It took balls of steel, but I got circumcised at 18. No regrets
I was one of those men who were “given the choice” - I wasn’t circumcised at birth.
As a child I suffered from a tight frenulum, which prevented the full retraction of my foreskin. While I did not suffer the nightmare of recurrent infections, it was certainly no picnic.
Due to several factors - family culture, the medical culture of the time being opposed to circumcision, etc. - it wasn’t resolved and I was forced to live with a less than perfect foreskin.
When I was fifteen I started researching and having discussions with friends, doctors and scientists. During my three year period of research I even went as far as to wear my foreskin back, in order to allay my fears of losing sensitivity or experiencing diminished pleasure. After several months, realising that my pleasure and sensitivity were the same, I decided that I wanted to be circumcised.
At eighteen my GP referred me to see a urologist experienced in adult circumcisions. In my case, he suggested the circumcision be done in two stages.
We discussed the issues and he told me to go home and think it over. As I had made my mind up quite a while ago it was not long until I was checking in for the operation. I went under a general anaesthetic and, as far as I remember, it took under an hour and a half. The operation was a success, with no infection or excessive bleeding.
The recovery was not painful. Wearing my foreskin back prior to the operation helped reduce any discomfort post op. There was a dull ache, which I treated with strong painkillers.
When I unwrapped it the next day I had a brief “WTF have I done?!” moment. It was black and blue and looked as if I had a plum glued to the end of my penis. However, due to my preparation and research, the shock of seeing my penis in such a state was short lived, and the bruising and swelling was gone in a week or so. A year later I returned to the same specialist and had a circumcision revision, which was done to remove a band of skin from my penis for a better cosmetic result.
Twelve years on I’m very pleased with the outcome. My pleasure and sensitivity haven’t been diminished at all (a common anti circumcision myth). Sex is great. I think I’m a better man for having had this experience and I’m very happy and proud of my decision. I think it’s really important men know that being circumcised doesn’t reduce sexual pleasure. As a man who’s had it both ways, I can vouch for that.
Men who have been circumcised at birth need to know about the benefits - reduced chance of contracting STIs, lower risk of transmitting cervical cancer-causing HPV to female partners, and reduced or eliminated infections of the penis and urinary tract.
There is also new evidence to show that it may reduce prostate cancer in men. I often ask, “Why would you want a cancer seeding, HIV enabling, bacteria incubating, smegma factory anywhere on your body, let alone the end of your penis?”
Don’t get me wrong, being uncircumcised isn’t that bad. I could have lived with it, but I’ve had it both ways and a foreskin certainly doesn’t justify the actions of the anti-circumcision lobby.
I’m glad I saw through the emotion and vitriol of anti-circumcision rhetoric when I was young. I think what those people are doing is manipulative and irresponsible - spreading unsubstantiated myths about circumcision and trying to convince men they have been harmed. These groups use emotion to contextualise their claims and opinions because they know that emotional rhetoric is less likely to be challenged and people seeking answers are less likely to discover that they have no evidence to back their claims. I think the way they manipulate honest people seeking answers is a cheap, abusive way to gain followers, and they have no place doing so and should be ashamed of themselves.
Do I believe every newborn male should be circumcised? No. Ultimately I believe that circumcision is a decision for families, not lobbyists or biased doctors.
If parents choose to leave their sons uncircumcised that’s OK, and if they decide to have their sons circumcised, they have every right to and should not be discouraged. Accessing an anaesthetised circumcision performed by a well-trained, experienced doctor should be cheap and non-bureaucratic and it should be available freely in the public and private systems.
Parents of newborn sons need to be given access to unbiased information and offered the procedure in the hospital, and the decision should be left to the family. The doctors and medical staff should accept the family’s decision and facilitate their wishes, whatever they may be.
Would I do it all again if I had to? Of course I would. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make, but I’ve learnt a lot from it and I’m glad I did it. Would I have a son circumcised? Definitely. I know what it’s like to live with a malfunctioning foreskin and then to have to go through with an adult circumcision. I certainly don’t take my circumcision for granted and I hope men circumcised at birth don’t either.
As for being “given the choice,” I can’t say it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Getting circumcised took years of living with a dysfunctional foreskin, three years of research, two general anaesthetics, time out from my usual activities, medical fees, an iron will and balls of steel.
I did what I had to and I’m happy I did, but if I was circumcised at birth I wouldn’t have had to go through any of this and endure what would have been a pretty daunting experience for most men.
Karl will appear on SBS’s Insight program in a discussion about male circumcision, tonight 8.30pm AEST on SBS ONE.
Read all about it
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