Like most American men of his generation, Jonathan, 40, was circumcised at birth. In the United States, the practice became widespread between the World Wars. Doctors claimed it was hygienic and prevented everything from epilepsy to cancer to excessive masturbation, assertions that have since been discredited. (Current proponents of circumcision point to studies linking it to decreased risk of HIV infection, a matter of major debate.) After peaking in popularity in the sixties, circumcision has been in a slow decline: In the eighties, some 60 percent of male newborns in America underwent the procedure; that number had dropped to 56 percent by 2006. Today the United States is the only Western country besides Australia and Israel (of course) in which a majority of male citizens are circumcised.
Jonathan is one of a growing number of men who are out to reverse that first and unkindest cut of all.