Marilyn Milos, 69, of Forest Knolls was a nurse at Marin General Hospital in 1979 when she witnessed her first circumcision. The experience changed her life. After researching the procedure, she became convinced it was not only unnecessary but harmful. She says she was later fired from her job for sharing her opinions with patients and has spent the last 30 years crusading against circumcision as founder of the nonprofit National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers.
Q: What do you remember about that first circumcision?
A: As we walked into the nursery, the baby was strapped down to a plastic board. I called it "the rack" when I worked there. The baby was pulling against the restraints. Then the doctor started to cut and that baby let out a scream I've never heard come out of the mouth of a human, ever, and it became louder and louder. My bottom chin began to quiver and then tears poured over my eyes, and the doctor looked at my face and said, "There is no medical reason for doing this."
Q: How did your supervisors at Marin General react when you started questioning circumcision?
A: They told me to keep my mouth shut because a couple of patients were upset that I'd told them what was going to happen to their babies. I said, "Well, the baby's a patient. No one is more upset than he is." It was my job as a nurse that when parents signed that consent form that they were truly informed.
Q: What is so important about the foreskin?
A: It covers and protects the urinary meatus so the urinary tract maintains its sterility, and it's the skin that accommodates the full erection. Circumcision is one of the reasons that men complain of tight erections, painful erections and curvature of the penis.
Q: Does circumcision reduce male sexual pleasure?
A: Well, if you cut off 20,000 to 70,000 highly erogenous, specialized nerve endings, what would your guess be? All those nerve endings are the accelerator that allows a man to ride the wave to orgasm the way a woman does. Without them, the accelerator is replaced with an off/on switch; "Oops honey sorry, it's because I'm so sensitive." It's not because you're so sensitive. It's because somebody did this to you. Somebody removed your accelerator. Men should be so pissed off about this.
Q: What is the long-term effect of the glans' exposure?
A: Initially, premature ejaculation occurs because there is no control. Later the denuded glans becomes dry, hardened and calloused. By their mid-40s, men are saying, "The head of my penis is numb. There is no sensation there."
Richard Halstead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org