It’s been a busy few days for me, compounded by my new emergency get-in-shape-and-lose-fat plan, instituted before this season’s Big Travel. It’s also exam time, and I’ve been pulling out my hair setting exams for my two classes, International Health Theory and Health Research Methods. I’d had an exam already set for the latter, but lost my USB key containing it. Since I couldn’t risk that a student had found the key, I had to expend yet another sleepless night creating a brand new exam from scratch. Grrr.
In any case, instead of pithy observation today, you get weird factoids. “About what?” you ask. Well, wait and see, my droogies. Wait and see….
Did you know that castrated men can still have sex? This is especially true if castration took place before puberty, in which case th adrenal gland may increase its moderate production of testosterone, making up for the absent testicular shortfall. In fact, the castrati of Europe’s latter Renaissance age (16th-18th centuries, give or take) were often sought for their sexual services by married upper-class women. They were considered ideal because their husbands typically weren’t threatened by a man with no ‘nads, and because a castrato cannot impregnate anyone.
As most know, eunuchs were common in the Chinese imperial court, again because there was no fear of them impregnating women of the royal line. They evolved into a powerful class who, because they could not produce progeny, nonetheless accumulated wealth and power for themselves that eventually rivaled that of the royal house.
The office of eunuch became so envied that some adult men –mostly out of financial desperation– would volunteer to undergo castration for social advancement. The process involved sitting on a chair with a hole cut through it, with your boys dangling through. Well, you can imagine the rest. A fair proportion did not survive the procedure.
Some Chinese eunuchs acquired transcendant wealth and power. Among the most famous was the Admiral Zheng He, who some modern scholars believe may have mapped the entire globe decades before Columbus sailed three rickety old ships to the Caribbean!
In India, eunuchs are not common, but some of the “third sex” –or hijra— who are typically either male transvestites and/or homosexuals choose to undergo ritual castration.
Speaking of India and dangling one’s gonads through a hole, if you ever look in the back of the Kama Sutra, there are spells and potions. One of them is concoction (there’s no “k” in “concoction”) on how to make one’s penis bigger. You’re supposed to prepare a salve of robin’s egg, ghee and some other ingredients, mix it under a half moon, then slather it over your member. Then you’re supposed to cut a hole in your hammock, thread willy through the hole, and lie on your stomach throughout the night.
Of course, by morning Old Doc’ Johnson is engorged with blood and seemingly larger, so I guess in that sense the potion works. But think about it…. the Kama Sutra was written for medieval pre-industrial Indians. If Mr Happy is covered in egg and butter and hanging from a hammock overnight, don’t you think some hungry mongoose is going to wander in and take a bite?
Maybe it was actually an early attempt at Indian population control.