Castration (also known as orchiectomy or orchidectomy) is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which an individual loses use of the testicles: the male gonad. Surgical castration is bilateral orchidectomy (excision of both testes), and chemical castration uses pharmaceutical drugs to deactivate the testes. Castration causes sterilization (preventing the castrated person or animal from reproducing); it also greatly reduces the production of certain hormones, such as testosterone. Surgical castration in animals is often called neutering.
The equivalent of castration for female animals is spaying. Estrogen levels drop following oophorectomy, and long-term effects of the reduction of sex hormones are significant throughout the body. Castration of non-human animals is intended to favor a desired development of the animal or of its habits, as an anaphrodisiac or to prevent overpopulation. As above, see neutering for more information on castration of non-human animals.
The term castration may also be sometimes used to refer to emasculation where both the testicles and the penis are removed together. In some cultures, and in some translations, no distinction is made between the two. This can cause confusion.
It is unknown when castration was first practiced, nor where it was invented. It may be that it arose independently in more than one place, but there is evidence that it was practiced as far back as 4,000 BC based on descriptions in the cult of Ishtar and Uruk. It may have arisen in the Neolithic period in response to animal husbandry, rising populations and population specialisation.
Castration was frequently used for religious or social reasons in certain cultures in Europe, South Asia, Africa, and East Asia. After battles, winners sometimes castrated their captives or the corpses of the defeated to symbolize 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, such as Judaism, 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 had 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 emasculation or 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.
Either surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration may be carried out in the case of prostate cancer. Testosterone-depletion treatment (either surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration) is used to slow down the cancer, greatly reduce sex drive or interest in those with sexual drives, obsessions, or behaviors, or any combination of those that may be considered deviant.
Trans women often undergo orchiectomy, as do some other transgender people. Orchiectomy may be performed as part of a more general sex reassignment surgery, either before or during other procedures. It may also be performed on someone who does not desire, or cannot afford, further surgery.
Involuntary castration appears in the history of warfare, sometimes used by one side to torture or demoralize their enemies. It was practiced to extinguish opposing male lineages and thus allow the victor to sexually possess the defeated group's women.
Africa and the Middle East
Over the 13 centuries of the Arab slave trade in Africa unknown numbers of Africans were enslaved and shipped to the Middle East.
"The Caliphate in Baghdad at the beginning of the 10th Century had 7,000 black eunuchs and 4,000 white eunuchs in his palace." The Arab slave trade typically dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves. Black boys at the age of eight to twelve had their scrotum and penis completely amputated. Reportedly, about two of three boys died, but those who survived drew high prices.
The trade and employment of eunuchs (castrated men) was known in classical and Roman antiquity, and continued into the Middle Ages. The phenomenon of castrated singers was abolished in Italy in 1878 by pope Leo XIII. In Al-Andalus in the 10th century, eunuch slaves were used as harem attendants. They were castrated by merchants in Verdun in France and Becâne (Pechina), Spain.
Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire reports castration of defeated Byzantine Greeks at the hands of the Frankish marquis Theobald of Camerino and Spoleto in the course of 10th-century wars in Italy. Gibbon also alludes to a 12th-century incident set out in William Fitzstephen's Vita Sancti Thomae (Life of St. Thomas) in which Geoffrey of Anjou castrated the members of the cathedral chapter of Sens as a punishment for disobedience.
In medieval England men found guilty of high treason were hanged, drawn and quartered, which often included emasculation or removal of the genitalia. Women were burned at the stake for the sake of public decency.
William Wallace, the Scottish resistance leader, was castrated as part of his execution, for resistance to English rule.
Wim Deetman was criticized by the Dutch parliament for excluding evidence of castration in his report on sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic Church, where ten children were allegedly "punished" by castration in the 1950s for reporting sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. However, the Deetman Commission had rejected it as the person who reported the incident admitted it was speculative. Voluntary castration for homosexuality was also state policy in Netherlands at that point, as well against Catholic canon law, and there has been no evidence suggesting the Church had a part in organizing the procedures. Chemical castration has been and is used as part of sentencing in criminal cases.
In 1952, Alan Turing—the father of computer science and the inventor of the Turing machine—was criminally prosecuted for homosexual acts and chose chemical castration as an alternative to a period of imprisonment.
In Spain, a law against castration was used to deny sex-reassignment surgery to transgender people until the Penal Code was reformed in 1983.
