When Your Spirit Whispers

Pay Attention! _ Write It Down!
JUNE 7, 2009 7:30AM

Preputial Denial _ a story about male genital mutilation

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In 1910, I was eleven years old. It was the same year the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in Washington D.C. as a British import. King Edward VII, King of Great Britain died while my parents were visiting London that spring. His son George took power to become King George V. Thomas Edison introduced talking pictures for the first time to an American audience. As an eleven year old my memory of this year is very keen because I, like the rest of the world around me, was going through tremendous changes. My parents’ trip to London would have an everlasting effect on my life. I was left in the care of my Aunt Margaret for four months while my parents were away. It wasn’t until their return that I began to realize the implications of this time in my life.

I was happy to see my parents upon their return. It was the first time we had been separated for more than an evening. At first I had been reluctant to stay with my aunt, because I remembered all of the criticisms my mother leveled at her behind her back. I soon found that the basis for my mother’s criticism was the foundation for my new found freedom. I never understood how oppressed I had been until my Aunt Margaret allowed me to be a child. 1910 was the year of my liberation coinciding with my entry into puberty. In four months I was able to grow up and undo the damage my well intentioned parents had inflicted upon me. It took my mother less than four months to understand how to punish my intentional irreverence though. She had come equipped with all of the puritanical garbage our British relatives could stuff into her brain before her departure back to the wilderness of America. Even the alliance I had formed with Aunt Margaret could not save me.

My mother caught me masturbating in the bathtub. I had become careless because my aunt had respected my right to privacy. My mother, however, had been warned of the dangers of leaving an eleven year old boy alone naked to the world. I really think she plotted the sudden arrival. Perhaps she was even looking through the keyhole to time her entry just right. I was terrified when she jerked me out of the tub and wrapped the bath towel around me. She was screaming hysterically as she slapped me across the face several times until my cheeks were on fire. I sat on the hallway floor as she phoned the family doctor to make arrangements for an emergency visit. I had no idea that what I had discovered was wrong. I had been masturbating for quite some time with no noticeable side effects. From the way my mother reacted I was sure the doctor was going to tell me it was fatal or that I would go blind as I had heard rumored.

I was taken directly into the examination room while my mother remained in the waiting room. The doctor asked me to undress and put on a gown. I climbed onto the examination table and spread my legs and arms as I was asked. I was surprised when the doctor tied my hands and feet to the table. I heard the clanking of instruments then felt a cold liquid burning the tip of my penis. The doctor came to the edge of the table without speaking a word. I felt the cold steel touch my penis. I began to scream with every bit of sound I could muster.

"Please don’t cut it off!" I screamed. "I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that!"

The nurse came into the room in response to my screams. The doctor instructed her to keep me quiet. They were laughing at me as they prepared to cut off my penis. I was only able to move my head so I sunk my teeth into the nurses hand. With that I felt the doctor carving into my penis which now was half erect in his hand. I raised my head and could only see blood between my legs. With that I lost consciousness and did not awaken until the next morning.

I wasn’t quite sure what others had been told, but a strange silence had descended upon our household in the days that followed. No one came to explain what had been done to me. I was able to figure out on my own, of course, that my penis had not been removed entirely. I was under the impression that what had been done was a deliberate attempt to punish my actions though. I stopped the practice of masturbation until my wound had healed. My first erection was very painful. I had to spit into my hand for lubrication to compensate the missing foreskin. The head of my penis became less sensitive through constant exposure. I felt that my whole being had been altered by this act of violence. I never spoke to my mother unless it was absolutely necessary, even until the day she died. This was one mistake I could not forgive her.

When I went to the showers after football practice in high school I was ashamed to be seen nude. I was the only boy on the team without a foreskin. I felt like a freak in a sideshow. No one had to say anything for I could feel the eyes upon me and hear the whispers behind my back. It may sound strange in this day and age, but I was so embarrassed I had to quit the team. I also became a sexual cripple with the idea that a sexual partner would laugh at the sight of me with an erection.

It was in the autumn of 1946 that my mother died at the age of sixty-seven. My Aunt Margaret and I were going through my mother’s belongings when I came across a book about child-rearing published in London in 1905. Inside the book was a letter from the wife of my mother’s cousin in London. The letter described in detail the circumcision of her son as punishment for masturbating. This letter was neatly inserted into the chapter entitled, "The Moral Effect of Circumcision." I had returned from Europe where Nazis had sent men to concentration camps to die when they discovered they were circumcised. I wondered how this thing that had been done to me could play such an important role in wartime, yet no one seemed interested to hear my story or to even debate the merits of a procedure that had ruined my life in many ways.

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Great story that somehow relates to my own experience as I was about ten when I was also shipped off to a hospital to have it done. Only been told I had to go to hospital. From what I can remember it wasn't psychologically traumatic, though damn painful afterwords, and it certainly wasn't punishment but my parents "better" judgment. Although I can't recall any psychological trauma or issues about being self conscious, I generally agree that its a decision we should be making as adults. I don't know what the definitive medical motivation is, but if it is compelling, perhaps it then should be done at birth. But I think the overwhelming evidence indicates that the advantages are in relation to being sexually active, in which case it should be a personal adult choice.
Incredible story, but just how old(e) are You now?

