Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting personal: my own circumcision story

I always had a negative feeling towards circumcision. I wished I had not been circumcised, even if I didn't really have a rational reason for that at the time. But this is how it happened.

According to my calculations, I was 5 or 6 years old. I was either in kindergarten or 1st grade when it happened.

The memories at that age are not linear. We remember some details and not others. Stories start in a certain point and finish at something else, and we can't put it together in our timeline.

I was at the doctor. I knew the doctor: he was related to my family.

Was it night? Were we at his house? Or was this at his practice or a hospital? I don't know.

By the time this memory starts, I'm not wearing pants. I was being explained that I had phimosis, and they were going to cut a part of my penis.

"Don't cut my pee pee", I cried.

At that age, children cry by the sight of a single drop of blood if they pinch their finger with a needle. The idea of a "cut" and my "pee pee" just didn't go well together.

It was not my whole penis, they clarified. It was just "un cuerito" (a little flap of skin).

I cried again: "no, leave it like that, I like it like that, it's pretty like that"

They kept explaining that if they didn't do it, they would have to insert a needle in my penis for me to urinate. I kept crying. From what I remember I figured I needed to escape. I tried to run from wherever I was. (Is this part of the memory a fabrication? I don't know). The nurse ran behind me. I was held. Everything went black.

I don't remember more.

I can only speculate. Did they held me by force? Did they injected anesthesia? Did someone cover my eyes? Because, if I had seen it, how would I forget it?

(I've learned that I was sedated. How exactly, I don't know. Nor I understand why nobody from my family was there to comfort me, to help me calm down, or why the doctor didn't call them to help me relax. Or why nobody ever talked to me about this anymore.)

I have another "floating memory" of me lying in a bed, without pants, telling my grandma: "me duele este huesito" (this little bone hurts), and her responding "that's not a little bone".

Some time goes by and I'm visiting my friend Guido, a Bolivian kid. While I was very modest, for some reason this one time we used the bathroom together. We were both peeing at the same time. I pointed at my penis and said: "this is called circumcision". He said his parents had done it to him as well, but it had grown again.

For some time I secretly hoped mine would grow again. I realize now, years and years later, that he had probably been retracted by his parents, and that's what he was referring to. We were kids, what did we know?

In 5th grade we had a doctor come to our school. I took an appointment. He asked about my medical history, including if I had any surgeries. I said "no". Then when he did the physical exam, he asked me why I had said I had no surgeries when I was circumcised. I said I didn't know that circumcision was a surgery.

I became a teenager. I learned about masturbation because I would pull my skin to cover my glans trying to look uncircumcised. The skin would retract immediately, and I tried again. It felt nice. I kept repeating it and suddenly I ejaculated for the first time. I talked about this experience with my best friend. We talked about everything and all the time.

I knew that the head of my penis had more girth than the shaft, and I realized the apparent contradiction of the glans having to go in and out of the foreskin. I kept asking my friend how that was even possible, but he couldn't understand what I was asking. I guess what I couldn't understand was that the skin is somewhat flexible and the opening expands to allow the glans to come out when pushed by the growing shaft, and contracts after the glans retracts.

What I did notice one time was that his glans was shiny and slightly purple. Just not the same color as the skin. My glans was dry and the same color of my skin. We were only teenagers.

I had my first girlfriend at 18, and we had sex for the first time when I was 19. I asked her afterwards if she had noticed that I was circumcised. She was not concerned about it but she noticed.

It would be 7 years until this topic came out in another relationship. My girlfriend when I was 26 pointed: "that is your scar". I didn't know what she was referring to. My circumcision scar, that big scar that goes around the penis, between the skin of the shaft and the glans in all circumcised men.

As an adult, I often dream back to the high school years. I feel that my inner me is still a teenager.

In one of my dreams, a doctor comes to the classroom to perform circumcisions. All the kids crowd around the teacher's desk, and this doctor pulls a guillotine looking device to circumcise kid after kid. I don't know if I'm supposed to go because I am already circumcised, but I go just to ask. However I don't even have the time to ask: I'm circumcised again. When I look at my penis, it has something like a head on top of a head.

Hilarious as that image might be, it's also disturbing. Thinking about it now, I think it points to a trauma.

