A Little Off the Top

My Circumcision Story


As I woke up early that December morning two years ago, I distinctly remember being unable to pinpoint my emotions. The blended instinctual feelings of fear, worry, and happiness with a hint of anger was palpable enough that I could barely eat my breakfast. After all, at 24, most guys my age don’t have to worry about getting a circumcised.

My thoughts raced in the hot shower that gently washed away any remaining drowsiness. However, above these warring emotions, rested certainty and a feeling of excitement. The thought of feeling excited to drive several hours in order to display my penis to a total stranger so that he may stick needles in it and make it bleed for the purpose of having it permanently altered may come off as counter intuitive, but I felt excitement nonetheless.

As I rested on the operation bed, Dr. Mo Bidair prepped the local area around my penis with a couple layers of cold iodine. It was so cold, in fact, that it shrunk to an embarrassing size, which made me picture nurses laughing at him, gesturing with their pinkies while on their coffee break.
I switched my gaze from the ceiling down over to my penis and found myself transfixed on an alien sight. The fluorescent reddish-orange tint of the iodine, along with the purple sharpie incision lines, made my penis look completely gruesome, like some cool Martian phallus from a trippy porno. I couldn’t help but snicker just a bit.

Dr. Bidair’s words rung in my head as I continued to wait for the operation to begin. “High and tight. ‘High’ refers to where the circumcision line would be, and ‘tight’ refers to how much loose skin you want.”

“High and tight is good. The frenulum can go too, doctor,” I said.

Dr. Bidair informed me that I would feel the first of the two injections that would numb my penis. I decided not to look as I felt the needle pierce my flesh at the base. I can’t recall the pain of the injection. I can only recall staring at the ceiling in discomfort as I took deep breaths. I didn’t even feel the second injection, which was the signal for Dr. Bidair to begin the operation.

My meditative breaths made the time pass by quickly so much so that I hardly noticed the smell of singed flesh by the laser scalpel. Out of the bottom corner of my eye, however, I could see the blood that puddled on top of my lower stomach and felt a warm small stream run down my thighs. I dared not look; pretending that those bland white ceiling tiles were far more interesting.

“Why doesn’t he just put a TV up there?” I thought.

Suddenly, a fluid and an intense heat emanated from my core and flooded my body as if someone had taken a huge syringe and injected me with pure heat. As the heat reached my head and outer extremities, my body temperature began to skyrocket uncontrollably. I felt as though I was no longer in an operation room but in a sauna with a high fever. The heat flash made me sweat myself into a small puddle and made me see stars sparkling from the ceiling.

“You’re gonna be fine Edward,” Dr. Bidair tried to reassure me while the nurse took care of the sweat. “The heat flash is just a side effect of the anesthesia.”

I didn’t tell anyone my plan. I didn’t feel that I needed to tell. It’s not as if I was looking for anyone’s two cents. I was also somewhat embarrassed at the thought of putting anyone, let alone my mother, through the conversation about the physical condition known as physiologic phimosis and how my penis was tormented by it. Needless to say, my mind after months of research was absolutely made up.

In the simplest of terms, phimosis refers to a tight foreskin that’s unable to retract behind the head of the penis and is fairly common in boys up to their late teens. Specifically, physiologic phimosis (which is what I had) refers to a foreskin opening that decided not to grow into adulthood, and just stayed small. In most cases, phimosis is a condition that will resolve itself given time. However, according to phimosis.com, by the time a male is 18 years old, if the condition has not gone away on its own, he may very well live with the condition for the rest of his life. On average, that means roughly two percent of uncircumcised adult men continue to live with the — frankly, in my opinion — embarrassing and self-esteem damaging condition.

As Ivan Rivera, 24, enjoyed experiencing the world around him through his senses, as all teens do, he was well aware that the inability of his foreskin to retract below the head of his penis wasn’t entirely a problem.

“Until I started having sex, I noticed that perhaps the [foreskin] wasn’t pulling back far enough. Then I started to get a bit worried,” said Rivera, who still suffers from the condition.

What made Rivera concerned was the fact that, during sex, the natural retracting of the foreskin over the glans wasn’t happening. Instead, what took place was the very painful experience of the foreskin attempting to stretch over the glans and minutely cut itself at the opening in the process. The following couple of days after sex were filled with uncomfortable visits to the restroom. Having to urinate became an ordeal as warm streaming pee felt like lemon juice being squirted over his healing penis wounds.

