Pharyngula

Humans are very strange animals

I mentioned that cringe-inducing hemipenectomy that some spiders do…well, Stan Schwarz had to one-up me and sent a link to an image of an example of full genital splitting (if you click that link, you’re probably safe; it’s a very tiny thumbnail image. Click on that, though, and all bets are off). I have no idea why any human being would want to do that—it looks like a very creepy meat butterfly in the guy’s crotch. If that description alone grosses you out, you definitely don’t want to click on that link. Move along, move along.

Comments

  1. #1 Freelancer
    June 28, 2006

    C’mon PZ! Do you have to subject us to stuff like this that doesn’t even make Ripley’s?! Isn’t the fact that we’re all alive weird enough to prove that we’re strange animals?

  2. #2 dragonet2
    June 28, 2006

    Yippee, I was able to figure out how to comment!

    And no, I’m not going to look at the pix, the whole idea makes me go EEEUW.

    I’m actually Paula from Kansas City, MOO.

  3. #3 Troy Britain
    June 28, 2006

    I have no idea why any human being would want to do that…

    One doesn’t need a degree in psychology or psychiatry to diagnose utter insanity as the main motivating cause in this case.

  4. #4 George
    June 28, 2006

    You owe us a week of wholesome cephelapod photos, PZ. Disgusting! Interesting, but disgusting!

  5. #5 thwaite
    June 28, 2006

    Forget self-mutilation (please!).

    What’s really weird about humans is that we’ve evolved a psychology which can systematically and deliberately refrain from reproducing as early and often as possible.

    How did *that* trick help our “evolution by differential reproductive success”? (Not that the trick has been applied anywhere near sufficiently systematically…)

  6. #6 sdanielmorgan
    June 28, 2006

    I used to entertain the notion that human beings would eventually get smarter and better over time.

    You have proven me wrong, PZ. Thanks for dashing all hope.

  7. #7 ColinB
    June 28, 2006

    Are there known examples of sexual fetishes in the animal world, I wonder.

    Awkward title for a paper – “Bonobo tool use in the self-mutilation of genitals”

    Well, we all know what sick animals those little bonobos are… 🙂

  8. #8 Fred J
    June 28, 2006

    .
    Dahyam PZ, you do eat little kittens! ! !
    I thought that I’d been there and done that…
    I ain’t been nowhere and done nothing. It takes a lot of guts to have a chittlin strut. You ever seen a basket ball?
    I’ll never get a tattoo, ooh, ugh..

  9. #9 David Harmon
    June 28, 2006

    thwaite: “What’s really weird about humans is that we’ve evolved a psychology which can systematically and deliberately refrain from reproducing as early and often as possible.”

    “How did *that* trick help our “evolution by differential reproductive success”? ”

    Because it matches our species’ reproductive strategy! The reproductive strategies of any lifeform can be ordered along an axis known as “r/K”. “r-type” strategy is to produce as many offspring as possible, but to invest the minimal effort on the brood. “K-type” strategy is to produce few offspring, but invest a lot of parental resources to make sure those few succeed.

    Extreme r-type behavior include casting lots of spores or gametes. Simple fission is also an r-type strategy because the offspring get *no* parental investment — indeed, the parent doesn’t exist anymore! As you move from that towards K type, spores give way to seeds and eggs (containing initial food supplies for the young), and the critters get pickier about where the seeds/eggs get stashed. Then you start seeing caretaking behavior for the eggs, then the young, and that gets progressively more complex until the young get years of care from their parents.

    By the time you reach the higher mammals (at least), you start seeing parents declining reproduce until conditions are appropriate. (Both wolves and various cats are known for resorbing pregnancies if the food supply looks shaky.) This makes sense in context, because (1) Raising a brood is difficult enough to potentially endanger the parents, and (2) these animals can survive through several breeding seasons. Therefore, it can be worthwile to “skip a turn” and wait for a better opportunity.

    Humans, of course, are the ultimate K-type animal. Our young need a decade or two of care just to survive, and childbirth itself is a direct danger to the mother. On the other hand, our fertile period lasts for decades even in females. It’s worth waiting until we can provide properly for our young!

  10. #10 Unstable Isotope
    June 28, 2006

    Why did you do this to me??? You’re warning – definitely don’t look – was like dangling bait. All I can say is EEEEEWWWWW! People sure are strange.

  11. #11 thwaite
    June 28, 2006

    Fair explanation of r/K continuum, and didn’t even cite Lack.

    Even in K species, the adaptive pressure is to optimize total lifetime output as best possible. Humans are surprisingly willing to forego any reproduction (looks around at childless household). I think this human trait is pretty special.

    (And for most of human evolution we mostly lived to about age 30.)

  12. #12 Caledonian
    June 28, 2006

    We’re not designed to maximize offspring, exactly. We’re designed to maximize sex — children are just a frequent consequence of sex. Even so-called ‘primitive’ people often practiced some form of birth control, and in our natural nomadic state we likely breastfed our children for much longer than we do now, limiting fertile periods somewhat, true. But if you have enough sex, in eras before effective contraception, eventually you’re going to have kids.

  13. #13 thwaite
    June 28, 2006

    We’re not designed to maximize offspring, exactly. We’re designed to maximize sex

    You say proximal, I say ultimate. In explaining biological causation one needs both levels of analysis. The ultimate effect (over evolutionary generations) of an appetite for sex at the proximal physiological level turns out to be a maximal number of offspring. See, e.g. Jared Diamond’s not-so-oblivious-nor-obvious book WHY IS SEX FUN.

    One has to wonder how fun it is after the hemipenectomy.

  14. #14 David Harmon
    June 28, 2006

    thwaite: “Humans are surprisingly willing to forego any reproduction”
    … “(And for most of human evolution we mostly lived to about age 30.)”

    Consider that our current environments, especially urban environments, are not particularly typical of “most of human evolution”. Even through most of history, if your area was overcrowded, most of that crowd was probably kin to you… kin, as in “kin selection”. And nowadays, urban dwellers are living in more concentrated groups than even before….

    Now, most of human “instinct” is a fragmented, confused thing, but we still show traces of it, usually varying among individuals. (Much of it has been “demoted” to prepared learning, giving us much more flexibility.) It occurs to me that if at least some individuals have traces of the “quorum-sensing” type response we’d expect here, urban life seems likely to set it off hard! Unless, of course, it *also* includes a test for whether the crowd is “strangers” or “tribe” — but again, that would presumably vary among individuals. (And of course, some folks still *are* in close contact with their extended family!)

    Note that if my conjecture is true, the current situation could send our future evolution in any of at least three different directions: (1) Ditch the response to crowding entirely, (2) Make it more sophisticated (to reclaim the kin-selection benefits), or (3) seek/build less crowded environments. My own bet is #3 on the cultural level (off to suburbia!), trailed by #1 on the genetic/neurodev level.

  15. #15 mena
    June 28, 2006

    How can this *NOT* affect his reproductive success?!?!?

  16. #16 David Harmon
    June 28, 2006

    Yow, while trying to google “Lack”, I stumbled onto this paper specifically discussing r/K behavioral shifts in humans!

    http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/r-KselectionQOL.pdf

    thwaite, who specifically were you referring to? The last name alone is hopeless, and it’s too late in the evening to be fiddling with keywords….

  17. #17 Lydia
    June 28, 2006

    Wow, this person performed the hemipenectomy on himself, with what looks to be a kitchen knife and grill prongs. “In fact, it works twice as well.” How is that? Two ejaculate streams instead of one? