Jul. 11, 2012 - Issue #873: The Big Cover-Up
A continuing debate
Should the state ban male circumcision?
Last month Cologne, Germany barred the circumcision of male children unless it is deemed medically necessary. Although I am a big fan of foreskin and think it should be left as it is in most cases, I wondered whether governments can actually ban circumcision. It turns out they can and do, but usually only for girls. In Canada, female genital cutting is illegal. The criminal code specifically states that cutting off or altering the labia or the clitoris of anyone under 18 is aggravated assault unless done for medically necessary reasons. Glen Callendar, of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project, believes that Canada should follow in Cologne's steps and add the word "prepuce," which refers both to male foreskin and the clitoral hood, to that section of the criminal code.
"If a girl has a right to keep all of her sex organs and decide for herself if she wants any of them cut off, a boy and an intersex child have the same right," Callendar says, "This is basic equality and basic human rights, and it's time for Canada to protect all children equally."
From the 1950's the late 1980's male circumcision was pretty much routine in Canada. But as more research is coming out about what foreskin actually is and what is does, attitudes are changing.
Far from a simple vestigial piece of skin, foreskin is actually packed with nerve endings. No one knows exactly how many but the estimates are in the thousands. Some researchers claim to have found special types of receptors called Meissner's corpuscles which can detect very light touch. These are the same kinds of receptors we have in our fingertips and lips. Those corpuscles play a very important role in helping us perceive and define sensations. A study done in 2006 found that the glans of the penis in intact men is significantly more sensitive to touch than in those who have been circumcised. Callendar agrees that foreskin is an important part of sexual experience.
"My foreskin is by far the most sensitive and orgasmic part of my penis," He says, "Circumcision removes well over half the nerves of the penis, as well as the most sensitive parts, diminishing sexual sensation for a lifetime."
Foreskin also moves in a funky way because it is a double layer of skin and mucous membrane. It has what some have called a "gliding" motion. Researchers suspect that it functions this way in order to make movement more comfortable and reduce friction. It also has the convenient side effect of making masturbation easier. It's like a built-in masturbation sleeve. In fact, circumcision was prescribed as a preventive measure for "masturbatory insanity" and hysteria in Victorian England. It was thought that without his foreskin, a man would be less sensitive and less able to masturbate and therefore more pure in thought and body.
Although there are, of course, other sides to the circumcision debate, I think that Glen may be onto something in his fervent support of foreskin. He is so passionate about it that he travels North America showing people all the magical things his foreskin can do. Yes, that's right, in a demonstration somewhat like puppetry of the penis, Glen has showed his foreskin to almost 4000 people since 2010—1000 of them right here at the Edmonton Fringe last year. And he's only getting started. "Later this year, he says, I will roll out an epic series of online foreskin demonstrations that will show Canada and the world that the male foreskin has immense erotic potential." He hopes that this "exposure" will make Canadians want to save the foreskin and push our government to ban infant circumcision too. V
Brenda Kerber is a sexual health educator who has worked with local not-for-profits since 1995. She is the owner of the Edmonton-based, sex-positive adult toy boutique the Traveling Tickle Trunk.
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