Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Castration as punishment...

Fox News (I hate to link them) is reporting that the LA senate passed a bill yesterday, 32-3, that gives judges the ability to add subject convicted sex-crime offenders to chemical castration after a first offense, and requires it for repeat offenders. Convicted criminals will have the option to opt for surgical castration instead of chemical, if they desire.

I'm still thinking about this, but I have to admit that it makes me profoundly uncomfortable. More after I've had time to figure out what, exactly, I think.

In the meantime... your thoughts?


Jaclyn said...

I'll tell you what I think: testosterone doesn't make a rapist, and reducing it won't neutralize one. If you can't get it up, there are infinite other means to sexual violation. This is ridiculous, offensive, and so much essentialist bullshit it makes me spit.

Jason Schultz said...

I think there are both pragmatic and moral arguments to this similar in some ways to the debate about the death penalty or forced sterilization.

As a practical matter, it is possible that chemically castrating someone will reduce the probability that they will rape, just as would killing them or cutting off their hands. Just as forced sterilization prevents poor women from having children.

But is it ethical? Does the state have the moral right to mutilate a human being because they have the potential to harm another? Sure, studies show that once someone commits a violent sex crime, they are more likely to do it again, but it doesn't mean they will.

Anyway, I won't recast the arguments, but it seems to me that this looks at masculinity and male sexuality (as embodied by testosterone) as a disease that needs to be cured instead of looking at rape as a social/power dynamic used to oppress women and manifested via individual male acts.

Mighty Ponygirl said...

It doesn't help that a lot of offenders actually request these procedures. The thinking behind it is: "I am not responsible for my actions, it was my uncontrollable penis. If we could shut that down, I will no longer be compelled to do what I do." Whether they genuinely believe that or are just saying something they think the parole board wants to hear is barely an issue--the need to rape and molest is a broken bit in the brain, not in the nuts. One can be compelled and aroused even without one's primary sex organs because the brain is itself a sexual organ. Esp. when you consider that rape and molestation does not exist solely within the boundaries of simple PIV intercourse, and can involve any number of analogs for the penis, the need to sexually dominate others can still be satisfied even if the convicted cannot become erect.

Meanwhile, a very dangerous precendent has been set in regards to the state's ability to control a person's reproductive organs.

EvilDollie said...

This doesn't sit right with me either. Not only do I really doubt it would work (sexual violence is not simply a matter of satisfying a sex drive), but I don't like the idea of the government punishing people by sticking chemicals in their bodies.

L said...

What Jaclyn said.

Anonymous said...

I have the feeling maybe I've been misinformed about this because I'm a liberal feminist opposed to the death penalty and everything, but I'm pretty okay with this. Especially on a voluntary basis or for repeat offenders of children who - for some unfathomable reason - aren't kept in prison.
I'd like to see more evidence that castration actually reduces recidivism for sex offenders. If it does, and the offender's been snatched up for raping kids before, and he even signs off on it, snip away I say.
From what I've heard, it's the only thing that gets some people to stop harming others - sociopaths who just don't have the capacity to care about the difference between right and wrong, for instance.

Anonymous said...

I want to add (I'm the same "anonymous") that I would also like kids to be educated in bodily sovereignty and personal boundaries starting as early as possible. And I'd like for our society to eventually (now would be good, actually) not be set up to view female humans as willing prey and male humans as hapless predators.

Jeffrey said...

Biologically, sure. Testosterone increases aggression in both sexes and in all species, so chemical castration will probably reduce recidivism in rapists, murderers, and any other violent criminals.

Legally, I'm not so sure. It's certainly more acceptable than capital punishment for rape, but I don't know how much I like the precedent.

Anonymous said...

As a survivor of molestation and rape I've been wanting this on the books for YEARS!

Castration for rapists and child molestors! Cull them from the herd already.

At the very least they shouldn't be allowed to procreate and if guys know they could get their wobbly bits chopped off for this shit it may work as a deterrent, but mostly it would make me as a survivor feel a whole lot damn better.

Holly said...

Speaking as someone who's actually gone through chemical castration, and in a variety of ways, I don't really believe this would even work. I don't even think it is the right or most effective way to reduce recidivism. It's absurd for all the reasons that have been pointed out -- blaming biology for "out of control" behavior and assuming that therefore, there must be a biological answer.

Jaclyn is exactly right. And even someone who has been physically castrated can still have an erection -- as if that's what mattered with rape and sexual violation. It just shows how silly this all is and how it plays on people's misinformed notions about what rape is, what motivates rape and other kinds of harmful sexual behavior.