According to legend, during the reign of the legendary Emperor Shun and Yu in China, in 2281 BCE castration was passed into law as a punishment, which remained so until the reign of Gaozu of Tang (589–600 CE). However, it was still practiced after his reign. According to historians, it was incorporated into Chinese law during the Zhou Dynasty. It was one of the five physical punishments that could be legally inflicted on criminals in China.
During the reign of Mu of the Zhou Dynasty (10th c. BCE) the Minister of Crime, Marquis Lu, reformed the law in 950 BC to make it easier for people to be sentenced to castration instead of death. As long as the practice existed in China, not only were the testicles merely removed but castration included the severing of one's entire genitalia. Both organs were cut off with a knife at the same time.
Men were castrated and made into state slaves during the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE) to perform forced labor for projects such as the Terracotta Army. The Qin government confiscated the property and enslaved the families of rapists who received castration as a punishment. Men punished with castration during the Han dynasty were also used as slave labor.
In the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), castration continued to be used as a punishment for various offences. Chinese historian Sima Qian was castrated by order of the Han Emperor of China for dissent. In another incident multiple people, including a chief scribe and his underlings, were subjected to castration.
During the early part of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 CE), China demanded eunuchs to be sent as tribute from Korea. Some of them oversaw the Korean concubines in the harem of the Chinese Emperor.
When the Chinese overthrew Mongol rule, many Mongol captives were castrated and turned into eunuchs. When the Ming army finally captured Yunnan from Mongols in 1382, thousands of prisoners were killed and, according to the custom in times of war, their young sons—including Zheng He—were castrated.
During the Miao Rebellions (Ming Dynasty), Chinese commanders castrated thousands of Miao boys when their tribes revolted, and then distributed them as eunuch slaves as gifts to various officials.
The last eunuch in China was Sun Yaoting who died in 1996.
Many of the non-Han Chinese peoples who founded states in China after invading originally did not have eunuchs as part of their culture, but adopted it from the Han Chinese.
The Khitan people adopted the practice of using eunuchs from the Chinese and the eunuchs used were non-Khitan prisoners of war. The Khitan were a nomadic Mongolic people and originally did not have eunuchs as part of their culture. When the Khitan founded the Liao Dynasty they developed a harem system with concubines and wives and adopted eunuchs as part of it. All of the eunuchs captured were ethnic Chinese from the Central Plains that came from two sources. The Khitan captured Chinese people who were already eunuchs at the Jin court when they invaded the Later Jin. Another source was during their war with the Chinese Song dynasty: the Khitan would raid China, capture Han Chinese boys as prisoners of war and emasculate them to become eunuchs. The emasculation of captured Chinese boys guaranteed a continuous supply of eunuchs to serve in the Liao Dynasty harem. The Empress Dowager Xiao Chuo (Chengtian) played a large role in the raids to capture and emasculate the boys.
Chengtian took power at age 30 in 982 as a regent for her son. Some reports suggest that she personally led her own army against the Song Chinese in 986. Her army defeated them in battle, fighting the retreating Chinese army. She then ordered the castration of around 100 ethnic Chinese boys she had captured in China, supplementing the Khitan's supply of eunuchs to serve at her court, among them was Wang Ji'en. The boys were all under ten years old and were selected for their good looks.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911 CE), the sons and grandsons of the rebel Yaqub Beg in China were all sentenced to castration. Surviving members of Yaqub Beg's family included his 4 sons, 4 grandchildren (2 grandsons and 2 granddaughters), and 4 wives. They either died in prison in Lanzhou, Gansu, or were killed by the Chinese. His sons Yima Kuli, K'ati Kuli, Maiti Kuli, and grandson Aisan Ahung were the only survivors in 1879. They were all underage children, and put on trial, sentenced to an agonizing death if they were complicit in their father's rebellious "sedition", or if they were innocent of their fathers crimes, were to be sentenced to castration and serving as eunuch slaves to Chinese troops, when they reached 11 years old, and handed over to the Imperial Household to be executed or castrated. Although some sources assert that the sentence of castration was carried out, official sources from the US State Department and activists involved in the incident state that Yaqub Beg's son and grandsons had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment with a fund provided for their support. The last remaining Imperial eunuch, Sun Yaoting, died in 1996.
The eunuchs of Korea, called Naesi (내시, 內侍), were officials to the king and other royalty in traditional Korean society. The first recorded appearance of a Korean eunuch was in Goryeosa ("History of Goryeo"), a compilation about the Goryeo period. In 1392, with the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, the Naesi system was revised, and the department was renamed the "Department of Naesi" (내시부, 內侍府).
