Circumcision for me, when it finally came, was a relief and a liberation, and the fulfilment of something I had wanted for a very long time.
I realised I wanted circumcision a few years after I first encountered it at boarding school, and had become old enough to abandon unthinking schoolboy reactions and consider the matter seriously. Unfortunately, however, I then had the bad luck to encounter powerful scare stories in books from persons posing as experts, developed a hang-up about circumcision, and lost for years the benefit of something I now know to be harmless and beneficial. Being now in my early 40s, my desire to be circumcised dates from my early teens, but sadly I wasted years worrying about it, and didn´t have myself circumcised until the age of 37.
For my first nine years, I had no idea what circumcision was. On arrival in my boarding school dormitory at the age of 9 (the first time I had ever been away from my parents), I didn´t understand the argument between the other 9-year-olds concerning "cavaliers" and "roundheads" until a chance observation in the bathroom made it clear. It came as quite a shock to me, and, knowing no better at that age than automatically to defend what was most familiar to me, I unthinkingly joined in the chorus of uncircumcised boys condemning circumcision.
The ensuing argument was a stalemate, but it left me thinking. The circumcised boys were still boys pretty much like me, didn’t seem stupid, and comprised about 50% of the boarding school. This circumcision thing couldn’t therefore be as strange and unusual as I had first thought, but was just something slightly different that I hadn’t so far encountered. As I grew older, and happened to find myself one of a group of schoolfriends of whom most were circumcised, I began to ask myself and them questions. Why were they all so cheerful about it? Were they telling the truth when they said they actually liked being circumcised? Why was I so confident that being uncircumcised was better? Or was it better at all? And then I asked myself the real question: how would I like to be circumcised myself? To my surprise, I realised that I would probably like it. It was obvious that my friends were telling the truth when they said they liked being circumcised, as they all consistently said over a period of years. It was as normal to be circumcised as it was to be uncircumcised, and when I looked honestly at my friends who had full circumcisions (there was no privacy in the boarding school), I thought they looked very smart.
Certainly by the age of 13, I envied boys with circumcisions like that, and that feeling continued independently of my heterosexual development and a move to a more senior, coeducational, school. There was no practical possibility of my becoming circumcised, of course, as I was too young and powerless to do anything about it, but my quiet admiration of the fully-circumcised state remained consistent over the years, and I now found sniggering jokes about circumcision just plain unfunny.
The first real opportunity I had to be circumcised came at the age of 20, at university, when I was dating my first girlfriend. Hitherto, the fact that I found my own penis less attractive aesthetically than the penises of some of my contemporaries hadn’t really mattered much, but the situation changed when I tried to put on a condom for the first time. Try as I might, it simply wouldn’t fit. I had a long, drooping, "elephant’s trunk" foreskin which fully covered my glans even when my penis was fully erect. The condom wouldn’t fit over that, and, even if it had done, the unretracted foreskin would form a thick barrier between my glans and her vagina, removing all sensation. Retracting the foreskin, although I could do it easily and painlessly, didn’t help. There was so much retracted foreskin clustered around the shaft of the penis that I could get the condom to cover only two-thirds of the way down. I couldn’t roll the condom, because the shaft surface was anything but flat. I had to use the tips of my fingers (frequently tearing the rubber in the process) to lift the film of rubber over the great lump of retracted foreskin. And to what purpose? It was obvious that, the moment any friction started, the foreskin would merrily roll forward again, pulling off the condom as it did so.
"In my bitter experience, the foreskin and the condom just do not go together. Given the importance of condom-wearing these days, and the duty a man has to share the contraceptive responsibility equally with his partner, I'm glad I eventually abandoned my foreskin and adopted the condom instead. I'm just sorry my parents didn't anticipate the problem by having me circumcised at birth." P> I wish to emphasise that I have never had phimosis, balanitis, or any other illness of the sexual organ in my life. I had what foreskin lovers would regard as a "normal healthy foreskin", but to me it was just a nuisance.
