A FRACTURED SOUL
By Max Fairshield
TRIGGER WARNING: This piece was written by a victim of male genital mutilation and contains content that may be upsetting for regret parents. Although parts are difficult to read, we felt it was important for the author to be able to share his truth.
Since I have begun researching and speaking out about a topic of importance, I have heard many people say so many horrible, insensitive things. I have heard parents speak sentences that no caring, sane parent should utter. I have seen people torn apart psychologically and emotionally. I have seen and felt true suffering. At the heart of it all is one single word, one word that carries a million feelings and emotions. That word is circumcision.
What is the first thought or feeling that crosses your mind when reading the word circumcision? Most people are quick to crack a joke or brush it off. But what if I told you that word means absolute hell for some people? It’s time people listened to the truth about that word and everything it stands for. Every person needs to listen and understand that circumcision is no joke. It isn’t something to take lightly. And it absolutely isn’t something to ignore. The blind acceptance of circumcision shows that America has reached a new level of ignorance, lack of moral reflection, and empathy. After all, how else could parents and medical professionals not question this practice? How can our moral compass be so skewed that we consider cutting healthy body parts off of children acceptable, with no thought for how the child himself may feel about having lost part of his genitals once he learns the truth?
When I was born I was circumcised, as were most males at the time. Whether it was done out of tradition, religion, or because of medical advice, it was the fate of most males born in the U.S. But there is one massive misconception about circumcision: it is often assumed that all those males are happy to be circumcised. My message is very simple. Circumcision is something that infuriates, damages, traumatizes, and violates many men. Obviously many are not bothered by it, and why would they be? They are told repeatedly that they are cleaner, safer, better in every way for being circumcised. And when has anyone ever told them otherwise? So of course many men would never have cause to question it. But there are thousands upon thousands of us who feel very differently, and it is unfair to ignore those who are upset by circumcision just because others aren’t. You may be reading and thinking that this topic isn’t a big deal, but that is where you are wrong. For thousands of men, this is the thing that ruins their lives. It’s alright if you don’t understand; after all, many of those suffering men stay very quiet. But not me. I want to explain to you what goes unseen and ignored by society. I want to explain to you just how terribly some men suffer due to being circumcised.
To many of us, our bodies are very important. We treasure them and many even consider them the most important thing in the world. But there are those of us who treasure every single part. Just the thought that a part was cut off of us is unimaginable. It breaks every barrier there is. We could care less for reasoning — all that matters to us is that our bodies were violated. Many of us even go as far as to call it mutilation, and based on how damaged we feel, it really is. There are seven feelings that a man who is circumcised has to suffer. They are the feeling of violation, the feeling of abuse, the feeling of powerlessness, the feeling of worthlessness, the feeling of loss, the feeling of absolute anger, and the feeling of injustice. Each one is separate but always present, and together they can completely destroy a person psychologically and emotionally. Together they form a trauma that fractures a person’s soul, leaving them an empty suffering husk of what they should have been. Since so many people are reluctant to speak out, or too weak to face the additional pain of describing their feelings, I am going to spell it all out for you right here, right now.
The word violation is defined as “the act of ignoring or interfering with a person’s rights” and “the act of showing disrespect for something, usually by damaging it.” We feel like we were disrespected, and frankly that’s because we absolutely were. There are a lot of commonly accepted social barriers and rules in life. For the most part they are there for a reason and greatly benefit every person and society as a whole. The most basic of those rules and barriers are usually referred to in some way as rights. Taking it one step further, the most important and inherent of those rights are referred to as human rights and are defined as things a person is entitled to simply by being human. Many people view bodily autonomy as the most important human right. It provides the most basic kind of security – the protection from someone else doing something to your body that you do not want done. To a lot of men, circumcision violated this basic human right; it did something to their body that they didn’t want done. Many circumcised men feel violated and believe that someone else forcing something on their body that they did not (and still do not) want crosses that barrier. If you’re thinking, “So what, they feel violated. That’s no big deal,” then let me explain what the feeling of violation does to a person. From personal experience I can tell you feeling violated destroys a person’s piece of mind. The simplest example is how families feel after a home invasion. Even if no one was hurt and nothing was taken, that family still is significantly impacted. They no longer feel safe or at home in their own house. They are constantly worried about it happening again and no matter how secure and safe they actually are, they feel as if someone is waiting behind every door. That’s how men who are bothered by being circumcised feel. We are always on our toes, and we never feel safe no matter where we are or who we are with. To us we feel like any day, at any moment, someone could violate our bodies again. You lose that sense of safety, that piece of mind in your own body. It’s different than paranoia, though. Paranoia is mostly unfounded worry or fear. To us, the fact that it happened once proves that it’s a legitimate fear and can happen again. Imagine always feeling threatened, always being on edge and never feeling safe. No person should ever have to feel that way, yet thousands of men do, and they are going to have to for the rest of their lives.
