Last week I hung out with a friendly group of pro-foreskin advocates protesting outside Oprah Winfrey's appearance at the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal. The gathering was organized by Circumcision Resources Montreal, who denounce Oprah's endorsement of SkinMedica face creams, which she uses to combat pesky wrinkles. The cream is highly controversial because it is made using foreskin fibroblasts.
What the fuck are those, you ask? They're tiny flakes of human foreskin cultivated in laboratories and used to grow additional skin cells. Fibroblasts have real medical benefits, like helping burn victims to re-grow skin, but in recent years the cosmetics industry has been cashing in on the practice, manufacturing rejuvenating, “natural” skin care products marketed as an alternative to plastic surgery.
It should be noted, however, that the makers of SkinMedica insist no actual human tissue is included in their final product. They use only the growth hormones derived from foreskin tissue. While it is estimated that a single male foreskin can retail for around $100,000—SkinMedica says they have been cultivating their product from the same willfully donated slab of foreskin for fifteen years. This explains why their foreskin facial creams sell for $150 an ounce.
According to SkinMedica haters, a single piece of foreskin won't be enough to sustain the business, and they will soon turn to exploiting other infant foreskins, known to contain the most spry and healthy tissue cells. Opponents believe profiting from the foreskin of unconsenting babies is totally unethical, and also gross. Clearly infant male circumcision is a hotly debated topic, but is Oprah really the one to blame for inadvertently promoting a cultural and religious surgical practice? I asked these foreskin fanatics about their preferences.
VICE: Why all the hate for Oprah? She's America's sweetheart.
Curt:I don't know that I'm somad at Oprah, I just think it's hypocritical to be against female genital cutting and to be promoting a cream made from the products of forced male genital cutting. I did like it when she promoted Eckhart Tolle, though, that was great.
I have to ask, are you circumcised?
No, I was not circumcised. Also, I think it's a mistake to say, “Are you circumcised?”
Okay, then, have you been circumcised?
We talk about circumcision like it's a feature of the body when it's actually something that is done to a body.
If you were a father, what would be the main, driving reason you would not circumcise your son?
The same reason I would not cut off any other part of their body. Why would you choose to saw off a part of your daughter's body? You just wouldn't, it's their right to keep their whole body intact. If I tried to have my daughter's genitals cut off, I couldn't. They'd drag me off to jail and call child protective services. I don't know why society thinks it's okay to mutilate baby boys. A foreskin is not dangerous. It's only in a culture where circumcision is normal that this is even an issue.
Oprah promoted SkinMedica on her show nine years ago. It's unknown as to whether or not she still uses the skin cream. Are you unfairly targeting her?
We're here partly because she is or was a promoter of this product and we believe that's hypocritical, but also because there are a lot of people here today and we're trying to get our message out. If I stand on any old street corner, I might talk to ten people. But here, we can talk to hundreds of people. It's an important opportunity for us.
Yeah I bet, ok. Thanks.
Are you against using foreskin fibroblast for medical, as well as aesthetic purposes?
Franny: I would say the bottom line is that circumcision is a violation of human rights. It's the baby's right to have his whole body and to enjoy his whole body, including his whole penis when he one day becomes old enough to have sex. I don't think that it's ethical, period, to be harvesting these cells from the foreskins of babies who did not consent.
And babies can't consent because they have mushy brains.
Right, I guess so. The parents, when they have their baby circumcised, aren't told, “Oh by the way, we're harvesting his foreskin and selling it to a pharmaceutical or cosmetics company.” Everybody assumes it goes into biomedical waste. The parents paid for the circumcision, but actually maybe someone should be paying them for the mutilation of their child.
What about people who practice circumcision due to religious or cultural reasons?
Jessica: Well, actually, I'm Jewish. When I was pregnant, I researched everything like crazy. I looked up all the benefits of circumcision and there weren't many practical ones. Then I read about the functions of foreskin – the penis as an internal organ, keeping it covered and therefore more sensitive.
Were the other members of your family supportive of your decision?
Oh no, they were all against it. Everybody was calling me all the time and saying, 'Look, I know you don't want to do a bris, but you kind of have to do it.' They were saying you're making the wrong decision, over and over again. But in the end, I put my foot down and said I am not letting this happen to my son. I'm still Jewish and he's still Jewish even though he hasn't been circumcised. When he's older, if he decides that he wants to be circumcised for religious reasons… that will be up to him.
This is a question for all the ladies. As a woman, do you feel any difference between a cut or an uncut penis?
Maria: Absolutely, I so much prefer it intact. Do you know how weird it is to give to give a handjob to a circumcised penis? When it's uncut, it's so much more fluid and it feels way better for the guy as well. When a guy is really tightly cut it's just like, ughh, there's no where to move! Uncut penises draw out our moisture more easily too, which leads to dry, sore vaginas.
And gentlemen, do you experience more pleasure with your foreskin intact?
Jeremy: My foreskin actually retracted when I was a teenager, as I grew. Half of my glands got calloused and dried out, but luckily one day I came across a site on foreskin restoration techniques.
Good to know there's a WikiHow for that.
I was able to get full foreskin coverage again. The callous layer peeled away and it returned to soft, sensitive tissue and I could multiple orgasm and go multiple times without getting sore.
Do you use that story to pick up ladies while you're picketing?
Well, I don't know about that. For the most part, people fail to realize that the penis is meant to be an internal organ and when it is covered it does actually feel a lot better than when it's exposed.
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