Confession, Openness and (Intact) Activism

Numerous academic studies have shown that rape is among the most common of sexual fantasies. My anecdotal experience as a sexuality/kink educator has certainly born this out. Even within the alternative sexuality and kink/BDSM communities however, the subject of non-consent and rape, both in fantasy and consensual roleplay remains a delicate subject. As a community, there has been movement towards most people accepting that what gets one hot in bed does not inherently translate into how one lives their everyday lives. Moreover, there has developed an understanding that finding rape fantasies or play erotic indicates neither a predilection towards rape/desire to be raped. Nor does it mean that someone finds the grotesque violation of sexual assault to be any more acceptable than someone whose erotic imagination or play is focused in other directions. This has not always been a smooth journey, and many people struggle mightily to reconcile their fantasies with their own spiritual, ethical, and even political beliefs. As a community, we have evolved language and support to help people understand their desires, maintain a clear mental divide between fact and fantasy, and learn to explore their kink in safe and ethical ways.

However, this is not an essay about rape fantasies and play.

Except in the ways that it kind of is.

Presenters in the kink/BDSM scene each have our own strengths, areas of focus, and specific skills that we offer. I believe that the best among us also each have a few causes or particular themes that we try to work into nearly every class we teach. One of my biggest is that of owning and accepting our unique desires and finding ways to safely explore them. This focus of mine is born out of a deeply challenging aspect of my own erotic journey. One which I have shared with very few people.

Long time readers of Notes From a Barking Shaman, and people who know me personally or have attended particular classes of mine are well aware of my staunch opposition to the practice of male circumcision, as well as my own journey of non-surgical foreskin restoration. Not to mention my own clear preference for intact (not-circumcised) men when it comes to my lovers and play partners. I have not addressed the ongoing debate around the practice on this blog since I wrote “Issue Fatigue” several years ago, for the reasons illuminated in that essay. I will say that since writing “Issue Fatigue” further research has not born out circumcision as a practical HIV preventative, and the rate of infant circumcision has continued its steady two-decade long decline in the United States, where it now closes in on less than %50. Which still is the highest in the Western World by a vast margin.

However, despite my unshakable dedication to this cause, my vocal encouragement and support of men pursuing foreskin restoration and my ongoing personal struggles around my own genitals, there remains another side to my relationship with the topic. Circumcision is one of my biggest sexual fetishes.

And you know what I’ve discovered? That’s way more common than one might think.

I don’t mean fetishizing of circumcision, that is not too hard for most to imagine. I specifically mean the fetishizing of circumcision by people who are deeply opposed to the practice. I know a number of intactivists (activists opposed to circumcision) and foreskin restorers who have this as a fetish. Often as one of their biggest. I also know quite a number of intact men who simultaneously have circumcision fetishes and fantasies, but absolutely no desire to have their foreskins removed. From a BDSM viewpoint, does not seem like much of a conflict at all. After all, as I pointed out at the start, rape fetishists overwhelmingly feel no desire towards rape outside of the realm of their imagination and/or the carefully constructed pretend games of roleplay and negotiated non-consent.

Even more interesting, I have encountered quite a number of circumcision fetishists who have chosen circumcision as adults who still oppose the practice on non-consenting children. The sentiment I have heard these individuals express distills to: while this was a choice that they made, they know that it is not the one that everyone would choose. It was too personal a decision to make for another person.

The nature of circumcision fantasy and roleplay is as complex and varied as with any other fetish. What turns on one person may not another. I could talk in detail about the many variations and expressions of the fetish, from humiliation play, to porn choices, to roleplay scenarios and more. None of it is relevant except to say that it is a complex subject, deeply individual and often interwoven with catharsis and emotional processing, although that is far from universal.

This revelation is all well and good, if perhaps Too Much Information, but why write a BarkingShaman post on the topic?

There are actually multiple reasons. First foremost, I spend a great deal of time in front of audiences talking about the need to be authentic in our play and be able to own our desires. Anyone who has been steeped in the culture of activism can likely relate to how this particular fetish became one of my darkest secrets. There have been times while teaching that I found myself intensely self-censoring to ensure that no specific mention of this fetish slipped out. I know this censoring process has at times distracted me from the more important goal of offering an informative and enjoyable workshop. Moreover, it made me feel like a hypocrite, which I despise. After all, who am I to argue with or council people in accepting and joyously embracing their erotic lives while being bound up in shame about part of my own? It is my hope that my openness on this difficult topic will empower others in exploration and acceptance of challenging aspects of their own erotic selves.

Of equal importance though, is that through my shamanic work I have an obligation to illuminate truths that people choose to ignore. Shamans are often forces of change and disruption. It is one reason we were traditionally relegated to a hut on the outskirts of town.

In the intactivist world, people who fetishize circumcision are seen as an ultimate enemy; a short step below doctors who promote the practice on the basis of outdated medical thought, pop psychology, or an unspoken commitment to the almighty dollar (in countries where a neonatal circumcision doesn’t provide physicians with many hundreds of dollars a pop, medical resistance to change has been perceptibly lower). Interestingly, while a stated anti-circumcision view is not overly controversial in many online circumcision fetish communities, the reverse is manifestly different.

