Thursday, May 13, 2010

An email about circumcision

About a week and a half ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

Like nearly all white Midwestern Americans born in the late 1970's, I was circumcised at birth. It bothers me that I had no say in the matter and that the procedure is still performed on millions of American infants each year, largely for cosmetic reasons. I am vocal in my opposition to the procedure, but my boyfriend can't comprehend why it bothers me. He thinks I should just forget about it and let life go on and let others do as they want. I don't want to sit back and let the same thing happen to others. What makes things worse is that there is widespread speculation that the American Academy of Paediatrics may actually begin to recommend the procedure in a new policy on male circumcision that is expected out this summer. What is your opinion on the matter? We are not in the middle of Africa were HIV is rampant, and I don't buy the cleanliness argument in this century where there is ready access to water for washing. I've heard that many Britons that think we are crazy in the US to continue the procedure. Would a recommendation for male circumcision make Britons think Americans have gone completely off the deep end? Now that circumcision rates have decreased in the UK for a few generations, do you think there is any danger that Britons will begin to adopt the practice widely?

Thanks for your advice,

Although I've had this blog about gay life for over 5 years now, I've actually never blogged about circumcision. So I guess this post is long overdue :-).

Over the years, I've enjoyed activities with both cut and uncut guys. Looking back, it would have been interesting to have kept a record of what types of guys were cut and what types of guys were uncut, but of course I haven't done that. In terms of enjoying the activities with all the different guys, I'm being quite honest when I say that it's never made much difference to me, because I've always focussed on the guy himself rather than the details of his apparatus. The only thing that I can think of is that I've found it easier to give unfamiliar equipment a hand job when the guy is uncircumcised!

America certainly isn't the only country that routinely circumcises its male children. Although my impression is that British and other European guys tend to be uncut, I'm pretty sure that some East Asian countries also circumcise most of their boys, although since I haven't kept records I'm not absolutely certain. It's also obviously the norm in Islamic countries and Israel. However, I'd be very surprised if it were to become standard in the UK during my lifetime. Perhaps because it's not standard over here I don't think British guys think about it very much, so I doubt that we'd think that Americans are crazy if they do start recommending it. For me, the fact that Americans still can't spell 'colour' after all these years is much more curious.

I can't help wondering what grounds there might be for the American Academy of Paediatrics to make circumcision the recommended policy. I've heard that circumcision makes HIV transmission slightly less likely. Apparently the HIV virus quickly dies when it's outside the body, but when it ends up on a guy's helmet underneath his foreskin, I think it's easier for it to find its way inside his body before it dies. As the reader says, in a modern society where guys wash regularly and change their underwear more than once a week, the cleanliness argument seems a bit weak. In terms of aesthetic appeal and cosmetic beauty, I suppose again I slightly prefer guys to be uncut, in the same way that a car looks better when the engine is under the bonnet rather than out in the open.

I've always wondered if there's any difference in orgasmic sensitivity between circumcised and uncircumcised guys. The fact that an uncircumcised guy's helmet is protected under his foreskin might mean that it's more sensitive than a circumcised guy's helmet, so perhaps it's more fun to be uncircumcised because one might expect that a circumcised guy's helmet gradually becomes slightly desensitised. It would be interesting to hear from any readers that were circumcised during adulthood whether they think there's an effect on sensitivity or not.

Regarding circumcision on religious grounds, I'm very much against it. More generally, I'm against anything that differentiates one set of people from another set of people, because that leads to divisions and ultimately wars! So I support the French for banning religious headscarves on girls in schools, given that most female French students don't wear headscarves. But perhaps in terms of circumcision, that means that all guys need to be circumcised, because I don't see how families can be banned from circumcising their male children.

Another thought is evolution. After several billion years of evolution, guys are born with foreskins,. Presumably this means that there's a good reason for them to be there. This means that unless there's a very good reason to cut them off, surely it makes sense to leave them alone.

