Circumcision trauma is a deeply personal and often unspoken aspect of many individuals’ lives, impacting their relationship with their bodies and their ability to navigate the delicate dance of intimacy. What deepens the trauma of circumcision is that many individuals who suffer from it are not even consciously aware of or educated about how it may have affected them. As a life-altering surgery, it has been normalized to the extent that most victims of it never question why it was done in the first place. The circumcision was done so early in their lives (without their consent) that living without a foreskin is all they have known.
It is essential to foster discussions on informed consent and ethical considerations surrounding this procedure and push to end this medically unnecessary surgery altogether.
This article is a compassionate exploration of circumcision trauma, unraveling its impact on adult sexuality and guiding those seeking to heal and reconnect within the realm of intimacy.
Understanding Circumcision Trauma
What is circumcision trauma?
Circumcision trauma refers to the emotional, physical, and psychological distress experienced by specific individuals following circumcision, a surgery involving the removal of the foreskin from the penis. Circumcision trauma symptoms may manifest during childhood or later in life, arising from the circumcised individual’s loss of a natural part of their body or the circumstances surrounding the circumcision.
Georganne Chapin points out in her book This Penis Business, in a chapter aptly titled “What’s Sex Got to Do With It?” something so obvious, how could anyone miss this vital result of medically unnecessary circumcision?
“How could cutting off a sexual body part not affect the mechanics and quality of the victim’s sex life, sexual relationships, and psyche?”
Marilyn Milos likewise notes in her book Please Don’t Cut the Baby! that:
“Babies have erections naturally in utero. After birth, when someone else stimulates the baby’s penis to erection, as the nurse [would do as] prep for the circumcision, it is the baby’s first shared sexual experience. Sadly, in the case of circumcision, the pleasurable sensations are immediately followed by excruciating pain. Every sexual experience a circumcised male has from that moment forward is on a neuronal background of pain. Even when a man doesn’t consciously remember the experience, his body remembers.”
Prevalence and recognition of circumcision trauma
The issue of circumcision trauma has gained significant recognition in recent years, bringing attention to the emotional struggles faced by individuals who have undergone this procedure. By shedding light on this topic, we aim to raise awareness and advocate for those affected by circumcision trauma.
“An article in The Journal of Health Psychology notes that studies have linked circumcision with a range of negative emotions and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with some circumcised men describing their current feelings in the language of violation, torture, mutilation, and sexual assault.” — SageJournals
Research published in 2020 on Heliyon studied a sample of over 600 men to examine how the plasticity of the neonatal central and peripheral nerve systems and receptors can cause the pain of circumcision to have long-term consequences for adult behavior.
Both Chapin and Milos report that several men have given anecdotal evidence of recovered memories, through hypnotherapy or psychotherapy, of their circumcisions as infants that have led to a complete understanding of their emotional, psychological, and physical issues, especially in their interactions with a sexual partner.
Psychological and emotional effects of circumcision trauma
Those who have endured this trauma may grapple with a range of powerful emotions, including grief, anger, and a sense of betrayal. Body image issues and a profound sense of violation can also emerge, as the procedure involves the removal of a part of their body without consent.
“A study from the National Institutes of Health found that without appropriate pain management, 20-60% of circumcised neonates exhibited prolonged, vigorous crying and increased heart rate during and after the procedure.”
These emotional wounds can persist into adulthood, affecting self-esteem, relationships, and sexual well-being. Recognizing the depth and complexity of circumcision trauma is crucial to providing the necessary support and guidance for healing and reclaiming a sense of wholeness in the intimate aspects of life.
Navigating Circumcision Trauma in Intimate Relationships
Communicating with your partner about circumcision trauma
Effective communication serves as the fundamental pillar of any healthy and fulfilling intimate relationship, especially when it comes to addressing circumcision trauma. It is of utmost importance for individuals who have experienced circumcision trauma to openly communicate their feelings, fears, and concerns with their partners. Sharing their experiences and emotions lets deep understanding, empathy, and emotional closeness develop between partners. Creating a safe and non-judgmental space for such conversations is crucial, as it allows both partners to feel supported and secure. This enables the circumcised individual to express their needs and boundaries while providing an opportunity for their partner to offer empathy and validation, which play a vital role in the healing process.
