On this page:
2001 Penthouse Article [to be posted]
ABC Good Morning America
Feb. 2001 Newsweek Article
Sex Life Not Good? Sue!
Lawyer David Llewelyn Is the Johnnie Cochran of the Circumcised
By Gersh Kuntzman
NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE
Feb. 26. 2001 — William
Stowell enjoys sex. But he doesn’t enjoy it as much as he thinks he
should. So he’s doing what any red-blooded American male would do when
dissatisfied with his sex life: He’s suing the hospital where he was
A COUPLE OF months ago, Stowell filed a civil suit claiming that
Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, N.Y., permanently deprived him
and his future bedmates of “the pleasure of natural, normal sexual
intercourse” thanks to an “excruciating” 10-minute procedure it
conducted on him moments after birth.
You may have heard of this procedure. It’s called circumcision.
Now, a lot of lawsuits come across my desk, but this one caught
my eye (among other organs). I mean, here was a circumcised guy
complaining that he was unable to satisfy his female partners because he
lacked his foreskin.
Well, I lack foreskin, too. And, come to think of it, I’ve
always secretly suspected that my sexual partners were just being nice
when they told me I was the “greatest” “lover” they ever “had.”
Could this circumcision thing be the excuse I’ve sought for years?
In a word, yes!
[sidebar quote] “I’m being deprived of my
birthright. Studies show that I would be enjoying it more and my
partners would be enjoying it more. Every time I have sex, that’s in
the back of my head.”— WILLIAM STOWELL
“I’m being deprived of my birthright,” Stowell told me. “Studies
show that I would be enjoying it more and my partners would be enjoying
it more. Every time I have sex, that’s in the back of my head.”
(Thanks a lot, William; now it’s in the backs of the heads of all my
Stowell is just a test case for a new niche of personal-injury
case law being carved out by Atlanta lawyer David Llewelyn, who has
become to the anti-circumcision camp what Johnnie Cochran is for
celebrities accused of horrendous, made-for-TV crimes. More than a
decade since the first “wrongful circumcision” case, Llewelyn has
been increasingly successful at winning settlements ($65,000 in a 1995
case, for example) and blocking unwanted circumcisions.
In the current case, Llewelyn will argue that Stowell’s mother,
Linda, was handed a consent form while she was still under the influence
of post- caesarean painkillers. Linda Stowell told me that, as an
Italian Catholic, she never would’ve agreed to having her son
circumcised. It must have been the Demerol speaking.
But Llewelyn wants his pound of flesh. He’s hoping that the
Stowell case goes to trial so he can use it as a pulpit to spread the
anti-circumcision gospel. For a circumcised guy like me, talking to
Llewelyn for even a few minutes was a remorseful trip through a sex life
that might have been.
For one thing, Llewelyn cites evidence that circumcision—which
he claims causes such pain in the infant that “heartbeat and cortisol
levels [rise] to levels consistent with torture”—makes kids more
susceptible to pain later in life.
And, naturally, he has studies that indicate that uncircumcised
men enjoy sex more than circumcised men do—and, more importantly, more
than I do.
But his most compelling evidence (“evidence” because it
appeared in the very fancy British Journal of Urology, “compelling”
because it directly relates to me) is the argument that women enjoy sex
less when they’re having it with a circumcised male.
Foreskinologist Kristen O’Hara’s study of 139 women—all of
whom had partaken of penises of both varieties—revealed that women
were twice as likely to have an orgasm, half as likely to experience
pain during sex and nearly twice as likely to enjoy the experience with
an uncircumcised man.
Oh, and by the way, the study also showed that circumcised men
were more likely to prematurely ejaculate. (If you’re circumcised, O’Hara’s
study is like getting a “Dear John” letter from a girlfriend doing a
semester abroad in Spain. Ouch.)
I could get very graphic here—O’Hara certainly does, which I
like in a scientific paper—but the upshot is that there’s a lot of
physics, hydraulics, plate tectonics and basic animal biology that
results in women’s greater enjoyment of sex with unaltered men.
She even cites the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, who
wrote in the 12th century that “circumcision weakens the faculty of
sexual excitement and…diminishes the pleasure”—a worthy goal,
Maimonides wrote, lest everyone would be having sex all the time.
“Clearly,” O’Hara concluded, “the anatomically complete
penis offers a more rewarding experience for the female partner.” She even has a just-
released book called Sex As Nature Intended It that is sure to do
two things: 1) bring a great deal of attention to circumcision and, 2)
make me feel worse than I already do.
Meanwhile, Stowell said he’s had trouble explaining his lawsuit
to his circumcised Air Force buddies. “They think that as long as they
can have an orgasm, they’re fine,” he said. “But there’s more to
sex than that.”
There is? Now he tells me.
