Written in August 2008

Last week saw the start of the circumcision season in parts of Kenya. A period when certain tribes round-up young men and forcibly remove their foreskins without anaesthetic or sterilized cutting tools. It’s viewed there as a rite of passage and any man who avoids the knife becomes an outcast.

This year, as if to add justification to the event, some people are banging on about World Health Organisation info that being circumcised can help stop men catching AIDS if they have sex with an infected woman. So there are millions of men out there who heard that headline only and now think it’s safe for them to have unprotected sex.

Most of the people I work with come from countries or cultures where circumcision is the norm, so in discussions about how we cover this story, I’m pretty much alone in putting forward the case that medically unnecessary circumcision is mutilation. My colleagues say ‘it’s tradition’ and ‘it’s for religious reasons’, yet no-one can actually tell me why. They seem to think that ‘because it’s always been done’ is a good enough excuse – and they laugh at me for so vehemently trying to fight for the cause of a little flap of skin that I’ve never had anyway.

“Why?” I asked. “Why did it ever become normal to cut off foreskins?”. “Whose bright idea was it to one day look at a naked man and think ‘that bit of skin isn’t doing much, let’s chop it off’?”. Despite all their knowledge and bible-reading not one of my colleagues could tell me. So I did some research (okay, I Googled for a bit) – and still I’m none the wiser as to why circumcision came into being or became so widespread.

The most common reason my hunting unearthed is to stop men from enjoying masturbation – but why in these modern times would anyone want to ruin that little pleasure? Playing with yourself is about the only real joy in life that costs absolutely nothing and does no-one any harm. Besides, a couple of circumcised men I know told me that a personal polish is still enjoyable for them – although how would they know what they’re missing out on when they were snipped as babies so have nothing to compare? And surely a circumcised wank can’t be as good as an uncircumcised one or those joy-killing fore(skinless)fathers would have put a stop to circumcision long ago.

Even more bizarre than this mutilation for religious or traditional beliefs is, is the American view that a circumcised penis looks better and is cleaner.

One of the most ridiculous bits of TV I ever saw is that scene in Sex and the City when Charlotte sees an uncircumcised dick for the first time, wrinkles up her face and complains to her friends that “…it looks like a Shar Pei!”. No it doesn’t you silly tart – it looks like a penis! And then the guy in question goes and gets circumcised because apparently other women have also looked shocked by his un-cut member. Am I the only person in the world who thinks this is absolutely bonkers? To get part of your knob cut off just because it looks the way it ought to?

A penis isn’t a handbag – it’s not meant to look pretty. It’s for peeing out of when it’s soft and for willing individuals to bounce around on when it’s hard. If you want pretty, buy a bunch of flowers. As for the argument about cleanliness – a dick’s only as clean as its owner keeps it, circumcised or not.

If you’re a man reading this and you have your tackle in tact, I say “Well done you!” Hang on to your foreskin (feel free to slip your own jokes in here) – and if any stupid woman (or man) ever tells you they’d rather you didn’t have one, tell them to go screw themselves and find yourself someone who appreciates your penis as nature made it.

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