Circumcision -
A Member of "NOCIRC" Speaks Out!

Some extremely relevant email was sent to me in 1998 from a member of NOCIRC, who incidentally is a lawyer. What this man says speaks for itself and he has agreed to his story being made public, as he is keen that the truth be known. Each successive message as we corresponded is shown below.

Message 1:

"I enjoyed your paper on circumcision very much and I wanted to tell you how much better I felt after reading it. I've been involved with NOCIRC here in Northern California for the last two years and they really made me feel miserable. I've come to learn I can't trust them when it comes to this subject.

I think they are causing a tremendous degree of psychological harm with their campaign and I've suffered a lot from their nonsense. Although I still oppose infant circumcision (my 4 year old twin boys are uncircumcised) and I am still pursuing foreskin restoration but your paper has helped ease much of the pain caused by NOCIRC. Thanks."

Message 2:

"Thanks for your reply to my letter. I'm sure you've received a lot of hate mail since your paper on circumcision was published. Before I started searching to internet I thought everybody was either anti-circ (and agreed with everything they said) or were indifferent but I'm glad to see this isn't the case.

I was also surprised to learn that a number of men feel as I do and had the same experience with NOCIRC and other such groups. At first one tends to accept all that they say because they sound like they know what they are talking about. But later one learns that they are quite dishonest and withhold from their followers medical information and materials which do not support the cause.

The turning point came for me last April, 1997 when the Laumann study, "Circumcision in the United States" came out in JAMA. NOCIRC heralded the finding that circumcised men have a greater incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, but quietly ignored the finding that uncircumcised men have more frequent complaints, especially over age 45, of sexual dysfunction (difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection, lack of interest in sex, pain with intercourse, etc).

In commenting on this finding Robert Van Howe characterized the results as "counterintuitive". Marilyn Milos told me over the phone last year that article was "good" but had no comment on the sexual dysfunction aspect of it. 3 I've now decided that these people are dishonest. Their's is merely a political cause fuelled by high emotion (anger, hatred, etc) and they are not in pursuit of "truth".

It would be nice to see an on-line critique of these groups. But in the meantime studies like yours work well to bring balance to this rather contentious subject."

Message 3:

"I would be pleased to have you quote me (anonymously). I feel I've been hurt by the antis and I think someone needs to be brave enough to speak up about their claims and tactics. Far too often they go on unchallenged (directly anyway) and they need someone to demand they prove what they say (I [am] tired of being told I'm "in denial" simply because I question them).

By the way I'm still on NOCIRC's mailing list and I just received their Spring Newsletter. I could go on for an hour telling you of the misinformation and utter nonsense in that letter. Just a quick example.

One of their chief doctor-spokesmen, Paul Fleiss, recently published an anti-circ article in Mothering magazine, "Where's My Foreskin". In it he made a number of claims (that circumcision removes up to 80% of the penile skin, that the penis is rendered 20% shorter as a result, etc.)

He said that circumcision was "institutionalized" in the US during the cold war (post 1945) without "vote or referendum" of the American people. He then said that it wasn't till the mid-1970s that "lawsuits forced doctors and hospitals to obtain parental consent to circumcise." I'm a lawyer and I can tell you this is total nonsense. Parental consent was always required at all times and in all places throughout the US.

If consent weren't obtained (even during the cold war) the doctor and hospital could be sued for battery. This was always the law!!! If parents didn't want a circ they only had to advise their doctor and hospital. If they had any suspicion the doctor would ignore their wishes they could simply fire the doctor and find someone else. But Fleiss conveys the notion (to non-lawyers) that circumcision was forced on an unwilling public. What baloney! I could see this, but not every reader would.

Like I said before, I oppose infant circumcision, but NOCIRC and most of their supporters are way off base and are simply making false claims.
"Thanks again for your replies."

Message 4:

"Thanks for your reply. Please do forward my email message to Tom Wiswell. In fact I was hoping to get his address and/or email address so I could write him myself since I know he is a well respected authority on circumcision and is about the only person who I've ever heard of who "changed camps" so to speak. I'm sure he needs to guard his privacy to some extent. As you may know the antis consider him nothing short of a monster.

But please give him my email address and encourage him to write if he wishes. 3 Marilyn Milos was encouraging me some time ago to join in one of their campaigns to disrupt a medical meeting that Dr Wiswell was supposed to attend.

