Back to normal

b y P e t e r V o g e l

Many adult males were born during a time when 80% of baby boys in English-speaking countries were circumcised as a matter of routine. Now some of these men are angry about what was done to them. Peter Vogel discovered that some are even taking steps to restore what was taken from them at birth.

Most men these days agree that circumcision is not a good idea. When it comes to how men feel about having had their foreskin amputated, there is considerable division. Some men do not give their foreskin, or lack thereof, much thought. They consider it a fact over which they have no control, and one that doesn't particularly worry them. Others are very upset at having lost a part of one of their favourite organs, and harbour deep resentment that the medical establishment would want to do such a thing to them, with the consent and connivance of their parents. In this category there is a small but very determined group of men who have gone beyond lamenting their plight and are taking steps to restore their foreskin.

Peter Lawrence, a health educator living in Sydney, had felt the loss of his foreskin since an early age. "I had thought about it for a long time, since I first realised that the penis in its natural state is covered. I was told by my parents that it was done for half a dozen reasons, however I still felt that I would have liked to have been the natural way. I decided that when I got to a certain age, I would look for someone who could do microsurgery and attach this small amount of tissue. People can have fingers sewn back on, so a foreskin seemed such a minor job."

He learnt that foreskins can be restored surgically by grafting skin from the buttocks onto the penis. But the graft doesn't always take, and if it does take, it's a different colour from the rest of the penis. Then, after a bad experience with general anaesthetic, Peter thought he would have to abandon the idea.

In October 1993, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald told the story of Dr Jim Bigelow, an American professor of psychology, who had developed a technique for restoring his foreskin. His idea was that irrespective of how radical the circumcision was, the remaining skin of the penis can be stretched to form a surrogate foreskin. It is well known that if skin is placed under continuous tension, more skin grows. That is why facelifts only last a few years before the skin, under tension, produces more skin. Tribeswomen who place plates in their lips to stretch them know about this phenomenon. Jim Bigelow restored his foreskin over several years by stretching the existing skin. His technique involved attaching surgical tape to the skin in such a way as to keep it under forwards tension.

Peter wrote off to buy Bigelow's book, and it seemed to make sense. After a few months he could see definite progress. "I noticed an improvement in sensitivity in the first 6 months. I couldn't stand the feeling of water in the shower on my glans. I though of giving up, it was so uncomfortable. After another 6 months the glans looked new - it was shiny, and a deeper red. It was exquisitely sensitive but no longer unpleasant."

The main physical benefit men like Peter report from their new foreskin is increased sensitivity of the glans. The lack of the foreskin covering of the glans leads to it becoming dry and leathery like external skin rather than a moist and sensitive mucous membrane. This causes loss of sensitivity of the glans, reducing sensitivity during sex. Peter says that he hadn't previously felt a lack of sensitivity, because he'd known no different. "But once I'd experienced the change I could tell how much more sensitive it felt for me. All the men restoring who I know have reported the same discovery."

Some men might question whether having a more sensitive penis is in fact desirable. Peter says that the change has been one of different quality, not just quantity. "Several men have contacted me to share their experience that the orgasm with the foreskin over the glans is mindblowing. It's like orgasms within orgasms, they said. This is one of the milestones in circumcision reversal. Once the man has enough foreskin to cover the glans at the moment of ejaculation, it's a whole new experience. Since growing a foreskin, men notice that orgasm happens with less friction on the end of the penis and is aided by more pleasurable muscle contractions deep inside the abdomen. The focus moves off ejaculation onto the muscle bundles in the abdomen, and different shades of pleasure experienced within has been reported".

Peter Lawrence now runs a group called UNCIRC, which provides information for men wanting to restore their foreskins. At the moment, there are about 30 men in Australia slowly un-circumcising themselves by keeping their skin stretched 24 hours a day, maybe for several years.

So what makes some men so determined to go through with this laborious process? Surely the physical change alone could not be sufficient motivation. Peter Lawrence agrees that the reasons given by men for wanting to restore generally go beyond the physical and into the psychological realm. He says that beyond the physical changes, men report emotional changes such as a feeling of wholeness, improvement in body self-esteem, and feelings of equality with other men.

In every letter or every phone call to UNCIRC there are two messages that comes through all the time: "it should never have been done to me" and "I feel angry". Yet only a small percentage of those enquirers follow through to actually start restoring.

There are men who are angry about being circumcised, but seem stuck in blaming everything that isn't working in their lives on being circumcised. These men generally don't actually go ahead with the reversal. They also don't choose to go into therapy to resolve their various issues. Some fear for the effects on their relationships or the effects on themselves.

Many men think it would be good to have their foreskin back, but don't do it because they're not sufficiently motivated to carry out the daily procedure. Others don't want to do it because they fear that it will tap into unresolved emotional issues, says Peter Lawrence. "That's a Pandora's box for them. Some of them feel like Humpty-Dumpty - if it pulls them off the wall, they may never get the pieces back together".

When he conducts a workshop on restoration techniques, Peter Lawrence ensures there is a trained person around who can take care of someone that might regress. "Just talking about circumcision can be a vehicle to take the man back to the time of the circumcision or other early painful experiences. The circumcision reversal process could be a way of working through his emotional stuff. That's how it happened for me. It caused emotional havoc in my relationship and I was a very angry person for about a year. I put myself into therapy to work through the feelings of mutilation and anger. The therapist pointed out that the feelings I experienced were appropriate for someone sexually abused as a child. A person older than me had tied me down and cut part of my body."

Peter's experience is that the men who go through with foreskin restoration are not so focussed on that one aspect of their life; they acknowledge that there were other things in their life which have nothing to do with being circumcised. Like the circumcision it is undoing, foreskin restoration can be seen as a ritual act with deep symbolic meaning. The restoration can serve a purpose beyond undoing the damage. It becomes a ritual that focuses their other inner explorations.

Where is the outrage?

For more information about foreskin restoration, contact:


PO Box 938

Lane Cove NSW 2066

Phone: (02) 456 3969

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