My Life as a Eunuch

Why would a man choose to have himself castrated? That's a question best answered by a fellow known as Gelding.

It was more than 40 years ago now, but Gelding has no trouble recalling the day his life took a very odd turn. He was twelve, riding the school bus. It was crowded and there was no place to sit, so he stood. The bus hit a bump in the road, and he accidentally knocked into the boy in front of him. “He reached back very calmly, grabbed my balls in my pants, and squeezed them,” Gelding recalls. “He said, “You bump into me again and I'm going to crush them.'”The sensation was excruciating, degrading -- and delicious. Gelding was enthralled by the idea that another person could so casually bring him to his knees. He couldn't stop thinking about it. Over the years his obsession blossomed into a strange, quite illegal avocation.

Gelding is a “cutter,” which in body-modification circles means he castrates other men. He's also a eunuch himself. After decades of obsessing over his balls and a botched attempt at cutting them off that could have killed him, he was finally castrated in 1994.

For legal reasons Gelding, 54 years old, didn't want his real name used for this story. But he's a legendary figure in the eunuch subculture, where he acts as a kind of den mother for the genitally obsessed, someone a man can turn to when he decides the cojones need to go. In the past four years, he's counseled some 4000 men. He also acts as a broker between cutters and potential cuttees, and less frequently performs the surgery himself. “I know what's involved,” he says. “One of the reasons why I am doing this is to help other guys avoid the problems. In that respect it is humanitarian. In another respect, I will admit to a certain amount of sexual excitement from the whole idea.”

Some men are #179;smooth,#178; and some, like Gelding, are hairy #179;bears#178;
Some men are #179;smooth,#178; and some, like Gelding, are hairy #179;bears#178;
Some men are "smooth," and some, like Gelding, are hairy "bears"
Preston
Some men are "smooth," and some, like Gelding, are hairy "bears"
Dr. Felix Spector: Don't try this operation at home
Preston
Dr. Felix Spector: Don't try this operation at home
Less of a man, and liking it: Bob Capeheart of Gainesville
David Blankenship
Less of a man, and liking it: Bob Capeheart of Gainesville
Less of a man, and liking it: Bob Capeheart of Gainesville
David Blankenship
Less of a man, and liking it: Bob Capeheart of Gainesville
Gelding, relaxing at home with a quick skinny dip, shows off his colors
Preston
Gelding, relaxing at home with a quick skinny dip, shows off his colors

Castration is a time-honored tradition. Chinese emperors employed eunuchs as court advisors during the Sixth Century B.C., and by the time of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) there were some 100,000 of them hanging around the halls of power. Romans used eunuchs to guard harems. Even Christians got in on the action with a sect called the Valesians, which took Matthew 19:12 to the literal extreme: “For there are some eunuchs which were so born from their mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake.”But castration as a show of asceticism has fallen out of favor in modern times. Today, short of cancer or a desire to surgically become a woman, there is no medical reason to get emasculated. It's certainly not something you can brag about at the class reunion. Even as an extreme punitive measure for sex offenders, castration is frowned upon.

All of which makes Gelding a figure of considerable intrigue. Not that you'd know it by looking at him: He stands about five feet nine inches, has a beefy build, a trim goatee graying around the edges, and close-cropped hair. He's openly gay, prefers bottom but will be a top when the situation arises, and calls himself a “bear” owing to an impressive crop of body hair.

Conversations with him cover a lot of ground, from computer programming languages to ball torture, from chaos theory to bull ejaculators. (Gelding's verdict on the last: “Interesting, but not particularly pleasurable.”) No matter the topic, he speaks in even, measured tones that project either clinical detachment or a complete lack of embarrassment; it's difficult to tell which.

By trade he's a computer consultant who has been in the business since the late Sixties, when he programmed on punch cards for the U.S. Air Force. He lives in a modest Broward County bungalow, complete with tile roof and a pool. To his neighbors Gelding appears little more than a well-groomed bachelor.

But his collection of eye-popping photos, most of Gelding himself, offers quite a different impression. So does the fantastic tale of how he lost his balls.

