Botched circumcision - and then a proper job - in the UK.
My first memory of hearing the word "circumcision" was as uttered by a GP (family doctor) in the English midlands sometime in the early 1960s. My father (deemed to be his job) had taken me to the local clinic after repeated bath time exhortations from mother, provoking much straining and tears, had failed to produce the desired result of a properly skinned back infant penis. Nowadays we know better, but my mother, as was the way back then, just wanted to see me "nice and clean" down there. I pulled and pulled, but the best I could manage was a tiny peep from the shiny glans and a bead of blood.
So it was to be a "circumcision", whatever that meant. I hadn't a clue about what I was in for, but a date had been set and, come the day, with my mother in attendance this time, I found myself at the local hospital, on my back and naked from the waist down. What happened next was the first of a number of formative experiences affecting my feelings about, and relationship to, the subject of circumcision. The surgeon had decided that it was to be only a partial job, just a trimming, presumably to remove only the cracked, and possibly infected, protuberance. And to be done without painkillers - "be brave, young lad!". I was told to hold the nurse's hand for comfort and reassurance. I must have been only six or seven years old, but despite my pre-pubescence I felt a novel sexual connection as she stood looking down on me, and as I gazed up into her pretty face! (I'm sure there was something sexual in it for her too.) I remember everything so clearly, from the pressure of her hand to the objects on the bedside table. Did the thrill of this contact help me get through the ordeal without terrible agonies? (Or is the foreskin really not so sensitive after all?) I can only say that the experience must have set me on the path of associating the act, and the fact, of circumcision with sexual feelings. Needless to say, the operation did not give the desired result. Very quickly my trimmed skin healed up once again into a tightly sealed bud. And, naturally, the whole experience left me none the wiser as to the nature of a true circumcision.
That was how the matter stood until I was sent away to prep school (a British private boarding school for pre-teens) a couple of years later. Here came the next formative experience. It was a strange old-fashioned, even Victorian, institution. Two "matrons" in white clothes and headgear oversaw our evening ablutions. One was especially severe, and it was she who presided over the foreskin ritual. We boys had to line up one by one before this matron. She would hold the ends of a towel wrapped around our lower parts as a kind of shield. Notionally obscured from the view of the other boys, we were instructed to pull back our foreskins. Matron would look sternly down. For many boys, this was all over in an instant and they were set free. But for me, it was to be the all too familiar struggle. My bud had remained tightly sealed. Evening after evening, I would fail in the task. And then, one day, I finally produced a result: A vivid glans constricted by a ring of bright red stretched skin. But, despite this "achievement", I was still judged guilty and needed shaming! So I was made to sit in a bath filled with two or three inches of lukewarm water in full view of the other boys. Just so they could observe my disgraceful state of affairs! (I have often wondered whether this form of criminal child abuse was prevalent at the time!) Mysteriously there were a number of boys who were luckily spared such riltualised humiliation. Miraculously they seemed to have been born ready-skinned. How I wished I could have been like them! It was only a little while later that one of these lucky boys showed us, his dormitory companions, his circumcised penis and gave us a proper explanation of what it was all about.
The school was closed down (no surprise there), and I was sent off to another prep school. The matrons were cruel, but in other ways. Masturbation gradually loosened my skin, and suffering in those strange ways became a thing of the past. But my fascination with circumcision was kindled and my envy of circumcised boys was undimmed. Common showers gave us all ample opportunity to take note of who had "been done" and who hadn't. I was acutely aware that the rate of circumcision at this school was around one third (and I have no idea why) somewhat higher than at the previous institution. We were all conscious of our status and the "club" to which we belonged. I remember how we all remarked that one new boy, though unrelated to a more senior pupil, looked uncannily like him; like a brother, and in every respect! (You can guess to which "club" they both belonged!) Away games, and common showers with boys at other schools, also gave us opportunity for comparing and enumerating.
Then there were the nighttime activities. What do boys do with their sexual feelings and desire for experimentation when there are no girls around? We visited other's beds, we engaged in mutual and reciprocal masturbation. Some were keener than others but, frankly, this was less to do with latent homosexuality than with sexual frustration and a natural desire for "naughtiness". But for me, what stood out was my readiness to rub the exposed heads of the circumcised boys (there was one newly and fascinatingly cut after an extended Easter holidays), and my reluctance to play around with the skins of the uncircumcised.
