The First Cut is the Deepest

Posted: March 26, 2010 by Sarah Simmons in Health
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All this week we at Fix Magazine will re-post some of the posts that seemed to get the most attention from our readers. Today’s post was one of the more talked about pieces from our writer Sara. this was her chance to give a rebuttal on the topic of circumcision from the female perspective. hopefully this post will once again reignite the debate on this very sensitive subject. 

 

Normally I spend this time giving tips on how to either get a relationship going or how to keep the fire from going out. However I was given the task of giving a female perspective on the subject of circumcision. So I was left to my own devices to deal with this

subject. To cut or not to cut that seems to be the burning question. First lets take a look at the problem that our reader had. First I agree with Harry, this is a decision that will stay with you till the end of time. So the big question that needs to be answered is are you truly 100% sure that you and this lady will be spending the rest of your life together. Many people may be asking exactly what all is involved with a circumcision? Well in fact the procedure is rather quick and depending on when and who does it recovery time can range from a few days to a couple of weeks for older men that is the quick and easy version for those glancing over this, read on and I will go into greater detail later in the article. Now to the young man who wrote to Dear Dad, I have this bit of advice to offer you, do what you feel is the best thing to do. While you may love this woman and she may love you ask yourself will we still be together thirty years from now. I personally love a man that is uncut, I feel that it adds more to the experience if a man brings everything to the party. I have been with men who for one reason or another have had their foreskin removed and never experienced the same type of satisfaction as i do with a man that is uncut. But in order to truly understand this issue I needed to head out and talk to some men including my current boyfriend.

My first bit of journalistic work brought me to Jerry who is 35, average height, well-spoken and, in his suit, quite the stud, Enough Sarah concentrate. He’s classy—that is, eminently presentable, and not at all what I expect, given the bizarre nature of his current “project,” as he calls it. Which is the reason I’ve come to see him at his downtown Seattle office, where he works in marketing. For the past two years, Jerry has been “restoring” his foreskin. Stretching it, really. He began by attaching what little free skin he retained postcircumcision to an elastic band that ran down his leg, swinging once around his knee and clipping to his sock. He still wears this contraption every day, all day long, to tug him gently, to return him to what he once was and, he believes, what he should be. Then, at night, he clips the elastic around his shoulder to pull on him some more while he sleeps. With some pride, he told me over the phone that he has attained “full coverage.” And he offered to show me. I probably should have said “No thanks.” Even journalists have their limits, and I didn’t relish the prospect of being hit on by a wang-baring stranger. And foreskin restoration sounded like a freak show. But context is everything, and I knew that, at bottom, Jerry’s project was about something more than just his cock. It wasn’t a project at all; it was a cause. He was reasserting the rights of his gender-to remain intact, to obtain sexual pleasure, to not get cut. And in so doing, he was taking the long war over circumcision into a new and possibly final phase. There aren’t many restorers. Restoration groups (yes, there are such things) claim that 20,000 men worldwide are stretching themselves, but I’d be surprised if more than a few thousand are at it.

Still, the restorers are the Act Up radicals of the anti-circumcision movement, the ones who ignore the boundaries of what’s considered OK. To them circumcision is a question neither of health nor of looking like Dad. It is a matter of inalienable human rights, just as female circumcision is, no matter how many feminists squawk at the analogy. And right now that argument is winning. The American Academy of Pediatrics previously looked favorably upon circumcision but now calls the practice a matter of personal preference. The circumcision rate has fallen to 65 percent of American males, down from 80 percent in 1980. To drive that percentage down further, toward an estimated 15 percent of the rest of the world, Jerry is prepared to take drastic action. He is ready to bare himself to me. How could I not say OK?

In his office, we chat nervously for a few minutes, like strangers on a date. Then we go downstairs and take a cab to my hotel, where I’ve reserved a room for the viewing. There is a temporary, infuriating snafu when the receptionist declares that, despite assurances to the contrary, my room will not be ready for three hours. But Jerry insists on speaking to the manager, who consults his computer and produces a parlor room for us. Alone in the elevator, I compliment Jerry on his moxie. “If that’s what it takes to get people to stop lopping off guys’ dicks, then that’s what it takes,” he says coolly.

There is a foldout bed in the room, but we studiously ignore it, here I am with a guy who is about to show me his most private body part and I have a foldout bed teasing me like an ice cream truck to a kid.. He takes a seat at the table by the window, with me across from him. He reaches into a shopping bag he’s brought with him and pulls out a roll of hospital tape, a short strip of flexible plastic and some scissors. “This is what I’ve been using,” he tells me. His hands shake as he carefully encases the plastic strip in tape to demonstrate the technique, and my breath is not coming too smoothly. I am feeling the power of the moment, the power of overwhelming candor. He looks up at me and asks once more if I’d like to see how it goes on. My heart thumps as I say “Sure.” He stands up and pulls down his pants; his shorts follow.

