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2005-01-10 Rev.: 2006-09-03
A vasectomy is a form of sterilization for men roughly
equivalent to a woman having her tubes tied.
A vasectomy is a relatively minor operation with a large psychological overhead.
I had a vasectomy in 1979. My purpose here is to share what information I can about my experience.
I will begin with descriptive and go on to emotional.
A good page with comparable information is Vasectomy: pros and cons - includes related information Health News
I was considering a vasectomy because I was unmarried and had been for several years. I had been moderately active in the dating market including having sex on occasion, usually involving women my age (37) or somewhat older (37-42). I was fairly certain I did not want to have kids of my own and I was very certain that I did not want to get trapped in a marriage because of a pregnancy. I was willing to talk birth control with the women I dated, but recognized that lying was possible.
A vasectomy is fairly minor surgery that involves cutting a pair of tubes called the vas deferens which carry sperm from the testicles to mix with the seminal fluid from the prostate to form the liquid that is ejaculated into a woman for fertilization to occur. Since the sperm are only a small part of the volume of the liquid, after a vasectomy, male performance is essentially the same, subject to psychology, positive or negative. When a woman has her tubes tied, a tubal ligation, it is a more serious operation because of its location, but the result is similar in that in her case the eggs can not get into the vagina for fertilization. Both operations should be considered not reversible when the decision is made although in many cases reversal can be done, reversal being more complicated and the result being chancy than the cutting or tying. At least after the surgery (in me) the vas can be felt by gently rolling the skin of the scrotum and feeling a tube with a "knot" pass under the fingers. My doctor removed a short section of the tubes, feeling this was surer surgery than just cutting them.
I had my surgery done at Planned Parenthood because at the time I had no health insurance and they did it for a fixed price as outpatient surgery. My overall experience was less than fun but not awful. PP required briefing sessions discussing the risks, worries and concerns of people having the operation, which I attended. On the day of the surgery, there were half a dozen or so men present and the doctor started going over exactly the same stuff as in the briefings. Looking back, this might have been because of informed consent on his part, but I was nervous as hell and spoke up about having heard it all over a couple of required evenings at PP and did we need to go over it again, which abruptly ended the session. After the surgery, I drove myself home, violating one of the guidelines/rules of the briefing. Also that day I learned that all the fluids I had bought (Coke, etc.) were wrong for the antibiotics given us, so I had to stop and get fruit juice, etc.
The direct result was that my scrotum was dark and swollen, as I had been warned, but probably more so from moving around more than I should have (and by a less polite doctor from my flipping off, I have wondered.) After a couple of days, the swelling went down and the dark blood flushed out. I would compare the discomfort to a man after running in loose boxer shorts (instead of briefs or a jockstrap) who bangs his testicles around or a man who rides a horse for the first time and feels walking bow legged is the only comfortable way.
The follow up consisted of several tests of ejaculate from masturbation to determine when all of the sperm had cleared out. This is necessary because the sperm fill the several inches of the vas up to the prostate and only gradually clear out. A comparison would be an IV drip to which medicine was added near the bag: even if the medicine source is removed, it takes time for the fluid to clear out the tube. In my case it took a couple of months. I had tests six months and a year later for confirmation. No sperm.
There are two strong emotional contexts to having a vasectomy, one of which gets talked about a lot and the other not as much. The one talked about is the loss of "performance" Guys have a lot invested in their ability to perform the sex act and while growing up there is usually a lot of talk around both the performance aspect (and size of penis, etc.) and the behavior credited to sexual incompleteness whether as a youth or as a castrati. Boys whose voice has not changed or whose voice cracks are thought as unmanly and compared to singers who used to be castrated to preserve their high youthful voices and to eunuchs that guard harems and don't have sex with the women and look funny. Therefore, failure to be able to perform sex with women or failure to have done it yet are used as threats and taunts during teen years. Much of the briefings before the operation is devoted to dealing with possible fears about not being able to "get it up" or somehow not being interested in women.
For me, the more important aspect was my heredity. In briefings, it was stressed that while the operation might be reversible (and it has become more so, to the point that there are now billboards advertising microsurgery reversal) the reversal success rate is lower than 100% and so vasectomy should be considered permanent. Taking this seriously, I thought through the prospect a lot since I was the last of my line. No other male in my family line with my family name was alive because all my uncles were much older than my father and had all their children were girls. My first wife and I had agreed we did not want children and she had taken care of that with a hysterectomy early in our marriage after figuring out the cost of birth control pills and period supplies until she was post menstrual. That marriage had ended after nine years, several years before the operation.
But how much did I think having kids meant to me? In fact, while I like kids in the short term and have babysat and entertained kids for various periods up to two weeks, they get on my nerves and I find them irritating. I am self centered and wander off in thought, not paying attention. Kids would be at risk around me. I concluded that if the need to pass on my name became overwhelming, I could find a woman who had kids and liked taking care of them who would take my name. Further, I alternate between considering myself quite average and rather strange, neither of which is a driving force to replicate. And finally, because my father was born late and married late, all of my direct family was deceased, so I had no family pressure to produce heirs. It still took a lot of thought.
So after the operation, did I go out and have sex to prove myself? As it happens, I did. There was more pressure there than I expected before the operation. And the performance went ok. Ironically, not long after my operation, the AIDS mess started spreading across the country and promiscuous sex became much more risky. Also, I got married five years later and this one has lasted 20 years so far, without outside hanky-panky.
Contact Mike Firth