Website disclosing circumcised status of Australian men: “not a fetish site”

At first glance you could be excused for dismissing a site whose primary feature is to track the circumcised status of Australian men as a fetish site.

While expecting quite justified accusations of hypocrisy, this is exactly what we thought when we stumbled upon the site Helmet or Hoodie.

Helmet or Hoodies?For international visitors who may not be familiar with the Australian terms, ‘helmet’ refers to the shape of the glans (or ‘head’) of the penis, which is left exposed after circumcision. Think of Darth Vader and you should immediately get the reference. ‘Hoodie’ refers to the foreskin covering the glans when the penis is left intact, and makes references to a hooded jacket which is Australia is given the same name.

The majority of the content on the site is a simply listing of celebrities with a note on their circumcised status – #hoodie for those who are known to be intact and #helmet for those who have been circumcised. Listings include actors, musicians, sportsmen, models and media personalities. Given the part of the body in question, it would appear that the site is at least a ‘curiosity’, and perhaps borders on what most would consider ‘fetish’.

But digging deeper reveals some more noble outcomes, either accidentally or perhaps intentionally from the the authors.

It is evident from the letters page that many who visit the site get reassurance about the status of their own penis, or to help them make decisions about cutting their own children. This includes men who were cut as children who can see that they are not alone, or men who were left intact who can see that their favourite celebrities are also intact, and expectant parents who can discover that the majority of younger Australian celebrities are intact.

Whatever the reason for visiting, the site is resulting in people becoming more informed, and for Australian men, more confident about their own genitalia.

The FAQ page at Helmet or Hoodie states that they are not a fetish site, and we agree.

Image courtesy of siraphat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Foregen makes good progress towards goal of foreskin regeneration

Since it was founded in 2010, I have been following the progress of Foregen, a not-for-profit organisation researching regenerative medicine to regrow the foreskin for circumcised men.

Initial reactions from the foreskin restoration communities were full of hope. But once the initial excitement wore off the mood evolved to skepticism, with many asking the tough questions around the science, the funding model, the official charitable status of the organisation and even the motivations behind the directors.

microscopeIn a move to quash some of the doubt, Foregen President Vincenzo Aiello took to YouTube in this video with respected intactivist and TLC Tugger vendor Ron Low, to talk through the vision for the organisation, assure supporters of the transparency of the finances and to call for donations. Ron was also announced as Treasurer for the organisation.

Now they have demonstrated real progress including securing labs, carrying out successful testing with animal tissue, securing a source of human tissue, registering as a tax-exempt charity in the US and announcing a much requested crowd sourcing campaign, many of the detractors have been silenced.

The recent announcement of some of the above news has also attracted the attention of the mainstream media for the first time, with stories being featured in the UK’s Mirror and then the Daily Mail. Other news providers and bloggers then followed suit, with this Mama Mia piece being the first major Australian site to run with the story, albeit with an insensitive tone.

While I’ve had quite a satisfactory sex life with my current circumcised status, I’ve been I’ve been keeping an eye of Foregen’s progress, and would not have ruled out taking up the regeneration option should it ever become available. However, there is small but significant detail highlighted in the Mirror that leaves me a little squeamish:

This involves finding donor foreskins from dead bodies, stripping them of the donor’s cells (decellularization) to leave behind a tissue scaffold, and then populating that scaffold with the patient’s own stem cells, taken from their penis.

Using the organs and other body parts from those selfless souls who wish to leave them for others is now widely accepted. But the idea of having part of the penis from someone else attached to me brings visions of some low grade horror/pornography crossover movie. Would I be able to block out thoughts of the previous owner during love making?  How would my partner feel, or should I not tell her? Would I be obligated to disclose this information?

I applaud the progress that Foregen has made in their short history, and hope that thousands of men will finally feel complete once the procedure is proven successful.

I’m just not sure at this stage if the procedure is going to be for me.

 

Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The shared stupidity of culling sharks and cutting penises

Banning circumcision would make more sense than culling sharksAlthough I haven’t lived in Western Australia for a number of years, I still have friends and family who live in the South-West of the state, and are part of the beach and surfing culture of the area. Therefore I get frequent updates on the recently introduced shark culling strategy from people close to the issue. With the news coming through yesterday that the first shark has been caught and killed off the Dunsborough coast, I thought it was time to reflect on the similarities between this, and the issue of non-therapeutic male infant circumcision.

Both are about money

The Government assumes that if it can be shown to be doing something it will bring back the tourists and recreational divers with their much needed money, with the bonus of additional jobs created by the setting and 24 hour monitoring of baited drums. There is no money to be made, and no economic stimulus just leaving the sharks alone, just as there is no money to be made in not cutting penises.

Both are based on psuedo science

Scientists, 100 of them in all, have objected to the cull in an open letter to the Western Australian Government, similar to the way that international group of 38 physicians from 16 European countries denounced the American Acadamy of Pediatrics’ revised policy statement on male circumcision.

