Matthew Hess Wants to Save Your Baby's Foreskin
I’ve had 23 awesome years with the foreskin of my penis, and I wouldn’t trade any of them to save a few minutes in the bathroom or to feel more comfortable in the locker room. But I’m not a foreskin fascist. I don’t want to tell other people how to live. And like most men, my mind isn’t consumed with thoughts of bloody baby wieners all day. Matthew Hess, on the other hand, lives for protecting the sausage casing, for keeping the top up, saving the anteater, wearing the turtleneck, etc. He’s the guy behind that Foreskin Man comic that has gotten under the yarmulke of every heeb in the country for its sinister portrayal of Foreskin Man’s archenemy, Monster Mohel.
Hess is also a leader in the “intactivist” movement, which has managed to get a measure on the November ballot in San Francisco that would make circumcising babies illegal. If it passes, those unable to keep their scissors away from fresh foreskins would face up to one year in prison. Matt took a time-out from fighting the circumcision system and restoring his own foreskin to talk with us about his comic, stinky dicks, and why gay men love a good foreskin.
VICE: What’s so bad about a circumcised wang?
If a man wants to undergo circumcision by choice, we don’t oppose that. We oppose forced circumcision of minors. It’s common sense not to remove a healthy body part from someone who can’t consent. It’s against the law to cut off any part of a girl’s genitals or even draw one drop of blood. There is a double standard when it comes to boys’ penises.
Isn’t it a bit outrageous to compare male circumcision with female genital mutilation?
In principal, they’re exactly the same. There is no difference at all. There are four different types of female genital mutilation. The closest comparison to circumcision is Type 2. That’s where the labia, the clitoral hood, and part of the clitoris are cut off. It is like male circumcision because the foreskin contains thousands of nerve endings that enhance sexual pleasure like the clitoris, it protects the penis like the clitoral hood, and it locks in moisture during intercourse like the labia.
You have pissed off a lot of Jews with your Foreskin Man comic.
I’ve been dealing with anti-Semitism accusations since I became an inactivist. These claims are just an extension of that, especially since the comic focuses on Brit Milah.
If circumcision is such an important issue, why make some silly comic about it?
The idea behind it was to touch people on an emotional level. I was unable to reach a lot of people by talking and I’ve been a comic book fan my whole life.
I can see why it’s controversial. The Mohel in it looks like one of those rabid Jews who persecuted Jesus in Passion of the Christ.
I deliberately made Monster Mohel evil because in the eyes of a child he’s a monster. This baby boy has been born and here comes the Mohel with a pair of scissors, ready to cut off part of the boy’s penis because his religion told him to. I wanted to make a point that circumcision is wrong regardless of context. It’s not just this happy ceremony where people gather and eat food. No—there is a child being mutilated.
What’s Foreskin Man’s penis like? Is it big? Circumcised?
It’s still a mystery if he is circumcised. But an intact penis is always larger than a circumcised penis. The foreskin is 15 square inches of skin, that’s a lot of skin. When you double fold that skin, the penis is thicker. The skin also hangs over the tip of the glands, so that makes it longer when it is not aroused.
You’re regrowing your foreskin, right? Are you just doing it to squeeze a couple extra inches out of your junk?
The first time I knew that I wanted a foreskin is when I went online in the mid 90s. This is also when I started to notice a decline in my sexual stimulation. That’s how I found out about foreskin restoration and I saw photos of an adult male foreskin.
How does one go about restoring their penis?
If you want to regrow a foreskin that looks like a real one you need to undergo an intense wearing schedule. You have to wear a cone with spacers and maybe even some weights. For me, I just want to keep my glands covered and have some flack skin. I wear my retainer on a permanent basis. It is like wearing a pair of glasses or wearing a watch. You have to wear it for the rest of your life because it is no longer just applying tension; it is holding the regrown skin in place.
Do you get off from stretching out your foreskin? Or is it painful?
No, you don’t get off. But it shouldn’t be painful, either—as long as you use mild tension. Some say they are more comfortable when they stretch their penis because it is being protected as it was designed to be.
How long is your skin down there?
My skin doesn’t stretch as easily as other men’s. So, I haven’t grown enough to look like I have a foreskin. But I have enough to have some mobility there. I can feel the difference during intercourse. The most important thing is that I am able to keep my glands covered, which helps reverse all the years of keratin that have built up.
The easiest way to describe it would be if you were a manual laborer and you’ve been working without gloves for years. Your hands build up calluses and lose sensation because you’re constantly exposing them to work. That’s what happens to your penis when it rubs against clothing or is exposed to air—the body reacts by building layers of keratin.
Gross. When did you know that you wanted an uncircumcised member?
I was opposed to circumcision before I even knew I was circumcised. When I was in elementary school I would hear jokes from older kids that Jews had no foreskin and we’re one-third off. And I remember thinking, “How could anyone do that to a helpless, innocent boy.” Where I grew up, every penis I saw was circumcised. I saw a couple of intact ones, but I thought they were just naturally different. This was before the Internet. Now, you can look that stuff up.
You talk a lot about dicks. Are you gay?
No. But we have big support from gay men. Gays have more experience with different kinds of penises than heterosexual men. They’ve seen intact penises in an intimate way so they are one step ahead of the next guy.
A lot of people think that extra skin on your dick will just end up trapping smelly smegma.
It’s true that having an intact penis requires you to keep it clean, but you could say the same thing about hair. What if we removed the hair follicles from children when they’re born? Then they wouldn’t get greasy hair and they wouldn’t get lice.
OK. But there are some contested studies out there that say circumcised penises contract AIDS at a lower rate than uncircumcised penises. AIDS is a bit more serious than lice.
Let’s say that circumcision cured AIDS 100 percent—I would still be opposed to it because that is not someone’s choice to make. You could say that we could eliminate breast cancer 100 percent if we removed breast buds from baby girls. That would save far more lives than are being lost to AIDS in this country. But everyone would say that is unethical.
And condoms are the most effective way to reduce the transmission of AIDS, not circumcision.
But baby foreskins are used for so much great stuff like skin grafts for burn victims and anti-aging cream. They might even be able to grow you a real foreskin from a baby’s foreskin.
I am opposed to any use of infant foreskins. It is stolen property.