I first learned about circumcision, as many girls do, when it was required for my brother. We are a white British family with no history of circumcision as far as I know, but it was necessary for my younger sibling because of a tight foreskin that was causing him trouble. Being too young to know any of the particulars of penile anatomy, I was both intrigued and rather shocked in equal measure by this imminent surgery on a young boy's private parts that was euphemistically named "the snip". I was very much kept to one side during the procedure and healing process and so didn't know exactly what it entailed until I peered through my family medical encyclopedia when I was a bit older, but the entire process - and the revelation from my parents that this was done to thousands of boys around the world for religious reasons - played on my mind, and made me very curious to learn more.
I was in my late teens when I had my first boyfriend, and as is the norm in this country, he was uncircumcised. I wouldn't have expected anything else at that stage, still believing circumcision to be a religious or medical practice that was relatively rare for British boys. My first sexual experiences were all with him, and at the stage of my life I noticed nothing untoward or objectionable about his penis as we discovered each other's bodies and experienced our "first times" together whenever one of us had a free house.
Our relationship came to an end as we both went to different universities; I was rather heartbroken and became fairly bookish and less interested in sex. I didn't have a relationship with another boy until I studied abroad for a semester at an American university in the Mid West. Being in another country so far away from friends and family - and receiving so much attention for my English accent and manners - made me feel liberated like never before, and it wasn't long before I started dating a handsome American boy. When we got into the bedroom together after a few dates, I immediately noticed that he had been circumcised as I unsuccesfully tried to masturbate him in the same way I would my ex-boyfriend: there was no skin to move! Just a rigid and smooth column with a neat scar running around. My latent curiosity about the subject was fully reawakened, and I wasted no time in encouraging him to fully consummate our budding relationship. While I can't say I noticed anything physically different about the act of penetration, the thrill of the exotic certainly made the experience intensely more erotic for me. When we were lazing around together in bed afterwards, I couldn't help but ask him about it; was he Jewish, or had he needed the operation as a boy? To my astonishment he told me that it was just the norm where he was from, that he'd never seen a penis that hadn't been circumcised, and more's the point he wouldn't even know what one would look like.
After this revelation, which again surprised and also disquieted me to an extent, I brought up the matter with some of my new American girl friends. They readily confirmed that all boys were circumcised soon after birth, and were equally baffled by the situation in England, telling me that uncircumcised penises were considered unsanitary, and even ugly. When I told them that my own brother had to undergo the operation as a young boy, that seemed to just confirm their suspicions that it was something best to get over with as quickly as possible for the boy's own sake. While it was somewhat of a culture shock to find this out, I couldn't help but agree with their assessment that it was an aesthetic improvement. My new boyfriend was athletic and very body confident, and I took great pleasure in simply watching his naked body and particularly his penis, which displayed its beautiful head at all times whether erect or not. For me it was simply a vision of masculine beauty that aroused me just upon looking at it.
My semester came to an end, and I returned to the UK to complete my degree. Upon graduation I searched for two things; a job, and a boyfriend. The first came fairly easily and the second soon followed, as he was a colleague of mine. Being a British boy the odds were always in favour of him being uncircumcised, and that was indeed the case. While he was a considerate and intelligent man to whom I would otherwise have been greatly attracted, I soon discovered that my American experience has awakened a non-negotiable preference deep within my sexuality, and I simply no longer found uncircumcised penises attractive; the dangling skin just obscured its beauty, and now that the idea of this skin fold's unhygienic nature had been planted in my mind, I found that hard to shift as well.
We soon broke up, with some other reason cited, and I kept the dealbreaker a secret to myself; well, and my friends too of course. In talking about this subject with other women my own age, I noticed a remarkable diversity of opinion and experiences. Some friends had only ever experienced the uncircumcised variety; some were indifferent as to the difference; a couple had no idea as to what even really was different about the two types, while fortunately there were a handful who shared my preference just as strongly as me. What was relatively notable is that very few as I recall had experienced both and preferred uncircumcised men. Despite that, the issue for many of us (including myself, frankly), was whether it was cruel to do it to a baby boy for no pressing medical need. My dating life continued, and while I tried to find a man with whom I shared interests and ambitions, I also had to establish that he was circumcised before things progressed any further, and that's not an easy thing to do gently. One of my closest friends is Jewish and naturally agreed with my perspective, but though she tried to set me up with a couple of Jewish men, it never worked out for one reason or another. Instead, I constructed a strategy of asking partners about any operations they might have had, or using cultural references to try and wheedle the information I needed out of them. It could be awkward at times, often unsuccesful, and even painful when I had to call things off with a handsome guy over one pesky little skin flap, but it was also uniquely thrilling when I hit the "jackpot".
The man who became my husband answered sheepishly on a second or third date that the only operation he'd ever had was to be circumcised as a boy due to medical reasons, exactly as my own brother had been. I wasted little time in showing my appreciation, but it transpired that he wasn't as happy with the surgery, being disappointed by the supposed loss of sensation but more so carrying a feeling of shame from when schoolfriends made fun of him for being different. I don't want to to divulge too much information, but a fulfilling part of our relationship for both of us has been that through my loving him and loving his penis, he has learned to finally appreciate the way he looks, and our connection has only deepened and strengthened through the experience. Seeing his naked body now with his beautifully sculpted circumcised penis in pride of place, still makes me just as excited as it did the very first time.
We decided early on that we wouldn't have children, so the question of getting any of our boys "done" has always been moot. While I adore the aesthetic results, I do think that the ethical justification is rather tricky. Perhaps it's best if men are left to decide their status for themselves, in which case I certainly know the side I'll be cheerleading for!