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Circle Jerk: Unsheathing Myths and Phallic Fallacies About Foreskin

Circle Jerk: Unsheathing Myths and Phallic Fallacies About Foreskin

Amid a growing foreskin restoration movement, a group of gay men weigh in on uncut versus cut penis — and whether it makes a difference.

circle jerk

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my dick these last few days. More so than usual--which is a lot. Ever since reading The Village Voice's recent investigative feature on foreskin restoration (with perhaps the creepiest cover photo of all time), I've thought about my penis, its foreskin, and the way they have shaped my life as a gay man. The men interviewed are going through long, painful, and ultimately lonely extremes to regrow something I didn't even know I had until, as a kid, a doctor unceremoniously pulled it back--to my horror and fascination--during a routine check-up, thus opening up a new world to me.

"They call themselves restorers and, to cope, endeavor to stretch their skin to take the place of what was snipped away at birth. But regenerating an inch of skin is a superhuman feat. A foreskin can't simply grow back like a lizard's tail; it takes one to five years of grueling stretching and a slew of strange devices. It's physically torturous and also isolating, since most men take on restoring without talking to loved ones or doctors. Many turn to online forums for guidance and support. And most quit before reaching their goal."

These "restorers" feel an incredible sense of violation, likening their circumcision to genital mutilation. One man recounts calling up the doctor who snipped him, now 88 and retired, and yelling, "What was it like to tie me down and cut off a part of my body? How did it make you feel?" Because I've never much cared for penises--I tend to consider dick pics an affront to my delicate, booty-loving nature--I wanted to know what all the phallus fuss was about.

To better understand what would motivate men to subject themselves to this yanky noodle dong spree, I asked a bunch of my friends their thoughts on foreskin, circumcision, and the abnormal importance we as gay men attach to our--and others'--cocks. What I found was a frank, honest and adult discussion about sex that I think we too rarely have outside of a dark bar just shy of last call.

What a Diff'rence a Snip Makes

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I certainly have my own issues with my penis--having dealt with my fair share of BBC hysteria and guys seemingly wanting me for what's between my legs while ignoring what's in my head and heart--but for the most part, guys tend to be into the fact that I'm uncut. Some even demand it. For some, not so much. But what's the difference, if any, and does it even matter?

Ben: I'm a Jew. I'm circumcised. I'm accustomed to it. No big surprise. At the end of the day, when it comes to who I'm sleeping with, it's not a huge sticking point whether you're cut or uncut. I care more about the guy attached to the dick.

Jeff: No difference as long as it is clean. And even if it isn't, it can still go in my ass.

Leon: I really don't care either way, but my mother may make you have a bris before we get married.

For others, it's a matter of taste or experience as you explain.

Dane: I love uncut cock, can't get enough. Does it make a difference? I mean a Mercedes and a Buick are both cars, but wouldn't you want the Mercedes instead?

Alex: It's been forever since I've got to experience an uncut dick. Like over 12 years. I like both, but I would love the surprise of an uncut peen. It would be a nice change. Variety is the spice of life. That being said, I can't say I have a preference. I think if uncut was more prevalent in the U.S. it would quickly become the preferred way to be both for oneself and sex partners.

Mikey: At this point I have seen so many unique dicks I can pretty much roll with whatever lands in my lap. But when it comes down to cut vs. uncut, it kind of depends on the type of circumcision. I find guys with really tight circumcisions (when there's no "give") can be a little trickier to figure out how to please, and usually means breaking out the lube, which can kind of pull you out of the moment. So I guys if I was pressed on it, I have a slight preference for guys with loose cuts and uncut guys, because it's a little easier to be more...spontaneous and you don't have to be as reliant on lube or spitting all over the thing.

Brad: I definitely used to be in the camp of cut-only as my preference and really did not like uncut, but as I have learned more and experienced more sexually, I am definitely more open and even wanting to experience uncut IRL outside of porn. I am also a little bit jealous of uncut guys as they luckily get to experience a sensation that I won't ever be able to experience.

