The Revolution Will Not be Circumcised
Performance by Glen Callender
J. Steven Svoboda
I was fortunate enough to be able to catch Glen Callender doing his performance piece, “The Revolution Will Not be Circumcised” as part of the San Francisco Fringe Festival. The particular show I saw started at 10:30 PM on a Wednesday night and one audience member was so affected by what he saw that he fainted. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Glen Callender is an intact Canadian man who founded the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project (CAN-FAP) and who travels around North America doing theater and public education to advance knowledge of the functions of the foreskin and the damage caused by circumcision.
We start by seeing a screen with this message, mixing humor and seriousness in a way that foreshadows what lies ahead: “This presentation is rated X. Warning: Forbidden knowledge. CAN-FAP presents Glen Callender. And very special guest: Glen Callender’s foreskin.”
Glen notes extemporaneously shortly after appearing on stage, “This is probably the fringiest show you’ll ever see at the fringe your entire life.” Glen is wearing a T-shirt with the message, “I love my foreskin” and absolutely nothing down below. He says, “The reason I do what I do is I love my foreskin. In the next 60 minutes you will understand why I love my foreskin. Hopefully you will love it too.”
With gleeful amusement, Glen displays three drawings of male genitalia taken from leading sexuality guides, in which the foreskin is omitted and in some cases not even mentioned anywhere in the books. He presents side by side drawings of circumcised males and females, drawing pointed analogies between the procedures. “The foreskin,” he says, “is the primary erogenous tissue of the penis.” He shows videos graphically demonstrating how very light touch in his case can produce not only one ecstatic orgasm, but even five (count em!) orgasms within a period of only two minutes.
Next he explains in detail the many wondrous characteristics of the frenulum, summing up, “The frenulum is your friendulum.”
I learned many things from Glen’s performance, perhaps the most new things relating to intactivism that I have ever learned in a single hour. Glen clarified that Meissner’s corpuscles, though little known as least in the US, are often the key to orgasms. The head of the penis, which Glen explains even he used to believe was the key to orgasm, has nothing to do with any of the orgasms seen in the show. Moreover, Glen adds, the head of the penis has more nerves that sense pain than pleasure.
In reference to a part that is sometimes better known as the ridged band, we graphically learn why “the o-ring is never bo-ring.”
Part 2 of the show was titled, “The Agony—Circumcision.” Many audience members including myself were unable to view the excruciating five-minute-long circumcision video that Glen included and indeed many of us found it hard even to sit through the audio with our eyes shut. Glen noted, “40% of US doctors still don’t use any anesthetic.” This was the point where the audience member passed out and Glen interrupted the show to ask if anyone in the audience was a doctor or nurse. After a couple of minutes, he came to and had to leave the show.
“Circumcision,” Glen said, “removes the five most sensitive parts of the penis. It also removes the most erogenous parts of the penis.”
Glen showed on a split screen color photos of intact and circumcised glans, demonstrating the huge difference in lubrication and sensitivity. A man circumcised as an adult talked somewhat matter-of-factly about what a huge mistake he had made and how much sensitivity he had lost.
Circumcision removes more than half the nerves of the penis, and the ones left are covered in scar tissue. Circumcised men are three times more likely to suffer from impotence as we get older.
Glen asks the obvious question: If circumcision harms men’s sexuality, why does it continue?
He answers his own question by illustrating the many different forms denial takes (“it’s just a little skin”, “infants don’t feel the pain,” “male circumcision is nothing like female circumcision,” and so on). Most memorably, he inserts from Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon’s film, a video clip of mohel Phyllis Marx doing a circumcision where the baby’s behavior devastatingly debunks her claims that the baby objects to “being mucked with,” not to the circumcision itself.
Glen runs through some of the leading justifications: health and hygiene, urinary tract infections, cancer, and HIV. He says, “These can all be refuted with one word” which he then puts up on the screen in huge letters: “EUROPE.”
He even includes the Cologne court holding as well as mention of the six European countries that have denounced the procedure as medically unjustified. “If girls have the right to keep all their sex organs and decide for themselves, then so do boys and so do intersex persons.”
Glen presents evidence that the common purpose of both male and female circumcision was to medically damage the genitalia to reduce sexual pleasure while retaining the bare minimum necessary to retain reproductive abilities.
Glen doesn’t leave us depressed though. He ends with “Part 3: A new sexual revolution,” calling on everyone to work together to make sure that foreskin goes back on the diagram. He shows the famous Vietnam picture of the running girl and the notorious picture of an African-American lynching, then shows the video of a circumcision. The analogy is clear. “America will again change. When you see girls being cut in the African bush or boys being cut in America, you should be outraged not because it’s a girl or a boy but because it’s a child.”
The performance is more educational than it is theatrical. If one enters without expectations, and takes what Glen offers for what it is, one is bound to leave the theater transformed. The show is no less than fascinating, which in one final revealing point, Glen Callender tells us is a word that originally meant to be under the spell of a penis. Three cheers! Don’t miss “The Revolution Will Not be Circumcised” when Glen Callender of CAN-FAP comes around to your part of the world.