This is going to make me wildly unpopular, I know, but here we go (deep breath):
The issue of chemically castrating sex offenders is a fascinating one, mostly because both genders find nothing really all that complicated about their views. But those views are almost universally opposite one another. I just find it amazing that we have come so far in our understanding of one another over the generations–no thanks to the mythology that we originate from different planets, or whatever depressed women are lulling themselves to sleep with nowadays–and yet when it comes to basic penis etiquette, it seems we are again looking at one another, head cocked to the side like a spaniel hearing a fire engine. “Really? You think it’s your right to have an erection well into your 90’s? Well, I’ll be dipped.”
Viagra aside, the issue of chemical castration seems to be the one where I differ most from my be-phallused brethren. To me, the issue is simple. If a repeat sex offender requests castration so that he no longer fears his own worst impulses, do it. Period. End of story. Snip snip. The statistics on this back me up. From today’s story in the NY Times, in which they highlight the debate currently raging on this here side of the pond:
Dr. Martin Holly, a leading sexologist and psychiatrist who is director of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, said none of the nearly 100 sex offenders who had been physically castrated had committed further offenses. A Danish study of 900 castrated sex offenders in the 1960s suggested the rate of repeat offenses dropped after surgical castration to 2.3 percent from 80 percent.
Of course, there are detractors, citing their opinions that this behavior is burned into the brain and not the testicles, and also that the newly eunuch-ed can order testosterone over the internet and resume their monstrous tendencies. To me, that seems (a) oxymoronic (If it’s all in their brain, why would they need/want to buy testosterone over the internet?), and (b) easy to fix (Back to prison witcha, mister!).
Regardless, while I agree that this type of deviant behavior is largely mental, I disagree that chemical castration can’t help. If the problem really is that the man can’t concentrate because of his need to fulfill horrifying sexual urges (as the lead-off case in the Times’ story said), chemical castration might help quell that (as the aforementioned eunuch says it has for more than 20 years). I have read some pleas for help, written to my darling Dan Savage, from pedophiles who, while they know their impulses are repulsive and dangerous, have no idea how to live without somehow purging them. Giving them some piece of mind, if they ask for it, seems…well, humane. Even if rape is only about control and is not sexual at all (an argument I buy, by the way), then I am yet to be convinced that lowering the testosterone level in someone wouldn’t help that problem of over-aggression out (I know the scientific community’s jury is still out on the direct correlation between testosterone and aggression, but the evidence is overwhelmingly…erm, coincident?).
I truly believe part of the problem in instituting this is the over-empathizing that a lot of men do with the convicts, just because they share a beloved body part. Let’s be clear here: This is not being proposed, nor should it be, as a way of dealing with any guy accused of date rape by his ex-girlfriend. Thus far, this has been used by volunteers who don’t want to feel they need to repeatedly stab 12-year-old boys to get their rocks off. (This is not to say that I wouldn’t like to see a pack of wild dogs unleashed at the bacon-wrapped crotches of frat-boy assholes with pockets full of roofies, but that’s my over-empathizing problem.)
Adding to the dilemma for the poor guys is that virtually any report you read on this tends to have sections like this:
Surgical castration has been a means of social control for centuries. In ancient China, eunuchs were trusted to serve the imperial family inside the palace grounds; in Italy several centuries ago, youthful male choir members were castrated to preserve their high singing voices.
(Huh? Weren’t we talking about it as a way to stop sex offenders from perpetuating their reigns of terror? Who said anything about creating slaves or reenacting Dido and Aeneas the way it was originally written?)
These days it can be used to treat testicular cancer and some advanced cases of prostate cancer.
(And now we’re talking about it as an extreme measure to counter death? Wait, whaaaa?)
At first, I couldn’t believe the Times printed an article with such off-topic and out-of-nowhere paragraphs in it, both of which seemed designed to portray castration in a horrifying light (which, let’s face it, isn’t hard). Then I checked. Yeah, a guy wrote it. And edited it. Poor guys could probably hardly type while hunched so tightly over their imaginarily imperiled members.
To sum up: I have long considered rape to be the most heinous of crimes, not only because of its sometimes brutal nature, but also because of the emotional violence it inflicts on its victims. They are left confused and scarred forever about one of the most intimate and wonderful parts of being a human being. I do believe that it’s a form of genital mutilation of the mind, if you will. So, yes, part of me just wants revenge-type punishment. But that would entail the aforementioned hungry dogs and fire pokers, rather than a chemical procedure. I really just think this might be a good idea.
Then again, I just watched Doubt last night, so I may be speaking a tish bit impulsively (good flick, by the by).