While vacationing in a strange city, Gelding was taken hostage by two “hot, hairy-chested, leather-wearing men.” They blindfolded him, took him to a secret location, and strapped him to a table. Then they forced him to sniff amyl nitrate and smoke a joint before wrapping a wire tightly around his testicles. One of them flashed a large knife and with a quick stroke made him a eunuch. “The pain was a shock,” he writes, “but it was unexpected and over quickly. I stared stupidly at the guy's hand holding my balls.” It's a gripping story, made more so by Gelding's reaction: He's scared, fascinated, and sexually excited all at once.

It's also a lie. A cover. A fantasy. Gelding's real trip from obsessed adolescent to middle-age eunuch is much more convoluted.

He was reared in upstate New York, the middle child of three and the oldest son. Family life was structured but not overly disciplined. “We had rules and we followed them,” he says. “We weren't let alone to roam free.”

He played soccer, was an accomplished swimmer, and dabbled in figure skating, though never successfully because, as he notes dryly: “I didn't have the figure for it.” In high school he made good money baby-sitting; parents around the neighborhood trusted him.

It wasn't until his brother-in-law seduced him at age sixteen that Gelding realized he was gay. “I had no sexual upbringing whatsoever,” he recalls. “I didn't know I was different. I knew I liked boys and I didn't like girls, and that was disturbing to me. I didn't know what homosexuality was. I knew there was such a term, and I knew it meant something bad, but I didn't equate that with myself. Perhaps I should have.”

In 1967 Gelding joined the air force, primarily to avoid being drafted. While on a tour of duty in Vietnam, he was injured in an attack on his barracks. “Somebody tossed a grenade in the barracks and killed my buddy Bill,” he recounts. “I got a piece of shrapnel in my butt, and the grenade blew the entire place flat. The roof fell on me. One minute I am sleeping peacefully in my rack, and the next thing I know, I am lying on my back in some hospital.”

After the war Gelding went to college and received his commission, rising to the rank of lieutenant before leaving the service in 1981 to work in the private sector. Throughout this era his parents pressured him to get married and start a family. He was the oldest son, after all, and that's what good sons did. Not until he was 30 years old did Gelding muster the nerve to tell his mother it wasn't likely to happen. “All she said was, “Let's not tell your father right now.' She kept it a secret from him for a couple of years, and it started grating on both of them because he knew something was wrong. Finally she told him and he said, “Oh that. I've known that for years.'”Like many men obsessed with castration, Gelding gravitated toward the S&M scene, thinking that people who enjoy inflicting pain on their genitals might be sympathetic with the notion of cutting them off. “And that is where a lot of them succeed,” he concludes.His specialty was ball torture and he was adept at it. One photograph shows him lying on his back, knees to his chest, a piece of string tied around his testicles tight enough to make them beet red. He pierced them with needles, trussed them in leather collars, and hung weights from them. “It feels like you are dehumanizing your genitals,” he says. “You are making them into a tool, or apparatus.”

For most people into S&M, that's enough. But there's a fringe element who move into the realm of body modification, and a smaller subset who take that to the extreme: flayed or removed penises, vaginas sewn closed, even limb amputations.

“For a certain percentage of people, the pain is something they talk about when they do these forms of body mutilations,” says Eric Silverman, a professor of sociology and anthropology at DePauw University in Indiana. “They self-administer pain as a way of controlling it, owning it, overcoming it.”

Silverman has made a career of studying indigenous peoples in New Guinea, where genital mutilation often is part of a coming-of-age ritual. In the United States castration is harder to explain. “This might instead be a way of doing to yourself what society is doing to you, by administering it to yourself,” he muses, thinking out loud. “You transform the symbolism of oppression into something empowering.”

Gelding has told his story to psychiatrists who posited that castration is a form of revenge on his parents for pressuring him to procreate, that it could be an expression of self-loathing, or that it's the manifestation of a deep-seated desire to be a woman. But the explanations don't seem to fit. “They try to cubbyhole you into known quantities. They don't have a clue. They don't have enough research on this. You can draw a parallel with the transgender issue. How long was it until the transgender diagnosis was accepted? It took 30 years or so for the idea to go from outrageous to medically accepted.”

