establishment’s party line without question especially in this age of readily available information.”

The movement toward gentle beginnings to life drives Ryan McAllister, a biophysicist, Assistant Professor of Physics and Oncology at Georgetown University, and the Executive Director of, a non-profit organization which supports childbirth education, female and male genital integrity and intersex rights.

Over the last 10 years, McAllister has been studying the medicalization of childbirth in U.S. hospitals. His site provides a vast array of data on all aspects of parenthood, and the organization provides local talks and an extensive lending library. He is soft-spoken and patient, choosing his words carefully. (At various points in our conversation he was careful to check in and see if I understood his points.) He has lectured about the foreskin in an attempt to curb RIC. Understanding some people will be squeamish, McAllister maintains an easy tone, despite his passion on the subject. His excerpted lecture, “An Elephant in the Hospital,” available at YouTube, is an example of his ability to put people at ease with an uncomfortable subject. (The full version is also available for viewing here.)

McAllister came to his work through an interest in interpersonal relationships which led to studies of power and attachments dynamics in situations like childbirth which, of course, involves relationships not only between the new mother and her child but also between patient and physician.  “You can dissect obstetrics into set of attitudes and procedures. For example, I have compiled a list of 20 odd procedures which are unnecessary, often even harmful.  And one of them obviously – to me a very major one – is circumcision.”

I asked McAllister what he thinks happens to the mother/child bond if one of the child’s first events after birth is for the mother to turn the child over to someone else, allowing this very painful thing to happen. Circumcision, I proposed, disrupts the attachment cycle.

“I have certainly talked with a lot of moms who say that when they receive their child back that it then hit them what they had allowed to happen, because their child was upset. The child is bandaged, bleeding and crying.”

McAllister then went on to make a point I had not considered:

“…[the mother] hadn’t been prepared for that. I think it’s subjecting a parent to something to even approach them with the idea of doing this. There’s a broken informed consent process.”

In his lecture, one of McAllister’s slides quotes Michelle Storms, an MD who stopped performing circumcisions in 1988:  “Any person who wants to subject a child to this should be required to witness one first.”

The long-term, psychological effects of circumcision can only be examined, at present, through anecdotal evidence, since no high-profile studies have been published. In my own interviews, I was amazed to have other men articulate for me things I have been feeling for almost 3 decades: that a part of my body was taken without my consent. In the past I’d thought, “Maybe I’m making too much of it. Is it possible that these feelings are misdirected from somewhere else?” But Jonathon Conte was able to point out, “when victims such as myself do speak out we are often ridiculed or our pain is minimized.”

The combination of dismissal and misinformation affirming the foreskin as “just a little bit of a skin” instead of the sexually functional part that it is, leads many men to silence. They simply don’t know there is something missing. But those who have conducted their own research believe infant circumcision is wrong.

Adam Z., in his erudite way, brought the humanity of it home;

“It took a long time to come to grips with the fact that someone had taken something so obviously valuable from me in the name of cultural aesthetics. My feelings have never changed. I will always resent that this was done to me. I will always be upset that I can’t experience sex the way that it was meant to be experienced. I will always feel ripped off by society. I will always feel inferior to women whose genitals are adamantly protected throughout the world. I can’t walk around angry all of the time … I have come to peace with it and don’t walk around angry (as much as I used to).”

Adam is, like most of us, unable to completely let it go. Every time we look down, we see that part of our genitals was removed.

“My wheels can spin for hours trying to make myself feel better about it — but in the end the only escape is to accept that it was done and try to keep it from happening to the boys that are being born today.”


Originally appeared at The Weeklings

Read Part One of Our Bodies, Our Choices: Circumcision is Not a Joke



Tom Gualtieri is a theatre artist with his hand in many disciplines: lyricist, playwright, performer, director, knitter. He maintains an ongoing collaboration with composer David Sisco. His solo play, That Play: A Solo Macbeth, recently concluded its New York run.