I had my son. Circumcision never came because in my country it is not a routine practice, but I knew I wanted my son to be intact.

I moved to the United States, at age 29 (year 2000). During the first years I kept reading and reading stuff on the internet, and I learned about "foreskin restoration". I thought it was cool. I wanted to have a foreskin. But the idea of spending 3 or 4 years with a daily routine with "complicated" devices just seemed overwhelming, and I didn't even had a "rational" reason to have a foreskin in the first place.

I just didn't know I had one.

One time I was motivated after reading about the "multiple O rings" method. I went to the hardware store but I couldn't figure out which O rings I would need, so I put it off again.

There was also the canister method (using medical tape and a film canister). I got a canister and bought some tape, but the whole idea of taping just didn't work with me.

This topic went again to the back  burner, where things flow in spirals and if you don't catch them when you see them, you can be sure they will come back to haunt you later on.

During these years in the United States, I had been to nudist resorts. Most men were circumcised there. Okay, I felt less weird. I noticed that when I saw someone who was not circumcised, I tended to peek. I was curious about uncircumcised penises.

Some friends were gay, and when I met some of them, upon learning that I was South American, the next question would almost always be if I was uncut. Hmm, so I'm not the only one that's curious about intact penises.

A friend had 2 sons. One day they came to visit. The youngest one still wore diapers, and my friend had to change his diaper. I noticed that the baby was circumcised. I wondered why, but I didn't ask. Were they circumcising all the babies?

Later on, a coworker and his wife had a baby. He told us he would be late on a certain date because he would be taking his son to be circumcised. This time I asked why, but even though I was emotionally against it, I had no rational arguments. Maybe it was cleaner.

So I turn 40, and I'm following a blog by Dr. Gloria Brame, "The truth about sex", and she mentions in a post how the routine circumcision of babies in the United States began as a way of "curing" boys from masturbation. Oh wow, that's strange.

Google came handy. I was against it right away, because, come on, this was based from the beginning not in science, but in a moral judgement by extremists.

Reading about the risks, the pain... And drawing from my own experience, it seemed clear: circumcising babies was cruel and pointless. I was glad my son had not been circumcised. A doctor had recently asked why I didn't have him circumcised, and I said it was not customary in my country. I wish I had that doctor in front of me again to give him some real facts!

One thing I started finding over and over: men's testimonials about how circumcision had affected their lives and their sexuality.

Some things resonated: masturbation being more difficult. The frenulum being the most sensitive spot of the penis. The dry and rough skin of the glans.

Maybe my own sexual life had been impacted by this and I didn't even knew it.

Then I remembered restoration. I didn't want to be circumcised anymore. It shouldn't be that hard. I read again about the multiple O rings. I went to the hardware store. I bought 3 boxes of different sizes of O-rings. I got started right away.

My routine was to put on a ring (and later two or three or more) as soon as I got out of the shower, and keep them on until just before bed. I only have to take them off to use the bathroom, and putting them on again takes about 30 seconds.

I would now look at my body in the mirror while wearing the rings, and I knew I wanted to look like that. I always wanted to look like that, with an intact penis.

When a doctor cuts a foreskin, the baby may grow old. But it's always the baby or the child the one who suffered the loss. It doesn't matter how strong you are: it was your inner baby's loss.

Restoration showed it's first benefits almost immediately. My glans soon became softer by the simple fact of being covered all the time. The sensation of touching it was nicer.

Then one day I had to take off the rings earlier, and later on as I was driving, I noticed a particular sensation. I knew that my skin had to be covering part of my glans. I had never felt that before. I got home and went to the bathroom to check. Sure enough, the skin was spontaneously covering around half of my glans. The touch between the skin and the glans was pleasurable, like a tickle that was always there overlayed to anything that I was doing or watching or thinking. I liked feeling it.

I would experience this again often. Most of the times when not wearing the rings, the skin just falls back behind the corona. There are now more wrinkles and more skin than before, but still not a lot. But sometimes it spontaneously falls over the glans, and it's little sparks of pleasure.

Restoring has enabled me to see myself as I always wanted to perceive myself. I feel empowered, less of a victim than before. Things happened, but I'm rebuilding my body. And I have experienced sensations in a part of my body that I didn't even have 3 months ago.

