“Gaslighting” and Circumcision: Deception in American Medicine

Posted on: December 2, 2013


If you have never seen George Cukor’s “The Gaslight”, I recommend that you watch it.

Not only is it entertaining cinema, but beyond that, you may appreciate how the cautionary tale is relevant to the pro-intact movement, specifically, how it applies to the interactions between circumcised men experiencing sexual dysfunction and the doctors who treat them. A fascinating study in Deception as a tool in Mind Control, “The Gaslight” demonstrates how the most egregious, undermining power grabs may take the form of psychological warfare, a quiet but effective assault.

Spoiler Alert: This post reveals the ending of “The Gaslight”.

Central to our story are a newlywed couple and a neighborhood cop. The husband is a composer; the wife, niece and heir of a famous opera singer murdered decades earlier by a burglar who broke into the aunt’s home in search of a specific set of valuable jewelry. The jewels were never found, and the murderer never caught. The cop, Officer Cameron, was a boyhood fan of the opera star and in his spare time still probes her unsolved death.

At the opening of the film, the husband and wife have just moved into the late aunt’s home. Inhabited for the first time in decades, this turn of events does not go unnoticed by Officer Cameron. In the evenings, the husband excuses himself for a few hours, purportedly to walk to his nearby office to work on his music. The first evening that he does this the wife notices the living room light dim. She cannot account for why this is happening. When her husband returns she asks him about it. He insists that she must have imagined the change in illumination. The next several evenings, the wife continues to observe the dimming light, again inquires of her husband, and again is told that she is imagining things. Meanwhile, we observe the husband frequently using slight-of-hand to displace household items and treasured mementos which he later “finds” either in his wife’s possession or even on her person, to her genuine shock and confusion. The wife becomes convinced that she cannot trust what she is observing, that it is just as her husband says: she is losing track of where she’s put things, and the lamp isn’t dimming, she is simply imagining it. Unable to rely on her faculties the wife accedes to her husband’s stern insistence that she neither receive guests nor venture outside the home.
Noting the drop-off in comings and goings, Officer Cameron becomes increasingly curious about the wife’s seclusion.

What is actually going on? As for the living room lamp, it is dimming. Why might this be? Well, one explanation is that the gas is being used simultaneously in another part of the home.

In fact, what is happening is that every night after the husband departs the house through the front door, he scales the scaffolding to an eve outside a third-story window where he re-enters the home through the attic; there, he creeps around looking for the late aunt’s jewels. He needs to be able to see, naturally, and when he lights the attic lamp it draws gas from the same source that is fueling the lamp in the living room, which hangs above the wife’s head. The husband is, of course, the late aunt’s killer. He married his victim’s niece in order to gain access to her home. His single-minded goal is to confuse his wife to the point that she becomes convinced she is delusional, then have her hauled off to an asylum so that he can drop the tiresome loving husband front and finally focus his attentions on completing the jewel heist.

The film was a sensation upon release, garnering international acclaim, and the term “Gaslighting” becoming integrated into America’s Mental Health lexicon. To quote from the film’s wikipedia page: “‘Gaslighting’ has come to describe a pattern of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality. This can involve physical tactics (such as moving or hiding objects) or emotional ones (such as denying one’s own abusive behavior to a victim.) The effect is to maintain the abuser’s self-image as a sympathetic person, while simultaneously priming the disoriented victim to believe that he or she is to blame for (potentially escalating) mistreatment.” (Wikipedia.)

I would submit that “Gaslighting” is a frightfully fitting term to describe how the medical community is responding to circumcised patients who seek out treatment.

When men crowd into our nation’s doctors offices presenting with various sexual complications and are offered a panoply of psychological explanations but absolutely no mention of the very likely physical pathologies resulting from amputation of part of their penises, that is a classic example of “Gaslighting”.

Whether dealing with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, inability to ejaculate, or a range of other sensitivity issues, these men are almost always offered patronizing dismissal masquerading as sympathy: “You’re just stressed”, “anxious”, “under-confident”.
Subtext: Your unique emotional pathology is of your own mental making. All to do with nervousness but nothing to do with nerves!

Why is it that almost no man is being told that, given decades earlier someone short-circuited his neurotransmitters when that someone removed fifty percent of his penis’s erogenous tissue and one-hundred percent of his penis’s Meissner Corpuscles, that might have something to do his current problems? Why on earth is no one talking about the physiological factors in play?

While I’m sure we can all appreciate that yes, a certain degree of relaxation, comfort, perhaps familiarity go some way towards informing a man’s sexual response and sexual command, can we stop acting as though the majority of the nation’s men haven’t been robbed of half their sexual nerve conducting capacity when they obviously have? Can we stop trying to make them think that their conditions are something they could fix with a just a li’l dose of confidence and reciting some daily affirmations into the bedside mirror?

