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Neutering is the term for castration of pets. The testes produce a number of hormones and help regulate the development of the male body. For humans, removal of these will result in increased height, a prevention of baldness, and a significant increase in lifespan of nearly a decade. Wow, it sounds great; what's the catch? It comes at the price of a crippling of sex drive. So... sex or extra life, easy choice.
Emasculation is the removal of the penis and testicles. In addition to the health effects of castration, it can lead to urinary tract problems.
Medically known as a penectomy and often confused with castration, gelding is the removal of the penis alone. This has no direct effect on development, other than psychological, though it does make some parts of life more difficult. Counter-intuitively, it's still possible to have sex of a sort and obtain erections, assuming the testicles remain. About half of the penis is located behind the testes and depending on the damage can still retain some function. Eventually the body adapts to the lack of sensation normally provided by the glans, much like the body can adapt to the lack of a foreskin, and orgasm is still possible. The mechanics become a bit more complicated and sexual options are much more limited, but not eliminated entirely. This may be done as part of the genital reassignment that a transgender person undergoes.
Chemical castration does not involve removal of sex organs, but the testicles are rendered useless by the administration of drugs. Chemical castration is sometimes used in sentencing for extreme sex offenders, especially child molesters. Historically homosexuals were included as "extreme sex offenders" and have been subject to this punishment, because apparently entertainment options were more limited back then.
Not leaving the ladies out of this, an oophorectomy is
incredibly painful as indicated by the name the removal of the ovaries. This eliminates the ability of females to ovulate, and thus renders them sterile and eliminates the sex drive.
In pets, this is known as "spaying", but in humans the removal of the uterus is known as a hysterectomy. The ovaries may be left behind, in which case the woman remains sterile but keeps her hormone-producing ovaries, and can continue to have an otherwise normal sex life.
Cancer may require the amputation of infected body parts in order to save the life. Testicular cancer may require the removal of one or both testicles, and penile cancer may require a penectomy. If people are told by their doctor that they need to lose their genitals, they may get desperate and try anything.
Transsexuality may involve Gender Reassignment Surgery. Part of this involves the alteration or removal of the gonads, which can include castration.
Religion often calls for sacrifice. Why just half-ass things with celibacy when you can go
whole no hog with good ol' fashioned genital mutilation? The religious views of castration vary between religions, with Judaism and Jainism abhorring it (even for animals), Christianity being largely silent (although some accounts say 3rd century theologian Origen lopped his bits off after reading Matthew 19:12), and some Hindus allowing it for monks ("Hinduism" being a fairly diverse collection of religions rather than a single religion).
There are a number of goals of a criminal justice system. Among these is reducing the recidivism rate. A castrated rapist/pedophile theoretically has no urge nor capability of raping in the future. That would be true, if rape was exclusively about sexual desire and the only type of rape was penile-insertive. Unfortunately, rape is often committed as a form of domination rather than just sexual gratification, which castration does not eliminate. The recidivism of castrated offenders is low, but not 0%, and the data is not exactly sound given that most cases of castration of criminals involve agreement to castration in exchange for a reduced sentence (thus, not a random group). Collecting more accurate data might violate a code of ethics or two for obvious reasons.
However, nearly all countries at one point or another considered homosexuality a serious crime, unless you were a sailor, because who else is there to do? Many countries still consider homosexuality a crime, and their navies are still gay.
In Iran, the punishment for homosexuality is death. However, transsexuality is legal, so gay men are given the option of gender reassignment (including castration) in lieu of a public execution. The gay men publicly executed with construction cranes are the ones who "chose" death instead. Other countries may also offer castration to homosexual men in exchange for a reduced sentence.
In a number of states in the US, pedophiles may receive reduced sentences in exchange for chemical castration. The ethics of this are debatable, and the FDA does not approve the drugs used. However, thanks to Bobby Jindal, Louisiana judges may now order chemical castration instead of offer it.
Historically, many states also included various forms of sterilization as part of their Eugenics programs, which went on until 1974. If you really don't feel like sleeping tonight, just remember that this was performed on some victims of rape, possibly as retaliation for coming forward. Yeah, a dozen people walked on the moon before the US ended those programs.
In the backwater that was 1950's Great Britain, Alan Turing was caught with a gay lover, and was court-ordered to undergo chemical castration to "fix" his situation. Well, not quite; it was a plea deal to avoid a prison sentence, where he would likely have been sodomized. The chemical castration used estrogen, the same compound taken voluntarily by some M->F transsexuals to help feminize their bodies. This would eventually lead to his suicide, because who wants computer geniuses running around when computers are in their infancy? Heckofajob, Britain!
Other European countries have also experimented with chemical castration of criminals.
