How to Do It

We Didn’t Circumcise My Son

Will girls reject him?

An uncircumcised boy walks by a group of whispering girls, as lit scissors flash in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jupiterimages and splendens/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com.

Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I decided not to circumcise our son, born in the early 2000s. We felt his body was naturally perfect and did not want a scalpel going at his precious newborn body. At the time, we felt the majority of parents were feeling the same way and arriving at the same conclusion.

Since then, I have heard different opinions on this topic, but not enough to fully understand what our son will encounter when he becomes sexually active. On the positive, I have read that an uncircumcised penis experiences more sensations. Since he is now a teenager, it seems he is demonstrating a heterosexual preference. I mention this because I have read that sometimes women do not like an uncircumcised penis, and there can be complications during sex. Since the human body was designed in this way, my instincts say this is not true, but I do not know! As a parent, should I be worried about this decision we made for him 15 years ago?

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—Snippy

Dear Snippy,

As a parent, you’ve given your child something far too few young men in the U.S. are lucky enough to carry around with them. No, I’m not referring to foreskin, though that’s cool too—what I mean is that you’ve given him a choice. By keeping him intact, you’ve allowed him to judge for himself whether this flesh hood is his style and make the necessary snips if not. My suspicion is that he’ll keep his foreskin—I’ve met quite a few guys who are so proud of theirs that it might as well be a second dick. I have met a few guys who elected to be circumcised as adults for a variety of reasons; from what I could tell, they did not regret their decisions. Excepting situations in which the foreskin creates discomfort, like phimosis, I’ve wondered if uncircumcised guys either experience more pleasure, or pleasure more easily (that glide, ya know?), but all things considered, it’s virtually impossible to quantify this, and the difference is probably negligible anyway because cut guys have managed to get off just fine, thank you very much.

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In terms of complications, studies have suggested that uncut guys are more susceptible to some STIs or STDs, so he should be diligent about his sexual health (but then, everyone should). Uncut penises require more cleaning than cut ones to stay smelling fresh. Hopefully you and/or your husband have already gone over general genital care and maintenance with him—otherwise he’s in for a rude awakening by fragrance when he finally rolls the foreskin back and out wafts the funk of 15 years. Also, there’s the aforementioned phimosis, a condition in which foreskins can be too tight to roll back. This can cause pain and discomfort but is treatable through surgical and nonsurgical means, depending on severity. Make sure all of this is on his radar.

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I wouldn’t worry too much about women being turned off by your son’s penis. That’s their problem. While some women may not enjoy the sight of foreskin, some women don’t like body odor or very large penises or very small ones or average ones or crooked ones. By being vulnerable enough to be naked in front of them, we leave ourselves open to the judgment of our partners. Some people are very picky, but many, especially if they are horny, are not. And maybe he’ll encounter a woman who thought she didn’t like foreskin until she met your son and he introduced her to the joys of uncut dudes. Then you will not have only given your son a gift, but also given one to this woman, whose life and mind you will have changed through your compassionate decision. Take it from an enthusiast: Foreskin is a gift that keeps on giving.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m a bisexual man married to a woman who is glad to be married to a bisexual man. At some point down the line, we’re planning to try group sex with other guys, and my wife is also more open than not to the idea of me getting together with men occasionally on my own. I didn’t come out until pretty recently, have dated only women, and had just a few hookups with men before I got married—and I’d like to experience some of the very hot gay sex I obsessed about but never had when I was younger because of internalized homophobia.

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My question is: Whenever the time comes, should I consider going on PrEP? I realize it’s not a death sentence anymore, but I really don’t want to get HIV. (I don’t want to give it to my wife, and I am also kinda afraid that as the world collapses because of climate change, it will become a death sentence again.) If I’m getting fucked, I’ll expect the guy to use a condom unless I know him well and trust him. But condoms fail and I know stealthing happens too. My understanding is that being on PrEP would greatly reduce my chances of contracting the virus, right? But would I take it all the time, or would I go off and on it depending on whether I had male partners at the time?

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Also: Would my wife want to get on PrEP—if, say, we went through a period of regularly meeting bi guys and they often had vaginal or anal sex with her? And if a guy is undetectable, how great is the chance he could infect me screwing me bareback? (Again, yes, expecting to use condoms regularly, but my wife and I are both turned on by the idea of me taking a load bareback.) Obviously, I’ll discuss some of this stuff with my doctor before I hop on Grindr, but it would be nice to go in already knowing a few things, especially because it’s so possible that he’s never dealt with the topic in depth.

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—Wild West

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Dear Wild West,

Well, isn’t this exciting? You’re looking at your sex life’s future, and lining the horizon are dicks as far as the eye can see. It’s heartening that you’re already concerned about your sexual health. Because you mentioned having unprotected receptive anal sex multiple times in your letter to me, it seems inevitable that it will happen and so, yes, I would say that you’re a good candidate for PrEP. I’ve heard doctors say, in fact, that anyone with two or more sex partners per month is a good candidate, and that sounds right to me. You can never be too careful, and the side effects of PrEP, as we currently understand them, are so minimal for many of us that there are no downsides to being on it, provided you have affordable access to it.