By the early Nineties, Gelding had already decided he had to be castrated. Unlike his doctors he was not prone to deep introspection on the issue. He simply decided it was time for the boys to go. “How can you assign a logical reason to a desire to be castrated?” he asks.

His first attempt was in 1991. After dipping his scrotum in ice water to numb it, he tied off his testicles with rubber bands, and cut off two-thirds of his scrotum with a knife. He was in the throes of a sexual frenzy and felt little pain. “It was like I was outside my body,” he recalls.

But he was in trouble. “You are in a state of sexual excitement, and then your body exhausts the supply of adrenaline. It simply can't continue anymore and you go into clinical shock, which is just about what happened.”

Though close to shock, he maintained his composure long enough to pack a few things and take a cab to the emergency room. The Catholic surgeon on duty made no effort to disguise his disdain. “He was extremely irate and he was rather brutal in his treatment of me,” Gelding says. “He didn't take any measures to stop the blood flow.”

The doctor did stitch his scrotum and assigned a nurse to sit with Gelding, to make sure he wouldn't kill himself. Then a psychiatrist showed up to see if he was crazy. “That's a typical reaction from medical professionals,” he says. “[The psychiatrist] certified that I was perfectly sane, and that this was an event that was unlikely to happen again.”

The psychiatrist was wrong.

Three years later Gelding became a eunuch at the hands of a San Francisco cutter. He is uncharacteristically taciturn about the procedure. “I don't like to talk about that,” he says. “A lot of guys are like that. They will watch videos of other people getting castrated, but they won't discuss their own procedure.”

As with his previous attempt, there were problems. Once again Gelding wound up in an emergency room. This time, though, his testicles were gone by the time be got there. He made up a cover story about an S&M party gone terribly wrong. That sort of thing is plausible in San Francisco, he notes. The hospital staff bought his story and called a police officer to take a report. “There I was a victim,” he remembers.

Life as a eunuch has been good. Gelding controls his own sex drive with biweekly testosterone injections. He's patient, clear-headed, and doesn't get angry. Best of all he doesn't have to think about his balls anymore.On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon Gelding, in the nude, answers a knock on his front door. He just moved into a new house and is remodeling the bathroom. “This is my painting outfit,” he explains, stepping aside. “This way I don't get all sweaty.”From a pragmatic standpoint, painting in the buff makes sense. It's easier to wash paint off your skin, after all, than out of your clothes. But there's more than pragmatism at play here; there's good old American shock value. Although it seems incongruous that a man who cut off his testicles to control his emotions would seek such thrills, there's no denying that Gelding relishes the spotlight. Why else play such a prominent role in the world of eunuchs?

At the same time, he's uncomfortable with having too much of his own identity revealed, especially when it comes to his role as a cutter. Much of the concern is practical: Practicing medicine without a license is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison. But there also is an undeniable sense that Gelding -- despite his exhibitionism -- is sometimes uneasy talking about himself.

His living room is still a jumble of boxes, papers, and furniture. Navigating through it, he stops in the hallway outside the bathroom and picks up a small plastic paint bucket. Then he hikes up the volume on a boombox, tuned to a classical station playing Wagner. Once back in the bathroom, he climbs a stepladder and gets to work, dipping just the tip of his brush in the bucket then applying paint to the wall in short, even strokes. He's methodical, working the same square foot until it glistens under a smooth, thick coat of off-white. Only then does he move on. Once in a while a minute flaw will catch his eye, and he'll mumble, rub the spot with his thumb, then go over it again and again. A small chain dangling at the end of his pierced penis sways to and fro with the rhythm of the work.

Gelding's piercing runs perpendicular to the natural urethral opening, so that there are three holes instead of one. This allows him to accessorize with his extensive collection of genital jewelry that includes a device known as a barbell, an inch-long, stainless-steel rod with pea-size knobs on each end that fits through his perpendicular piercings.

