Parents who have circumcised their children and come to regret making that decision often feel a sense of purpose by sharing their story. Men who have chosen to be circumcised have also regretted their choice. These stories reveal a side to circumcision that new and old parents alike may never have considered. Circumcision pain reaches far beyond the physical into the mental, emotional and spiritual, too.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A letter to my Mother-in-law by M.O.

I have wanted to confront you about this for a while now but for the sake of my husband I have stayed silent.  Let me explain . . .

I have been with your son for over 5 years now. We have our ups and downs just like any couple but there has always been something a little...... off about your son.  Nothing you would ever notice or even want to know, I'm sure, but since I am intimate with your son, I notice.  When we were first together, sex was fun, exciting and new to our relationship so we partook in it often and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  We enjoyed each others' bodies as much as we could but something was never quite right down there.  I had been previously married and not ashamed to admit I had had a few other partners before then, too.  Most of them were, like your son, circumcised. My experience with sex prior to meeting your son was pretty typical. Mostly satisfying with just a hint of pain and dryness.  This was something I thought was normal something every woman experienced.  I mean that's why they make lube.... right?  Still there was something more...... something different with your son.  Most men orgasm rather quickly or at least barely hold out long enough for me to finish but with your son it was never ending.  There was no end in sight........ no orgasm, no finish...... nothing.  He couldn't orgasm?  Was I doing something wrong? Was it me? Was I not enough for him?  I tried and tried so hard but I just couldn't..... I couldn't "finish" him.  I questioned him frequently about his prior sexual encounters of which there were few.  Did you ever orgasm during sex?  Nope.  Never?  Not that I can remember.  Really? Not even once?  Nope not a one.  He just shrugged this off as if it were "normal" as if it this happened to every guy.  I had never heard of such a thing not in my life.  I questioned him even further.  How about masturbation?  Yes, usually.  "Ok, well lets try that" I thought.  At  least then we will both be satisfied.  So we did our normal thing just ending things a little more manually than usual.  It worked.... but only after a heart pounding rhythm that would make anyone pass out from exhaustion.  Hey, maybe now we truly can enjoy each other to the fullest extent. Our lives continued this way for a while.  We had sex, I'd finish, then I would watch as he finished himself.  There were maybe 2 to 3 times where after considerable manual stimulation I was able to finish him myself.  We got used to it and eventually I just thought this was how he was... this was his "normal".

It wasn't until we both watched something on circumcision that I ever questioned that something truly wasn't right.  A  year or so in we were big fans of Penn and Teller so naturally we watched the Bullshit episode on circumcision.   I thought "Hmmm..... over 20,000 nerve endings lost to circumcision?  Circumcision affects the sexual function of the penis?  Could THIS be his problem?"  We talked a little bit about it and I looked into a few things but it never went past that.  He insisted it was a "stamina" issue and we left it at that.

Fast forward a year or 2 more and we were finally pregnant after struggling with infertility!  We were overjoyed. At 18 weeks we found out IT's A BOY!!!  Then it hit me...... would we circumcise him? I knew I had to research it more.  So I dove in.  The more I found out the more our "normal" wasn't so normal anymore.  That was it.  That was his problem.  You see, when you take away the foreskin not only do you take away over 20,000 nerve endings responsible for sexual pleasure (which are also the MOST sensitive part of the penis) you also take away the protective function of the foreskin leaving the head of penis exposed. When the head is exposed to underwear and clothing on a regular basis it becomes dry and calloused leading to even further sensation loss.  His loss is so bad that even what most circumcised men would consider "normal" sex was impossible for my husband...... his loss was too great. With all the evidence of how painful, unnecessary  and damaging it could be to his future sex life we decided to keep our son whole.  Your son never thought twice about the decision and was the first one of us to say "we aren't doing it".  When our son was born, he was so perfect and tiny.  I couldn't ever imagine handing him over to someone with the intent of having part of him cut off without his consent.  I just don't understand it but I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed you were just uninformed and would never intentionally do this to your son, as I assume with most parents that circumcise.

After a few blissful sleep deprived months of parenting we decided to try having some "adult time" again.  This time, though, we had a lot less time to "make things work" than we had before his birth so our "fun" was always interrupted   I didn't tell anyone this at the time but I was always thankful when my son woke up too soon as it gave me an excuse to say no.  Sex wasn't the same anymore and now it was even worse........ now it was really painful.  I attributed this mostly to childbirth but I knew if he was intact he would produce his own lubrication and would also need far less stimulation to feel anything.  If we used lube he didn't feel it but if we used none I couldn't take it...... now what?  We tried a few more times but in the 15 months now since his birth we have NEVER finished..... not once.  We always start but it ends in sad disappointment for both of us. It was always a bit dry and painful but I thought that's just how sex was and after giving birth I am a lot more sensitive so I notice it more.  I tried remembering back to the only intact partner I've ever had and I never remember pain.  Actually it was the exact opposite, smooth and slow, never painful or dry. What now?  I wondered..... Will it ever go back to "normal?"  Sadly, it has not.  He and I have talked a lot about restoration which is something he wants to do but is depressed by the idea of doing something uncomfortable everyday for months or years because YOU took his choice away.  Fine.... you clearly didn't know any better I thought.  So I put my feelings aside in hopes that someday this would never be an issue.

