It’s Time to Ban Circumcisions!
I was 13 when it happened. My family was on vacation in Germany to visit my brother who was stationed there in the Army. Germany has amazing indoor swimming pool complexes, so we went for an afternoon of fun.
After a good swim my dad and I went into the locker room where all the men and boys were changing clothes openly, without a hint of the modesty I was so accustomed to in the U.S.
That’s when I saw it. Another boy my age had skin covering his entire penis, seemingly dripping over it, to a point. My eyes darted around the room.
Everyone had the skin but me and my dad. I was shocked and quickly put on my clothes. The subsequent car ride down the autobahn to our next destination was full of fruitful discussions about why my parents had decided to cut off my penis skin. They gave me the usual speech, easier to clean, cultural norm, recommended by doctors, and so on.
Years passed before I had the opportunity to see an uncut penis again. I just arrived in Boston to attend college at the age of 17, and soon found myself in bed with a handsome 23-year-old Cuban-American guy whom I had met at a popular group for gay youth and young adults.
I had heard rumors that my new love interest had a huge penis. No surprise that I was eager to find out if it was true. I slept over at his house. Well, low and behold! It was indeed the biggest penis I have seen to date. By the time we got into bed, he was already erect. We fooled around, and nothing seemed unusual.
The next morning as he got out of bed, the sheets fell off his body. That’s when I noticed that the big penis was hiding its head in a sheath of foreskin! I waited to hear the shower before picking my phone to call my friend Jenn to tell her the shocking news. She wasn’t shocked though, and explained to me that many men are uncut and it’s normal, natural, and healthy. It triggered my memory of the German locker room. I had my "circumcision aha!" moment.
I still hold a little resentment towards my parents for cutting my penis. They are smart, progressive, people. Why on earth would they thoughtlessly cut off my penis skin without my consent? We’re not even Jewish.
Then again, everyone was doing it back then. And if I hadn’t been circumcised, it would have been one more thing about which the other kids in my rural Pennsylvania town would have harassed me. I understand the parental urge to do everything you can to ensure your kids are seen as "normal," but the older I grow the more I realize there is no "normal."
Among my peers and friends, I’ve noticed that a combination of religious-based sexual shame and misinterpretation of the studies on uncut penises contributes to the stereotype that they are somehow dirty and disease ridden.
My circle of friends, many of them gay men, all have an opinion about circumcision, and there is certainly no consensus.
Some of them still have prejudice against or fear of uncut penises. "Gross. Schmegma," one said to me. "Being cut reduces your chances of getting AIDS," said another. A club promoter friend of mine, who wanted to remain anonymous, said "It’s cleaner and prettier and that’s my boyfriend’s opinion too."
One of my best friends, Trevor Wright joked that he has a "well known uncut cock in the Boston gay scene." Currently, he’s trying to save a penis by convincing his brother to leave his son’s intact.
Trevor thinks many men’s aversion to uncut cut penises has to do with masculinity. "I feel like a lot of guys that are cut don’t want to think that there is something missing from their dick," he said, "because if they thought that or believed that then their masculinity would be in question. It perpetuates a culture of fathers wanting their babies to look like them."
Trevor Hoppe, a young academic researcher in gay men’s health and proud advocate for bottoms everywhere, was quick to chime in.
"I think it’s ironic that many American activists get up in arms about female circumcision in some African countries, while not batting an eye at the widespread circumcision of men in the United States. Many have responded that the operations are dramatically different in scope and medical risk, and I guess I would say in response to that, to try telling that to a man circumcised at birth who wishes they still had their foreskin."
A ballot measure will appear in San Francisco this November to ban circumcision, and other measures are being proposed nationwide. In my opinion, like marriage equality, it’s a shame that this something that is even being considered to be voted on. It should be blatantly obvious that adults don’t have the right to cut off baby’s penis skin without their consent. But in the guise of religious tolerance, politicians won’t touch that civil right with a, um, 10-foot pole.
In fact, with pressure from organized religion, the politicians and civil rights groups are lining up to speak out against circumcision bans, from the ACLU to every candidate for Mayor in San Francisco. I am sure 50 years from now when we have banned circumcision as has Australia (at least in its public hospitals), these organizations will look back on their positions with embarrassment.
For me, being pro-choice isn’t just about a woman’s right to chart her own reproductive health path; it’s about liberating all of us so that we have complete autonomy to choose what we do with our bodies. Let’s be real: We all know that few adult men would willingly go to the doctor to be circumcised. Why would anyone ask for up to 30 percent of their penis sensitivity and pleasure to be removed?
I take offense when people say I am intolerant of Jewish and Muslim faiths because I am against circumcision. It’s so hypocritical to say, "Well, if it’s for religious reasons then it’s OK." There are hundreds, if not thousands, of religious practices and rituals that we no longer tolerate as a part of modern-day society.
It used to be a religious norm to stone women for cheating on their husbands. When talking to Trevor Hoppe, he reiterated this point. "There are limits to religious freedom that have been adjudicated. For instance, you can’t deny a minor certain kinds of medical care because you morally object to the interventions," he said.
Ask any religious scholar who will tell you that traditions continue to evolve along with society - except maybe for the Amish. Where do we draw the line when it comes to religious freedom? I think cutting off baby’s penis skin is exactly where we draw that line because if we accept chopping penises as common practice what else will we accept?
The time is now that we as a society and we as a young generation must be brave enough to say no more circumcisions!