Looking at all the different aspects that I've mentioned above, although I don't feel particularly strongly about it, if pushed to make a decision my vote would be for guys to wear foreskins rather than take them off. After all, avoiding circumcision means that a guy's got something else that can be fun to play with :-). For example, does anyone enjoy docking?

Finally, perceptive readers will realise that I've written this entire posting without divulging whether I'm circumcised or not. So you'll all just have to guess!

Do any readers have any views on circumcision?


Anonymous said...

This site is good at explaining the generally unknown sexual functions that the foreskin provides. It's not just there to protect and lubricate...

Mind Of Mine said...

I am from Ireland and I have never in my life come across someone who has been circumsised.

I am extremely curious and would a most definately like to have sex with someone who has been circumsised.

Anonymous said...

I'm writing from Nairobi, Kenya, which definitely isn't in the midst of the jungle and rife with HIV. I was in possession of my foreskin until the age of 21. I was pressurised into having it getting cut considering that up to that point I'd been with an American, an Iranian Jew, a white Kenyan (yes, we have those), a boy from central Kenya and and Israeli. All said cultures are really big on circumcision, which made me really self conscious. It was expecially hard using a urinal for instance because majority of men in Kenya are cut, leading to really funny stares from other guys in the loo. That and the fact that I'd been led to believe (quite wrongly) that it looks much better circumcised. So I bowed to pressure.

I attended boarding school in Kenya from the age of 8 and then in England from the age of 13. At prep school most boys were cut but my father was fundamentally against it. In England, a tiny percentage of boys at school were cut (roughly 30% in my house-yes, communal showers were the highlight of my day). I didn't think much about it from age 13 to age 21 when I returned home from university and began sampling what was on offer here.

I can't tell differences in sensitivity before and after. I've honestly forgotten. I certainly take longer cumming, which I think is a good thing because I can prolong the fun. As for the cleanliness debate, well, I 'm a bit of a neat freaks and germophobe so two showers a day even in the winter is the norm, and (why am I writing this?), I always drain with loo paper after I pee and shake so that I don't get a single drop in my pants. So issues of smegma and other horrors were not my lot, but I have to say, my dick is less moist and I feel much more comfortable with underwear that's always spring fresh.

I've developed a foreskin fetish now, hence I've been with succession after succession of European men. I do enjoy docking with my current boyfriend. We just lie in bed in the morning and I slide his foreskin over my glands, nothing else. It's really and intimate :).

I'm kind of tired of the pro-con debate and I'll not be regrowing my foreskin, but I'd definitely prefer interesting activities with a man who has one.

Adventures In Gay Dating said...

Like you, I've never really cared one way or the other if the guy is circumcised or not. Though... if I'm going to bottom, uncut guys seem to be easier to "accommodate".

Anonymous said...

I think a circumcised cock looks better than an uncut cock. Just my preference. Uncut cock can be painful when the foreskin is pulled way back.

Anonymous said...

Foreskin yum-yum

liminalD said...

My parents had me and my brothers circumcised as babies on the advisement of their church Pastor. I am very, VERY angry about it.

My glans is almost completely desensitised from exposure, which makes sex/masturbation downright frustrating, you still want the release but there simply is none.

I grew up completely self-conscious about it, because it made me different and other boys noticed and teased me about it in school changing rooms, and this has had a lasting psychological impact. I have anxiety issues around sex and nudity (I can't even get dressed in the same room as my partner) and has led to extreme self-consciousness (I CANNOT have sex with the lights on), which all places unnecessary additional strain my adult relationships.

I'm also furious that ANY parent would feel they have a right to physically alter their child's body. As far as I'm concerned it's child abuse, plain and simple, particularly when it's done for religious reasons. I mean, how DARE you presume to make your child's religious choices for them?

I'm in therapy for this and consequent sexuality/gender issues, having finally identified many of the childhood causes of my neuroses through several years of counselling.

