Foreskin recovery: the "male infant circumcision fighting against the intactivists" Society


The media officer of one of the UK's top medical schools doesn't realize that she hasn't denied it while she puts me on hold.

She giggles with her colleague as she passes my request – to talk to a male circumcision expert – before informing me that they don't have one.

This prepaid flippancy celebrates repulsion in some areas of popular culture.

In one sex and in the city episode, Charlotte is so rejected by her lover's foreskin, she compares him to a "shar-pei", the analogy that cements Miranda's determination to circumcise her children.

It is written for entertainment value, but for Adam Zeldis, a 36-year-old New York software developer, it's not a laughing matter.

Many men circumcised as children "have a lighting when cultural blinders come off," he tells the Guardian. "I was a vulnerable 16 year old when I realized how much skin had been removed and that my bodily autonomy had been violated."

Georganne Chapin, who runs Intact America, often feels the degradation of the foreskin. "Men call us saying that their wives think it's disgusting and dirty and don't circumcise their children. It's sad," he says.

The "activists" (portmanteau of "intact" and "activist") are raising their voice in increasing numbers about male infant circumcision – but are they listened to?

Not according to Zeldis. "I felt immense loss and pain that I would never have been given the chance to experience sex in the way nature intended it. And no one in society cared. It was terribly insulating."

Adam Zeldis, 36, feels his "bodily autonomy violated" by his circumcision.

America is the western nation with the highest percentage of male infant circumcisions. Many do it for non-religious and non-therapeutic reasons. Due to the different localization measures and the non-uniform reporting of neonatal circumcisions, prevalence is difficult to measure accurately. An American health agency report in 2012 found that circumcisions decreased from around 60% in 2000 to 54.5% in 2009.

Madison Zaliski, 26, gave birth to her son in Arkansas eight months ago. Although he did not consent, he was "requested several times a day" when he was circumcised. "Most nurses thought it was an office mistake," he says.

The other notable Western nations that circumcise the boys are Canada and Australia. The Canadian Pediatric Society uses the 31.9% rate, based on research conducted in 2007. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians puts the percentage of Australia and New Zealand between 10% and 20%.

In the United Kingdom, the National Childbirth Trust estimates that 8.5% of men are circumcised. The NHS has stopped paying for it over the years.

& # 39; Create trauma, pain and risk & # 39;

Why do it? The most common answer is personalized: because Dad did it. Zeldis says this is the "response people like my parents give when they don't really know why".

Non-religious history, at least in America, derives from the Victorian myth that masturbation was dangerous because the loss of semen would weaken a boy permanently and threatened the moral order. It was thought that circumcision would somehow prevent masturbation. The sexual revolution of the years debunked this.

Chapin's passion for ending male infant circumcision came from his younger brother: "I remember seeing his bloody penis and being brought back to forcefully reopen his urethra, sealed as a result of his circumcision. The trauma kept coming back . "

She lists her reasons against the practice as a hunting rifle: "You can't go and cut off people's body parts without consent unless it kills them. It creates trauma, pain and risk. It permanently changes the body of a child and his sexual function and pleasure later in life. And it is a waste of medical resources – but American medicine is a money machine and if a procedure is repayable, it will happen ".

Georganne Chapin

Georganne Chapin directs the Intact America "intactivist" organization. Photo: Georganne Chapin

I repeatedly hear these reasons from opponents of circumcision.

Zeldis' adult perception of his operation is echoed in many of their stories: "Someone tied me and cut off part of my genitals with pliers and a knife, forever changing my sex life, for no reason. If you touch the fabric remaining, it is very sensitive – and this is most of what is left out. There is no "cut here" sign, so men are left with different versions of the procedure. "

Those who protest against circumcision have, since this year, fallen into two closely related fields.

The first group is those who wish to reformulate the vocabulary around "circumcision" in "male genital mutilation". The same lexicon occurs for these men: violation, non-consent, impairment, anger, impotence.