Every day I'm more convinced that routine circumcision is cruel and violates the children's right to have a whole body. I know that in some instances it might be needed to treat some conditions. In those cases, it's better to do it than not to do it. However most of the routine circumcisions had no reason of being.

Did I really have phimosis when I was a child? Nowadays phimosis is not diagnosed until after puberty. Did I develop acquired phimosis as a result of repeated forced retraction? I remember my mom asking me one time if it burned when I urinated, but I don't know if this was prior to or after being circumcised. I always thought that because of my mom being away from her husband and not really experienced in having men around, maybe she had not been able to keep the hygiene that I needed and because of that I had to be circumcised. Now, I wonder if she was overzealous in cleaning me and that caused acquired phimosis. Or if she was sold into the "it's more clean, it's more healthy" propaganda, and the doctor was just telling me that I might suffer of phimosis in the future. I know that she has a heart of gold and would never do anything to hurt her son, but I also know that she grew up in a family where the only man was her dad, and she didn't have a lot of information on sex. My dad traveled overseas when I was 2 years, so he wasn't there at the time of my circumcision. And I don't know whether he is circumcised or not.

With my own son, the pediatrician thought us to retract and clean his foreskin when we bathed him. I'm glad we really didn't follow through, now that I understand the danger of forced retraction.

I know that being circumcised I missed on aspects of sexuality that my intact friends took for granted. I think it's extremely selfish to impose that on children who are only beginning their lives, who have no idea of what's happening to them, and who have no need for the procedure.

When I discuss circumcision of babies in online forums, I'm moved by compassion: I suffered a loss, and I know many individuals like me who are aware of their own loss, and sometimes they endured more terrible consequences of the operation. I wish for this to stop. I wish that those babies who are being born won't look at themselves in the mirror in fifteen or twenty years to see a scar on their penis and have to wonder why that was done to them.

I have nothing to win. I have nothing to lose. I fight against routine infant circumcision because it's just fair. Babies can't defend themselves, so someone should do it. The cycle needs to stop.

I often find people who respond with contempt: "it's just a penis, get over it". What they don't understand is that they are victimizing a victim. We didn't choose to be circumcised. It was imposed on us, and some are happy about it and some aren't, that's not the issue. The issue is that we did not have a word on what our body was going to be like. So when they say: "it's just a penis", I have to wonder: what if it was just an eye. Or just a finger. Or just a toe. Or just an ear. Or just a nipple.

Why is the penis so maligned? All men love their own penises. But socially it is so acceptable to despise male sexuality and males in general. Males are supposed to be tough. But the foreskins are not taken from the men, they are taken from the babies, and the babies remain inside the men crying for their mutilation. Why can't we respect that?

It's their body. Unless a medical condition develops, it should be their choice.


  1. We all have a story. But not all of us know what that story is.

    You have found your story and are writing the end to be the way you want it. Good luck as you finish your foreskin restoration and keep on tugging.

  2. "Males are supposed to be tough. But the foreskins are not taken from the men, they are taken from the babies, and the babies remain inside the men crying for their mutilation."

    Thank you for putting that thought into words. I was three days old and under seven pounds.

  3. sad story, beautifully written.

  4. Thank you for your story, sad, familiar, beautifully written. I am so glad you found your way to restoration. Ii is so encouraging for me as a nurse who witnessed this atrocity on infants boys and men to see so many coming to grips with circumcision and restore.
    One thing we are discovering is that the nerves in both dermal and mucosal layers stretch too, and restorers have a better result than was originally imagined.

  5. I have learned a lot from educated women sex radicals like Dr Gloria Glick Brame, a secular Jew and a woman who who has turned her back on Jewish and American infant circumcision. Women like her have actually bitten into the forbidden fruit; they have dated intact men. (They are easy to find: Latinos, and foreign students at any university). Other sex radicals who have concluded that men with all the factory installed moving parts are fine, include Trish Causey, Betty Dodson, Carlin Ross, La La Lola on Topix (proudly Jewish and also a nurse in a urology practice), and the Great Cyberwhore, Nina Hartley. The novelist Jane Smiley. Betty Dodson, the Great Mother of sex positive feminism, waxes very eloquent on YouTube about the delights of foreskin in the bedroom.