I'm A Guy & I Don't Like Blow Jobs

My mohel fucked up.

To be fair, he wasn’t exactly a mohel (a Jew who performs ritual circumcisions). When I was born, my parents decided against having a bris, a ceremony they deemed strange and unnecessary. So they let my goyish pediatrician do an expedient snip. Due to his unsteady hand behind the knife, however, there is a bit of — how should I put this? — strange and unnecessary foreskin left over from the botched incision.

I have always felt extremely self-conscious about this slight excrescence — among other things I’ll go into in a minute — which is why, for years, I’ve lived in fear of receiving blow jobs from women. I’ve passed up on maybe a hundred of them in my life, if you take into account a couple of long-ish relationships I've had.

It’s not as if I have the Quasimodo of penises; no woman has ever recoiled in disgust after taking a look at my member. There isn’t a whole lot of remaining foreskin, anyway, and apparently, having a little left over is not an uncommon occurrence after a circumcision. "It seemed like it was better to leave it than mess with it again," my mom told me recently, in one of the more awkward text exchanges I’ve had in my life. I think that was the right call. But knowing that the contours of my genitals are, in part, the result of an accident (curse you, Dr. Miller!) makes me…timid when the prospect of a blow job presents itself.

The first time a girl tried to give me a blow job (which was the first time I had sex, at 22), my thing went soft immediately. This was in college. It was our first date — we’d met in a class on radical political thought — and I was very attracted to her. But the idea of oral sex turned my tumescent penis into a prepubescent penis. (Though it could also have been a result, now that I think of it, of all the Catherine MacKinnon we’d been reading.) Regardless, she moved on from the defeated organ after she’d noticed something was probably wrong.

The next time we slept together, she carefully asked me if I wanted her to venture down there again. I said no, feeling much like my deflated putz. "That’s a unique answer," she replied, chuckling.

Eventually, after we’d been dating for a while, a kind of tacit understanding that I didn’t want blow jobs solidified between us, and we left it at that. (Not that she ever protested; I don’t blame her — blow jobs look like hard work.)

I should clarify something here. It’s not exactly that I don’t like blow jobs. The few I’ve had have felt very good, though the pleasure is usually colored by my own queasiness about the act. It’s hard for me to come to terms with vulnerability, which is what sex requires. The thought of another person rooting around down there, happening upon my member (which I spend most of my life hiding from other people), scrutinizing it, and probably judging it, just feels like so much pressure.

It’s hard for me to come to terms with vulnerability, which is what sex requires.

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"Are you circumcised?" one girl, a freelance writer from New Orleans I’d been dating for a couple of weeks, said to me in bed after she’d felt around down there for a little while. This was two years ago, and she was the first person who had ever asked the question out loud. It’s something I thought might happen eventually, but I still wasn’t so sure what to say. Yes, but not exactly? I told her the truth, but it didn’t make me feel any less sheepish.

I wish I were more enthusiastic about blow jobs. Christopher Hitchens, in 2006, made the case that the blow job is a kind of patriotic act, an "American handshake and ideal," with a rich history in our popular culture — the comics of R. Crumb, Portnoy’s Complaint, Andy Warhol’s art, and who could forget Deep Throat?

And maybe my aversion to blow jobs makes me feel un-American, or even unmasculine. Not that Alexander Portnoy, that famous misogynist, is a man to emulate. For one, I would never bang a piece of raw liver behind a billboard as I made my way to a bar mitzvah lesson. (That kind of stuff should be done in the privacy of your own bedroom.)

Still, blow jobs are like the chocolate cake of male sexual desire; it's just assumed you want them and love them and would have them at any time if you could. But I have never liked chocolate cake that much, which complicates things. To me, blow jobs often feel transactional, like a service received as opposed to a mutually beneficial act. To use an inverse example, I have enjoyed going down on women, but it's got to be with the right person because, frankly, it's a pretty intimate thing to sink your face into somebody's crotch. I don't think women (or men) are told to think about blow jobs in that way; they're more casual, at least as they're presented on TV and in the movies — you can get one under a table at a restaurant.

That’s a fitting technique, if we believe Hitchens’ other supposition about the blow job: that the term’s origin comes from Victorian times, when it was called a "below-job." (Sounds right, but it hasn’t been confirmed by anyone else.) It’s commonly believed that the term, which started to appear in the American vernacular in the 1940s or so, is an inappropriate one given that the act doesn’t involve any blowing, and it’s not really a job (though sex workers might beg to differ). The phrase, Chelsea G. Summers wrote recently in an essay, "fails to capture both the physical act of fellatio and its joy." For me, though, it’s a perfectly apt one, given that it fails to capture the exact type of joy I don’t feel.

