While congruent evidence indicates that sexual selection is the most likely selective force explaining the rapid divergence of male genital morphology in insects, the mechanisms involved in this process remain unclear. In particular, little attention has been paid to precopulatory sexual selection. We examine sexual selection for mating success on male genital components in six populations of Aquarius remigis, a water strider characterized by unique genital morphology. Multivariate selection analysis confirms previous findings that precopulatory sexual selection favours longer external genitalia, and provides new evidence that this selection acts independently on external genital components. In contrast, the size of the major internal genital sclerite is not correlated with mating success. Thus, precopulatory sexual selection acts strongly on the size of the external genitalia, but not on the intromittent organ itself. These results highlight the multiple functions of genital organs and the importance of both precopulatory and post-copulatory sexual selection in shaping the remarkable diversity of male genitalia in insects.