If you’re a man of a certain age, there may come a point in your life when it’s time to tap out of the procreation ring of fire. Maybe you have your hands full with a couple kids already. Maybe you’re of the one-and-done ilk, and wish to spoil your only child until they closely resemble a supporting character from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Maybe you just don’t like children altogether.
Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to get a vasectomy, a procedure in which the otherwise valuable vas deferens is clipped and sealed off, preventing sperm produced by the testes from mixing into your semen.
A successful vasectomy means you’ll forever rid yourself of the possibility of undesired diaper changings, student financial aid form filings and streaming-channel password sharings. Still, you’re probably understandably reticent about the prospect of going under the knife. You’ve always valued your balls, and observed their sensitivity to everything from being kicked to flicked to squeezed to brushed lightly across an armrest. Not to mention, the idea of having them torn open so that part of a prime semen duct can be ripped out sounds like it might impact your sex life.
But worry no more. We’ll take it from here — well, in the information department, that is (you’re on your own for the sex part). Or to get straight to the point, here’s what sex and masturbation might be like for you after your cherished family jewels undergo the snip.
First, Some Soreness
As is the case with all surgeries, you’re going to be a little tender afterward. But since vasectomies tend to be relatively quick and noninvasive, it’s probably not going to be catastrophic. In fact, Marc Goldstein, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery at the Weill Cornell Medical Center and author of The Vasectomy Book: A Complete Guide to Decision Making, says his personal-best vasectomy surgery took just three minutes and 45 seconds. While the typical vasectomy takes longer, it’s not that much longer, as you’ll usually be in and out in about 20 or 30 minutes.
After the procedure, patients can expect soreness in the scrotal area to last roughly a week, though discomfort can linger for as many as six weeks, when healing is about complete. Freshly cut vasectomy patients also shouldn’t shower for a couple days, and are advised to abstain from any strenuous activity, as well as ejaculation, for at least a week.
“They can take anti-inflammatories; they can even sit in warm baths,” Goldstein says. “I usually recommend wearing a scrotal support — a jock strap — for at least a week, because the main physical support for a man’s testicles, which weigh about an ounce each, is the vas [deferens].”
Then, Your First Sperm-Free Emission
If you make it through the period of soreness, and your post-vasectomy fertility tests show the desired results, just about the only thing keeping your first post-op orgasm from being enjoyable is your own nerves. Such was the case 10 years ago for Victor, a 36-year-old public safety worker in Las Vegas. There was “slight nervousness hoping all the plumbing still worked,” he admits.
Thankfully, most patients have nothing to worry about. “The first thing I say to reassure them, is that they and their partners won’t notice any change in the amount [of ejaculate] that comes out, what it looks like, what it smells like or what it tastes like,” Goldstein says. The only difference is that a guy’s post-surgery load is devoid of reproductive sperm, which he says only makes up two to three percent of a normal ejaculate anyway.
Post-vasectomy sex should also feel just as pleasurable as sex before the procedure, with no decreased libido or trouble with erections. “Physically, [it was] absolutely normal, nothing changed,” Victor says of his sexual performance after the procedure. He asked his girlfriend at the time if his ejaculate looked or tasted any differently, and she responded in the negative.
That said, not all men hobble away side-effect free…
Some Do See a Lighter Load
Van, a 34-year-old taxi dispatch operator from the U.K., says the only side effect from his vasectomy, which he had three years ago, has been no babies and about a five-percent reduction in ejaculate that he and his partner notice every now and then. He also says his loads appear “thinner” from time to time. His urologist had informed him of this potential side effect; however, Van wonders if the thinning could be due to a lack of hydration, which certainly could be the case. It’s also possible he’s observing the slight change brought about by the absence of sperm.
“He said the effects vary from man to man,” Van writes over email, referring to his urologist. “Some experience thinning, or lack of volume, or change in texture or taste. All could happen to varying degrees, but personally, the only consistent change is the slight reduction in volume.”
Oh, and Watch out for Leftover Blood
The first time or two a man ejaculates after a vasectomy, some bloody, brownish residue still trapped in the pumps may turn up in the load. Goldstein — and many other medical resources online — say it’s somewhat common.
