Castrating Sex Offenders Doesn't Solve Anything But Sagging Balls

Time's Leo Cendrowicz looks into the current European controversy over the Czech Republic's use of voluntary castration on sex offenders. But the real question, possibly answered by Wayne Dumond, is whether it's effective.

Cendrowicz says:

Over the past decade, at least 94 prisoners have undergone the treatment in the Czech Republic, the only country in Europe to continue to surgically castrate sex offenders. The Czech government insists the procedure is a medical issue, permanently reducing testosterone levels to lower an offender's sexual urges. And officials say it is only performed at the request of the prisoners themselves.

While the Czech government is right that it lowers testosterone, that doesn't prevent sex offenders from continuing to offend and some — like Wayne Dumond — can use their castration to argue for their release, only to offend again. In fact, the Council of Europe notes that the Czechs offer castration to first-time offenders and non-violent offenders (like flashers) and even threatens them with longer jail terms if they are unwilling to submit to castration.

But, the crux of the matter is probably this:

Some surveys suggest castration can dramatically reduce recidivism. One 1989 survey in Germany of 104 voluntary castrates showed a 75% drop in sexual interest, libido, erection, and ejaculation. But measuring such changes is notoriously difficult and often depends on the subjective self-reports of sex offenders. A 1989 Psychological Bulletin study concluded that, "the recidivism rate for treated offenders is not lower than that for untreated offenders; if anything, it tends to be higher." Many other studies emphasize the mental nature of deviant sexual interests, which cannot be cured through surgery.

Castration of sex offenders is rooted in the idea that deviant sexual interests, like rape and molestation, are biological: that attraction to violent sex can be cured by rooting out the hormone that causes a biological interest in sex and provides, for some, an ability to perform. But, rape isn't a biological urge as much as it is mental, which is why, despite castration, many sex offenders go on to re-offend. Cutting off a man's balls doesn't cut off that part of the brain which makes him interested in raping. In fact, all it does is, apparently, give him a good argument in front of a parole board as to why he should get let out... and possibly rape again.

The Unkindest Cut [Time]