chapter  1
24 Pages

Making defective men

Physiology, medicine, and the therapeutics of castration
ByKatherine Crawford

This chapter historicizes the author's understanding of early modern medical practices of and around castration in terms of transsexuality and deliberately disabling boys and men by destroying or removing their testicles. The aporia in premodern physiological knowledge required that commentators and observers explain corporeal changes in ways that cohered with a value system that the authors no longer fully embrace, but which informs how the authors comprehend corporeal gender and sex transformation. The process of elaboration begins with the first digestion of nourishment in the stomach and intestines, and continues with the second digestion in the veins and liver. The blood is then purified in the third digestion, which takes place when the heart provides vital warmth. The fourth and final digestion occurs in the seminal ducts, where the blood turns into semen. Operating on the assumption that every body part was structured toward its functional end, Galen described the testicles as diffusing virility throughout the body.