March 7, 2008

I was sitting in a coffee shop yesterday and overheard a couple of ladies reading from a newspaper. The article had something to do with a man getting his prick removed by his wife after she had drugged him. The kicker was that after the ordeal was done and the ‘missing piece’ was replaced he forgave her. That seems pretty odd, so I tried to look it up online but could find nothing. What I did end up doing, however, was looking at a pile of other castration stories. Which, I think, is probably relevant for us, considering what we’re writing about. That is, what about when people DO get castrated?

The first one that I found interesting was the case of Kim Tran, who axed her boyfriend’s cock after he tried to break-up with her. And what did she do with it? Well, she threw it in the toilet and flushed. This makes me think of how Freud describes little boys’ take on sex – it happens with a detachable penis which goes in the back door, and is associated with shit (I’m thinking of the Wolf Man case in particular). I don’t, however, think Freud links that with castration…

One thing I noticed about reports of a few American cases (the Bobbit one, most prominently) is that first, in her defense, the woman in question claims abuse, but is then accused of being motivated by jealousy. The jealousy angle is interesting, perhaps because it makes the most sense, even in a horde-father sort of way: To keep him from accessing other woman, he has to be stopped. Instead of killing him, however, he’s just separated from the object of his power…

But one is forced to wonder if the whole jealousy accusation is just an easy way to discount what the woman’s done (a little more on this below) and even makes me think of the whole ‘suppression of the seduction theory’ business. That is, many of Freud’s patients were abused by their fathers. But as they say, ‘Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you’, or rather, ‘just because they’re after you doesn’t mean your justified in being paranoid!’ That is, just because you’ve been abused doesn’t mean your neurosis isn’t a neurosis! One could be both abused and jealous of the exploits of one’s aggressor… Anyway, I digress.

Further in the Horde-father vein, I came across one case where a man killed another and removed his wenis and it was called an honour killing. That is, because someone else encroached on ‘his turf’ he felt the need to assert his authority and limit access to ‘his’ woman.

But more interesting than that are the few cases of auto-castration that I found. One dude stood up in a restaurant and did the deed, in front of quite a few others. Some other guy lopped of his little friend when he was messed up on uppers, and took his hand off too. What I found interesting about these was the reaction of the onlookers – traumatized, of course. I wonder, however, if the fact that it was their dongs that made it more traumatic… one can only wonder. And in the first case, I wonder about the need to cut it off in public… Acting as the tool of the Other, perhaps?

In another case, buddy claimed a woman did it, but had in fact done it himself. Apparently he had previously been charged for murdering a woman after she made fun of him for being impotent. This one is interesting because it points to something Zizek says in the last section of Ticklish Subject: ‘erectile dysfunction’ that can be ‘cured’ with little blue pills removes responsibility from the impotent person’s unconscious. That is, if the problem’s not physical, then there’s something happening in the back of your mind that you’re not privy to, and refuse to be, that’s at fault. So we might surmise that this dude was fully aware that he was his own castrator (responsible for his own impotence), but refused to be aware, instead telling the law that a woman had done it!

Another great auto-castration story I found on a Blog. Apparently this guy chopped of his peter to prove to his wife that he loved her, although he had been having an affair. That is, rather than his wife slicing off his johnson in a jealous rage, he did it for her. Now, many of the comments on the blog are sung to the tune of “what an Idiot!” But a few agreed that it was an honourable thing to do. I think I agree. I also think we could think of this as a “symbolic Act” rather than an ‘acting out’. Rather than denying he was having an affair, rather than apologizing, he did ‘the impossible’ – handed over the perpetrator.

But, of course, the ‘detachable penis’ has become just that – capable of being returned to its place. Thai doctors, apparently, are now experts at reatachment surgery. And here’s where I want to come back to women and jelousy. The reason Thai doctors are so good at putting one’s john thomas back together again is because Thai women chop so many off! Now, I think that perhaps it’s jumping the gun to call this an ‘acting out’. Under a system of patriarchy is this justified? Isn’t it what which is supposed to give power, the ability to castrate? Isn’t it the phallus that keeps everything in place? Christine Delphy argues that the exploitation of women in the home is a separate level of exploitation, and simply ending capitalism wouldn’t end the exploitation of women without a separate struggle (she quotes Lenin saying just as much to bolster her argument against the French Communist Party). She didn’t push for castration, of course, but militant struggle towards the destruction of the family…

So, perhaps in this case actual castration is just an ‘acting out’ – an impulse that need be politicized to be truly effective. I imagine that these women were punished, and that patriarchy still exists in Thailand. I guess I just like the idea of such a violent, immediate action. But I guess that’s the point – that energy could be used for real change. Somewhere, perhaps in “Lenin’s Choice” (maybe it’s in Ticklish…) Zizek says that the passions of the German people that the Nazi’s fed on were genuine passions; the real problem was how they were drawn into and used by the Nazi project. So, the impulse to castrate could be politicized. “There is spontaneity and spontaneity,” as they say. The difference is that the second spontaneity (a ‘hysterical’ outburst) is channeled through a political project…



2 Responses to “Castration”

  1. battleofthegiants said

    Re: Thailand, here’s a link to a short piece by Gwynn Dyer about the political situation in Thailand:

  2. battleofthegiants said

    I was looking through Evans’ ‘dictionary’ the other day and he writes that it is only the little-phi, the imaginary phallus that is detachable and castrate-able. I guess that means attacking the ‘nodal signifier’ isn’t the way to go about things. Fundamental fantasy, begone!

    I’ve noticed the ‘little-phi’ painted on a few of Toronto’s sidewalks recently. I imagine that they mark where a whole has to be dug. “Castrate here”. … or maybe they’re just survey marks…

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