Prince Harry’s circumcision reveal highlights phimosis issue, childhood consent

Home Health Prince Harry’s circumcision reveal highlights phimosis issue, childhood consent
Prince Harry’s circumcision reveal highlights phimosis issue, childhood consent

If you’ve ever spent time thinking about Prince Harry’s penis, apparently you’re not alone.

In a leaked excerpt from his forthcoming memoir, Spare, he writes that his penis “was a matter of … public curiosity,” with “countless stories” speculating whether he’d been circumcised.

Contrary to what he says was popular opinion, the Duke of Sussex has revealed he was actually “snipped” as a baby.

All the better for him to “mount” a woman quickly, it seems.

Curious choice of verb aside, Prince Harry has undergone, as a child, an operation I’ve considered as an adult. But I’ve decided against it.

Male circumcision is increasingly becoming controversial — especially when done to children, as was the case with Prince Harry.

A group of campaigning men opposing male infant circumcision were among the first to dissuade me. They call themselves ‘foreskin reclaimers’ or ‘intactivists’ (a portmanteau of “intact” and “activist”).

They argue that the unnecessary removal of a child’s body part, without their consent, which permanently alters their body and sexual function or pleasure later in life, violates bodily autonomy.

Whether the reason is culture, religion or tradition, they want to stop foreskins being treated as birth defects, or as useless.

In the 1950s, the rate of circumcision in Australia was about 80 per cent. Today the ratio has reversed: It’s estimated about 20 per cent of newborn boys are now circumcised.

Unlike Harry, I haven’t been – and won’t be – snipped.

I considered it because I have a condition few talk about, due to the taboo – phimosis. In plain English: A tight foreskin, which can’t fully retract.

Thanks to shows like Sex And The City portraying foreskins as repellent, I grew up believing my penis was ugly and disordered.

It’s neither of these things. It’s just different. Today, I finally believe my penis is perfect as it is.

Three main treatments exist for phimosis – steroid cream, circumcision, or to simply embrace it. I’ve opted for the latter option, with a little help from the first. Steroid cream, once I found the courage to ask my doctor, makes things that little bit smoother.

In some cases, especially where phimosis causes pain, circumcision may be necessary; always speak to your doctor, and never be embarrassed.

Current medical advice is that circumcision should be the last resort.

The stigma prevented me from speaking about it. But one heartbreaking story and some unnerving stats have made me want to speak out today, in case there are men struggling in silence.

‘I’ve been left with a numb, botched stick’

The heartbreaking story of Alex Hardy, 23, who took his own life after circumcision, might give you pause.

It was, tragically, only in his suicide note that Alex revealed his phimosis and the “awkward moments it created in the bedroom”.

British Alex was living in Canada, where circumcision is more common. A urologist he saw immediately recommended it.

In his final email to his mum, Alex described constant painful stimulation from his sensitive penis head, which was no longer protected by his foreskin.

He compared the torture from clothing friction to an eyeball if the eyelid was amputated.

Meanwhile, Alex’s erogenous zone was obliterated. He estimated he’d been stripped of 75 per cent of the sensitivity of his penis.

“Where I once had a sexual organ I’ve now been left with a numb, botched stick,” he wrote.

It was his dying wish his usually private mother speak out on this.

In Australia, University of Sydney figures showed that between 2001 and 2016, the number of times GPs managed phimosis soared by 90 per cent.

Medicare item reports revealed that circumcisions for young boys and men increased by 60 per cent between 2017 and 2019.

This concerns me. Young men are believing they need surgery to make their penises ‘attractive’ and foreskin free.

Every penis is beautiful

There are so many benefits to foreskins, even with phimosis.

Estimates suggest there are between 20,000 and 100,000 nerve endings in the foreskin, making it the most sensitive part of the penis and an erogenous zone. The body has been designed this way, for sexual function.

It all comes down to good communication with your partner about what does/doesn’t feel good. Discovery is part of the fun.

Yet nobody’s talking about it, perhaps from fear of sounding crass or creepy. (As a gay guy, this is potentially easier for me to say publicly.)

Some men tell me they actually prefer penises with foreskins, even with phimosis. To me, whether circumcised or not, all penises are beautiful.

It’s so important we talk about phimosis. Generations of boys are growing up hating their bodies and not knowing that others have penises which are different. Some men are so full of anger; I sometimes wonder if this is why – society is constantly size-shaming or aesthetically humiliating their penises.

Learning to love them and use them respectfully and lovingly will lead to a more harmonious society.

Gary Nunn is a journalist and author | @garynunn1

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