[csaa-forum] Theo van der Meer Seminar

Anna Hickey-Moody anna.hickey-moody at sydney.edu.au
Tue Apr 4 14:47:26 ACST 2017

“Castration will turn you into a real man”: Surgical castration of sex offenders in The Netherlands, 1938-1968

Theo van der Meer

“Castration will turn you into a real man”: Surgical castration of sex offenders in The Netherlands, 1938-1968

Between 1938 and 1968 some 400 sex offenders in the Netherlands who by court orders had been put at ‘the discretion of the government’ and were incarcerated in asylums for the criminally insane, ‘voluntarily’ submitted themselves to ‘therapeutic’ castration, the surgical removal of their testes. Prior to 1938, the ethics of the surgery had been discussed for nearly a decade amongst theologians, (forensic) psychiatrists, jurists and politicians, mostly in the context of eugenic sterilization. Discussions of conflicting Catholic, Protestant and non-denominational points of view vis-à-vis eugenics resulted in consensus about ‘therapeutic’ and ‘voluntary’ castration. While castration supposedly ‘cured’ an offender of a diseased sexuality, as a result of the eugenic background,  from the start of debates to the very end of the practice, it never became fully clear whether the surgery was meant to curb libido or to prevent the offenders from begetting inferior progeny. Even in medical practice confusion persisted about the difference between castration and sterilization.

Sex offenders that qualified for castration seemingly had received discrete labels that more or less corresponded with criminal laws, yet they were also often diagnosed as ‘suffering’ from ‘hyper sexuality’: a lack of self control often in combination with the absence of a clear defined object of desires. Increasingly parole officers urged especially homosexual men who were deemed criminally insane because of sexual contacts with minors (they made up over 40% of all men castrated), to volunteer for castration to regain control over their desires. Such a control would turn them into real men.

Theo van der Meer is a historian who has published extensively on the history of homosexuality in The Netherlands. In successive books he covered the period from the late Middle Ages up to the 1970’s. He is the biographer of J.A. Schorer who in 1912 founded the Dutch chapter of Hirschfeld’s German Scientific Humanitarian Committee which lasted until the Nazi occupation in 1940. He is currently writing a biography of gay man (1899-1985) who in the 1990’s became a household name in the Netherlands as his life was partly fictionalized in a hugely popular seven-volume novel.

Wednesday April 26 2017

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Associate Professor Anna Hickey-Moody
Department of Gender & Cultural Studies
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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Email:  anna.hickey-moody at sydney.edu.au
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Web: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anna_Hickey-Moody2

Future Fellowship: Interfaith Childhoods

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