Freelance journalism has taken me many places, but it has never taken me here. My eyes go to his cock, where, sure enough, the head of his penis is covered with a foreskin. An amazingly normal-looking foreskin, slightly bluish. Its only unusual feature is that it is somewhat loose, like a sock that’s lost its cling. “I don’t have the frenar band” he says sorrowfully, looking down. He refers to the ring of flesh that gives an uncircumcised foreskin its pucker. Then he looks at me again. “To put the tape on, I’ll have to get an erection. Would you be comfortable with that?”For a moment, I have trouble concentrating on what he is saying. Erection? I haven’t been in the presence of an erection that is not in a sexual manner since well hell I never have been in the presence of an erect penis except for sex.

“I’ll have to squeeze it a little,” he says, grabbing himself. In moments, his penis flowers into a full-scale hard-on, and I am more than a little awestruck to see an immense phallus rise up a few feet from my nose. His thing is a real missile. Is he getting off on this? Am I? It certainly crosses my mind that this is only a tawdry erotic encounter dressed up with politics, but there’s something deeper than sex in the room: this guy showing me what it is to be a man. He clears away some smegma from the underside (“Sorry about that”), and then he shows me where the foreskin merges with the shaft. He encircles the tape right there. He then lets his dick go limp and pulls the tape up over the tip of his penis. He looks in his shopping bag again and groans. Somehow, in his anxiety, he’s forgotten to bring the elastic strap that goes down his leg to his sock. “I’m really sorry,” he says. I tell him not to worry. I have a pretty good idea as it is. Besides, I tell him, we’ve just experienced a major cultural moment together, and I’m not kidding. It’s like the early days in the women’s movement, when women first put mirrors between their legs to see what they had down there. We’ve learned something about manhood. He smiles, evidently pleased with the thought. “So what if you show your dick to someone, and so what if you have an erection when that happens?” he says with renewed assurance. “This is going on in the name of something greater.” We talk a little more, and when I walk him down the hall to the elevator, I’m tempted to give him a hug. But, of course, I don’t.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, a foreskin has never been just another piece of skin. It has always been an emblem of something more significant. In primitive societies, the foreskin has long been removed as a rite of passage into manhood, as if the revelation of the member denotes the emergence of the man. For Muslims and Jews, a clipped foreskin is a sign of acceptance of the faith. In this sex-obsessed country, circumcision was first practiced to discourage masturbation. Victorians believed the loose folds of foreskin promoted “self-abuse,” as they called it. Indeed, one of the foremost circumcision boosters was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, of cereal fame, whose sex-averse attitudes were lampooned by T. Coraghessan Boyle in his novel (and in the movie) The Road to Wellville. But in the great circumcision debate, actual and metaphorical cleanliness have always been linked, and the antimasturbation arguments were supplemented by those of hygienists, who claimed that a foreskin-enshrouded glans harbored germs. For a long time, Americans have found that case remarkably persuasive. Although circumcision is much less common elsewhere in the world, it is still the most frequently performed surgical procedure for males in the United States.

This surgery has never happened to my boyfriend. He is one of the rare ones, an intact American male, and, as such, a subject of envy for restorers like Jerry. Truth be told, I’d never thought about my boyfriends foreskin It was like the scar on the small of my back from a childhood operation. That made me different in back, just as this made him different in front.

It makes my sexuality seem slightly furtive, mysterious. The aesthetics are hard to decide: To my eye, an uncircumcised prick can look droopy and unkempt, but I’m not sure I go for the Nazi-helmet-head style, either, since it looks to me like an inverted erection. I appreciate the added sense of revelation a foreskin can bring to sex, making a hard-on not only a sexual display but also a kind of unveiling, as the head of the penis is dramatically bared as it hardens. This is a matter of taste, but it’s an elemental taste. It’s more than whether you prefer your shirts tailored or off-the-rack; it’s choosing between classical and romantic, tamed and wild.

From what I’ve read about that first cut, I don’t want my man to have any part of it. God almighty! Circumcision sounds like something dreamed up by the Marquis de Sade and enacted by the Department of Defense: The newborn baby is strapped down, spread-eagled, on a small board called a Circumstraint. The surgeon slices the foreskin lengthwise to peel it forcibly from the glans. (The foreskin doesn’t naturally separate from the head of the penis for several years; until then, it adheres to the skin underneath.) Then comes the clamp. One of the most common is the Gomco clamp, a demonic-looking device that fits tightly around a bell that is slipped under the foreskin and over the head of the baby’s penis. The clamp is tightened, crushing the foreskin, which is then removed with a scalpel. Just the thought of this makes me cup my hands over my privates. O the blood! O the wailing! Incredibly, for years this procedure was done without anesthesia, in the belief that babies felt no pain. Right.

