Posts Tagged ‘circumcision’

Circumcision/Best Sex Writing 2008 in San Francisco Chronicle

April 17, 2008

Violet Blue, who is also a contributor to Best Sex Writing 2008, has a great column in today’s San Francisco Chronicle inspired by Paul Festa’s piece “How Insensitive” about circumcision. She writes:

Most circumcised male foreskins are fairly mobile when the penis is erect, but may be too tight to slide up to, or around the head of the penis. That’s one major difference in understanding pleasure principle differentials between cut and uncut men. Uncircumcised men have a “turtleneck” of skin richly endowed with nerve endings inside a thin, slippery mucosal layer that covers the unerect penis and slides back to reveal the tip when the member is at fill tilt, so to speak. This layer of skin can be pretty movable and slidey at most stages of arousal, and is basically the uncut penis’ own pre-loaded sex toy.

It’s those nerve endings that everyone’s wondering about. While working at a sex toy store, selling sex toys for boys and condoms alike, I’d routinely get questions about what sex toys might be better or more fun for uncircumcised men, and what condoms were recommended for those with intact foreskins. The overview of advice and recommendations we’d give was that because the head of the uncircumcised penis is often described as more sensitive than the shaft, some toys might feel more intense.

Also see my interview with Paul Festa about his essay.

I myself recently penned an ode to uncircumcised cocks for Jewcy.

Paul Festa interview is editor’s choice!

January 8, 2008

I’m thrilled that my interview with Paul Festa was selected as Editor’s Choice for Sugasm 113!

The best of this week’s blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #114? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the link list within a week and you’re all set.

This Week’s Picks

A Different Kind Of Authority For Sex Bloggers
“As we sex workers, sex bloggers, and adult business folks swim in our ponds or spin in our micro universes & connect with others, we continue to build authority.”

Of sex and strippers
“At one point she was straddling Girlfriend’s right leg, grinding her thigh against Girlfriend’s clit through her jeans.”

Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge
Her comments were something to the effect of, “No one wanted to see me twirl with tassels ~ on fire or not ~ when some girl was going to sit on stage and insert things into herself.”

Mr. Sugasm Himself

Editor’s Choice
Interview with Paul Festa about circumcision

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Interview with Paul Festa about circumcision

December 30, 2007

[Editor’s note: Again, apologies if this blog isn’t in optimal format. I’m working on fixing it, but any advice would be much appreciated, as I’m new to WordPress. Also, yes, some pieces like Paul’s are online, but I’m not linking to those essays because I really want you to read them in Best Sex Writing 2008. It’s worth it, trust me.]

Paul Festa, contributor to Best Sex Writing 2008

Paul Festa’s sex essays appear in Nerve, Salon, Best Sex Writing 2005 and Best Sex Writing 2006. His movie Apparition of the Eternal Church, about the music of Olivier Messiaen, was named Best North American Independent Feature Film at the 2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival. He is currently revising a novel and can be found online at

What inspired your essay “How Insensitive?”

I was making a routine visit to San Francisco’s community STD-testing and education space called Magnet, a great facility right in the heart of the gay neighborhood (the Castro) where you can get a syphilis-test, a shoulder massage, check your email, cruise, or all of the above. They always have a bunch of fliers advertising various drug tests or medical studies and “Penile Sensitivity Touch-Test” caught my eye for two reasons. One is that, despite being half Jewish and having ultra-orthodox Jewish family, I’ve always harbored the feeling that circumcision was barbaric and was curious to know more about this study and to help if I could. The second is that I like to have my penis touched and have had some very hot, probably inappropriate if not illegal encounters in medical offices.

Can you tell us more about what happened during your Penile Sensitivity Touch-Test Evaluation Study?

Weighed against my erotic expectations, not much! As I write in the essay, having an elderly urologist poke your equipment with varying gauges of monofilament is hardly the stuff of most-watched X-tube videos. I asked them what they did if someone got a boner–they said they waited for it to pass. I thought this was strange, from a methodological perspective, because when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, what matters is what the penis feels while erect. They said they had foreseen problems getting the study funded and published unless the subjects were flaccid (in this, at least, I was able to cooperate).

What kinds of reactions did you get to the essay? Do you find that the reactions were divided along any certain lines, like male vs. female, Jewish vs. non-Jewish, or circumcised vs. uncircumcised men?

Apart from the really obvious predictors–like adherence to Jewish orthodoxy–I have found no reliable demographic dividing lines of where people fall on the circumcision debate. The medical establishment is all over the place on this issue. So are men and women. So are at least secular Jews. I tend to think younger parents are more inclined to leave foreskins alone, but that’s a general impression based on sporadic attention to the subject over the last few years.