Victor says he was warned about that, which kept him from freaking out the first couple times he jerked his gherkin, and observed some discoloration. “That’ll wash itself out very quickly,” Goldstein offers.
Sometimes, It Can Hurt
Several men tell me they’ve experienced chronic pain after their vasectomies, ranging from mild to extreme. Others complain that their vasectomy adversely affected their testosterone levels, and as a result, they must get injected with the hormone on a regular basis.
“Ethan,” a 42-year-old Pennsylvania software engineer, says he experienced much discomfort in his scrotum, including one debilitating episode after a sneeze, for as long as 10 months after his vasectomy. Eventually, the pain subsided to tolerable levels, though, two and a half years after the procedure, he says his body hasn’t returned to normal. Throughout this ordeal, which has brought him to multiple specialists, his sexual pleasure and libido have been severely compromised.
“It doesn’t feel great,” Ethan says of sex. “Ejaculating feels kind of like coughing instead of sneezing. With sneezing you have this super intense, kind of burst of euphoria when you sneeze, and when you cough, you don’t get any of that. That’s a big loss.”
He says because of his discomfort and worry, he and his wife have sex “once a month, if that,” when, prior to the procedure, they were engaging in intercourse on at least a weekly basis. “The doctors will tell you, up and down, they’ll swear that this doesn’t affect testosterone,” he tells me. “And yet, a lot of things will affect testosterone, even stress can affect testosterone. So it’s kind of funny [when they also say], ‘Surgery on your groin? Well, that certainly can’t affect it.’”
He’s researched the many health problems that can stem from a vasectomy gone wrong, and founded the subreddit r/postvasectomypain, where people share stories of their troubles. “No Sex Drive,” reads one post. “My husband had a vasectomy 5 years ago and after 6 months he lost his sex drive and we are now at the point of having no sex at all.” Another says: “When I tried to have sex about a week later I found I was unable to get a proper erection. A month later, no change. Now 15 years later I still can’t get a proper erection if I get any at all.”
Ethan says he maintains the subreddit to get the word out to the general public that vasectomies aren’t at all risk-free, like many doctors, in his opinion, seem to let on. “It really p*sses me off that doctors say that this isn’t going to happen, because they should be saying that it could happen,” he tells me. “It doesn’t happen most of the time, but it could.”
Still, You’ll Probably Be Fine — If Not Better Than Before
Thankfully, severe side effects like Ethan’s are rare. In fact, it appears as though more men report that vasectomies improved their sex lives. Case in point: A survey out of Frankfurt University in Germany found that vasectomized men, as well as their partners, reported increased sexual satisfaction after a successful procedure.
“It was kind of weird because your entire life you’re used to, as a male, [being] worried about, Oh man, I’ve got to be safe, and pull out, use protection, whatever,” Victor says. “But after the vasectomy, you’re not worried at all; it’s like, Damn, no matter what, I can’t get anyone pregnant!”
Many men who responded to my call for sources reported similar outcomes, and Goldstein notes that, because of this phenomenon, vasectomies have been used purely as sexual rejuvenation procedures for older men. (Sigmund Freud once underwent the snip to help treat a form of cancer and said it boosted his sexual performance). “There is some physiologic rationale to that,” Goldstein explains. “There’s actually a little bit of testosterone in the vasal fluid, which normally comes out when you ejaculate. After a vasectomy, you’re absorbing that testosterone back into your body.”
And also, again, because erectile dysfunction can be tied to stress, not worrying about unwanted pregnancies is, as Victor explained, certainly a plus. Erich certainly seconds that notion. He says he has “numerous piercings” on his penis, and his vasectomy has meant no more worries over destroyed condoms.
“I did indeed have two [pregnancy] scares because of that,” Erich writes over email. “With the piercings, I feel freer to experiment with them knowing there’s no pregnancy possibility, which also enhances the experience for her. I don’t care if [a condom] shreds now. There’s no background noise of, ‘Holy crap, I hope it doesn’t break!’ That can only be a good thing!”