If you intend to enslave someone for life, and you want to keep their women for yourself, they don't need their genitals now do they? During the days of the Crimean Slave Trade, 3 million Eastern Europeans were sold to the Ottoman Empire as slaves. All the males were castrated, and anyone over 60 was killed outright. Attractive women were sold as concubines, and not-so-attractive women as domestic servants (which didn't necessarily protect them from rape). At the same time, the raiding hampered the development of the area; if you want to know why Eastern European history is sparse until recently, this is why. Russia (mostly) put a stop to this during the 18th century, in that curious case where the genocidal maniacs were the least morally reprehensible side in a war, which created the background for the Crimean War and so forth into the modern day. Keep this history in mind when reading about Ukraine.
During the Ante-Bellum (pre-war) period of the American South, it was an inconvenient time for a black man to consider an interracial relationship. If a slave owner thought that his slave was looking at a white woman the wrong way, or arguably worse a white woman was looking at the slave the wrong way, well, given the subject matter of this article you can guess what happened next. This continued during Reconstruction and beyond.
Large numbers of eunuchs were employed in the Chinese imperial courts of all dynasties back to at least the Han period. This reached a peak during the Ming Dynasty when an estimated 20,000 eunuchs patrolled the corridors of the Imperial City. Chinese tradition demanded the utmost purity from women, and tending by eunuchs was seen as a sure way of preventing corruption of women members of the royal court, as well as the emperor's vast collection of concubines. With such free and easy access to the inner sanctum of imperial power, eunuchs were inevitably party to information and intrigue of which even senior politicians and military generals were unaware.
The traditional belief was that sexless eunuchs would neither crave power nor material wealth as they could sire no sons to pass these onto in the time-honoured Chinese way. This proved to be foolishly optimistic, and for centuries eunuchs plundered, smuggled and stole from the imperial treasuries (and considering what it took to make them qualified to be there, who can blame them?). This continued until 18-year-old Pu Yi (the last emperor) banished eunuchs from the Imperial City on the advice of his tutor Reginald Johnston after he witnessed eunuchs setting fire to record offices in an attempt to cover up their plundering. The eunuchs were described as leaving the Imperial City with their pickled sexual organs carried in earthenware jars.  Eunuchs feature as villains in many wuxia and kung fu movies set in Imperial China.
The hijra tradition is rooted in ancient Hinduism, where eunuchs are mentioned in a variety of texts, including the epic Mahabharata, which make clear that the hijra had an important and revered ceremonial role including bringing luck and providing fertility powers. Eunuchs served in the harems of the Islamic Mughal rulers and in this respect there is a good deal of commonality between the roles of the hijra and the eunuchs of the Imperial Chinese courts.
Today, the term hijra is applied to a mix of transvestites, transsexuals, hermaphrodites, and true eunuchs, who live together in tight communities on the fringes of society. It is far from clear as to how many are actually eunuchs in the correct sense of the term but some biological male hijras do undergo a sacred ritual of castration known as nirvan. These all-hijra communities have helped sustain themselves over generations by adopting young boys who are rejected by, or flee, their families. The modern day number of hijra in India has been estimated at six million, and their lot in life in not good. Aside from rural areas where there is still some demand for the ceremonial role of hijras, work outside of the sex trade is hard to come by. Violence against hijras, especially sex workers, is often brutal, and goes unpunished by (or is perpetrated by) the police. HIV rates are frighteningly high in some hijra communities. Out of a necessity to protect themselves, hijras have even developed their own language — a mixture of Hindi, Farsi, Urdu and a little Arabic.
Young boys who are castrated don't develop the low voice of the typical man when they grow into adults. The result is a distinctive high-pitched vocal quality not found in women, boys, or falsettists. Such "castrati" were highly prized in the Renaissance and Baroque periods as opera singers, and could command impressive salaries if their vocal training was good enough.
Note that if an intact boy's voice drops in pitch during adolescence, and then he is castrated, his voice won't go back up; once the voice has changed it's too late. Thus, a boy destined to become a castrato had to have his testes removed before he reached puberty.
- Castration definition
- Scientific American
- See the Wikipedia article on Origen.
- The Impact of Surgical Castration on Sexual Recidivism Risk Among Sexually Violent Predatory Offenders
- Belated justice for sterilization victims
- Chinese Cultural Studies: Mary M. Anderson: Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of Imperial China
- Scottish Mandarin - The Life and Times of Sir Reginald Johnston
- Hijra: India's third gender claims its place in law
- HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND LEGAL STATUS OF THIRD GENDER IN INDIAN SOCIETY
- Case Studies, Statistics and Survey on Hijras
- Human Rights Violations against the Transgender Community
- Voice Definitions and Ranges