Pablo: I don't have a preference. Aesthetically, I actually think uncircumcised dicks look the best, unless you have to pull down miles and miles of foreskin to get to the head. When it comes down to sex, the only difference I can think of is that having a foreskin makes you more sensitive to touch (which can be good), and you don't need as much lube to jerk off. Also, it protects against that horrible zip fly burn if you like to go commando.

Nigel: Growing up I always thought cut was "hotter," basically because that's what we're taught in straight porn--which is what I grew up on (thanks Dad!). I'm uncut and to my surprise, my first hookup was with an uncut bloke--his dick smelled a bit, but it looked glorious. I've never been cut, so who the fuck am I to know if it makes a difference? I've heard from a lot of the cut guys I've been with how much they "love uncut dick." So I suppose it's a turn on 'cause it's foreign to so many. I've never had anyone act grossed out by mine.

While uncut has become something of a fetish, it hasn't always been that way.

BB: From an emotional perspective, yes, for me it has made a big difference. I got a pretty big complex about being uncut in middle/high school because most guys I saw in the locker room weren't and so it was yet another way to feel different--in addition to being gay and at my high school, new and friendless. Most guys in the porn I had access to (mostly magazines and straight in the early years) weren't uncut (thank god later in life for the Internet and Bel Ami). When I started to be sexually active with guys and we were all still young and dumb, some cut guys either expressed revulsion or confusion, and when you're already insecure and at that particularly vulnerable stage... it's pretty awful.

What's weird is that at some point... that kind of flipped, the confusion/revulsion comments from other guys stopped and so for a while it didn't seem to matter. Guys sometimes still don't know what to do when jerking off/giving head but they've seemed willing to learn or just skip to fucking which I honestly prefer one is surprised. It's even become something people get excited about. Seeing people asking specifically for my kind of dick on Grindr or Scruff? I still don't totally understand it but it feels much better these days. I think part of it comes with age/experience and perhaps part of it is just that times have changed.

Whether it is the times a-changing, there definitely seems to be a noticeable difference if you've been (questionably) lucky to experience both.

Paco: I started jerking off when I was 12 and I was uncut. When I was 14, I got circumcised for cultural reasons. Having experienced an orgasm with foreskin and an orgasm without, I can safely say that an uncut orgasm is about a thousands times more intense. I often miss my foreskin. Foreskin gives a much greater variance of penis. If you think about every cut dick you've seen, they are all quite uniform. Uncut men all vary in many more ways from smell, skin thickness, skin length. It's like the difference between buying processed and organic meat; why bother messing with the way Mother Nature intended?


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Most circumcisions take place when you're too young to know what's going on, let alone object to it and possibly table it for some other time--like after you've learned to talk and think for yourself. About a third of the world's men are circumcised, usually for health, religious--or in Paco's case--cultural reasons. There are certain health benefits to circumcision, including a reduced risk of penile cancer and UTIs, and studies have also shown circumcision to reduce the risk of HIV infection among heterosexual men. However, there's insufficient evidence if the same is true for men who have sex with men. Paco's experience of getting circumcised, more or less, as an adult, has led him to look into foreskin restoration himself. In the context of religious, cultural and medical reasoning, can circumcision, then, be considerd the same as genital mutilation?

Paco: I don't think circumcision is necessary. Studies scientifically show that the glands of the penis are desensitized through exposure to air, fabric, anything really.

Alex: I think it is a form of mutilation though nowhere near the level of FGM. I do wish my parents hadn't circumcised me so it could be my own decision. I feel like I may have missed out on something regardless of being satisfied with my sex life.

BB: Loaded subject and I really struggle with this. Male circumcision is not the same as female "circumcision--put in scare quotes because the same terminology cannot honestly be used. Mutilation is really the only word that can be used for what is done to girls. For them, there are no known health benefits, there are serious and significant risks and oftentimes it results in a total loss of, rather than reduced, sexual pleasure. None of these are common with male circumcision, as far as I'm aware, at least in Western nations. Nevertheless, it's a physical modification that guys don't consent to--for all it will have a physical impact and for some it'll have a much bigger emotional impact.

Jeff: Nope. I'm very happy with my cut dick. It functions perfectly fine, and it feels great. I think that regardless if you think it is right or wrong, putting it on par with female circumcision/genital mutilation is irresponsible. They just are not issues of the same magnitude.