Both are based on fear and misunderstanding

Many of us have a fear of sharks, possibly made worse by certain feature films and media reports of the occasional attack. We also naturally fear the unknown, and there is much that we do not know about theses sharks. It is a shame that the resources have not been put into studying these creatures, so that we might learn more about their movements, feeding patterns, and ultimately gain an understanding of why they might attach humans. Just as many Australians have lived their whole lives without owning or experiencing a foreskin, then hear the myths perpetuated by some individuals, resulting in them fearing it so much that they must slice it away from their own children. If they only took the time to understand the 16+ functions of the foreskin they may think twice before doing so.

Neither have real-world examples to support them

Before deciding to undertake such drastic measures, you would think that there would be an example from somewhere around the world to show that shark culling is effective. The only previous shark culling program I could find was from Hawaii in the 1960’s and 1790’s, which resulted in no measurable reduction in the number of shark attacks. Similar to how real-world experience shows that there are no health benefits to routinely circumcising males. For example, the USA has one of the highest infant circumcision rates in the world, but also has a higher prevelance of HIV and STD infection than most European countries that do not circumcise their children.

Both don’t make sense on a cost/benefit analysis

The shark cull seems to be an awful lot of effort in an attempt to save one or two lives per year. Wouldn’t more lives be saved putting those resources into reducing drink driving, improving workplace safety, suicide prevention, pedestrian safety campaigns….the list could go on. Just as more lives could be saved by putting the health resources into just about any other real preventitive health initiative. As far as I know, no one has died in Australia from having a foreskin.

Both have less extreme and invasive alternatives

It is a sad reflection on our society that we often seem to be drawn to the most violent ‘solution’ to problems. The number one solution to reducing shark attacks, for those who are concerned about their own safety, is to simply stay out of the water. Just as abstinence or careful selection of sexual partners is the solution for those men who are intact and worried that this status may put them at higher risk of STDs (which, by the way, is a myth.) For those who do still want to enter the water, there are devices that can be worn to deter sharks, just as those who wish to engage in more promiscuous activity can wear a condom.

Both are futile attempts to prevent things that are extremely rare

Even if the culling of sharks was sucessfull in completely eliminating shark deaths, it would only be saving one or two lives per year. In the same way that pro-circumcision advocates claim that circumcision can reduce the risk of penile cancer. Even if circumcision did reduce the risk, the disease in developed nations occurs in only 1 in 100,000 men and even then, mostly occurs in elderly men.

Proponents of both use semantics and euphemisms

WA Fisheries Minister Troy Buswell has stated that this is not a cull, but a ‘shark mitigation strategy’, which sounds much more scientific and less barbaric. Just as the pro-circumcision crowd fights hard to keep the euphemism ‘circumcision’ while many are now referring to the procedure as ‘male genital mutilation’.

 

One could find parallels between any debate that has fear and economics pitted against science and logic, and some may see this as an attempt to ride on the coat tails of another, seemingly unrelated cause. And they may be partially right. The goal of this post is to raise awareness of the stupidity of non-therapeutic infant circumcision with those who can see the same types of stupidity in culling sharks. But equally, I also hope that those who are against infant circumcision might be introduced to the shark culling issue, raising awareness for both of these important causes.

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / freedigitalphotos.net

Corona is not just a beer: The Australian guide to the penis

Corona is not only a beerHow well do you know your own penis? While there are plenty of articles in both women’s and men’s magazines that go into great detail on female genital anatomy, there is little said, apart from crude jokes and discussions about size, about our own bits. As our parts are mostly external, perhaps we think that because we can see it we know everything about it? Well there is often more to it than meets the eye. In the following we give a brief introduction to some of the individual parts of the penis, and explain them in a way that the Australian man can easily understand.

Corona

Corona is a Mexican beer, famous for its citrus aroma and flavour. Many Australian drinkers garnish their beer with a wedge of lemon or lime to highlight these flavours, although some say this is simply a marketing ploy. Garnishing your own corona in the same way is not recommended given that it is one of the most sensitive parts of your penis, and may result in intense stinging! The corona (or corona glandis/coronal ridge) is the rim or flange at the base of the glans (or ‘head’) of the penis. Stimulation is achieved by the action of the foreskin ‘rolling’ or ‘gliding’ over the corona.

Every time I see someone drinking a Corona beer I question if the marketing department at this company did much research before naming their beer. Although the brand has been around since the 1800s, and also means ‘crown’, so perhaps they can be forgiven.

Sulcus

Some Australian men might know the sulcus as a new toothbrush from Oral B but it is also part of your penis. Although this toothbrush has been designed for sensitive teeth and gums, remeber that, despite the poorly chosen name, it is for your teeth and not your actual sulcus. Ouch!

So what is the sulcus? To be fair to Proctor and Gambler, the term sulcus is not unique to the penis, and is defined as a deep, narrow furrow or groove, as in an organ or tissue. It is a term most commonly associated with the narrow fissures in the brain. The sulcus on your penis, or more correctly, the ‘coronal sulcus’ is the groove underneath your corona.

