The Castration of Uranus: fresco by Vasari & Cristofano Gherardi (c. 1560, Sala di Cosimo I, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence).

Castration (also referred to as gelding, spaying, neutering, fixing, orchiectomy, oophorectomy) is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.



The practice of castration has its roots before recorded human history.[1] Castration was frequently used for religious or social reasons in certain cultures in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and East Asia. After battles in some cases, winners castrated their captives or the corpses of the defeated to symbolize their victory and "seize" their power. Castrated men — eunuchs — were often admitted to special social classes and were used particularly to staff bureaucracies and palace households: in particular, the harem. Castration also figured in a number of religious castration cults. Other religions, for example Judaism, were strongly opposed to the practice. The Leviticus Holiness code, for example, specifically excludes eunuchs or any males with defective genitals from the priesthood, just as castrated animals are excluded from sacrifice.

Eunuchs in China had been known to usurp power in many eras of Chinese history, most notably in the Later Han, late Tang and late Ming Dynasty. 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.

Either surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration may be carried out in the case of prostate cancer.[2] Testosterone-depletion treatment (either surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration) is used to slow down the cancer, greatly reduce sex drive or interest in those with sexual drives, obsessions, or behaviors, or any combination of those that may be considered deviant. Castration in humans has been proposed, and sometimes used, as a method of birth control in certain poorer regions.

Male-to-female transsexuals often undergo orchiectomy, as do some other transgender people. Orchiectomy may be performed as part of a more general sex reassignment surgery, either before or during other procedures. It may also be performed on someone who does not desire, or cannot afford, further surgery.


Involuntary castration appears in the history of warfare, sometimes used by one side to torture or demoralize their enemies. It was practiced to extinguish opposing male lineages and thus allow the victor to sexually possess the defeated group's women.

Edward Gibbon's famous work Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire reports castration of defeated foes at the hands of the Normans during their invasions of Sicily and Italy. Castration has been used in modern conflicts, such 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.[3]

According to legend, during the reign of the legendary Emperor Shun and Yu in China, in 2281 BC castration was passed into law as a punishment, which remained so until the reign of Gaozu (589-600 AD). However, it was still practiced after his reign.[4] According to historians, it was incorporated into Chinese law during the Zhou Dynasty.[5] It was one of the five physical punishments that could be legally inflicted on criminals in China.[6]

Records of castrations in China date to the Shang dynasty, when the Shang Kings castrated prisoners of war.[7][8] During the reign of King Mu of Zhou the Minister of Crime, Marquis Lu, reformed the law in 950 BC to make it easier for people to be sentenced to castration instead of death.[9] In China, castration included penis removal as well as removal of the testicles. Both organs were cut off with a knife at the same time.[10]

In Han dynasty China castration continued to be used as a punishment for various offences.[11][12] Sima Qian, the famous Chinese historian, was castrated by order of the Han Emperor of China for dissent.[13] In another incident multiple people, including a chief scribe and his underlings, were subjected to castration.[14]

Another famous victim of castration was the medieval French philosopher, scholar, teacher, and (later) monk Pierre Abélard. He was castrated by relatives of his lover, Héloïse.

Bishop Wimund, a 12th-century English adventurer and invader of the Scottish coast, was castrated.

William Wallace, the Scottish resistance leader, was castrated as part of his execution, for resistance to English rule.

Some legends say that Genghis Khan was castrated by a Tangut princess using a knife, who wanted revenge against his treatment of the Tanguts and to stop him from raping her.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

When the Chinese overthrew Mongol rule and established the Ming dynasty, many Mongols were castrated and turned into eunuchs.[22]

During the Miao Rebellions (Ming Dynasty), Chinese commanders castrated thousands of Miao boys when their tribes revolted, and then distributed them as eunuch slaves as gifts to various officials.[23]

In 1778, Thomas Jefferson wrote a bill in Virginia reducing the punishment for rape, polygamy or sodomy from death to castration.[24]

Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar, who established the Qajar Dynasty in Iran (in 18th century), was a victim of castration by officers of the previous kingdom. When he conquered Lotf Ali Khan, the last king of the Zand Dynasty, Qajar had Khan castrated in revenge.

