Comments from Men


(Compiled by John A. Erickson and Jeffrey R. Wood): One of the most profound psychological effects of infant circumcision is the tendency of its victims to speak of it favorably (in adulthood), say it makes no difference to them, or refuse to discuss the issue. The statements below make it clear that there are, however, exceptions.

“I’ve wondered how it feels to have a foreskin all my life .”
“I think of myself and other circumcised men as amputees.”
“I am always thinking – where is my foreskin?”
“I think of myself as existing in two parts – my missing foreskin and the rest of me.”
“ The only reason I’m gay is that I was circumcised when I was a baby. I feel deprived. It’s only with an intact man that I can have a foreskin.” (This man later died of AIDS.)
“Circumcision is partial castration.”
“I feel like half a man.”
“I have always felt that I was cut off of my foreskin, not vice versa.”
“I was circumcised when I was a year old. I remember my foreskin. I want my foreskin back.”
“If the only intact man in a shower feels ‘different’, imagine how the only circumcised man feels.”
“If I knew who cut my foreskin off, I’d cut off his entire penis.”
“I think I could have accepted a deformity that was an accident of nature, but I can’t accept that someone did that to me.”
“I have resented being circumcised ever since I saw my first intact (i.e. non-circumcised) friend.”
“I have a good sexual relationship with my wife, but I’m also turned on by foreskins and have had several intact male lovers. Would I still have been gay if I hadn’t been circumcised? I’ll never know.”
“What circumcision did to my body is bad enough, but what it did to my mind is worse.”
“Whenever I take a shower I always retract my imaginary foreskin and wash under it, just as if I had never been circumcised.”
“My feelings about the doctor who circumcised me are too violent to describe.”
“I have nightmares about being circumcised by force.”
“I feel that my father betrayed me by letting my mother have me circumcised against his wishes, and I’ve always sensed that deep down he rejected me because he saw me as damaged.”
“I tried several times to ask my mother about what had been done to me; but when I opened my mouth to speak, the words stuck in my throat and no sound came out.”
“Why would anyone cut up a baby’s penis? How could anyone let himself or anyone else do it?”
“I never told my parents how I feel.”
“I couldn’t even make myself say `circumcised’ until I was in my twenties.”
“I was just a baby — I couldn’t stop them.”
“The title of a story by Harlan Ellison conveys my feelings exactly about having been circumcised when I was born: “I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM.”
“I’ve always pretended I didn’t care.”
“I envy my dog.”
“I have revenge fantasies about circumcision.”
“The fact that other boys were circumcised too never made me feel any better.”
“I have never been able to accept the fact that someone cut part of my penis off when I was a baby. The sheer monstrousness of it haunts every waking moment of my life. Sometimes I think I’m beginning to make some sort of adjustment to it, but then I see an unmutilated man in a shower or magazine and I become overwhelmed by uncontrollable feelings of outrage and disbelief that I was made the victim for life of something so sick. Sometimes I feel I’m at the edge of madness and just can’t handle it.”
“My mother told me she could hear my screams from the other end of the hall.”
“There’s something very wrong and very frightening about a society that systematically tortures and mutilates babies.”
“Adrenaline shoots through me when I hear the word ‘circumcised’ — I freeze.”
“My greatest fear to this day is having a knife pulled on me.”
“When I was a child, I prayed I would get my foreskin back in Heaven.”
“I’m Jewish and I hate being circumcised.”
“I feel the way I imagine the Elephant Man would have felt if he had found out that he had been born normal but that someone had done that to him.”
“What possible advantage could there be to removing the only movable part from the penis?”
“I wanted to be a girl when I was a child because I knew that girls weren’t circumcised.”
“I used to think there were two kinds of boys – circumcised boys like me and real boys.”
“I went to a nude beach in Yugoslavia and felt like a freak.”
“I was circumcised when I was five — seventy years ago. I felt rage then and I still feel rage now.”
“The worst thing about circumcision is that it produces circumcisers.”
“It hurt. It bled. It left an ugly scar.”
“I never got used to being circumcised. I just learned to endure it.”
“I wish I could circumcise every  intact (i.e. uncircumcised) man in the world, so they’d all be like me. I don’t have a foreskin and no one else should have one either.”
“I hate the word ‘circumcised.’ The sound ‘cir-’ makes me shudder.”
“I was circumcised by force when I was nine and it has ruined my entire life.”
“I masturbate two or three times a day, always to the same fantasy – the image of my foreskin as it would look and feel now, had it not been cut off when I was born.”
“Fear, pain, crippling, disfigurement and humiliation are the classic ways to break the human spirit. Circumcision includes them all.”

Editor’s comments: I recall an acquaintance (an R.N. who had worked in a maternity ward and had seen many babies being circumcised) reacting scornfully to my deep concern by saying, “Oh, Rosemary, babies GET OVER these things!” Yes, the initial pain goes away and the circumcision wound usually heals quickly, but that’s only one facet of the trauma. Here are some “babies” who didn’t “get over it.”

I imagine that many people who read the statements above will think, “Well, those men have a real problem”“ Yes, that’s exactly the point.

Opponents of routine infant circumcision have sometimes been condescendingly called “foreskin fanatics.” Actually, some of them are. Most of the women involved have no particular interest in foreskins as such, our heartfelt concern being needless pain and trauma inflicted upon a helpless infant and body alteration forced upon another human being against his will. But some of the men who strongly oppose routine circumcision are, indeed, obsessed with foreskins. They are usually men who were circumcised as infants or young children and deeply resent the fact that part of their penis was cut off. (This is a facet of male sexuality that I, as a relatively sheltered middle-class mother, had never even considered.) I have known personally many sincere, but deeply disturbed, unhappy individuals.

The percentage of the total circumcised adult male population that shares such feelings probably could never be accurately determined. Many circumcised men say that they “guess it’s okay” to be circumcised, or say that they have never thought about it. Still, the psychological suffering of even a small part of the total population deserves to be recognized and acknowledged, and is a powerful argument against circumcising babies and children, even if the operation had proven medical benefits (which it doesn’t).

There are speculations that the circumcised father who insists that his son be circumcised may be a variation of this type of man — afraid to allow his son to have something that he himself lacks. Some male doctors and other practitioners who advocate circumcision for all infant males may do so not out of “glorified contentment” with their own circumcised state, but out of a conscious or subconscious drive to deprive all other males of their foreskins.

The ideas above are speculations that I have heard repeated by many. None are proven, and possibly never could be. All surgery (whether necessary or not) is a violation of the body. The long-term psychological effects of circumcision when forced on infants and children have only barely begun to be studied. The immediate pain and trauma are only one facet of this issue.

Rosemary Romberg
c. 1988
rewritten and reprinted 1991 (Revised – 2012,2013)

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