The Naesi system included two ranks, those of Sangseon (상선, 尙膳, "Chief of Naesi"), who held the official title of senior second rank, and Naegwan (내관, 內官, "Common official naesi"), both of which held rank as officers. 140 naesi in total served the palace in Joseon Dynasty period. They also took the exam on Confucianism every month. The naesi system was repealed in 1894 following Gabo reform.
According to legend, castration consisted of daubing a boy's genitals with human feces and having a dog bite them off. During the Yuan Dynasty, eunuchs became a desirable commodity for tributes, and dog bites were replaced by more sophisticated surgical techniques.
The Vietnamese adopted the eunuch system and castration techniques from China. Records show that the Vietnamese performed castration in a painful procedure by removing the entire genitalia with both penis and testicles being cut off with a sharp knife or metal blade. The procedure was agonizing since the entire penis was cut off. The young man's thighs and abdomen would be tied and others would pin him down on a table. The genitals would be washed with pepper water and then cut off. A tube would be then inserted into the urethra to allow urination during healing. Many Vietnamese eunuchs were products of self castration in order to gain access to the palaces and power. In other cases they might be paid to become eunuchs. They served in many capacities, from supervising public works, to investigating crimes, to reading public proclamations.
The Trần Dynasty sent Vietnamese boy eunuchs as tribute to Ming Dynasty China several times, in 1383, 1384 and 1385 Nguyen Dao, Nguyen Toan, Tru Ca, and Ngo Tin were among several Vietnamese eunuchs sent to China.
During the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam, the Ming Chinese under the Yongle Emperor castrated many young Vietnamese boys, choosing them for their handsomeness and ability, and brought them to Nanjing to serve as eunuchs. Among them were the architect-engineer Nguyễn An and Nguyen Lang (阮浪). Vietnamese were among the many eunuchs of different origins found at Yongle's court. Among the eunuchs in charge of the Capital Battalions of Beijing was Xing An, a Vietnamese.
In the Lê Dynasty the Vietnamese Emperor Lê Thánh Tông was aggressive in his relations with foreign countries including China. A large amount of trade between Guangdong and Vietnam happened during his reign. Early accounts recorded that the Vietnamese captured Chinese whose ships had blown off course and detained them. Young Chinese men were selected by the Vietnamese for castration to become eunuch slaves to the Vietnamese. It has been speculated by modern historians that the Chinese who were captured and castrated by the Vietnamese were involved in trade between China and Vietnam instead of actually being blown off course by the wind and they were punished as part of a crackdown on foreign trade by Vietnam.
Several Malay envoys from the Malacca sultanate were attacked and captured in 1469 by the Lê Dynasty of Annam (Vietnam) as they were returning to Malacca from China. The Vietnamese enslaved and castrated the young from among the captured.
A 1472 entry in the Ming Shilu reported that when some Chinese from Nanhai county escaped back to China after their ship had been blown off course into Vietnam, where they had been forced to serve as soldiers in Vietnam's military. The escapees also reported that they found out up to 100 Chinese men remained captives in Vietnam after they were caught and castrated by the Vietnamese after their ships were blown off course into Vietnam. The Chinese Ministry of Revenue responded by ordering Chinese civilians and soldiers to stop going abroad to foreign countries. China's relations with Vietnam during this period were marked by the punishment of prisoners by castration.
A 1499 entry in the Ming Shilu recorded that 13 Chinese men from Wenchang including a young man named Wu Rui were captured by the Vietnamese after their ship was blown off course while traveling from Hainan to Guangdong's Qin subprefecture (Qinzhou), after which they ended up near the coast of Vietnam, during the Chenghua Emperor's rule (1447–1487). Twelve of them were enslaved to work as agricultural laborers, while the youngest, Wu Rui (吳瑞) was selected for castration since he was the only young man and he became a eunuch attendant at the Vietnamese imperial palace in Thang Long. After years of service, he was promoted at the death of the Vietnamese ruler in 1497 to a military position in northern Vietnam. A soldier told him of an escape route back to China and Wu Rui escaped to Longzhou. The local chief planned to sell him back to the Vietnamese, but Wu was rescued by the Pingxiang magistrate and then was sent to Beijing to work as a eunuch in the palace.
The Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư records that in 1467 in An Bang province of Dai Viet (now Quảng Ninh Province) a Chinese ship blew off course onto the shore. The Chinese were detained and not allowed to return to China as ordered by Le Thanh Tong. This incident may be the same one where Wu Rui was captured.
