chapter  2
30 Pages

The castration conundrum

Civil law creates sexual disability
ByKatherine Crawford

According to medical belief, the surgical practice of castration made the male body feminine, if not quite female, a change that subverted the laws of nature. Extra-legal castration remained largely unacceptable, although its appearances in the historical record contributed to the author's understanding of what castration meant in pre-modern cultural contexts. In reducing the priest from a man with designs on superior sexual access to one largely incapable of sex, castration is presented as a just punishment for the priest who has broken his vow of celibacy, and more generally, for men inclined to adultery. Where Roman law had initially attempted to mitigate the feminizing effects of castration by preserving the accidental castrate's access to rights, medieval law codes rendered castration as a public disability and actively sought to disable some men. In emphasizing sexual function, advocates of a sexual ability standard stayed within a logic based on a humoral measure of functionality.