Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Without My Turtleneck

by Patrick Hooper
posted with permission


Let’s talk about my penis. Once you’ve stopped vomiting, I’ll continue. I am circumcised. When I was a baby, my parents put me in the hands of a man who cut off part of my genitalia — the nerve-rich organ around the head of the penis called the foreskin.

When their firstborn son came into the world, my parents didn’t bat an eye at the notion of a stranger surgically altering my penis forever. I find that deeply disturbing.

If you don’t understand why, let’s look at the other side of the equation: female circumcision. In some corners of the world, young women have their clitorises severed for any number of reasons — godliness, cleanliness or a sign of maturity.

The United Nations and World Health Organization call it “female genital mutilation.” They won’t even acknowledge it as a valid medical procedure. It’s just barbarism to them.

I think most Americans would — and should — agree. There’s no compelling reason to inflict that kind of suffering on a young woman, yet it’s acceptable — even expected — to inflict it on a young boy.

Circumcision got its start as a religious ritual. Without the foreskin to heighten sexual pleasure, sex would become less interesting, and men would dedicate themselves to scripture.

But this is America! Separation of church and state! Freedom to choose! Pizza Hut and Starbucks!

How did circumcision take hold here in the U.S.? Let me begin answering that question with a question: Who here has seen The Road to Welville? Sir Anthony Hopkins is almost unrecognizable as the health nut, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the same man who made the cereal.

The actual Kellogg was a terrifying piece of work. This was a man who hated masturbation so much that he advocated the following: tying a child’s hands behind his or her back so that he or she could not masturbate at night, applying cage-like devices to the genitals, and rubbing acid on a girl’s clitoris, thus demonizing not just the act of masturbation, but its allure. He also believed circumcision should be performed without anesthetic so as to maximize the association of sexual arousal with physical pain.

It was this man — a man who could give Freddy Krueger nightmares — who became a linchpin in making circumcision a widely-practiced tradition in the United States.

But, let’s give Kellogg the benefit of the doubt. Even if he was 10 pounds of crazy in a 1-pound bag, I’m sure you’ve all heard that men with foreskin are prone to infections.

There’s actually a very simple solution to that concern. It’s called hygiene. Look it up.

If you never wash behind your ears or between your toes, your body is going to become a hotbed for all sorts of gnarly germs.

The idea that circumcision significantly reduces STI transmission is still a hotly-debated issue in the medical community. There have some saying foreskin is practically an HIV net, while others state there’s no difference between men who have it and men who don’t, and further studies show intact men with decreased HIV rates. [The circumcised U.S., for example, has significantly higher numbers of HIV than any other intact developed nation.] Even the experts don't always agree if each other’s methods or conclusions are sound.

Failing that, we have to fall back on good old common sense. Do you not want to get sick? Take a bath. Eat right. Wear a condom.

These are not mind-blowing or revolutionary concepts. Most people don’t go out of their way to do what is bad for themselves.

When you’re wounded, you don’t go jam the gaping wound into a septic tank, do you? Let’s not do that to our sons by slicing their penises and shoving that mess into a diaper.

If I ever have a son — and let’s be honest, that would be a disaster — I would lose him in a heartbeat if I took him to a tattoo parlor or a piercing place. A baby covered in tats and gauges would be hilarious, sad and illegal. The law would keep its pimp hand strong by slapping me with at least half a dozen child abuse charges. So, I’m not going to go the extra mile by letting someone mutilate his penis.

You’re not going to give your newborn a cosmetic nose job, are you?

You may be thinking, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and maybe you’re right. Maybe I would be embarrassed to have it. Maybe I wouldn’t mind it at all. Maybe I'd actually like it.

I have no way of knowing because no one ever gave me the opportunity to know. That choice was made for me when I was a small, defenseless baby who had no way of stopping a doctor from harming me in a way that would normally make us cringe.

That’s a crying shame.


Patrick Hooper is a senior at the University of Georgia.




More men voice their feelings about having their prepuce amputated as infants:

The Circumcision Secret

My Story of Ritual Abuse

Hundreds of Men Speak Out in this Class Action Lawsuit

Men sue those who cut them, and win.