I found it interesting that the group NOCIRC was founded by a woman, and a 67-year-old grandmother at that. Based on your research, are most of the anti-circumcision activists men? What is the main argument they make against circumcision?

The fundamental argument is that circumcision of male babies removes, before he is able to give consent, a major locus of erotic sensation and for reasons that are scientifically controversial and that have shifted suspiciously over the years. Based on my *limited* research, I’d say most of the people on both sides of this issue are men. That’s one of the things that makes Marilyn Milos’s involvement in spearheading this research and fomenting so much anticircumcision activity so interesting. Her epiphany on behalf of the foreskin came during her nursing education when she watched an infant screaming his new lungs out in pain as his foreskin was amputated, with the visibly chagrined doctor-professor muttering that there was no medical justification for doing it. From my conversations and emails with her, her eloquent personal testimony on the issue, and the shit-kicking organizational skills that led to the publication of this study, I have to count her as a hero of mine.

You write, “Apart from bypassing a few Craigslist ads stating a preference for intact dick, I’ve never been aware of being discriminated against for lacking one.” When was the first time you considered being circumsized possibly something that was disadvantageous?

I suppose it was when I started hearing murmurings–at that point unsupported by scientific evidence–that the foreskin wasn’t just some extra piece of useless flesh like the post-partum umbilical cord, but the source of a great deal of erogenous pleasure. As I went to bed with more men I became envious of their ability to get off without pouring tubes and bottles of sticky, expensive, possibly unhealthful lubricants on their dicks. I also started having one of those reorienting conversations with myself about what my circumcision represented. It’s one thing to think of it as a hygiene-justified medical procedure (although the research supporting the hygiene issue is controversial, as a follow-up story I did for Nerve emphasized). It’s quite another to consider that part of my genitals were amputated for dubious medical reasons and before I could give my consent. It’s not at all clear to me why parents–*even religious parents*–have the right to decide this for their children in a society that respects a separation of church and state. Do we let parents authorize clitoridectomies? If someone came forth with a compelling medical or religious justification for lopping off that or any other sexual organ, would we say go ahead, sharpen your scalpel?

Along the same lines, in the sexual marketplace, do you think being circumsized makes men more attractive or less attractive, and are there certain communities or types of men who are more into one or the other?

A quick perusal of personals ads shows that some people prefer one or the other, or advertise themselves one way or another. The sexual marketplace is so robust, at least in my neck of the woods, that circumcision or lack thereof is not keeping anyone home alone on a Saturday night. If you bring home a cut guy, you just might have to work a little harder.

You say that you’re part of the “silent and ambivalent circumcised majority.” Do you think it’s threatening for circumsized men to consider what they might be missing out on? Have you spoken to other men about their feelings about being circumsized or not?

Yeah, I have conversations about this all the time, and while we foreskin amputees can all work up a certain amount of outrage at the practice if we think hard enough about it, the lingering message from the medical establishment that we’re at least somewhat less likely to contract and spread STDs, and the fact that we’ve all actually managed to have some pretty hot sex along the way since our disfigurement, and the proliferation of outrages that characterize the society in which we live (absence of universal health care, the waging of fraudulently sold war in our name, the government’s hands-off approach to catastrophic climate change) makes it extremely daunting to organize a rally in front of AMA headquarters demanding an end to the practice. Part of that ambivalence is a recognition, amid these larger concerns, that if a bunch of men in an extremely wealthy Western nation take to the streets on the issue of what we’re missing in our orgasms, we’re going to sound like a bunch of whining wankers, which, on some level, is right on the mark.

Since writing the essay, have you come across any more findings on the topic of circumcision?

Yes! As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a follow-up about the controversy surrounding studies long relied upon to link foreskins to STD-transmission. That essay, also on Nerve, is called Foresight and was published 8/20/2007.

If you had a son, do you think you would choose to circumsize him?

No fucking way.

Rereading the piece now, do you still feel the same way?


What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the book version of my movie, Apparition of the Eternal Church, which is about nonbelievers’ responses to the music of Olivier Messiaen, the great Catholic visionary composer whose centenary is in 2008. The movie has a great cast–Harold Bloom, John Cameron Mitchell, Justin Bond as “Kiki,” Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters–and won a bunch of film festival prizes and press kudos (New Yorker critic Alex Ross called it “mesmerizing” and Kraftwerk founder Karl Bartos said it was “one of the best music films I’ve ever seen.”) The book has images and the transcript of the film with a director’s commentary running underneath. The film has 16 screenings on the calendar between now and the spring, including a February tour of the U.S. South, Feb. 27th at St. Bart’s Church in New York and April 18 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I’m also halfway through the third draft of a novel about medical marijuana farmers in northern California, and every couple of weeks I update my blog.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the anthology!

Best Sex Writing 2008 will be out in December 2007!

