This is genital mutilation

Dr. Smith,

A few years ago, your college wrote a glowing article about you. In the article, you said that you have continued in pediatrics because you like making an impact on children when they are young. Dr. Smith, you most certainly had an impact on me from the earliest moments of my life. You circumcised me. In doing so, you set my course to a lifetime fraught with pain, frustration, embarrassment, depression and anger. I recently learned that you were the doctor who assaulted me, and that you still practiced pediatrics, which is why I felt compelled to write you.

I want you to understand exactly what you did to me. You're a doctor, and you've literally amputated parts from my genitals, so I am going to assume that you don't need to be spared any details.

You took too much. You didn't leave me with enough skin to cover my penile shaft. The result was that my earliest memories of experiencing erections as a child are memories of severe, prolonged pain. By the time I reached adolescence, the lack of skin caused my penis to develop a sharp bend, which I would later find would make intercourse very difficult. At some point my scrotal and pubic skin compensated for the lack of penile shaft skin. The result is that I now grow thick pubic hair all the way up to the scar you left me. To make intercourse more comfortable for my wife, I have to shave my penis, and deal with potential nicks and cuts on my genitals, every day. The other consequence of the scrotal skin compensation, is that when erect, my scrotum isn't large enough to hold my testicles. This means that sometimes an erection will painfully force one of my testicles up into my groin. This has definitely been an embarrassing, and painful, show stopper more than a few times during intercourse.

I'm not writing you with the hope of convincing you to perform less radical circumcisions. The rest of my problems stem from not having my foreskin.

I'm now 34 years old. 34 years of my glans, which was supposed to be covered, remaining exposed has caused thorough keratinization of the skin. The result is that my penis is noticeably desensitized. It has become more common in the last few years for me to just not be able to achieve climax. I've had to fake orgasms, just so my wife wouldn't feel like she was doing something wrong. If I want to climax, I have to resort to hard thrusts, which is painful for my wife, and sometimes results in my penis bleeding around the scar line. I try to avoid this outcome, as I am sure you can imagine why. The open wounds that develop on my genitals hinder physical activity for days.

The bottom line is that intercourse is not enjoyable for me. Who would have guessed that a medical procedure designed to debilitate sexual pleasure, successfully debilitated my sexual pleasure? I love my wife, but to me intercourse is a painful chore. A chore that I must perform carefully, so as not to smash a testicle, or tear open my penis.

For much of my life, I thought I had been born with a genital deformity. I never associated circumcision with all of the problems I had endured until I met other men who were brave enough to share their own experiences. You might think that finally understanding what was wrong with me would provide some degree of relief, but it had the opposite effect. When I realized that I had been born perfect, without any of these issues, and you took that away from me, I fell into a deep depression, piqued by moments of panicked anxiety, or fury, all of which I still battle to this day. My emotional issues have squelched opportunities, destroyed personal relationships, and nearly ended my marriage a few times. I have been fortunate enough in all of this to have married one of the most patient, loving and understanding women on the planet.

What I've described above are just the side effects of what you did to me. I have not yet addressed the anatomy that I should have. Like all male circumcisions, you removed my ridged band. In case they didn't cover this in medical school, the ridged band is the highly sensitive, ridged inner lining of the prepuce. This inner lining is full of complex, fine touch, nerve endings, called Meissner's corpuscles. This makes the inner lining of the prepuce, or foreskin, an erogenous zone on the male body. Not only is the foreskin an erogenous zone, but my frenulum, which connected my foreskin to the glans of my penis, would have also been highly sensitive to touch. That is, if you had not cut it off of me. Since one of the many purposes of the foreskin is to cover, protect, and moisturize the glans of the penis, similar to the fashion in which our eyelids cover, protect, and moisturize our eyes, had my foreskin remained, my glans would have been covered, and maintained sensitivity. I would also have sufficient skin to have an erection and intercourse would have been a pleasurable experience for all parties involved.

I realize that medical opinions have changed dramatically since 1982. I had hoped that your practices evolved with the opinions of every major medical organization in the world, and that you were no longer offering circumcisions. I took a cursory glance at your pediatrics website and was disappointed to learn that you are still pedaling debunked science and skewed data in an attempt to portray genital cutting as beneficial. I'm not sure if your motivation in continuing to sell circumcision is founded in greed or ignorance. If it is the latter, I can be of some assistance.

You mention that circumcision could reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. Studies show that this effect is only attainable if you are having heterosexual intercourse in sub-Saharan Africa. Follow up studies of a similar nature, conducted in other parts of the world, like Europe and North America, did not yield the same outcomes. No matter which study you choose to follow, the conclusion is always the same: condoms, not genital cutting, is the most effective deterrent against HIV transmission.

You also state that circumcision can reduce penile cancer, which even your own brochure has to admit is extremely rare. If your aim is to prevent a possible life threatening condition, why not proactively remove every baby's appendix? Every year approximately 340 men die from penile cancer, while almost 400 Americans die from an appendicitis. What about the nearly 41,000 American women who will die this year from breast cancer? Imagine all the lives you could save from proactive mastectomies! Why is it that of all the parts of the body that can cause an early demise, you focus your efforts on the very important, and by comparison, safe male prepuce?

If you're still reading at this point. You might think I'm out of my mind. Assuming idiocy on my part is a likely and expected defensive reflex. Maybe I read one too many natural parenting blogs and let it get to my head. I assure you, that is not the case. I am college educated, I have a successful career, I am active in local politics, I compete in martial arts, I run marathons and race bicycles. I am even up to date on all of my vaccinations, and despite your best efforts last year my wife gave birth to a healthy, perfect baby.

To cope with what you did to me, I now work with human rights organizations that focus on bodily autonomy. I educate expecting parents on what you will not. I teach them what the rest of the civilized world has known for generations, but American doctors like yourself cannot or do not want to grasp: We all need and deserve our whole bodies. Prophylactic amputation without ailment is unethical and a violation of our rights.

For both of our sakes it is my sincerest hope that we never encounter one another face to face. I honestly cannot say whether the depression, anxiety or anger would dominate such a meeting. While I am angry, I understand that you were very likely mutilated as well. Like any abuse, you perpetuated what was done to you, on me. I understand that there is a lot more wrapped up in this than just your medical ego, which if my experience with other doctors is any indicator, is massive. Making any man acknowledge that he was born perfect, subjected to a needless amputation, and then left with diminished genitals is no simple task. Either way, I hope that the letter reached an open mind, and not a defensive one. I hope that you take time to check up on the information I presented in this letter. I hope that you not only cease genital cutting services immediately, but help champion this cause.

Next time an expecting parent asks you about circumcision, I want you to remember me. I want you to think of me and all the other men just like me that you've left in your wake. I want that thought to weigh heavily on your conscience. I want you to help those parents make a better decision, before you endorse another genital mutilation and create another me.

Sincerely,

A Victim of Male Genital Mutilation