My other problem was with hygiene. Sitting with my girlfriend in the evening, and with sex a possibility, I was never sure whether I was clean enough to be ready for it. Either I could lose the mood of the occasion by breaking off to go to the washroom (risking being discovered washing my penis in the shared washroom of a ladies’college), or I could risk being unclean. I washed under the shower every morning, of course, but washing once a day didn’t make me stay clean. What was I supposed to do? There really aren’t all that many places where it is possible to do this sort of intimate washing during the day.
You might think that it was at this point I had myself circumcised, especially as I had a personal inclination towards it anyway. Unfortunately, however, I made the big mistake of deciding to read some books by experts on sexual matters before going to see my general medical practitioner (GP).
The books told me that circumcision was a thoroughly obsolete practice, being now performed on only 0.6% of newborns in the UK, almost entirely on religious grounds. They told me that all doctors were now opposed to circumcision on anything but narrow clinical grounds, and that any general practitioner would be angry at being asked to perform circumcision on a normal healthy foreskin. In fact, they said, a desire to be circumcised was a sign of mental illness, making me a suitable case for a psychiatrist. If I did have myself circumcised, I would suffer long-term psychological damage (although the books made no attempt to be more explicit). No one having surgery on cosmetic grounds was ever satisfied with the result, and there would be long-term unsightly scarring. There was one book which contained a series of questions and "expert" answers concerning circumcision. To my question "What if my foreskin is too long?", the answer was simply: "It won’t be.".
The books not only made no attempt to help, but actually did the reverse. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, I now know that helping the reader was not the object when writing the relevant chapters in the first place. The object was to prevent circumcisions from taking place at all costs, and this was the anti-circumcision lobby posing as respectable medical advice in order to achieve that. At the age of 20, however, I was simply not aware of that. I didn’t have the experience to enable me to see that I was being manipulated or the courage to challenge the assertions made. I was deterred from seeing my GP of the time, who when I consulted him on other matters struck me as an entirely reasonable man, by the belief induced by the books that he would be angry with me.
I refrained from going to see my doctor for a circumcision, but was far from happy. The assertions in the books didn’t make me feel any better about my foreskin, which continued to be a problem. Deep down I still wanted to be circumcised, and needed to know the pros and cons of getting it done, but didn’t know how to find anyone sympathetic enough and experienced enough to enable me to come to an informed decision. I believed (wrongly) that the whole medical profession was against me, and was very worried that perhaps my wanting to be circumcised meant that I was mentally ill. At the same time, my sex life was incapacitated by the inability to wear a condom.
Not surprisingly I developed a hang-up, and endured much unnecessary anxiety over a period of 17 years. I consulted further books during that period, and they all said the same.
When I reached my mid-30’s, I had had enough. The wish to be circumcised was still there, and I couldn’t spend all my life with a hang-up about something that for most men is determined in infancy. The hang-up was damaging my relationships, and my best years were draining away. Being circumcised couldn’t possibly be worse than having a hang-up, and if other men could reconcile themselves to circumcision, so could I. I was going to get myself circumcised for better or for worse, and if I didn’t like it, too bad. At least I would have done something about the problem. Moreover, I had an important professional exam coming up, and wanted to get rid of the matter before then.
When I told my (new) GP that I wanted to be circumcised, he was entirely matter-of-fact about it, said I had obviously thought about it for a long time, and that there was a very good consultant urological surgeon at a nearby private hospital. When I told that surgeon that I wanted a circumcision for ease of condom wearing, better hygiene and pleasanter oral sex for my partner, he wasn’t a bit surprised. On examining me, he commented without prompting that my foreskin was unusually long, and said there was no reason why I should not be circumcised. He said the only warning he usually gave to men considering circumcision was that it might make the glans slightly less sensitive, but that, if that were so, sex would last commensurately longer.
