Archive Version 4.4 Jan 1998
This essay demonstrates the importance of checking every uncircumcised boy,
for phimosis, frenulum breve and adhesions, before puberty. These conditions
anatomically inhibit the relationship between the foreskin and the glans, particularly
when the penis is erect. This often causes pain and other problems during puberty,
or when making love.
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THE PASSAGES TO MANHOOD
Among young children, the practical difficulties which the congenital conditions present, are from severe degrees of phimosis resulting in ballooning (spraying, wet trousers, etc.), or infection. A longer period of ballooning or infection appears particularly undesirable. In the infant, ballooning is widely reported to result in a weak bladder.
Regarding infections, they develop well in hot moist enclosed environments, one ideal area being between the foreskin and glans. It seems once infections have occurred, the area is then vulnerable to reoccurrences. A child is conscious of such intimate problems and finds them disturbing. The psychological nature of such disturbances requires a deeper study, it is beyond the scope of this essay.
In Europe today, many operations occur once puberty has started. A number of the problems arise simply because boys masturbate and the rubbing action of a phimosis repeatedly passing over the coronal ridge of the glans, causes soreness, which may subsequently develop into inflammations or infections. Many reports from men without any infections, describe masturbating painfully for several years.
Rare, but significant is a paraphimosis: when the phimotic ring gets stuck behind the glans, causing the glans to swell up. This is considered to be a medical emergency. To summarise: All the above complaints are caused by relatively mild degrees of phimosis, and such mild degrees are usually discovered at puberty.
Bettelheim reports a boy whose "painful adhesions interfered with full functioning
of the penis." (12). Adolescents
with adhesions often report consciously avoiding the pain inherent
in their erections. It seems that the imminence of pain from adhesions
always leads to their discovery at puberty.
The experience of pain, difficulty, or the proximity of pain is a common one. It can endure for several years, sometimes until adulthood, before a youth feels confident or aware enough to be able to approach a doctor.
When a boy is left to discover such pain and other problems in his first active erections, it means that a considerable percentage of boys who are not routinely checked, are going to have a fully distorted first impression of sex and manhood. An absurdly mismanaged and senseless puberty ritual.
See Peter S. : An Expert
It is not necessarily the severe conditions which have the worst effects. A severe phimosis can be discovered within the first months of a child's life, a phimosis which is not visible when flaccid, can cause mild or avoidable difficulties throughout life, eventually being treated as the skin shrinks in old age.
With both phimosis and frenulum breve, the final recognition of the condition may follow a conscious experience of pain or difficulty. This often occurs during a youth's first intimate relationships, because here the erection, penetration and ejaculation are not exclusively controlled by his own hands.
When making love the effects of a phimosis
or frenulum breve are unavoidable particularly when attempting to
penetrate, an act which normally requires the retraction of the foreskin.
With moderately tight degrees of phimosis (when the vagina is unlubricated
and unrelaxed), the foreskin will ruffle up in a turtle neck making
penetration impossible. (The
Kinsey Institue's advice on this is questionable)
With the frenulum during love making, a full retraction of the foreskin is often unavoidable, this strains the frenulum breve and can cause the frenulum to suddenly rip. Sometimes this merely arouses curiosity, at other times the reaction is of panic and shock. When the frenulum breve does not rip, it will either hold the foreskin forward, or it will cause pain and tension. It is apparent that many men do not realise that there is a simple surgical cure for this.
It appears that the first love experiences of a considerable number
of our culture's young people, are distorted and disturbed through
these congenital conditions. It may be an exaggeration, but one surgeon
tells us that men between 20 and 30 years old, with a frenulum breve
or phimosis, "always complain that the operation was neglected in
An expert Urologist in this field, Dr. Hartmut Porst wrote "it is
not uncommon,... that a phimosis is not at all consciously realised
by the carrier until the first act of love". (9).
The conditions are defined as causing pain and difficulty, yet some
of the men are not aware of any difficulty, why this inconsistency?
People Avoid Pain
To summarise an answer: It is normal and healthy for people to avoid pain and difficulty and people develop habits.
