Castration, gelding, orchiectomy or orchidectomy is any action, surgical or otherwise, by which a male loses the use of his testes. This causes sterilization, i.e. prevents him from reproducing; it also prevents the production of certain hormones such as testosterone. It should not be confused with penectomy, which is the whole or partial removal of the penis.

The term "castration" is sometimes also used to refer to the removal of the ovaries in the female, otherwise known as an oophorectomy. In animals oophorectomy is also called spaying.

Castration In Humans

Medical consequences

A male who is castrated before the onset of puberty will retain his high voice, slight build and small genitals, won't develop pubic hair, and will have a small or no sex drive.

Castrations after the onset of puberty will typically reduce the sex drive considerably, or eliminate it altogether. Castrates can however still have erections, orgasms and ejaculations. The voice will normally not change. Some castrates report mood changes, such as depression or a more serene outlook on life. Body strength and muscle mass can decrease somewhat. Body hair won't change much.

Generally speaking, the effects of a chemical castration (where the action of male hormones is countered by drugs) are more severe than the effects of surgical castration: about 10 percent of a male's testosterone is produced by the adrenal glands (near the kidneys) and not by the testes.


Castration was frequently used in certain cultures such as in India, Africa or China, for religious or social reasons. People who receive this treatment, known as eunuchs, are often admitted to special social classes. Eunuchs were also often used to guard harems.

When women were not allowed to sing in public, castration was sometimes used on young boys to prevent the breaking of their voice (caused mainly by testosterone) and to let them develop a special high voice. These men are known as castratos.

Castration in humans has been proposed, and sometimes used, as a method of birth control in certain poorer regions.

A temporary chemical castration has been studied and developed as a preventive measure and punishment for several repeated sex crimes such as rape or other sexually related violence. Chemical or surgical castration is being discussed in many countries in particular as a voluntary surgical measure: an option for child molesterss to avoid (long term) imprisonments. In the case of chemical castration, regular injections of anti-androgens would probably be required.

Surgical removal of a testicle is done in the case of testicular cancer. Surgical removal of both testicles or chemical castration may be carried out in the case of prostate cancer, as hormone treatment to slow down the cancer.

There is also much documented evidence that voluntary castration is fairly common in modern societies for reasons such as transgender, control of libido, and body modification. Since voluntary castration is not generally supported by the medical community, an extensive underground network of castrators (also called "cutters") without medical licenses has formed, in part aided by the Internet. Alternatively, self-castration (or autocastration) is a common occurrence to the extent that most urologists encounter many such patients during their career.

Castration In Veterinary Practice

Castration is common in zoology, where it is intended for favouring a given desired development of the animal or of its habits. Usually domestic pets are subject to castration in order to avoid sexual frustration or sexual contacts and consequent reproduction. In the food industry, cattle are often castrated in order to increase their weight (with the advantage of relevant scale economies for the breeder).

Certain animals, like horses and swine, are usually treated with a scrotal castration (which can be done with the animal standing), while others, like dogs and cats, with a pre-scrotal castration (with the animal recumbent).

Methods of veterinary castration include surgical removal, the use of an elastrator tool to secure a band around the testicles that disrupts the blood supply, the use of a burdizzo tool to crush the spermatic cords and disrupt the blood supply, pharmalogical injections and implants and immunological techniques to innoculate the animal against its own sexual hormones.

See also