Foreskin activist calls for genital awareness

By in News

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