Who knew a vasectomy could make such a great read? But here it is, in GQ, a gripping, hilarious, heart-breakingly honest account of one guy’s decision to take charge of family planning by knife.
As he awaits the surgeon, author Benjamin Percy notices the “walls are busy with gruesome anatomical diagrams, cross sections that make the male genitalia resemble charcuterie.” Then the action begins: “They go to work, flopping back my penis, arranging tools on a tray, positioning a stool between my legs. I squint into the blinding lights while the nurse snaps on latex gloves and my doctor shaves my scrotum. Then it’s time.”
Percy takes us through his decision to get a “v-sec,” noting that he loves, loves, loves his two children. “But a third?” he writes. “Outnumbered, we would have to switch from man-on-man to zone defense, and I can’t help but shudder when I imagine a red-faced baby wailing through the night, the bank statements withering further, the walls crayoned, and the laundry hampers reeking of spit-up and poo. An unexpected pregnancy, in other words, would be a nightmare.”
So he takes the plunge and makes a date with the surgeon:
I don’t scream, but I clamp my jaw so tightly it clicks. I arch my back so much I end up looking behind me at the door. The technique differs from doctor to doctor. Some cut diagonally. Some puncture “keyholes” with a hemostat on either side of the scrotum. Mine scalpels a vertical slash right down the middle. The room is cold, but I am sweating. How I regret not accepting the Valium. The doctor explains the procedure as it progresses. Apparently some men don’t have pronounced enough vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm outward from the testicles, making the vasectomy impossible. But mine look great, he says. I would tell him thank you if I had a voice.
He will now sever the right vas deferens and excise a length of the tube, making recanalization close to impossible. “Now,” he says, his voice lowering, “you may feel a hot nauseating spike of pain that reaches up your right side.” Nobody I have spoken to, nothing I have read, mentioned anything about hot nauseating spikes of pain. Before I can steel myself to the idea, I hear a snip. The noise of garden shears deadheading geraniums.
I am unable to breathe. I cannot see what the doctor is doing, but he very well might have shoved a furnace-baked length of rebar through my groin and into my torso. I am introduced to vast, intricate networks of pain I never knew existed.
Doctors used to tie off the tubes, but they would occasionally come undone. These days cauterization is the standard. My doctor tells me this, and I smell my flesh cooking, hear it sizzling. “There we go,” he says, and I tremble out a moan, thinking we are done, thinking I can escape this place and curl up in a dark room. But no. We are only halfway there.
“On to the next testicle!” the nurse says and pats me on the thigh.
Percy’s recovery is rocky. (But not in ways you might imagine. Consider this: “Before I left the clinic, my doctor encouraged me to masturbate lots and handed over a sterile container to drop off at the clinic in six weeks. “Sperm take a long time to die, and they hide out in other places besides your testicles,” he said. “Get to work.” I imagined vast red caverns inside me with albino bats nesting in them.”)
But his story ends happily with a final epiphany. “My voice still booms. My semen still shoots. I still find it terribly exciting when a helicopter explodes in a movie or my wife peels off her bra in the bedroom. A key has turned—a door has locked—but I am no less or more of a man.”
And as the rest of the country continues to debate about birth control coverage for women, it’s worth considering the alternatives…if you dare.