Blow jobs are like the chocolate cake of male sexual desire; it's just assumed you want them and love them and would have them at any time if you could.

I am aware this sounds a bit privileged (shut up and enjoy your fucking blow job!) old-fashioned, and squeamish. And it is. But what can I say?

I once told a friend about my insecurity, and he fell to the ground in a fit of laughter. It made me feel stupid, though I did appreciate that he was laughing, because I think he thought it was a joke. I felt like I was in high school or middle school again, though, when that happened. Seventh or eighth grade was around the time blow jobs — or at least the mention of them — started to make their way into my social orbit. Not that I ever got one then, or wanted one — I could barely bring myself to kiss the girl I'd been going out with for seven months, let alone show her my penis — but there were people I knew who said they'd received blow jobs (or fingered their girlfriends).

We were supposed to admire them for their sexual success, but I always wondered silently about the logistics. Did he pull his pants all the way down? Or did he just unzip his fly? Perhaps he took his pants all the way off. In that case, did he take his shoes off first? And if so, did he keep his socks on? Perhaps they were completely naked. But they didn't have sex, so why would they do that? Did she compliment his penis when she first pulled it out? Or did he pull it out himself? And did he thank her after? Or did they just do the deed and move on?

I will admit that I’ve never found anybody else, aside from Johnny Fontane in The Godfather, who’s copped to the blow job blues, fellatio-phobia, or whatever else you want to call it. So, I turned to the internet. The Web abounds with message boards on which male commenters nervously pose some form of the question, "Is it weird that I don’t like blow jobs?" and their partners wonder why these men don’t enjoy blow jobs as much as they think they should. In my experience, there are several things men worry about that might turn them off or bring them down, so to speak: penis size (Does he or she think it’s big enough?), sensitivity (Will I last long enough?), and smell (Is it dank down there? Probably).

"TEETH," wrote one Reddit commenter named wild-tangent, who seems to have read The World According to Garp one too many times. "They almost ALL USE TEETH. And it's terrible. Even the best and most patient amount of instruction cannot overcome the laws of physics, and teeth sooner or later get involved, and it fucking hurts."

That’s not something I’ve ever dealt with, but I sympathize. The presence of extra foreskin isn’t the only reason my penis often shrinks like a frightened turtle at the possibility of fellatio. There are other distracting things to worry about, like, should I groan? I’ve never been good at dirty talk, but lying there silently always feels awkward.

Then, there are practical concerns, such as ejaculation. I don’t really like ejaculating. It’s messy, and it’s wet, and it smells weird. (It grosses me out, in the springtime, when the pear trees start to blossom and they smell like semen. Have you noticed?) I have never tasted my semen, and I never want to. I can’t imagine why anyone else would, which is why it strikes me as strange that the women who have given me blow jobs in the past — there aren’t many — have not stopped to discuss beforehand what we should do about the oncoming eruption. (Maybe I’m supposed to address that first — it’s complicated, I guess.) I also can’t help wondering whether or not my "spunk" is "funky," as Samantha describes Bobby Cannavale’s character’s "joy juice" in Sex and the City. That would be embarrassing.

Despite these worries, over the past year or so, I’ve made a concerted effort to just let them all go, as much as I can, and to feel more confident. It’s working, to an extent. I now have a girlfriend who says she likes giving blow jobs. For a while, I wasn’t sure I believed her, but I have chosen to trust that she wouldn’t lie about something like that. She’s opened me up a bit.

Blow jobs still make me uncomfortable, but these things take time, I suppose. I’ve spent so many years worrying about them that it feels unnatural not to, much in the same way that it’s hard for me to accept that my pediatrician, as much as I loathe his shaky hands, isn’t responsible for the way I feel about myself.

In Foreskin’s Lament, Shalom Auslander’s disturbingly funny memoir on leaving the Orthodox Jewish community, he grapples with the prospect of circumcising his as-yet-unborn son. "I wondered if there was a place where the foreskins could go," he writes, "a place where they could live together, peacefully, loved, wanted, a nation of the foreskins, by the foreskins, for the foreskins."

Lately, I’ve been trying to live in peace with my foreskin — what’s left of it, anyway.

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