“From a scale of one 1–10, I would rate the pain at a solid eight,” said Rivera.

On a personal note, on two separate occasions, my discomfort during sex became so tormenting that I actually faked an orgasm. The pain was so unbearable that I didn’t see the point of trying to reach the finish line of sex. Like a sprinter in a race who catches a cramp mid-sprint and just says, “Oh, hell no! Fuck it!” I heard the imagined crowds in my head angrily booing at my piss-poor performance, flipping me off and giving me the thumbs-down.

“Get your dick fixed, bro!”

“You suck!”

Put simply, a man’s self-esteem takes a serious beating due to the phimosis condition.

For Rivera, he remembers two separate occasions where it was difficult for him to even get fully erect. The resulting wave of disappointment bruised his ego and damaged his self-confidence. Rivera said that he feels limited by the phimosis since he doesn’t encourage oral sex and prefers to have sex with the lights off so as to avoid any conversations on the issue.

Rivera admits that an easy, but equally boring, solution to the painful problem is to use a condom. I, too, found a condom useful for pain prevention, among its more practical functions. Typically, an uncircumcised man is supposed to wear a condom with the foreskin already pulled behind the head. Since my condition prevented me from wearing a condom in the traditional sense, the condom merely served as a shield that prevented the foreskin from painfully retracting while protecting it from subsequent small cuts and tormenting restroom breaks.

“The downside to wearing a condom that way is the resulting lack of feeling,” said Rivera.

Circumcision was definitely not my first option. In fact, my proactivity in dealing with phimosis didn’t even involve plans of circumcision at all.

Several months prior to finally setting up an appointment with Dr. Bidair,
I was doing stretching exercises that many guys in forums swore by. Many sites online actually recommend men who have phimosis to set aside some time during the day and actively stretch out the foreskin for a specific amount of time. In countries were circumcision is uncommon, such as the U.K. and Australia, companies that specialize in phimosis stretching kits will ship an eager customer a promising package. I decided to go with NOVOGLAN, an Aussie product that showed an encouraging list of positive reviews online. Needless to say, it didn’t work for shit, and my disappointment damn near triggered an episode of depression.

Rivera said he isn’t particularly interested in the stretching exercises — I don’t blame him — and adds that the only obstacle keeping him from setting up a circumcision appointment tomorrow is his financial standing.

“It’s not cheap and my financial priorities don’t have room for that,” Rivera said.

Now a little over two years later, I don’t think much of my penis, and that’s a good thing. I don’t miss having a foreskin at all like I thought I was going to. Hygiene is on another level compared to my uncut days. Just to be clear, I don’t have to worry about smelly smegma the way I did back when I was uncut. These days, I just simply take a shower and my penis is clean, whereas back then, I would have to pay special attention to it.

Sex is notably different. It is consistently enjoyable instead of only sometimes. The biggest difference, for those of you interested, and I know you are, comes in the form of masturbation. Self-love was by far way more enjoyable when I had a foreskin then it is now. When it comes to male masturbation, nothing beats Mother Nature’s self-lubricating design. In fact, it’s so different now, that I actually had to relearn how to “work it.”

On a separate note, one of the most surprising realizations that came to mind was the gratitude I felt knowing that my circumcision was my choice and my choice alone that I made as an adult. I am 100 percent against routine infant circumcision (RIC) as I see it as an act of abuse and mutilation against a helpless baby boy. If there are any decisions that would be made regarding the appearance of a boy’s penis — religious or otherwise — they should be made by that boy once he’s a fully grown man who can then have the final say on how he wants his dick to look.

Circumcision certainly isn’t the ultimate solution to the phimosis problem. For most men, stretching exercises along with prescription steroid cream may very well be sufficient enough. Some guys may even see the condition as not that big of a deal at all. As far as I’m concerned, the best decision is the one a person is most happy with. I, for one, couldn’t be happier with mine.

Photo illustration by Cynthia Schroeder

Substance is a publication of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. The program recently moved its newsroom over to Medium as part of a one-year experiment. Read about it here.