Sex is 95% between the ears, silly people, and only 5% between the legs.

r@d@r said...

from my contacts in the mental health field, who often come into contact with offenders, i have heard that chemically castrated sex offenders have gone right on offending. in other words: jaclyn is right - the impulse to sexually violate another human being isn't primarily sexual in nature. it's about power and objectification.

Roy said...

Great comments, everyone. You've pretty much hit all of the things that really make me unhappy about this.

It's not like I can't understand how this might feel vinidicating, either- I can imagine that if I were the victim of a violent crime, I might wish that something like this would happen to someone. I've certainly wished terrible things on the people who've hurt my loved ones before.

Another part of my discomfort comes from this idea that it's okay to violate another person's body for just the feeling of satisfaction we get from it. It's not about justice, I think. If there really isn't evidence that this will help end recidivism, and it's unlikely to be deter potential criminals, that suggests that this is about making people feel better after-the-fact. Look how tough we are on criminals. And I understand where that comes from, but it still makes me very uncomfortable, and I still think it's a bad idea.

Ananael Qaa said...

To my way of thinking a lot more research is needed showing that this really works before we can assume that a castrated offender is no longer a danger to others. Until that can be clearly demonstrated, allowing inmates to undergo any sort of castration in exchange for a lower sentence is a pretty reckless action on the part of the judicial system.

The Wayne Dumond case is a recent high-profile example of how dangerous this assumption can be. Aside from the politically opportunistic angle of the case, Huckabee likely also thought that since Dumond was castrated he wasn't a danger to anyone - and then Dumond raped and murdered at least one and possibly more women after his release from prison.

Human biology is complicated. Let's make sure that we understand it before we take chances with these offenders.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I can add to the discussion is that the government can already force drugs into your system. If you have a mental illness, the government can rule that you have to take them... even if you don't want to. But like all things, it doesn't always mean someone with mental illness will comply/the meds will stop working/etc. It's a complex problem that needs more money and research thrown at it.

Anonymous said...

it seems like it does not really address the real problem and, like someone else said, assumes that rape stems from sexual desire rather than power and aggression. and i agree with mighty ponygirl, who said that it allows sex offenders to blame it on their penis, which i think totally promotes the idea that men can't control their sexuality - and that is some bullshit.
it's the gut reaction of a lot of people to sex offenders, but it's not well-thought-out. a great book/movie on this and a wide array of other issues is the satire little children.
okay, i know a lot of what i said was repetitive, but i felt like i should say something relevant before i gush. i mainly wanted to say that i just found your blog today, and i think you rock pretty hard, dude! i'm glad there are people out there like you. way to bring up current, relevant, thought-provoking issues.

Anonymous said...

This is clearly capital punishment in it's worst form. I, too, am a survivor, but I understand that any impulse other than to send that person, or others like them, to jail is by and large mostly a motivation for pure, unadulterated revenge is not lost on me.

The fact that we're talking about the guy's nads should be even more off-putting. Many men connect their sense of self down there (which I suspect is why kick in the nads jokes are both so rough for men and so welcomed by some feminists).

Since the procedure is irreversible, as well, consider what happens if someone is later found to be acquitted, just like with many other capital punishment cases we've proven wrong.

foxglove said...

I would much prefer that we mandate serious counseling for rapists and sex offenders as well as a period of intense monitoring during rehabilitation. I'm not sure that I fully believe in the efficacy of rehabilitation for rapists, but it is certainly a better plan than locking them up in prison with a bunch of other violent and misogynistic criminals and CERTAINLY better than violating their bodily integrity by chemically or surgically castrating them. Castration against someone's will is just as bad as rape- you're taking away their control over their bodies and their sexual choices--- we're raping the rapists, and I, for one, don't think that two wrongs make a right. Isn't there a better way to prevent rapists from raping again? Isn't there a more humane way?

redrumwriter63 said...

I have to say... a little less testosterone in the world might do it a lot of good.

That said: As others here have mentioned, it's unethical (and a little too late, no?) to force this kind of bodily interference on people, even criminals.

Jason Schultz also makes the good point of fixing the problem instead of putting a band-aid on it. Changing one man's biological makeup will (might) change that one man's actions in the future. But change the society that brought them to their actions, and you can prevent a lot more damage. If only there were a way to put that into place thoroughly and quickly enough...

Anonymous said...

