Definitions

castration

castration

[kas-treyt]
castration, removal of the sex glands of an animal, i.e., testes in the male, or ovaries and often the uterus in the female. Castration of the female animal is commonly referred to as spaying. Castration results in sterility, decreased sexual desire, and inhibition of secondary sex characteristics. It is performed for the purpose of improving the quality of meat and decreasing the aggressiveness of farm animals; in pet animals it prevents unwanted mating behavior, reproduction, and wandering. Removal of the sex glands in humans is sometimes necessary to prevent the spread of certain hormone-dependent cancers. Castration as a punishment or deterrent for repeat sexual offenders is a topic debated both because of questions regarding its efficacy and because of questions regarding the relative rights of offenders and their victims or potential victims.

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.

Castration in humans

The practice of castration has its roots before recorded human history. Castration was frequently used in certain cultures of Europe, the Middle East, India, Africa and China, for religious or social reasons. After battles in some cases, winners castrated their captives or the corpses of the defeated to symbolise their victory and 'seize' their power. Castrated men — eunuchs — were often admitted to special social classes and were used particularly to staff bureaucracies and palace households: in particular, the harem. Castration also figured in a number of religious castration cults. Other religions, for example Judaism and Islam, were strongly opposed to the practice. The Leviticus Holiness code, for example, specifically excludes eunuchs or any males with defective genitals from the priesthood, just as castrated animals are excluded from sacrifice.

Eunuchs in China have been known to usurp power in many eras of Chinese history, most notably in the Later Han, late Tang and late Ming Dynasties. There are similar recorded Middle Eastern events.

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.

Medical

Testicular cancer is generally treated by surgical removal of the cancerous testicle(s) (orchiectomy), often followed by radiation or chemotherapy. Unless both testicles are cancerous, only one is removed.

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.

As punishment

Involuntary castration also appears in the history of warfare, sometimes used by one side to torture or demoralize their enemies. Even when performed quickly, as by a sword strike, it is excruciatingly painful, because not only the testicles, but also the spermatic cords, are thickly wrapped in nerve fibers and extremely sensitive to impact and injury, but most castrations as punishments were performed as slowly as possible to worsen the intensity of the victim's agony and lengthen its duration. Standard practice in France from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution was to crush the condemned's testicles in a vise, which burst them as mush from the scrotum, then crunch the spermatic cords with pliers. The condemned was turned upside down in order to maximize the blood flow to his brain, after which he was unable to pass out or enter a state of shock until, perhaps, the last few seconds of his ordeal. The condemned was sure to vomit repeatedly with violent convulsions, even well after he had voided the contents of his stomach, but he rarely screamed except for an initial shriek, which immediately silenced, because the pain overwhelmed his ability to breathe. Most men would hang and thrash wildly during and after the crushing of each testicle, and their thrashing would renew upon the crushing of each spermatic cord. This torture method (accompanied by others) was usually reserved for the crime of regicide or attempted regicide. The condemned was mercifully put to death afterwards, but his torture routinely lasted for the better part of a day, witnessed by large crowds. It is interesting to note that, whereas most crowds were instructed to jeer, mock, and ridicule the condemned, and did so even during a disemboweling, and drawing and quartering, most crowds remained silent and stared with shocked expressions as a castration was carried out in this manner. Onlookers, male and female, are recorded to have vomited at the sight of the spectacle. The crushing of the spermatic cords produces a sound, which veterinarians (who routinely perform this castration procedure on anaesthetized, large livestock, such as horses) usually describe as similar to crushing an entire head of frozen celery, wrapped in rubber bands. Castration was also practised to extinguish opposing male lineages and thus allow the victor to sexually possess the defeated group's women.

Tamerlane was recorded to have castrated Armenian prisoners of war who had fought as allies of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, while others were buried alive.

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.

Another famous victim of castration was the medieval French philosopher, scholar, teacher, and (later) monk Pierre Abélard, castrated by relatives of his lover, Héloïse.

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.

Sexual

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.

