Re-Membering Your Manhood: What Penile Transplants Mean for the Future of Sex

It’s no longer science fiction

I love my husband, and I prefer to think of him in one piece. Still, we are registered organ donors, April is National Donate Life Month, and there’s something sweet about his heart, um, going on (sorry, Celine Dion fans). I’m less sentimental about most of the other parts: kidneys, lungs, liver—if it’s part of the offal food trend, I’m probably okay with sending it elsewhere. Corneas, skin…getting a little squeamish here, but I can take a deep breath and accept. His penis, though? On someone else? Uh…

It’s no longer science fiction. Johns Hopkins Medical Center just did the first complete penis and scrotum transplant for an injured veteran. It’s amazing to think that medicine can offer this step toward not only physical reconstruction, but also toward rebuilding such an important part of masculine identity. It’s a big damn deal that it’s now possible. And yet, when it comes down to the personal over the abstract, and we’re talking about reusing my husband’s equipment on someone else…I’m having a bit of trouble.

The halo of moral uprightness associated with such selflessness should win me over here. Giving this most intimate piece of my husband to someone in need? That’s serious Mother Teresa-type potential right there, like those kind souls you see in the human-interest section of People, surrounded by donor recipients whose lives were saved by the piecemeal distribution of their loved one. But I can’t quite wrap my brain around distributing all the pieces. Could I maybe hold that specific one back?

Why is a penis so different? What about this makes me cringe, when I’m completely fine with hypothetically doling out all his other organs like Halloween candy? Well, for one thing, I’ve got way more knowledge of this part than, say, his spleen. I have also enjoyed it a great deal more than I’ve ever enjoyed his spleen. So maybe it’s not completely shocking then that some primitive part of me is like, “Hey, no, that’s mine!” Not literally, like I’ve had it bar-coded or something, but it’s been on an exclusive long-term loan for some time now. My altruistic impulse comes to an embarrassingly selfish screeching halt when I realize that a transplant would mean that, somewhere in the world, his penis would be—extramarital.
While I’m not crazy about making my husband’s penis his legacy, I do love the idea of the renewed hope and happiness it might bring to someone else—and that’s a damn good way to live on.
I’m troubled by the idea of another person putting it to use. I suppose the likely scenario for donation means I’m a grieving widow. So, while I’m drowning in my vale of tears, his dick is out there partying with someone else? I don’t think so. 

Is it weird to be fixated on infidelity post-mortem? Possibly. I mean, most wedding vows do include some variation on “’til death do us part.” Surely that means that after death, parting with the penis is advisable. It’s not like I plan to keep it, so why not put it to good use, find it a new home? Except there is a distinct difference between passing along jeans that no longer fit and recycling your husband’s junk.

Maybe I can make peace with it by defining acceptable vs. unacceptable circumstances. “Acceptable” would include situations like this one: helping a wounded veteran. An injured soldier would deserve his penis, and, even if the idea of it roaming around somewhere out in the world freaks me out, the nobility of the gesture would tip the balance. Also acceptable? Gender reassignment. It must be incredibly hard to feel like you’re trapped in the wrong body. If a male-identifying person could add on a functional guy package without needing to create one from skin harvested elsewhere on their body, my husband would want to offer that help.

“Unacceptable” would include cosmetic improvement, because is there the slightest doubt that there’d be a market in penile upgrades? Maybe make some improvements on what Nature provided—correcting a problematic angle, leveling up on size or girth? Sorry, dudes, but I’d be feeling much less generous about facilitating makeovers. A friend who used to work for a urologist said she could just imagine the jokes already circulating through that office—and the anticipated requests.

Clearly, then, I’m not alone in my skepticism about future intentions for donor penises—picture it: dick deep freeze, frozen penises as far as the eye can see. Realistically, though, it’s unlikely guys are going to get that level of personal shopping anytime soon. The reality of the situation is that this transplant, and others like it, are about restoring physical and psychological well-being—not creating an ego boost for someone who doesn’t like what he was dealt.

While I’m not crazy about making my husband’s penis his legacy, I do love the idea of the renewed hope and happiness it might bring to someone else—and that’s a damn good way to live on.

Photo credit: Maya2008

Become a Keyholder and experience perks of the Playboy Club

Unlock Playboy’s Exclusive Content - Become a Key Holder

Related Topics

Staff Picks

Explore Categories