Circumcision fucks people up. Don't support it. Equally however, don't discriminate against the guys it's been done to (and there is a lot of that in gay media and communities). If someone chooses it as an adult, fine, but don't inflict it on kids.

It's barbaric.

yoshi said...

It bothers me that I had no say in the matter

Hate to break it to you but your parents made a lot of decisions you had no say in it. Such as choosing to have you in the first place. Being born was pretty terrifying as well. How many other things are you angry with them about?

Circumcision is not brutal. Its most likely the safest procedure a male could ever have. Usually those who have issues with it already carry baggage from something else.

Now you can legitimately argue if its a necessary procedure or not. I would say there are pluses and minuses on either side. But the simple fact remains that 99.9+% of males who have had the procedure done have never thought twice about the issue. And positive and negative experiences regarding either state is largely anecdotal.

For the record I'm circumcised - so is my boyfriend. And yet we made it this far in our lives without it being an issue.

Art said...

Don't know where Yoshi gets statistics that 99.9% of those circumcised never think about it? Statistics also show there have been numerous botched circumcisions where individuals have had too much skin removed, or even on rare occurrences, botched procedures, infections, or amputations of the penis...
I tend to agree with most of the people writing, and you, GB, that the foreskin is there for a reason, and should not be tampered with. Supposedly one loses 30% of the sensory nerves in the penis, from circumcision, and I don't believe that an unnecessary operation should be inflicted on those that have no say in the matter - yes, if an individual develops problems like phimosis, that is a different matter.

(Would bet you are uncircumcised!, GB)...

Latelygay said...

It's true that few Irish guys are cut but I'm one of them. My brothers also. The background is my dad was circumcised for medical reasons when he was about four. We were circumcised shortly after birth for consistency sake.

Getting angry about such a thing strikes me as so futile. I could get angry about only having six inches whereas my three brothers all have a good eight or nine inches. Yeah, I can be as angry as I like but it won't change the size of my will and you can have the ninniest of fits but it won't grow you a new foreskin.

Yes, the process definitely affects the sensitivity of the cock head - blow jobs never do a huge amount for me - and I do need gentle handling if someone is playing with me, but a good lube usually helps.

As I say, we work with what we've got!

Partner wise, I do prefer the look of a cut cock and I get freaked sometimes by guys who have a big fleshy foreskin which can be about as attractive as an elephants scrotum.

What a wonderful comment to be writing on my office pc!!

Soul Seared Dreamer said...

You're British & from my experience too few have been circumcised. Since you've not really given an indication of how much it kills to have it done (and I can't imagine you were cut when you were born)I'll go for you being uncut.

Sir Wobin said...

Dear reader, we think Americans are crazy for electing Bush Jr. You know, actually electing him for his second term as opposed to letting him scuttle into the presidency sideways. You knew what he was like from the first term and wanted more? ;-)

GB, your second para after the letter says something about uncut and unfamiliar. I thought you'd be well acquainted with how it all worked by now. I'm guessing cut.

Will said...

I'm a standard circumcised-at-birth American male, and I wish I hadn't been. I believe it is mutilation. I'm not obsessed with it because the cut penis I've got has taken me where I want to go successfully and often.

I love the look of uncut cock, however. I think it's very beautiful and am always delighted and excited when a new sexmate pulls off the briefs and reveals a handsome foreskin. It gives me lots more to do and to play with while doing oral or giving a hand job. And it's just the way a man was supposed to look, to be.

Jos said...

I was cut at birth and I have no problems about it. However my partner is uncut and has a nice foreskin that I enjoy playing with.
I am not certain how great a difference it makes to the transmition of HIV but any possitive difference has to be a bonus and I believe Bill Gates is funding projects in Africa to encourage men to be circumcised.

By the way I guess GB is cut like me.

Z said...