FGM/MGM Comparisons:

FGM/MGM Similar Attitudes and Misconceptions

MGM/FGM A Visual Comparison

The History of Female Circumcision in the United States


CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision [DVD - watch abridged version online]

The Cut: FGM Documentary on Cutting Girls in Africa (justifications are the same as we often hear from those cutting boys in the United States)


For additional information on the prepuce organ ("foreskin" or "clitoral hood"), intact care, and circumcision see: Are You Fully Informed?


~~~~

32 comments:

  1. Thank you Patrick for speaking up and out against this horrific crime that continues to happen every day in this country (and around the world.)

    I applaud you for speaking out!

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  2. *applause* LOVE hearing a man's point of view. I am disgusted by the comments women make on Cafemom about men who are anti-circ.

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  3. Fantastic piece! Thank you for allowing us to enjoy your point of view.

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  4. Thank you so much, Patrick!

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  5. Thank you for posting this Patrick. I am so sorry that you had this happen to you.

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  6. Thank you Patrick. My husband has always said he wishes he had never been circumcised and I had such a conflict when I learned my little sister had her son circumcised the day before he was to leave NICU. I hate that anyone does this kind of unnecessary modification to infants simply because "he should look like his daddy." If I had had a son instead of a daughter, I would not have allowed this procedure.

    Thank you for so bravely speaking up.

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  7. Here's hoping more 20-something American men start speaking out like this. His common sense is in good working order.

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  8. I think that it is REALLY good for people to understand that circumcision was introduced in the US as a way to prevent masturbation and associate PAIN with sexual arousal...and that it was done to girls, too...

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  9. This is exactly why I didn't do it to my son. Good article.

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  10. We're about to have a baby and we both think it's a boy!! This article has definitely made my mind up to not circumcise our son (if that's what we have) and I'm sure my hubby will agree. The comparison to female circumcision is interesting. Thanks for the article!

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  11. my 2 yr old son thinks his Daddy is broken because he is circumcised.. we have never discussed this with him or anything but I love the fact he thinks he is the normal one and Daddy isn't :)

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  12. I just want to say that thanks to Peaceful Parenting, I have recently become a supporter of keeping boys intact. When I first started following the blog, I always got a little annoyed at the anti-circ posts, because I was one of those people who thought it was fine either way and that it should be a personal choice. Well not anymore, I just can't see any justification for it, and it's because of reading the posts from Peaceful Parenting. So thank you for enlightening me!

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  13. I'm currently 25weeks pregnant. When I found out (February 25th) I started doing a BOATLOAD of research over circumcision so I would be prepared if our little bean was a boy. I, like a lot of people, was fiercely misinformed on all aspects of circumcision. After discussing it with DH (who is circumcised) we decided we would never do that to our son. At 16weeks, we were told BOY and I was SO happy I was going to finally be able to put all of my circumcision education to good use! Having an intact son was going to feel so liberating, and I was armed with a massive arsenal of information for anyone who wanted to disagree with our decision. Then, at 22weeks, we were told GIRL and our little one is definitely ALL GIRL. Oh well...at least I'm educated! =)

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  14. I have also read about female circumcision from a magazine and I also could not fathom the pain that these women go through. It's really horrific. I also feel for you, I guess now parents should be more informed about the decisions that they are making for their kids.

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  15. Thank you, Patrick. We need more men speaking out. I was horrified to read a thread by some moms online the other day discussing circ and saying, "it's our family choice" and "it's no big deal." I had to chide them...how would they know it's no big deal? They're not the ones whose private parts are being altered. Maybe it will be a serious issue for their son when he's a man.

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  16. Thank you, Patrick. Maybe because you shared other boys will have their body and choice preserved for them. That's what it finally came down to for me as a parent--it's my son's penis and no one's preferences should matter except his.

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  17. I really like this article. It's brave in our culture and helps to chip away at the misconception that all circumcised men are happy about it and appreciate that their parents had it done when they were infants.

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  18. Why does he have to be self deprecating by writing "Once you've stopped vomiting..."? The negative "gross" perception of the penis is what perpetuates genital mutilation. Sure, his voice is important, but did he have to start by saying in essence that he is disgusting? He would only be disgusting if he were dead and rotting in the sun.

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  19. Go Dawgs, Go Patrick!

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  20. An intelligent article written without complex - this young man is going places.

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  21. Sharing. And yes, we boycott Kellogg's and have for quite a while. Not hard since their products are crap.

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  22. A well-written, informative article sans guilt-trip! I think this is my favorite intactivist one thus far.

