The quick answer is: yes, a vasectomy will probably hurt a little bit. But – and it has to be said – not as much as childbirth. Never as much as childbirth.
However, we must consider not just physical pain, but pain inflicted upon one’s pride. First, though, something to be proud about: a vasectomy is a big decision to make, a responsible decision – responsible because it’s pretty much a permanent deal. I get asked the same questions a lot. Does anything come out afterwards? Yes, is the answer: your usual product is not replaced with a puff of air like the glaucoma-testing machine at the opticians. And, yes, it does look the same as before.
But another common question is whether it makes people feel like less of a man. Of course not, because – believe it or not – I don’t think that I (or any other man) should have my “manliness” judged on the number of sperm cells I produce. In fact, it never even crossed my mind. When shooting bullets could cause you a problem, it’s better to fire blanks.
The procedure itself is fairly straightforward. Usually carried out under local anaesthetic, the vas deferens (the tubes that carry the sperm from the testicles to the urethra) are cut, a small section removed to reduce the risk of recanalisation and the ends sealed. The failure rate is just one in 2,000, and a reversal isn’t always easy – and rarely available through the NHS.
Preparing for your vasectomy must take place on the morning of your procedure. Wear supportive underwear, and make sure (as daft as it sounds) that you don’t look even more ridiculous than usual in just a T-shirt and pants. One of my most vivid vasectomy memories – vasectomemories – is walking sheepishly across a cold vinyl floor into the operating theatre wearing a shirt and pants, both of which were green. I looked like a skinny pale Robin Hood, finally taking care of Little John and a couple of merry men.
Second tip: have a shave before you go. Not your face. Because you genuinely care about your genitals you’re likely to use a sharp razor and some kind of shaving foam. The surgeon will care very little about either of these things, being on a tight schedule, and if he or she finds themselves faced with a crop of thick hair they will chop away with all the grace and care of Sweeney Todd.
Once you’re at the surgery, listen to the medical staff. I know you’ll be nervous, and in unfamiliar surroundings – not to mention aware that more people today are going to look at your junk than in the past three years combined. But you have to listen. They tell you to go into a side room and strip down to your shirt and pants. Do not strip any more clothing off at this stage. This would be wrong. I still feel sorry for the poor gentleman in the curtained-off cubicle next to mine, who got the wrong end of the stick. When the nurse entered to call him through she found him stark naked, cold and uncomfortable, but sitting politely on the chair. The sound of clammy skin sheepishly peeling away from faux leather has remained with me ever since.
It’s worth remembering that this is about as far away as it’s possible to get from any sexy nurse fantasy. This is real life, so as you’d expect this surgical procedure is carried out efficiently and clinically. Don’t expect a round of applause when you’re told to drop your pants and lie on the operating table, or gasps of awe and bitten lower lips. Chances are, because you’re cold and shy, Little John will feel the same, and you may find yourself choking back words of apology. You’ll want to say something – anything – to fill the awkward silence while the surgeon chops away like Edward Scissorhands. Apologising for your walnut whip of a penis and claiming that “it’s not normally like this” will be met with nothing more than a polite chuckle followed by prolonged uncomfortable dead air.
Thankfully, the anaesthetic will numb the majority of the pain, and the procedure is usually carried out through two very small incisions on either side of the scrotum. The only pain I remember is two sharp jolts as my vas deferens were cut, as if an elastic band had been fired at my balls from close range.
The procedure lasts around 10 to 15 minutes, and – with the front of your underwear wadded with more gauze than Jareth the Goblin King – you go back to the cubicle to return to the comfort of your clothes and retire to a small waiting room to fill out a few forms, avoid eye contact and wonder when someone is going to come along and plonk a large plastic cone around your neck so you don’t start licking your stitches. (Not that there are any, usually, the incisions are left to heal by themselves.)
Healing takes around a week, depending on whether or not you get a haematoma (a collection of blood in the scrotum). This is perhaps the most painful part of the entire process, but a steady flow of painkillers and a bag of frozen peas will sort out any swelling in no time at all.
There’s a bonus at the end of it all: in order to prove that the vasectomy has worked you get two lovely candlelit dates with a gorgeous slim plastic tube, into which you have to deposit semen and send it off for someone to double check that there are no sperm cells present. It’s perfectly acceptable to frame your letter of sterility, once you get it, or at least stick it onto the fridge door, but until you do it’s advisable that you continue to use contraception.
A few days of minor pain, then, to save the financial (and emotional, and physical, and mental) exhaustion that comes with having another baby. When you put it like that, it doesn’t seem quite so daunting after all.