November 5, 2007

Best Sex Writing is an annual series publisher by Cleis Press. For the 2008 edition, to be published in December 2007, Rachel Kramer Bussel is the editor.

Below is the publisher’s blurb and interviews, updates and event info coming soon:

Do Jewish girls give better blowjobs? What does it mean to be a modern-day eunuch? Would you want to work in the pink ghetto or live in the glass closet? How “hung” are African-American men? What happens to a celebrity sex tape star in Iran? Best Sex Writing 2008 answers these questions (and raises many more) as it probes the inner lives of those on the front lines — political, personal, and cultural — of lust. From dangerous dildos to professional submissives, the erotic appeal of twins, sex work, pornography and much more, these authors delve into the underbelly of eroticism. Probing stereotypes, truths, and the tricky areas in between, Best Sex Writing 2008 opens the bedroom door and explores the complexity of modern sexuality with thought-provoking, cutting-edge essays and articles.

Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations

Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report • Rachel Shukert
Double Your Panic • Kevin Keck
Battle of the Sexless • Ashlea Halpern and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting • Violet Blue
The Prince of Porn and the Junk-Food Queen from Insatiable • Gael Greene
Tough Love • Kelly Rouba
Dirty Old Women • Ariel Levy
Stalking the Stalkers • Kelly Kyrik
Sex in Iran • Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin
Surface Tensions • Jen Cross
Sex and the Single Septuagenarian • Liz Langley
The Pink Ghetto (A Four-Part Series) • Lux Nightmare and Melissa Gira
To Have or Have Not: Sex on the Wedding Night • Jill Eisenstadt
How Insensitive • Paul Festa
The Study of Sex • Amy Andre
Dangerous Dildos • Tristan Taormino
Absolut Nude • Miriam Datskovsky
The Hung List from Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America • Scott Poulson-Bryant
The Glass Closet • Michael Musto
Menstruation: Porn’s Last Taboo • Trixie Fontaine
Buying Obedience: My Visit to a Pro Submissive • Greta Christina

Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations

Sex. One little word, so much drama. One little word, so many interpretations, definitions, permutations. For some, sex means ecstasy. For others, it means procreation. For some, it means sin outside the confines of marriage. Many believe that only heterosexual penetrative sex qualifies for that hallowed three letter word; everything else is either foreplay⎯or forbidden. For a lot of us, myself included, sex is an ever-changing, ever-evolving set of acts, philosophies and identities. It teaches us, thrills us, empowers us, confuses us, electrifies us. Sex drives our lives and our lives drive our sex, in all sorts of complex ways. Pleasure and danger, as the famous Carole Vance anthology called it.

When I thought about the kinds of writing I wanted to include in this anthology, I knew I wanted to read about the kinds of sex that make the world, not to mention one’s head, spin. The kinds of writings that throw our notions of what sex is into disarray. The kinds of writings that will long outlast the chronological year printed on the cover of this book because their meanings and messages will continue to be read, debated, questioned, and answered. These pieces, taken as a whole, give a broader view of sex than you’ve likely ever considered, dealing as they do with biology, gender, crime, politics, the environment, health, religion, race, and much more.

Here you’ll find a wide array of writings about the state of modern sexuality, taking you everywhere from the front lines of erotic activism to insightful analyses of everything from sexuality studies to menstruation porn to naked college coeds. From large publications such as Playboy, Penthouse Forum, and Out to smaller indie outfits like $pread, Heeb, and Other, as well as online publications and books, each of these pieces contributes to a whole that shows that sex, the act(s) and the topic(s), is much more complex than most of us give it credit for. Whatever definition you currently have for sex, prepare for it to be shattered.

Best Sex Writing 2008 includes two pieces that are very near and dear to my heart. As a Jewish woman with a passion for cock-sucking (not to mention Monica Lewinsky), I found Rachel Shukert’s “Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report,” a fascinating look at the ways Jewish women’s mouths have come to be, in the popular imagination, permanently open. While she offers up a few jokes and puns, she bolsters them with a thoughtful essay that goes way beyond the conventional wisdom. Bloggers Melissa Gira and Lux Nightmare break down the meaning of “The Pink Ghetto,” a place where I and many of my peers find ourselves, whether we like it or not, simply because we’ve chosen to write about that vexing three letter word that’s always stirring up so much trouble.

I’ve also included several personal essays here because I believe they demonstrate some powerful lessons about how sex plays out in our lives. The sexual karma delivered to Kevin Keck in the form of twin baby girls, after a high school career spent lusting after his own town’s version of the Doublemint Twins, is deliciously twisted. Gael Greene takes us back to a headier, more hedonistic time when, freed from her marriage, she could seduce the notorious porn star Jamie Gillis, inching into his supposedly seedy world while reveling in his dirtiness, literally. Journalist Scott Poulson-Bryant, in an excerpt from his excellent study Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America, a mix of personal experience and impassioned journalism, asks whether the stereotype of the black man as America’s most horny, the one who by his very definition signifies sex, is true or even relevant. These pieces you might very well be able to relate to even if you’ve never been horny for twincest, had an affair, or been a black man, because their authors’ words go beyond their individual circumstances to shed light on the current erotic climate.

