Castration (also referred as: gelding, neutering, orchiectomy, orchidectomy, and oophorectomy) is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testes or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.

Castration in humans

The practice of castration has its roots before recorded human history.[1] 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 bureacracies 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.

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, male castration of a person 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. [2]



Testicular cancer is generally treated by surgical removal of the cancerous testicle(s) (orchidectomy), 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 [3], as hormone testosterone-depletion treatment to slow down the cancer. Similarly, testosterone-depletion treatment (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.[4]. Castration in humans has been proposed, and sometimes used, as a method of birth control in certain poorer regions.

Male-to-female transsexuals, as well as some transgendered people, often undergo physical castration. Castration can be done before, during or in place of sex reassignment surgery.

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.

As punishment

Ancient Greek writings report Persian forces castrating defeated foes. 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 currently (as of 2005) attacking citizens of the Darfur region in Sudan, often castrating villagers and leaving them to bleed to death [5].

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.

A further famous castration victim was Bishop Wimund, a 12th Century English adventurer and invader of the Scottish coast.

When Zheng He was captured by the Ming Army as a child in 1381 he was castrated.

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.[6][7] Chemical castration was Alan Turing's punishment when he was convicted of "acts of gross indecency" (homosexuality) in 1952; it resulted indirectly in his suicide.

Physical castration is highly effective as, historically, it results in a 20-year re-offense rate of less than 2.2%, much lower than what was otherwise expected. Compare to overall sex offender recidivism rates.

Involuntary castration also appears in the history of warfare, sometimes used by one side to torture or demoralize their enemies. It was also practiced to extinguish opposing male lineages and thus allow the victor to sexually possess the defeated group's women. Involuntary castration under such circumstances involved excruciating pain and humiliation as well as various physical, social, and psychological consequences. Women have also used this technique to strip men of power, either in a criminal assault, or consensually as part of an extreme sadomasochistic relationship.

Involuntary disorder

Main article: Skoptic syndrome
Skoptic syndrome is a condition in which a person is preoccupied with or engages in genital self-mutilation (e.g. castration, penectomy).

Skoptic syndrome can sometimes be motivated by intense sexual guilt, in which the genitals become identified as the source of the guilt-inducing sexual desire. This leads to desire for removal of or damage to the genitals.

For religious reasons

In Europe, when females 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.[8] In the baroque music era these singers were highly appreciated by Opera composers as well. Famous castrati include Farinelli, Senesino, Carestini, and Caffarelli. The last castrato was Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922) who served in the Sistine Chapel Choir.[9] 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, 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 [10] to have castrated himself based on his reading of the Gospel of Matthew 19:12|, 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.
  • Skoptzy
  • Heaven's Gate (cult)
On the contrary, Deuteronomy 23:1| expels castrated men from the assembly of Israel.


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.

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 the sex drive considerably or eliminate it altogether. Also castrated people are automatically 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. 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 due to male pattern baldness. [11] Castration is never recommended by medical doctors as a way to prevent or treat hair loss. Castration eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, and it may even reduce prostate cancer.

Historically, eunuchs suffered from a range of urogenital problems associated with the removal of their sexual organs, 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 resulting in osteopenia or osteoporosis, potential weight gain or redistribution of body fat to the hips/chest. In males, Gynecomastia, the development of breast tissue, may also occur. Resumption of testosterone in the form of gel, patches, or injections can largely reverse these effects.

Castration in psychoanalysis and literary theory

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

Although castration literally means removal of the testes, in psychoanalytic terms the penis is seen as having more symbolic significance than the testes, and thus castration refers to the removal of the penis, and more so the removal of the phallus. And since the phallus is not merely the penis but rather the power and authority that the penis represents, any removal of that power is in effect a removal of the phallus even if the penis itself remains intact, and thus is castration. Thus, blindness, decapitation, dismemberment, mutilation, circumcision, rape, etc., can all be seen as forms of castration, for they all remove the phallus.

Women as lacking a penis and a phallus are always already castrated, and yet simultaneously there is also sometimes the idea that they can be castrated by the loss of power and authority.

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 (eg. fighting between groups of entire (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), because stallions are rather aggressive and troublesome. The same applies to male mules, although they are sterile.

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

The food industries, eg. cattle and other ruminants, may castrate in order to increase growth or weight or both of individual male animals and because of fears of boar taint taste of the meat (with the advantage of relevant economies of scale for the breeder). 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.[12]

In the case of pets, castration is usually called spaying and 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. 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. Unaltered male cats are more likely to develop an obstruction in their urethea, 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: 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.


See also

External links

On religious castration


1. ^ On Target, July 27 2003. On Target (newsletter). Target Health, Inc. (2003-07-27). Retrieved on 2007-04-30. Section II: HISTORY OF MEDICINE
2. ^ The eunuchs of the Chinese court
3. ^
4. ^ Immune system 'stops conception'
5. ^ In Darfur, My Camera Was Not Nearly Enough
6. ^ Katherine Amlin. Chemical Castration: The Benefits and Disadvantages Intrinsic to Injecting Male Pedophiliacs with Depo-Provera. Retrieved on 2007-06-13.
7. ^ 'Chemical castration' OK'd for Montana inmates. N.Y. Times News Service (1997). Retrieved on 2007-06-13.
8. ^ John Rosselli, "Castrato" article in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2001.
9. ^ "All Mouth and No Trousers" from The Guardian, Aug 5 2002.
10. ^ NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine
11. ^ Hamilton JB. Effect of castration in adolescent and young adult males upon further changes in the proportion of bare and hairy scalp. J Clin Endocrinol metab 1960; 20:1309-1315.
12. ^ [1]
Neutering, from the Latin neŭter (of neither type), is the removal of an animal's reproductive organ, either all of it or a considerably large part of it. It is the most drastic surgical procedure with sterilizing purposes.
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ICD-10 code:
ICD-9 code: 65.3

Other codes: Oophorectomy (or ovariectomy) is the surgical removal of an ovary or ovaries.
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surgery (from the Greek χειρουργική meaning "hand work") is the medical specialty that treats diseases or injuries by operative manual and instrumental treatment.
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Chemical castration is a form of temporary castration caused by certain hormonal drugs. It has been controversially used as a temporary preventive measure or punishment, typically for those who have broken laws of a sexual nature.
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Male (♂) refers to the sex of an organism, or part of an organism, which produces small mobile gametes, called spermatozoa. Each spermatozoon can fuse with a larger female gamete or ovum, in the process of fertilisation.
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The testicle (from Latin testis, meaning "witness",[1] plural testes) or ballock is the male generative gland in animals. This article will concentrate on mammalian testicles unless otherwise noted.
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Female (♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces ova (egg cells). The ova are defined as the larger gametes in a heterogamous reproduction system, while the smaller, usually motile gamete, the spermatozoon is produced by the male.
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eunuch is a castrated man; the term usually refers to those castrated in order to perform a specific social function, as was common in many societies of the past. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are from the Sumerian cities of Lagash in the 21st
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A sex organ, or primary sexual characteristic, as narrowly defined, is any of those anatomical parts of the body which are involved in sexual reproduction and constitute the reproductive system in a complex organism; namely:

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Testicular cancer
Classification & external resources

OMIM 273300
DiseasesDB 12966

eMedicine med/2250   med/3232

MeSH C04.588.322.
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Chemical castration is a form of temporary castration caused by certain hormonal drugs. It has been controversially used as a temporary preventive measure or punishment, typically for those who have broken laws of a sexual nature.
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Prostate cancer
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