Since birth, Lionel Wills suffered from phimosis, a foreskin so tight it can’t retract to expose the head of the penis. It affects only 1 percent of males 17 and older. In his early twenties, the problem became so pronounced he decided to undergo a circumcision.
As soon as the anesthesia wore off, my first thought was ice cream. I’d had an appendectomy a few years earlier and the nurses brought me ice cream afterward. If there’s anything divine on this planet, it’s ice cream. But this time, they only gave me a popsicle or some bullshit like that.
When they asked about my pain level, I said one out of 10 because I was doped up. My penis looked like a pig in a blanket: Gauze was wrapped around the shaft, and I could see only a little bit of the tip. And there was a considerable amount of blood on the bandage. I started pinching it out of sadistic curiosity because it was still numb from the local anesthetic. I mean, how often do you have a body part that you can’t feel?
The worst part was anticipating what it would look like underneath. Just seeing the blood on the bandage, and not being able to feel it — my imagination was working. I had absurd concerns before the surgery, like they might make some terrible mistake and cut off the knob.
But I wasn’t in a panic. I was mostly curious to see what it looked like. It had been a while since I had seen the head of my own penis. Prior to the surgery, my foreskin was strangling the head of my penis. Just crushing it. My foreskin was so tight it would fill up like a balloon when I peed and I had to, like, milk my dick like it was an udder just to get the piss out. And it would spray everywhere.
The bathroom problem didn’t become present until I was 18. I had a high school girlfriend and we lived together, so we were having sex pretty often — once a day at least. Sex, however, was a vicious cycle. My foreskin was so tight it would rip and bleed during sex. Afterward, it would heal and scar. And scar tissue doesn’t have the same elasticity as normal tissue, so that would make it even tighter.
I had to wait two days before I could remove the bandages. Doctor’s orders. That’s when I realized they had completely Frankensteined my dick.
In removing my foreskin, they removed the skin that connected the head of my penis to my shaft, leaving a gap of exposed penis flesh. So they had to stitch together the remaining skin on my shaft to my head to cover up the gap.
In my case, however, when they put the stitches in, they misaligned where the skin on my shaft should meet the head of my penis. Imagine putting a dress shirt on and the buttons are off by a hole, except it’s your penis. The seam of my penis — the ridge of skin that runs along the bottom of the shaft — wasn’t a straight line anymore. It was twisted.
That was shitty.
And it felt raw. It was like walking around in an iron mask your whole life and then taking the mask off and shaving your face. Wearing underpants — my dick swinging around in there, rubbing against my pants — was particularly sensitive. I taped Kleenex around the head for a couple days so it wouldn’t bump against anything.
Getting my first erection was a relief. It happened a few days after the surgery while I was walking around a bookstore. The base and the knob were simultaneously pulling at the stitches, and I was worried about them exploding — that they’d rupture and it’d be gross, Frankenstein flesh. But that didn’t happen. I leaned into the bookshelf, pretending I was interested in the self-help section, until it went away.
Sex is certainly better since there’s no ripping, even though I have decreased sensitivity.
But I didn’t even think about my new dick the first time I had sex afterward. I was just psyched to be having sex. Appreciating the sensation of a circumcised penis was secondary. It wasn’t like “Wow, having sex without foreskin is great.” It was like “Cool. This works.” Then I went back to focusing on the sex.
There aren’t a lot of girls with experience with uncircumcised penises. Then they get with an uncircumcised guy and they’re like What is going on here? Why is it puckering at me? And you’re like “Oh, sorry, you’re not familiar. This is what it looks like by default. This is your confusion, not mine.”
There’s a beauty and simplicity to a circumcised penis. Sleek. Functional. It now looks like what it was meant to be — a torpedo rather than an anteater.
—As told to John McDermott
John Mcdermott is MEL’s staff writer.