We know there are fanatics out there.
Guys who go off their nut, out of their skulls, totally bonkers for foreskin.
Guys who feel terribly deprived -- more than that, outraged! -- at finding themselves circumcised by some cruel play of fate and modern science, who try one sad scheme after another to grow back that silly little millimeter extra.
And yes, we plead guilty to catering to this obsession. In the lovely literature we publish in the back of the Inner Circle -- those fiction tales designed to enlighten, teach and be read with one hand -- nary a circumcised cock ever lifts its bare head in anything like triumph.
So it's time we spent a few moments in heavy thought on -- what else? -- cock. The uncut kind.
We wonder if the mania for foreskin is little like the discrete charm of half-dressed men. When we wrote on that phenomenon, we concluded it was eye-hunger -- the frank aggressiveness of the male gaze -- that was more maddened, more stimulated, more challenged by what was unseen.
But let's pull the ... um, curtain back a bit further. Uncut cocks also suggest natural, unadulterated manliness. There is something of Maurice and the groundskeeper, of the duchess and the gardener, in the cut's obsession with the uncut.
The uncut man seems more primitive, closer to the earth, unsoftened by civilization.
Translation, a really hot fuck.
And we brainy types need sometimes to be brought down to earth, no? A little 'ol ass-whop never hurt anyone, yes?
This quest for authenticity in manhood would explain what has been called "The Restoration Movement."
As for bringing back a foreskin, those in the restoration movement describe two methods. They rarely discuss the first, perhaps because many harbor a deep distrust of doctors: skin tissue, usually from the scrotum, is surgically grafted to the penis shaft in a way that replicates the foreskin's shape and function.
The other method essentially requires a man to stretch himself a new foreskin from his existing penis tissue. A variety of methods and devices help accomplish this -- elastic bands, weighted metal containers, even special tape. Some are commercial products with names like P.U.D. (Penile Uncircumcision Device) and Tug Ahoy.
Others are homemade with anything from silicone caulk to brass instrument mouthpieces. Several ounces of weights are sometimes added to speed the process. ...
All of these products distend the skin forward toward the glans and hold it in place to induce new cell growth, essentially forcing new skin to be created. Regrowth often takes years, with devices worn for 10 to 12 hours each day. ...
Of course, it's impossible to truly restore foreskin and restorers admit results are partial at best. Certain specialized nerve endings simply won't return.
But fret not, O, ye of little foreskin. The health benefits of circumcision are well documented -- despite all the melodramatic claims to the contrary made by the uncut fanatics.
The latest evidence appeared just last week and involves an issue that has touched most of us directly: AIDS.
Circumcising men routinely across Africa could prevent millions of deaths from AIDS, World Health Organization researchers and colleagues reported on Monday. ...
Researchers believe circumcision helps cut infection risk because the foreskin is covered in cells the virus seems able to easily infect. The virus may also survive better in a warm, wet environment like that found beneath a foreskin...
Last year, Dr. Bertran Auvert... and colleagues at WHO found that circumcised men in South Africa were 65 percent less likely to become infected with the deadly and incurable virus.
"In West Africa, male circumcision is common and the prevalence of HIV is low, while in southern Africa the reverse is true," they wrote in the current report, published in the Public Library of Science Medicine.
"This analysis shows that male circumcision could avert nearly six million new infections and save three million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over the next twenty years." ...
"Male circumcision alone cannot bring the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa under control. Even circumcised men can become infected, though their risk of doing so is much lower," the journal cautioned in a commentary.
The Stranger, an alternative paper in Seattle, offers this wry observation on the news:
But will Africa's men sit still for the mandatory snip?
God knows that circumcision is, for all but the exceedingly unlucky, the worst thing that will ever happen to one's genitals.
However, losing your immune system is worse, and here's hoping Africa follows through with its 10-year Harvest of Foreskins.
And one more thing: in Bantu, a language family common to sub-Saharan Africa, the word for foreskin is -- do strap yourself in -- Oprah!
All images by Robert Mapplethorpe
from the book:
Pictures: Robert Mapplethorpe
by Robert Mapplethorpe
Top image: Untitled, 1981
Second image: Man in a Polyester Suit, 1980
Last image: Profile, 1981