Many men feel that circumcision is abuse, defined as the “cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal.” This claim seems to anger the most amount of people in my experience. Nobody wants to consider something regularly done to children as abuse, especially when the person hearing it may have circumcised their own son. All of a sudden they feel like they are being accused of something terrible, and quite frankly they are. But realistically how is it not abuse when it is the needless destruction of a body part without consent? It doesn’t have to be done, so the necessity defense is out of the question. Furthermore, circumcision also fits the definition of violence, or “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt or damage someone or something.” How so, you might ask? Circumcision is a physical procedure that requires using force to damage and ultimately destroy a child’s foreskin. Just because our society does not view the foreskin is valuable to its owner, that doesn’t negate the fact that it was, in fact, destroyed. Just because the person causing the harm doesn’t care about the foreskin and views it as disposable, doesn’t mean that a violent act was not carried out against it and its owner. If a rapist views a person as worthless and doesn’t care about their victim or view the act as violent, then is the person being raped not experiencing violence? Are they not being raped simply because the rapist doesn’t see it that way? Of course not! The viewpoint of the person doing the action should never be the deciding factor. What’s important are the feelings of the person to whom the action is being done, the person who has to live forever with it. So when a man says he considers circumcision abuse, when he says he considers it cruel and violent, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If the actions were done to a victim, and the victim himself perceives the actions as cruel and violent, then how dare anyone try to say it isn’t abuse! When someone tells a man that is suffering due to being circumcised that he wasn’t abused, it’s akin to telling the rape victim that s/he wasn’t actually raped. Men who feel abused have to deal with people constantly dismissing their emotions and feelings. What’s worse is that they often are lashed out at by parents who don’t want to face the reality of what they did. It shouldn’t matter that people don’t want to view circumcision as abuse just so they don’t have to live with any guilt or regret. If you forced circumcision onto someone who didn’t consent, and they tell you they consider it abuse, then guess what? You abused that person, and there are no if, ands, or buts about it. As uncomfortable and damaging a realization it is for parents, remember that there is a victim who may be suffering much more than you. Men who are upset over being circumcised reasonably feel abused, but have to deal with unreasonable treatment by society, and especially by their parents. Imagine waking up every day feeling harmed and damaged, and all you receive is hateful anger instead of reasonable sympathy.
Men who are circumcised and wish they weren’t feel powerless and helpless. There is very little we can do to change what was done to us. We can’t get back what was lost. Correction: we can’t get back what was taken from us. One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel attacked and damaged, and to know there was absolutely no possible way you could have saved yourself, to know that you were completely at someone else’s mercy, and yet received none in return. The realization that someone so effortlessly, so easily and unobstructed, was able to cut parts of your body off, and that you never even had a fighting chance is crushing. You feel like you can’t do anything after that. Your self-esteem and your confidence are forever crippled. You never stop feeling tiny, vulnerable, and weak. You feel like if you can’t even stop someone from stealing and destroying parts of yourself, then how could you possibly have enough strength and power to do anything in life? I’m an undergrad with a nearly 4.0 GPA in a rigorous program. Peers look at me with jealously, but I wonder what they would think if they knew I’m always convinced that I’m going to fail. What if they knew I feel like a complete idiot who can’t do anything right? All I do is fear failing, which I think of as an inevitability, not just a possibility. I feel weak and helpless, nor can I recall the last time I was ever confident about doing something. No matter what I achieve, all my accomplishments feel like failures. That’s what circumcision can do to a man. It can make him feel so weak so helpless, that any and every success or achievement feels the same as absolute misery and failure.
