Circumcision: the debate continues

The article about foreskin restoration in the Winter '96 edition generated quite a bit of correspondence.

The case against

NOCIRC is an organisation devoted to eradicating circum-cision except in rare cases of medical necessity. Their position is that circumcision is illegal under the Human Tissue Act, the Skin Penetration Act, the Rights of the Child Act, and various international con-ventions.

The foreskin is an important part of the male anatomy. The foreskin is claimed to:

1) protect the infant penis from infection from faeces and irritation from ammoniacal diapers.

2) protect the glans from friction and chafing through-out life.

3) contain sebaceous glands which provide a lanolin like substance to protect, moisturise, and lubricate the glans.

4) unfold during an erection to provide additional skin to cover the erection without pain.

5) provide an aid to masturbation and foreplay.

6) by being richly enervated, be erogenous tissue in its own right.

7) keep the glans sensitive.

8) allow the penile shaft to move within the foreskin sheath during sexual intercourse, reducing friction and chafing. This enhances sexual pleasure for both parties, eliminates the need for vaginal "lube". In older couples who have trouble with vaginal dryness this is a great help.

9) help older men to obtain an erection.

Circumcision destroys these functions and renders the penis less functional.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of circumcision is the potential psychological aspect. As long ago as 1920 circumcision was recognised amongst psychologists as a highly abusive thing to do. Even though he was Jewish, Sigmund Freud didn't permit his own son to be circumcised. Psychologists in the early 20s warned very clearly that tampering with the genitals of babies of either sex could have devastating effects later on. Although some still argue that babies don't remember the pain of circumcision, considerable medical and physiological research indicates that the brain structures required for registering and remembering pain are well developed and functioning from the time of birth onwards.

Some psychologists and psychiatrists attribute various problems in later life to subconscious or conscious memory of circumcision. Dr Bigelow reports that in one survey, 52% of men who were dissatisfied with circumcision said that they resented their parents because they felt that their parents had a choice and did not protect them. Others claim that the memory of the pain of circumcision remains buried in the subconscious mind and can interfere with sexual pleasure. Also, given the importance of the penis in some men's body image, having a part of the penis missing could result in feelings of inadequacy.

According to Dr Bigelow, "Most men who say I'm circumcised and I'm just fine are either unaware as to how circumcision diminishes the penis or in denial in order to block out the pain and the feelings of hopelessness".

For more information, or to support the campaign, contact:


National Organisation of Circumcision Information Resource Centre

P.O. Box 248

Menai NSW 2234

Is "natural" always best?

Dave Wade is not convinced.

I was circumcised late in 1943, long before I tried my first ice-cream cone. Consequently, I can't tell you which I enjoy more. I have, however fathered three boys, and each of them were circumcised. As I remember it, there wasn't really any discussion about this, even though I was the first father to be allowed to "coach" the birth of his twin sons in a Kaiser hospital in California. That was so long ago, the twins are 26 years old now. And, I really appreciate that some things are natural, and I remember making love to my very own Berkeley woman in the forest, by the hidden hot springs, up "hidden canyon".

But, if what's natural is best, where do I put my Suzuki? It goes about 130 miles an hour, and it doesn't make a lot of noise... But nobody would say it's "natural" to see this white-haired fellow blasting past everything that moves up in the mountain passes at 130 miles an hour, leaning through the corners on "sticky" Dunlops, with a wicked grin on his lips, helmet vibrating in the slipstream, and the strain of an old folk song following him through the mountain passes...

We raised our kids on homemade granola, and Elk steaks, and Rabbit that we raised, butchered, and cooked ourselves. I think we did pretty well. But my best friend did about the same, and he was dead set against circumcision, and I'm sure his son wasn't circumcised. Back up at that Hot Springs, there was another couple there that weekend. The thing is, the lady had augmented her knockers, and she had the most stunning set of augmented knockers. And she made no pretences about them, she was proud and happy about how spectacular she seemed. I guess that is unnatural. I suspect she still thought it was better.

Tell me, if what's natural is best, why do you cut your hair? Why do you eat beef? (Los Ojo's Bar sells Buffalo meat, but it's not on the menu, you have to know to ask for it... "Los Ojo's Famous Jemez Burgers".)

Something missing

Tommy Jackson has been restoring his foreskin since May of 1995.