A few years back I researched this method for a paper and came up with information on an antiandrogen called cyproterone acetate (“CPA”) that apparently was proven to reduce recidivism rates in Europe for CERTAIN sex offenders, though this particular chemical cocktail has (last I checked) not been made available in the U.S. thanks to the FDA. In the U.S., the method typically used is MPA (medroxyprogesterone acetate), a less effective alternative known for its exhaustive list of side effects.

With that said, neither form of chemical castration (or other forms experimented with the 1960s and 70s) have been proven effective among pedophiles. But as many know, nothing has proven effective in treating pedophiles and our best option at this time is long-term or permanent incarceration.

I personally feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of government-mandated sterilization/castration considering the room for abuse here. The slippery slope argument for this sort of treatment being used on others in the future (perhaps even non-criminals) unnerves me.

In terms of ethics, revenge isn't supposed to be the purpose or focus of our criminal justice system nor should it be IMO. That's not to say that I'm particularly concerned with protecting sex offenders or their rights though. Protecting our government from becoming even more corrupt and tyrannical, however, is a major concern.

My vote goes to treating drug offenders in outpatient facilities to make room for incarcerating sex offenders long-term since they pose a MUCH greater threat to society.

Micole said...

I'm a little late posting on this (and it's my first time visiting this site, which, btw, I now love), but as a former child sexual assault counselor and current law student, I have to say this is a terrible idea from a prosecution perspective (and if we can't get convictions, it's a lot harder to mandate treatment or to deter). Many children, and adults, are molested by relatives or close family friends. Survivors often feel a lot of conflict about causing the punishment of someone they may love, despite their terrible actions. If the punishment is castration, survivors of non-stranger sexual assault are on the whole less likely to go to law enforcement. This was one of the arguments for eliminating the death penalty for rapists; survivors, prosecutors, and juries are less likely to bring charges or convict when the punishment seems draconian.

mire said...

Here is a great site to check out and also a sneak preview of May's "People Who Care" page with a Christina Ricci interview about her work with RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network):

Go to the site and shop and a percent of your sale will go to RAINN!

Pass this on to everyone!!!

matthew said...

I am just sick and tired of all the liberal weenies who have nothing better to do than rant and rave about how communistic America has become. Just knock it off. Here in south carolina, a man can beat his wife on the steps of the state house on the third sunday of the month. IN New York, you receive 3 nights in jail for camping out under a camel. Sound irrelevant so far? good. thats because they are. Just because a law is on the books doesnt mean you have to apply it to every offender. However, you owe it to every little girl out there to pass the law and plaster it all over MTV and the apparently much hated Fox News network primetime shows. The law is not an attempt to stop all molesters from commiting crimes. It's whats called a "scare tactic." if it stops one person a year, or one person period from being attacked because of the fear induced by a punk realizing they could have their manhood removed, then its worth whatever time and money it takes. Now, please, please for all of you who are irate from reading this post, do us all a favor and respond. Go ahead. Who will be the first to make the "pro-rapist?" argument.

Roy said...

I am just sick and tired of all the liberal weenies who have nothing better to do than rant and rave about how communistic America has become. Just knock it off.

Uh. Okay. Well, the next time I see a liberal ranting and raving about how Communistic we've become, I'll be sure to tell them to knock it off.

Here in south carolina, a man can beat his wife on the steps of the state house on the third sunday of the month. IN New York, you receive 3 nights in jail for camping out under a camel. Sound irrelevant so far? good. thats because they are. Just because a law is on the books doesnt mean you have to apply it to every offender.

And laws that have fallen into obscurity to the point of being Trivial Pursuit questions aren't even remotely the same as laws that are being passed today.

However, you owe it to every little girl out there to pass the law and plaster it all over MTV and the apparently much hated Fox News network primetime shows.

See, that's where we differ. I think we owe it to the victims of sexual assault- whether they're little girls or grown men or anything else- to, you know, actually do something that will help. This law isn't going to help, and, as others have pointed out, it's essentialist, ridiculous, and offensive.

The law is not an attempt to stop all molesters from commiting crimes. It's whats called a "scare tactic." if it stops one person a year, or one person period from being attacked because of the fear induced by a punk realizing they could have their manhood removed, then its worth whatever time and money it takes.

Scare tactics don't work, and there's evidence that, in fact, they can have an escalating effect.

Now, please, please for all of you who are irate from reading this post, do us all a favor and respond. Go ahead. Who will be the first to make the "pro-rapist?" argument.

Are we on the same website? I don't think you're going to find anyone on here who's going to put a pro-rapist argument on here. And if they did, they'd quickly find themselves unwelcome.

Matthew said...