Gersh Kuntzman is also a columnist for The New
York Post and the author of “HAIR! Mankind’s Historic Quest to End
Baldness” (Random House, March 2001). His e-mail address is email@example.com
Martin--from San Francisco]:
The ABC Good
Morning America segment on William
Stowell's lawsuit aired
here San Francisco and here are some impressions:
First, I found it
both interesting and annoying that Charles Gibson and Diane
Sawyer used the circumcision suit story as a "teaser"
throughout the show. I
watched for 1.5 hours before the story finally came on, and probably
minutes they dropped another little "factoid" about the case,
usually in the
form of a question, "Can a man sue over a circumcision that
happened 20 years
ago when he was an infant?" "Diane,
do you know what the most common surgery
in America is?" "It may be surprising to learn that 60% of men in
been circumcised!" [not
clear whether it's surprising because some American
parents thought they were the only ones choosing circumcision or
because Americans think circumcision is universal. What is surprising about
60%? And among viewers of this show, it's probably more like 80%
surprising to me was that Good Morning America thought that circumcision
interesting enough to capture their viewers' attention and build
throughout the first 2 hours of the show. The common thinking has been that
circumcision is a taboo subject. But
now challenging circumcision is
apparently seen as another "man bites dog" story and the
general public is
interested enough that stories about it are a sure draw to audiences.
segment rolled around at a quarter past 8. I'd never seen or heard
William Stowell before, so I listened very carefully to try to gain
of his demeanor and effectiveness.
Overall, I thought he was excellent --
calm, thoughtful, and well-spoken.
His New York accent, despite his living for
years in the South, instantly reminded me of my good friend Bernard who
lived his whole life in Richmond, Virginia but had a New York accent
his parents are from Brooklyn.
I think William
resonated well with the larger TV audience because he does not
come across as breathless, bitter or crusading, as many of us do. He also
corrected Gibson, who had asked about this lawsuit "for a
life." William did not
hesitate to state this this was a lawsuit for fraud,
referring to his mother's invalid consent. He also told the story of his
discovery of circumcision in a very methodical way; you could just
heads across America nodding at this very probable approach.
managed to get a lot of material on the air in a very short
time. He jumped in to
answer a question put to William, but which was too
technical for William to reasonably tackle. It provided a good opening for
At first, I
cringed a little when David launched into a rather graphic
discussion of foreskin-tip anatomy and vaginal intercourse. WTMI!! (way too much information), I thought. I was just waiting for ABC to
cut him off cold.
But then David took a breath, and presented some really good information
normal anatomy/sex and how William's mother simply could not have given
consent. At this point it
looked like David hit his stride and here was
something American parents (especially moms) could more easily relate
how cultures throughout history have recognized that
circumcision diminishes sexual sensation and function, but US culture
decided in the last few decades to ignore/dismiss this fact. He also mentioned
the case of a Hindu couple who sued for wrongful circumcision of their
immediately fretted that the boy would never enjoy normal sex.
The first part of
this segment ended with William talking about most Americans
getting their information about circumcision anecdotally from friends
family. He suggested that
fewer parents would choose circumcision of they just
did as he has done, namely to use libraries and the internet to get a
picture of what circumcision really involves. The ABC show music started
before he finished speaking, but they let William finish his thoughts.
follow-up with Dr. Timothy Johnson, 15 minutes later, was
predictable. Johnson was
visibly uncomfortable, shifting from side to side
and smiling wanly. He came across as smug and annoyed.
Johnson defended the AAP's conclusions, saying that there absolutely are
medical benefits from circumcision, but they are slight. He also said that the
question of sexual feeling has been looked at many times and it's now
that there are no discernable differences among circumcised and intact
Charles Gibson, the presenter, seemed much less accommodating toward
circumcision and pressed the question of why SO MANY American boys get
circumcised if the benefits are miniscule. Johnson had no good answer for
that; I was hoping he'd say something like, "We all agree the rate
is too high,
but it's a question of education."
Instead, he mentioned that the circumcision
rate in America is simply the product of our shared values and that
have the right to do whatever they want.
His first defense
was: "Obviously, some
are done for religion, and no one is
going to argue that right." I
think Johnson meant "argue WITH that right," but
the way he said it was much more favorable to us. He then went on to mention
the lame locker room argument (irrelevant in the 21st century when most
longer shower together) and concluded with the utter nonsense that
way parents choose, they have made the right decision."
Johnson relied on
an ABC report 2 years ago, when they asked Harvard's head of
epidemiology to evaluate all studies and determine whether circumcision
medical benefits. Johnson
says "both sides" were invited to submit their most
compelling material and ABC submitted this to the professor for review
conclusion. As we all know,
his conclusion was that the studies, taken as a
whole, indicate that there is a slight benefit from circumcision in 3
reducing UTIs early in life, reducing penile cancer later in life, and
STDs/HIV overall. But he
gave the benefit as a "1" on a scale of 1-10, lowest
Overall, this was
a well-presented segment on circumcision. It was brave of
ABC to take on the story of William's lawsuit, which it easily could
ignored. Picking it up
suggested that someone saw substance in this story and
that network marketing executives understand that circumcision has
become a hot
issue in America; Charles Gibson even said as much.
I had hoped for a
few sound bites related to ABC's spin on this story, which
seems to be that circumcision is much too common given the latest
only slight benefit. It was
unfortunate, and somewhat disjointed, that the
story started out being about William's future sexuality and then got
sidetracked into the quicksand of medical benefits. And, of course, human
rights never came up.
Congratulations to William and David for giving Americans something to
seriously think about this March morning.