Castration is the removal of male testes, resulting in sterility, decreased sexual desire and inhibition of secondary sex characteristics such as hair growth and deepening of the voice. Castration in humans is sometimes necessary for some cancer prevention or as a punishment or deterrent to sex crimes.
Reasons and History
In the 1990s some states considered mandatory castration for repeated sexual predators, either through surgery or chemicals. The idea was that child molesters would not continue their crimes if castrated. Counter arguments, though, state that not all sexual desire diminishes with castration, nor does it necessarily deter other criminal choices. Six states permit or require chemical castration for repeat sexual offenders. Few other Western countries permit the procedure as a punitive effect.
Other reasons for castration include the fact that it decreases blood flow and causes death of endothelial cells, which may reduce the chance of prostate cancer. Removal of a cancerous testes is standard procedure to prevent the spread of testicular cancer. Some ancient religious sects have also used castration as an indicator of faithfulness; and some men want to be castrated to affect their mood and mental state.
Under medical supervision, anti-androgen drugs, such as cyproterone, are injected under a multi-week treatment. Androgens are hormones such as testosterone that develop and maintain masculine primary and secondary sexual characteristics. With lower testosterone levels, most men will experience reduced sex drive, arousal and sexual thoughts. On sexual offenders, Depo-Provera, a progestin shot, is used. Chemical castration does not remove the testicles, and if the chemical treatment is discontinued, testosterone and sperm production may resume.
In surgical castration, a surgeon makes an incision in the scrotum and pulls out the vas deferens duct until the testicle is completely exposed. The vas deferens is knotted and cut, then the testicle is removed. The remaining vas deferens is placed back into the scrotum. Then the doctor stitches up the incision. The same procedure is repeated for the other testicle.
Used often by ranchers, a burdizzo is a pliers-like device that crushes the vas deferens and arteries to the testicles. Once blood supply ends, the testicle begins to die. Once dead, the testicle is absorbed into the body and the man is sterile. This process is not used medically in Western countries, but some men who've wished to castrate themselves have used this process. The risk is that if the vas deferns is not completely crushed, nerve damage is common. This is a very painful procedure; pain killers are required for one or more weeks.
Banding and Cutting
Again, not used medically, banding places a very tight elastic band around the top of the scrotum and then the area under the band is cut off, including testicles and scrotum; the band encourages sealing of the wound. This is a dangerous procedure; profuse bleeding can occur if the cutting is imprecise, requiring immediate emergency attention.
For men undergoing medical castration, a doctor will prescribe pain killers for surgical procedures and occasionally anti-nausea medications for chemical castration.
- North American Journal of Psychology; Testosterone and Male Behavior: Empirical Research with Hamsters Does Not Support the Use of Castration to Deter Human Sexual Aggression; Moore, Timothy O; December 2001.
- BJU International; "Castration-induced reduction of vascular endothelial growth factor expression in benign human prostate tissue is lost in advanced prostate cancer"; Häggström, S., et al.; July 2001