It was the pain that got to Marilyn Milos. She was a postpartum nurse at Marin Hospital in California during the late 1970s and early ’80s, and more than any other person, she has been the one to cause the downturn in the circumcision rate in the years since 1980. Revolutions have to start somewhere. Milos had had her own three boys circumcised, but she started to question the practice when she heard the babies yowling and saw them turning red when they went under the knife. “The doctors kept saying, ‘It doesn’t hurt. It only takes a second. And it will protect them from every horror that could ever befall them,’ ” she recalls. “But I thought, Yeah? Well, then, why are the babies screaming?”

Armed with this new information, the anti-circers go so far as to argue that male circumcision is equally as horrendous as female circumcision, even when it involves a clitorectomy. To them, removing the foreskin is as bad as removing the clitoris. While neither of these genital areas is essential to sex (a woman without a clitoris can reach orgasm, just as a circumcised man can), both certainly enhance and facilitate it. Female circumcision has been banned by federal law since 1996, but the male variety is still legal. “No part of a female’s genitalia may be cut off for or cultural reasons, but you can freely lop off 50 percent of a boy’s shaft skin,”

As is usual with such disputes, the revolutionaries are far more organized and aggressive than the traditionalists. There is no pro-circ movement. If there were, it would most likely be headed by Edgar Schoen, M.D., a senior consultant in pediatrics at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland. He headed the 1989 American Academy of Pediatrics task force on circumcision, which was the latest one to come out in favor of the practice, and to this day Schoen is a “very strong” believer in the value of circumcision as a preventive health measure. The circumcised penis is simply less prone to disease, he says. According to his studies at Kaiser Permanente, uncircumcised baby boys have a rate of urinary-tract infections ten times greater than that of their circumcised counterparts, and later in life, uncircumcised men are twenty times more likely to have invasive penile cancer, which Schoen terms a “horrible disease [that] rots away your genitalia and every other darn thing.” There is also evidence from Africa that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV/AIDS from an infected female, since foreskins can have tiny abrasions that offer avenues for the virus to enter the body.

A gentleman named Orville would agree. Now 23, he had himself circumcised at 21 after moving to New York from the West Indies, where circumcision isn’t practiced. He couldn’t be happier with his trimmed dick. “It’s like I got this new toy, ” he says proudly. “And I don’t want to keep it to myself.” He used to be shy when the girls at strip clubs pulled down his zipper. “They’d go, like, ew,” he says. Not anymore. “Now I’m more outgoing. If I’m at a club, I’ll pull my joint out and, like, do it right there.” And he lasts much longer, too. It used to be that he could go for an hour and a half. Now, he swears, he can last three and a half hours. How would he rate his newly shorn penis? “I give it a ten straight out.”

As it has been pointed out in the past, the most important six inches in sex are the ones between your ears. So it is not so surprising that Orville should find ecstasy in his clipped cock or that Jerry should find his in a restored one. Sex is what you make it. Still, it does seem cruel that such a fateful decision as circumcision is invariably made for a man before he is old enough to decide for himself. Why not let him do it later if he wants, as Orville chose to do? Yes, there is the evidence of infant urinary-tract infections, but even the 2 percent that Edgar Schoen found in uncircumcised infants is still less than what girls experience a few years later. (Doctors in favor of circumcision argue that the boys’ infections can be serious, potentially leaving kidney scars.) Penile cancer is truly a wretched disease, but it is also a rare one, with only 1,500 cases a year, and 200 to 300 deaths, in the United States, most of them in old men. And as for HIV/AIDS, men should be wearing condoms anyway.

Undoubtedly, with all the anti-circ politics cropping up, some men are becoming unduly exercised about an issue that their fathers (and most other men) have thought nothing about. NORM’s R. Wayne Griffiths spends hours on the phone counseling men who are filled with rage over what was taken from them. “They are as angry as anyone can possibly be,” he says. “Lots of them can’t even talk to their parents anymore, they are so mad at them.” That rage is probably misplaced. But it is shocking that given the emphasis the culture places on sexuality, a primary sex receptor is routinely cut off by doctors who, with the blessing of uninformed parents, assume they are doing their tiny patients a favor. Here in the First World, we often laugh at the “barbaric” customs of the Third. But, frankly, routine circumcision, despite being sanctioned by the medical establishment, seems just as barbaric as anything done in Africa, the Middle East or Asia-so barbaric that it makes foreskin restoration seem reasonable. Talking to Jerry, I ask him what he thinks when he steps into a shower room now and sees all the circumcised penises. “It’s like they’re all wounded,” he says. “All I can think of is the scar.” Today, when I look around, I realize I’ve started to think that way myself. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a foreskin is the key to happiness, but I’m glad to have mine. And, by God, I’m going to keep it.

