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Men who castrate themselves

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Strange though it may seem to some, there are quite a few men who desire to become castrated. Many of these men deliberately castrate themselves. In the study "Eunuchs in Contemporary Society: Characterizing Men Who Are Voluntarily Castrated," researchers submitted a questionnaire to the website Eunuch Archive, a website on which men who wish to be castrated, or who have deliberately become castrated, gather to fellowship. The intention of the researcher was to get an idea of why these men make the decisions that they do.

First, what made these men of interest to researchers is that these men do not desire to be castrated for any medical reason. For example, they do not have testicular cancer that would require such removal in order to prevent the cancer from spreading. Among the 135 eunuchs interviewed (92 had been physically castrated and 43 had been chemically castrated), the researchers discovered a high degree of body integrity disorder and gender identity disorder.

Of the 92 participants who had been physically castrated, 52 percent said that they had undergone the procedure in order to eliminate or dramatically reduce the intensity of their sexual desire (with 75 percent acknowledging that they were aware that castration had such an effect); an effect obtained by 66 percent of those who had undergone the procedure.

55 percent of these participants had experienced genital shrinkage and 63 percent had experience hot flashes. Those who had undergone such castration reported a significant reduction in obsessive-compulsive disorder-related difficulties. Perhaps most disturbing, 53 percent of these castrations had not been performed by medical professionals.

The following four factors, the researchers found, were most highly correlated with desired or completed castration:

1) Childhood abuse (this sometimes entailed actual threats of castration) - 77 percent of those who abused the castrati were males, 90 percent of whom were well-known to the assaulted. Interestingly enough, those who had been abused by females was much higher among the chemically castrated group than the physically castrated group.

2) Exposure to animal castration

3) Homosexuality

4) Religious condemnation of sexuality

The researchers note that while castration is oftentimes thought of as a thing of antiquity, there are likely more castrati alive today than during any other period in history.

Interestingly enough, there was a great deal of lack of self-knowledge among those who had undergone castration and penectomy as to the reason for their interest. 22% of those who had undergone physical castration, and 26% of those who had undergone penectomies, confessed that they did not know why they were drawn to such activities.

As mentioned before, most of the participants had themselves castrated simply out of sexual frustration. They found the incessant nagging of sexual desire unpleasant and knew that castration would dramatically reduce or even eliminate such desire and its resulting frustration. Such rationale was much more common among those who had chosen chemical castration to physical castration.

Many participants castrated themselves for religious reasons. One participant claimed that cutting off his penis functioned as penance for past sexual sin. Another took quite literal Jesus' injunction to amputate offending limbs in order to avoid sin. Yet another simply stated that sexual desires were interfering with his desire to live a consistently Christian life. Quite a few of the respondents cited Matt. 5:29 and Matt. 19:12, the latter of which entails Jesus describing a group who choose to become eunuchs for the Kingdom.

The study cites other examples of religious castration, such as those of the Hijra in India, as well as Buddhists who desired to be free of erotic urges, and decided to castrate themselves. The idea that sexual activity and desire is inherently immoral and ought to be purged through physical castration is known in psychiatric literature as "Skoptic Syndrome." It is named for a short-lived Christian sect which took the aforementioned passages quite literally, and castrated themselves.

Interesting enough, some of the participants claimed that castrating themselves served the function of easing tensions in their relationships with women. For example, many of the participants were males who were upset that their sex drives were much higher than their wives. They castrated themselves in order to avoid alienating their wives with their desire for sex. Yet another participant claimed that he experienced sexual pleasure from being castrated within the context of a sadomasochistic relationship with his female lover.

Among those who had been physically castrated, the primary rationale had a paraphilic bent to it: they simply fantasized about being castrated for no particular (or at least readily identifiable reason). Some of the participants exhibited symptoms of gender identity disorder and, while they did not want to become female, they did not identify with the gender category of 'male.'

Others exhibited tendencies towards body integrity disorder or body dysmorphic disorder. In other words, they simply hated their genitals. Individuals among this group were likely to engage in self-mutilation of their genitals.

As mentioned before, many of the participants expressed the belief that these tendencies were related to childhood abuse. One participant claimed that his father had told him that he should be castrated because he was not man enough, and another claimed that his mother had threatened to cut off his penis with a knife.

Some claimed to have been involved in castrating animals during puberty; an activity which sexually aroused them, and which may lay at the root of their interest in self-castration. Many of the participants were transsexuals who wanted to undergo a sex change.

An interesting distinction emerged within the group: those who expressed a desire to be chemically castrated (or who had actually been chemically castrated) had markedly different motives than the physical castration group. The former were more interested in reduction of their sex drive, whereas the latter were more interested in sadomasochistic fantasies.

Let us summarize a few of the salient points of the study:

-The desires of the physical castration group were typically rooted in body dysmorphia, a paraphilia like sadomasochism.

-Most of the chemical castration group were interested either in male-to-female transitioning or in the reduction of libido.

-Child abuse was a very common experience among both groups. The study cited another study which suggested that genital mutilation may have as part of its cause the absence of a strong father figure. Threats of castration by the mother were reported by a few of the participants. Those among the chemical castration group were particularly more likely to have been abused by women when young.

The study notes that much of the older literature on the subject of deliberate self-castration assumed that those who performed such acts were psychotic. The authors of this study also note that most of those who castrated themselves had coherent and cogent, if perhaps extreme, rationales for desiring the removal of their testicles or penises. They did conclude, however, that as much as 20% of those who had engaged in genital self-mutilation were indeed psychotic.

This sub-group involved those who were unable to give any rationale for their desire to engage in such behavior, low education levels, and ignorance of relevance side effects. While this is high for any sub-group of people, it is lower than the two-thirds figure that is commonly cited in older literature concerning the rationale for self-castration. From a nosological perspective, those from the physical castration group were typically characterized as suffering from gender identity disorder (if they wanted to be female or at least repudiated the gender category of 'male' for themselves) or body dysmorphic disorder (if they simply had a hatred of their genitals).

Johnson TW, Brett MA, Roberts LF, and Wassersug RJ. Eunuchs in contemporary society: Characterizing men who are voluntarily castrated (Part I). J Sex Med 2007;4:930–945.