The Rod: A phallo erectile implant & bottom surgery

A doodle showing the intrapenile prosthesis the trans community calls “the rod”. In contrast to “the pump”, it’s one piece, bendable, & semi-rigid.

A new doodle! This is a drawing of the phalloplasty erectile implant we call “the rod”. I’ll give background info and an image description.

Just in case someone reading this is at a 101-beginner level, a penis built during trans phalloplasty typically does not have the ability to achieve an erection without an implant. Natural erection requires a special spongy tissue which is not given in our phallo grafting. We do get erections in the natal erectile tissue, and that natal glans and shaft developed by testosterone can be embedded in the phallo penis. However, we do need assistance to get the kind of erection which allows for normative penetration.

{Exception: There is an older technique which uses a muscle implanted in the penis, and consciously contracting the muscle produces an erection. This only works for some people with that surgery, however. It is done in association with MLD, the back/flank donor site. It is still used in Serbia.}

{Second exception: There is another older technique which utilized an implant of bone into the penis, so that the penis would be semirigid due to the bone within. This is still used in Asia.}

More basics, the two medical implants given to allow for erection are of two types: “the rod” or “the pump”. Pills like Viagra, penis rings, and erection injections will not work for us. I personally had the pump implanted; it is a three-piece hydraulic system which transfers fluid from an abdominal reservoir into the erectile cylinders. The cylinders each function as a prosthetic corpus cavernosa.

Going back, here’s a reminder of what I have going on:

Doodle of the phallo erection given by the pump mechanism,
such as AMS 700 series or the Coloplast Titan.
It allows for a fully flaccid state and a fully erect state.

Usually, it is a tough decision for trans people who want to be able to get an erection post-op: the rod or the pump?

What is it?
In my drawing of the semirigid rod, such as Coloplast Genesis or AMS Spectra, I showed how it looks outside the body, before surgery, and after surgery. The rod is firm enough for penetration but not so firm that it looks detectable when in the downward position. When you’re researching, most of the cisgender-aimed discussion spaces will frame this as for erectile dysfunction, and cisgender discussion will usually call the device an IPP— “intrapenile prosthetic”— since it is prosthetic penile corpora. Knowing the different community slang can help you find the cross-useful experience information.

On acronyms
I think it’s confusing the way trans people abbreviate this implant an ED, for “erectile device”, since that’s super commonly the abbreviation for “erectile dysfunction”. Yikes, we need new acronyms.)

The testicles
In the doodle, I show what the testicle looks like when it is still in the packaging. I got the chance to handle one of the prosthetics while I was with Dr. Devin O’Brien-Coon. There are a variety of sizes, and sometimes you will get a chance to see what they might be like. You have some say in what kind of size is your goal, but you might be limited by the amount of tissue available from the scrotum.

How do trans people like the rod?
I know a handful of post-op phalloplasty trans people who have the rod. The dispel the myth that it cannot “pass” as cisgender. Since this implant has been given to thousands of cisgender men, it is not anything which would “out” you as trans. If you want to be ‘just like any other guy’, it’s super normal to have erectile dysfunction. When cisgender men don’t get improvement from other erectile dysfunction therapies, the next course is this surgical option. As a plus, it’s an extremely reliable erection— when you want it, it is always ready and lasts as long as you like. When you’re done, it’s almost instant to put it away back into the downward position. That could be a perk to you or a partner.

How is the functionality for penetration?
For both the rod and the pump, it’s firm enough to penetrate a partner anally, vaginally, orally, or just about however you like explore. You won’t lose an erection for any of the ordinary reasons. I have heard stories of some lesser-skilled surgeons implanting too short a rod or too long a rod. That’s a risk for erosion for you and a risk of not being able to use your penis for penetration if it is too short. It has to be custom sized to your body. That’s trie for the rod and the pump. All their partners are into it and usually think it’s cool for all the perks over a natal erection,.

What’s an advantage of the rod over the pump?
Being one piece, the rod does not have many parts to break. It is likely to be reliable for decades. Of course, you may want to upgrade to a new model under new technology in the future, so if it needs replacing on down the line, that may be an opportunity rather than a problem. It’s considered very sturdy, simple, and reliable. The disadvantage, to some people, is a single state. I’m trying not to let my bias come through in my own decision to get the pump, so I am retelling aspects which excited people who got the pump. Clearly the single state (semirigid) is just fine for a whole heck of a lot of people. You don’t have to use the rod now and then to keep the mechanisms healthy; you could even get it and forget it until you want to use it. It doesn’t look bad in pants at all, not obscene in the slightest.

Myths and common fears
I often hear the fear that maybe, if someone got the rod, maybe they couldn’t play sports ever again. This isn’t accurate. Now, some very high impacts could force the rod to come unanchored, but those kind of impacts could cause genital damage to anyone with any body set-up. Maybe if you are a stunt actor or martial artist you should discuss the risk reduction in a fully flaccid state. For most people, I don’t think sports are going to make the rod a deal-breaker. That’s what my surgeon said, anyway.

Who was your surgeon?
I had my erectile implant put in by Dr. Arthur Burnett, Johns Hopkins urologist in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He has been working with erectile implants for thirty years, and I felt very blessed to be in such experienced hands. He implants both types of surgical erectile implants, both rod and pump. Dr. Burnett is a member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health, which managed my surgeries.

Hit me up if you have any questions I might be able to answer for you about the rod or the pump 🙂

~enbytex, 3.5 years postop phallo

Leave a Reply