Lead photo: Flickr/fontplaydotcom

Other photos are courtesy of original publisher, The Weeklings

About The Weeklings

"The Weeklings' mission is this: a single essay a day, every single day. Their core company of seven contributors—one for each day of the week—covers politics, sex, music, art, literature, film, truth, justice and the American way. Save the day with @TheWeeklings !


  1. Thank you for this excellent article. I hope that, as more people are exposed to thoughtful and articulate voices like yours, they will stop mocking and shaming men who speak up against forced circumcision. Once people stop dismissing men and our truth and our pain around this issue, it will become harder and harder to defend forced circumcision as a legitimate practice.

  2. I was writing a lengthy comment explaining why FGM and MGM are in fact comparable, but eventually when I returned to the browser tab in which I was writing it, it was just gone. How annoying.

    In short, there are at least ten different forms of each. Almost every form of FGM has an equivalent MGM form and vice versa. The only exception is that I couldn’t find an MGM form that is both inhibiting enough and reversible enough to equate to infibulation (sewing the vagina shut and, usually, cutting it open again only for the wedding night, for conception, and for birth).

    Since infibulation is generally intended to be reversible and generally can be reversed, it should be considered less severe than an excision of the clitoris, which, as a genital amputation, is never truly reversible.

    Amputation of the penile prepuce (“foreskin”) is also irreversible. Many people in the US have heard that it’s “just a useless flap of skin”, but that is entirely a myth. The penile prepuce serves several functions, chiefly those of protecting the glans and enhancing intercourse for both participants. It is extremely sensitive. How its sensitivity compares to that of the glans itself may be debatable (and probably varies from person to person like any other matter of genital sensitivity), but what isn’t debatable is that removal of the penile prepuce is a double blow against total penis sensitivity:

    Removing the penile prepuce removes its own intrinsic sensitivity AND, by exposing the glans to constant abrasion and inevitably consequential keratinization (drying out and thickening of the skin), significantly reduces glans sensitivity (resulting, unsurprisingly, in a significant increase in susceptibility to erectile dysfunction).

    In women the clitoris is not the only route of orgasm, so the loss of it does not necessarily preclude orgasm.

    I think there’s plenty of reason to not only compare a complete removal of the penile prepuce and frenulum to removal of the clitoris but also find them equally extreme and damaging when performed under the same conditions (keep in mind that, in the developing world, MGM too is often performed under unsanitary conditions with inappropriate instruments by unqualified persons).

    …Yes, that was a shorter version of the comment I was writing before.

  3. It always amazes me when women feel the need to voice their opinion where it does not belong. What gives them the right to take away a mans foreskin? Nothing. They do not have the right and they need to stay out. I know they would feel the same if men were telling them FGM was perfectly fine. I know I feel mutilated. I know I have physical problems because of it. I know it’s wrong and I know women have no right to make that decision or even voice their opinion on OUR rights.

  4. The country where I live have a law against FGM, making it punishable to have your daughters circumcised (no matter which type) regardless of where it’s done.

    Recently there was a public report about the state of the law and to what extent it has worked. There has been some cases where parents have been convicted for having their daughters circumcised abroad (typically Africa). The report also note that it can be a challenge to discover FGM even during gynecology examination as some FGM were indetectable even by a trained gynecologist. So while even circumcision undetectable by gynecologist are considered FGM male circumcision remain fully legal and it is considered inflammatory to call it MGM.

  5. TheBadMan says:

    I still remember the early days when TGMP was ridiculing uncircumcised men.

    Baby steps.

  6. Derek Soulliere says:

    Listen, the fact that some men may have their egos bruised and feel bad that. FGM is in every way comparable. No, cutting off the clitoris is not analagous to cutting off the penile head, because among other things:

    1) The penile head is functional for many, many reasons, both sexual and otherwise. The clitoris is purely an erogenous organ
    2) The difference in the amount of surface area that would have to be removed is immensely offset from that of the clitoris

    Circumcised causes keratinziation. It removes over 10,000 nerve endings. It is functional in sex, prevents friction and. The studies that show a decreased amount of STD infction are wholly contradicted by the bulk of studies that often show the opposite.