In response to the personal contrast of scare tactics, the fact that the law is in the books allows the people the right to exercise it. Therefore, the law should be used periodically simply to reinforce society's commitment to protecting its citizens. With respect to my comment about protecting little girls, the statement was generic. I was simply stressing the protection of potential victims, not to be dismissive towards previous ones.

Anonymous said...

Others have done well to comment on the non-sexual power elements that underlie crimes like rape & molestation.

I would like to approach this from a medical perspective.

Chemical or surgical castration affect so much more than libido, arousal, & sexual function. Testosterone & its chemical relatives support bone mass, muscle mass, strength, red blood cell production, immune function, & many other physical functions, as well as memory, confidence, & euthymia. Both methods of castration may require medications to prevent or treat osteoperosis, diabetes, gynecomastia, & depression so long as the hormonal milieu of the offender is that of a eunuch.

Behavior is not entirely determined by hormones, but hormones can certainly contribute to behavior. Recent studies show that estradiol, not testosterone, may play a larger role in aggression & irritability.
In reply to the hormonal determinist who says testosterone leads to uncontrollable sexual urges, one could argue that low testosterone/disproportionately high estradiol could dispose a castrated offender toward a state of mind that could foster other crimes.

For the sake of clarification, the supposed "temporary/reversible" quality of chemical castration (& hence its reputation as less "extreme")is specious. One could "theoretically" reverse it (would this be a possibility for a sex offender?), but even so, discontinuing the medication does not always result in a return of testosterone & related hormones to normal. Testosterone blocking medications for prostate cancer may shed some insight, as men who eventually discontinue these meds often do not return to baseline testosterone/DHT levels.

Castration is not a "mere" clipping of an anabolic & androgenic hormone- it is an assault on the whole body.

Anonymous said...

Humans are so stupid and so ignorant talking about things they know nothing about, not even understanding elementry biolog. 1) The male testes in all mammals produce male hormones like testosterone which are responsible for male aggression, male dominance, and male sexual desire. 2) For this reason, castrated males will have less sexual aggression, and no sex drive or one greatly diminished. They will be less aggressive and less inclined to seek dominance or dominant sex. Why do you think males who take anabolic steroids have a much higher incidence of rape, sexual aggression, physical aggression and roid rage? Studies all over the world have clearly shown that castration greatly reduces the rate of ricidivism in several types of sex offenders. The FBI classifies sex offenders into for catagories. For certain sex offenders castration does not help. It does help pedophiles who are not generally sociopaths, but those with a sex drive they did not choose for themselves.

Pedophiles only get sexual satisfaction from having sex with children. Pedophiles have as much choice acting on their sexual impulses as gays have acting on theirs. Gay Christians engage in homosexual sex even though they believe it will damn them to Hell for all Eternity, and know it will greatly increase their chance of dying a slow, painful death from AIDS.

For many sex offenders, the crime they committed was done because the type of sex they engaged was a compulsion or biological drive that overwhelmed their self-control. Pedohilia, homosexuality, heroin addiction, alcoholism and overeating are all compulsions. Just because some people are able to control their impulses does not mean everyone can. Some people have less self-control than others. Some people have a weaker compulsion than others. Just because someone is able to do something does not mean everyone can do it. The sad fact is we live in a very vindictive society. Survivors of sexual abuse would rather exact revenge on those that hurt him than see them cured. Our legal system and government act on public emotions not logic and science. We live in a very Christian society. When Jesus was dying on the cross he prayed for the well-being of those responsible crucifying him. His main teaching was to love others like we love ourselves. But Christians for the most part tell Jesus to go 'ef himself, that they prefer the literial reading of five books of Mosses where punishment is an "eye for an eye" and enemies are not loved or forgiven. Those who claim to be Christians but spit on the teachings of Jesus are worse than those who crucified him, who acted out of ignorance. You claim to believe in Jesus. You know what he taught, but you willfully do the exact opposite. You expect God to love you and forgive your sins against Him, when you are not willing to love your fellow man, and forgive his sins against you. There is a place in Heaven for pedophiles, ax murderers, serial killers, mafioso, and mass murderers, but there is no place in my kingdom for those unable to forgive, those unable to understand, those who lack empathy, those who lack compassion, those who in an arrogant judgmental, self-righteous snit decide to place themselves in God's place and judge what is really in the hearts of sinners. You claim to know who can control their actions and whose heart I harden, who have no control over their actions because that is what I decreed. You poor folk can go to Hell, because you spit in the face of the God you claim to worship. You want love and forgiveness when you are incapable of love and forgiveness. Your life is nothing but a test to see what you are made of. If you really believed in God, that is what you would believe.