Nigel: Yes. There's no health hazard in having foreskin as long as you're taught to keep it clean. So why do it? And uncut folks: keep it clean for fuck's sake.

Justin: Circumcision isn't genital mutilation if the guy consents to it or if it is medically necessary. But that pretty much rules out most circumcisions. The idea that you would perform a purely elective surgery to remove a body part of someone who has no idea what is going on is so gross to me. Ditto with foisting your religious beliefs on that person.

Pablo: I think a lot of parents decide to circumcise their sons to keep them "safe." Having an uncut dick in a country where most guys are cut is like being the black sheep. I know a guy who's Egyptian Christian but his dad wanted him to be circumcised to make him look like the other Muslim kids. I think any form of circumcision based on religious beliefs and health safety measures is outdated and despicable. If we're born with it, then let's leave it as it is.

Mikey: I mean, just by definition it is. Like, if you get your ear pierced or a tattoo, you're "mutilating" your body, so yes I do think it's genital mutilation. I'm not an activist calling for "an end to the genital mutilation of America's children," but I do question why it's a cultural and social practice that we've hung onto for so long in America. The decision to permanently alter a person's body should be left to the individual, a parent shouldn't be granted the right to just, cut off a part of a baby. That's kind of crazy when you think about it.

Dick Schtick

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Serious discussions aside, there's just something inherently funny about penises and so I asked the kids for some foreskin anecdotes to bring this figurative circle jerk to a happy ending.

Dane: I am always surprised when men who are uncut send dick pics on Grindr or SCRUFF--99% of the time they tend to have their foreskins pulled back to make it look cut. Insane. Show me the goods, convertible top up!

Ben: I once went out with a guy who considered himself to be "half-cut." I'd never heard the phrase before but supposedly he was circumcised as a baby...but not enough. He essentially had a significantly fleshier penis when soft and typical circumcised penis when erect. Nothing I'd typically notice, but funny that he would identify as falling in the middle.

Mikey: It wasn't until I moved to the east coast that I realized there were different styles of circumcision. The first time I saw a really high and tight cut I was like, "OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO THIS GUY'S DICK??" But then I kept encountering them and I started to piece together that a lot of these kids were born in New York and New Jersey. Whereas all the guys I hooked up with when I was growing up in the Midwest had lower and looser cuts. It definitely took me awhile to adjust to and figure out how they worked. But once I grew up a little and stopped gasping and started being like, "Hey man, what feels good for you?" it became much less of an ordeal and on I went.

BB: Docking. I have been asked a couple times and I really, really don't get it. But I don't get most sexual activities that aren't fucking. Why can't we all just fuck and then go to sleep?

Jeff: Years ago, one guy who I dated had so much foreskin, condoms just wouldn't stay on. I ended up having to fish several out of my ass. I've also encountered uncut units that are so sensitive sometimes you can't even touch it, which I think is also an argument that circumcision is not always a bad thing. I've heard of way more guys having comfort issues related to sex with their foreskin than I've heard having issues with their circumcised dick.

Nigel: It's way more fun to give a hand job to an uncut dick than a cut one. More to do.

Brad: Not a gay anecdote, but one of my girl friends in college had her first uncut experience and I remember it totally freaking her out. She described it as a "hooded wolf" and that phrase is kind of amazing and absurd and I still think about it today pretty much everytime it comes up.

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There's a noticeable reticence among gay men when it comes to talking publicly about sex. Where the rest of the public is concerned, there's still a certain "ick factor" about two dudes getting it on--and what that actually entails--and more than a little shame resulting from years of hiding. After all, for the longest time , the argument in favor of gay rights was that what people did behind closed doors should stay there. It didn't help that when emailing back and forth with all these queens, Gmail decided to mark the entire damn email chain as spam. Yet the entire process was very enlightening. And inspiring. It convinced me that talking more publicly and positively about sex would only destigmatize it, erasing whatever shame attached to it, and further educating youth about both the risks and joys of gay sex. Hopefully this can facilitate that discussion, or at the very least, inspire some decent dick jokes.

Les Fabian Brathwaite--noted hooded wolf.

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