In the spring of 2006, the small bible-belt town of Waynesville, deep in the Smoky Mountains, was thrust into the media spotlight across the United States. Suddenly, the local paper went from covering church fetes and college basketball games to reporting bondage, S&M games and men coming to town to have their testicles sliced off.
In rural North Carolina, three men were arrested for castrating men in the basement of their house. Richard Sciara a.k.a. Master Rick, his lover Michael Mendez and the one they called their slave; Danny Reeves were charged with maiming and castration, conspiracy and practicing medicine without a licence.
Since the arrests, more details have emerged about the so-called mutilators. They are said to keep a dungeon in their house with cages hanging from the ceiling and severed testicles in the freezer.
When asked why these men came to see him, Master Rick is forthright "Because they had a need that was not able to be fulfilled by mainstream society. They have a right, they feel, to do modifications to their body without legal interference".
Master Rick believes voluntary castration is a growing phenomenon and there's a need for people like him because it's virtually impossible to obtain from a qualified surgeon. The few doctors willing to perform the surgery, work in a grey area of the law. This means the eunuch community operates in a hidden world where everyone has pseudonyms.
On the Internet someone called homptydumpty was looking for post-op advice and said he was booked in for a castration in two weeks time. His real name is Zachary Arnold but he likes to be called Zee; he is just twenty. He has flown 2,500 miles from Washington State to Philadelphia to see Dr Murray Kimmel, one of the few trained surgeons willing to do castration on demand. Zee thinks his testicles are ugly and can't stand the sight of them hanging between his thighs. He is not seeking a sex-change but he claims to have wanted his testicles removed since he was a child.
At twenty, he seems remarkably young to be having an irreversible operation, but Zee is not alone. Somebody calling themselves thefrag was castrated by Dr Kimmel five years ago when he was the same age as Zee. In reality thefrag is Roger from Southport, England.
Roger says that, even as a child, he was obsessed with getting rid of his testicles. An urge he couldn't explain and no-one else could understand. This led to increasingly brutal acts of self-mutilation and he saw a series of counsellors, but no-one could offer any realistic help so he turned to the Internet. It was there that he found Dr Kimmel. Roger saved for two years, and in September 2002 he flew 3,500 miles, on his own, to be castrated in Philadelphia.
After years of fantasising that the operation would be the answer to his problems, Roger found that castration had some unexpected side-effects. "I did go through a very dark phase after I was castrated. I'd not really thought it through. For a long time I did wonder if I'd done the wrong thing. There did come a point where I tried to take my own life".
Zee's mum Sue has come to Philadelphia to be with him during his surgery. The surgery itself last less than an hour and, surprisingly, Zee is able to walk back to the hotel. The desire to be castrated isn't recognised by the medical establishment, so for Zee there is no hospital in which he can recuperate. He has to rely on his mum for after-care in a hotel room.
Dr Kimmel has, apparently, performed more than 12,000 castrations. He won't allow cameras into his surgery and refused to be interviewd.
It seems that ever since they were children, both Zee and Roger were horrified by puberty and the prospect of becoming men, but that's not the case with all eunuchs. Someone called Bill in Florida has a Website boasting about his castration with something called a burdizzo. A burdizzo is a testicular clamping device used on cattle. He says he wanted to be castrated because he was obsessed by sex. He was so obsessed he would turn to the Web to fulfil his sex addiction where he would masturbate for up to six hours at a time.
The Burdizzo Clamp
Unlike surgery, a burdizzo doesn't physically remove the testicles. The idea is to clamp, with enough force, crushing the spermatic cord, cutting off the blood supply. After several months the body, supposedly, absorbs the dead testicles. After five years, with his testicles still intact, Bill decides to have another go. This time, however, he will not go to an illegal back-street practitioner, he will do it himself.
|The Invisibles: A Tale of the Eunuchs of India - Zia Jaffrey|
|Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood - Gary Taylor|