4. Castration

Oh, bollocks.

It is probably fairly clear at this point that the fear list jury was made up mostly of men. Freud would have been proud of this entry, which perhaps deserves to be taken psychologically rather than literally (yet another instance where it’s hard to imagine a circumstance in which it might happen). You have to bear in mind though that I’m as qualified to talk about psychology as “Dr” Gillian is to talk about grape nuts. But here goes –

The fear of castration is a fear of emasculation, of powerlessness – and powerlessness is what lies behind nearly all the fears on our list. (So in a sense all male fears are castration fears). It’s a specific form of powerlessness, though – the removal of potency, not simply the state of being without power. It’s not a fear of ‘becoming female’ – it’s a fear of being reduced to a state of sexlessness. You need only look at some of the mocking, nervous, finger-pointing coverage of the ‘asexual’ movement to see that this is a deeply held dread.

My understanding is that life as a castrate wouldn’t be so bad (“it should not be confused with penectomy” says Wikipedia) – for one thing if castrated after puberty one would still be able to have sex, though not to ejaculate. In fact – again this is from Wikipedia – many harem women preferred eunuchs as lovers due to their ability to last longer. So again, this fear is about what castration represents, not about the fact of it. A final note – the Chinese (and yes, you can no doubt guess my source on this) used to use castration both as punishment and as entry to the civil service. In the era of office work and business hierarchies, it seems rather appropriate.