I never got that involved in the "cause" and I think that may be the reason Marilyn was so rude on the phone the last few times I talked to her (I asked her last year how her three sons felt about their circumcisions and she became upset and snapped back, "they're all in denial!!!!!! I don't have any more time for this. I have to finish my dinner.")

3 You see this kind of stuff caused me to seek out other opinions on circumcision and I've found that the only people willing to discuss the topic in a rational way were those branded "pro-circ" by the antis. And that is because the "pro-circ" folks are not even close to being as "pro-circ" as the antis are anti. (NOCIRC wants a national ban on circ, but I've never heard anyone who wishes to force circumcision on unwilling parents or adults.)

Well, Brian I really went through a lot of psychological upset the last two years because of them and became so depressed that I came close to seeking professional help over this.

The funny thing which I could never quite get over was the fact that, before I heard of NOCIRC sex was great (fantastic, in fact) and I had never had any of the problems supposedly so common in circumcised men "I always had plenty of redundant penile skin, tremendous sensitivity, a cutline which was hardly visible, in short no problems of any kind (I never even heard of skin bridges and had no idea what they were).

Then NOCIRC came along and told me I was wrecked for life and that my penis was "diminished". And not knowing any better I believed them. Anyway your article was the first I read which really helped turn things around for me.

I took a copy of it off the internet, sat down and really studied it and I felt much better afterwards about myself and about this whole subject. (I was a bit upset when I read a critique if your article by Robert Van Howe on his "Circumcision Journal" wherein he said you made up most of your citations or that they did not exist). Thanks again for your reply and I hope to hear from you again."

Message 5:

"Hope all is well. I wrote to Tom Wiswell, but haven't heard a thing back. Mike Cormier said Wiswell was busy on a project (unrelated to circumcision) and hasn't been able to respond to his emails. I guess I'll have to be patient and I suppose I'll hear from him when he's able. I saw something the other day on one of these circumcision debate pages, of which there are several on the net. There's a guy, Jimmy, who hates being circumcised and writes in frequently.

This other fellow, Simon, wrote him the following which I thought was an excellent commentary on this subject: "In evolutionary terms circumcision has about neutral influence. Some die because of it; some die for not having had it - and I would include suicides in these statistics. So it's a psychological thing. I was circ'd as an adult, my own choice. But I grew up uncircumcised and I can never be rid of a slight feeling of inferiority because of this. I know my circ is not the real thing because it wasn't done for me by my parents.

So I think I can understand the converse position, that you and others like you will always feel robbed. There's nothing you can ever do to get rid of that feeling, it's a bit like people who were born poor and achieve great wealth who can never truly shake off feeling poor. So my sympathy to you, but at the same time please understand that there are others out there who feel as deprived as you do for not having been circumcised at birth.

I think it's fair to say that if infant circumcision is carried out with conviction or if it is refused with equal conviction and that the child is properly informed then either course is correct. My parents did not impart their conviction to me for not circumcising me, and I suspect that your parents never justified your circumcision to you. Simon

P.S. I've found that being circ'd is actually more comfortable than having a foreskin; a change but not a loss of sensitivity, but I'm not sure I could ever convince you." I thought that was great. It's true. Once you are taken in by the NOCIRC rhetoric it seems, if you are circumcised at least, that you can never quite get over that feeling of being robbed. I've been there and I'm not over it.

It's hard to describe the intensity of emotion that hits and maybe that's why it lingers even once you are away from the NOCIRC folks. In a way it becomes almost an obsession. One guy wrote on that same debate page: "It would be interesting to know just what world most of you are living in. I feel sorry for you guys, really I do.

It's amazing how you people work. Just a bunch of fanatics living in their own little anti-circ world, reinforced by the anti-circ groups with their crusades, books, seminars, symposiums, protests, etc. Just can't wake up in the morning without thinking about it can you?

Does it take up a big percentage of your day, dealing with this issue one way or another? Certainly seems that way. Get a life people!" I got a laugh out of this one, but it's really true... when you're into it (NOCIRC) the "cause" does have a way of taking charge of your thinking and to a greater or lesser extent, your life.

Just thought you might find these quotes interesting. Simon's comments remind me of what you said in your "Medical Benefits" paper that, according to a study by James Badger, about as many men wish they had been circumcised at birth as wish they hadn't. What do you think of Simon's comments?

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