Adjusting to Sex After Adult Circumcision

For as long as I could remember, I had a tight foreskin.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize there was an issue, and that not everyone’s penis looked like mine. As I got into my teenage years, I began to realize that it was too tight.

Since then, it was always an issue. I was able to masturbate, though my experience of masturbation was different from that of other people with foreskins whose were not too tight. It was when it came to sex with partners that I began to experience issues.

I was reluctant to have sex as a teenager for fear of tearing something or getting paraphimosis – a medical emergency occurring when the foreskin retracts and then can’t go back. I live in the UK, where the age of consent is 16, and while I’d never dream of judging anybody else for not having sex, I felt insecure about having not had sex at a time when most of my friends and peers seemed to be sexually active.

When I was 19, I had sex for the first time, after explaining my anxieties to my then-partner. It was enjoyable, but I couldn’t properly relax. In truth, I’d never been able to relax during sex. I was physically able to have sex with a condom, but I’d heard the paraphimosis horror stories, and it stopped me from living in the moment.

I’d been to see doctors over the years, and looked into the idea of a circumcision, but their advice generally focused on trying various stretching exercises, or applying creams. Nothing worked. It felt as though I was being fobbed off, when I felt a circumcision would be the best option for me. Circumcision isn’t particularly common in the UK, and it’s often treated as a last resort in adulthood.

Then the pandemic began, and I put things to the back of my mind for a while. After all, for most of the lockdowns we faced I was either living alone or with my parents, and so sex wasn’t particularly high on my radar.

But a year ago, I decided to tackle the bull by the horns and go back to the doctor. I was told that the waiting list to see a urologist was incredibly long, so I decided to go private.

There was still a waiting time, but near the beginning of March I was able to have the surgery. I was nervous beforehand, as I’d only had general anesthetic once before, and as someone who’s fortunate enough to have good health, I’m not too used to hospitals.

But I had the surgery in the morning, and by early afternoon I was recovering in bed with TV and snacks.

The thing I struggled with the most before the surgery was telling my now-girlfriend. When and how should I do it? I didn’t know what she’d think about me needing the operation, or the fact that I wouldn’t be able to have sex – or do anything with my penis – for a few weeks.

However, when I plucked up the courage to tell her during a night out with friends, she totally understood and was completely fine with it. In fact, she was an incredible source of support, and we made our relationship official a few days later.

Post-operation, I was sore, and I had to recover in bed for a few days, gradually walking around the house more and more day by day until I got back to normal. Looking at my penis minus the foreskin also took some getting used to. After all, for almost 24 years, it had been there.

After three or four weeks, I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon so that he could check how my penis was healing. He was pleased – and told me that he’d sent the foreskin off to be examined, confirming there were no sinister causes of the phimosis – and gave me ‘permission’ to have sex again.

Having never had sex sans foreskin before, I was a little apprehensive, but soon realized I had nothing to worry about. I began by taking it slow and gentle, using a condom, and gradually allowed myself to stop worrying.

While having sex, I could now enjoy it in the moment rather than worry about injuring myself or causing paraphimosis. My sex life improved – I’m more happy to try different things as I’m less preoccupied with avoiding paraphimosis – as has my confidence, and my mental health more generally.

My penis is easier to clean now, too, and I like how that feels. A couple of months before my surgery, I had epididymo-orchitis, where a tube at the back of the testicle becomes inflamed, and this could either have been caused by an injury or a urinary tract infection – which in turn my phimosis could have helped to cause. Since my circumcision, I’ve had no such issues.

I have lost some sensitivity, which allows me to walk around without pain or tenderness, but I still have plenty of sensation during sex and masturbation.

Is circumcision right for everybody? I’m not sure – there are also alternative surgeries like a frenuloplasty, and nothing is right for everybody.  For me, though, it was the right move, and it’s something I feel good about. I’m so glad I didn’t suffer in silence for any longer.

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