The sons and grandsons of the rebel Yaqub Beg in China were all castrated. Surviving members of Yaqub Beg's family included his 4 sons, 4 grandchildren (2 grandsons and 2 granddaughters), and 4 wives. They either died in prison in Lanzhou, Gansu, or were killed by the Chinese. His sons Yima Kuli, K'ati Kuli, Maiti Kuli, and grandson Aisan Ahung were the only survivors in 1879. They were all underage children, and put on trial, sentenced to an agonizing death if they were complicit in their father's rebellious "sedition", or if they were innocent of their fathers crimes, were to be sentenced to castration and serving as a eunuch slave to Chinese troops, when they reached 11 years old, and handed over to the Imperial Household to be executed or castrated.[25][26][27] In 1879, it was confirmed that the sentence of castration was carried out, Yaqub Beg's son and grandsons were castrated by the Chinese court in 1879 and turned into eunuchs to work in the Imperial Palace.[28]

The British officer John Masters recorded in his autobiography that Pathan women in the North-West Frontier Province (1901–1955) of British India during the Anglo-Afghan Wars would castrate non muslim soldiers who were captured, like British and Sikhs.[29][30]

Slave Trade

Early on in Korea, castration consisted of daubing a boy's genitals with human feces and having a dog bite them off.[31] During the Yuan Dynasty, eunuchs became a desirable commodity for tributes, and dog bites were replaced by more sophisticated surgical techniques.[32]

Preventive measure

"Voluntary" chemical or surgical castration has been in practice in many countries—reports are available from American and European countries in particular for over eighty years (chemical for circa thirty)—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.[citation needed] The effectiveness and ethics of this treatment are heavily debated.

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.[33][34]

Physical castration appears to be highly effective as, historically, it results in a 20-year re-offense rate of less than 2.3% vs. 80% in the untreated control group, according to a large 1963 study involving a total of 1036 sex offenders by the German researcher A. Langelüddeke, among others[35]—much lower than what was otherwise expected. Compare to overall sex offender recidivism rates.

In modern times, the Czech Republic practices surgically castrating convicted sex offenders. According to the reports compiled by Council of Europe, a human-rights forum, the central European country physically castrated at least 94 prisoners in the 10 years up to April 2008. The Czech Republic defends this procedure as voluntary and effective.[36] According to Dr. Martin Hollý, director of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, none of the nearly 100 sex offenders who had been physically castrated had committed further offenses.[37] One serial offender stated that being castrated was the "best decision" he ever made: "On the one hand you have to protect the potential victims and on the other hand I wanted to be protected from myself, I wanted to live like a normal person."[38] Don Grubin, a professor at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience who also runs a chemical castration program backed by the U.K.'s Ministry of Justice, was initially opposed to physical castration. After visiting the Czech Republic, however, he agreed that some form of castration might be of benefit to some sex offenders.[38][39]

Trafficking of boys for prostitution

An article in the Gulf Times revealed a major sex trade in mostly Nepalese boys who were lured to India and sold to brothels in Mumbai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. One victim was lured from Nepal at the age of 14, sold into slavery, locked up, beaten, starved, and forcibly circumcised. He reported that he was held in a brothel with 40 to 50 other boys, many of whom were castrated. He escaped and made his way back to Nepal. Two Non Government Organisations, one that works with homosexuals in Nepal, and one that works to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked women and children, were co-operating to help and rescue these boys.[40]

Sexual fetish

Castration play is one of many fetishes within the BDSM community, although it is not a mainstream activity. In castration play, one simulates the after effects of castration without actually performing castration. It leads to the removal or destruction of the testicles as a sexual fantasy in some cases.


