It’s Time to Understand
Hi Mom and Dad! It’s your 21-year-old son. The son you cried over when you first saw him exposed to the light of the world. The son you lovingly cared for as he grew out of infancy, watching him gain independence, make mature decisions, and turn into the handsome man you see when you close your eyes and picture him smiling. And finally, now, the son you are ready to let go of on a broader sense... Here I am, poised to make my big transition into the adult world, where from now on I am fully the product of my own decisions.
As my parents you have always wanted to protect me the very best you could: Yearly physicals, six-month dental checkups, eye exams, vaccinations, beware of strangers, etc… It seems as if our culture has the general instruction manual laid out for you. One culturally taboo part of this American Parenting manual, though, is flawed and outdated. When I was born, it seemed as if you had a decision to make: whether to circumcise me or not. The American medical industry pushes this decision upon new, scared, obedient parents, even when the rest of the Western world recommends against this procedure, and in reality, it isn’t a decision to be made at all. American doctors cite higher levels of hygiene and decreased risk of disease for circumcised men and their partners, two factors that are null and void in the elevated standard of living enjoyed by many Americans when compared to intact men. Also, by the time these concerns come to fruition, males are old enough learn about and practice safe sex, leaving no need for circumcision. All it takes is a little parental education on safe sex to nullify the medical benefits of a life-altering circumcision. But, there are many publicly accessible publications out there on these specific arguments already for you to judge yourself. I am here to share the story from my side, from the side of your son.
Many Americans are under-informed when it comes to the foreskin I was never given a chance to experience. “It’s just a bit of extra skin” is frequently the consensus. The reality is far from this simple statement. This little piece of skin on a baby can grow to upwards of 15 in^2 on an adult male and serves many important purposes. The foreskin protects the sensitive glans of the penis, allows for a gliding motion during intercourse for comfort, and is packed with many important nerve endings that provide stimulation and coordination during intercourse. When the foreskin is excised, all of these functions are lost, the glans is exposed, keratinizes, and loses much sensation, and a circular scar is left behind. Two very sensual pieces of the penis are also removed: the frenar band at the tip of the foreskin, and the foreskin’s tether - the frenulum. These two structures meet at an area seen as “the male G-spot” of the penis due to their nerve density and capacity to sense light touch. For circumcised men, these are gone forever, and sensitivity may continue to decrease with age due to exposure of parts meant to be protected. Again, there is plenty of literature on the losses from circumcision easily accessible to anyone, so I will move on.
Reflecting back, I can recall every single conversation that involved circumcision in my childhood … all the way back to when I first heard of the procedure at age 8 when my brother asked my mom a relevant question involving the topic, and thus a conversation ensued. From then until my junior year of college, I shelved these conversations on circumcision, burying them deep away because I hated what had been done to me too much to handle at the time. Then during junior year, circumstances changed, and it was time for me to face the reality that a choice about a very special part of my body was made for me that I would never have made myself. Never. With the Internet at my fingertips, I researched. I researched what I was missing. I researched how I have been affected by circumcision. I became depressed. I became angry. I experienced such a steep mental decline that I ended up seeing several mental health professionals, many of whom, including chief psychiatrists, only tried to preach to me the “medical benefits” of circumcision, or going so far as to blame my mental state on parental divorce.
I worsened. Mom and Dad were unable to help because my anger at them for making such a detrimental decision about my own body overpowered my logical side telling me that, though under-informed and influenced by the biased American medical system, they were only trying to protect me. I stopped sleeping, I stopped eating. I could not get the thoughts of circumcision and its changes to the penis out of my head. Not for a second. What pained me the most was how such changes can affect interactions with a partner. Intercourse is such a special act with the one you love, and without a foreskin the process can be hindered. It is not as smooth, tender, confortable, natural for both partners. That is what keeps me up the most. That is what makes me nauseous. That is what makes me cry. That is what pushed me to suicidal thoughts and onto anti-depressants while I work through the pain of my situation. I can’t explain the feelings I feel of missing out on such a symbolic part of being a man. Of course, sexuality is highly emotional as well as physical, but to have had my sexuality be unnecessarily handicapped and reduced physically pains me greatly. There is so much power in genitalia, and to have yours altered without consent hurts.
When I asked my Mom and Dad if they were warned about any mental health side effects of circumcision they both answered no. It hurt to hear that a human being’s thoughts on such a body alteration were never a consideration, either by doctors or parents. Though I harbor astronomical anger at your decision to circumcise me and your lack of outside thought at the time it was made, I am working on pacifying it. I forgive you Mom and Dad, I can’t imagine what pressures having a child puts you under, especially in those key moments. I am sorry for the hurt I have caused you as I move through this process. I love you Mom and Dad.
To all parents out there expecting a beautiful baby boy, I implore you to strongly consider his mental health alongside the questionable medical benefits circumcision provides. Culture is a strong force to fight, and old traditions die hard. But it is time for routine infant circumcision to end. There is no need for circumcision if you teach your son the values of safe sex and good hygiene. He will be beautiful, happy, and healthy being intact. To the many other men out there who have undergone a nonconsensual circumcision and are upset by it, an answer may be just around the corner. I encourage you to support companies such as Foregen that are working on engineering adult foreskin. This skin will be grown using your own DNA, and once ready can be fully reattached – nerves and all – hopefully in the near future! And to the rest of America, I ask you to open your eyes beyond this antiquated cultural practice and see what the international standard is for circumcision outside of religious circles. Think about the rights any person has to their own body. Think of your own. Think about the decisions that should be left up to your children as they grow up into to become the amazing adults they will surely be.
I am not alone.
Greyson is a 22 year old graduate of Colby College where he studied biology and music. He enjoys running, playing and creating music, sketching, and doing habitat modeling research. Greyson is passionate about intactivism because he believes the body is something sacred to its owner and that circumcision violates this inherent human right. His own negative experiences with being circumcised drove him to this realization, and though it is very difficult at times, he knows he has the ability to not only help himself but to reach out to others and help people understand the pitfalls of routine circumcision and help show other cut men that they are not alone.