Foreskin activist calls for genital awareness


KAILEY WILLETTS
The Martlet (University of Victoria)

VICTORIA (CUP) — Glen Callender can put nine grapes inside his foreskin.

Callender, a Vancouver-based writer and comedian, is the founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project, an advocacy group dedicated to “foreskin education, appreciation and stimulation,” and the grape-foreskin trick is the opening act of his presentation.

“[We] advocate for the right of all children, male, female and intersex to grow up with intact genitalia and decide for themselves if they want to have medically-unnecessary surgery performed on their genitals,” said Callender.

“The amputation of sex organs is a big deal and it’s something that as a culture we don’t want to face, and it’s really time for it to be faced.”

The project launched on June 20, Father’s Day, a deliberate move on Callender’s part. He hopes that one day CAN FAP will be “considered the greatest Father’s Day present that Canada ever received.”

Callender is advocating for foreskin awareness for several reasons. Males with foreskin experience more sexual pleasure than their circumcised counterparts, he said.

“[My foreskin] is very sensitive, it brings me a lot of pleasure. It brings me orgasms, specific orgasms that you don’t get from other places,” he said. “I even have multiple orgasms from stimulating my foreskin, which is very rare in men.”

Callender believes that there is no medical reason for circumcision and it is practiced purely for cultural or religious reasons.

“It’s so bizarre that in our culture we’re trying to prop up this absurd purely cultural double standard where we say, ”˜Oh, genital cutting is bad for girls, but it’s good for boys.’ That’s frankly nonsense,” he said. “It’s merely something that’s propped up by over a century of ignorance and an old fad from Victorian England that hasn’t washed itself out of the system.”

However, not everyone is on board with CAN FAP’s message. Rabbi Barak Cohen, from the University of Victoria’s Multi-faith Services, addressed some of the claims made on CAN FAP’s website.

“With regards to the necessity of [circumcision]? I don’t know. I mean I understand someone who’s not coming from a Jewish perspective, or also Muslims practice this as well, I would understand why they would not want to go through this procedure,” he said.

Cohen said there are some medical benefits to circumcision, such as studies that have shown it reduces HIV transmission rates in Africa.

“There are those who believe that medically it does have benefits. There are those who say those benefits are so small they wouldn’t go through such a procedure,” he said. “It’s an issue of what do we, as parents, have a right to do to children, for what we think is the best for them. Again, there’s two things — there’s religiously, if you’re a Jew or a Muslim, and physically, if you’re a human being.”

Immunizations are given to children for health benefits despite the fact that they’re uncomfortable, said Cohen. He added that while there may be minor benefits to circumcision that some parents feel are worth the procedure, for a Jew the benefits go beyond the physical.

One of those is a commandment called brit milah, which translates as “covenant of”¦ circumcision,” said Cohen. “It’s this relationship that God entered into with Abraham through this ritual.”

Cohen acknowledges that some believe religious circumcision should be saved until the age of majority.

“In theory that is a valid point. The only thing is that the ritual … becomes that much more complicated and is that much more painful when you’re older,” said Cohen. “To an eight-month-old baby, it’s not much of a procedure.”

However, Callendar disagrees. He says that with his personality and foreskin demonstrations, he and CAN FAP are in a position to bring a lot of awareness to circumcision.

“As a frontman for CAN FAP, I will be doing a puppetry of the penis-type thing. It’s evolving very quickly,” Callender said. It certainly is an evocative performance, moving from the initial “guess-how-many-grapes” attention-grabber to a more informative presentation on foreskin hygiene, pleasure and other topics.

Callender plans to take CAN FAP on a campus tour and hopes that both those who agree and those who disagree with his cause will attend. He will be visiting university campuses in B.C. throughout the fall.

Callender has already taken the project to several Pride events. The queer community, according to Callender, knows “what it feels like to be repressed sexually, especially by an old book of fairy tales.”

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Photo by Gemma Karstens-Smith/The Martlet

  • Tomas

    "CAN FAP". Absolutely brilliant.

  • elmismo61

    I totally agree with Callender!
    In countries with a human rights tradition, it's astonishing that this topic is still under debate. Parents have no rights to take such a decision about a healthy part of their child's body and doctors violate their deontological obligationswhen they impose that mutilation over a child.
    We're talking about a human's right violation and parents are totally abused themselves by those advocating such a violence towars a child!
    For what concerns the rabbi, its point of view is quite hypocritical since Jews believe somebody uncut will end in Hell. How could he be so moderate about that issue?

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Bonobo3D?feature=mhum James Loewen

    Cutting the genitals of an innocent infant is "hell" Every year countless children die from this degrading genital mutilation and torture. Forced circumcision is a violation of human rights. The false respect religion demands clouds us from seeing the obvious. Ban all genital cutting of all children. Protect the human rights of all children. boys, girls and intersex. Hooray CAN FAP!

