The Good Men Project: Sex and Circumcision: An American Love Story
Sex and Circumcision: An American Love Story
Everything we thought we knew about circumcision was wrong.
The US has never had a national conversation about circumcision – understandably so; it is one of the last stigmatized topics in this country. Even the medical community avoids it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends circumcision, yet it takes a strong position against all neonatal surgeries that can be postponed:
If there is no risk associated with waiting to get surgery (i.e., not life-threatening or an emergency), then consider putting it off until your child is older than 3—research suggests that the effects of anesthesia on the brain decrease with age.
How [does the AAP] justify performing this “routine” surgery on infants days or even hours after birth? Easy: Circumcision is performed without anesthesia.
How did this brutal surgical procedure become de riguer in the United States? Eric Clopper’s masterful one-man show, Sex and Circumcision: An American Love Story, lays bare the answer to this question and more. Clopper’s groundbreaking performance, reminiscent of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, challenges, excites, and provokes.
Clopper encountered his first intact (i.e., uncircumcised) penis as a college rugby player on a team trip to Scotland. Puzzled and curious, Clopper asked himself, “Woah, what is that thing? I’ve never seen a penis in that model before!”
Although he didn’t know it at the time, this curious-looking penis marked the beginning of a personal and intellectual journey that has formed the background of his unfolding life for the past five years. Clopper is a research scientist by training and can discern fact from fiction. What he learned through this research blew his mind. He was astonished both by the scope of medical disinformation and the ignorance of the American public (including his own ignorance for the first 20 years of his life).
As he has followed the circumcision thread, much else has transpired in the foreground of his life. Finishing his physics degree at Colgate (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), Clopper discarded plans to pursue the Ph.D. in computational physics, instead embarking on a successful but short-lived stint in management consulting. But, the peculiar history of male circumcision in the U.S. remained the field that captured his imagination.
When an opportunity arose to join a startup devoted to foreskin regeneration, Clopper abandoned his consulting career and jumped onboard at Foregen, serving until recently as the company spokesman. In this capacity, he got used to being called “the foreskin guy” as he developed his public speaking skills at venues ranging from stem cell summits and sexual health conferences to Ivy League universities. Recently, he accepted a full-time managerial position at Harvard University in which he is helping design and implement the university’s new Language Center. Through all this, the bulk of his private time has been spent researching, reflecting, and rehearsing for his upcoming show.
His personal narrative through this period centered on his desperate attempt to achieve some sort of closure by confronting his Jewish father about the damage his own circumcision inflicted on his body and his spirit – an encounter that led to conflict and rancor rather than to understanding and closure.
Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story is the culmination of these years of reflection. Clopper no longer tiptoes around the topic: “The thing is, you are not allowed to disagree with me on this. This is the human rights violation of our time, and I will prove it as one proves a mathematical equation.”
For Clopper, the facts preclude compromise.
Clopper explains the history of genital-cutting around the globe and tackles thorny, seldom-discussed intersectionalities of genital-cutting, sexual violence, toxic masculinity, religion, and science; all of this set against the backdrop of a gripping personal testimony—a fearless, funny, and tragic story on one of the last remaining stigmatized subjects.
Like other members of his of his generation—who have ushered in drastic rethinking and change on issues ranging from women’s (#MeToo) and transgender rights, to the #MarchForYourLives that has shaken the NRA’s grapple on gun control—this is the conversation of our generation.
Prepare for a new paradigm.