Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Experience of Foreskin Restoration: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Experience of Foreskin Restoration: A Case Study

Article excerpt

A thoughtful reflection on the presence or absence of a man's prepuce (foreskin) is not a regular part of everyday conversations. Many would even consider it a nonissue, just a small flap of skin that is either there or not, but not really a big deal either way. However, a quick scan of the Internet reveals a rather heated debate over the topic of circumcision. Proponents argue that circumcision reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). Opponents argue that circumcision is a mutilation that excises healthy tissue, which can impair sexual functioning and satisfaction (Earp, 2015; Lang, 2013).

The two populations of intact (uncircumcised) and circumcised men are compared and contrasted in an intensely polarized conversation with each side providing expert commentary and research to support their position (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012; Earp, 2015; Lang, 2013; Melby, 2002; Taylor, Lockwood, & Taylor, 1996). What is often overlooked in this discussion is a third group, those men who have been circumcised but have decided to restore their foreskin (Earp, 2015).

Foreskin restoration is an attempt to "restore" a pseudo-prepuce through surgical or other means (Earp, 2015). Common non-surgical approaches include stretching the remaining skin on the penile shaft by various manual methods, tapes, weights, and other devices (Collier, 2011; Earp, 2015; White, 2013). It is expected to take years of stretching to obtain the desired results.

From a historical perspective, foreskin restoration is not a new phenomenon. The Apostle Paul instructs Christians to live as they were called, not to worry about becoming uncircumcised if they were called while circumcised (1 Corinthians 7:18). Presumably, early Christians were seeking to restore their foreskins and appear "uncircumcised." Foreskin restoration was an attempt by the Jews and Christians to avoid social stigma and religious persecution while participating in athletic events or while attending the public baths in the nude (Collier, 2011).

In modern history, it is less likely for one's foreskin status to be a cause for religious or political persecution. Nevertheless, restoration has often been viewed with suspicion, as a possible psychotic obsession or sexual fetish, for example. Mohl, Adams, Greer, and Sheley (1981) consider restoration seekers as "a distinct subgroup within the homosexual community characterized by an erotic attachment to and/or preoccupation with the foreskin" (p. 383). Despite their premise, their case reports do reveal some of the psychological reasons for restoration, namely to resolve a sense of incompleteness, anger over a lack of choice, and a sense masculinity (Mohl et al., 1981).

Some uncertainty has remained even when restoration has been a part of medical treatment. For instance, White (2013) presents a case study in which foreskin stretching was proposed to correct penile disfigurement and painful erections related to circumcision and the patient's response was "half skeptical, half curious about this bizarre stretching system" (p. 110). Given the prevalence and acceptance of plastic surgery, one might wonder if surgical restoration would be considered less "bizarre" than manual stretching methods.

Today's society is sensitive to issues and concerns regarding body image. While mostly this is focused on females, there is increased attention on the implication of body image for males (Johnston, McLellan, & McKinlay, 2014), and this attention also extends to genital self-image concerns (Wilcox, Redmond, & Davis, 2015). Wilcox et al. (2015) explored the relationship between male genital self-image and sexual anxiety and functioning. While not directly addressing foreskin restoration, the authors concluded that interventions addressing male genital self-image could be preventive in treating sexual functioning problems. …

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