|MY SAMPLE GROUP
My original interviewed sample group before going on-line,
covered an extended circle of friends I have in Germany and England
... we are talking about a group of around 120 people (approx. 30 women
and 90 men) between 25 - 40 yrs.old and though there are limits to
my social flexibility, I believe this represents a fair cross section
and the findings give a good general survey. A sort of street level
impression, the grass roots of a taboo. (Since being on line I have
had contact with a far more limited cross section of the general public
- ie. mainly only those with actual problems).
People's reactions when I started talking about foreskin conditions
were generally not very welcoming. The subject was completely refused
by about 10%. Often I felt this was a gut reaction, and I could sympathise
because when I first got involved with the subject it used to make
me feel bad in my stomach ... These days I usually introduce the subject
by talking about male initiation in the modern world . . . the response
is very much better.
My first surprise was that women were generally far more able to think
about the subject than men were. The majority of the older women I
questioned had sons or lovers with whom they had experienced the problems.
It is obvious who men with these problems have talked to. Around thirty
women informed me of as many cases.
Mature women reported sometimes up to 3 or 4 cases, (ie far more
than the men ever did) while many of these stories may be the nature
of exaggerated rumours what is very interesting is that in some social
groups in Germany, there is obviously a grapevine of information among
women warning young mothers about the possible requirement of male
cirucmcision. One young mother reporting that two older colleagues
had warned her to check her young boy.
I spoke with around 15 cases personally. In Germany I heard more
cases of puberty problems and it was generally men from the UK who
discovered late. Though some of these men encouraged my research, generally
they didn't particularly want to remember the episode. Most of them
had not understood what had happened to them, or why the operation
had been necessary. Some felt their case was a rarity and thus
not worth complaining about. Simple rips of the frenulum and
partial phimosis causing pain during masturbation
were fairly common experiences. (e.mail writers only rarely
report these, (or when reported in e.mail only as part of a longer
From around 70 "normal" happily foreskinned men many had never heard
of foreskin conditions. I often sensed a feeling of disgust as soon
as I broached the subject. I was informed by a few "of course it's
not taboo", however on asking it was clear they had never talked about
the subject before.
Some had heard one story (e.g. of a friend in childhood who had
stretched the foreskin) and genuinely believed that was the entire
subject. Often I heard: "So, you discover it, you receive treatment,
it's simple, and why make all this fuss"
Something else worth mentioning, is that among those unhappily and
happily foreskinned males I spoke with, if a converstaion developed,
there was a remarkably clear 45 minute time limit, not that anyone
looked at a clock, but I believe I noticed more clearly than in 20
years of teaching, that 45 mins is the limit for new information.
And then came my second surprise (surely from a far too small sample
but), all four men who had been circumcised at birth were open minded
and have discussed the subject for at least 2 hours, and all of them
of their own accord have started to talk about the subject again! Why
is there such a remarkable difference in the ability of different people
to consider this phenomenon, does this taboo stem from uncircumcised
societies, are those men circumcised at in childhood more open to thinking
about the foreskin? - (In this context it is worth considering that
almost everyone involved with the subject on-line - both pro and anti
- are circumcised).
"WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG?"
If a conversation developed, by far the most frequent question
and usually the first was "Why did it take you so long to discover?".
this was often the first and the only question which occurred. It is
in my opinion the main answer to the question. "Why hasn't anyone else
said anything?" This question must have embarrassed a million men into
It surprised me how often therapists and psychologists asked this;
surely such late discoveries occur frequently with lots of people in
lots of different walks of life.
From a psychological or behavioural perspective I had a condition which
was painful at puberty, and, people avoid pain. To summarise: the lack
of awareness was probably stimulated by uncomfortable experiences previous
to puberty, a learned experience of difficulty at puberty, and this
was reinforced after puberty, for example every time I masturbated,
i.e. in the same way any other habit develops and reinforces itself.
- and I believed I was normal, and ...like you ... I never thought
an anatomical inhibition was possible.
When the conversation continued and developed a few people understood
the problem as a handicap and said that there are methods of coping
with handicaps so that they don't lead automatically to a disintergration
of the personality.
When a handicap is conscious one has the choice of confronting it,
and in coming to terms with it, one can even turn it to some greater
strength. In addition, once they are recognised, most handicaps are
accepted by society, there are self help groups, therapists, doctors
understand and the sufferer is at least acknowledged by others. Let
alone accepted by anyone else, this is often unknown and unrecognised
by the sufferer himself
A real handicap is something which cannot be corrected. These conditions
are often not recognised and once the individual does realise he can
seek treatment, and (unless the doctor or parents prohibit a youth
under 18) they are then very simply cured and never needed be a problem.
Up until they are treated, it would be more correct to consider as
From the response I received and the sort of questions I was asked,
I find it understandable that the men concerned, prefer to forget the
whole experience, rather than confronting it and risking (even in their
own mind) the possible risk of being judged as making a big fuss about
their own little problem-ridden penis....Thus no-one talks, thus there
is a taboo ...
RED HERRINGS and MINEFIELDS
There is a large block of habitual, routine and, it could easily be
called, phimotic thinking on this subject. If people had never heard
of the subject then it would be far easier to talk with them. Most
people had some half-forgotten crazy idea in the back of their heads
about circumcision - "Wasn't it meant to cure masturbation?".
As I tried to describe that "people avoid pain", many people assumed
I was trying to tell them that the operation itself was painful ...
the traditional operation and the modern medical one lie world's apart
It was often suggested to me that the Jews and the Muslims must
know the reason why they circumcise. When I attempted to explain my
ideas to a Rabbi he said "We have no interest in why it should be done
... God commanded it."
The most common red herring people get lost with is undoubtably:
"should boys be circumcised or not?" Coupled with this, to confirm
the confusion, is the popular idea that whether one is circumcised
or not makes no difference to the sexuality (and all this goes hand
in hand with the rumour that `everyone's normal'). Such generalisations
support socially acceptable myths about manhood without taking into
consideration the individual conditions which do not meet the norm,
where the foreskin is restrained, trapped, inhibited or painful.
I found a great many men had secret worries or pride, on size and
shape of their penis. It is then curious how deep and fixed the idea
is among "normal men" that : what you've GOT physically is
not important, - it's what you ARE that counts.
The popular modern myths about manhood maintain a sort of male status
quo or public image which most men with doubts or pride can adjust
to, however exactly because a public admission of pride or worry about
one`s genital equipment is socially unacceptable, then this self-image
remains private and possibly embarrassingly hidden, ... what seems
unfair in this context is that those men with a bent or shorter phallus
have to eat the hard cheese, while those with a straight 7 inches can
contentedly maintain the myths.
Male identity and mandhood in the modern world need far deeper discussion
to arrive at a realistic answer to these questions. Relevant to this
discussion is that sexual problems due to parental or environmental
phenomenon are commonly understood and recognised, such problems are
in fact culturally accepted, psychologists and friends are far more
receptive to such ideas.
On the other hand, the idea that anatomical conditions can lead
to seuxual and in turn psychological problems seems against every advance
our culture has made in understanding.
It is blatantly clear to me with my personal experience (thorn
in the side of the theorist, abhorent to the true scientist, however
it is by my personal experience that I am so sure ... ) that problems with the genitals are not all
in the mind and sexual problems are not exclusively caused by parental
and environmental influences.