Can you think of any other treatment regimen where the clinician overseeing recovery would simply refuse to acknowledge that absent body parts had indeed gone missing? Can you picture a Physical Therapist, on Day One of therapy, standing over her stroke victim patient, arms folded, skeptically shaking her head and tormenting him with cliches like: “Mind Over Matter!”

I know of one woman who lost vision in her right eye as the result of an automobile accident. In time, by practicing certain exercises, she was able to retrain her brain to perceive depth. But I can assure you that none of her doctors pretended that she hadn’t experienced a physical loss, nor did they play dumb about her limitations being the result of said physical trauma. Trust me, no medical professional ever tried to make her think that her pathology was all in her mind; I think that most of us would agree had any physician done so, it would well be recommended that he have his license revoked. Why then can doctors saw away at their patients’ penises, and then decades later, their colleagues diagnose as though that fact has no bearing on anything? This is about as legit as clearing out your neighbor’s bank accounts, stealing his fine dining set, and then, when he humbly appears at your door asking for a modest loan to get him through unexpected hard times, you feign ignorance about the theft and lecture him about being financially irresponsible. Stealing is stealing, whether we’re talking cash or Corpuscles, silver or skin.

Our nation’s men aren’t crazy and they aren’t all suffering from a lack of confidence. They have actually been cut into with actual blades. They have had actual tissue, containing actual nerve endings severed from their bodies. Surely, given this trauma, we should privilege the hypothesis that they will be experiencing dysfunction, not that they won’t.

There is a name for the medical community’s deceitful side-stepping, and again, that name is “Gaslighting”. And it is exposing an utter lack of integrity and scruples among physicians.

The very first cornerstone laid in support of routine circumcision was born out of 1800s “moral hygiene” theory quackery which at one time passed for medicine. Now, you can build tall and wide on a flawed foundation gone unchecked, with no one leaning on your beams or walking your hollow halls, and build the doctors did, to impressive heights. But Deception is a drafty devil. Foreskin-friendly findings continue to erode that original cornerstone claim. Architect a porous framework and it’s only a matter of time before the facts weather your walls and rot your floorboards.

“The Gaslight” ends when Officer Cameron, becoming suspicious of the wife’s seclusion, pays her a visit one evening while the husband is out “composing”. As the two are speaking Officer Cameron observes the gaslight dim and remarks on it. The wife, her voice full of relief, exclaims: “You saw it too!” By this point the officer has pieced together what the husband is up to. In this moment, for the first time in the film, we see someone else confirm for the woman that she is and always has been firmly grounded in reality, and that any reason to think otherwise was only because somebody else had been scheming to make her think otherwise. In the final scene Officer Cameron has caught and captured the husband, but before hauling him away, he grants the woman’s request to confront him. When she does, the husband appeals to her to sabotage the arrest and to help him escape. He tells his beleaguered wife in which drawer she will find a knife to use to cut him free. The wife takes this moment to taunt her husband with a taste of his own medicine. Initially acting as though she will comply, she feigns confusion over where the knife may be, and even while grasping the knife, insists that it does not exist at all.

He thinks that what she holds a knife in her hand? He must be confused, mustn’t he?

She then looks him dead on and calls him out on his deception.

“If I were not mad I could have helped you. Whatever you had done I could have pitied and protected you.
But because I am mad I hate you. Because I am mad I have betrayed you. And because I am mad I am rejoicing in my heart without a shred of pity without a shred of regret. Watching you go with glory in my heart!”

It would seem that, more angry than she is about the jewels, more angry perhaps even than about her aunt’s murder, she is seething over the two-facedness, the deception, this most predatory and craven form of abuse.

Here’s to the late great John R. Taylor, our movement’s “Officer Cameron”, and the groundbreaking work he did not only in researching the foreskin’s functionality, but also in fighting to have the work acknowledged when colleagues made an effort to suppress it. A sincere thank you to Morten Frisch, MD, and the others who have been thoughtful enough to do research on the foreskin and publish what many in the establishment considered unwelcome findings: That the foreskin is useful, that it’s loss can and often does imperil a person’s ability to have gratifying sex. Thank you for being a voice which counters the mind-gaming of those who lack your integrity.

To any man reading this who has experienced firsthand a doctor’s flippant dismissal:

If your American doctor wants to bury his head in the sand about the data, that’s his problem and not yours. Educate yourself about the safe and inexpensive options regarding restoration and sensitivity-enhancing serums. Keep searching for a doctor until you find someone who acknowledges that your loss is real and is willing to address the physical pathology and help you to explore your options. Don’t stand for being Gaslighted any longer.