Circumcision Info Net/95.02.18
Sat, 18 Feb 1995 06:36:58 GMT
Circumcision Information Network
Volume 2, Number 6, 18 February 1995
This weekly bulletin is a project of CIN, the Circumcision Information
Network. Its purpose is to educate the public about and to protect children
from genital mutilation. Readers are encouraged to copy and redistribute it.
--Rich Angell, Editor.
SCHOEN ZAPPED; NOHARMM PLEASANTLY SURPRISED
Compiled by reports from NOHARMM founder Tim Hammond and a NOHARMM member:
On February 15th, seven NOHARMM field workers rallied at Kaiser Permanente
hospital in Oakland, California, where the most vocal proponent of newborn
circumcision, Edgar Schoen, gave an "in-service" training session on
circumcision to the doctors and nurses working there. During the speech
itself, the team marched outside the entrance to the hospital carrying signs
and a NOHARMM banner with a large picture of a baby being circumcised with a
Gomco clamp on his penis. One of the team carried a portable sound system
that broadcast the screams of a baby being circumcised to help bring home the
horror of the picture on the banner. It worked. Many passers-by showed
facial signs of upset, and some put their hands over their ears, but it was
the message, not the volume that made them do that. Many people stopped to
say they agreed that circumcision is painfully wrong.
At the end of the hour, the team infiltrated the room where the meeting was
being held, but did not interrupt the speaker. When he called for questions
from the floor, several young doctors started to ask questions about the
problems of circumcision. When it was clear Dr. Schoen was evading the
issues, Tim Hammond, director of NOHARMM, seized the floor and pointed out
that long term harm does exist, and that several men in the room had been
affected by it. Then those men stood up to say that they had personally been
harmed. One of them described his situation and the surgeries he had to
endure to try to correct the problems, and accused Dr. Schoen of trying to
push "genital abuse". Schoen was stunned, silenced and visibly shaken by the
confrontation. The meeting ended and NOHARMM gave out pamphlets to the staff
as they left the room. NOHARMM did not enter that room expecting a pleasant
reception, but as the doctors and nurses filed out of the room, they thanked
NOHARMM for being present and for presenting the opposing point of view. The
young doctors clustered around the team and asked for extra copies of the
materials and especially copies of medical papers describing the ugly
consequences that Dr. Schoen failed to mention. The NOHARMM team was stunned
by the friendliness shown by the Kaiser staff, and very gratified.
SENSITIVITY IS THE RISING ISSUE ON CIRCUMCISION
Reprinted without permission from the 25 November 1994 issue of the
"Australian Doctor," by Dr. Sandra Pertot:
The debate about circumcision is one that just does not seem to want
to go away.
After a long period of relative quiet in which the medical position
has been that circumcision is an unnecessary operation which may lead to
complications of its own, a new and radical element has entered the picture.
One obvious difficulty with the procedure is that the person
affected, the infant male, has no say in what happens, and now increasing
numbers of adult males who were circumcised at birth are protesting about
They have two aims. One is to prevent it happening to other males,
and the second is to explore methods of restoring what was taken from them at
These men claim not only that circumcision is traumatic to the
newborn but also that the removal of the protective covering of the glans
leads to keratinisation, a process which begins immediately after the loss of
the foreskin and continues throughout life. Dr. Thomas Ritter, a US
surgeon who was an early campaigner against circumcision, says over time the
exposed glans takes on the character of external skin rather than mucous
membrane, becoming dry and leathery.
It is said this toughening process causes loss of sensitivity of the
glans, reducing sensitivity during sex.
In addition, circumcision is said to have other impacts on sexual
The foreskin itself is believed to contain a generous endowment of
specialised nerve endings which contribute to sexual feeling, and the
movement of the foreskin over the glans during intercourse enhances the
pleasurable sensations of sex.
Loss of the foreskin is believed to have a much greater impact on
adult sexuality than has previously been acknowledged.
Other circumcised men complain of life-long irritation of the exposed
glans as it comes in contact with clothing during normal activity.
Some claim discomfort during masturbation when the exposed glans is
Some men are so angry about this involuntary surgery that they refer
to it as an assault, and equate it to genital mutilation of the young female
who is ritually circumcised for religious or cultural reasons.
These men are attacking the issue on several fronts.
At a political level, groups such as NOCIRC and the NSW (New South
Wales) Men's movement are lobbying the Federal Government (of Australia) for
removal of the Medicare rebate for circumcision.
In addition, they actively promote their views on circumcision in the
media in an attempt to influence parents not to request the procedure, and at
academic conferences to encourage medical practitioners not to perform it.
The other, more personal, focus for men who feel they have suffered
because of their circumcision is the development of techniques to restore a
There are two basic techniques.
One was developed by Dr. James Bigelow, an American psychologist, who
in his mid 50s, began to experiment with ways of redeveloping his foreskin.
He achieved this by gently and gradually stretching what remained of
his foreskin, keeping it in place with surgical tape.
The tape was worn constantly and was cut is such a way as to allow
normal urination. It was removed for intercourse, which Dr. Bigelow says
interfered with spontaneous sex as he tended to time sex for those days when
he was going to change the tape.
After four years he has a foreskin he is reasonably happy with and
hopes for further improvement over time.
He says his circumcision was severe, and therefore other men may
achieve a good result in significantly less time.
The stretching process can be aided by attaching small weighted
devices such as fishing weights to the tape.
Dr. Bigelow is trialling (sic) a cone-shape expansion device which
fits over the penis and allows for greater tension of the expanding skin.
The final result is not an exact duplication of a normal foreskin, but is
nevertheless considered close enough to be worth the effort.
Dr. Bigelow's technique appears to have been enthusiastically
received by enough men in Australia to lead to the development of a foreskin
restoration self help group.
The group, UNCIRC, offers a mail order service to supply Dr.
Bigelow's book, THE JOY OF UNCIRCUMCISING, which costs about $30 and takes
about 2-3 months to arrive from the US.
After the recipient has begun the program, the group has a telephone
advisory service on how to deal with any difficulties is applying the
The other approach to restoring foreskin is by surgery using skin
grafts. This has the advantage of providing a quicker result with a greater
amount of new tissue, and is also popular in the US.
UNCIRC is lobbying the Federal Minister of Health to have penile
foreskin restoration covered by Medicare.
Those who have restored their foreskin say the glans gradually
becomes softer--more like mucous membrane. Sex became more enjoyable and
daily discomfort through friction disappeared.
Whatever personal beliefs individual health providers may have about
the merits or otherwise of circumcision, they could find themselves involved
in debate about this practice again, and the publicity that is building
around restoration procedures may lead to inquiries from patients as to what
Clearly, the man (and probably his partner) need to be highly
motivated to persevere with the slow and tedious procedure, but advocates
claim the rewards are definitely worth it.
Any man seeking further information may be directed to UNCIRC, PO
Box 938, Lane Cove, NSW 2066.
Dr. Pertot is a clinical psychologist in Newcastle, NSW.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION call NOCIRC, the National Organization of
Circumcision Information Resource Centers at (415) 488-9883. Ask about the
resource provider nearest you. For written information, write NOCIRC, PO Box
2512, San Anselmo, CA 94979, with SASE and/or donation if possible.
For past issues of this bulletin, see: