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To evaluate retrospectively the postoperative genital function, the local recurrence, and the survival rate impacted by laparoscopic or open surgery for rectal cancer (RC) in male patients.A total of 398 male RC patients after laparoscopic or open total mesorectal excision (TME) of rectomy (205 patients in the TME with laparoscopy group, and 193 patients in the control group) were included in our study, between October 1997 and December 2013. Postoperative genital function, local recurrence, and the 5-year survival rate were analyzed, retrospectively.The rate of erection dysfunction was lower in the laparoscopic group (60.0%) than in the open group (82.4%, P<0.05); the rate of ejaculation dysfunction in the laparoscopic group (56.6%) was also lower than in the open group (82.4%, P<0.05). No significant difference was found regarding the local recurrence (P=0.87) and the survival rate (P=0.17). Interestingly, for patients with preoperative obstruction, the survival rate was lower in the laparoscopy group compared with the control group (P=0.002).Laparoscopic surgery should be recommended for mid-RC or low-RC patients to preserve the postoperative genital function. However, for patients with preoperative obstruction, laparoscopy surgery was not recommended.