  • ml66uk

    Everyone should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It's *their* body. Girls are protected, so why not boys?

  • http://www.restoringforeskin.org Restoring Tally

    I was circumcised at birth. I dislike my circumcision so much that I am restoring my foreskin. As I restore my foreskin I am realizing just how much I lost from being cut. My parents should have protected me from unnecessary surgery like circumcision. My body, my choice.

  • http://www.circumstitions.com Hugh7

    Rabbi Cohen is right that “It’s an issue of what do we, as parents, have a right to do to children, for what we think is the best for them.” And we have NO right to cut any other normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable part off our children’s bodies. Why this anomaly? In fact, the most nearly corresponding part of little girls’ bodies gets special legal protection – even from parents who think cutting it off “is the best for them”. Why the double standard?

    He is simply wrong that “the ritual … becomes that much more complicated and is that much more painful when you’re older”. Neonatal circumcision is microsurgery, and the tiniest mistake is magnified manyfold in the adult. An adult can monitor his own pain-relief as a baby cannot. “To an eight-month[day?]-old baby, it’s not much of a procedure.” On the contrary, studies have shown that the pain of neonatal circumcision is akin to that of torture, that their bodies remember it for months, and that sugar (the usual pacifier at ritual circumcisions) makes the face relax but does not relieve the pain.

    Newcomers to the subject; Callender is an outlier in the Genital Autonomy movement (Intactivism), and the great majority are involved in this human rights issue in much less dramatic and personal ways.

  • http://twitter.com/intactive @intactive

    Rabbi Cohen is right that "It’s an issue of what do we, as parents, have a right to do to children, for what we think is the best for them." And we have NO right to cut any other normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable part off our children's bodies. Why this anomaly? In fact, the most nearly corresponding part of little girls' bodies gets special legal protection – even from parents who think cutting it off "is the best for them". Why the double standard?

    He is simply wrong that "the ritual … becomes that much more complicated and is that much more painful when you’re older". Neonatal circumcision is microsurgery, and the tiniest mistake is magnified manyfold in the adult. An adult can monitor his own pain-relief as a baby cannot. "To an eight-month[day?]-old baby, it’s not much of a procedure.” On the contrary, studies have shown that the pain of neonatal circumcision is akin to that of torture, that their bodies remember it for months, and that sugar (the usual pacifier at ritual circumcisions) makes the face relax but does not relieve the pain.

    Newcomers to the subject; Callender is an outlier in the Genital Autonomy movement (Intactivism), and the great majority are involved in this human rights issue in much less dramatic and personal ways.

    • Mat

      I had always assumed that a late-in-life circumcision would be worse than a neonatal one. Could you post the link to the studies that show neonatal circumcision is akin to torture? It would be interesting to read more on this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=717284850 Joshua Shaffer

    I'd like to know exactly why Jews think it's any sort of "covenant" when it's forced on an infant. A covenent is an agreement between 2 or more people to do something. The infant certainly never is given a chance to decide for himself.

    It sounds more like a blood sacrifice to me.

  • Bud Yanker

    If you circumcised your dogs the same way the rabbis does it to infants, you would be accused of animal cruelty.

  • Deniz

    Circumcision is not a vaccine, no matter what people may claim about supposed "health benefits".
    Circumcision is mutilation no matter what label people try to put on it.
    End it now.

  • http://myspace.com/sammidehart.com Sammi

    O' WOW! Hear hear for Elephant trunks!! LMFAO! Ive seen it all now, lololol!

  • Monica

    Circumcision is male genital mutilation, plain and simple. For one thing, even PARENTS are not given enough information to give informed consent. I know a lot of new moms with baby boys who thought they would have it done, "just because" – they think of it like all those other post-birth events, like the eyedrops and vaccines. When I gave them more information or encouraged them to read about it, many of them decided not to go ahead.

    And I know other moms who say that if they had known what it was really like, they never would have agreed to it. Several more whose first son is circumcized, but not the second.

    Unfortunately, this issue is untouchable in the US because of the religious aspects. In my opinion, the first step would be to make it illegal EXCEPT in a religious context. After that, the majority of Americans would realize that allowing infant torture for the sake of religion is not something we want to accept.

    Also, I believe that boys who've been circumcised as infants should start to sue the doctors who performed the procedure. That'd put an end to it right quick. "First do no harm". Yeah, right.

    As far as the risk of penile cancer and AIDS. Sure, maybe. On the other hand, perhaps all women should have mastectomies as young adults to avoid the risk of breast cancer. No? Are there any other body parts we cut off routinely to avoid potential health problems in the future? That is an excuse (meaning that it is given as a justification after the fact), not a reason.

  • Ron

    Circumcising baby boys is an evil and sickening ritual that should be illegal. In Canada the circumcision rate has dropped to well below 10%. So at least the vast majority of people in Canada are against it now and less babies are being genitally mutilated. Hopefully some day it will be illegal.