Help me get over an unnecessary circumcision
November 20, 2012 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I need some perspective or tips on how to get past (both emotionally and phsyically) a circumcision that I've realized probably wasn't necessary.

I was diagnosed with phimosis, which probably stemmed from a lack of instruction and understanding in my childhood, and an extremely negative attitude in my family towards sex and sexual education. Several old-school doctors failed to inform me of stretching options, instead choosing to terrify me with stories of penile cancer until I got the operation done.

It's been ten years since, and I still quite haven't recovered emotionally, despite having been in therapy for 3 years and approaching the problem from a number of angles.

I get resentful thinking about the past partners of any sexual partner I've had; it's poisonous thinking but I can't get past the idea that someone else has enjoyed her sexuality more fully than me due to the fact that they had an intact body. It's absolutely crazy, but there are moments when I can feel very little and my partner's obvious pleasure causes me great pain. I can't believe we can be so close yet so far away in terms of experience at that moment. These are isolated moments, and they don't reflect my normal attitudes about sex, but they do indicate that I need to get past this somehow.

When I read about it on the internet I melt down emotionally. Recent questions here on MetaFilter indicate that no one in their right mind would have had the operation done without exploring other options. I can't forgive myself for what I consider to have been a childish decision made out of fear and based on misinformation.

I find myself turning to compulsive masturbation and pornography when I get extremely down about it, paradoxically enough. It has poisoned relationships for me. It makes me feel as though I'll never be fit to be a mature sexual adult in a mature relationship, but I know that isn't true. My current partner is marvelously supportive, but I know she can't relate fully to these specific emotions.

I've found that my situation has made me more experimental and adventurous sexually, so that is a plus.

One of my worries is that this will lead, psychologically and physically, to impotence.

I've purchased a Manhood but it makes me sad to use it.

I've tried talking to my parents about my anger at them but they brush it off.

I know I need to refocus on this in therapy but I don't make much progress and the week-long delays between sessions leave me in turmoil. Therapy has been marvelously useful in fixing other problems I have, but this one won't budge.

I guess my question would be a request for some perspective, or any tips on how to restore sensation. If anyone had any anecdotes about their experiences before or after circumcision I would appreciate them. It would be enormously helpful if no one pointed out that I shouldn't have had it done; I know this. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Circumcision is controversial in some circles, but to be honest I don't see it as a disability or mutilation that should keep you from a normal sex life. If I were looking at a different way of framing it, I think I would reflect on the fact that no one's perfect or has the perfect body. I think your ideal of some sort of perfect sex or orgasm that supposedly comes from being uncut is just that, an ideal. Apparently you have someone who wants to be with you - there's surely a lot of men out there with a perfect male organ who don't. There's some perspective for you.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:15 AM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

I deeply feel for you. I am a woman, and therefore can offer very little in terms of helpful suggestion or anecdote.

However, what I can offer you is some comfort. I hope for you a time where you can forgive yourself and your parents. You were young; they were ignorant.

What I really want to say, though, is please be so very kind to yourself. You cannot change the event now, you can only reengineer your thought patterns from this day forward. I know no one wishes to live in the "woe is me" space, but our thoughts truly create our emotions.

I had a somewhat traumatic experience in my life, and I realized I was still living in the trauma. Replaying it, feeling the victimhood, being angry. And to be honest, there's pay off in it. I got sympathy, affection, comfort, love, all the good things I wanted to get from it. It was difficult, but I really had to make a choice to not live in that space any longer. To fully understand what it had done to me but to change my thought patterns about it. I no longer feel a victim to the memories or the act. I feel empowered that I can truly say, "Hey, that happened to me, but life goes on, and it's beautiful now."

I know this isn't what you were seeking as far as practical physical advice/anecdotes, but I just wanted to put it out there anyway. :)
posted by Falwless at 7:19 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better, we ladies are often putting on quite a show when it comes to making clear that we are experiencing The Pleasure.

