Ask Debby Herbenick | I was circumcised at 22 years old
Answers to your most penetrating sex questions.
Q In November 2007, I was circumcised at 22 years old. My foreskin wasn’t able to pull back and my urologist said I would definitely need circumcision and so I just blindly agreed to it. But since I had it done, things have been really different. At first I was masturbating by using a tissue to cover the head because the skin of my hand was causing too much pain. I did that for a long time but at some point I started using just my hand. But I always had to do things in a really different way—using two hands instead of one. After a year, I had sex (for the first time ever) and it was really painful; I had to stop straight away. Not only did I have anxiety regarding lack of experience (she didn’t know I was a virgin), but the pain was bad, too, so I have not had sex since then. Now, masturbation isn’t so bad, but I need lube or else it hurts. I just want to be normal and have sex with a girl without all these problems. My urologist has advised me to masturbate with lube to get the skin used to friction and to use Performax condoms to help with the pain. What do you think?
A Many people find the beginning of their partnered sexual lives to be complex, even in the best of circumstances—and starting one’s partnered sex life with concerns about pain and medical issues can be difficult indeed. Research related to adult circumcision and long-term sexual outcomes is conflicting. Men may be circumcised as adults for various reasons. When they’re circumcised in an effort to treat conditions that cause painful sex, having a circumcision can make sex more pleasurable and comfortable, and many men report satisfaction with the procedure. But others are unhappy with their circumcision, and some researchers feel that doctors could spend more time talking to their patients not just about what their penis will be like immediately after the procedure, but about what their penis and sexual function may be like for the long haul. Your doctor’s suggestion to use Durex Performax condoms makes sense to me. Performax and other condoms (such as Trojan Extended Pleasure condoms) that are meant to help men last longer typically use a numbing agent such as benzocaine as part of the lubricated interior of the condom. These same ingredients are often used in topical creams to reduce pain or itching on other body parts. You can see how using these brilliantly designed condoms may help to reduce pain during masturbation and partnered sex for your sensitive penis. You should also consider getting a second opinion. Many men have foreskin that’s difficult to retract, but your doctor advised that yours be removed. Why? Were there other medical conditions that were associated with your too-tight foreskin? If so, it’s possible that a medical condition may be contributing to your overly sensitive penis. Also, because you’re not alone in experiencing pain following your circumcision, some companies sell “artificial foreskin” products that can be worn during sex—Manhood (manhood.mb.ca) and SenSlip (senslip.com) are two examples. These alternatives to surgical foreskin-restoration procedures, which are obviously more risky and expensive, are worth a look-see. Finally, consider meeting with a sex therapist who may be able to suggest masturbation exercises that you can use to have more comfortable solo play and, when the time is right, partnered sex. People’s perceptions of pain can actually change during sexual arousal and it may be that enhancing your arousal through fantasy or with a partner could make intercourse feel more comfortable. A sex therapist can also help you to consider how to broach the topic with a partner.
Q When my boyfriend and I have sex, he is not able to come. What does this mean?
A There’s no pat answer to the “why can’t my boyfriend come?” question. When delayed ejaculation happens to young guys who are just beginning to have sex with a partner, it’s often the case that they can resolve the issue with a little “retraining.” Sometimes guys get so used to coming in response to masturbation that they find it difficult to come any other way. Men sometimes take a while to learn how to get their penis to respond with a whoosh of ejaculation to a wider range of sex acts; with patience on both of your parts, and a willingness to be creative, it may soon become easier for him to ejaculate. For example, you may want to try having intercourse and then masturbating him to orgasm or letting him masturbate while you two kiss. Being flexible about your partnered sex repertoire can help him relax, which can also make ejaculation during intercourse easier for him. Other times, men find it difficult to ejaculate because they are anxious about infection, unintended pregnancy or about being a good enough lover. Some men’s ejaculatory issues are rooted in a difficulty of letting go during sex or shame related to sex and, in these cases, working with a sex therapist is often helpful (find one at aasect.org). Checking in with a health-care provider is a good first step, as ejaculatory problems can be linked to health problems such as diabetes, which can lessen penile sensation (dampened penile sensation can make it difficult to get over the top, orgasm-wise). In the meantime, consider trying vibrating rings (available in the condom aisle of many drug stores) as vibration can help trigger orgasm in men—not just women.
Q I have never achieved an orgasm, even though I have been having sex for six years. However, a few times something frightening has happened. During really intense sex, my whole body seems to go numb. My hands become numb and paralyzed in a claw-like position. My face also goes numb and I have a lot of face twitching. My arms and legs are also numb. This continues for five or ten minutes and feels awful and embarrassing. I searched online and found a few others who experience the same, but nobody seems to know the cause. I am ashamed to have sex; please help.
A Muscle tension during sexual excitement is common, which can result in all kinds of quirks such as curled upper lips, toe curls and funny looking “o” faces. However, extreme numbness during sex is not common, and it’s definitely something worth talking to a neurologist about. Sex is, after all, a neurological event—with or without orgasm (and, by the way, it’s not uncommon for women to take years to learn to orgasm, if it ever happens at all). Various nerves in the pelvic area (that then lead to the brain) may be stimulated during sex, and hormone levels can change during sexual excitement and orgasm, too. Scientists are just starting to learn how these play out for most people. As a result, it’s perhaps not surprising that we’re just now learning more about people who get headaches after sex (or orgasm), people who pass out briefly after sex or people, like you, who experience unusual numbness during sexual excitement. A neurologist can help rule out any serious medical conditions and help figure out how to maximize your chances for pleasure, without risk or discomfort.