And it must have been around this time that I started to look for, and read, any material on the subject of circumcision that I could find. At that time resources were limited to bits of the Bible and encyclopedias! (Only later would this expand to sex manuals, medical treatises - initially furtively accessed in bookshops and libraries - and eventually to the treasure trove of the internet.) Then came public school (this means private in England). The circumcision rate there seemed to shoot up to nearly half! (Perhaps this was due to a more wealthy demographic, as well as the presence of some Jewish, Arab, African and American boys.) My fascination and observations continued (I even had a secret list), but there was to be no more nighttime "naughtiness". I wasn't to land on that side of the fence. Masturbation was solitary and mostly silent. Only just occasionally the sound of rubbing on a circumcised penis would escape through a dormitory neighbour's bed covers!
As we all know, masturbation really takes off in the mid teens. Nighttime, daytime, times of boredom... I would wank furiously, a flurry of foreskin and flying smegma. I also began to experiment with dry masturbation, first bare hand then occasionally aided by talcum powder. I came to like the dry way better. The sensations were at once stronger and more subtle. (At holiday time I remember my mother noticing, one morning, a saucer of talc forgotten on my bedside table. I think she feared that I had been sniffing cocaine!) My glans began to lose its super-sensitivity, and I began to imagine what it would be like to join the club of the circumcised. I was disgusted by my foreskin, the piling up of smegma (not to mention urine, pre-cum and after-cum) and the need to wash at least twice a day to keep odour at bay. I tried keeping my foreskin held back permanently. This was not easy job as, probably due to that tightness as a young child, my skin was overlong and would extend to the very tip of the glans even in full erection. I tried a sort of tucking and folding arrangement, and even (though running some danger of being found out) hitching the loose and wrinkly skin up with the aid of sticky tape. All very unsatisfactory. I began to dream that one day I would take the courageous step and get myself properly cut. And then came further education – and girls! I was timid, spotty and unsure of my cock. It took a while, but then I fell in love with a Scottish lass, and eventually (actually it didn't take that long), I found myself in bed with her. Real sex was new for me and we had a lot of passionate fun. But I was increasingly bothered. The lovely feeling of my cock against her vaginal walls was repeatedly interrupted by my foreskin sliding forwards and reducing my sensations to a kind of assisted masturbation. I could always reach down and put things back in order, but this was a rhythm-breaker and was never going to be a satisfactory arrangement for the long term. We talked it over and decided together that a circumcision would be the solution to the problem. Finding a doctor to make the cut was not too difficult. A letter to a well-known agony uncle did the trick. He suggested a couple of options: the first, rather expensive for my student budget (involving an overnight stay in the north of England), and the second, a quick visit to an "old hand" in Harley Street for the cost of a decent pair of shoes. I chose (rather recklessly in hindsight) the latter. So a couple of weeks later, after having followed a course of "anti-erection pills" which did strange things to my nipples and not much for erections, I found myself in his waiting room accompanied by my girlfriend and a few nervous looking men. (Actually, I had no idea what they were there for!) I was called. The doctor was straightforward ("this will be much better for the both of you!") cheerful and reassuring. But his technique seemed to me crude to say the least. Perfected in North Africa during the Second World War, and no doubt contributing to the defeat of Rommel ("they had their own circumcisers on the other side too, you know!"), consisted of drawing a line on the foreskin with a felt tip pen, roughly following the rim of the glans lurking underneath. Then came a couple of anaesthetic shots, snip-snipping (I looked away but could still hear him at work) and finally the stitching and dressing. It was all over in 25 minutes. The £35 cheque was signed and I was released, with my girlfriend, into the London afternoon with a prescription for a variety of antibiotics, yet more anti-erection-pills, gauzes, powders, creams and lotions. With no after care or follow-up requested nor offered, I was to be my own healer. The ordeal had begun. The pharmacist was somewhat surprised and not a little dubious on seeing the long list of what I needed ("What is it that you have got, young man!), but I kept quiet and, with some foreboding, left his shop all kitted up. To be honest, it was a difficult recovery. I had appalling bruising, my cock ringed with rather rough stitching that seemed to give way in part and, I'm pretty sure, the beginnings of an infection. I think only my youth, natural resilience and thorough cleaning saved me from Accident and Emergency. With support from my girlfriend I got through it and things finally settling down nicely enough. I was lucky – honestly, the Yorkshire option would have been a better choice! I must say the scarring and stitch marks were a disappointment, but fortunately my girlfriend didn't mind too much, thanks to her bad eyesight! In any case, all this was compensated, and more, by the improvement in comfort, sexual sensation (for both of us) and cleanliness that my new state had given me. I felt liberated and more confident in all sorts of ways. This was something I had yearned for since childhood! Now my naked glans could nestle free against my underwear, a constant reminder that finally I truly belonged to the "club".
