Castration (also referred to as: gelding, neutering, fixing, orchiectomy, and orchidectomy) is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testes. In common usage the term is usually applied to males, although as a medical term it is applied to both males and females. For more information about female castration, see oophorectomy.
In ancient times, castration often involved the total removal of all the male genitalia. This involved great danger of death due to bleeding or infection and, in some states, such as the Byzantine Empire, was seen as the same as a death sentence. Removal of only the testicles had much less risk.
In China, castration of a male who entered the caste of eunuchs during imperial times involved the removal of the whole genitalia, that is, the removal of the testes, penis, and scrotum. The removed organs were returned to the eunuch to be interred with him when he died so that, upon rebirth, he could become a whole man again. The penis, testicles, and scrotum were euphemistically termed bǎo (寶) in Mandarin Chinese, which literally means 'precious treasure'. These were preserved in alcohol and kept in a pottery jar by the eunuch.
Either surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration may be carried out in the case of prostate cancer , as hormone testosterone-depletion treatment to slow down the cancer. Similarly, testosterone-depletion treatment (either surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration) is used to greatly reduce sexual drive or interest in those with sexual drives, obsessions, or behaviors, or any combination of those that may be considered deviant. Castration in humans has been proposed, and sometimes used, as a method of birth control in certain poorer regions.
Male-to-female transsexuals often undergo orchiectomy, as do some other transgendered people. Orchiectomy may be performed as a part of more general sex reassignment surgery, either before or during other procedures, but it may also be performed on someone who does not desire, or cannot afford, further surgery.
Edward Gibbon's famous work Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire reports castration of defeated foes at the hands of the Normans. Castration has also been used in modern conflicts, as the Janjaweed militiamen attacking citizens of the Darfur region in Sudan, often castrating villagers and leaving them to bleed to death .
Sima Qian, the famous Chinese Historian, was castrated by order of the Emperor of China for dissent.
Bishop Wimund, a 12th century English adventurer and invader of the Scottish coast, was also castrated.
"Voluntary" chemical or surgical castration has been in practice in many countries—reports are available from American, Scandinavian, and European countries, in particular, for the past eighty-plus years (chemical for the last thirty or so years)—as an option for treatment for people who have broken laws of a sexual nature, allowing them to return to the community from otherwise lengthy detentions . The effectiveness and ethics of this treatment are heavily debated.
A temporary chemical castration has been studied and developed as a preventive measure and punishment for several repeated sex crimes, such as rape or other sexually related violence. Chemical castration was Alan Turing's punishment when he was convicted of "acts of gross indecency" (homosexual acts) in 1952; it resulted indirectly in his suicide.
Physical castration appears to be highly effective as, historically, it results in a 20-year re-offense rate of less than 2.3% vs. 80% in the untreated control group, according to a large 1963 study involving a total of 1036 sex offenders by the German researcher A. Langelüddeke, among others , much lower than what was otherwise expected compared to overall sex offender recidivism rates.
Castration play is one of many fetishes within the BDSM community although it is not as well known by the mainstream. In castration play, one simulates the effects of castration without an actual castration ocurring.
A number of religious cults have included castration as a central theme of their practice. These include:
While expels castrated men from the assembly of Israel,, gives a much more accepting view of eunuchs, and in Acts 8:34-39, a eunuch is baptized.
In the case of chemical castration, ongoing regular injections of anti-androgens are required.
Chemical castration seems to have a greater effect on bone density than physical castration. Since the development of teriparatide, this severe bone loss has been able to be reversed in nearly every case. At this time there is a limitation on the use of this medication to 24 months until the long-term use is better evaluated.
With the advent of chemical castration, physical castration is not generally recommended by the medical community unless medically necessary or desired.
Without hormone replacement therapy (HRT), typical symptoms (similar to those experienced by menopausal women) include hot flashes; gradual bone density loss, possibly resulting in osteopenia and/or osteoporosis; potential weight gain or redistribution of body fat to the hips and/or chest. Replacement of testosterone via gel, patches, or injections, can largely reverse these effects, although breast enlargement has also been reported as a possible side effect of testosterone usage.
Castration also plays an important role in psychoanalytically-influenced literary theory, for example Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence. Poetry can also be seen as castrating, with male poets either being castrated through being outdone by their male predecessors (as in Bloom), or male poets (and even mere readers) being castrated by the force of the female sublime as conveyed to them through poetry (as in Maxwell). Catherine Maxwell identifies Philomela as being castrated by Tereus when he rapes and mutilates her.
Male horses are usually castrated (gelded) using emasculators, because stallions are rather aggressive and troublesome. The same applies to male mules, although they are sterile. Male cattle are castrated to improve muscling and docility for use as oxen.
Livestock may be castrated when used for food in order to increase growth or weight or both of individual male animals and because of the undesirable taste and odor of the meat from sexually mature males. In domestic pigs the taint is caused by androstenone and skatole concentrations stored in the fat tissues of the animal after sexual maturity. It is released when the fat is heated and has a distinct odor and flavor that is widely considered unpalatable to consumers. Consequently, in commercial meat production, male pigs are either castrated shortly after birth or slaughtered before they reach sexual maturity. Recent research in Brazil has shown that castration of pigs is unnecessary because most pigs do not have the 'boar taint'. This is due to many breeds of pigs simply not having the heredity for the boar taint and the fact that pigs are normally slaughtered at a young market weight.
In the case of pets, castration is usually called neutering, and is encouraged to prevent overpopulation of the community by unwanted animals, and to reduced certain diseases such as prostate disease and testicular cancer in male dogs (oophorectomy in female pets is often called spaying). Testicular cancer is rare in dogs, but prostate problems are somewhat common in unaltered male dogs when they get older. Neutered individuals have a much lower risk of developing prostate problems in comparison, except for prostate cancer, for which there is an increased risk. Unaltered male cats are more likely to develop an obstruction in their urethra, preventing them from urinating to some degree; however neutering does not seem to make much difference statistically because many neutered toms also have the problem. A specialized vocabulary has arisen for neutered animals of given species:
An incompletely castrated male in livestock species (horse and cattle) is known as a rig.
Methods of veterinary castration include instant surgical removal, the use of an elastrator tool to secure a band around the testicles that disrupts the blood supply, the use of a Burdizzo tool or emasculators to crush the spermatic cords and disrupt the blood supply, pharmacological injections and implants and immunological techniques to inoculate the animal against its own sexual hormones.
Certain animals, like horses and swine, are usually surgically treated with a scrotal castration (which can be done with the animal standing while sedated and after local anaesthetic has been applied), while others, like dogs and cats, are anaesthetised and recumbent when surgically castrated with a pre-scrotal incision in the case of dogs, or a pre-scrotal or scrotal incision used for cats.
In veterinary practice an "open" castration refers to a castration in which the inguinal tunic is incised and not sutured. A "closed" castration refers to when the procedure is performed so that the inguinal tunic is sutured together after incision.