Commoners were banned from undergoing castration in Vietnam, only adult men of high social rank could be castrated, most eunuchs were born as such with a congenital abnormality. The Vietnamese government mandated that boys born with defective genitalia were to be reported to officials, in exchange for the town being freed from mandatory labor requirements. The boy would have the option of serving as a eunuch official or serving the palace women when he became ten years old. This law was put in place in 1838 during the Nguyễn Dynasty. The only males allowed inside the Forbidden City at Huế were the Emperor and his eunuchs.
The presence of eunuchs in Vietnam was used by the French colonizers to degrade the Vietnamese.
In 1778, Thomas Jefferson wrote a bill in Virginia reducing the punishment for rape, polygamy or sodomy from death to castration. Over the years several U.S. states have passed laws regarding chemical castration for sex offenders but not one state has mandatory castration. In 2016, Alabama lawmaker Steve Hurst proposed a bill requiring certain sex offenses to require the perpetrator be castrated prior to their release from state custody.
A 1969 study found that men institutionalized at the same facility in Kansas lived an extra 14 years, on average, if they were castrated.
In 1983, Judge C. Victor Pyle, who was white, sentenced three Black men convicted of rape to choose between 30 years in prison or castration. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the castration option would be cruel, however, and the men were sentenced to prison.
Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar, who established the Qajar Dynasty in Iran (in the 18th century), was a victim of castration by officers of the previous kingdom. When he conquered Lotf Ali Khan, the last king of the Zand Dynasty, Qajar had Lotf Ali Khan castrated in revenge.
An article in the Gulf Times revealed in 2005 a major sex trade in mostly Nepalese boys who were lured to India and sold to brothels in Mumbai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. One victim was lured from Nepal at the age of 14, sold into slavery, locked up, beaten, starved, and forcibly castrated. He reported that he was held in a brothel with 40 to 50 other boys, many of whom were also castrated. He escaped and made his way back to Nepal. Two non-governmental organizations, one that works with homosexuals in Nepal, and one that works to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked women and children, were co-operating to help and rescue these boys.
In another case, a 12-year-old boy was lured by a group of eunuchs in Delhi, India, and in time was drugged, kidnapped and forcibly castrated. He joined the eunuch group, earning money at weddings and birth celebrations. He was eventually allowed to return home by the group. A statement from Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a child rights group, said cases like this "were not unusual in Delhi, but their number was not very high."
Prevention of crime
Voluntary or mandated preventative chemical or surgical castration has been in practice in many countries—reports are available from American and European countries in particular for over eighty years (chemical for circa thirty)—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. This has also been used to attempt to "treat" homosexuality, such as the chemical castration ordered against Alan Turing.
In modern times, the Czech Republic practices surgical castration of convicted sex offenders. According to the reports compiled by Council of Europe, a human-rights forum, the central European country physically castrated at least 94 prisoners in the 10 years up to April 2008. The Czech Republic defends this procedure as voluntary and effective. According to Dr. Martin Hollý, director of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, none of the nearly 100 sex offenders who had been physically castrated had committed further offences. One serial offender stated that being castrated was the "best decision" he ever made: "On the one hand you have to protect the potential victims and on the other hand I wanted to be protected from myself, I wanted to live like a normal person." Don Grubin, a professor at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience who also runs a chemical castration program backed by the UK's Ministry of Justice, was initially opposed to physical castration. After visiting the Czech Republic, however, he agreed that some form of castration might be of benefit to some sex offenders.
In animals, the behavioral effects of gonad removal differ along lines of species and not sex, i.e. there are species where mating behavior ceases if the gonads are removed and other species where it does not cease, but removal of ovaries in females halt mating behavior in all of the same nonhuman animals in which male castration halts mating behavior. Therefore, some scientists argue that the notion that castration/spaying would drastically reduce sex drive in human males but not in human females is zoologically nonsensical, citing that humans belong to the animal kingdom.
Some criminologists argue that the apparently lower recidivism rates in castrated male sex offenders compared to non-castrated ones does not prove that it is a biological effect of castration (correlation does not equal causation) but can be explained by other factors. One suggested factor from game theory is that men who are willing to accept castration to get a shorter prison sentence are those who value freedom from prison higher than men who are not willing to pay the price for freedom in the form of their testicles. This hypothesis can explain their apparent lower recidivism as a result of working harder to conceal the evidence for their crimes, and argue that their parole is a danger of releasing offenders who only hide their crimes more efficiently and are not any less likely to commit new crimes. These criminologists also argue that police investigators treating castrated men as less likely to reoffend than non-castrated men may cause an investigation bias and self-fulfilling prophecy.
