Monday, 8 June 2015

Circumcision: After All These Years, I'll Go There

TRIGGER WARNING: This subject can set some people off like a burning stick in a box of fireworks.

I read a couple of articles recently about male circumcision. One against it over at RoK, and one in favour from Milo Yiannopoulos at Brietbart. Milo’s article was dismissed by a chunk of his commentators as click-bait in the worst taste, and that’s what it is. The RoK article hits all the minor points, and the commentators prattle on about the Bible and cultural practices. Look around the Net and you will find everything from mad conspiracy theorists to sound medical research.

I'm cut, and I've never really thought about it, but this time I got interested. So I read around a little.

If you think that male circumcision is a harmless cultural practice and anyway it doesn’t matter because babies don’t remember, then you may want to watch this video. I can watch film of births and surgical operations. I’m not squeamish. I jumped the intro to about 5:00 in and stopped it only seconds afterwards. You may also want to read some of the comments. Some are horrified, and some are deranged: all are strongly expressed.

Welcome back. I don't know which procedure they used on me, but now you know what I went through. As do I.

Circumcision is an operation on the second-most sensitive part of a man's body (after the eyes), it’s done on baby boys without anaesthetics and it’s not a five-minute job. An adult suffering that much pain involuntarily would be traumatised for a long while.

That much involuntary-inflicted pain changes the child's base hormone levels and gives him new, often dysfunctional, reflexes. This changes the way the child thinks, feels and reacts, to other people, its own emotions and everyday events. Glands, hormones, nerves and synapses don’t know they are only three weeks old, nor that this is a cultural tradition and so nothing to be scared about. Some of those babies may find their hormones and reflexes go back to normal, and they start trusting again, but others may never get over it.

If you've read the comments on that video, you'll gather that pro-cutters come across as deranged, lacking empathy, or just superficial. Here's Yiannopoulos being superficial...
Most men can barely last twenty thrusts… but those with snipped Johnsons tend, in my experience, to have significantly better stamina than their raincoated colleagues. (The research backs me up on this one.) In what world is climaxing sooner a good thing? Getting the chop does indeed reduce sensitivity up top. In the process, it makes you better at sex, and reduces the chance of you passing on anything nasty.
In what world is climaxing sooner a good thing? A world in which you barely climax at all. I’m cut and I was Mr All-Night. Only one of my girlfriends made me feel as if I was going to have an orgasm at a time that suited us both. With the others, it was all a bit hit and miss. Sex became something that was more enjoyable in the anticipation than the afterglow. When that starts to happen, it’s not long before the anticipation wanes as well. After a while, the sexual act itself became secondary to the rest of the experience. I was chasing girls for sex, but only because I’m a straight single man and it’s a reflex. I’ve read that cut men achieve orgasm as much as uncut men (I suspect some faking good in the interviews), but the same anecdotes say that we don’t get the same range of pleasurable sensations, and we are more focussed on the orgasm than the process. Which sounds like my entire life, never mind the sex.

As for the supposed benefits for sexual performance, here’s some research (see the link for references):
Several studies report that male circumcision also adversely affects female sexuality. Warren & Bigelow (1994) report the foreskin avoids problems with vaginal dryness. Fleiss & Hodges (2002) explain that the lack of gliding action in the circumcised male partner causes the taut shaft skin to drag the vaginal lubrication out of the vagina. O’Hara & O’Hara (1999) surveyed women in the United States who had had sex with both circumcised and intact partners. They report the women preferred the partner to be intact by a ratio of 8.6 to one. Women reported that they were more likely to be orgasmic and even have multiple orgasms when the male partner is intact. Bensley & Boyle (2001) surveyed 35 women in Australia who had sexual experience with both circumcised and intact partners. Eleven, who had a mean age of 27.3 years, indicated a preference for a circumcised partner. Eleven, who had a mean age of 36.4 years indicated they would choose a genitally intact partner. They reported that circumcised males are significantly less likely to use condoms because of concern about reduced penile sensitivity. In addition, the females were significantly more likely to report vaginal dryness with a circumcised partner. The experience reported with a circumcised male partner is similar to the symptoms of “female arousal disorder.” Female arousal disorder may be a normal response to sex with a circumcised male partner. Frisch et al. (2011) report that male circumcision is associated with “orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment".
The NHS stopped doing routine circumcision in 1950, and now regards it as a last-resort treatment for certain specific problems. I’m not Jewish, so I don’t know why I was cut. My father was intact. Back in those days doctors and hospitals differed and parents were more impressed by the Man In The White Coat. Has it affected the way I developed? Well, I've gone with YES for the quality of my sex life.

My state of mind? Hmmm. For around thirty years, I had low self-confidence, the feeling that the world was against me, that no-one could be trusted, I was turned-inwards, and had many of the symptoms of PTSD, though without the flashbacks. I had the occasional good patch, but in the same way the English weather is occasionally sunny. There was no event or period in my life which divided a happy before with a miserable after. I had always felt a mess. I could never remember a time when it was “all right”: it was always wrong. I had over thirty years of that. It started to fade as my alcoholism took off.

I’m sure there are cut men with sunny dispositions and happy lives, and I’m just as sure there are intact men who felt every bit as bad as I did: it’s not cause-and-effect on a species-wide scale. But then, some people die from gunshot wounds and some don't. That doesn't mean it's okay to shoot people, and then blame them for having the wrong reaction. Something happened and very early in my life. Unless there's a gene that makes young men feel the way I felt, I'll go with this.

I've kept this personal. Making it about gender, culture, politics or religion brings out far too many crazies and moral bankrupts. This isn't for them. It's for someone else out there without a foreskin, who wonders what the hell happened to him that made him so distrustful of adults and authority.

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