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And yes, research suggests that sporadic PrEP use can be effective. Dubbed “PrEP on demand,” this method requires a double dose of antiretrovirals (Truvada in the U.S.) taken two to 24 hours before the anticipated sex, and then a dose 24 hours later, and then one 48 hours later. A French study called Prévenir found zero infections over the course of a year of about 800 PrEP-on-demand users, who were all men who have sex with men. Another MSM study, IPERGAY, found that PrEP on demand reduced the risk of HIV infection by 86 percent. (Two people using PrEP on demand in that study did contract HIV, but the head researcher said he suspected that was due to non-adherence as opposed to PrEP failure.) I should mention that this is not the FDA-approved method of taking PrEP—which is still one dose once daily every day—and that there was a recently reported case of a man who contracted HIV while using PrEP on demand. While many experts continue to say that PrEP is up to 99 percent effective at preventing HIV, there is still risk involved in sex on PrEP.

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I am on PrEP and I take it every day. I’m certainly not getting railed by randoms on the daily, but it’s reassuring that I’m well protected without having to do all the dosing planning (which seems easy to screw up). I’m a set-it-and-forget-it type. Perhaps you’re more diligent. Whether you proceed with daily PrEP or take it on demand, I suspect, will depend on how much anonymous sex you end up having. And yes, I’d recommend it for your wife as well.

Here’s an obligatory reminder that PrEP doesn’t protect against other STDs and STIs besides HIV and that this is particularly important here as there is your wife involved and such diseases or infections could wreak havoc on her reproductive system. Getting tested regularly is mandatory on PrEP, but in my opinion, all sexually active people should be getting tested no less frequently than once every six months.

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I hope this is useful. Even more useful than having knowledge before seeing your doctor is finding a doctor who is gay or explicitly gay-friendly, as that doctor then will almost certainly be an expert in these matters and can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. It seems that you’re well ahead of the curve, both in terms of your health and pleasure. Go get ’em, tiger.

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Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I have had great sex for more than 30 years. He’s my favorite person in the world. But. He has gained some weight. Enough that he has significant fat in his belly and crotch and thighs. And enough that he has lost about an inch of dick. Apparently I really, really needed that inch. Because things just aren’t … working. Toys are fine, everything else is fine, and honestly, I’ve always loved being smashed into the bed and feeling tiny under him when we’re in missionary, so it’s not even the weight overall. It’s just PIV sex. I need that inch! There is probably nothing on the planet you could say to a man that would be worse than explaining this. What do I do?

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—Shrunken Head

Dear Shrunken Head,

If you haven’t experimented with different positions for maximum penetration depth, do so—missionary with your legs all the way back (in a virtually gymnastic formation) and rear-entry spooning are two to try. You might also want to consider getting him a cock ring—the right fit could help push back his fat pad and give you a little more length to play with.

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But even these imperfect fixes would involve at least a superficial acknowledgement of the inch you lost, or that his weight gain has affected your sex life. It’s not a particularly fun conversation to have, but your hesitation bespeaks a sensitivity that will serve both of you well. You said it: You need that inch. So you’re going to have to do something to get it. Incidentally, there is on the planet at least one thing you could say to a man that would be worse than explaining this: “I’m leaving you because your weight gain has made your dick too small to please me.” Don’t let it get to that point. Luckily, you still have time.

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Dear How to Do It,

I am a woman in my mid-30s who’s been dating a younger guy from a different country for about six months. He is mature and emotionally available in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time—this guy could be the real deal and he wants similar things from a relationship. But he is from a much more conservative culture, especially around sex. On social issues, he seems to recognize his need for growth—he expresses surprise when seeing openly gay folks, for example, but processes this maturely and openly by discussing what he needs to learn.

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When it comes to sex however, it’s just … not great. I was attracted to him when we met, and while I find him physically appealing, he has a very limited repertoire (no oral on me, for example) and doesn’t ever watch porn. To be honest, I’ve been with several hot, dominant, and skilled men over the past few single years, and this guy, though lovely, doesn’t get anywhere near any of them. I don’t like to proscribe behavior or to have to tell someone what to do during sex—I love that sex takes me out of my head. I am happy to communicate before or after, but a ton of adjusting during is a real turnoff. (It doesn’t help that he’s huge, so I have to be very wet to make it work at all.) Does this lack of chemistry mean that this can’t work? Sex is critical to my long-term happiness in a relationship, and I’m not sure how to fix it. He knows it’s not great now and seems to think it will sort itself out because he cares about me and is committed. I’m worried the trade-off for an emotionally supportive partner is a missing piece in bed.

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—No Stallion

Dear No Stallion,

I disagree with your little pony-dicked beau—this isn’t going to sort itself out. I mean, he’s already proved to be clueless in the realm of sex, so he’s not the prevailing authority. That’s your job, and unfortunately for you, you have some work to do. You have two options as far as I can tell: You can forfeit satisfying sex, or you can bite the bullet and give some blow-by-blow instruction. Either way is going to kind of suck, but at least if you engage in the latter course of action, you may get some return on your investment. Yes, it may involve some sex that you are consciously guiding, but if the guidance takes, you’ll be able to enjoy the kind of out-of-your-head sex that you enjoy with a guy who could be the real deal. I’m not advising you to spend years doing this, but you think highly enough of this guy that it seems worth a try for you to tell him exactly how you want to be done. If he won’t budge, that will tell you what kind of partner you have on your hands.

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It seems that he could maybe use some prying out of his shell, so attempt to do so, communicating the entire time and making sure that you have his consent every step of the way. Suggest watching porn together. If you’re OK with not receiving oral, who am I to tell you that that’s not cool (even if I really think it’s not cool and I certainly wouldn’t put up with it)? But his having a giant penis and not helping stimulate your natural lubrication with his mouth seems almost sadistic—it’s negligent at best. This guy clearly needs to be taught, so think long and hard if you want to be his teacher. In the meantime, get yourself a bottle of lube.

—Rich

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