As a teen growing up in the Midwest, Sam felt like the only boy who hadn’t been circumcised. “At first, I didn’t know what it was,” he recalls, “but all the other guys I saw had cooler-looking dicks than mine. I thought maybe they just knew a way to keep the skin back to look cooler with the head out.”
Now 30, Sam, a pseudonym (as with the other men quoted here), is one of many men worldwide who sought out adult circumcision for cosmetic reasons. In the U.S. in particular, circumcision is a common procedure: A 2013 study estimated that 80.5 percent of men between the ages of 14 and 59 were circumcised (there is no data, however, on the number of these procedures that were cosmetic in nature). It’s still a loaded topic, though: Some believe infant circumcision in particular is always mutilation, others believe it’s justified as a religious or cultural practice and some studies indicate that it’s an effective method of disease prevention. But whatever your stance, some guys simply prefer the look of a cut cock.
Ted, 35-year-old from Minnesota, echoes Sam’s sentiment of feeling different as a kid. Thus, late last year, after decades of research, he made the decision to get cut. After requesting to be in-clinic under local anesthesia as opposed to a hospital operating room under general anesthesia, Ted remembers being escorted to a procedure room and asked to drop his pants and slip into a gown. “I got up on a table, then a tech came in to wash and retract my penis, foreskin and surrounding area,” he tells me. “They put up a screen so I couldn’t really see.” After a quick confirmation with his doctor, he was injected with anesthesia and cut. “There was no pain at all during,” he says. “The shots were slightly uncomfortable, but dental shots are more painful in my experience.”
Sam has similar memories of his procedure, but says “the first shot [of anesthetic] burned like crazy! [The assistant] let it take effect a bit, then the others I didn’t feel as much.” After the circumcision, he had mixed emotions. “I felt slightly emasculated, like, ‘What had I let him do to my manhood?’ After the shock wore off, though, I started feeling immense relief wash over me.” Finally, he had the exposed cock-head of his dreams.
In circumcision subreddits, Dr. David Cornell is somewhat of a hero, as his Atlanta-based Circumcision Center is famed for its focus on aesthetics. “I think everyone that promotes their practice makes an effort with the cosmetic element,” he says of his competitors before pausing. “I wouldn’t say they always achieve it.”
He estimates that around 25 percent of his clients are looking to beautify the results of previous procedures, and they’re always in experienced hands: Since 2003, Cornell has performed around 3,000 circumcisions. “It’s really an easy procedure with local anesthetic,” he tells me. “It takes 45 to 60 minutes, and the discomfort is minimal.” Cornell doesn’t disclose a price range, but his practice is purely cosmetic, and therefore, not covered by health insurance. (That said, phimosis and a short frenulum are considered medical justifications for circumcision, shaving thousands of dollars from the overall cost.)
Meanwhile, Ryan, a 22-year-old in London, set up MyAdultCircumcision to demystify the process and to share his own experience. “Google has SafeSearch, so it’s quite hard to find articles that are relevant,” he says, highlighting that existing material generally fell into two categories — medical and impersonal, or purely sexual. “I started the site to try and reassure people, but also to share the stories of guys who have done it already. If you can see photos of the healing process, you can compare yourself to that much more easily.”
Ryan paid around $815 for his procedure, which he decided to get after studying abroad in the U.S. “I don’t remember watching porn and thinking, ‘I want to be like that,’ it was just another dick,” he says, laughing. “It was only after spending that year in the U.S. that I thought this was something I wanted to do, so I decided to research it seriously.”
It didn’t take long, of course, for Ryan to discover the “intactivist” movement, which advocates against male infant circumcision but also condemns the practice across the board, even when chosen by consenting adults. A key claim is that circumcision reduces sensitivity, which Cornell says checks out. “It’s pretty much common sense that there will be less sensitivity with a gland that’s exposed constantly to friction,” he explains. Yet what Ryan and others claim is missing from these conversations is nuance. “There’s a difference between sensitivity and pleasure,” Ryan tells me. “My penis was more sensitive when I was uncut, but it wasn’t necessarily more pleasurable.”
Along those lines, Scott, a 30-year-old in the U.K. who has spent the last 12 years adjusting to his circumcision, which he sought out after comparing his own dick to those he saw in American porn movies, says, “It takes me a little longer to orgasm now than it did before.”
This belief — that it takes longer to cum post-circumcision — is echoed by the other guys I talk to. “It’s hard to describe,” says Ryan. “It felt like my orgasm was deeper — that’s the best way I could put it. It’s not life-changing though, just a subtle difference, but I definitely noticed it!” Subtle or not, an anonymous 22-year-old in Germany says his cosmetic circumcision definitely improved his sex life. “Most girls here in Europe don’t care, but in other countries, they liked it even more!”
Needless to say, it’s important to let the penis heal properly first. To that end, some guys felt fine within a week, whereas others found small bumps that lingered for up to five months. “The first week was a bitch,” Sam recalls. “The hardest part was not being able to masturbate for that long — it was torture! When I finally could though, it was one of the best orgasms of my life.”
As for their future male progeny and the question of whether or not to circumcise them as infants, Ted says he wouldn’t have his kids cut if he becomes a father, and Sam admits that he “understands the anger” around infant circumcision (namely, that babies can’t consent to having their foreskin sliced off). But for himself, Sam says he has no regrets whatsoever. “I love my dick more than ever,” he concludes, though again, he advocates for an age limit of 18. “Just seeing it in the mirror with the head on full display brings a smile to my face. Dicks mean so much to us guys. It was like I was a new man.”