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Chopping off your bits

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crissdee
1267298.  Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:08 pm Reply with quote

I already knew about the "strange" Mr Boston Corbett and his cure for his carnal urges, as can be seen here;post 983999.

 
suze
1267337.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:46 am Reply with quote

It's not in fact all that rare a thing for a person to do to himself, as I understand it.

Blacker and Wong (1963) considered that it was rare. At the time of writing their paper they stated that only forty incidences had been reported in the literature thus far in the century. But for a number of reasons I am not inclined to accept that as a true indication. For a start, a person who does this thing might not come to the attention of the official medical profession.

The only country where male castration is remotely common in the modern world is India. It's contentious and some other writers consider the figure an overstatement, but Reddy (2005) reckons that there are around two million men in India who lack penis and testicles.

The poor inner city communities where most of those men live have little to do with the official authorities. They have their own unofficial police, and similarly they have their own unofficial medicine women called dai. If a dai castrates a man, she does not go telling the media nor yet the official medical procession.

In the twentieth century prior to 1963, genitalia were rarely spoken of in polite company. The world has changed a bit since then, but it may be that a doctor of that earlier era who did encounter an auto-castration often felt it improper to draw attention to it. (Furthermore, academic literature searching performed by Americans in 1963 probably didn't even think about papers in languages other than English.)

The reason I think it's more common than Blacker and Wong suggest is a sentence I once read (and quoted on these forums at the time - see post 88404) viz "Most urologists have experience with patients who have attempted castration on themselves". We did a bit of arithmetic and came to the conclusion that for this to be true, the number of incidences per annum in the UK must be in the higher single digits. Eight was the number which best fitted the available data.

So while it is no way a common event, it's not vanishingly rare either.


Blacker, K H and Wong, N (1963). 'Four Cases of Autocastration'. Archives of General Pyschiatry 8(2).
Reddy, G (2005). With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.

 
Baryonyx
1267364.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:43 am Reply with quote

I'm sure a QI episode asserted that men lived (on average) 13 years longer without their testicles.

 
crissdee
1267375.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:53 am Reply with quote

I seem to remember reading of a Russian religious cult (Skopsies?????) for whom castration was an article of faith.

 
suze
1267390.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 12:41 pm Reply with quote

Baryonyx wrote:
I'm sure a QI episode asserted that men lived (on average) 13 years longer without their testicles.


Yes indeed, although one member of the research team expressed unease about that finding. The research which claims to prove that castrated men live longer than entire men was based solely on the Korean royal household.

Non-royal men were not allowed in the palace overnight unless they were castrated, and entire men were barred from some positions. Accordingly, the royal household kept detailed records as to employees' possession or otherwise of testicles.

The records which were studied covered the period from 1392 to the abolition of the Korean monarchy in 1910, and over that period only 81 castrated men were identified. So the study covers a small number of people who lived a long time ago in a land far, far away, which is the basis of the reason for that unease.

Incidentally, the favoured method of castration in the Korean royal household was to have the testicles bitten off by a dog.


crissdee wrote:
I seem to remember reading of a Russian religious cult (Skopsies?????) for whom castration was an article of faith.


Skopcy in Russian, yes. They believed that all of the evil in the world could be traced back to Adam and Eve indulging in intercourse after they had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

While in the Garden of Eden, or so the Skopcy believed, Adam and Eve did not have genitalia. But once they had sinned, God attached the forbidden fruit to their bodies as punishment - which is how Adam came to have testicles and Eve came to have breasts.

So the Skopcy believed that by amputating men's testicles and women's breasts, they could return the world to the state it had been in before Adam and Eve misbehaved. How they intended humankind to propagate, they never explained.

Unsurprisingly the sect died out - but it has been reported that there were a small handful still living in Latvia in the mid 1990s.

 
Alfred E Neuman
1267401.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 1:17 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
So the study covers a small number of people who lived a long time ago in a land far, far away, which is the basis of the reason for that unease.


The basis for my unease is quite different to the basis for yours.

 
L on earth
1267422.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:13 pm Reply with quote

My immediate thought on reading that was that it would make sense if castrated men lived longer, since they'd potentially have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease due to lower testosterone and higher comparative oestrogen levels. So I had a quick look to check what happened in terms of hormonal changes and (according to this article at least*) there doesn't seem to be any evidence that there is a physiological basis for longevity following castration. So I'd be with the hesitant researcher on that one- there's probably confounders aplenty.

*Warning: does contain pictures

 
suze
1267428.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:00 pm Reply with quote

The research that I've seen starts off by considering why it is that women in general live longer than men. More than half of the difference is explained in terms of things like drinking, smoking, riding motorbikes, and going to war, activities in which men tend to indulge more than do women.

The rest of the difference is explained in terms of hormones. Accordingly, I do follow the argument that you had initially supposed to be the case - that if a man is castrated his hormones become (to over-simplify) more like those of a woman, and so he lives longer.

But the Wilson and Roehrbohn paper to which you link does not provide evidence for this assertion, and while castrated men probably don't go to war very much, there's every chance that they drink and smoke more than entire men. (Basically because they haven't got much else to do!)

So there is no physiological explanation which would support the Korean hypothesis, and the Korean data is too small of a sample to be meaningful. I think I'm with you and our Astronomy Elf (for it was he) in being far from convinced by the claim.

Now, a thought. The most medically dangerous thing that most women do and men by and large don't is to give birth. Does it follow that women who never have babies have a longer life expectancy than those who do?

 
Jenny
1267432.  Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:16 pm Reply with quote

Not according to this article.

 
L on earth
1267459.  Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:04 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Now, a thought. The most medically dangerous thing that most women do and men by and large don't is to give birth. Does it follow that women who never have babies have a longer life expectancy than those who do?


I suspect it depends on how you're calculating life expectancy, and the group you're following. In the article Jenny shared, they're calculating life expectancy from a given age (i.e. from age 60 your life expectancy is x), so wouldn't include any short-term mortality associated with giving birth.
In most developed countries, maternal mortality is low, so I would expect that there probably isn't a great deal of difference. In developing countries with poor maternal healthcare, it's possible that average life expectancy from birth ends up lower in those who have children, but I'm not sure if there's any definitive evidence for it. There may be social issues following on from not having children (it's often a reason for divorce, which in many countries can lead to ostracisation) which could lower life expectancy, or medical conditions that caused infertility, which would affect any comparison.

 

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