The second group is claiming the foreskin celebrating it. It is led by people like Damien Williams, 45, from Sydney. He tells the Guardian: "We have realized that we do not need to fight the battle against circumcision and we have decided to lay down our arms on that front. Let the circumcisors have that brand and all the cut, the blood, the fear, the pain and hatred for the human body that accompanies it Let them try to sell it to an audience that now embraces the positive body movement and has a healthy skepticism for people in white coats who sell them things they don't have need. We have made a pact to carry on a new brand: the foreskin! "

Part of the brand is the restoration of the foreskin for newborn cut men. Williams realized the need to do so because of the discomfort in his adolescence. "I was constantly irritated by my glans rubbing against my clothes. I also knew from this age that I should have a protective cover," he says.

Restoration techniques, which involve weighted traction devices inserted at the end of the penis, can be difficult. They didn't work for Zeldis. "It takes years of disciplined and dedicated practice that I haven't been able to give," he says. "These devices are uncomfortable to wear all day."

But for Williams it was revealing: "After getting enough foreskin restored, the main new experience for me in addition to protection was the rolling function, where the foreskin slides over the glans. I realized:" Oh , this is what a normal penis should do ".

He channeled his anger at that function that was "stolen" by him in the restoration process, which he finds psychologically healing.

The objectives of banning the practice of minors are likely to blame Islamophobia or anti-Semitism. But the United States Council of Muslim organizations said that "it is not a problem we have faced".

Although not mentioned in the Qur'an, circumcision is mentioned in the Sunna – the practice of Prophet Muhammad – and has been a religious habit since the beginning of Islam. It is made for cleaning; Muslims believe that removing the foreskin facilitates penile cleansing because urine and other substances cannot get trapped there.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, managing director of the American Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, explains the biblical reason for circumcision: "Since God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his family, this ritual has become a symbol of the alliance between God and the Jewish People From an esoteric perspective, the Jewish sages explained that man was created imperfectly – with the requirement of circumcision to achieve that perfection. "

Fogel says that "the opposition to it is more an expedient of anti-religious activists than a genuine concern for what is an invented problem".

When I put some of the language used by the opponents, he says: "Clearly it's not an" amputation ". Nor can it be considered in the same way as FGM (female genital mutilation). Subjected to birth, it does not constitute a serious abuse of the child, nor a significant health risk ".

A Jewish circumcision ceremony in Jerusalem.

A Jewish circumcision ceremony in Jerusalem. Photography: Eitan Simanor / Alamy Stock photo

Medical miracle or genital mutilation?

Medical opinions differ. Cheryl Gowar, of the National Aids Trust of the United Kingdom, states: "Male medical circumcision reduces the possibility of HIV transmission from HIV-positive women to HIV-negative men by about 50%. Circumcision can also reduce sexual transmission of HIV in men who have sex with men (for the insertive partner), although studies on this are inconclusive. "

The NHS, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Canadian Pediatric Department agree that the circumcision studies that reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases are inconclusive and spurious because they have been carried out in African countries such as Uganda, and more percentages high ISTs that are not comparable to Western countries. None of these organizations recommend the routine circumcision of newborn males.

The dott. Paul Bauert, a pediatrician, says that the Royal Australasian College of Physicians believes that the frequency of diseases that can be modified by circumcision (penile carcinoma, HIV, STI, IVU) and complication rates do not justify routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand . And, he says, "ethical and human rights concerns have been raised regarding elective male infant circumcision because it is recognized that the foreskin has a functional role."


Circumcision remains a religious custom in Islamic and Jewish faiths. Photography: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

That functional role includes a dispute over how many nerve endings the foreskin should improve function and sexual pleasure (estimates range between 20,000 and 100,000, making it the most sensitive part of the penis and an erogenous zone). But Chapin says: "How many nerve endings would do well? The body is designed this way, for that sexual function."

In addition to the potential loss of sensitivity, there are stories of painful erections. A she studies of 5,552 people found that circumcision was associated with frequent orgasmic difficulties in Danish men.

In Netflix American Circumcision documentary, for every doctor who makes claims about the benefits of male circumcision, there are three that dispute the risk-benefit ratio.

Intactivists and foreskin complainers are talking in higher numbers, but many will not.

Zeldis has a theory about why: "Most circumcised men are said to have been good to them. The alternative to this refusal involves admitting that you were hurt and sexually impaired as a child in one of your most sensitive areas .

"Many men don't want to deal with this psychologically. It's overwhelming."

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