A British Kenyan's circumcision experience.
I'm British, but ethnically Kenyan and born in Kenya. I come from a culture where circumcision is practiced. I was not circumcised as an infant, unlike some of my peers, because my mother wanted to give me the option when I grew up. I grew up in Britain and for most of my life had little knowledge of whether my penis was any different from anybody else’s. It was however a thing of fascination to me. I wondered if others had one too like me and quickly learnt some tricks.
My mum taught me to wash behind my foreskin "pulling it back". When I reached the age at which it was normally done in our culture, I was informed by my mum that I would have to undergo "circumcision". At that age I had envisioned this strange word to mean as having part, if not all, of my 'william' cut off! Deeply terrified and confused as to how I could function without it, I did what research I could. I saw how it was done to infants and became even more petrified. I put it to the back of my mind, hoping somehow that my mother would forget and not allow her beloved son to be so done! Otherwise I knew my mum loved me, but why did she want my privates to be changed?! It was a looming threat in my mind. And as I looked at it sometimes while urinating or bathing, I sympathetically grieved for its fate. When this would be, I knew not and this made it more frightening. My childhood years of bliss were shadowed by the imminent chop! I wondered if others knew of my plight and could sympathise with me.
Having been brought up closely with other Africans like a family, I would often go to my "aunties" house. One day as she bathed me in a bucket, she spied something rather irregular. I had a spare part! This news quickly spread and my case was evidently discussed amongst our tight-knit families. When I visited they seemed to taunt me because I was uncircumcised. Apparently I was out of the norm. I was embarrassed that I should be cursed with such an unsightly member and confused as to why this should concern them. When the room was quiet one movie night, I was asked, "are you circumcised" to which I replied "no". Laughter began to emerge as they asked why. I could not explain myself. I asked my mum more about this and she told me to ask my "brother" (my best mate). Intently curious as to how one could live with this I did ask. At sleepovers, I wondered about this and, having the opportunity, became more informed. To my surprise his was absolutely fine, except it was without the hood mine had. This eased my fears and I was not so terrified. I enquired of the pain, to which he told me he was a baby when it was done. As I later came to discover by the help of the internet, that is how it was commonly done; the screams I heard brought me nightmares. (Editor’s note – infant circumcisions are normally done with some form of anaesthesia these days. In the UK that was the case way back from the 1930s or earlier – it took longer for anaesthesia to catch on in the US.)
Influence from pornography and peers
As I had regrettably been exposed to pornography, and changes occurred in my downstairs department, I understood what this 'sex thing' was. My discovery of using my foreskin to produce pleasure was not a new discovery after all. As porn was so commonly used and sex discussed, it was no shame to watch it but only in secret. I saw those acrobats perform. I compared my own to theirs and thought I was on the smaller side and wondered if ever I should get a girlfriend, could I possibly please her? I also noticed that the majority of them were cut, having an aesthetically pleasing equipment. To which I wondered if this was the norm and required for such sex. Needless to say, my fascination being fuelled by the free access to internet pornography, I thought a lot about sex. To be circumcised wasn't such a bad idea after all. On the other hand, I feared the procedure and wondered how I would live the rest of my life without it. In religious education class, I remember one day our teacher taught us that Jewish boys are circumcised. My heart raced inside me as I thought I too would be and none of them knew anything of it. I thought of how they were oblivious to the controversy within me and saw myself as I soon would be on that table.
I had several relationships through my early teen years, I was very shy and they were ever so innocent as I hadn’t any sexual intention. There was a lot of talk about losing one’s virginity, and I heard of some who did so at very tender ages. I thought wow! How? And what was I doing still a virgin?? I thought much on sex and what it was like. I had simulated it often in my own bedroom, but I wondered about the real experience. I wondered what it would feel like. Hormones raging as is normal in youth, I often was caught unawares.
The time came closer and my mum told me I must be circumcised. The reason being that if I returned to my home country, they might find out I was uncircumcised and tie me down and do it without sterile instruments and thus I might catch HIV. I thought, nobody will know! I don't walk around naked! I immediately protested to which the firm reply came, it was only a matter of time. It must have been in the summer of the second to last or last year of secondary school. I battled with the thought. I thought of the benefits. But one thing I would now miss was my well familiar foreskin. I thought of how I would be one of the few who consciously experienced life with and without. I also wanted to experience sex with and without too.
