Tag Archives: prostatectomy

Regrets, taboos and erections

Cerne Abbas Giant

Recently I came across a blog post by Nimue Brown about naked men in which she notes that

In our wider society, the naked male body is a serious taboo, and nothing is less socially acceptable than a willy in a state of arousal.

Nimue is right of course. There are few greater taboos. The shelves of newsagents are full of breasts and fannies, but you won’t find an erection on display in W H Smiths. There is much said about the negative effect on women, and on men’s perception of women, of the rows of lads’ mags and endless airbrushed, sexualised images. Something that’s less talked about is the impact of taboos and the shame that they engender. I’m generally pretty comfortable with my body and comfortable with being naked—I’m probably one of the naked men Nimue is referring too. But no-one but a lover has ever seen me aroused and I would be absolutely mortified if they did. The strong taboo that our society places around erections has left me with a sense of shame about a completely natural reaction in my body.

A prostatectomy—removal of the prostate to treat prostate cancer—plays havoc with the ability to have erections. Thanks to a very skilled surgeon, a constant supply of Viagra and its more modern relatives and a fabulously supportive and sexy partner, my sex life is steadily recovering, but with about 30% of the nerves that control erections lost during surgery I know that my erections will never be the same as they were before. And there I have a regret.

The glorious majesty of a full, strong erection is lost to me forever. It is a fading memory, like so much of my younger years. But for many of those other memories I have mementos. Shamed by the taboo, though, I have no record of something that was an important part of me and my life for many years. I never took a photograph of my erect cock.

Pants and prostatectomies

They tell you a lot of stuff around a prostatectomy—before, during and after. Well not actually during, hopefully you’re fast asleep during, but definitely before and after. They talk about incontinence and impotence and pain management and deep vein thrombosis and catheter care and all sorts of other stuff. But nobody mentions pants[1].

Which is bad. Because there’s a lot you need to know about pants if you’re having a prostatectomy. Here’s what I’ve learnt,  in the hope that it might save some of you the pain of having to work it out for yourself.

Forget boxers. Boxers are bad. By which I mean the loose type. And that’s the big thing to know. Somewhere you’re maybe thinking “after all that surgery, I want loose, comfortable clothing”. No you don’t.

You’ll leave hospital with a catheter in. And probably with instructions to try to move, to go for a walk each day. You might think loose pants are good because they won’t trap the tube. That’s the least of your problems.

The thing is, when you go for a walk in loose, comfortable pants your willy swings about. And the tube that’s stuck in it swings about. And with each little swing it rubs a little. And before long the inside of your willy is getting mighty annoyed about this and decides to let you know the only way it knows how—by really hurting. Wear tight, close fitting pants. It’ll save you a lot of pain.

I didn’t work this out until the day before my catheter was removed, not until after a long walk around a local park. Fortunately, when my wife had collected me from hospital someone had left have a tube of lidocaine containing gel on the table by my bed, and she had the forethought to figure it might come in useful…

Once the catheter is out you’re going to pee yourself. Hopefully not much and not for long, but it’s going to happen, and nothing anyone says to you beforehand will prepare for just how humiliating this feels when it does. So you’re going to need pads. And pads are no damn use in loose pants. Once again you’re going to need something close fitting.

Close fitting pants come in a variety of designs. Which is best? All of them. No, that’s not any of them. It’s all of them. Make sure you have lots of different pants. Why? The pant wearing is relentless. There is no respite (OK, the bath, but how long can you spend in the bath?). You’ll be wearing pants all night as well as all day. And the pressure of the waist band on the wound really starts to irritate. So stock up on pants. Each time you buy pants in the run up to surgery, ask yourself these things:

  • Are they close fitting?
  • Is the waist band in a different place to all the other pants I own?

If you can answer yes to both questions, these are good pants. Even if they have a fuzzy, pink ‘My Little Pony’ design on them. Forget the look. Go for comfort.

  1. American readers please note: I’m British. ‘Pants’ to me are smaller and worn closer to the skin than your pants. This article is about underwear, underpants []