Many men who have had surgery to correct hypospadias are concerned about the appearance of their penis, especially to sexual partners. However, new research has found that women often consider corrected genitals to be just as normal-looking as those without hypospadias.
The findings could help hypospadias patients become less self-conscious about their genitals, the authors suggested.
Hypospadias is a congenital disorder in which the urethral meatus – the opening of the urethra – forms at another part of the penis instead of the tip. In the United States and Europe, most boys born with hypospadias have corrective surgery before their first birthday. But when they’re older, they often feel that their penises do not look normal.
A team of Swiss researchers investigated how women really feel about hypospadias-affected surgically repaired genitals (HASRGs) and the qualities of penile appearance that are most important to them.
They asked 105 women between the ages of 16 and 45 (mean age 28 years) to view twenty photosets of men’s genitals. Each photoset presented four different angles. Ten photosets showed HASRGs; the remaining ten depicted circumcised genitals. (Circumcised penises were shown in this study because they more closely resembled HASRGs.) The women were not told that “normal” genitals were included. Rather, they believed they were viewing photos of surgically corrected genitals only.
Among the HASRG photosets, six showed distal hypospadias. The rest showed a more proximal form.
The women completed a questionnaire to rate the importance of eight penile attributes: length, girth, position and shape of meatus, shape of glans, appearance of scrotum, shape of penile skin, appearance of pubic hair, and general cosmetic appearance. About half of the women responded before viewing the photos sets. The rest completed the questionnaire afterward.
Finally, the women answered questions about their own sexuality.
Overall, the women considered the circumcised genitals to be the most “normal-looking.” Photos of corrected distal hypospadias were considered just as normal-looking as the circumcised genitals. Those with proximal hypospadias were perceived as less normal-looking.
The women also rated general cosmetic appearance as the most important visual feature. The position and shape of the meatus was the least important.
Age and sexual interest appeared to influence the women’s views. Older and more sexually-interested women were more likely to rate a penis as normal-looking.
“Possibly, women develop a more realistic body image with increasing sexual experience at a higher age,” the authors wrote.
These results could benefit men with HASRGs in counseling sessions. Knowing how women view penile appearance – and that most HASRGs look similar to circumcised genitals – might reassure patients, leading to less embarrassment and shame.
The study was first published online in July in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Ruppen-Greeff, Norma Katharina, MSc, et al.
“What is a Good Looking Penis? How Women Rate the Penile Appearance of Men with Surgically Corrected Hypospadias”
(Full-text. First published online: July 20, 2015)