    Conversely, the clitoris only has 8,000, albeit closer together. Unlike the penis, a woman’s vagina has multiple erogenous zones that often DO lead women to orgasm.

    Additionally, there is evidence that what circumcised men often call orgasm is simply ejaculation with a peak in pleasure. There is quite a bit of testimony from women who have been circumsized that their sex lives are fine. Are they lying? Is it internalized misogyny or blindness? If it is, how can you?

    The level of special pleading required to say FGM and MGM are not analogous is preposterous. Would all of you be okay with little girls merely having their clitoral hoods lobbed off? This is, by far, the most common type of FGM. This and clitdectomy are purposely conflated by advocacy groups as being of the same ‘type’ to give inflated credence to their cause. The fact of the matter is that cutting off the clitoris and allowing the girl to live is outside of the realm of most 3rd world countries, because of the massive amount of blood flow it receives. Circumcision is not routinely performed in sterile hospital rooms in much of the world. The problems men who have it done with a rusty blade are probably quite immense. There are other more brutal forms of FGM, yes, such as full labia removal, but there are tribes that practice things like penile subincision, embedding the penis with rocks, and partial removal of the glans. I’d like to remind you all that outright castration was performed on men for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

    Lastly, if you’re still not convinced, understand that above everything, this is a local issue that affects boys in the West en-masse, and it’s a massive problem. Where are all of the feminists who moaned and whinged about Dawkins being supposedly dismissive about the problems of women in the west? Why aren’t they standing up for this egregious injustice?

    • Derek Soulliere says:

      *Feel bad that their genitals have been surgically mutilated doesn’t mean we can’t be honest in discourse.

    • The level of special pleading required to say FGM and MGM are not analogous is preposterous. Would all of you be okay with little girls merely having their clitoral hoods lobbed off? This is, by far, the most common type of FGM.

      indeed, and if just a pin prick of the clit hood is mutilation. then my pe.nis was mutilated.

  7. It is amazing to me that women continually feel the need to rush into male circumcision articles to protest against any comparison to female circumcision. Why does this bother you so much? Is it because you view it as losing some kind of moral superiority regarding an issue you believe solely impacts girls/women?

    Male and female circumcision are both mutilation of the sex organ. Why do women resist admitting this? The author cited three examples of the reduction of sexual pleasure being the goal of the procedure. Isn’t that the goal of female circumcision?

    They are both horrible, _ comparable_ procedures.

  8. Yeah? Have a lot of sexually mutilated women in here, do we? Oh, we don’t?

    Then quit chiming in and pouting every time MGM is brought up. Which one is worse doesn’t really matter much to those of us who have had our penises cut.

    • spidaman3 says:

      “Which one is worse” isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that people compare them or even call circumcision a form of MGM that is.

  9. spidaman3 says:

    I agree with Anne and Joanna when you start comparing it to FGM you start to lose credibility. As for the science, it’s not so clear. It actually resembles the same tactics used by mothers against vaccination.

  10. I was also circumcised at birth so I share this wound with men and women the world over whose sexual anatomy has been mutilated. I believe I need to resolve the psychological harm that resulted from it in order to have a healthy adult sexuality. I also have painful erections periodically which may be a residual effect of the surgery. I would like to become part of the Imtactivist movement as part of my healing journey.

  11. I agree with Ann that the comparison to FGM is troubling, particularly if you don’t specify the type of FGM you’re comparing it to.

    But there is a ton of GREAT information here! Thanks!

    • The problem joanna is that when most people talk about FGM they never classify what they are talking about. iow, it is ALL TERRIBLE, no iffs ands or buts.