In Europe, when women were not permitted to sing in church or cathedral choirs in the Roman Catholic Church, boys might be 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.[41] In the baroque and classical music eras these singers were highly appreciated by opera composers as well. Mozart's Exultate Jubilate, Allegri's Miserere and other famous pieces from this period now sung by sopranos and countertenors were written for castrati. The alto parts of Handel's Messiah were first sung by a castrato. Famous castrati include Farinelli, Senesino, Carestini, and Caffarelli. Joseph Haydn was almost castrated. The last castrato was Alessandro Moreschi (1858–1922) who served in the Sistine Chapel Choir.[42] In the late 19th century, the Roman Catholic Church, which had always considered castration to be mutilation of the body and therefore a severe sin, officially condemned the production of castrati.


A number of religious cults have included castration as a central theme of their practice. These include:

While (Deuteronomy 23:1) expels castrated men from the assembly of Israel, (Isaiah 56:3), gives a much more accepting view of eunuchs, and in (Acts 8:34-8:39), a eunuch is baptized.

Orthodox Judaism[45] and Islam forbid the castration of either humans or animals.

In ancient Judaism, castrated animals were deemed unfit for sacrifice in the Temple (Lev 22:24). Castrated members of the priestly caste were forbidden to enter certain parts of the temple, to approach the altar, or to make sacrifices, although they could eat their share of the offerings (Lv. 21:16–24).

Medical consequences

A subject of castration who is altered before the onset of puberty will retain a high voice, non-muscular build, and small genitals. He may well be taller than average, as the production of sex hormones in puberty—more specifically, estrogen via aromatization of 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. 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, although this might not be to chemical changes but instead emotional changes due to the implications of the procedure. 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.[46]

Historically, eunuchs who additionally underwent a penectomy reportedly suffered from urinary incontinence associated with the removal of the penis.[47]

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, and potential weight gain or redistribution of body fat to the hips/chest. Replacement of testosterone in the form of gel, patches, or injections can largely reverse these effects, although breast enlargement has also been reported as a possible side effect of testosterone usage.[48]

Psychoanalysis and literary theory

The concept of castration plays an important role in psychoanalysis; see, for example, castration anxiety.

Castration (as a metaphor) also plays an important role in psychoanalytically-influenced literary theory, for example Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence.

Chemical castration

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[citation needed]. Since the development of teriparatide, this severe bone loss has been able to be reversed in nearly every case[citation needed]. At this time there is a limitation on the use of this medication to 24 months until the long-term use is better evaluated[citation needed].

With the advent of chemical castration, physical castration is not generally recommended by the medical community unless medically necessary or desired,[citation needed] though some have undergone the procedure voluntarily.[49]

Veterinary practice

Castration is commonly performed on domestic animals not intended for breeding. Domestic animals are usually castrated to avoid unwanted or uncontrolled reproduction; to reduce or prevent other manifestations of sexual behaviour such as territorial behaviour or aggression (e.g. 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) using emasculators, because stallions are rather aggressive and troublesome. The same applies to male mules, although they are sterile. Male cattle are castrated to improve fattening and docility in feedlots or for use as oxen. Breeding individuals are kept entire and used for breeding: they may fetch higher prices when sold.

Livestock may be castrated when used for food to increase growth or weight or both of individual male animals[citation needed] and because of the undesirable taste and odor of the meat from sexually mature males. In domestic pigs the taint, called boar taint, is caused by androstenone and skatole concentrations stored in the fat tissues of the animal after sexual maturity.[50] Boar taint is only found in a small minority of pigs and can be controlled through breeding selection, diet and management.[51] It is released when the fat is heated and has a distinct odor and flavor that is widely considered unpalatable to consumers.[52] Consequently, in commercial meat production, male pigs are either castrated shortly after birth or slaughtered before they reach sexual maturity.[52] 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.[53]