Certain neurologists argue that while testosterone most likely increases internal sexual stimulation, a reduction of sex drive is unlikely to result in a reduction of inappropriate sexual behavior, as reduced internal stimulation from hormones merely increases the required external stimulation to reach orgasm. These neurologists cite that spreading of brain activity that stimulate more brain activity can increase their activity and tire the circuits out, the brain's path to orgasm, enough to tire out with less external stimulation if the internal signal is stronger, and require more specific external stimulation to reach "satisfaction" if the internal signal is weaker.[clarification needed] Therefore, they argue, a reduced testosterone level would make it more difficult, not easier, to manage remaining vestiges of sex drive by masturbating without the use of pornography or to otherwise get by with more socially and legally acceptable substitutes for desires that it would be unacceptable to act on.[clarification needed] These neurologists also cite that many people, both men and women, find that higher levels of initial sexual arousal make it easier to masturbate to orgasm without the preferred type of external stimuli, as predicted by the hypothesis.
In Europe, when women were not permitted to sing in church or cathedral choirs in the Roman Catholic Church, boys were castrated to develop a special high voice and to prevent their voices breaking at puberty. The first documents mentioning castrati are Italian church records from the 1550s. In the baroque and classical music eras these singers were highly appreciated by opera composers as well. Mozart's Exultate Jubilate, Allegri's Miserere and other pieces from this period now sung by sopranos and countertenors were written for castrati. Some of the alto parts of Handel's Messiah were first sung by a castrato. Castrati include Farinelli, Senesino, Carestini, and Caffarelli. The last true castrato was Alessandro Moreschi (1858–1922) who served in the Sistine Chapel Choir. It was not until the late 19th century that the Roman Catholic Church officially condemned the production of castrati. In Modern times, the Mexican Javier Medina is the only professional opera singer that can perform as a castrato, since he suffered from an involuntary chemical castration, as a result from a cancer treatment that he had before he reached puberty.
A number of religions 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.
- The Valesians.
In South Asia, many hijras live in well-defined, organized, all-hijra communities, led by a guru. The power of the hijras as a sexually ambiguous category can only be understood in the religious context of Hinduism. In some Hindu beliefs, ritual, and art, the power of the combined man/woman, or androgyne, is a frequent and significant theme. Bahuchara Mata, the main object of hijra veneration, is specifically associated with transvestism and transgenderism.
While castration is not a part of Christianity, Jesus himself acknowledged in a discussion about avoiding adultery and divorce that some are involuntarily castrated or born that way, while some others "make themselves eunuchs" willingly out of a desire to be chaste (Matthew 19:1–12). Given Jesus' frequent use of metaphor and hyperbole, e.g. Luke 9:62, the church has broadly discouraged any understanding of this passage as recommending literal "self-castration". That is consistent with Jesus' claims (as a rabbi) to uphold the Law given to Moses, e.g. Matthew 5:17, a Law which also discouraged literal castration Deut 23:1. However, in his own comments Jesus had no condemnation for any of the above. In Acts 8:34–8:39, a eunuch is baptized by Philip the Evangelist, demonstrating acceptance of castrated individuals in his church.
The first canon of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD forbid clergy members to voluntarily castrate themselves "when in perfect health", but freely accepted those who had been either castrated by others against their will, castrated due to a medical sickness or necessity, or those born as eunuchs.
Well-known Christian eunuchs (or alleged eunuchs) include:
- Origen, who is reported by Eusebius to have castrated himself based on his reading of the Gospel of Matthew 19:12 and other passages in Matthew and Mark that appear to endorse voluntary amputation to avoid sin, although there is some doubt concerning this story. Schaff considers the account genuine but cites Baur et al. in opposition. Origen argues against such literal interpretations of the passages from Matthew and Mark in his First Principles.
- Bishop Melito of Sardis (d. ca 180), who was a eunuch, according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea, though, significantly the word "virgin" was substituted in Rufinus' Latin translation of Eusebius.
- Boston Corbett, who was inspired by this same verse 19:12 to castrate himself (Corbett was the 19th-century American soldier who is generally believed to have fired the shot that killed John Wilkes Booth).
Judaism strictly forbids the castration of either humans or animals. Deuteronomy 23:1 expels castrated men from the assembly of Israel; they are forbidden to marry or if married must divorce from their wives (though permitting the castrated to marry or remain married to female converts to Judaism). The laws of castration also apply to cases of irreversible or un-reversed vasectomy and all other cases where the flow of sperm is known to have been placed into a permanent state of dysfunction with either no hope or no desire to take the steps to repair.