The hospital and my private room within it were modern, bright and cheerful, the nurses were calm, friendly and supportive, and I successfully fought down my anxiety. The time taken from my first definite realisation that I wanted to be circumcised to my arrival in the operating theatre had been 24 years. The operation itself, under a combination of local and light general anaesthetic, took about 30 minutes and cost 1,100 pounds Sterling.
To say that I managed to reconcile myself to circumcision would be an understatement; it´s the biggest relief I´ve ever experienced. There was absolutely nothing about circumcision to be afraid of, as I now know having been circumcised for five years. During the greater portion of my waking hours, when I am not thinking about sex, I am totally unconscious of the fact that I am circumcised. Whether I´m enjoying my sports of skiing and tennis, or just doing ordinary everyday activities, the sensation is entirely normal. When my mind does turn in the direction of sex, conscious realisation of the fact that I am circumcised is entirely pleasurable; having unnecessarily endured an overlong and messy foreskin for many years, the clean, dry, silky texture and trimmed appearance are welcome improvements.
The surgeon had done about 1,000 circumcisions before mine, over a period of about 20 years, and dealt with me very patiently during our initial consultations. Anxious men with an inner desire to be circumcised repressed beneath anxiety induced artificially from the outside were nothing new to him, and he knew the solution. Sensibly refraining from spelling out his precise intention in advance, which would only have made me worry, and once he had my signature on the consent form and me under anaesthetic, he circumcised me more thoroughly than he had originally intended (cut line 20-25 mm behind the corona, compared with the estimate in our consultations of 5-8 mm), leaving only so much skin as absolutely necessary for adequate mobility along the shaft.
That latter point is important, by the way; a good circumcision is never so total as to prevent all movement along the shaft. Even my radical circumcision easily allows the shaft skin to be pulled two-thirds of the way forward over the glans during masturbation, while remaining flat under the condom during intercourse - a far more practical arrangement than a foreskin.
Once I had healed sufficiently for the end result to become obvious, I gave the surgeon a crate of champagne. I was 100% circumcised! And, five years later, I still want to be. I feel thrilled to bits every time I look at, or even think about, my circumcision, and am not a bit surprised that in a country where the whole population is aware of the procedure, such as the USA, the vast majority of women prefer it. I am grateful to such women for expressing their preference, and more than happy to comply with it.
Being circumcised causes me no psychological problems whatsoever. Any such problems were caused by the allegations of the anti-circumcision lobby, and they disappeared when I learned to dismiss those allegations for what they were.
Another fear now dispelled is the myth that circumcised men can´t masturbate properly. In fact, I masturbate more as a circumcised man because I now have something so much nicer in appearance and texture to play with. If certain misguided Victorians once promoted circumcision in the ludicrous belief that it would inhibit masturbation, so what? If those Victorians circumcised infants in an attempt to prevent pleasure and ended up giving pleasure instead, what irony could be more fitting or satisfactory?
It is hard to say whether, as alleged, the circumcised penis is slightly less sensitive, as my memory of the uncircumcised state is fading and I don´t see the point in remembering. In any case, even if it is less sensitive, which is not proven, I´m too happy to notice or care. Circumcision does not just take away, but is also a generous giver. I have abandoned the uncircumcised sensations, and have received in their place a new set of sensations that I thoroughly enjoy, love to explore, and would never have discovered if I hadn´t been circumcised. Moreover, sensitivity is only one aspect of the matter. When it comes to appearance, hygiene, and condom-using safety and efficiency, circumcision wins hands down. If the new reports that it reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases are true, I will gratefully accept that advantage too.
I´m also happy to feel part of a long tradition. If I share being circumcised with (for example) the ancient Pharaohs, the Jews, and most of the United States, I have no objection. I will certainly not accept that something that has given pleasure to millions of people over thousands of years should be sacrificed to the self-importance of self-appointed guardians of public morals.