There are hundreds of different degrees and combinations of phimosis and frenulum breve. All these conditions have specific behavioural consequences, however some parts of the development can be generalised.
The lack of awareness probably originates previous to puberty, through painful experiences with adhesions. Ultra-sound pictures have shown that baby boys have erections in the womb. Reports from parents indicate that a boy who is free of adhesions, may start innocently playing with his erect penis (with foreskin retraction), at the age of one month old. For a boy who has adhesions, his sexual learning process commences with the restricting sensation of pain from adhesions.
Once the adhesions release, these early impressions may become confirmed by the effects of phimosis or frenulum breve. Men with severe phimosis often never experience any pain, they simply find retraction impossible. With the frenulum breve retraction can involve uncomfortable or painful experiences.
In many cases, with phimosis and the frenulum breve, the individual is not consciously aware of an inability to (fully) retract the foreskin, it is simply not desirable, it is considered as unnecessary. A normal boy accepts his body, and grows accustomed to it without worrying. He believes that his condition is normal and healthy, and he is unaware that he has any limitation which requires treatment.
One man who I spoke with, after describing how he washed under the foreskin with an extreme phimosis, (by flushing the area out with a squeezing action), told me he thought that "everyone's normal, we're all just a bit different".
The behavioural habits which can develop as a result of this anatomical restraint are easiest to appreciate by considering masturbation. It is generally accepted that the most normal method of masturbating, is by moving the foreskin. With these conditions a freely movable foreskin at the same time as a full erection is impossible.
This lack of freedom of movement is similar to a man who is fully circumcised, but whereas the latter is limited, he is not constrained. A boy with these conditions develops a sexual relationship with himself which is to some extent determined by an anatomical disturbance or handicap; in addition to which he often believes that this disturbance is normal, and does not realise that he has any handicap.
Masturbation occurs throughout puberty previous to any relationship. It could be argued that a male's ability to develop a relaxed relationship with his body and his manhood is based on feeling himself and especially masturbation.
See Adhesions and Early Learning
See Beauge M.D. for further details
The Blind Spot
With these hands
we build this world and we explore our possibilities
we feel for identity on our first steps in the dark
we compensate reality and complement it with fantasy
Thus establishing the extent of our possibilities.
People avoid pain and difficulty. A man with these conditions is unable (with any ease) to reveal his full physical manhood, therefore logically this also affects his perception of his own manhood, and his self image as a man.
With this blind spot, any re-education is difficult. The carrier is not as aware of himself and he is probably not as interested generally in pictures, information or education about the male phallus. (On seeing pictures of the phallus with a retracted foreskin, I automatically thought that such men must be circumcised).
If a boy with these conditions does have any interest in his phallus, any recognition of or belief he establishes in his sexual identity, would be based on a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of his full potential, (it would be based on the misconception that the foreskin is designed to remain forward or cause pain).
This anatomical inhibition functions in a similar manner to the generally understood emotional inhibition. Anyone with any sort of inhibition does not experiment as freely in that area, he does not discover, he is simply not as aware of the area.
Letters I have received show that any seed of awareness may be simply repressed. A young man of 20 wrote: "I realised that something was different about age 10 when other kids' could expose their glans and I couldn't. It was disturbing at the time...but I was still young...so I forgot about it." Another man of 23 wrote "Up to now I had never really thought of it in terms of something that I could cure, but rather just live with."
Human ingenuity is so creative that when a problem is conscious, an individual has the choice of confronting it, and can even turn it to some greater strength. On the other hand, when unknown to the individual, he's fighting his own closest friend, how many self deceptions would he accept in order to maintain a sense of integrity?
When the ambassador of his love can't sense the situation
His confidence will be untrustworthy
His messages will be unsure.
Was it innocence or ignorance which led to these consequences?
There are many cases where it is impossible to prove anything, simply because the men concerned have had few sexual experiences which they could relate. There is good reason to believe that the difficulties involved may in some cases directly inhibit the sex drive.
