Suddenly Sterile is not Just a Word


Men's Health
Author Martin Flanagan

Melbourne writer and author, Martin Flanagan, perhaps best known for his pieces on the mystical workings of AFL football, talks about the fears, anxieties and results of his vasectomy.
Ask most men who've had a vasectomy and they'll say, “It's nothing”. I don't reckon it is nothing.

Is it painful? Not if that's the word you use for what women experience giving birth. I count seeing my wife give birth as one of the great privileges of my life. Maybe I didn't read the happening exactly as I should have, but the awe I felt wasn't for the newborn, but for the woman.

I've always had it in my mind that one day I'd have a vasectomy. It seemed the fair and reasonable thing to do, and I never believed the nonsense about it making men fat or eliminating their sex drive. Then one day I heard a bloke on 3CR read a poem in which he likened polluting the world's waterways to the effect of the contraceptive pill on a woman's body. From that moment I was gone.

When my wife turned 40, and I knew she genuinely didn't want any more kids, the time for a decision had come. For a while, I thought “But what if…” But what if my wife died and I married again? Then one day I realised I was budgeting on my wife dying. It seemed to make more sense to budget on her living. I told my brother, a doctor.

“Leave it to me,” he said in that cavalier tone of elder brothers. “I'll get you knackered.”

Mine was done under a local anaesthetic. I've been asked to say for the purpose of this article what the experience was like. Unpleasant is the word I would use. Like a trip to the dentist when he has his hands in your mouth for a little longer than you would really want him to.

And afterwards? Afterwards it felt like the time I collected a delivery from Glenorchy fast bowler Dennis Vert square in the groin, a great orange heat radiating outwards from the area between my legs. But, like the cricket injury, soon gone.

That was the physical side. The only person who suggested to me that the experience might possess another dimension was Michael Leunig. Were a woman to undergo a similar operation, I think it would be presumed that there would be some psychological reaction. Why should men be totally immune to such feelings? Suddenly, sterile's not a word in the dictionary any more. It's you and that fact has to be accommodated by the subconscious as well as the conscious mind. Again, not a big deal, one restless night, but I believe these things should be admitted.

Do I regret having a vasectomy? No. I'd recommend it. I see it as a genuine investment in the future. I have a happier wife, a more free marriage. But I don't agree with men who say that having a vasectomy is nothing. It's not a big thing, but it is something.

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