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Flap of skin

November 2, 2020

We've documented the false and misleading information that anti-circumcision groups like Intact America and Doctors Opposing Circumcision routinely promote. Meanwhile intactivists have poured over our articles and posts, trying to find anything they can use to discredit us.

After four years one critic is finally convinced that he found the smoking gun. Last week he declared that we lied, because we referred to the foreskin as a “flap” of skin. [1] [2] He cited a dictionary definition of flap as something that is "hinged or attached only on one side." He argued that the foreskin is a cuff, defined as something that "encircles". He concluded that by referring to the foreskin as a flap rather than a cuff, we are providing false information.

It's difficult to know where to begin our response, since the critic's own citations provide an adequate defense for our use of the word in question. Merriam-Webster defines "cuff" as something (such as a part of a sleeve or glove) encircling the wrist." Clearly this definition doesn't apply to the foreskin, which is located nowhere near the wrist. Nor does a subsequent definition of "an inflatable band wrapped around an extremity" apply.

Next we turn to the Google definition for flap: "a piece of something thin ... hinged or attached only on one side, that covers an opening or hangs down from something." The foreskin covers the glans, including the urinary meatus (opening), and hangs down from the flaccid penis. Apparently our critic claims that the foreskin is attached to the penile shaft on more than one side. In actuality the foreskin is attached to the shaft on just one edge.

Intactivists like to show images of an adult foreskin detached and unfolded to display the total area. If this were an actual foreskin, the inner foreskin would be folded behind the "outer foreskin. The ridged band refers to the outer tip of foreskin that generally hangs over the flaccid penis. The bottom edge of the outer foreskin would be the only side that is attached to the shaft. Thus the term "flap" is correct.

We were curious as to why our critic used different dictionaries to look up the two words. When we looked up the definition of flap in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the reason became clear. The relevant entry in Webster's defines flap as "something that is broad, limber, or flat and usually thin and that hangs loose or projects freely." This description clearly applies to foreskin. What is notable is the glaring absence of a condition our critic claimed - that the thing be attached on only one side.

Beyond the dictionary, we could cite any number of medical sources that introduce the foreskin as a "flap of skin." Just to name a few, they include Harvard University Medical School [3]; an article in a Canadian medical journal [4]; WebMD - a leading healthcare information website [5]; Your MD - a digital health tech company with headquarters in London [6]; and Winchester Hospital in Massachusetts. [7] [8]

On a final note, observe that our critic was so determined to find a way to discredit us that he missed the forest for the trees. Even if "cuff" were the correct term, it wouldn't detract from the sad truth that some intactivists are so extreme, they seem to care more about the foreskin than about life itself.

[1] Mauricio Nunez; "Wish granted" Facebook post; October 27, 2020

[2] If this were the only example, we could deny responsibity for the term by pointing out that we are merely using the meme as a rhetorical device. We placed the phrase "flap of skin" in the mouth of Murray Franklin, a character from the movie Joker. We often post memes in which characters express views that we personally may not share. See for example here and here and here. When we create a meme we try to use language that each character would use. That said, we cannot use the "rhetorical device meme" as a defense here, even if we were so inclined. We have referred to the foreskin as a flap on several occasions. See here (final paragraph) and here (final paragraph) and here (penultimate paragraph) and here (body dysmorphia pushback).

[3] "Balanitis: What Is It"; Harvard Health Publishing; March 2019. "In men who are not circumcised, this area is covered by a flap of skin known as the foreskin, or prepuce."

[4] Roger Collier; "Vital or vestigial? The foreskin has its fans and foes"; Canadian Medical Association Journal; November 22, 2011. "According to some health experts, the foreskin is the floppy disk of the male anatomy, a once-important flap of skin that no longer serves much purpose."

[5] "Balanitis: Infection of the Penis Tip and Foreskin"; WebMD; July 24, 2020. "It can make you uncomfortable in one of the most sensitive areas: the end of your penis and the loose flap of skin that covers the tip."

[6]"Balanitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment"; Your.MD. "The foreskin (the loose flap of skin that covers the head of the penis) is also often affected."

[7] Kari Kassir, MD; "Newborn Circumcision"; Winchester Hospital; October 16, 2020. "The foreskin is a flap of skin that covers the tip of the penis."

[8] At this point one could push back against our flippant dismissal of "cuff" by observing that numerous medical sources also refer to the foreskin as a "cuff of skin." If our critic were to make that point, he would be effectively conceding that either term is appropriate. A Google search performed on October 30, 2020 found almost twice as many results describing foreskin as a "flap of skin" (614,000) as for a "cuff of skin" (349,000) - indicative of which term is more commonly used.


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