Nobody likes to talk about their sexual health. It’s a topic a lot of people are uncomfortable with. But, if you’re old enough to have sex, you should be old enough to talk about it. It’s something I’ve only recently realised.
I knew something was wrong when I woke up on a hospital floor. I’d broken my nose, smashed my teeth and blood was coming out of my eye. It wasn’t ideal.
I’d been doing corporate role play; pretending to be a patient for training doctors. I had to pretend to be catheterised (that’s when they stick a pipe in your pipe so you don’t wee!) But, don’t worry I had a prosthetic penis. I had to pretend this was my real ‘little soldier’ and to act out in pain so doctors and nurses know what to expect when they go onto the wards and do it in real life.
The first trainee surgeon must’ve been a tree surgeon – he was very gruff. He manhandled my plastic manhood and made me feel dizzy. Next thing I knew I was waking up on the floor.
Everyone found it weird I’d fainted. They blamed it on the temperature, the early morning, the harsh lights. I thought it was weird that nobody else was fainting. I had to pretend this bloke had just jousted a hosepipe into the most sensitive part of my body. Why did no one else have the same reaction? Wasn’t everyone that sensitive down there?
I’ve always had a weird relationship with my penis. As a kid I used to call it Ronan; Ronan was the head of my ‘Boyzone’.
‘Ronan?! Are you shitting me?!’ Asked Matt, my mate, a couple of days later.
I’d met with him and my housemate to try and get some advice.
‘Do we have to talk about your dangle while we’re in the pub?!’
‘He fainted and thinks that’s normal’ replied my housemate.
In my fairness, you can only ever know something is unusual by comparison. No bloke had ever been comfortable talking to me about this before. Now I had an excuse. Matt took a deep breath.
‘Mate, it’s not normal to be that sensitive…down there!’
So, I went to get it checked out. Turns out the ‘neck on my jumper’ was a little bit too tight…if you catch my drift…it’s called phimosis.
There was only one thing for it. On January 25th of this year, I got circumcised. It was the most painful experience of my life – even more painful than watching Calendar Girls with my Mum, and it shocked me was how my nurse treated me.
Within half an hour of waking up from the general anaesthetic, the nurse was forcing my boxers on. She lifted my ankles and forced them my legs. The anaesthetic hadn’t even worn off and it sent me into a panic attack. She stood bemused – ‘you big baby’ she said as I lay hyperventilating.
I’d just had my foreskin hacked off! If a female had just had a mastectomy would she clamp her into a tight fitting bra? If a woman had just had a hysterectomy would she force her into skinny jeans? Probably not…
I wasn’t allowed to leave until I’d passed urine. The pain of it nearly made me fainted. The same nurse found this funny. She told me to ‘Man Up.’ Three days later when I was rushed back to A&E as an emergency patient I was told by a senior urologist I’d nearly fainted because the dressing was dangerously tight. It’s something the nurse should’ve realised, however, she didn’t. She was too busy laughing and trying to enforce parochial outdated beliefs of masculinity on me.
I want to make it clear I’m not bashing the NHS. I am not having a go at ANY healthcare professionals. I have nothing but respect for doctors, nurses and any health providers. This is not an attack. It was an insight into how men are expected to deal with pain; people always ask why men are reluctant to go to the doctors. Is it really surprising? If ever a man gets a fever it is ‘Man Flu’. They are told they are ‘big babies’ that they need to ‘man up’.
I believe in equality for men and women in all areas – health included. There needs to be more equality in sympathy in healthcare for both genders. Perhaps if we did, suicide wouldn’t be the biggest killer of men between 25 and 40. Perhaps if we did, boys wouldn’t be twice as likely to have a mental disorder. And, perhaps if we did, we would have a more understanding society.
But, what do I know, I’m just a ‘big baby’!
Dave’s show ‘Circumcision’ about sex, sexuality and gender plays at The Brighton Festival in May and June.
Dates: 6-7, 20-21 May, 3-4 Jun – Time: 19:30 – Venue: The Hobgoblin, 31 York Place, Brighton, BN1 4GU
Tickets: Free here (non-ticketed)