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Comments
  1. […] the original here: The First Cut is the Deepest Share and […]

  2. Brett says:

    Mutilation is ALWAYS wrong, and men certainly are victims. Sexual mutilation is routinely accepted by this country, but wait, only if the victim is male, if it were a female anyone doing it would go straight to jail no questions asked. Anyone who has been mutilated has the right to be angry, the right to seek out a way to undo as much of the damage as possible and restoration is the best way to do just that.

  3. Ron Low says:

    Just Google “circumcision damage” to see the common horrid cosmetic and functional adult outcomes of infant circumcision.

    Then Google “non-surgical foreskin restoration” and won’t believe how much of the damage you can undo and how much better sex can be.

    Foreskin feels REALLY good. Female genital cutting (even a ceremonial pin-poke) is illegal for 94% of earthlings. We must protect boys too.

  4. I was circumcised at birth. I wish my parents had not decided to alter my natural body. I dislike being circumcised so much that I am restoring my foreskin.

    It is my penis, not my parents. I would have preferred to keep all of my penis and not have part of it removed at birth. I would have preferred to decide what body modifications I would have done to MY body. My body, my choice.

  5. Pat says:

    I would somewhat disagree with the author’s statement that there is no “pro-circ movement.” Although certain individuals may not be organized enough to be considered a “movement,” there definitely are those trying to promote it. Dr Schoen, for example, has made himself notorious for advocating circumcision, and has sold books in an effort to promote its practice. Others in the medical community seem to be promoting it too, including those behind the flawed HIV studies referenced in the article.

  6. Joel says:

    “What They were Born with is theirs and should be their decision as what to do.”

    Exactly, especially when we are discussing HEALTHY, VALUABLE genital tissue.

    The foreskin is extremely erogenous, functional genital tissue. It contains the thousands upon thousands of nerve endings, many like those found in the fingertips and lips. It also protects the head of the penis, the inner foreskin, and the urethral opening.

    It simply does NOT belong to a parent or a physician or a parent’s religious deity.. it belongs ONLY to the individual to whom it is attached – the same as all healthy, valuable body parts.

    Its pretty simple, really.

  7. cosmopolite says:

    Edgar Schoen MD is over 90 years old. The big circ advocate is Australia’s Brian Morris and his CIRCINFO website. He is a virologist and molecular biologist employed by the University of Sydney’s medical school. He is NOT a pediatric urologist or an epidemiologist. He has no professional experience with the damage routine neonatal circ can do, both immediate and to the sexual capabilities of the adult penis decades later.

    A few years ago, the circ rate in USA materity wards was 56%. It’s probably fallen a bit since then. Nobody knows how many boys go home intact but are later cut as outpatients by pediatricians and pediatric urologists.

    This article does not do justice to the sexual advantages of having an intact male partner. Let me now speak to those advantages in some detail.

    The retractable bits that circ removes are the epicentre of male sexuality. The foreskin and frenulum look they are the wrapper, and the head is the candy. There may be some truth to that in youth, but later in life, the head grows dull and the foreskin becomes the candy! (I am a 57 year old intact male.) The foreskin and frenulum are a small part of the entire whole male body. But they make up a subtsantial part of what interacts with the female body during vaginal intercourse. A major part of what comes in contact with the vaginal wall. For this reason alone, the foreskin deserves a great deal of respect, and we remove it at our own peril.

    There are women who have experienced both kinds of penis and have shared their feelings behind internet anonymity. There are North American women who claim to dislike the appearance or hygiene of the natural penis. They overlook that the foreskin becomes almost invisible when the penis is erect, and that a woman has the right to ask that a penis be washed before intimacy begins.

    Other North American and Australian women say that they either do not notice or care about the difference, or that they prefer intact, some very much so.

    Many women say that the foreskin eases initial penetration. My wife says that the foreskin interacts at the outset with the inner lips in a nice way. An important part of penetrative sex is the to and fro of the foreskin. Apparently, this to and fro stimulates some women as well as the foreskin owner.

    Many women who’ve had both say that a weekend of sex with a cut man leaves them feeling sore, even with a bladder infection, for a day or so afterwords. Even with lube. Many women with this complaint say they have no such side effects when the dude is intact. I surmise that we intact men thrust less deep and less hard, and find it easier to establish a rhythm with which the woman feels comfortable. Bottom line: a foreskin (with a kind man behind it) makes intercourse gentler and smoother.

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