“Cutting to the chase: the circumcision stigma”

At the onset of her fourth year in college, Eve has learned quite a few things about sex. Eve, The Hatchet’s anonymous sex columnist, will share her observations and (sometimes dirty) thoughts about sex at GW with the population that fuels her fire.

Editor’s note: names have been changed to protect the naughty.

It’s easy to believe.

For example, when was the last time you thought that masturbation caused blindness? Have you ever checked your palms for increased hair after a vigorous session with yourself? I once believed that I should swallow semen because my oh-so-manipulative boyfriend told me it was a metabolic enhancer (give head and lose weight – who could ask for anything more?).

Sexual myths seem to be the most prevalent, and the easiest to believe. Because we receive sexual information from all different sources – religious institutions, television, our parents, schoolmates, the cashier at Wendy’s – it is difficult to separate the truth from the guy who just really, really wants you to swallow. Even in our Internet-saturated, post-Kinsey, post-RuPaul world where sex shops border Italian restaurants in swanky neighborhoods, sexual myths pervade.

Sure, we know that your average male won’t turn into Teen Wolf if he masturbates. We have as many birth control options as flavors of Orbitz gum. We also know that the female clitoris has more nerve endings than the penis and consider female circumcision to be a crime.

Why, then, is non-religious male circumcision still so common in the United States? Why do we think a man with foreskin is somehow dirtier? Why do many of my girlfriends shudder at the though of an “uncut” penis? Why did I myself, the first time I encountered foreskin, ask the lovely gentleman with whom I was naked “What’s up with that?” Needless to say, that turtle went right back into his shell.

Like a good investiga-horny journalist, I decided to do some research into this particular sexual notion to find out if the superiority of the circumcised penis to the non-circumcised penis is, in fact, a myth.

Initially, non-religious circumcision in English-speaking countries arose in a climate of negative attitudes toward sex, specifically masturbation. Historically, moral sentiment has seen masturbation as not only sinful, but also detrimental to one’s health. This idea promoted medical leanings toward non-religious circumcision.

Karen Erickson Paige, author of the 1978 study The Ritual of Circumcision wrote: “In the United States, the current medical rationale for circumcision developed after the operation was in wide practice. The original reason for the surgical removal of the foreskin was to control ‘masturbatory insanity’ … also known as ‘self-abuse.'”

Other books from farther back, like before people had decided sex was fun, actually recommended circumcision as a means of discouraging masturbation in a child. William Acton, a Victorian physician, damned the foreskin as a “source of serious mischief” and William Hammond, a professor in New York around the same time, noted that circumcision generally “lessens the voluptuous sensations of sexual intercourse.”

Hold the scissors. This all made sense to me, except for the fact that I know plenty of circumcised dudes who ‘self-abuse’ twice a day. It seems that the removal of their foreskin decreased nothing more than … their foreskin. As my friend Blonde put it, “Maybe it feels better with foreskin, and maybe I’d be more turned-on more often, but I don’t know if I could take it!”

My friend Brown, whose foreskin remains intact, is surprised what a stigma there is against his extra business. He’s had girls say everything from “Awesome!” to “Ew!” when they first see his penis.

“There’s no hygienic difference,” Brown tells me. “That’s a completely antiquated view. Maybe centuries ago, when people only bathed on their birthday, it was a problem, but now it isn’t.”

According to my research, Brown is correct. Foreskin can actually protect the shaft of the penis from many germs and diseases, not to mention that it is easily retractable for cleaning purposes.

It has also been surmised that circumcision became a class marker. With the increase of hospitals at the turn of the 20th century, medical doctors often performed non-religious neonatal circumcisions. Thus, a circumcised baby often indicated a family wealthy enough to afford hospital birth.

One of the most concrete facts I found, however, was that the “to-cut-or-not-to-cut” debate has raged for centuries. In Roman times, circumcised men would sometimes hang weights from the remaining skin of their shafts, attempting to stretch it and create the illusion of foreskin. No way to replace all the lost nerve endings, though, unless maybe they attached a clitoris.

No matter how you cut it, our modern aversion to foreskin is unfounded and unfair. In many modern Western countries, including Finland and many parts of Canada, non-therapeutic and non-religious circumcision is unlawful. And yet, neonatal circumcision remains the most common pediatric operation carried out in the U.S. today. Not to mention that “What is up with that?” remains the most common phrase heard by uncircumcised American males.

I am not objecting to circumcision in any way, only advocating a more open mind on the part of the general GW population. Some penises are big, some small, some curved, some straight, some cut, some not. As long as it functions, then simply enjoy! And coming from someone who’s tried on both turtlenecks and crewnecks, I have to say that the extra material only led to extra pleasure …

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