The transcript doesn't do justice to SeanMichael Rau's powerful testimony to the deep and hurtful impact that circumcision can cause.
My name is SeanMichael Richard Rau.
I don't even know if I have done enough to deserve [the] title [“intactivist”]; I'm 25 years old right now, and I've been interested in the topic of intactivism for 15 years or so. Up until this past weekend, I haven't done a single thing to actually get involved, though I thought about it for a long time.
I remember very distinctly the day that [I found out about circumcision]: When I was about 10 or 11 [years old], I was hanging out with a few [female] friends, and they asked me if I was circumcised. I had never heard that word before, and I didn't know what they were talking about, so I asked what that [means], and they told me that it [means] someone had cut a part of my penis off; I was so appalled—I [was] just like:
Of course not! What are you talking about? There's no way! Why would I be circumcised? That sounds ridiculous!
So, I went home and used the Internet to do some research and quickly realized that I was, in fact, circumcised. So, that's kind of when it all began; I became pretty quickly obsessed with finding out more about [circumcision]—what it [is]; why it [is].
It took me a few years to really start getting more interested in the [foreskin-restoration] movement. I think that I was just really [angry] for the first few years [after finding out], and I didn't know who I could talk to—I didn't talk to anyone for a very long time.
I always thought it was really funny: When I was a teenager, I was in punk bands and I dyed my hair and I pierced all parts of my body, and my father always told me that every time I modified my body like that, I was disrespecting myself—because the way I was born was perfect, and changing [my body means] that I [don't] like who I [am]. So, it's funny to think that the same person [who] told me that is the person [who] decided that I should have part of my body amputated permanently.
I don't really remember much of my feelings about circumcision for a few years after that. There's kind of a gap in my memory between the day I found out—knowing that I was upset—and the time that I was finally able to learn more about it. I think, maybe, I was like a lot of men in my life today: Afraid to find out about something I had lost because I didn't want to have to think about something that I couldn't change.
I desparately wanted to discuss [this issue] with someone, but [I] had no idea how to start that conversation. At that point in my life, I had no idea about the status[es] of other people's penises; I had no idea [whether] I was alone in this, or everyone was circumcised, and [I was afraid that] if I said something about it, I would be [labeled as] “the weird guy who spoke out against circumcision”.
I ended up speaking with my very good friend, who just so happens to be intact; he revealed that [fact] to me with no prompting—I don't think I ever brought up circumcision to him or brought up the topic at all. I think he just told me [during] some conversation that he [is] intact, and I think that's when I got a little glimmer of hope that [not everyone is in favor of circumcision], and then I had direct contact with someone who I could talk to about the other side of things. So, that was a really great thing for me to discover—that my best friend could also be a really great resource for this thing that I wanted to know more about desparately.
All of my link to the world of circumcision and intactivism was strictly through the Internet. So, this weekend, I met all of these people who I have kind of envisioned in my head as existing somewhere in the world—all these intactivists, [who] are kind of like celebrities in my head or something; I've been reading these names for years and years, and they're really real people.
I think [that] subconsciously, my art—basically since the beginning—has been connected with my feelings about bodies:
- How we force ideas on bodies.
- How we strive to alter them.
- How we force gender on them.
I think [that] subconsciously, a lot of [this motivation] has to do with the fact that I've never really felt like [I've] had control over my own body. As time went on and I became more comfortable with my [foreskin-restoration] process—and being able to talk to my friends about that—I think I decided that I wanted to do something with my artwork to help speak about these feelings to the world.
In creating this image that was used in some of the flyers this weekend, I think I finally was able to create a direct link [to] my feelings about circumcision and put those ideas into a visual form that gets people thinking about the issue.
I have massive plans to unleash an entire body of work specifically concerned with circumcision and restoration. What you can't see in the image—what's covered behind the “M”—is actually my penis enrobed in restoration gear; I wanted to include it in the image, because I think that getting the word out about restoration is really important.
I don't think everyone who has been circumcised should feel like [he needs] to restore, [but] it's been powerful for me to feel like I can take back some control over my own body. [Currently, foreskin-restoration is viewed as] such an “underground” thing—[people think that] it's just like a bunch of [sketchy] guys who have gone to their [seedy] workshops and created these really, you know, [bizarre] little devices [for their penises]; I want it to be less obscure—I want people to see it and not think that it's this weird “fetish thing”. It's something I want to talk to my friends about so [that] they know it's a big part of my life—it's a huge part of my life; I have this stuff on my genitals under my pants hidden every day—and people can't see it, and I just want to make [our frustration] a non-taboo topic.
When I found out that my brother was going to be having a baby—and that it was going to be a boy—I saw my first real opportunity to make a direct impact on the life of someone else. I wanted desperately to educate my brother and his wife about all of the issues that I had been dealing with for so long; I had never talked to anyone in my family about my feelings. So, I approached my brother, and I was like:
Look, there's this huge part of my life that you don't know anything about, and I feel like I need to let you into this world, which is extremely difficult for me; it's not something that's easy—it's probably the only thing in my life that's not easy to talk about with people, but I want to do it, because I want you to have all of the information available to you before you make a decision that could affect someone else for [his] entire life.
So, I spoke with him directly about my own personal feelings for hours. I sent him hundreds of links to every video and informational website I could think of on the Internet. For months, we talked, and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from—and was sort of on my side. Then, one day, I got an email that said that I was not to address him or his wife on the topic of circumcision ever again, and that was that—this really, like, sterile email that I got, kind of out of nowhere for me.
I found out through my mother that apparently they had gone to see their doctor, and passed along some of the information that I shared with them, and their doctor simply told them that it [is] cleaner to circumcise their baby's penis. So, they were going to [do that], and that was that—that was the end; that was all that mattered [to them].
So, sort of in desperation, I called my mom, and I told her; I explained the whole situation to her—and in doing so, I revealed to her how I felt about her decision [to have me circumcised]. She started crying and telling me how sorry she was, and she called my brother and tried to talk to him, [but] it still didn't do anything. So [my brother and his wife] circumcised my nephew.