And then we’ve got some more unique territory. Out of all the pieces here, Ashlea Halpern’s exploration of the lengths today’s eunuchs will go to remove their genitals, “Battle of the Sexless,” makes me squirm the most, with equal parts fascination and horror, yet I’ve reread it now numerous times. There’s something appealing and at the same time appalling about this state of affairs that Halpern delves into with a sympathetic eye.

Many of the authors here directly address the politics of sex, and demand that the status quo give way for a broader vision of sexual inclusion. Trixie Fontaine’s discussion of piss and menstruation porn is one that, like Halpern’s, may make you uncomfortable. And that’s exactly her point: while some may find her work abhorrent, others are equally turned on by it, and the fact that capitalism doesn’t trump human blood is indeed worth investigating. Tristan Taormino looks at the important issue of phthalates in sex toys, while Violet Blue takes mainstream media to task for its biases when it comes to porn reporting. Ariel Levy’s “Dirty Old Women” explores relationships between adult women and teenage boys, asking what it means to be molested when you’re male: “For many Americans, being a real grown-up requires a penis. And if you’ve got that, even if you’re only fifteen, you must have the maturity and the manliness to know what you want to do with it—even if that involves intercourse with a forty-two-year-old. Who among us would say the same thing about a fifteen-year-old girl?” Her exploration of the motivations of these teenagers and their seductresses (she calls Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau “the poster couple for pedophilia or true love, depending on your point of view”) makes us reexamine our assumptions about male sexuality. It’s no surprise that Levy’s piece also surfaced in a volume of Best Crime Writing; the intersection of sex and the law has countless permutations, and it’s often to the legal system that we look for answers to help us define what “acceptable” sex is. Elsewhere in this collection, in “Stalking the Stalkers,” Kelly Kyrik examines real attempts to catch pedophiles in the act of luring children via the Web.

One of the great new frontiers of sex writing is college newspapers, where sex columnists are starting with a base of knowledge I wish I’d had when I arrived at the University of California at Berkeley, helping educate their fellow students and working out the logistics of sex in print. This new generation is bold, brave, brash, and ballsy, and one of the best and brightest is Miriam Datskovsky, who wrote the Columbia Spectator’s “Sexplorations” column. Here, she takes us inside the phenomenon of naked parties on campus, calling bullshit on them, in those precise terms.

For all the jokes, hand wringing, and ink spilled about Paris Hilton, even her recent jail time, we are a country whose consumers made 1 Night in Paris zoom to the top of the porn best-seller charts, resurrecting an interest in celebrity sex tapes that’s seeing burgeoning sales once thought to have gone the way of Pam and Tommy. But what happens when you’re an Iranian actress caught fucking on film⎯or possibly fucking on film? Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin investigate the case of Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, who’s embroiled in a sex scandal about a tape in which she may or may not star, offering insights into the changes in Iranian culture which have made sex both more and less taboo. The situation has seemingly worsened in recent months; in June 2007, Iran’s parliament, in a 148-5 vote, approved a measure saying “producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corruptors of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corruptors of the world.”

As for the word “Best” in the title, I’m the first to admit that this is a fully subjective call. Sex is everywhere, and I encourage you to read more about it on the growing network of sex blogs and mainstream and alternative publications, or take pen to paper (or fingers to computer screen) and write your own sexual manifesto.

I thought I knew a lot about sex when I started working on this book. I’ve had dozens of lovers, I wrote a sex column for the Village Voice for two and a half years, I’m on staff at an adult magazine, and I have listened to countless confessions of sexual peccadilloes and adventures. But when it comes to sex, we can all learn something, as you’ll see from even a brief perusal of the table of contents or by skimming any of these chapters⎯I certainly did.

Sometimes I think sex is a code word for every dirty, naughty, perverted thought anyone’s ever had. For some it can be encompassed in a kiss, for others a flogging, a performance, or an intense masturbation session. For others, like that famous maxim about pornography, they know it when they’re doing it. Sex is broad enough (and powerful enough) that we will continue to write, talk, and debate about it for centuries to come⎯when we’re not busy engaging in our preferred version of it. When I tell people I write about sex, I can see immediately whether their judgment about me has changed in the second it took me to say it. Most of the time, I don’t have time to sit and explain how complex a topic we’re talking about. Now, I can just hand them this book, which asks just as many questions as it answers, and hopefully does what good sex should do: leave you wanting more.

Rachel Kramer Bussel
New York City