THE CIRCUMCISION OF AN ADULT
Johannes Peglow, Chatsworth, CA.
Johannes: I had the circumcision because of medical reasons. I had warts on my foreskin. The doctor said it was the easiest way to remove the warts. He said he could burn them out, but they could come back. This way was a better guarantee. So I said okay.
Rosemary: How old were you when you had the operation?
J: I was 22. 1 thought it was a good idea. So I went to the hospital at 7 o’clock in the morning. They assigned me to a bed. They gave me some pills. I don’t know what they were, but they put me out. After the operation I was lying around for another two hours. They have to check it to see whether you bleed. I got out by 11 a.m. I walked out of the hospital. I had a bandage about the thickness of my arm here.
R: Wasn’t that embarrassing?
J: Not really. I had some very big pants on. I got home and then the “fun” started. It started hurting. It wasn’t real hurting … more like burning. It’s really weird. It was just uncomfortable, like the irritation if you had your whole skin scraped off. It didn’t really hurt. And going to the bathroom was a bummer, because I had stitches around it and if it scratches that hurts a little bit.
R: Did you have to take your own bandage off?
J: No. They put it on in a way so that I could still urinate. I had to leave it on for the first week. When I had to go to the bathroom, I put a plastic bag around the bandage because I wasn’t supposed to get it wet. I had to go back to the doctor to change the bandage.
R: Did the doctor have to remove the stitches?
J: No, they were self-dissolving. The problem is, if you’re not circumcised, you’re much more sensitive. So I stayed home about two days and then I went back to work. When you walk, it rubs. The thing that bugged me was that I’d start to get half erections, and then it started to pull against the stitches and it hurt and then it went down again. I was driving a truck at that time and that vibrates. So it was “up and down, up and down” and it was hurting a lot. I was going around with the bandage on for two weeks and then it was taken off. Then trying to have sex after that, I had to wait another week because the first time I tried it it hurt too much. I just couldn’t do it. Then after the third week I tried it again. It felt completely different. It was good. The only thing was, the moment I was going to come it started hurting so much that I couldn’t the first few times.
R: Your experience reminds me very much of what a woman goes through if she has an episiotomy or tearing after she’s had a baby.
J: I don’t know. But the whole thing … it’s nothing very difficult. For the first two days it was hard. I didn’t know which way to sleep and it always seemed to touch something. But after that it’s just a slight irritation. It’s nothing very bothersome.
R: You were not circumcised as an infant because you were born in Germany.
J: In Germany they don’t do it. It never bothered me, not being circumcised.
R: They put you out for the operation. When a newborn is circumcised, he is awake and feels all of it. Would you have allowed them to do the operation to you without anesthesia like that?
J: NO!! Oh No!!!!!
R: Yet that’s the way it’s done to babies!! Their feelings are just as strong and important at that age.
J: Well, I really don’t think that it’s necessary to have it done. I see no reason for [infant] circumcision apart from ritual. My parents brought me up, teaching me that I have to clean under there, and I was clean. So I don’t know why they do circumcision to babies. I don’t think it’s unhealthy.
R: You and your wife are expecting a baby. If your baby is a boy, will you have him circumcised?
J: No, I don’t want to do it. If he wants to have it done as an adult, or younger like at age 14 or 15, 1 think he can make the decision.
R: It is more expensive.
J: Yeah, it cost $600. I was lucky because I was insured through my work and I could give it as a medical reason. I don’t know how it is if somebody does it for so-called “beauty” reasons! I don’t think insurance would pay for it. But $600 is a lot of money and that was in 1974. Today I don’t know how much it would cost.
R: So if you have a son you will be able to teach him how to clean under his foreskin.
J: I think he’s going to wash every day anyway. That’s just another part of your body. He can pull the foreskin back and wash under it. It’s just like blowing your nose or brushing your teeth.
R: Do you wish that you had been circumcised as an infant so that you would never have gone through it at age 22?
J: No, not at all. It was just a slight irritation. It was nothing that bad.
R: You were an adult and could understand what was happening to you.
R: Babies are little and cannot understand what is happening to them.
J: I’m sure that it hurts. It’s funny, because in Germany you never even hear about it because nobody is circumcised.
Johannes was a very “together” person who was equally content with his intact and circumcised conditions. He was not traumatized by the operation, nor was he embarrassed about this interview.
I find his experience an excellent challenge to the popular belief that “Newborn babies should be circumcised because it is ‘so much more painful’ when it is done to an adult.”
In the United States doctors tend to consider the foreskin as something “dispensable”. A wart on an ear is not corrected by cutting off the entire ear, nor is a wart on a finger cured by amputation of the finger. Had Johannes been living in Germany when he developed this condition, his doctor would probably not have cut off the entire foreskin to get rid of the warts.
It is difficult to ascertain the true percentage of actual need for adult circumcision among intact males. In a circumcision-oriented society such as ours many doctors prescribe the operation for conditions which could be resolved, often easily, without resort to surgery. In other countries where male circumcision is not the norm, few, if any, males ever undergo circumcision, regardless of the condition of their foreskins. European, African, or Asian foreskins are not inherently different from American foreskins. This suggests that cultural influences rather than true medical need have caused many American doctors to recommend circumcision.
Additionally, some American men elect to be circumcised for “personal” (i.e., conformity) reasons. As a rule, insurance companies will pay for adult circumcision if it is medically prescribed, but will not pay if it is merely a “cosmetic” procedure. Therefore, many doctors will list a “medical” reason for circumcision on the patient’s charts so that insurance will be collected. This practice obviously distorts the data on the actual necessity of adult circumcision.
Regardless of the likelihood or unlikelihood of eventual circumcision if it is not done in infancy, the argument that all infant males should be foreskin-deprived because some may need it later in life is analogous to a similar proposal to cut off the breasts of all women because some may eventually need mastectomies.