When someone goes as far as to alter your very body, to change “you” without “you” having any say, you feel like worthless trash. You don’t feel like a human being anymore. You feel like a piece of property, but not like a slave. Slave would be too positive a word for the way you feel about yourself, because at least a slave has some value to his or her owner. You feel like a worthless possession that is given no respect. After all, literal parts of “you” were cut, clamped, and sliced off like garbage. The fact that no one respected my body or my future thoughts and feelings makes me feel worthless. What better way to tell someone that they don’t matter, that their views, thoughts, opinions, and feelings about their very own body are worthless than to strap them down and alter whatever parts you don’t like? People make far too many assumptions, especially parents. There is absolutely no possible way anyone can tell what a child will want or how they will think in the future. I have heard the phrase “He will thank me when he is older” come out of too many parents’ mouths. The fact is you can’t possibly know that. It’s a complete guess, which makes that statement a complete lie with the sole purpose of making parents feel better about forcing their decisions and preferences onto their child’s body. Nothing says “I love and respect you” quite like cosmetically altering someone’s body permanently, hours after being born. Honestly I feel more like a puppet than a son, something to be dressed up and made to look perfect in “their” eyes. I’m just a tool for my parents to show off their preferences to the world. They didn’t give a damn about what I might think or want. That’s what true worthlessness feels like. You’re an object to be used and altered and discarded by others. Your own thoughts, opinions, and desires are treated as meaningless. When a male is altered without making the decision himself, he is doomed to feel worthless and objectified if he doesn’t like the alterations forced upon him.
All men who are circumcised have lost something. As much as some don’t want to hear this, the foreskin is a normal, natural, healthy, and functional part of the human body. All males are born with it, unless they have a birth defect; thus, having it cut off is obviously a loss. But for men who acknowledge the importance, benefits, and functions of the foreskin, it’s much more than just a simple lost item. It is a part without which you feel incomplete, inadequate, damaged. It is a missing piece of the puzzle, and the puzzle is you. This is the hardest thing for men who are circumcised and content with their situation to understand. I have been asked by a lot of men, “Why do you even want a foreskin?” My answer is pretty straightforward. I want to know what I’m missing. I want to know how my body was supposed to look and feel, as nature intended. I want to know what natural lubrication, tens of thousands of additional pleasure nerves, and the natural gliding motion of the foreskin feels like. I always wonder how these men are so sure circumcised is better. If they don’t have a foreskin, then how do they not wonder what they are missing? I don’t know how it would feel or if it would change things, but the simple truth is I really want to know, and I had a right to know. To me, a natural body is a valuable and important thing. Every man who thinks the same considers not having a foreskin a huge loss, if for no other reason than he will never be able to know what it really would feel like to have his whole body. Even if you hated the feeling of foreskin — which is highly unlikely considering its sexual functions — you could always decide to get circumcised yourself. Then there’s no doubt, no wondering, no other person playing God with your body. Thus, for many of us males, who at the very least are curious about what nature intended for our bodies, being circumcised is a loss, and one that we are reminded of every day. We will always have that feeling that something is missing, and that we are missing out on a lot. That feeling alone drives some men into depression.
In my personal opinion if I had to choose a worst feeling out of the seven, then anger would be it. The anger men who are unhappy being circumcised feel on a daily basis is frankly scary. It overpowers everything else. When you’re angry about something you consider so personal and damaging, it starts to be all you remember feeling. I honestly don’t want to talk about how huge of an impact the anger alone has had on my life. But if people are to truly understand how horrible and damaging circumcision can be, I can’t leave it out. The anger is worst when you’re reminded of what was done to you and when you’re around those responsible. The anger I have for my parent’s boarders on absolute hatred. It’s extremely hard to pretend that I am not suffering while in front of them. It takes its toll to stare at someone, to talk with them and try to suppress the urge to break out every swear word and insult in the English language, the urge to grab whatever’s closest to you are hurl it at them. The nightmares are by far the worst, however. The human mind has a tendency not to hold back while dreaming. Frankly the nightmares get so terrible I dread sleeping, and I pray no one ever finds out how dark they get some nights. Then you have to wake up every morning with the shame and regret and horror that your mind actually conjured up such a thing, even while unconscious. They are things you would never do in a million years, but at the same time they make you feel like a terrible person just for having thought them. When someone does something as terrible as damage your very body on purpose, it outweighs any and everything they have ever done for you or can do for you. Some parents ask what they can do to make up for it, but there may be nothing they can do. Once you make the decision to mutilate someone’s body, the victim will be scarred forever. The sad truth is all you can do is help them deal with the scars, help them seek closure, and pray for their forgiveness. Showing love, support, and acknowledging their feelings will help them cope, whereas dismissing their pain can lead to anger so strong that it can tear people and families apart. But no amount of regret can make scars vanish. This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth, and that’s why it is so important to speak out. Listen to the pain and suffering of victims and of those who made this mistake already so no more blood or tears have to be spilt during a time that should be nothing but joy and happiness. Sadly, instead many parents struggle to accept the fact that they hurt their son, which is what really keeps circumcision going in my mind. No one wants to end the practice because that would require acknowledging and admitting that our society is sick and twisted, and that a majority of the people in it have done horrific things to their own helpless defenseless children. Not many want to admit that, so denial is the only alternative.
