For many men, their penis is so much more than just a urinary and reproductive organ. It’s their “little buddy”; it’s their boredom reliever; it’s the thing they can’t wait to show off to whomever they are able to pick up for their next sexual encounter. Many men give their penis a separate male name, as if “Herman” and they are going out to search for a date. Men feel they can wake “him” (their penis) up with a few thoughts or images, or even a light touch of their own hand or someone else’s. Men joke that the penis has its own “brain,” and sometimes thinking with their “other head” gets them into situations they would have avoided if they were thinking with the head on their shoulders. This “disembodied penis” psychology is very common in men.

But it is significantly less common in men who have had surgery on their penis, especially if that surgery has left them scarred, with different response and functioning than a penis that was spared surgery would have, or with a different appearance or size than what they think other men have. For men with hypospadias or epispadias, these kinds of concerns are more common and may lead to a sense of their penis’s not even being their own, more like it belongs to the doctors who made it. For them, the penis is to be hidden, kept secret instead of being shown off. Exposing the genitals to a potential new partner usually takes more trust and testing for a man with HS or ES. Thus fear of rejection develops, along with insecurity or even an internal sense of rejection of one’s own body and genitals.

Well, that won’t work. That complex of feelings won’t lead to a happy life or the chance for healthy partnering. In this article, I have no intention of trying to address the psychological issues that men with these feelings have to face (either on their own or in psychotherapy), other than to say that if you’re not doing well on your own, find a therapist who can help you with these concerns. What I intend to discuss here are some strategies for men who have been ignoring their penis to pay better attention to, or to be better “friends” with, their own penis.

First, this is the penis, these are the genitals you are going to have for the rest of your life. Unless you intend to have some kind of surgery, it’s not going to change. Since your body and probably your genitals have good feeling in them, it’s time to learn very well where that good feeling is, how to make that good feeling happen, and how to enjoy that good feeling first on your own and later with a partner who is interested in making you feel good.

Second, look at your body and your genitals. People generally are not comfortable looking at their bodies, let alone their genitals, but for men with HS or ES, looking at and knowing every detail of their body and their genitals are integral to their having a better sensory experience and developing the knowledge and confidence of their responses to teach to an intimate partner later on. So get a big mirror that you can see yourself in head to toe and a little mirror that you can hold in your hand to see parts of yourself that aren’t so easy to see standing and looking straight on. Like your back. And what’s between your legs.

Third, get out that paper and pencil and draw the front of your body, the back of your body, and your genitals. Now watch yourself touch every part of your body, and make notes about which parts felt good and which parts felt less good. Don’t skip any parts. After that, lie down, close your eyes (or don’t), and touch every part again. Make the notes again, and see if there are any differences in what feels good when you are looking at yourself in the mirror and when you are not looking and just touching.

You can keep doing this exercise and vary the situation by being in a hot bath, by using oil, lotion, or lubricant to touch yourself with, by using objects with textures or temperatures different from your own hand (always making notes and learning more about what feels good when), and finding out about the conditions under which you most enjoy sensual stimulation.

Of course, this will probably lead to self-stimulation of the genitals (masturbation), and it should. In this article, I am only wanting to get you to take the time to get back in touch with your whole body—to find out how much good feeling there is in all kinds of places on your body.

In the next article, let’s talk more directly about genital stimulation, genital mapping (that paper-and-pencil drawing of where and what feels good), and sexualizing the genitals you have. The goal here is for you to really enjoy, really know well, really see your HS/ES genitals, and just exactly how to make yourself feel great and how to show an intimate partner how to care for your body, probably differently than they may have paid attention to other partners’ bodies.