Living with a circumcised penis can be quite daunting for men and can make them feel like outcasts, especially if most people around them have an uncircumcised penis. Circumcision is a surgical procedure of removing the hood of skin that covers the head of their penis called the foreskin. In certain religions such as Islam and Judaism, it’s performed on newborns as a custom. However, in India, where Muslims are a minority, it is viewed as mutilation of perfectly normal human skin, and living with a circumcision often means being subjected to ridicule and shame.
According to the BBC, Muslims are the largest religious group to circumcise boys which are believed to be a process of purification. Circumcision is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an but it is highlighted in the Sunnah (the Prophet Muhammad's recorded words and actions).
The main rationale behind circumcision is cleanliness, as Muslims believe the removal of the foreskin makes it easier to keep the penis clean because urine can't get trapped there. This is important as they believe it prevents men from being impure while praying. Some Muslims also consider circumcision to be a preventive measure against infection and diseases.
This is partly true as studies have shown that circumcision has been proven to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases but only in heterosexual men. The procedure has not been proven to reduce the risk of infection through oral or anal sex or to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to female partners. Although, circumcision does reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in infants, according to the CDC guidelines.
Its medical benefits exist but having the procedure done as a child, non-consensually can be quite frustrating for boys as they’re growing up. Circumcised boys and men face ridicule for their ‘abnormal’ penis and are often called out with slurs such as ‘katwa’ as an insult. To learn about the struggles and experience of living with a circumcised penis, Bingedaily spoke to Arsallan Mulla, a recent graduate of Singapore International School.
Living with a circumcision has caused him troubles with his self-image
Arsallan, an 18-year-old who recently finished high school, explains that it was never his choice to get circumcised. “I was circumcised shortly after I was born; 3 days after, to be exact. It was not my choice,” he discloses.
Since it wasn’t his choice, he feels it was, in a way, unethical to subject him to the procedure. He also expresses that it’s led him to become disdainful of these age-old traditions that, according to him, have no real benefit in our contemporary world.
“These traditions have caused me troubles with my self-image, and I think that following such procedures to indoctrinate someone into a community is purely unethical. The procedure is generally done on a child that cannot consent to it, and it is majorly done for religious/traditional purposes as opposed to medical purposes,” he explains.
He even stated that he would definitely not carry down the legacy of circumcised penises and said, “if I had to circumcise my son, I would definitely refuse.”
Even though, there’s a general perception that a circumcised penis can cause problems in people’s relationships, particularly, romantic ones, Arsallan states that weren’t the case for him. “It hasn't affected any of my romantic relationships, however, some of my platonic relationships have ceased to continue due to them using my circumcision against me,” he says.
“Living with a circumcision has also at times affected my self-perception, causing me to feel insecure as a kid”
As a child, his self-image was adversely affected, “It [Living with a circumcision] has also at times affected my self-perception, causing me to feel insecure as a kid because other children had a foreskin and I didn't, which made me feel isolated at times and feel extremely insecure,” he confesses.
A part of the reason behind his dislike for the tradition also stems from the fact that he had no choice in it whatsoever, as people decided this for him and their decision on his body with him no matter what. He was essentially stripped of his autonomy as well.
“People have used my circumcision against me since my name denotes the community I come from”
Men that have been circumcised have often been called ‘katva’ as a slur to shame them and make them feel inferior. Arsallan explains that people used it to express power over him, “Another experience that I’ve had is that people have used my circumcision against me since my name denotes the community I come from, and that gives other people power over me, as I’ve been called a katva (circumcised) many times, simply a slur to dehumanize me,” he tells the Bingedaily.
He found it spirit breaking to have constant reminders about his condition from others, making him feel like he was reduced to one identity and feature. It stripped him off his sense of self and even when he didn’t consider himself to be a part of the community, other people argued otherwise simply stating ‘agar katva hai toh tu katva hi rahega,’ (if he is circumcised, he will remain circumcised forever) He says, “That’s a major way the circumcision has profoundly affected my life.”
He reckons that if it weren’t for circumcision he wouldn’t be as conscious about his body, more specifically, his penis, since he wouldn’t notice a difference between him and others, especially as an impressionable young child.
“My family keeps on telling me is that it keeps the penis clean, and reduces chances of STIs and STDs”
Like most Muslim households, Arsallan’s family also believes that getting a circumcision would lead to purification. As a way to coax him into accepting his condition, they would constantly remind him of the benefits of living with a circumcision, that “it keeps the penis clean, and that it reduces chances of STIs and STDs.”
However, according to him, the cons outweigh the said benefits as he believes he has been stripped of the pleasure that he could’ve had as circumcision reduces the sensitivity of the glans. In some ways, it has led him to believe that he wouldn’t be as sexually satisfied compared to someone with a foreskin, and that has been one of his biggest concerns with regards to the physical demerits of living with a circumcision.
It’s quite unfortunate how people are so condemnatory and critical of circumcised men. whether it was their choice or not, it’s toxic to body-shame another human for their physical attributes. It may appear as a joke to people, however, those derogatory jokes can often may long-lasting psychological impacts of people. Many people may hesitate to speak about the procedure but talking about it is a great first step in normalizing the experience.