      When you get right down to it FGM and MGM are the same , it is an invasive procedure which is done mostly for religious reasons to a PERSON against their will, iow they have no choice.

      The reaction to it otoh varies widely in the west FGM is universally bad, even if you talk about the relatively minor forms of FGM and when talking about MGM you hear things like “it cuts down on infections, etc etc etc”, iow, dubious medical benefits.

      Whenever I hear the claims of these dubious medical benefits, I always answer the same. If you beieve we should allow MGM for such small gain medical benefits then I have a perfect plan to eliminate breast cancer in a generation. Simply lop off all the breast tissue from infant girls, after all, you don’t need breast to live, there won’t be any stigma because everyone will be the same and viola, no more breast cancer.

    • TheBadMan says:

      The only relevant comparison is personal choice. Any further opinion from women is just hypocrisy.

  12. It’s so refreshing to read this. I am also not a fan of circumcision. My son is intact. However, the only viewpoints I have seen/read to this point have been from frothingly passionate moms who encourage passing videos of screaming infants to your friends’ emails and putting “Save the Foreskin” stickers on people’s cars.
    I have never heard a circumcision opinion from someone who actually HAS a penis…

    • That would be me. The hospital fucked it up and didn’t tell my parents. I have scar tissue and tunnels from the stitching. Erections are painful and cause cramping through my groin. Through my extended family there are at least another three relatives with similar outcomes. There may be more.

      “Any person who wants to subject a child to this should be required to witness one first.”

      …or at least be made to watch the procedure when undertaken. I suspect many would not do it again.

      If parents were to hand their child over to a third party for the purpose of fondling that child’s genitals all three adults could and should be charged with child sexual abuse. Doing the same for the purpose of cutting bits off that same child’s genitals is an obscenity.

  13. Anne Thériault says:

    First of all, let me start off by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of routine infant circumcision. My son is not circumcised, and I’m happy that we made the decision.

    I also want to take a moment to thank you for not referring to male circumcision as mutilation or child abuse. My husband, who is circumcised, finds those terms hurtful, as do many other men, I’m sure. His parents did what the medical establishment recommended at the time – they were acting in good faith, not abusing him. And to call a circumcised penis “mutilated” is to make a man feel self-conscious, maybe even ashamed, of his genitals, and obviously that’s the opposite of what the intactivist movement is trying to do.

    I enjoyed what you wrote here, and found much of it informative & interesting, however where you lost me was when you compared circumcision to FGM. The two are not comparable. FGM often involves removing the entire clitoris (or at least a good chunk of it), which will almost always leave a woman unable to reach orgasm; while, as you point out, male circumcision might be in some ways linked to sexual dysfunction, it doesn’t result in a total inability to orgasm. As well, FGM often carries with it serious, lifelong consequences, such recurring UTIs, cysts, infertility and an increase in childbirth complication and newborn deaths.

    I agree that circumcision is something that should be talked about, I think that you do yourself a disservice when you compare it to FGM. There’s enough to discuss without going there, you know?

    • OirishM says:

      ‘I also want to take a moment to thank you for not referring to male circumcision as mutilation or child abuse. My husband, who is circumcised, finds those terms hurtful, as do many other men, I’m sure.’

      As I’m sure do many women who underwent FGM as part of their cultural upbringing. What must they think of the usual Western moralising swooping in and using a hurtful word like mutilation?

      ‘ His parents did what the medical establishment recommended at the time – they were acting in good faith, not abusing him.’

      And the parents who have their daughters circumcised are also sincerely but wrongly convinced they are doing the right thing for their child.

      ‘And to call a circumcised penis “mutilated” is to make a man feel self-conscious, maybe even ashamed, of his genitals, and obviously that’s the opposite of what the intactivist movement is trying to do.’

      And this same logic magically doesn’t apply to FGM victims…, exactly?

