I don't know where else to turn with this problem, and I've never seen it mentioned anywhere: I have hair that grows halfway up my penis on the top, and two-thirds of the way up on the bottom. It's gross and embarrassing, and there seems to be more of it every week. I've been shaving for a couple of years, but within hours, I have unsightly and uncomfortable stubble on my cock. Plus, I can't shave every day--the skin gets too sensitive. And I have to worry about nicking myself, getting ingrown hairs, and the lack of spontaneity in my sex life (because I have to prep). What I need to know is if electrolysis will work on the sensitive skin of the penis. Will it damage the skin? Could the electricity impair normal functioning? Do the home electrolysis machines advertised on TV work? If not, is there any place in New York that does this kind of work, and how much does it cost? Help!
On your behalf, I spoke at length with two professional electrologists--one in San Francisco, one in New York. Unfortunately, after these conversations I didn't understand the process any better than I did before I picked up the phone. So I called the person I probably should have called in the first place for the jargon-free dope--my transsexual pal Judith.
Judith has undergone 36 hours of electrolysis, all on her face. Does it hurt? "Yes, it hurts like hell--unless you have the area being worked on deadened with an injected anesthetic like lidocaine. Some people take a kind of heavy-duty aspirin, others try topical creams. But the people I know that have done the pills and creams say it's still very painful. Go to a place where they can give you an injection, just like at the dentist. You won't feel 95 percent of the zaps."
The zaps? "Yes, zaps. A tiny little thread of metal--you can barely see it--is inserted into a hair follicle. The 'probe' delivers a very brief, very intense little electric blast to the root. The zap kills the root, and then you lift the hair right out. And because you've killed the root, the hair doesn't grow back.
"Good electrologists use expensive probes that are insulated all the way around, except at the very tip," which concentrates the zap on the root. "With cheap, uninsulated probes, you feel the zap the length of the probe, which irritates the skin around the follicle, resulting in more swelling and possibly even scarring."
What about weenies? "The place I go to doesn't do them. They had trouble with a couple of clients early on who made the electrologist uncomfortable." How so? "They were getting hard-ons, and one guy came. They didn't want to deal with that kind of stuff, so they stopped doing genital work."
The electrologist I spoke with in San Francisco--who did not want her name to appear in my column--doesn't do weenies either. "I don't know who's calling me for an appointment, you know? It could be some weirdo," SF explained. But what if someone really needs work done on his weenie? "Go see an electrologist for something else, your back or something. Maybe the electrologist will feel comfortable enough with you after a while that she will consider doing your genitals." Would she do a regular client's weenie? "If it was an existing client, someone I felt comfortable with and trusted, yes, I would consider it."
When I asked Aaron Bernstein, a certified clinical electrologist in Manhattan, about the reluctance of some electrologists to do weenie work, he sounded genuinely shocked. "This man's problem is really very common. I've done many cases like his." Has he encountered pervs, customers in it for weenie zappin' thrills? "Hardly. The people that I've had to do this for--they are not here for the 'thrill,' believe me."
Mr. Bernstein rejects the term "zapping," however: "We insert a sterile probe into the follicle, a natural skin opening. Then we release a radio frequency which causes the tissue of the papilla [the root] to oscillate at a high rate of speed, destroying the hair-growing cells in the follicle."
Sounds like zapping to me, but Mr. Bernstein assured me that "the tip of the probe never gets hot."
And all three assured me that electrolysis will work on your weenie's sensitive skin. "The most sensitive skin on a person's body is on the face," said Judith, "and most electrolysis is done on faces." Nor will the zapping impair your weenie's normal functioning. Judith's sensitive face, after a full 36 hours of zapping, is lovely, hairless, and fully functional.
As for the course of action you've taken up until now, SF says "shaving, tweezing, and waxing are the worst things to do. The ripping causes blood to rush to the papilla, nourishing the roots, causing you to grow more, and tougher, hair." Which would explain why, after a couple of years of shaving the hair off your weenie, there seems to be "more of it every week." Hair, not weenie.
Both our NYC and SF electrologists had low opinions of home electrolysis machines--as one would expect them to. Lawyers have low opinions of home "last will and testament" kits; sex advice columnists have low opinions of "professional psychotherapists." But Judith, who is not a provider but a consumer, had an even lower opinion of home kits than the professional hair-zappers. "Trained electrologists do better work than untrained ones," she said. "Unless you've been trained, you may damage or scar your skin." And should you choose to DIY, you won't have access to those lidocaine shots--so that home machine is guaranteed to hurt, "hurt lots." Judith pays $88 an hour for her treatment, a fee at the high end (Mr. Bernstein charges $80 an hour), so her 36 hours of treatment have set her back more than $3,000. "You can find cheaper, even half as cheap, but they're probably not very experienced, or they're using substandard equipment," she warns. "You'll save money, but it will hurt more, and you may end up with scars. Electrolysis is nothing to scrimp on."
Don't weep for Judith though: compared with some transsexuals, she's been very fortunate. "Some people need two or three hundred hours, and that's just for their faces. I have practically no body hair. I was just lucky to be a transsexual born into a relatively hairless body--not that there's any correlation between hairlessness and being transsexual."
When you select an electrologist, Mr. Bernstein suggests you look for a board-certified professional, then go in for a complimentary consultation and a short treatment, "to experience it." Judith thinks it's important that you feel comfortable with your electrologist, "considering where you'll be having the work done," so feel free to shop around.
Finally, you ask if I know of anyone in New York who does this sort of work. Well, obviously, I do: Mr. Bernstein. How I made his acquaintance may interest you, and the great numbers of people who send me similar requests for professional referrals. I looked him up in the motherfucking phone book. E comes right between D and F in the alphabet and the yellow pages. Always has. You can call Aaron Bernstein, R. Ph., C.C.E., F.E.S.N.Y., at the Gloria Danti Electrolysis Center in Manhattan (168 W. 86th, 212-787-3656). If you don't hit it off, there are about 200 other electrologists listed in the Manhattan Yellow Pages. Jeez.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.