I became really active in the intactivist community when my son was about 3 to 4 months old. I became the director of a local intactivist chapter and started posting stuff on my personal Facebook page as well.  At first, I got some flack for it but I just stayed factual and kept my emotions out of it.  I got unfriended and even blocked by some of his other family but I didn't care.  I was speaking the truth and hoping that someone would listen.  You live several hours away and don't come down that often so you don't really know what our relationship or our family is like.  I understand its hard to get down here that often and you are busy so you stay connected to us through Facebook.  My husband told me you weren't too happy about my posts and that you and most of your family hide me on Facebook. Fine, you don't want to see the truth.  It doesn't bother me but don't get upset about not getting enough "updates" if you are unwilling to look at my Facebook page.  All of that was fine.... yes I was a little hurt and annoyed that you were so stuck in your ways that you refused to even look into circumcision or that you hid me on Facebook but that was something I could get over.  Then there was your infamous visit.  I'm sure you know the one.  You drove down here (an 8 hour trip) then just up and left unexpectedly after only only a few hours even though you planned on staying the night.  The visit was normal.  You questioned my gentle parenting approaches; "Does he REALLY need to sleep with you?  Well what about my son?  Is HE ok with it?"  Well, yes, actually.  He was right there, you could have asked him but you didn't . Fine, you question my parenting choices, I get that. You co-slept with one of your babies and didn't like it; you have a right to your opinion.  This too was fine.  What wasn't fine is when the topic turned to my intactivism.

I made a joke to my husband about how I wanted to vacation in D.C. You asked why and when I told you I wanted to be involved in Genital Integrity Awareness Week you just gave me a look.  A look that says "I disapprove.  Then don't be an intactivist.  No one is asking you to be.  That too is fine but it was taken so much further.  My husband said "have fun with that" meaning he constantly heard me going on and on about this stuff..... circumcision this..... foreskin restoration that.  While he did fully agree with me and has said (unprompted) that circumcision is horrible you didn't see it that way.  I replied "what you don't want to talk about circumcision and foreskin restoration?"  Of course he does not because it makes him uncomfortable about his own loss but not only that he hates hearing about the same thing over and over.  This goes for anything be it breastfeeding, circumcision, or any parenting related subject to games, food, the dog, our life in general or any other random topic he HATES going over things we have already discussed at length.  It was very clear in what you said and how you acted that you believe whole heartily that I forced the decision not to cut our son on him.  That is simply not true but what you said next was just unthinkable.  After his reply of "no thanks you have fun with that though I'll do something else there" you quickly replied with this look of complete disdain "I'm sure he enjoys not having his foreskin!" My heart stopped!!! "NO he doesn't actually" spilled out of my mouth before I could even take a breath.  It was my gut reaction . .  the only one I could muster.  I can't even imagine what must have been going through my husbands mind. There were so many things I wanted to say but my baby fussed and I had to lay down on the big chair and foot rest to nurse him down.  I wanted to say "How the hell would you know? Have you ever asked him?" of course not or "Yes, I'm sure he "enjoys" not having 20,000 specialized nerve endings and the most sensitive part of his penis missing so that he is now unable to reach orgasm during sexual intercourse. What man wouldn't?"  I wanted to scream and rip my hair out but this was only the beginning   You then described how your younger son "slept" through the whole thing and didn't cry once. Let me be clear that you were lied to and that NO baby "sleeps" through this procedure.  It is incredibly painful and most go into a semi comatose state to preserve themselves also known as SHOCK!  I tried to explain this to you but you refused to hear it and then went into great detail about how your son - my husband - was screaming when he was brought back.  So not only do I have to know and have to experience the suffering he experiences from his sexual dysfunction due to YOUR choice; now I have to live with the image of my husband as a tiny perfect newborn being handed over and cut up only to be brought back screaming in pain to a mother who acts as though she couldn't care less about the suffering of her newborn son.  What's worst of all is you said this in such a matter of fact way like you were describing how you get your morning coffee.  How can someone who claims to love her children as you do care so little about the pain you had inflicted on him?  Then when someone disputes your claims of him "loving" his mutilated penis you act as if you couldn't care less.  The coldness in your tone sickened me to the point I felt physically ill.

It still takes every ounce of strength I have to be pleasant and civil with you when I see you in person for the sake of my son and yours.  I pray that some day my husband has the strength to tell you how YOUR decision hurt him and took away his ability to ever have a normal healthy sex life. 

Your very frustrated Daughter in Law