In the case of pets, castration is usually called neutering, and is encouraged to prevent overpopulation of the community by unwanted animals, and to reduce certain diseases such as prostate disease and testicular cancer in male dogs (oophorectomy in female pets is often called spaying). Testicular cancer is rare in dogs, but prostate problems are somewhat common in unaltered male dogs when they get older.[citation needed] Neutered individuals have a much lower risk of developing prostate problems in comparison.[citation needed] Unaltered male cats are more likely to develop an obstruction in their urethra, preventing them from urinating to some degree[citation needed]; however neutering does not seem to make much difference statistically because many neutered toms also have the problem.[citation needed] A specialized vocabulary has arisen for neutered animals of given species:

An incompletely castrated male in livestock species (horse and cattle) is known as a rig.

The term stag is used for a male animal castrated after the secondary sex characteristics have developed to such a point as to give it the appearance of sexual maturity.

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.

Parasitic infection

Some parasitic nematodes chemically castrate their hosts. For example, Microphallus pseudopygmaeus chemically castrates its host, the snail Onoba aculeus, and causes it to grow larger than normal.

See also


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  16. ^ Lynn Pan (1985). Into China's heart: an emigré's journey along the Yellow River. Weatherhill. p. 111. ISBN 0834802058.,+she+brought+out+a+knife+she+had+hidden+in+her+clothes+and+castrated+him&dq=lady+to+Genghis%3B+but+when+he+came+to+claim+her,+she+brought+out+a+knife+she+had+hidden+in+her+clothes+and+castrated+him. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
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  25. ^ Translations of the Peking Gazette. 1880. p. 83.,+be+delivered+imperial+household+made+eunuchs+slaves+to+soldiery+turkestan&hl=en&ei=wG3LTdKpMMG2twfnsOGFCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=whether%20they%20have%20attained%20full%20age%20or%20not%2C%20be%20delivered%20imperial%20household%20made%20eunuchs%20slaves%20to%20soldiery%20turkestan&f=false. Retrieved 2011-05-12. 
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  29. ^ John Masters (1956). Bugles and a tiger: a volume of autobiography. Viking Press. p. 190. Retrieved 5 April, 2011. 
  30. ^ Michael Barthorp, Douglas N. Anderson (1996). The Frontier ablaze: the North-west frontier rising, 1897-98. Windrow & Greene. p. 12. ISBN 1859150233.,+according+to+John+Masters,+liable+to+be+castrated+and+beheaded,+usually+by+the+women.&dq=Any+non-Moslem+taken+alive+was,+according+to+John+Masters,+liable+to+be+castrated+and+beheaded,+usually+by+the+women.&hl=en&ei=d4mbTf3hDISQ0QG_2-XeAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 5 April, 2011. 
  31. ^ Peter McAllister (2010). Manthropology: The Science of Why the Modern Male Is Not the Man He Used to Be. Macmillan. p. 280. ISBN 0312555431.,+however,+had+it+worst+of+all.+In+ancient+times+they+were+castrated+by+having+their+genitals+smeared+with+human+feces+and+then+being+exposed+to+packs+of+hungry+dogs#v=onepage&q=Korean%20eunuchs%2C%20however%2C%20had%20it%20worst%20of%20all.%20In%20ancient%20times%20they%20were%20castrated%20by%20having%20their%20genitals%20smeared%20with%20human%20feces%20and%20then%20being%20exposed%20to%20packs%20of%20hungry%20dogs&f=false. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
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  33. ^ Katherine Amlin. "Chemical Castration: The Benefits and Disadvantages Intrinsic to Injecting Male Pedophiliacs with Depo-Provera". Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  34. ^ "'Chemical castration' OK'd for Montana inmates". N.Y. Times News Service. 1997. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  36. ^ Council of Europe report on the Czech Republic
  37. ^ Europeans Debate Castration of Sex Offenders
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  39. ^ "Cutting the numbers re-offending?". Channel 4. 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  40. ^ "Former sex worker’s tale spurs rescue mission". Gulf Times. 10 April 2005. Retrieved 5 October 2010. "“I spent seven years in hell,” says Raju, now 21, trying hard not to cry. Thapa Magar took him to Rani Haveli, a brothel in Mumbai that specialised in male sex workers and sold him for Nepali Rs 85,000. A Muslim man ran the flesh trade there in young boys and girls, most of them lured from Nepal. For two years, Raju was kept locked up, taught to dress as a girl and circumcised. Many of the other boys there were castrated. Beatings and starvation became a part of his life. “There were 40 to 50 boys in the place,” a gaunt, brooding Raju recalls. “Most of them were Nepalese.”" 
  41. ^ John Rosselli, "Castrato" article in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2001.
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  43. ^ NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine
  44. ^ Eusebius' Church History Book 6, Chapter 8 Origen's Daring Deed note 1809: "This act of Origen’s has been greatly discussed, and some have even gone so far as to believe that he never committed the act ... There is no reason, however, to doubt the report, for which we have unimpeachable testimony, and which is in itself not at all surprising ..."
  45. ^ Leviticus 22:24, Talmud Shabbos 110b
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  53. ^ Sugar Mountain Farm: To Cut or Not?