He also has four tattoos: an eagle on his right arm, a ram's head on his left butt cheek, and a tiger on his right butt cheek. On his right calf is a tattoo of a testicle speared by a sword over the word EUNUCH.

He paints, talks, listens to Wagner, pauses, and paints some more. In the course of the conversation, he offhandedly remarks that, yes, he is a cutter himself, a question he had dodged a few days earlier by noting, “Let's not go into that. It's illegal in all 50 states.”

Gelding says he acquired his skills by assisting other cutters, and with the help of a lover who happened to be a veterinarian. He performed his first procedure in 1978, his last one about three months ago. By now he's probably castrated 50 men, though he stopped counting at 35.

These days he's a reluctant cutter, because he doesn't trust his own motives. For him the act of cutting is half altruism, half sexual fantasy. In his book it's okay to help someone out. This is why he performs castrations for free -- notwithstanding small “gifts” that might help defray the cost of traveling. But if he cuts because it's a turn-on, he's crossed a line.

The distinction became clear for him a few years ago when he castrated an S&M slave at the behest of the slave's master. “Whose idea was it,” Gelding asks rhetorically, “the slave or the master? Is the slave fixing something and is it a good thing to do, or is this an idea that comes from the master? In this case it was the master's idea, and he had set up the whole scene, the whole situation. He explained in a logical, plausible manner that it was the boy's idea, that he wanted to make the ultimate sacrifice to bond their relationship.”

This turned out to be a lie. Soon after the operation, the master dumped the slave, and Gelding blamed himself for castrating someone against his will. “I made a mistake,” he concedes. “I could have done something different. I go over it again and again, and there are so many places I could have asked questions, and I didn't.”

There also is good legal precedent for Gelding to be skittish about identifying himself as a cutter. Consider the case of Ed Bodkin.

Bodkin, 56 years old, was arrested in February 1999 in Huntington, Indiana (hometown of Dan Quayle) and charged with practicing medicine without a license. Acting on a tip, seven police officers knocked on Bodkin's door. He answered in the nude and didn't resist when they asked to search his apartment. On a table near the refrigerator, the cops found nine small jars, each containing a fleshy lump floating in clear liquid.

He was a tabloid reporter's dream, a loner who drifted from town to town in the Midwest, drinking alone in bars, nursing a lifelong obsession with castration. By the time police caught up with him, he had castrated five men. He videotaped his handiwork and sold copies on the Internet. The tapes apparently detail a remarkable progression in technique. At first Bodkin used an orange-handled art knife and manicure scissors. Later he graduated to surgical equipment purchased from veterinary supply stores.

Bodkin, Gelding opines, was a hack. “Meatball surgery,” he says, stroking paint on the wall above the bathroom mirror.

According to Gelding this is the proper way to perform a castration: “First thing you do is you shave the area, or if he is already shaved, that's fine. You scrub the area very well with antibacterial soap, and dry that off with nice, clean, very hot, dry towels -- as sterile as you can get them. A friend of mind likes to bake his towels for a couple hours in the oven. Says it helps. Probably does.

“Then you scrub down the skin with sponges, or bandages soaked in Betadine, a disinfectant. It is purple and it stains terribly. You use sterile procedure gloves, which guys who don't know any better often don't do. You can get them through medical supplies stores; they come in specially wrapped packages. You unwrap them and use the wrapping to lay down on the table so that if you want to put anything down you have a sterile place to put it.

“Then you very carefully make an incision in the scrotum, just off center, using a scalpel. If you are doing a bilateral orchiectomy [the medical term for castration], you go down the center line. If you are just taking out one then you go down the center of that side. Then you pick up your sterile, sharp-tipped surgical scissors, and you begin removing tissues which overlie the testicles.”

The objective is to expose the cord that connects the testicles to the body. “The cord actually consists of two cords close together; one is the vas deferens [which carries the semen] and the other one is the blood supply. Surgeons cut the two apart, but it is just as simple to tie them off. Really, the best thing to do with the cord is to suture it to the scrotum. Loose cords can cause problems.”

