Yahoo! Foreskins! Porn?
Yahoo! faces criticism after nixing online board discussion of circumcision
By JOSHUA LYNSEN
Friday, March 31, 2006
YAHOO! IS FACING criticism from members of Foreskin Restoration, an online discussion group dedicated to circumcision issues, after the search engine giant shut down the group's message boards.
The discussion group, created in 1999, addressed ways men could regain the foreskin they lost in circumcision. Specifically, the group targeted "men who are interested in, currently using, or have used any of the various non-surgical foreskin restoration."
Group members said it's unclear why Yahoo terminated the discussion group in February. But they said Foreskin Restoration, which included pictures of flaccid and erect penises, might have been deemed pornographic.
"There's really no way to tell because they just shut it off," said group member Tom Major, 63. "I think if anyone causes any waves, they just get rid of it and don't think about it any more."
Meagan Busath, a Yahoo! spokesperson, declined to comment on the group's closure. She said all users must abide by a "Terms of Service" agreement that, in part, precludes vulgar, obscene or "otherwise objectionable" content..
But users said moderators were careful to maintain a clinical tone, partly because the Foreskin Restoration board was located within Yahoo Health Groups and thus accessible by minors.
"To be dumped for being a medical group for discussing medical issues, it's pretty horrible," said group member John-Paul Morrison, 42. "They wouldn't do that to women who've had mastectomies."
ACCORDING TO THE AMERICAN Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 1.2 million newborn males are circumcised in the United States annually.
The practice, which entails removing all or part of the foreskin, has been advocated as preventive medicine. The AAP says evidence shows there are potential benefits to newborn male circumcision.
But an AAP statement issued in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005 stops short of recommending routine circumcision.
"In the case of circumcision, in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child," the policy says.
Dr. Philippe Chiliade, medical director at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., said there is some evidence that circumcision might help prevent HIV transmission.
However, he said that evidence comes from studies performed in developing countries, and the benefit could be less pronounced in industrialized nations.
FORESKIN RESTORATION ATTEMPTS to recreate the lost skin. The practice sometimes involves surgery, but is commonly performed through various home techniques.
Morrison, who lives in Costa Rica, said he became interested in foreskin restoration after watching a television program that debunked myths surrounding circumcision. He discovered the Foreskin Restoration discussion group, learned more, and soon embraced the practice.
"I thought there was nothing wrong with me for 41 years, and now I discover, wow, I was screwed up bad," Morrison said. "It's like being color blind. If you never see the color, you don't know what you're missing."
Morrison, who is gay, said restoring his foreskin substantially enhanced his sexual pleasure.
"I'm such a better lover for it because I can feel what I'm doing," he said. "It has turned me from a bottom to a top. It's an incredible difference.."
"Restoration has been a godsend," he said. "And then Yahoo! discovers us, thinks we're pornography, and gets rid of us."
Major, who lives near Wilkes-Barre, Pa and sells foreskin-restoration devices, said the Foreskin Restoration group's former members are trying to continue their discussion.
But he said the Yahoo! group's closure scattered members. Some have joined other online discussion groups, while others participate in listserves or chat rooms that address the topic.
Yahoo! maintains about 10 other groups that discuss foreskin restoration, including one dedicated to wives of men who are attempting the restoration process.