So perhaps refocus on the fact that there is a really wide spectrum of sexual experience. Men and women who are "in tact" do not necessarily have super extreme feel all the feelings all the time sex - half the women I know really cannot in any way get off without some kind of help from toys, and I have known quite a few boys who needed very very specific things as well.

Sometimes resentment and fixation and even therapy can be really toxic if it is causing you to wallow instead of move on. Give yourself credit, focus on the positive, and keep in mind that many are just wishing they could have sex that is fun in the first place. You are already doing these things, even, so good on you.
posted by skrozidile at 7:28 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

The vast majority of men in America are circumcised, so that playing field is level.

Excessive masturbation and porn do absolutely interfere with the ability to enjoy normal penetrative sex with a real person; I've seen this firsthand. Dan Savage has good advice for people who are trying to rehabilitate themselves from this effect.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I am circumcised. I was angry for years. I still am. Only a tiny percentage of people will "get it." Your family you can't control, but, in an intimate relationship, a girlfriend should at least understand that you believe it was wrong and it makes you extremely angry, and she should respect that, even if she doesn't "get it."

Anyway, go and have lots of hot sex. Yes, there are certain types of sensations you will *never* feel, ever, forever, and you'll die without experiencing them. There's nothing you can do to experience what you could have experienced had your personal history gone differently. Period.

But hot sex is still hot sex, and a wet vagina with no condom between you feels pretty fucking awesome. (But you should wear a condom unless you've been in a monogamous relationship for at least 3-4 months and you both get tested. Sex with a condom feels minimum 65% less awesome, for me, anyway, but probably for everyone.)

Basically, what I'm saying is that you don't have to get over it, but neither do these beliefs and feelings have to stop you from living your life and doing what you want. If people don't get it, fuck them. If it comes up in conversation, state your beliefs without apology. If people don't get it, don't push it if you don't want to alienate people or find new, better friends if you do.

I don't know where in the world you are, but women really don't care. Some women prefer circumsized guys and some women prefer uncut guys, but it'll never be a deal breaker. And every woman that I've ever been with liked/likes to be "pounded hard and fast" a significant amount of the time. During that kind of sex it makes no difference whether or not you have a foreskin, and, honestly, they don't have any fine touch receptors in there anyway. They won't really be able to tell the difference except they'll get drier fractionally quicker during prolonged sex if they're not really wet. But this doesn't even matter anyway if you're wearing a condom. And I've always used spit or lube during condomless sex when girls are in drier parts of their cycle, anyway.

Anyway, stay angry, meet hot/smart/interesting/fascinating girls/women, and live your life.

Hope that helps. By the way, feel free to mefi mail me. You're not a mutant or weirdo for feeling this way. Genital mutilation is wrong, even if it's done in a hospital, even if it's not as bad as a rusty knife applied to a girl. You might want to seek out people who share your beliefs and feelings but are dealing with them more constructively.

*Also, some gentle manual tugging (look it up) intermittently, safely, over years has made sex more interesting. Don't bother with the complicated contraptions. Yeah I wish I was covered, and I do a little bit of tugging before masturbation, usually, and it is working, but it's just not worth doing all the complicated stuff, at least for me. For devices and tape and whatnot, you have to give it a lot of attention to make sure it's working and to make sure you're not hurting yourself, imho. And you don't get back the nerves and anatomy. So there are things you can do. I still have no coverage, but condomless sex has definitely changed a bit for the better.
posted by zeek321 at 7:43 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a woman who has had sex with both circumcised and uncircumcised men over the years and I agree with zeek321, from my perspective, there is no difference. They may look a little different, and there is more skin to work with with during blowjobs/handjobs, but while having penetrative sex they are indistinguishable.
posted by crankylex at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

there are moments when I can feel very little and my partner's obvious pleasure causes me great pain

I don't mean to belittle anything you're going through, but there are always moments where you're not feeling much and your partner is. That's just the result of having different equipment and being different people.