The hardest part for many men who are horrified that they were circumcised is that no matter how terrible and hurt they feel, they will never have any closure or justice. Circumcision isn’t illegal, and therefore you would be hard pressed to find an attorney willing to help you sue over it; believe me, I have tried. When a person feels attacked and damaged in the most intimate, personal way possible and can’t do a damn thing to seek justice, it makes it difficult or impossible to heal. At least with other forms of abuse or mutilation, people will get prosecuted or suffer some sort of social or legal consequence. With circumcision, men not only have to live feeling mutilated, they also have to live knowing that the person who did it and the people responsible are untouchable, and that their attackers received compensation instead of punishment. Do you have any idea what it’s like knowing you can just casually run into the person who took a knife to your body, against your will, at the grocery store? I actually have once - I was a few feet from him picking out food, and luckily for him, I didn’t know it was him at the time. I don’t care where you stand on the circumcision debate; can you even begin to comprehend the kind of hell it is to feel mutilated and being unable to do anything to get back at the people responsible? Imagine if you were attacked today by someone who took a knife and cut off part of your body. How would you feel if you went to the police, lawyers, and anyone who would listen, but instead of helping you, they ignored or even mocked and ridiculed you? What if they said things like, "It's okay, that man is a doctor!" or, “You’ll thank him one day!” That is how thousands of men feel right now, and how they probably will feel forever. Is it still a laughing matter to you? Because regardless what you think, for a lot of men it’s no joke - it’s their body and their life and their feelings. They perceive it as mutilation and are traumatized by it, and that’s serious whether or not you feel the same.
All seven of those feelings destroy men from the inside out. The emotions and feelings impact every aspect of life. I still have to live with my parents and I purposely skip meal after meal. The thought of eating food that they paid for and prepared sickens me. Receiving anything at all from them feels like some kind of insult. I don’t want to owe those monsters anything, and if that means going to bed hungry, then fine. If I have to stay in my room for entire days to avoid having to look at them then fine. The only people I hate even more are doctors. Parents might make the decision, but doctors push for it and actually perform it. They aren’t even human in my eyes, just sickening monsters that taint and harm society.
Men who are traumatized due to circumcised usually end up pretty hollow. We live with no trust in anyone, no respect for anyone, and no love for anyone or anything. Frankly I’m not sure if you can really even call that living at all. We spend our time searching for anything that makes the pain and suffering go away, or at least distracts us from it in the moment. And nothing makes us feel worse than when we learn of a parent who is going to force the hell we live with onto their new son. It’s heartbreaking to try to explain how harmful and devastating circumcision can be only to receive replies such as “He is my child, and it’s my decision.” Parents too often talk as if their children were property. I wish I could call child protective services on them, but they are more likely to haul parents away for not circumcising their sons. Then you get the people who get pissed when you try and bring up the topic of circumcision. They reply that “It’s a personal choice and there’s nothing wrong with it.” To them, I say that a “personal choice” not made by the “person” himself is wrong. Any “personal choice” that causes feelings of violation, abuse, powerlessness, worthlessness, loss, anger, and injustice in another person is a problem. Not all men are happy being circumcised. And for those who aren’t, life becomes barely worth living. Circumcision isn’t just harmful, immoral, unethical, and unnecessary; it is indeed mutilation. And it does more than harm males physically — for some, it fractures their very souls.
How does the word circumcision make you feel now?