Many restorers are egged on by their partners. "When you're married, it has to be a joint decision," says Michael, whose European wife was accustomed to sex with uncut men. Michael was the first in his immediate family to be circumcised and, while at a Swiss boarding school, began to feel his circumcised penis looked meager, but his wife helped seal the deal. "She said, 'I like your penis, but it's not as comfortable as an uncut penis.'"
Jonathan has found that restoring his foreskin has paid off by giving him and his wife a more fulfilling sex life. Intercourse is now smoother, less "roughshod," he says. "Anal sex is different too. My wife was never into thatbut we tried it again out of curiosity. The gliding made it completely tolerable, and she actually enjoyed it." And it's given him more intense orgasms, he says. "Masturbation is bettereven hand jobs are better."
Regardless, the medical community is dubious. Many doctors think restorers are tilting at phallic windmills, dreaming of an impossible sexual ideal or compensating for a sense of inadequacy. From a purely scientific point of view, they may be right. "There's no convincing evidence that having a foreskin increases sensation," says Dr. Ira Sharlip, a professor of urology and a spokesperson for the American Urological Society. "There are an equal number if not more papers that show sensation and sexual satisfaction are better after circumcision. It's a little bit of skin and it raises so many passions, but, you know, it isn't worth the effort of worrying about it."
But norm members and their cohorts contend that the "little bit of skin" is fundamental to their identity and sexuality, and that it was taken without their consent. That loss, for some, has had deep repercussions. Ben asked his parents to pay for his foreskin-restoration surgery as a means of righting their past wrong. They refusedand he no longer speaks to them. In 2000, a 21-year-old Suffolk County, New York, man sued his mother's obstetrician and hospital for having him circumcised in 1981 (the case was settled out of court).
Most restorers, though, are looking for reparations of a physical nature. Jonathan hopes to complete restoration in another 16 months, and he plans to stay active in the restorer community to raise awareness. "It's the idea that most of us are walking around with a desensitized, seriously handicapped penis," he says. "Restoration's not like getting a boob jobyou're trying to restore something to the way it's supposed to be."
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