I was raised in a family that didn’t know how to talk about sex, or our bodies. My parents even used made up words to talk about bathroom behaviors and body parts. Though I was raised in this kind of family, I still had questions, but I had to learn not to ask them. I was very small when I started asking my mom about it. Of course nobody had ever mentioned it, but I knew that I had been “CUT” down there. I actually believed at the time that the doctor had carved the groove behind my glans (what I now know as the sulcus)…I wasn’t sure what had been done, but I knew it had been an act of cutting. I knew I had been hurt. I learned later that I was missing something.
I was in college when I had my first intact partner; it was then that I discovered what, exactly, was taken from me. When I first saw him without clothes, I was excited to see what a “normal” penis looked like—the way they’re supposed to be. What I didn’t expect to see is how he got pleasure from things that would’ve had no effect upon my scarred, diminished penis. Compared to him, I had to go to extremes to get even a little pleasure. I knew I had been robbed…I just hadn’t realized the value of what had been taken. This wasn’t my first knowledge of the intact penis, I had learned all about it in school, and had already developed the intactivist spirit, but it was my first “hands-on” experience of form and function. WARNING! DISTURBING IMAGE BELOW!
In my undergraduate studies in psychology I became very close with one of my mentors, now my closest and most trusted friend. Ours was, and still is, a relationship where we’re safe to discuss childhood experiences, and feelings of vulnerability, grief, and loss. It was during one of these talks that I brought up my feelings of circumcision. I explained how I was privately grieving my loss, and how this violent act was done to me without my consent. I experienced it as a form of rape. She listened closely as I talked about these feelings of powerlessness when I started to go into what I can only call a state of shock. I know that I stopped talking. I remember her asking: “Rick, what are you feeling now?” I went pale and started shaking. She said she could see the terror in my eyes. “I don’t know what’s happening,” I told her. “I don’t’ have words for this. My hips hurt, like they’re being crushed, and my elbows ache, throbbing with my heartbeat, and my groin…it’s….burning. Stinging.” My heart was racing. I felt dizzy. I wanted to run away, but felt as if I couldn’t move. I was re-experiencing some trauma, an old trauma–a memory of something, my circumcision? We were discussing my feelings of loss and powerlessness when this started. We talked about what we had just witnessed and I decided to learn more about it. I was grateful that my friend was with me.
This was back in the early 1990’s. My friend and I went to several No-Circ events in the Seattle area. During one, we marched to the front door of the company that manufactures the Circumstraint board—the board they use to strap down the new born. I enjoyed picketing them, and being with other intactivists. One of the nurses brought a Circumstraint board which we filled with blood-red carnations. But when I saw the Circumcstraint board, I noticed that its straps cross the long bones mid-thigh and upper arm, not the joints above or below. This design would not put pressure on the hips or the elbows– the places where I had felt pressure in my re-experience. I started to question if those feelings were just my mind filling in what I had imagined had happened to me–my body sympathizing with my interpretation of infant circumcision. I was really confused. It had felt so real. I didn’t know what it all meant.
I approached the intactivist nurse who brought the circumstraint board, and asked if there were different designs that maybe strapped at the arms and hips. She explained that the board was not yet used when I was born. It didn’t come into use until 12 years after I was born. So I asked her how they restrained the babies when I was born. I’ll never forget what she said.
She told me that the nurse stands at the head of the infant and holds the thighs of the child in each hand. She spread the infant’s legs and forces the femurs down pinning the hips to the table and uses her forearms to pin the child’s elbows down. This explained exactly what I felt that day! Hips=pressure, Elbows=Pressure, Penis=burning pain.
I have no doubt that my body remembers my circumcision that happened on the second day of my life. I relived it that day almost three decades later. I had no way of knowing that it involved my hips and elbows…but that’s exactly what came up when I let myself feel the memory that was in my body. I would probably not believe this myself…but I was there. I felt it. And I did not know how I had been held down, so I couldn’t have made it up. Something in me remembered—remembers. So I know exactly why I’m crying as I write this down.
– Rick, Seattle US