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  23. Thank you for sharing, Patrick! We need more young men like you to speak up and stop this practice.

    You make the Dawg Nation proud!

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  24. Is there an article source specifically for the information about Dr. John Harvey Kellogg? I see it matches the information on wikipedia, but I'm trying to find a source that also includes his stance on circumcision and sexual pain referenced in this article. I don't doubt it's true in the least, I just want a source so I can share with other people.

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  25. Yvonne - here are some sources for more info on Kellogg -

    http://www.fact-index.com/c/ci/circumcision.html

    http://www.infocirc.org/vice.htm

    http://www.birthpsychology.com/birthscene/circ.html

    http://www.afraidtoask.com/masturbate/History.htm

    (Masturbation taboo & rise of circumcision) http://www.cirp.org/library/history/darby4/

    http://www.noharmm.org/separated.htm

    http://www.nndb.com/people/018/000133616/ (Note that Harvey calls masturbation "self abuse" so whenever this term is used that is what he is referring to).

    Several of the books on the history of circumcision linked here deal in depth with Kellogg

    http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=2

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  26. Thank you for sharing, Patrick. I'm pretty openly anti-circ and I catch a lot of, "It's our personal choice" and "you need to mind your own business, it's nothing like FGM" and on and on. I know I'm not winning friends, but maybe, just maybe, I am planting even a tiny seed that others might allow to grow with time and more research.

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  27. Excellent piece. Being female, I try to be mellow when I talk about circumcision because it feels kind of out of place for me to be outraged about something I don't directly experience. But it's so great to hear you speak out! Both my sons are intact and I hope I'm doing my part to break the cycle. Thanks, Patrick.

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  28. I have 3 sons, and my husband and I husband and I decided to keep them intact. Lately after reading so much information about circumcision, much from Peaceful Parenting, I have become more vocal against it, and I have tried to speak to my husband, who is circumcised, about it. Well, he absolutely cannot see the link between FGM and MGM and thinks the logic is absurd. He happened upon this article, as I had left my FB open and saw the title on my newsfeed, and he was quite angered that anyone could say that what he had undergone as an infant (and doesn't remember) in any way resembled the degree of suffering that a girl would go through in having FGM. I was quite unsuspecting of his reaction to reading this. He finally ended the conversation, as he was getting heated up and he did not feel that I was understanding him. He would not listen to my calm and logical (seemed like to me, logical) arguments that there are similarities between the two. His main argument was that FGM damages a woman so that she is unable to experience sexual pleasure and orgasm, whereas, obviously he is fine, has produced 5 children and has a great sex life. When I pointed out that he could not know what he is missing (but I do not want to dwell on that, as I love him as he is), he said it was baloney. {sigh} I have hope for our future generations where violence against newborns is no more....

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  29. Thank you, Patrick!

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  30. Anon -

    It is yet another myth that women who have lived through FGM are unable to experience sexual pleasure or orgasm. Most, in fact, do experience both - and many women living in the U.S. who were victims of FGM as infants do not even know something was taken from them until they find out through childbirth exams or something similar.

    The most common form of FGM amputates much less than the most common form of MGM (as inflicted on babies in the United States). The prepuce in women is much smaller than the prepuce in men (as is the glans). Both are equally as wrong and violations of human rights, but both were also started in an attempt to reduce the normal sexuality (desire and pleasure) in men and women.

    Men who have lived through MGM have certainly lost a large part of their normal sexual functioning and ability to experience pleasure and orgasm as nature intended them to. And their partners, also, are not privy to sex as it was meant to be. When we drastically change the form of men's bodies, we also alter function.

    More on how MGM impacts sexual intercourse (especially as men and their partners grow older) and the many ways it impacts women's experience of sex can be found here:

    http://www.drmomma.org/2009/07/how-male-circumcision-impacts-women.html

    Especially, "A Change in How Intercourse Works" -

    http://www.drmomma.org/2009/10/change-in-how-intercourse-works.html

    The book "Sex as nature intended" is another:

    http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20/detail/0970044216

    While FGM is absolutely horrific and should be banned right along side MGM world wide, it is actually MGM that impacts the form and functioning of sexual intercourse between heterosexual partners more than FGM does.

    One (FGM) mutilates the body of girls, while the other (MGM) mutilates the body of boys AND the experience of pleasure/orgasm/sensation for both parties involved while also changing the way sex is "done."

    There is a reason we see more anorgasmia (lack of orgasm) among women living in the United States with cut male partners than is found in any other (intact) nation in the world. Male circumcision hurts women too.

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  31. Thanks for your honesty. My husband is circumcised also, but we have 3 intact sons, and I am becoming more and more vocal about it to friends and family too. I think our children (male or female) have a right to genital integrity, and it is not our right as parents to do this to our babies.

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  32. Patrick: Please call me or my assistant Aubrey Taylor Terron at 404-524-5626. We need all the help we can get in Georgia. See www.thecircumcisionlawyer.com, my website.

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