For what it's worth, I (a woman) haven't noticed any real difference in my own experiences with cut vs. uncut guys - both in terms of how it feels for me and how much they seem to be enjoying themselves. And I'll also second that I don't know any women with a preference of one over the other, all other things being equal.

I disagree with the "stay angry" advice above though. It's definitely okay to identify that this was a violation of your body; but having anger issues about your penis is toxic for you and a huge red flag for a lot of women. Especially the ones with healthy self-image and boundaries that you would presumably wish to attract. It is possible to move forward without condoning what was done to you.
posted by AV at 8:04 AM on November 20, 2012 [20 favorites]

Obsessions like this are designed to help you avoid thinking about something else. Find out what that thing is and think about it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2012 [15 favorites]

If you really feel stuck in your feelings, I recommend you talk to your therapist about trying EMDR. You feel traumatized by this and unable to break free from it, and EMDR can be very successful in helping people move through traumatic events.
posted by Brody's chum at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

there are always moments where you're not feeling much and your partner is. That's just the result of having different equipment and being different people

I heartily agree with this. For me, watching my partner experience great pleasure is a wonderful thing; I think this is natural when I care about someone and want him to be happy. Watching his pleasure also turns me on, and leads to more pleasure for myself. As a lady, the most direct way to please me is to touch my clit, but over time, I've gotten more and more pleasure from other kinds of touching, too (a finger grazing along my thigh, lips on my nipples, a finger up my asshole). I'm sorry you've lost sensation, and understand completely that you're angry. But I'd encourage you to explore other forms of sexual pleasure and closeness to your partner, and also to stay open to the idea that generosity to your partner can give you a lot of satisfaction.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:23 AM on November 20, 2012

Mod note: Don't make this into a fight, folks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2012

When I read about it on the internet I melt down emotionally.

My only contribution to this is to tell you to stop reading about it on the internet. You're revisiting the emotional pain every single time you do, and it's not helping you. If you felt marginally better every time, sure. But you don't. It's not helping so stop doing it.
posted by cooker girl at 8:37 AM on November 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

It's absolutely crazy, but there are moments when I can feel very little and my partner's obvious pleasure causes me great pain. I can't believe we can be so close yet so far away in terms of experience at that moment.

From my experience, it can be difficult to express the idea of "this is OK, the sensation right now is mediocre but I don't expect every second of sex to be epic" without causing offense. It's a lot easier to just express either YES (keep going) or NO (stop), and I think a lot of people end up just doing that. I would therefore like to suggest that what you're seeing your partner express possibly does not accurately represent the full range of what she feels.

Also, really, really, really, men seem to think women have a much more accurate sense of touch down there than we actually do. It is highly likely that she literally cannot tell the difference during penetrative sex.
posted by anaelith at 8:37 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that the world is full of men who have been circumcized since shortly after birth, who have terrific sex lives, who do not realize they're missing anything (pun intended.) Being circumsized itself is probably not the issue here; the issues are feelings of having made a mistake, having been misled and lied to, having people not take responsibility for what you feel they've done. Perhaps less time thinking about (and reading about) sexual and body concerns and more time thinking about (and having therapy sessions about) how betrayed you feel might be a good place to start.
posted by davejay at 8:48 AM on November 20, 2012 [11 favorites]

I can't forgive myself for what I consider to have been a childish decision made out of fear and based on misinformation.

I have been in a similar situation but not your situation, etc.

This is very important - you made a mistake. You had bad information, presented in such a way as to engage some of our deepest and most powerful emotional responses, and you made a decision that you may have made differently if you had other information, or a different process.

But you did not have this other information, you did not have another decision-making process.

You are not a bad person for making a mistake. You do not need to carry the great weight (and I know how great it is, to the grain) of self-recrimination. It is comfortable, in a way, familiar, and you think you can bear the load.

