The movement against circumcision is gaining more visibility in the U.S. with some young men particularly questioning the practice as a method of overbearing societal control and unnecessary trauma. And overseas, in Norway, the push to officially ban circumcision has just resulted in a controversy involving allegations of anti-semitism.
“IDIDNOTCONSENT.ORG” is the name of a group that has been positioning its rather expensive looking truck at prominent locations in Manhattan. The group calls the truck a “mobile education unit.” Staffers hand out brochures and answer questions from a steady parade of men. Some who stop to ask questions are sheepish. Others want to know what they’ve been missing. A few furrow their brow and seem close to throwing up.
The “I Did Not Consent” folks are rather blunt about their message. Their literature contains photos of stern looking guys holding pictures of themselves as babies with statements such as:
Amputation of the foreskin is painful & traumatic for babies. I was tied down in an infant restraint. I was given little anesthesia while a doctor crushed my infant foreskin with a cruel medical device. After ten agonizing minutes, he cut me…I cried out. I DID NOT CONSENT
Another says “foreskin contains 20,000 specialized nerve endings. Circumcision removes them.” And perhaps the most novel argument against the practice; “circumcision was introduced in America as a way to ‘cure’ masturbation in boys.” Certainly many Jewish people would not agree as the practice first appeared in the bible.
Widespread circumcision in the U.S. is a product of medical research that showed it was a way to prevent infection and disease. Many Americans don’t necessarily think of it as a Jewish custom.
For the record, the American Academy of Pediatrics says the medical benefits of routine infant circumcision outweigh the risks. This guidance stands in contrast to guidelines in other English-speaking countries such as Australia, Britain and Canada, which say circumcision is not medically necessary.
In Europe, there is a stronger cultural association between Judaism and circumcision.
A cartoon in one of Norway’s largest newspapers recently compared circumcision to pedophilia amid a debate in that country over whether to ban the practice.
The cartoon, published Tuesday in Dagbladet, depicts a disheveled man talking to Jewish and Muslim protesters holding signs reading, “Yes to circumcision” and “Freedom of religion.” The man responds, “I understand exactly how it is with you! I also get messages from invisible men in the sky to play around with small kids’ penises!”
Some Norwegians were offended by what they saw as a clear anti-Semitic message. The cartoon came after the Libertarian Progress Party voted to prohibit circumcision. The party, which also strongly opposes immigration, is the third-largest in Norway and is currently in a coalition with the Norwegian Prime Minister’s Conservative party.
Among younger men in the U.S. the entire topic is not as taboo as it once was. A recent Heat Street documentary told the story of the growing number of men who are trying to restore their foreskin. Many of them want to feel whole again.
There are no official numbers, but online forums and sales figures from device makers suggest there are tens of thousands of men currently “restoring.” The largest online community, RestoringForeskin.org, has more than 16,000 members. And Ron Low, maker of a restoration device called the TLC Tugger, says his business has grown steadily over the past decade, with around 5,000 new customers each year.
Restorers believe the foreskin is not just a useless flap—they argue it protects the head of the penis and makes for better sex. They use a range of devices—typically they involve gradually stretching with weights and straps—and their hands to gently tug on the remaining foreskin. This sustained tension over time creates extra tissue. And although it doesn’t have the specialized nerves and physiological functions of an actual foreskin, restorers say it makes a big difference in the bedroom.