Isaiah 56:3–5 references in a positive welcoming manner eunuchs who follow after God's laws. "Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off."
According to Rashi, Kham (Ham) castrated his father Noah and was cursed as a result.
In Judaism, castrated animals are deemed unfit for sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem (Lev 22:24). Castrated members of the priestly caste are 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 and receive the priestly and Levite gifts (Lev. 21:16–24).
In Islam, castration is considered a sin and strictly forbidden, whether one performs it on himself or on another. As Abdullah ibn Mas'ood said, "We were on a campaign with the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and we had no women with us. We said: Why don't we get ourselves castrated? But he forbade us to do that."
A subject of castration who is altered before the onset of puberty will retain a high voice, non-muscular build, and small genitals. He may well be shorter than average, as the production of sex hormones in puberty—more specifically, estrogen via aromatization of testosterone—stops long bone growth. The person may not develop pubic hair and will have a low sex drive or none at all.
Castrations after the onset of puberty will typically reduce the sex drive somewhat or even eliminate it altogether. Castrated people are sterile, because the testes (for males) and ovaries (for females) produce sex cells needed for sexual reproduction. Once removed, the subject is infertile. The voice does not change considerably. Some castrated people report mood changes, such as depression or a more serene outlook on life, although this might not be due to chemical changes but instead emotional changes due to the implications of the procedure. Body strength and muscle mass can decrease. Bone structure becomes softer and more slender. Body hair may sometimes decrease and is less coarse. Skin is softer and pores are noticeably absent. 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 due to male pattern baldness.
Without hormone replacement therapy (HRT), typical symptoms (similar to those experienced by menopausal women) include hot flushes, gradual bone-density loss resulting in osteopenia or osteoporosis, and potential weight gain or redistribution of body fat to the hips and chest. Replacement of testosterone in the form of gel, patches, or injections can largely reverse these effects, although breast enlargement has also been reported as a possible side effect of testosterone usage.
A study of 81 historical eunuchs in Korea's royal court found a 14- to 19-year increase in lifespan compared to intact men of similar socioeconomic background; these eunuchs had a centenarian rate of over 3%.
Psychoanalysis and literary theory
In the case of chemical castration, ongoing regular injections of anti-androgens are required. Chemical castration does not actually remove the testicles or ovaries of the subject, nor is it a form of sterilization.
Humans commonly castrate domestic animals not intended for breeding. Domestic animals are usually castrated to avoid unwanted or uncontrolled reproduction; to reduce or prevent other manifestations of sexual behaviour such as defending the herd from humans and other threats, or intra-herd aggression (e.g. fighting between groups of entire (uncastrated) males of a species); or to reduce other consequences of sexual behavior 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 fattening and docility in feedlots or 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 to prevent indiscriminate breeding, control aggression, and improve meat and carcass quality. In domestic pigs the undesirable odour or taint of uncastrated males, called boar taint, is caused by androstenone and skatole concentrations stored in the fat tissues of the animal after sexual maturity. Boar taint is only found in a small minority of pigs and can be controlled through breeding selection, diet and management. 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 reduce 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, and also prostate problems are somewhat common in castrated male dogs when they get older. Neutered individuals have a much higher risk of developing prostate problems in comparison to intact males. Castrated male cats are more likely to develop an obstruction in their urethra, preventing them from urinating to some degree. A specialized vocabulary has arisen for neutered animals of given species:
- Barrow (pig)
- Bullock (cattle)
- Capon (chicken)
- Gelding (horse)
- Gib (cat, ferret)
- Ox (cattle) (Castration performed on mature bull)
- Stag (cattle, sheep)
- Steer (cattle) (Castration performed on young calf)
- Wether (sheep, goat)
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 his 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 anesthetic has been applied), while others, like dogs and cats, are anesthetised 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.
Castration of cattle has historically been done without pain medications. All methods of castration cause pain and distress, which can be minimized by castrating as early as possible, preferably within the first week of life. The Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle requires that, as of 2018, calves older than six months be castrated using pain control.
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.
- Ashley Treatment
- Birth control
- Castration anxiety
- Castrato, a castrated male singer
- Chemical castration
- Cleveland Torso Murderer, a serial killer who castrated his male victims
- Inguinal orchiectomy, the approach typically used to treat testicular cancer
- List of transgender-related topics
- Spaying and neutering (for animals)
- Oophorectomy, the equivalent operation for ovaries
- Parasitic castration
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