I met an oral expert in London once who was specifically looking for uncut Americans online. He said that uncut British guys weren't very clean down there. I have not encountered very many uncut guys in the UK but I have seen quite a few Brits having a wee at the urinals and it amazes me how few A) draw back their foreskin to pee and B) how many leave the bathroom without washing heir hands.

Anonymous said...

I was circumcised as an adult for medical reasons by a doctor here in the UK. I was unsure how things would be after the procedure was carried out but I have to say that I am delighted with the result. I now have what I would call a low maintenance penis which is much simpler to keep clean and smelling fresh. I would say that sex is now much better that it was with a foreskin. Whilst I am in the minority here in the UK I have grown to love my new look and think that it is actually more masculine that it was with the hood in place.
CH London

Anonymous said...

Nature Really Likes Male Circumcisions

Way down under in Melbourne, Australia is the story of a tightly done male adult circumcision of the ultimate kind. You'll never believe the story … or will you?
Around 17 years ago, I became aware that circumcision was of interest to me. How to go about it ? What an embarrassment, how to sneak into a Doctor cost etc. I became more and more frustrated, as I knew I wanted it done. Australia is a hot climate too and I wanted a slick model penis, not a sock, at half mast. I had learnt from school that I was bisexual, I would use the odd opportunity to check out and occasionally talk another classmate into pulling down his pants and letting me give him oral sex. Both circumcised and uncircumcised, although I didn’t know what circumcision was then, I was only ten ! We start pretty early in Australia !
Anyway back to circumcision. I became more and more, frustrated and there didn’t seem to be a way of resolving the issue. Then I had a bereavement in the family. If I couldn’t solve this simple problem… It was a question of honor.
So what I did may surprise many. I am an everyday kind of bloke, a family now, job and the rest of it. So don’t be too shocked. Where there is a will there is a way.
I had been researching on the net at the time and I was reading and seeing pics of tribal and African circumcisions. There are great stories of the Tuli in the Philippines and also teens putting their penis on a log with a piece of twine and the elder slicing off the foreskin, high and tight, leaving a terrific red patched scar.
I decided after much viewing and research that this is what I wanted. I was a bit far from the Philippines and Africa, so this is what happened.
One long weekend when there was a Public holiday, I decided to have a go myself. This is not for the faint hearted.
On the Friday night, I did the usual, a few beers then came home. I opened a bottle of white wine and proceeded to watch an x-rated video. Of course with a long ring barked cock or two. After a while I was ready. A bit of popper amyl and I was more or less ready to have a go. At circumcision.
I knew the skin would be sensitive, so I had purchased from an adult store, delay spray. This I think had lidocaine like when you get Suntan mozzie burns cream from the supermarket only stronger. I applied it to my foreskin until the end of my cock felt number, than usual. Another drink and some poppers, a look at the tightly taut scarred cocks on the TV screen and it was time. Time to join the rest of my male brothers on the planet with a permanently forever nude glans and a stripped pointed helmety penis. Intention purple glans to always lead the way, from that night on or else.
I sized and drew a line working out where to cut and checked this out numerous times. Another drink, more amyl and an inspection of the video playing and I was ready.
I took a very sharp pair a medium size sewing scissors and sat down. Carefully lining them up, I very slowly, and I mean really slowly, put them through the line on the foreskin I had drawn. I had already pulled the foreskin as hard as I ever could in front of my glans.
Slowly but surely I got the job done. Everything dropped back behind my glans and my foreskin lay on a tissue. A dream come true. I couldn’t believe my absolute relief and satisfaction.
All this time later nearly two decades on, I am still happy. A couple a days later, I consulted a friendly doctor and some stitches were added on the quiet to complete the job.
Result is I have a very tightly circumcised penis, with absolutely no frenulum or foreskin.
The absolute tightest male circumcision possible, for myself and any partner I should choose, whether it be female or male. Amazingly there is no two tone scar and the circumcision join is one color and height. No different levels of skin height or misalignment.
Nature really does like circumcisions.