Gelding climbs down off the stool to get more paint. The chain at the end of his penis scrapes against the floor as he squats to refill his bucket.

Climbing back up the ladder, he continues: “So, you have got the cord tied off, then you check for hemostasis, which is control of the blood, because you don't want the poor guy bleeding after you cut the cord. So you nick the side of the cord below the sutures to make sure they're not leaking. If it leaks you haven't tied it tight enough. Once you determine there is no bleeding, at that point you can go ahead and snip. That's it. One is off.”

Repeat the procedure for the second testicle, then suture the scrotum closed. Typically it takes about seven stitches, he says.

A few days later, Gelding screens two videos he found amid the chaos of his move. One tape shows a man named Joe being castrated; the other features a man known only as "Danny."

Danny models his crotch for the camera before surgery. “Take a good look, guys,” he says, “the mistake of nature is about to come off. Where they end up I could care less. All I know is they are going, in a matter of minutes.”

Next he's lying on a table. The camera shot is tight on his penis. Two pairs of gloved hands enter the frame. One pair pulls his scrotum tight while the other injects three shots of anesthetic into it with a syringe. Gelding says he uses Xylocaine with a coagulant solution to control bleeding. (He won't take credit for the handiwork on display, but it's clear he approves of the technique.)

After the anesthetic takes effect, the hands take up their positions. The pair that held the syringe now wields a scalpel. A few short, quick strokes at the scrotum and the skin parts. The hands pick up a pair of scissors and work at freeing the testicle from the inner sack. In a minute a testicle pops out, dangling on the end of cord about as thick as a pinkie. After cutting away some surrounding tissue, the cord is ready to be tied off. The gloved hands, now slightly bloody, pick up a needle holder and pass a suture through the cord, tying it off tightly three times. A quick nip in the cord below the sutures brings forth three drops of dark-red blood. Some bleeding is to be expected, Gelding says, because it comes from the testicle. A lot of bleeding, however, indicates the sutures aren't tight enough. If the bleeding can't be stopped, “it's time for a trip to the emergency room.”

The cord is snipped and the gloved hands display the testicle for the camera. Another way to achieve the same result is with a burdizzo, essentially a large clamp used to castrate bulls, sheep, or goats without having to cut into the scrotum. Each cord is placed in the jaws of the clamp, which cuts off the blood supply to the testicle. Done correctly, the procedure hurts like hell, says Gelding. “You don't want to hear the scream an adult male makes when he has the sudden realization he should have asked for a local anesthetic instead of being a brave boy.” But using the burdizzo lessens the risk of infection. The testicles are left in the scrotum to wither into useless pebbles.

For the record the safest way to get castrated is to visit Dr. Felix Spector, a kindly, 82-year-old Philadelphia physician who has carved out a special niche for himself. He's probably the only doctor in the nation who will handle voluntary castrations, very few questions asked. Most balk at removing healthy tissue, believing it to be a violation of the Hippocratic oath: Do no harm. So if you want them off, and you want a licensed physician wielding the scalpel, Dr. Spector is your man.

“I don't attempt to make up their minds one way or another,” Spector says. “They have their minds made up by the time they come to me. I do demand that they be serious about it.”

Serious enough to put up a $300, nonrefundable deposit against the $1600 fee. For that you get a guy who performed his first transsexual operation in 1957, knows anatomy, can prescribe real pain killers, and knows what to do if things go wrong. The procedure takes about an hour, and the patient can go home the next day. Spector performs about seven orchiectomies a month. “None of my patients has ever had any problems that I know of,” he says.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Spector frowns on home castrations. “I absolutely speak against such a procedure by someone who doesn't know the anatomy or all the rest of the workings of the body. They can cause great pain and great danger.”Given the cost of castration, the potential danger, and the fact that most modern cultures consider eunuchs freaks, the obvious question is: Why bother? Gelding and his brethren have a hard time answering that one. “I've heard a hundred different reasons,” he says. “And I always ask: “Is that it? Is that reason enough to cut off your balls?'”

