“I am deeply troubled by having been circumcised as an infant. It causes me distress on a daily basis and interferes with my ability to enjoy life. Can you suggest a professional who can help me?”
Those of us who write about circumcision receive notes like this regularly. My colleague, John Geisheker, has suggestions for men in this situation. These are his comments. I hope readers will find them helpful.
"The international physicians’ organization, Doctors Opposing Circumcision (D.O.C.), receives numerous inquiries each month from young men who feel aggrieved by their infant circumcision and who seek legal and medical advice or counseling.
Some young men were never told what happened to them as infants. They assumed during childhood that what they saw when unclothed is what every male sees. Some young men, perhaps when traveling abroad or after an early romantic encounter, discover to their horror that part of them is missing. These ‘late discoverers’ are often the most distressed of all our correspondents.
Most of the young men who write us have already begun the ‘obsessive epiphany’ --as we call it— feverishly researching their injury late into the night, and becoming more horrified with each new revelation, perhaps taking months of late nights. The search term ‘male circumcision’ has produced nearly 1.5 million hits halfway through 2015.
Many of the medical professionals who support D.O.C. have –ironically– had the same experience. We mourned the personal loss too and vowed to do something to help others. Even if it proves disconcerting, we believe it is healthy to find out the truth – if only to save the next generation from this historical scourge, a scourge that plagues English-speaking countries (as well as those countries who subscribe to ancient Abrahamic rites.).
Here is what we recommend as therapy for the distressed, and we hope that those of you in current distress will not think we are being heartlessly practical and failing to be sensitive to your unique needs.
FIRST, MAKE YOUR DISCONTENT KNOWN.
By doing so you will clarify your own thoughts as well as provide courage for others to share their experiences. One of the (many) problems with circumcision is that circumcised men often suffer in silence, for fear of being thought weak or weird if they complain.
But it is especially important to inform young parents-to-be. They need to know that circumcision is not benign and that their infant will one day be a man who might not appreciate being sexually ‘de-tuned’ for anti-sexual, cosmetic, 19th-century, cultural-conformity reasons. It is only by a groundswell of discontent that the 150-year momentum of ‘medicalized’ circumcision will be slowed and eventually stopped.
There are numerous places on the net where you might post (anonymously if you need to) your discontent about your own situation. This sharing has genuine therapeutic value, for you and for others.
For example, go to “Men Do Complain,” a British site, and tell your story.
There are many other sites where your story will be welcomed and you may find some measure of solace.
SECOND, CONSIDER NON-SURGICAL FORESKIN RESTORATION.
Over 50,000 U.S. men are restoring, though most do so quietly, without fanfare, as you’d expect. All non-surgical methods rely on the fact that, under gentle tension, skin cells are stimulated to multiply. The result is sometimes called a ‘faux-skin’ since it does not have the muscles and acutely sensitive nerves of the original. Restoration provides, however, a measure of protection and relief, both physical and psychological. Restored men report improved body image and markedly increased sensation, flexibility, comfort and protection from abrasion. They like the fact they were resourceful and ‘fixed’ themselves.
Done properly, non-surgical foreskin restoration is very safe, and we at D.O.C. endorse it heartily. (We strenuously warn against surgical restoration, a bad idea for numerous reasons.) If it hurts, the restorer is proceeding incorrectly, too aggressively, or impatiently. The best advice seems to be to restore (or gently ‘tug’ as restorers say), for some hours each day, and then provide a period without tension for the tissue to ‘relax.’ The process should be entirely painless and you should not even notice you are restoring on any given day.
An easy search on the web (23,000 results in mid-2015) will turn up lots of devices and methods to choose from, and advice from restoration groups who will provide encouragement as well.
Foreskin restoration is simple, safe, cheap, effective, and therapeutic (and over two-thousand years old), but takes time –upwards of two years– and requires patience. Its peculiar downside is that –since it needs to become a routine like brushing your teeth– it is also a daily reminder of your injury. Restorers need to consider whether they are prepared for that challenge.
(And a final caveat: the typical medical provider in your area will be both unaware of non-surgical foreskin restoration and –very likely– hostile to the idea as an affront to his or her profession. Plunge on anyway, despite this disapproval. You do not need medical permission –or guidance– to restore.)
THIRD, GET INVOLVED IN THE ‘INTACTIVIST’ CAUSE.
This can be done anonymously online by joining a national group, or by donating to the major organizations like NOCIRC, (the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers); NORM, (the National Organization of Restoring Men); D.O.C.; A.R.C., (Attorneys for the Rights of the Child); or Intact America. It might be as simple as a regular donation, or more intensive, like studying the issue carefully so that you become a credible resource for other people in your community.
Or –if it suits your temperament– as ‘in-your-face’ as performing as one of the ‘Blood-Stained Men’ at a public appearance in your region.
We at D.O.C. wish aggrieved, young, circumcised men the very best of luck in their recovery, and hope that it will be speedy, restorative, and ultimately calming. Of course we also hope that young families will remember to protect their children from non-therapeutic, unnecessary, merely cultural, genital reduction surgeries, and encourage others to protect children too.
--John V. Geisheker, JD, LL.M
Executive Director, General Counsel
Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Seattle, Washington, USA