      All of the outcomes you listed occur in MGM too, and all of the above criteria for finding calling male circumcision mutilation offensive are applicable to FGM as well, so there has in fact been no consistent criterion presented to justify refraining from calling MGM ‘mutilation’.

      There may be an issue of degree between the frequency and prognosis of the two, but mutilation is mutilation is mutilation whether you’re cutting off a bit of skin or an arm.

    • John T. says:

      Ah, the oppression olympics got off to a quick start. Afterall, getting your skull bashed in isnt analogous to getting raped either, but, who’s counting, right. Its not like I need therapy for it or I am reminded every time out to make sure my I dont have my back to the door when taking a piss.

    • “I agree that circumcision is something that should be talked about, I think that you do yourself a disservice when you compare it to FGM. There’s enough to discuss without going there, you know? ”

      Really, what businees is that of yours? What business is it of yours is it how this is discussed?

      It alomnst sounds as if you can’t stand this very direct comaprison for some reason. What motivates that? Simple lack of empthy? Anxiety that there’s only so much empathy to go around and you want to hog it all up for females? Your request is very starnge and ifficul to make any sense of.

    • Anne – the issue with MGM and FGM is that any mention of FGM (in any form) raises the spectre of “who is the most victimized” and “which is worse.” In fact, I did not compare FGM to MGM in this article but I did make a parallel – I think the distinction is important.

      Both procedures involve involuntary cutting of the genitalia. Banned FGM procedures include everything from a ritual pinprick to draw blood (arguably causing no sexual damage), removal of the clitoral hood, complete excision of the clitoris, and complete ablation of the labia (inner and outer) and reduction of size of the vaginal opening. MGM falls somewhere in the middle of this scale.

      I don’t believe there is a contest about who is the most victimized, nor which procedure is worse, only that the absence of personal choice in all matters related to the human body is unacceptable to the person who is on the receiving end of these procedures.

      The pretense that circumcision doesn’t cause “too much harm” is the very problem I have tried to address in this article by looking at men’s responses and the unspoken damage caused by this procedure to men who do feel they have been mutilated.

    • Gary Harryman says:

      Anne, I know two men who were so severely sexually mutilated at birth that neither has ever had a sexual experience with another human. One says he hasn’t had an orgasm in decades because masturbation is too painful. I found it helpful to compare and contrast male and female genital anatomy. I spent months reading hundreds of research papers and have discovered that the clitoris and the mobile portion of the penis have thousands of the most specialized pressure-sensitive cells in the human body. Meissner’s corpuscles for light touch and fast touch, Merkel’s disc cells for light pressure and texture, Ruffini’s corpuscles for slow sustained pressure, skin tension, stretch, and slip, and Pacinian corpuscles for deep touch and vibration are found only in the tongue, lips, palms, nipples, fingertips, the clitoris, and in the ridged band at the tip of the male foreskin. These remarkable cells process tens of thousands of information impulses per second! These are the cells that allow blind people to “see” Braille with their fingertips. Cut them off and it’s like trying to read Braille with your elbow. Information from tactile sensitivity gives humans environmental awareness and control. With lack of awareness comes lack of control. To say that amputation of the lips, or fingertips, clitoris, or the mobile roller-bearing-like portion of the natural penis and consequently thousands of these specialized nerve cell interfaces does not permanently sub-normalize one’s natural capabilities and partially devitalize one’s innate capacity for tactile pleasure is grossly illogical denial of the bio-mechanical and the somatosensory facts of human genital anatomy. The mobile foreskin also forms an organic seal, keeping natural lubricants inside the vagina during intercourse. Millions of years of trial and error evolutionary forces have synchronously engineered the human sex organs. The natural penis perfectly compliments the natural female body. A woman can live without her clitoris and a man can live without the mobile and most sensitive part of his penis, but both are certainly better off with all of their natural genitals. And so are their sexual partners. Girls have legal protection from sexual mutilation in this country – period. Boys should have that same protection.


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