As a society, we're mostly in denial about the fact that a large proportion of guys walking around today were traumatized shortly after birth by circumcision, performed in the hospital where they were born. In Canada, the medical profession didn't come out against circumcision until 1975. Despite official disapproval, babies are still circumcised for irrational reasons like "so he'll look like Daddy." There may be a tendency to joke this subject away, precisely because it is so painful, but unfortunately we now know thanks to recent anatomical research that removing babies' foreskins is not all that different from removing an eyelid or lip. All these structures contain sensitive nerve endings and a mucosal membrane for lubrication. The foreskin contains most of the specialized nerve endings needed for full sexual pleasure. Removing it is the equivalent, gals, of removing your clit. It's still often done without anaesthetic, even though the way the foreskin is attached to the penis in babies is similar to the way fingernails are attached to the nail bed.
Without the foreskin, men often lose even the reduced sensitivity they have left, since without protection the penis gets drier and tougher with age. Circumcision cuts down female pleasure, too - circumcised men have to thrust a lot harder, which can cause vaginal tears. Studies indicate that women with uncut partners come more.
Besides being unethical, since it removes healthy tissue without the informed consent of the patient, circumcision also has no demonstrated health benefits. It's kept going, say activists, by denial and our society's deep-seated anxiety about sex.
Fortunately, rates are dropping rapidly in Canada, though they're still at 60 per cent in the U.S. In the meantime, we have to come to terms with this poor decision made by our elders. It's important to realize that post-traumatic stress from the operation can linger into adulthood, exacerbating rage, fear, depression, low self-esteem or shame. And if you're a male who has trouble being sexually intimate or is chronically angry with women, this could be what ails you.
You might need a psychologist who recognizes circumcision trauma (see www.birthpsychology.com) a homeopath, acupuncturist, cranio-sacral therapist or body-based psychotherapist, because these modalities can address non- and pre-verbal experience. "Restoring" the foreskin through stretching what's left will provide protection for remaining sensitive nerves.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
"Not a single national medical organization in the world approves circumcision. The harm far outweighs any possible benefits in every case. The idea that sex with a circumcised partner prevents cervical cancer was shot down about 20 years ago. In an Israeli study, the incidence of urinary tract infection in men is higher after circumcision than before. A study surveying women found that men who were circumcised put so much effort into getting their own pleasure that they weren't actually making love to the women; the men who had their entire complement were more loving. The worst thing about this is that men have to face up to the fact that they've been diminished. We say, 'Men, it takes courage for someone who's been circumcised not to have his son circumcised. '"
GEORGE C. DENNISTON, MD, master of public health, founder and president, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, Port Townsend, WA
"Male satisfaction with circumcision depends on lack of awareness and knowledge about it. Men may also not be aware of how certain feelings are connected to circumcision, or they may be afraid of disclosing these feelings. One way someone can explore this is first to educate himself as to what circumcision is and talk about it with someone. As a man feels and shares more, the next step comes. Some men (eventually choose) to help raise awareness. Empowering oneself to do something about the situation can have therapeutic benefit."
RONALD GOLDMAN, psychologist, Circumcision Resource Center, Boston, author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective
"The mother-child bond is affected by circumcision because the baby is in pain for weeks after. Infants show a lowered ability to breast-feed because when held against the mother's body they experience pain. Imagine the effect on you when early hugging and feeding cause you to experience pain. In circumcising, the doctor often has to get the penis into a condition where he can handle it better. To do that, they often stroke the baby's penis and give him an erection. It might be the baby's first. The next thing he experiences is excruciating pain."
LAWRENCE BARICHELLO, executive director, Intact, Toronto
"Newborns have an exquisite sense of pain. Usually, circumcision is done without parents in the room, and babies are restrained. It sounds like torture, doesn't it? A baby's prefrontal cortex develops during the first 18 months. The prefrontal lobes are involved in making higher ethical decisions and forming intimate relationships. When a baby's needs aren't met, he develops high levels of stress hormones that can become toxic and prevent proper brain development. The impact of circumcision on the prefrontal lobes hasn't been researched. We know circumcision causes stress and raises stress levels thereafter."
LISA MURRAY-DORAN, naturopath, Ajax, continuing education instructor in natural parenting, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
"When people are reliving trauma, other things can come up. Sometimes, it appears to be the memory of being circumcised. I've only seen this a few times, but that was enough to alert me that men who have been circumcised may carry trauma with them. For those who remembered, it was a potent experience, though we don't know for sure it was related to circumcision. Reliving old trauma tends to provide relief. In the short run it's upsetting; in the long run you're able to release old crap."
TOM GOLDEN, clinical social worker, Washington, DC, expert in trauma, author, Swallowed By A Snake
"Chinese medicine looks at piercing and altering the body as adversely affecting energy flow. Your genitals are part of your liver and kidney meridians. This is a severe trauma that happens early. The memory of it would be so buried it would be hard to retrieve. You'd have to have done meditation or other work to remember. Acupuncture deals with trauma even if you're not aware of it; it helps move energy and remove blockages."
KALEB MONTGOMERY, doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, Toronto