Making America Safe for Foreskins

Circumciser, Heal Thyself

To Playboy (published April 1983):
       The most damning and unanswerable indictment against circumcision and those who circumcise babies is the fact that the vast majority of uncircumcised males throughout the world keep their foreskins intact -- and the fact that so many circumcised men would rather have their foreskins intact.
       Awareness of those two facts would make persons of good will refuse to destroy this sensitive, harmless part of a baby's body.
       The circumcisers of the world are aware of those two facts, but they continue to circumcise babies anyway, knowing that some of them will eventually resent that that was done to them and knowing that males who are given the choice overwhelmingly reject that operation.
       Can reason and persuasion change the minds of those who commit such an act?
       It's not circumcision that needs to be studied. It's circumcisers.

[This is the letter that broke Playboy's long silence about circumcision. It started a debate in the "Playboy Forum" that continued at least 18 months, when I finally lost track of it. The last two sentences have been widely quoted. Playboy printed another letter from me a year later in its April 1984 issue. These two letters, along with the one below printed in Penthouse in 1983 (I still don't know which issue), brought the total copies of my letters about circumcision in print to well over 10 million -- a record, I think, at the time.]

To Obstetrics and Gynecology (10/4/84):
       Most men who circumcise babies, like most men who want babies circumcised, were themselves circumcised as babies, and therefore have no way of knowing how a foreskin feels, what it's like to have one, how the absence of a foreskin has affected their lives, or how it affects the lives of the babies they circumcise.
       If a man is so blind to his own blindness that he seeks -- or is even just willing -- to blind those who can see, shouldn't he be told he's blind?

To Forum (12/16/85):
       Regardless how harmless or even beneficial cutting off a baby's foreskin might seem to whoever cuts it off or wants it cut off, the result for the baby is the same: going through life (assuming he lives) with as much as half or more of the natural surface of his penis missing.
       Since the vast majority of males who reach adulthood with their foreskins intact -- even in societies in which most males don't -- would feel perfectly justified defending themselves any way necessary from anyone who tried to cut their foreskins off, cutting off a male's foreskin before he's old enough to protect himself amounts to foreskin amputation by force.
       If the only way a male can be made to part with his foreskin is to cut it off by force, what does that say about those who commit such an act? What does that say about societies that tolerate it? What does that say about institutions that sanctify it?
       Anyone who examines a penis with its foreskin intact and a penis with its foreskin missing can see clearly what circumcision does to the body. Considering how willing, even determined, some men become, once their foreskins are severed, to force that amputation on others -- even their own sons -- perhaps the first question that should be asked is: What does circumcision do to the mind?

To the American Academy of Pediatrics (1/14/88):
       The section about molesters in your pamphlet, "Child Sexual Abuse," doesn't mention one of the most common, most destructive types of all: men who, behind the mask of medicine or religion, try to make their own lack of a foreskin seem normal by cutting off the foreskins of children and babies.

(cc: Every officer and member of the executive boards of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; C. Everett Koop, MD, Surgeon General of the U.S.)

[An earlier version of this letter was published in a late 1983 issue of Penthouse.]