  • Patrick Barbier, The World of the Castrati: the History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon Souvenir, 1996, ISBN 0-285-63309-0
  • Susan Elliott, Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul's Letter to the Galatians in Its Anatolian Cultic Context Reviews in Review of Biblical Literature [1]
  • Travis Nygard and Alec Sonsteby. "Castration." In The Cultural Encyclopedia of the Body, edited by Victoria Pitts, pages 502-507. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
  • Theresa McCuaig, "Understanding Castration." 2009.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • castration — [ kastrasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1380; lat. castratio 1 ♦ Opération par laquelle on prive un individu, mâle ou femelle, de la faculté de se reproduire. ⇒ stérilisation; châtrer. Castration radiologique, par irradiation des gonades. Castration par ablation… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • CASTRATION — CASTRATION, the removal of testes or ovaries. In the Hebrew Bible, the term saris, commonly rendered eunuch, occurs more than 40 times. As a rule, the saris designated a court official who, occasionally, even reached the high rank of military… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Castration — Cas*tra tion, n. [L. castratio; cf. F. castration.] The act of castrating. [1913 Webster] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • castration — (n.) early 15c., castracioun, from L. castrationem (nom. castratio), noun of action from pp. stem of castrare to castrate, prune, related to *castrum knife, from PIE root *kes to cut (see CASTE (Cf. caste)). Freud s castration complex is attested …   Etymology dictionary

  • castration — castration. См. кастрация. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • Castration — (v. lat.), die künstliche Entfernung eines od. beider Hoden, ausgeführt 1) an Menschen, um Castraten (s.d.) zu erhalten od. auch zu einem bestimmten Heilzwecke, eine zwar einfache, aber doch bisweilen auch gefährliche Zufälle, namentlich Trismus… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Castration — Castration, lat., Verschneidung, nennt man diejenige chirurgische Operation, wodurch bei lebenden Thieren oder Menschen die Hoden oder Eierstöcke entweder gänzlich entfernt oder zu ihrer Funktion untauglich gemacht werden (letzteres durch… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • castration — CASTRATION. subs. f. Terme de Chirurgie. Opération par laquelle on châtre un homme, un animal …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Castration — Giorgio Vasari, La Mutilation d Uranus par Saturne, XVIe siècle, Palazzo Vecchio (Florence) La castration est l ablation des organes reproducteurs de végétaux, d animaux ou d humains. Dans le cas de l homme, la castration est co …   Wikipédia en Français

  • castration — See castrater. * * * or neutering Removal of the testes. The procedure stops most production of the hormone testosterone. If done before puberty, it prevents the development of functioning adult sex organs. Castration after sexual maturity makes… …   Universalium

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