This is problematic for the intactivist community, even if for the most part they remain unaware of it. The cause has traditionally not had many friends, and the emotional responses on all sides of the issue has at times led to excessive rhetoric that damages the movement’s message. To be summarily expelling or forcing self-closeting on intactivists and supporters because of our kinks and erotic imaginations is foolhardy. Equally mistaken in my opinion is encouraging silence in members of the adult-circumcision or circumcision fetish community by saying that we don’t want their support. Holding firm belief in a cause, while still acknowledging the nuances of human experience, is something that many movements struggle with, and this one is no different.

Beyond depriving the intactivist cause of potentially valuable figures by summarily declaring them impure, this message is also harmful to individuals in the community. Male intactivist, and particularly tuggers (people non-surgically restoring their foreskins), deal with a wealth of emotional and technical issues. I have spoken with restorers who shy away from the restoration and anti-circumcision community because, though they are not open about their fetish interest in circumcision, they know that they would be received incredibly harshly  their desires were known. When one’s community so forcefully rejects part of one’s inner experience, it can be beyond difficult being open about the sort of intimate details by necessity shared in giving and receiving support from fellow tuggers for instance. Beyond that, some men who struggle with their feelings and physical experience of having been circumcised find comfort and healing in their explorations through fantasy and erotic play. Denying access to that tool through cultural pressure is a mistake.

Thus, in a spirit of self acceptance and in rejecting an activist culture that denies the depth and complexity of human desire and experience I say this:

I, Wintersong Tashlin, intactivist and staunch opponent of circumcision/MGM, openly state that I am also a circumcision fetishist. My intactivism informs my fetishism, but it in no way diminishes it. What’s more, I know from first-hand experience that I am far from alone. As long as the intactivist movement says that people like me do not exist, and if we did, that they would not want my voice, I will be here as a living embodiment of a rejected reality, a voice of dissenting agreement.

In that regard, this post is exactly what Notes From a Barking Shaman has always been about.

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8 thoughts on “Confession, Openness and (Intact) Activism

  1. A great friend of mine who has been severely damaged psychologically by his circumcision at the age of 4 and is passionately opposed to non-therapeutic circumcision and is a failed tugger ( foreskin restorer ) also confesss to sexual excitement contemplating circumcision as an operation.

    • Thank you for your comment Dr. Ball. I myself have really struggled sexually and emotionally as a consequence of circumcision, and in addition to therapy, exploring and re-contextualizing my feelings through erotic exploration has been invaluable as well as adding depth to my erotic life. Many of the people I know who are ardent intactivists and circumcision fetishists have deep emotional wounds around being circumcised.

      My own journey with restoration has been a long and challenging one. While the benefits of restoring have been many fold, it has taken me a very long time because it is hard for me to stick with it due to the emotional difficulty of confronting the realities of being cut through the act of tugging. There have been days when just putting a device on makes me want to cry because it serves as a reminder that I’m not whole to begin with.

      You wouldn’t remember, but we met many years ago (2003 or 4) at an International Symposium on Genital Integrity. I was there as a student of Leonard Glick’s.

  2. Hmm. Your mention that there are people who consider circumcision erotic makes me wonder if circumcision began as a ritualized erotic practice in the first place.

  3. I have no problem personally with someone being simultaneously an (adult) circumfetishist and an Intactivist, it presents grave problems politically, especially if they are prominent in the Intactivism movement and do not declare their interest.

    What should be far more worrisome are the avid (neonatal) circumcision advocates who are also circumfetishists. This seems a far more likely combination. It is hard to see how their avocation can not corrupt their advocacy. And it should certainly worry parents taking advice about circumcision from people who should have no personal interest in it.

    • While I certainly agree that circumcision fetishists in positions to advise parents is a seriously worrisome prospect. However, from a purely intactvist perspective, I think we should be FAR more concerned about people who profit financially from neonatal circumcision in the form of insurance payouts and severed foreskins sold at a profit to cosmetics companies and research labs. I suspect that is a far more prevalent situation, and I highly doubt the ability of people who stand to profit from a parent circumcising their child to accurately inform parents of the benefits of intactness and the harm of circumcision.

      I think circumcision fetishists advocating neonatal circumcisions from a position of authority, while troubling, is also something of a red herring.

  4. My circ fetish is the direct result of my hatred of infant and child (or other non- consensual) circumcision. The feelings of hate and betrayal followed by bouts of insecurity and depression were all but debilitating.

    Restoration, which started about 5 years ago, helped me feel more in control of what was done to me (for no medically justifiable reason). The thrill and excitement of my circ fetish overgrew the feelings of hate and resentment.

    But I have never forgotten my journey. I am very clear about my feelings about circ. To me, my fetish is a cure to a problem brought on by a medically unnecessary procedure, performed for no justifiable purpose.

  5. Pingback: A Religious Evolution Towards Wholeness « BarkingShaman.com

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