The Unkindest Cut

Ex­tracts from “Unkindest Cut” by Stephen Rodrick, The New Republic, May 29, 1995.

Anyone who wants to see how far the culture of vic­to­mol­ogy has gone in America ought to attend the monthly meeting of the New York chapter of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Restor­ing Men. NORM is one of a number of groups devoted to fight­ing for the abo­li­tion of cir­cum­ci­sion and restor­ing foreskins, by natural means, to cir­cum­cised men in the United States.

[ … ]

Jim Bigelow, a NORM member, is the author of The Joy of Uncircumcising! With 7,000 copies sold, it’s a good mirror of the movement’s base. In the book, Bigelow, a former evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian minister, sug­gests that cir­cum­cised males are victims of phys­i­cal assault on a par with other forms of child abuse… Bigelow argues that men will feel whole again after restoration. He lays out a hor­rific process by which the fore­skin is stretched to cover the entire penis. After enough new skin has been created, small weights, ten to twenty-two ounces, are at­tached to the skin, stretch­ing it even further. The final step is the use of an ex­pan­sion device. This con­trap­tion tugs the penis down­ward by force—usually an elastic band at­tached to its tip and then con­nected to a knee brace: a kind of or­tho­don­tics of the groin.

Custom-made devices are now available, the most popular being “the Tugger,” for­mally the Penis Un­cir­cum­cis­ing Device (PUD). It retails at $115 plus ship­ping and handling. Of course, no such trans­for­ma­tion is without its inconveniences. De­Seabra [head of the New York Chapter of NORM] was running for the subway once, when the device came undone and a small weighted ball flew out of his pants. “Sometimes, I’ll be at work and one of the weights will clank up again the desk and every­body will say, ‘What the hell was that?’ “ The entire process can take three to five years.