After several years of counseling would-be castrates, he does make an effort to distinguish the serious from the frivolous. But as to motive, he knows better than to seek a definitive answer.

“I really don't know,” says Bob Capeheart, an amiable 60-year-old from Gainesville who traveled to Mexico this past March to have his testicles removed, his penis shortened by four inches, and a new opening creating in his urethra. “It just got to the point where I said, “To hell with it; I don't want to put up with it anymore.' I had been thinking about it for a long, long time anyway.”

Capeheart is divorced, has two grown children, and works as an automotive technician. Plumbing his subconscious for some Freudian insight into motive is a wild goose chase, because he seems happy as schoolboy with his new genital arrangement. “It probably goes back to my childhood,” he surmises. “But I never liked having balls. And I never liked the fact that I was circumcised. I blame that on my parents, but back then it was the thing to do.”

He set up the operation through a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who has contacts in Mexico. Individually the three procedures would have cost $11,500, but Capeheart got a deal: a package price of $6000. Thus far the only downside has been the hourly hot flashes he has to endure. “I was warned about it,” he says, “and they are not real comfortable, I'll tell you that. They last about three to four minutes, and from your waist up you are very hot.” In a few months, once those subside, he anticipates settling into a peaceful, urge-free life: “I figure if I'm crazy, I'm crazy. I don't think I am. It is just something I wanted to do for a long time. My kids are grown, I had the money, so I just had it done.”

Robert, a 40-year-old resident of Palm Springs, California, who didn't want his last name used, also is at a loss to explain why he's desperately seeking castration. For him it began with a simple vision. “When I was in high school, I used to fantasize about having a vasectomy and it kind of progressed from there until I finally realized what I wanted.”

He got married and divorced. He took a male lover, but the thought of castration never left his mind. It's the presence in his underwear that he can't stand. Or something like that. “The testicles hanging between my legs, they are just annoying to me. I don't like the weight. They are uncomfortable. I prefer when it is lighter and smoother and cleaner. I want to keep my penis, I want to keep my scrotum, but I just don't want them down there.”

The sex drive will go, an inevitable result of castration, but this can be reversed with testosterone therapy. “I am kind of discouraged with the sexual scene out here,” he says. “I like sex, but I want to experience the loss of desire. Why go through this unless you are willing to pay the price?”

When he finds a sex scene to his liking, a shot or two will enable him to jump right in. (Human Sexuality 101: Eunuchs on testosterone can get erections and even ejaculate, because most ejaculatory fluid is produced in the prostate.) If all goes well, Robert will be cut this summer. First he must save money to fix his car's transmission. Then he must come up with plane fare to South Florida for a rendezvous with Gelding. They've only met via e-mail and telephone, never in person. Still Robert is confident Gelding is the man for the job. “My whole thing is I have to trust the person,” he says, “and I have gotten to know him.”

Through castration Gelding also has come to know himself. And what he's learned is that the human mind, or more precisely his mind, was enigmatic, illogical, and awash in hormones that controlled him in subtle and disturbing ways. At least now he's in charge of the hormones.

“I don't like to be controlled by something I don't understand,” he explains. “This controlled me, the urge, it controlled me for years. You don't know how much you are driven by your hormones until you take them away.”

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1 comments
slavehole
slavehole

This is one of the best stories I've ever read about a man's quest to be castrated. Since my earliest days, my self-image has been of me as property to be owned and used by other men. My castration will be the lifetime act that will bond me to my cutter until death do us part. I really like the idea of being a eunuch. My penis has not worked for twenty years so I am already a functional eunuch. I would love to have all that useless stuff down in my groin cleared out and have a nice smooth crotch for men to carress.

I don't know why ring a eunuch is so important to me. I just do know it is at the core of my sexuality. And once I am cut, I want to world to know what I am. I will be so happy for my cutter-owner to show me off as his own personal eunuch.

I shod mention that I have started to call myself Clipper. Whatever name I end up with will be my owners choice.

clipper

 
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