Now that we are almost at the end of my story, it's a good time, I think, to reflect on a number of points:
Before my transformation I had always thought my acute interest (obsession, if you like) would somehow be neutralised once I had become circumcised myself. Not at all! I have continued, to this day, to research every aspect of the subject, be it medical, physiological, sexual, cultural, religious, moral, esthetic or erotic. I suppose I have become a bit of an expert for what it's worth. (I could even make circumcision my special chosen subject on Mastermind! ) And wherever I am in the world, and when the occasion arises, I observe and make note of the local custom. Over the years my views on the subject have mellowed from being a bit of an out-and-out circumcision-for-all fanatic to having a more balanced view that encompasses promotion of the clear benefits of circumcision with a recognition that, as an irrevocable body modification, it is not something to be forced upon everyone.
Aesthetic: Circumcision undoubtedly improves the appearance of the penis, giving it a neater, sculpted, ready-for-action look.
Cleanliness: Beyond argument a circumcised penis is cleaner. We can be forever washing down there to maintain optimal freshness but, as every uncircumcised man will know, it's a never-ending battle. Has the partner of an uncircumcised male ever praised his odour or enthused over a day's accumulation of smegma? Has a partner, the morning after, ever preferred fingering a sticky mess inside a wrinkly bag to the awakening from slumber of a smooth dry glans?
Sexual sensation: A lot of nonsense has been written about this. Of course the foreskin has plenty of nerves, and it's true (I remember well) that rolling it back to expose the glans and touching the inner lining gave pleasant feelings. But these are insignificant when compared to the sensation of the glans and the area just behind it. Who can reach orgasm by touching the foreskin alone? Whilst it is certainly true that the foreskin offers variety in methods of masturbation, I would not want to regain those options and lose the exquisite feelings I have won from the direct and unshielded contact my glans enjoys inside a woman's vagina. Every movement and pressure translates into sensation. Even the smallest thrust can be perfectly controlled to bring on and prolong the strongest of orgasms. The rim of my glans can stimulate the clitoris and the vaginal opening without hindrance to the delight of my partner. Much is said of the loss of "fine sensation", but here again there is also great confusion. Yes, there may be a kind of hyper (even unpleasant) sensation that is lost for some after circumcision. But I suspect this is restricted to the dry state. I am convinced that another set of nerves come into play once the penis enters a woman and is anointed by her special vaginal fluids. Another set of sensations are woken, and these are as clear and delightful as any felt through or by a foreskin.
Styles: To be honest, though I have a neat low cut, with the scar hardly visible, knowing what I know now, I would have gone for a slightly higher and tighter style, preserving some of that sensitive inner lining. (The best of both worlds, to be sure). In any case, I have no complaints and no regrets! I can still, in my mid 60s reach orgasm in optimal time with the gentlest of thrusting. Plenty of sensation!
Health: Well, we know about all those benefits. There are just no counter-arguments!
Erotic: I take a look at pornography from time to time and I'm always careful to choose acts in which the man is circumcised. I just don't like the look of an uncircumcised penis. And I love to see a nice firm glans in full teasing mode!
Moral: Here's the rub! I'm not sure we have the right to cut bits off babies without permission. I struggle with that. I also know that a good majority of the world's men are perfectly satisfied with their lot. I recognise that my circumcision enthusiasm is tempered by my own very special and unusual experiences and my personal difficulties with an over-long and troublesome foreskin. Had I had the good fortune to posses a loose, decently short skin that retracted efficiently on erection, I don't suppose my feelings would have developed in the way they have. So, in conclusion, if I were to advocate any approach at all, it would be for the procedure to be made available to all through national health systems. The pros and cons could be put reasonably and sanely by both sides and, in that way, teenagers, young adults, or even older men could "opt-in" at any time in their life with confidence and without fear of stigma. I wouldn't, however, argue for a complete ban on infant circumcision. There are strong cultural and religious implications surrounding this. After all, I don't think anyone ever suffered from growing up circumcised within circumcising culture.
So now I really come to the end of my story. What did I do about those unsightly scars? Well, I had them very skillfully corrected by a cosmetic surgeon about 35 years ago. Optimal result. Women? I have been married twice, with a few girl friends between. Whilst being uncircumcised would never have been a deal-breaker, my cut state always was (and still is) somewhat appreciated! My children? Two boys: One uncircumcised and perfectly happy with his lot. The other, he was fully circumcised due to repeated infections as an infant. Beautifully done, successful with the girls, and I know this for sure, nothing but proud to be the way he is!