You do not have to. You can put it down. You can forgive yourself.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:52 AM on November 20, 2012

The actual problem is not the problem you've identified.

The big problem here is that you have become obsessed over something that, while extremely unfortunate, does not warrant the time and emotion you are devoting to it. Alarm bells ring for me when I read that you've been in therapy for three years over this, and that you view the time in-between sessions as "week long delays". That time is YOUR LIFE, poster, and it's passing you by while you obsess over this.

I agree with the respondent above who says that obsession like this are designed to help you avoid thinking about something else. I also agree with the person who wrote that "It is possible to move forward without condoning what was done to you." That's the problem here at this point, three years later: that you aren't moving forward. That's a greater obstacle to your happiness than the actual thing you are obsessed about.

You should not give in to your impulses to ruminate on this. I think it's time to switch therapists and find someone who can help with obsession issues. Maybe a cognitive psychologist.
posted by parrot_person at 8:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [14 favorites]

N-thing everyone who's said that the circumcision itself is not your problem - the problem is your all-consuming obsession with the aftermath of the circumcision. Minimal progress after three years of therapy - a decade after the event in question - indicates that either this isn't the right therapy for you, that you're not fully committed to therapy, or that some other type of intervention (meds, etc.) may be needed. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I get the impression that you've been tormented over this for a long time and will CONTINUE to be tormented by it unless something jolts you out of the same misery-rut you've been inhabiting for a decade.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anon, this seems to be the central issue: I get resentful thinking about the past partners of any sexual partner I've had; it's poisonous thinking but I can't get past the idea that someone else has enjoyed her sexuality more fully than me due to the fact that they had an intact body....

You've been in therapy for three years. Same therapist? Maybe it's time to look elsewhere. If I were to itemize, then I'd explore how you might feel knowing "her" past partner had a larger penis, better abs, better job, neater car, and so on, rather than locking on to a materially insignificant piece of skin.

My only testimonial here is that I am circumcised, not Jewish, and I never thought about it much--except when my son was due to be born. Before I'd thought it over, I told my wife that we should have him circumcised. We had a short conversation about this, and I changed my mind. I say this to underscore the idea that missing piece of skin doesn't seem to be the issue here. The issue may not be even the bad advice you were given. I suppose tastes change along with the times, so I'm open to other notions about this. However, my experience, such as it is, suggests that women are as interested in a circumcised penis as much one that's not been modified.
posted by mule98J at 9:53 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned / asked this yet, but have you thought about seeing a urologist? It's possible that the aftereffects you are describing come from something that can be fixed or ameliorated.

It's also possible that getting a second (however belated) opinion from a doctor you trust might show you that in your particular case the circumcision was actually warranted (and not something that stretching could have fixed) - especially when you say that your parents took you to several doctors. I can fully understand anger at having an unnecessary surgery - that feels like medical malpractice at best and a violation at worst. But there are some cases and some situations where circumcision is the best decision - if it turns out that yours was one of them, that it was unavoidable, would that help remove some of the emotional pain?

I also think that part of what you're describing sounds like you have internalized the worst of the anti-circumcision rhetoric that you find online. Many people are so against the procedure that they insist that circumcision is an evil, awful thing, in all cases, for all men, which always results in not being able to enjoy as many sexual sensations as they would without it. But there is literally no way to prove this other than through firsthand before-and-after knowledge of your own body. Just as people have widely varying thresholds for pain, they also have widely varying experiences of pleasure. If you are having trouble experiencing sexual pleasure or reaching orgasm, that's a medical issue and you need to have it checked out. If you can enjoy sex and have satisfying orgasms, but are hung up with worrying that they are not as good as they could be, that's a mental block. Once you've made sure everything is physically working properly (and if it isn't, what can be done to fix that), a therapist can probably help you focus on the good.
posted by Mchelly at 10:50 AM on November 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

Have you been screened by a psychiatrist? There are medications that can help with obsessive or intrusive thoughts.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:50 AM on November 20, 2012

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