Circumcision hurts. I know it sounds crazy but when you take a knife to a baby's penis it DOES hurt the little guy. In more ways than one. Modern medicine has finally acknowledged that yes babies can experience pain. Um yeah. Thanks for clearing that up for us. The problem with circumcision though (one of the many) is that some of the worst pain, the most lasting effects of it, are hidden from view and experienced on a deep internal level that can affect the boy and then the man's very identity.
It's been a while since I've spoken from personal experience on a post and I think it's necessary here. Rather than telling you how I think psychological trauma affects survivors of circumcision I'd rather tell you what my personal experience was. Unfortunately I think it is all too familiar of a story.
I did not even know what circumcision meant until early adolescence. My parents had purchased this puberty picture book called "What's happening to me" book and foisted it upon me. For those who aren't familiar this came out in the 70s I think and was, for its time, a progressive approach to sharing information about puberty with kids. It was the follow up to the "Where Did I Come From" book. Circumcision received a one page treatment in "What's Happening To Me." There was an illustration of two guys in a shower, one cut one uncut. I don't remember exactly what the text said but it was something along the lines of "some guys are circumcised, some aren't; either is fine." Interesting that there wasn't any effort made to justify the act of circumcision, but then again they didn't really explain what circumcision really did either; the authors almost made it sound like you were born that way. Needless to say I had some questions about this.
My mother reported that I had been circumcised because it was "cleaner." She noted that Jews also practiced circumcision. For some reason the latter comforted me. I thought in my gentile and rather ethnocentric young mind, "Well, Jews seem pretty smart and they wear those cool hats so circumcision can't be too bad of a thing." Years passed and I thought no more about it. It wasn't until we learned my wife was pregnant with a son that the subject reared its ugly head once more. When she asked me about circumcision I replied that I didn't think that was something I could do to my son, but at the time I wasn't even thinking about how I felt about it having been done to me personally. That didn't come until after he was born and left intact. But boy let me tell you, once you really start thinking about the fact that part of your body is missing because it was removed without your consent it becomes kind of hard to let it go.
Do I feel traumatized? Hmmm. I don't have nightmares like many trauma survivors do but I have read that many small children who are circed experience night terrors and I was told I had those as a small child. Does my penis still work ok? Yes, I never thought it worked poorly to begin with, but since I've started restoring my foreskin I have had MUCH more sensation and lubrication during sex. But here's the rub: before I started restoring I had no idea what I was missing. And this is why circumcision is such an insidious kind of violence. Survivors of circumcision don't know there's anything wrong with them because they don't remember a time when they had a foreskin. Consequently they have no reference point for what sex ought to feel like. They think it's normal to not be able to feel much besides the climax. They think it's normal to have to use lubricant to masturbate. They think it's normal to have more feeling in the palm of their hand or on their fingertips than their penis. I know because I used to think these same things. It is a scary road to tread to learn that so many of the things you thought you understood about your own body were lies. I think the vast majority of guys who are so dead set on having their sons circumcised know deep down subconsciously that if they don't circumcise their child they going to have to set out on a very difficult road for themselves. I don't condone their cowardice but I think it's important to try to understand it.
What's maddening to me though is when people try to justify circumcision by saying that everyone they know who is circumcised is "fine." Well certainly these guys are able to hold jobs and pay their bills and if you ask them how they feel about being circumcised they'll either say "fine" or "what the hell does that mean?" But how much do we know about their sex life? Perhaps they have painful erections, perhaps they can't even have sex, or maybe they're sexually preoccupied and unfaithful, constantly in search of a feeling/meaning in sex that has been denied to them. Or maybe they just have to use viagra like millions of other Americans. News flash: this isn't fine. This isn't ok. Circumcision hurts every man it is inflicted upon. The hurt is hidden, driven deep into the subconscious so the fragile newborn can protect himself from the trauma of someone cutting off part of his body. Some men never come to a full realization of what was done to them, but this fact does not mean the hurt isn't there. And this trauma goes on to affect their life SOMEHOW, whether they're immediately conscious of it or not. I think as more and more survivors speak out about circumcision the more accepted it will become that circumcision doesn't just hurt newborns, it hurts grown men too.