I am amazed that doctors will still perform circumcisions. I suspect it's because doctors do not wish to a) admit they were wrong b) lose out on a chance to make a buck. Perhaps it sounds crazy...but I think it might have a lot to do with the percentage of Jewish doctors. (No I am not the least bit anti-Semitic...I don't even think I personally know anyone who is Jewish..and it would not matter to me one bit if they were or were not)

I am 32. I became aware of foreskins at about the age of 11 or 12. I discovered that I was missing something around the age of 15 when I ... experienced "first hand" the beauty of the natural penis.

Most people don't realise what they are missing, because they never had the chance to experience how a natural penis operates. I hope that restoring my foreskin will give me a feeling of normality. So far, it's been slow and difficult to remain motivated. I feel silly about the whole thing.

I wish we could tell every pregnant mother we know the exact functions of the foreskin. Compare it to female circumcision. Mothers want to protect their babies and are thus subject to arguments which tug at their emotions. If they realise they are actually damaging their babies, then perhaps they will be less likely to go through with it.

We should also begin a legal campaign to protect babies against this unwarranted surgical procedure. I'd love to sue the doctor that did it to me, but my parents won't share that information with me.

I'm inclined to sue my parents as well. I have spoken to them about it. They laugh about it. They cannot see that they did something to me for which they had no right. This business about doing what they thought was best is a lot of nonsense - they acted without really thinking and did the typical thing. They treated the doctor as if he and his opinions were not to be questioned. I am actually more angry that I was born to nonthinking sheep than anything. Although, I really have a great lack of respect for the medical industry in general... this is just one example of unnecessary "procedures'... hysterectomies... gall bladder removal... tonsils... adenoids... bladder pinning. I really believe that the industry is like all others and out to make as much money as possible.

What I think is most disgusting is that the foreskins are SOLD. This is reprehensible.

I spread the word whenever I get the chance. They politely listen, but almost none change their minds. They treat me as if I am obsessed over something quite trivial...I politely tell them my dick isn't that small.

Jews have no choice

Stephen Scholem gives us a rundown on the background on circumcision in Judaism.

Although circumcision has been widely practised in Australia and America for social and health reasons it has been practised by Jews for over three thousand years for purely religious reasons. In the bible Abraham is commanded by God to circumcise himself and all his male descendants. This is stated to be as a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God. It is noteworthy that this sign is performed upon the organ of generation, the means by which future generations are produced. This is highly symbolic of the continuation of the group/religious/national/tribal tradition. Jews do not claim or intend any health or non religious benefits from circumcision.

The operation itself is performed by a religiously qualified and trained man who may or may not be medically qualified. The procedure is surrounded by rules and regulations aimed to minimise physical risk and maximise quick recovery. For example any jaundiced or obviously ill boy is not circumcised at the traditional eight days but circumcision is delayed until he is completely fit to withstand the operation. Sucking of blood from the wound, a rabbinic prescription, was performed to minimise bleeding and infection. Nowadays this is done symbolically with a plastic tube as the standards of antisepsis are in accord with modern medical practice. If a Jewish boy is born with a congenital absence of the foreskin, or if a previously circumcised man wants to convert to Judaism they still need to have a symbolic ceremony where a drop of blood is drawn from the penis, as it is the act of circumcision rather than the state of being circumcised which is religiously enjoined.

A Jewish boy is circumcised not just to look like his father but to be like his great-great-great... grandfathers for a hundred and twenty generations back and to fulfil the contract with God. Through most of those centuries Jews lived amongst other people who were not circumcised. Circumcision was a mark of separation of Jews from other nations and this separateness was desired by the religious authorities as a means of ensuring continuity of the Jewish people. In fact there is a general policy of discouraging circumcision amongst non Jews to emphasise the Jewishness of the act. This did not stop some Jews in some eras, for example the Greek period, from trying to uncircumcise themselves in the manner described in the article on circumcision in the last issue of Certified Male. They did this so they could assimilate more into the Greek or Roman culture where men would exercise naked in the gymnasiums. In World War II circumcision as an irrevocable mark of Jewishness sometimes made the difference between life and death, as the nazis would get men to drop their pants to see if they were Jewish. The film Europa Europa, which tells the true story of Solomon Perel, depicts his agonising efforts to hide his circumcised state as he tries to survive by passing for a non Jewish German in the middle of nazi Germany.

Of course many other cultures and religions, such as Islam and Australian Koories have circumcision as one of their rites. These tend to be at a later age, often at the onset of puberty. Whether the pain involved at these ages is greater or lesser than at eight days old, or is modified by the boy's presumed active willingness to undergo the procedure is something which I won't speculate about. For Jewish parents who want to continue their religion there is no choice whether or not to circumcise their sons.

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