Rated for eloquence and bittersweet memories.
Was this a practice back in the day? Well told story that sends chills up the spine and sadness in the heart for the ignorance and cruelty inflicted on things natural and normal.
Thank you for your concern markinjapan. I'm 60. I wrote the story as fiction after studying the history of circumcision in America and talking with older American men born before WW2. Circumcision became much more prevalent in my generation. The British book referenced in the story actually existed and the practice of circumcision as punishment was real in both the US and the UK.

While many uncircumcised men report that foreskin plays an important role in sexual function, some studies have shown that it also plays a role in immune function and the secretion of pheromones that stimulate sexual arousal. Statistics are unable to back up the claim that circumcision is more hygienic. As my partner Rob used to say: "some boys do not remember to wash behind their ears, but we don't cut off their ears!"
You've made some incredible points. Now I'm beginning to thnk that I indeed may be scarred. As I said on my own post on gender identity, we must begin to evolve beyound our irrational sexual hangups, and to stop viewing sex, and supposed sexual deviation from the "norm", as the big bad boogie man many still make it out to be.
The history of circumcision in the 19th and 20th centuries is a crazy mixture of religious dogma and social stigma. I believe the introduction of circumcision to Western Christian cultures began a couple of centuries ago when British workers in India were forcibly circumcised and raped by Moslem troops who called uncircumcised men Christian Dogs! These public circumcisions often led to infections and many times the victims bled to death. The foreskins were carried away as trophies by the Moslem troops.

The British soon began a practice of circumcising Englishmen before they went abroad, to literally save their lives. Then circumcision became fashionable among the British aristocracy at one point. Add the hysteria about sexuality at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, and you have an unbelievable history of culturally santioned genital mutilation of men.

My classmate from Danville High School in Illinois, Molly Melching, is founding director of Tostan in Senegal, West Africa. She is one of my proud role models! Molly is best known for her work to end female genital cutting and child forced marriages in Senegal. Molly was awarded the University of Illinois Alumni Humanitarian Prize in 1999 and the Sargent Shriver Distinguished Award for Humanitarian Service in 2002. She inspires me to continue to talk about the violent act of genital cutting of male children.
Wonderful writing!...

I just wanted to add my two cents... that in this day and age, since the invention of soap and regular baths circumcision isn't necessary, but a personal preference. From my understanding, and it can be further researched, the beginning of circumcision was from when Moses freed his people from slavery and they had to travel back to Israel. I am not a religious person, but common sense says if your going to travel for a really long time by foot through sand storms and all, without being able to have frequent baths, then sanitation would lead you to remove the foreskin to avoid having to chop the whole thing off. In those days if you wanted people to do something without asking questions then make it part of God's law. I'm sure during that long journey some of those people were doing the dirty and it's not like they had a clean towel to wipe up afterwards so he put it away and low and behold crud build up, swelling, burning pain, and infection. One of these men, if not all of them, probably went to Moses and the only doctor there was, who was probably also the priest, to see if anything could be done and thus it was decided. Hehehe

I hope you all had fun with this as much as I did =)
Circumcision can take place in 3 phases of life:
(1) to an infant who will not remember it. In the English speaking countries and Judaism, this was nearly always done without any anesthesia;
(2) to a child who will remember it;
(3) to an adult, who consents to it.

(1) has been common, (2) and (3) much rarer.

This post addresses (2), which was probably not that rare in the USA and UK before 1930 or so. The only evidence I have encountered about (2) is that about 10 years ago, the British trade association for medicine revealed that 4% of British boys were circumcised for a medical reason by the time they reached 15 or 18. The report stating this fact deplored it, and the announced that the trade association was setting a goal of reducing 4% to 2%. The main medical reason was "phimosis," meaning a foreskin that would not retract completely. We now know that it is normal for the foreskin not to retract completely until 15-20 years of age. Moreover, most cases of phimosis can be cured without amputation.

Our Victorian-Edwardian ancestors feared male lust. It led to adultery, crisis pregnancy, excess fertility (poverty was often blamded on working class families having too many children), prostitution, and syphilis, then just as much of a medical problem as AIDS is today. The only form of sexual pleasure they did not frown on was vaginal intercourse in the missionary position, between married partners. They feared masturbation because it was easy to do and easy to conceal. The viewed it as putting a boy on a slippery slope to much more consequential things. A few doctors argued that circumcision made masturbation difficult, nay, impossible, and many middle class parents agreed.

Masturbation was so hated that doctors circumcised large numbers of British, Australian, and American boys, with their mothers' consent, despite the fact that antibiotics, safe local anesthetics, and the circumstraint did not exist. General anesthesia could not be used on a baby, because the risk of killing it was not trivial. Many circumcisions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were done freehand, which often resulted in an ugly outcome or even in a sexually damaged penis. Doing it in the first week of life, without anesthesia, soon became the norm, because at that age a boy can neither remember nor resist.

Continental Europe never acquired this same horror of masturbation. For cleanliness, the continentals installed bidets. They also unconsciously understood that the tender moving bits on the end of the penis play an important role in sexual pleasure and in facilitating foreplay and sexual acts. In the 1950s, the UK moved from the Angl0-Saxon to the Continental camp. The dominions gradually followed suit. The USA is now alone in its disdain for the foreskin, a disdain that many Americans no longer share.