Men facing the knife is one of the most hotly debated issues in Kenya. From social to political interactions, this matter always finds its way into discourses. It is so serious that even politicians hardly shy away from taking to the podium to scandalize each other over it. Our politicians resort to this topic and other droll trivial cultural aspects when they run out serious ideas on how to spin rhetoric.
A while back we woke up to shocking front page news on the same in one of the local dailies. The politics of the foreskin is not anything new in Kenya. The sultan of slurs from Gatundu thrives on it. According to his gospel, foreskins mislead the mind, and he never hesitates to quote Bible verses that refer to the cultural practice of circumcision. This has gotten him on the wrong side of the law several times.
The jury is still out on why a fellow man would be so interested in another man's private parts; something that in basic logic should bother women more. We sought the opinion of women on this matter. Just how much importance do they attach to the foreskin or lack thereof?
Is a gland-to-gland combat with an uncut man different? How about dating a cut versus uncut man? Last year, a 39-year-old Bungoma man was forcefully cut in broad daylight after his wife reported him to the elders. The oblivious man woke up to a crowd outside his house - solely there to have him undergo the all-important cut. How humiliating and embarrassing for a father of 11 to undergo the cut under the glaring eyes of hundreds of strangers! The unremorseful wife was later quoted, saying she did not regret leaking out that top secret.
A big number of women interviewed by this writer are very skeptical about dating or marrying an uncut man. Stigma on the uncut men is real if comments on a Facebook post on the issue is anything to go by. Most of the trolling is based on myths and stereotypes about the foreskin; raging from an uncut man cannot maintain good hygiene to how inconveniencing the foreskin would be during coitus.
Kate Wanja*, a salonist in Nairobi, says she cannot touch an uncut man, not even with a 20-feet pole. A sentiment shared by many other women. "In my culture, an uncut male is a boy even at 50! I cannot date or marry a boy! My father and uncles would even find it as insult!" says Wanja*, quick to add that she won't even try to imagine sleeping with such a 'boy'.
Wanja* and other women point out that they would try to convince an uncut man to face the knife any day if they really wanted to settle down with them. Love overcoming tradition? Quite interesting.
Eunice*, a Nairobi-based Lab Technician, reveals that she forced her boyfriend from the lake to go against his tradition and face the knife, after she threatened to dump him.
"I used to enjoy intimacy, but I was so worried about contracting an infection after reading articles about uncut men being at a higher risk of getting infections and passing them on to their partners. I threatened to dump him. And true to form, he went for the cut," she reveals.
For Esther, a graphics designer, cut or uncut, she doesn't mind. "I don't understand what the fuss is all about. It's not a big deal to me." If a spot check we did is anything to go by, then most Kenyan women prefer cut men.
However, unlike in Kenya and perhaps other parts of Africa where most women prefer men who've undergone the cut, in the Western world things are different. Women there detest cut men. Most argue that the cut reduces a man's sensitivity, thus poor response between the sheets.
Interestingly, there is a lot of medical reports which back up these sentiments. Scientific and medical reports show substantial benefits of the cut, some that get brushed off. For instance, medics say cut men have reduced chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, penile cancer and cervical cancer in their female partners. Myths, stereotypes, pros and cons aide, cut or uncut, the jury is still out.