For religious reasons

In Europe, when women were not permitted to sing in church or cathedral choirs in the Roman Catholic Church, boys were sometimes castrated to prevent their voices breaking at puberty and to develop a special high voice. The first documents mentioning castrati are Italian church records from the 1550s. In the baroque music era these singers were highly appreciated by Opera composers as well. Famous castrati include Farinelli, Senesino, Carestini, and Caffarelli. Joseph Haydn was almost castrated. The last castrato was Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922) who served in the Sistine Chapel Choir. However, in the late 1800s, the Roman Catholic Church, which had always considered castration to be mutilation of the body and therefore a severe sin, officially condemned the production of castrati; their castrations had been performed clandestinely in contravention of Church law.

A number of religious cults have included castration as a central theme of their practice. These include:

  • The cult of Cybele, in which devotees castrated themselves in ecstatic emulation of Attis: see Gallus.
  • Some followers of early Christianity considered castration as an acceptable way to counter sinful desires of the flesh. Origen is reported by Eusebius to have castrated himself based on his reading of the Gospel of Matthew , although there is some doubt concerning this story (Schaff considers the account genuine but cites Baur et al. in opposition). Boston Corbett was likewise inspired by this same verse to castrate himself (Corbett was the 19th-century American soldier who is generally believed to have fired the shot that killed John Wilkes Booth.) Bishop Melito of Sardis (d. ca 180) was a eunuch, according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea, though, significantly the word "virgin" was substituted in Rufino's Latin translation of Eusebius. First Canon of First Council of Nicea condemns self-castration, attesting to presence of this practice in 4th century.
  • Skoptsy
  • Heaven's Gate

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.

Chemical

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.

Medical consequences

A subject of castration who is castrated before the onset of puberty will retain a high voice, non-muscular build, and small genitals. They may well be taller than average, as the production of sex hormones in puberty – particularly testosterone – stops long bone growth. The person may not develop pubic hair and will have a small sex drive or none at all. Castrations after the onset of puberty will typically reduce sex drive considerably or eliminate it altogether. Also, castrates are automatically sterile, because the testes produce sex cells needed for sexual reproduction. The voice does not deepen with the onset of puberty. Some castrates report mood changes, such as depression or a more serene outlook on life. Body strength and muscle mass can decrease somewhat. Body hair sometimes may decrease. Castration prevents male pattern baldness if it is done before hair is lost; however, castration will not restore hair growth after hair has already been lost. Castration necessarily eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

Historically, eunuchs who additionally underwent a penectomy reportedly suffered from urinary incontinence associated with the removal of the penis, and they had their own specialist doctors.

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 in psychoanalysis and literary theory

The concept of castration plays an important role in psychoanalysis; see, e.g., castration anxiety.

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.

Castration in veterinary practice

Castration is commonly performed on domestic animals not intended for breeding. Domestic animals are usually castrated in order to avoid unwanted or uncontrolled reproduction; to reduce or prevent other manifestations of sexual behaviour such as territorial behaviour or aggression (e.g. fighting between uncastrated males of a species); or to reduce other consequences of sexual behaviour that may make animal husbandry more difficult, such as boundary/fence/enclosure destruction when attempting to get to nearby females of the species.

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.

Breeding individuals are kept entire and used for breeding: they may fetch higher prices when sold.

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.

Miscellaneous

  • Orthodox Judaism and Islam both forbid the castration of either humans or animals. In ancient Judaism, castrated animals were deemed unfit for sacrifice in the Temple (Lv. 22:24); Castrated members of the priestly caste were forbidden to enter certain parts of the Temple, to approach the altar, or to make sacrifices, although they could eat their share of the offerings (Lv. 21:16–24). Traditionally, no eunuch is allowed to convert to Judaism (Dt. 23:2, or Dt. 23:1, NRSV).
  • Castration is used as a treatment for prostate cancer.
  • Some parasitic nematodes chemically castrate their hosts, see microphallus.

See also

External links

On religious castration

  • Susan Elliott, Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul's Letter to the Galatians in Its Anatolian Cultic Context Reviews in Review of Biblical Literature

Notes

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