Seeking support and therapy for healing
Healing from circumcision trauma often necessitates the invaluable guidance and support of professionals. Those who have endured trauma associated with circumcision can significantly benefit from seeking therapy or counseling. A skilled therapist can assist them in exploring and processing their emotions, developing effective coping strategies, and addressing any enduring psychological distress. Couples therapy can also be valuable, fostering open and productive discussions, strengthening emotional bonds, and navigating intimacy challenges together.
It’s essential to seek out resources like books, workshops, or support groups dedicated to sexual wellness and healing from trauma. These valuable tools can guide us in reclaiming a positive and fulfilling intimate life. With the proper support and a commitment to self-care, we can gradually restore our sense of wholeness and experience the joys of intimacy on our terms.
Intimacy and Sensuality Exercises
Exercises for fostering trust and emotional connection
Intimate exercises that prioritize emotional bonding can encompass a range of activities, such as engaging in guided meditation or practicing mindfulness together. These practices deepen the connection between partners, creating a safe and nurturing space where vulnerabilities can be shared, and emotional support can be provided. Additionally, open and empathetic conversations centered around desires, boundaries, and concerns can fortify the emotional bond between partners, enabling them to navigate the unique challenges posed by circumcision trauma together.
For example, try some of the following exercises to develop intimacy and build trust in the bedroom and your partnership:
- Eye Gazing: Spend several minutes sitting across from each other and looking deeply into each other’s eyes without speaking. This can create a profound connection without the need for words.
- Synchronized Breathing: Sit or lie down facing each other and synchronize your breathing. One person leads, and the other follows, then switches roles. This can enhance mutual attunement and connection.
- Gratitude Sharing: Take turns expressing what you’re grateful for about each other. This could involve physical aspects, emotional support, or little things they do that make you happy.
- Non-Sexual Touch: Engage in non-sexual touch, like cuddling, holding hands, or hugging, without progressing to sexual activities. Focus on the comfort, warmth, and safety created by the touch.
- Vulnerability Exercise: Share a fear, hope, or dream you’ve never shared. Creating a safe space for such disclosures enhances emotional intimacy.
Techniques for increasing pleasure and reducing anxiety
Circumcision trauma can have a profound impact on intimate experiences, often causing anxiety and unease. However, there are ways for couples to counteract these challenges and cultivate a more pleasurable and relaxed connection. By embracing mindfulness practices that emphasize being present in the moment, both partners can fully engage in the sensual journey without any distractions. Additionally, exploring relaxation techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can alleviate anxiety and enhance comfort, leading to more fulfilling intimate moments.
To increase pleasure and reduce anxiety, try:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): Before engaging in intimate activities, take a few minutes to tense and then relax each muscle group, starting from your toes and moving up to your head. This helps in releasing tension and grounding yourself.
- Mindful Breathing: Focus on your breath. Breathe deeply and slowly, concentrating on each inhalation and exhalation. This calms the nervous system and keeps you present.
- Positive Affirmation Exchange: Share positive affirmations or compliments. Hearing affirming words can boost self-confidence and reduce self-consciousness.
- Guided Imagery: Together, envision a place where you both feel most relaxed and happy. This shared imagery can create a relaxed atmosphere in the bedroom.
- Mirror Exercise: Stand in front of a mirror and appreciate each other’s bodies. This can help in fostering body positivity and reducing body image-related anxieties.
Enhancing intimacy through touch and communication
Touch and communication are at the heart of intimacy, and for those recovering from circumcision trauma, they can be powerful tools for reconnecting. Intimate exercises that prioritize touch, such as sensual massages or cuddling, can help partners rediscover the physical and emotional closeness the trauma might have impacted.
A Final Note About Circumcision Trauma in The Bedroom
We wholeheartedly urge individuals who have gone through circumcision trauma to seek support and therapy. Recognize that professional guidance plays a vital role in the journey towards healing and recovery.
As we wrap up this exploration, we extend an unwavering message of encouragement and hope. To those who have endured the weight of circumcision trauma, we want you to know that healing is achievable. It is crucial to find the support and resources that resonate with you. Remember, you are not alone on this transformative journey. By embracing open communication, empathy, and self-care, individuals and their partners can create an environment where healing and intimacy coexist harmoniously.
For those seeking further guidance, resources, or support in addressing circumcision trauma, we highly recommend connecting with organizations like Intact America. They are dedicated to advocating for genital integrity and can provide invaluable information and assistance on this deeply personal journey toward healing and empowerment. Together, we can strive towards a world where everyone’s intimate experiences are characterized by wholeness, understanding, and respect.