Statistically speaking, you probably don’t have a penis. I’ve seen our market research and can say this with some degree of confidence. Therefore I’m asking you, kind-hearted, penis-less reader, to attempt a show of empathy when I disclose the following information: four years ago I lay on an operating table while a bored-looking woman stuck a six-inch needle directly into my penis. She did this three times and then she got out a knife. Still with me?
Much like a sore throat, this story is going to get worse before it gets better. About a year before I caught a bus towards Homerton University Hospital, my penis had developed the annoying tendency to gush blood during sex. The source of this carnal haemorrhaging was my frenulum, the elastic band of connective tissue known colloquially as the banjo string. The frenulum would tear mid-coitus and due to the volume of liquid busying itself in that area at the time, unsexy arcs of blood would spurt out in a fashion both painful and visually nightmarish.
At first the situation was relatively simple to ignore. Although I was in a loving, long-term relationship with a person I adored, it had ground down to a near-platonic state in which we had sex less often than we paid rent. Following a period of waiting for the frenulum to heal, I could usually persuade my brain that the problem had somehow resolved itself and thus I wouldn’t need to take any action.
It was the bodily equivalent of a cupboard that is difficult to close properly, or an overcrowded drawer that needs sorting out: a faulty bit of furniture, easily dismissed when not in use. Denial teems in any relationship that doesn’t quite work any more, so what was one more thing? My grisly condition at least provided an excuse for why we weren’t really sleeping together any more.
It wasn’t until the frequency of the trouble progressed from occasionally to always that I sought proper medical help. Fearing something irreversible, I visited a GP for the first time since childhood. After taking a brief look at my swimsuit-bereft swimsuit area, he swivelled around in his chair to consult the internet.
My concern over this action was only exacerbated when he proceeded to sketch a crude illustration of a penis to demonstrate his preliminary diagnosis. As we both looked down at the scribbled phallus, drawn by a fully-qualified doctor and not a schoolboy in a toilet cubicle, he explained that the malady was probably something called frenulum breve. He, and the internet, felt that my penis had developed at a disproportionate rate to my frenulum, and so it would tear under sexy pressure. The GP referred me to a specialist for confirmation, ripped the penis drawing out of his leather-sheathed notebook, threw it in the bin and sent me on my way.
A few weeks later I visited the specialist. What infinitesimal convulsions of the universe had taken place, I wondered as she cradled my penis in her hand and stifled a yawn, to bring us both to this dimly-lit room? Agreeing with the GP’s internet connection, she explained that the ailment could be solved quite simply and without any aesthetic effect through a frenuloplasty, a procedure that would involve cutting a fibre within the frenulum. She compared this to snipping the waistband inside a pair of pyjama bottoms. As a person who appreciates a good analogy, I felt reassured that she knew what she was talking about.
The operation took place on a Tuesday. First was the pre-operative assessment, where the surgeon asked me if I wanted a local or general anaesthetic. I’d been told that I’d be under a general one and had made plans accordingly, arranging for my girlfriend to pick me up after I’d regained both consciousness and a less gory sex life. Suddenly I had a choice. In a vulnerable moment during which she became the third medical professional to hold my penis in a scattering of weeks, I told the surgeon that I wouldn’t need general anaesthetic. Just for a simple penis operation? What would be the point? As soon as I saw the needle, which looked like the type of instrument a nefarious doctor might use in a Saturday morning cartoon, I realised that I had not thought my decision through.
I’m not sure how I expected the anaesthetic to be administered, but three injections directly into my penis was not it. I certainly hadn’t foreseen the radio either, playing Aerosmith’s power ballad I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing as it had apparently become self-aware and decided to start making fun of me. The procedure was like being punched in the crotch repeatedly for fifteen minutes, but before I knew it an assistant was washing off the orange surgery gunk and I could leave. Hours earlier than expected, I took the bus home by myself with a penis that felt like it had been to the dentist.
An itchy, sexually-frustrated month passed waiting for the stitches to dissolve, a feat they accomplished the day before my birthday. Earlier I had told my girlfriend—in a tone that had the cadence of a joke but was in fact the opposite—that I didn’t want anything and was just happy that we’d be able to sleep together again. She got me a roasting pan. It was an excellent, thoughtful present and I was delighted. I still think of her when I use it.
We lay in her bed on my birthday night, curled up in our long and loving relationship. My penis was healed for good. It wouldn’t bleed ever again. We could have sex all day and night if we wanted. There was nothing holding us back. We stared up at her ceiling while outside the traffic slowed to a murmur.
Published in Oh Comely Issue Twenty-Seven.