Bands

Something we go to see at a pub on saturday nights. You also have multiple bands on your penis. The most significant of these is the ridged band (or frenar/frenular) band which according to cirp.org is a “ring of deeply corrugated or ridged mucous membrane lining the tip of the prepuce which provides “important sexual reflexes and erogenous sensation”.

Smegma

This should not be mistaken for a brand of top-end kitchen appliances (that’s just smeg), or a made up swear word on the tv series Red Dwarf. According to circumstitions.com it is “A natural secretion of skin cells and oils that collects under the foreskin in both males and females” that has “lubricant, pheromonal (sexual attractant) and perhaps bacteriostatic (bacteria-killing) functions”. It can be a case of too much of a good thing so the occasional wash is in order.

Frenulum

If you don’t know what this is stick out your tongue in front of the mirror and look underneath it. The bit that attaches your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is the lingual frenulum. The frenulum on your penis looks similar, and is the ridge of skin under the glans, joining it to the foreskin. Some call this the male G spot, but different men report varying degrees of sensation.

Docking

This is what farmers sometimes do to sheep tails, right? If you are the slightest bit homophobic perhaps you should leave it at that and don’t read on, because this gets a bit graphic. When I was about ten, I wondered what homosexual men actually did with each other. I thought that they somehow managed to wrap or twist their penises together. When I learned a bit more I remembered thinking back about how naive I was as a ten year old. As it turns out, I wasn’t far off the mark. “Docking” is a sexual technique where one man will extend his foreskin beyond the end of his penis and continue to roll his foreskin onto his partner’s penis.

Foreskin

Many older Australian men may define this as ‘the bit that is cut off during circumcision’. Most younger guys who were left intact know what this is, and know that it is much more than the ‘useless flap of skin’ it was called in the past. In fact, it is not even skin, but a richly nerve-laden group of special structures including the frenulum, dartos and ridged band. For those who have had theirs taken away and read this with a heavy heart, reading about foreskin restoration below may lift your spirits.

Glans

Every Australian man would know what this part is, you just may not know the correct name for it! Most of us probably call this the ‘head’ or sometimes ‘helmet’.

Dartos

This may sound like a spanish version of the pub game usually played with a beer in the non-throwing hand, but it is actually a thin layer of muscle under the skin of the scrotum and penis, and is prominent around the tip of the foreskin. Here it forms a sphincter to close around the end of the glans. It is what causes ‘shrinkage’ in cold weather.

Corpus cavernosum

This may sound like something you missed during religous studies in primary school. Wasn’t this the cave where Jesus Christ was interred? While an internal part, you should still understand it considering it is important for erectile health. The corpus cavernosum is basically your erectile tissue. When aroused, your brain will send instructions to fill this erectile tissue with blood, resulting in an erection. There are exercises and penis pumps that can strengthen and grow the corpus cavernosum resulting in stronger and longer erections. While it seems that most women don’t care too much about penis size, if this is important to you these methods can actually work, where magic pills and potions will not.

Foreskin restoration

Australian men like to restore old things, especially houses, motorbikes, cars and tractors. What you may not know, even though it is now getting greater media exposure, is that you can also restore your foreskin. ‘Restoration’ may actually be a misnomer, as the process is more like ‘growing it back’. It involves putting tension on the foreskin remnant to induce a process called mitosis, where new skin cells are grown. This new skin eventually can cover the glans to look and feel similar to the real thing. However, it’s a little bit like taking a standard VH Valliant Charger and modifying the engine, front grill and sticking on some decals to make it look like an R/T.  It might look like the real deal from a distance but upon closer inspection and a test drive you can tell its not quite the same.

 

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New cure for baldness brings new meaning to the phrase ‘dickhead’

Using foreskins to cure baldness?Many Australian news sites today, including the Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and the Age reported that a new experiment could potentially stop baldness.

Researchers have successfully grafted skin with new hair folicles onto lab mice, by using tissue from harvested human infant foreskins.

Is this a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul? On an ethical level, it would hard to justify making a cosmetic alteration to a non-consenting infant to enable another cosmetic alteration to an adult. Especially when you consider that to the original owner, the foreskin has many functional qualities which would be sacrificed for a purely cosmetic alteration to someone else. Fine if this truly was medical waste, but it is commonly accepted that there is almost never a medical reason to circumcise an infant.

I find it odd that this ethical and moral minefield didn’t rate a mention from the traditional Australian media.

This would not be the first time that infant foreskins have been used for the vanity of adults. An Australian distributor for face cream SkinMedica has found out that many Australians are not going to accept the use of harvested human foreskins in its products, with blogs drawing attention to the issue and complaints submitted to the company’s website. Oprah Winfrey has also been met with protests over her endorsement of the face creams.

Many Australian men already think that those who are balding should just accept it, and that those who resort to medical procedures to cure their baldness should be called ‘dickheads’. (With Shane Warne receiving the lion’s share of this sentiment). Perhaps this sentiment was a little harsh, but I think that for anyone who puts infant foreskins on their heads, the label is justified.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net