Friday, November 16, 2018

CUT by Richard O’Leary – peeling back the taboo on adult penile circumcision #outburst18

Three things you need to know about Richard O’Leary. Firstly, he’s a storyteller of some renown and a regular at the monthly Tenx9 event in the Black Box. Secondly, nothing is off-limits. And lastly, he always brings a prop or two out of his life archive that seems so complete that it must surely either be stored in a TARDIS or else a shipping container sitting in his driveway.

This time last year he lifted the covers of his marriage and revealed There’s a Bishop in by Bedroom. His contribution to this year’s Outburst Arts Festival was a half hour talk called Cut: Adult Circumcision for the Uptight.

From behind his lectern at the front of a theatre in the Royal Victoria Hospital – a lecture theatre rather than an operating theatre – the sociologist tells the true story of how his ‘Cavalier’ recently became a ‘Roundhead’ to use the playground parlance he grew up with in Cork.

Despite O’Leary’s ongoing openness to sharing his life’s most personal milestones with paying and non-paying strangers, it’s his realisation that the health service in Northern Ireland seemed so ill-prepared to communicate clearly about adult penile circumcision that persuaded him to prepare this talk.

Aficionados of the O’Leary method of storytelling would not have been disappointed at the range of props on display. With trademark bluntness, he explained how he had suffered from phimosis, a condition whereby the (abundantly skinned) foreskin of his penis could not be pulled back past the glans, leading to discomfort, a sore penis as well as poor flow when urinating.

Upon discharge from hospital with a swollen and bloody, uncovered glans and a gait worthy of John Wayne, he realised that the flimsy sheet of aftercare instructions neither mentioned the words penis nor foreskin. He had to ask a doctor on the ward for advice on how long to delay post-operative sex. Very little useful information was volunteered, unlike the English NHS with its beefy guidance notes that O’Leary suggests should be cut’n’pasted locally.

While O’Leary’s urologist didn’t seem to be in the RVH lecture theatre at lunchtime, perhaps word will reach the urology clinic that they need to play their part along with the rest of us in busting this societal taboo that still provokes nervous tittering and defensive leg-crossing rather than open acknowledgement that it’s a perfectly normal treatment that deserves being more widely understood.

Outburst festival continues until Saturday 17 November.

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