A clinic was found in London, as it was not permitted on the NHS. I went there with my mum and grandmother. It was not as awkward as it sounded. I had finally agreed. I was not afraid. Simply intrigued, thinking of how the rest of my life would be after this day. I had researched much about it by this point. And thanks to the forums and information pages I found, I was well informed and at ease. I had shaved my pubic area as they requested and I had the underpants for the post-op healing. I remember the taxi driver being a Muslim man – as he pulled us up to the place, he said something to me, which I could not understand and I wish I did, probably for my consolation. We went in, there were others like me but I must have been the oldest of them. We sat and waited until I was called up to see the physician, He inspected before the op and asked why I was having it done. “Quite simply, because it is cultural, and I also want to have it done.” I heard the shouts and shrieks of the young boy before me, maybe 12 years of age. I looked at my mum and grandma and we laughed inside (myself nervously) for my fate. I wondered if it would be so painful. He came out and seemed not too shaken. Next it was my turn. My heart raced. I took those steps alone as I didn't want them to see. The two pre-operative pain killers were now in my blood, I approached the operating table boldly. Not just the doctor but an assistant, a woman too. I dreaded that it might accidently become erect. But it was well trained. I saw the instrument table, everything ready, it was time. I lay on the table thinking how surreal this felt. That day had finally come! I thought to myself, I cannot miss the action! Perhaps to their surprise I asked if could watch the procedure. My trousers were off, underpants off too, my willy was now poking through a surgical sheet. The area decontaminated. They began to handle my member. The pain began as the local was injected into the base, a strange feeling it was! I felt a little faint. They then waited for it to take action.
My foreskin had previously covered my glans entirely, over the tip, when totally flaccid. When erect, the foreskin just barely covered half the glans, so far as I can remember. They began to grasp my foreskin with the forceps and pull. A mark was made on the skin, the scissors came in and began to cut dorsally, I think an instrument was used to cauterise the blood vessels. Goodbye foreskin! I was surprised to feel no pain. Apart from when they cut at one point, after which more local was administered to my penis. The surgeon very skilfully cut around free hand. I do remember feeling some tugging of my foreskin as he cut away at the circumference of my foreskin and the surgical assistant held up my foreskin with forceps. In a matter of minutes my foreskin, which I was so used to having, was separated permanently from my body. I remember that beforehand I would keep my penis in a retracted state so as to simulate being circumcised in order to get used to it.
Also my frenulum was removed, and all that remained was a little mountain looking like a mini clitoris. I wondered if I needed a new manual about how to use this new penis. The remaining tissues now reunited at the 12, 6, 3 and 9 o clock positions relative to the frenulum. These were held up and the intervening stitches were skilfully inserted. My penis, now full of anaesthesia, a little swollen, numb and snipped, I looked at my manhood with many thoughts running through my mind.
In the days following, the recommended salt baths helped and I tried to follow closely the instructions as to how to remove the bandage (a huge inflamed member was underneath!) gradually transitioning to what would become my penis for the rest of my life. It healed nicely, the swelling went down. Erections were not welcome at this stage. I was eager to try out the new and improved member.
Also I used this period as a welcome break from, and hopeful cessation of, masturbation. I continued what I was doing with this healing organ between my legs. One thing I can contrast is the lack of moisture and smoothness, which I have now come to terms with. In all honesty, I still cannot get over the fact I was circumcised (as you may imagine) and perhaps sharing my testimonial is a way of reaching closure. I'm very glad that I was circumcised, it was one of those big events of my life.
I recently came to try to understand the motivation behind circumcision. How culture and normality can play a great role in shaping our bodies. How the impressions we receive from media and pornography influence our conceptions of what we would choose. I'm 21 years old (at the time of writing). To anybody considering circumcision like me in their teens or adulthood - don't be afraid, make your choice, and stand by it.