One case of extreme phimosis told me that he had never masturbated or had any
interest in sex previous to his operation. Beauge
M.D. reported "Some boys never masturbate! We may doubt their assertions,
but the tightness of their phimosis suggests their statements are correct."
It is apparent that the lack of freedom of movement from a tight phimosis restricts
sexual expression and activity, but to what extent? - Circumcised men also have
little freedom of movement, yet this does not inhibit their interest in masturbation.
When asked about his sexual interests, one man answered that the woman's pleasure was more important, it is a great sadness that for over twenty five adult years he had had no intimate relationship.
Considering the amount of men who discover a phimosis on their wedding night, it is worth considering if this condition could even contribute to the choice to wait for sex, until marriage. One man commented "I don't have any sexual experiences to tell you since I'm still a virgin...I'm one of those guys who waits until marriage."
David wrote "The inability
to retract my foreskin led me to make incorrect assumptions about myself, including
the idea that I was never meant to have sex." He points out the obvious: "both
men and boys can - over time, adapt their beliefs and thinking patterns to accommodate
their anatomical conditions."
One man wrote "I experienced a big lack of self confidence and self esteem"
He could only guess the extent to which such psychological
repercussions were anatomically determined. Another told me he had often
wondered if his phimosis had anything to do with his lack of emotions.
It seems that the only reported case history of this type of development,
comes from Bryk, an anthropologist. He writes "the entire schizoid
inferiority complex of a young man, could be traced to his inability
to manually uncover his glans." The young man "suffered from a congenital
phimosis, which he unfortunately recognised too late," (15)".
The relationship a boy develops with his own genitals, is such a fundamental force that it modifies his entire sexual reference framework. This underlies every post puberty sexual experience.
As with any other subconscious disturbance, after years of insinuation, this has very real and fundamental effects on a man's emotions, behaviour and his feeling for life. These 'conditioned' behaviour patterns, emotional responses and social attitudes support and confirm each other, they become part of the personality,
One psychologist at the Institute of Sexual Research in Hamburg
informed me that they have seen many men who believed that their frenulum
breve condition was the cause of their sexual disturbances. There
appears to be some difference in opinion as to how this should be
interpreted. When it was sugested that these men may be correct in
their assumptions, the answer was that this is not the case because
"... they had it cut away and then there was no change in their disturbances" (61).
Surgery cannot be expected to change ingrained personality traits and self images in any significant way. (An awareness of the nature of any disturbance is always a good first step towards resolving such problems).
The psychological effects, are obviously not exclusively due to an anatomical problem. These effects are relative to and influenced by all the other experiences in life (from upbringing etc.). Each condition exaggerates the particular patterns of an individual's personality in its own way. They magnify any tendencies of a similar nature, and undermine any incompatible healthy response.
This makes it very difficult to define the psychological developments in any absolute terms. All that can be said, is that in the advanced stages these conditions are compatible with shyness, anxiety, frustration and privacy, and they are incompatible with a relaxed sexuality, openness and leading a simple life.
At the very least these conditions could never support and would always undermine fulfilment and sexual confirmation as a man.
When the magic of a man is unconsciously in a state of bondage, who can say exactly where this may lead his sexual energy? The ability to share and satisfy himself and others is restricted. His intimacy with his own body reflects in any and every close relationship. Without this intimacy and the integration with himself and others, the wholeness (and wholesomeness) of a man is missing.
See Diary of an Initiation
See Dave's Letter
An Appropriate Initiation
It appears that in today's European culture, there are a percentage of men who experience an initiation ritual, which is definitely more ignorant and sometimes more bizarre than any of the ancient circumcision rituals which Stone Age man practised.
Is it merely a curious coincidence that circumcision in ancient times "is almost invariably performed before or at the age of puberty, or at latest before marriage."? It appears that the primitive intelligence realised the sense in establishing some measure at an age previous to when the problems occur.
With our culture's attitudes on medicine, it would be appropriate to monitor and if possible try to prevent any potential difficulty in good time, rather than treating the problems after they have arisen.
Among all the problems which people have, this must be one of the most ignored and the easiest to solve.
A boy's penis must be checked in childhood.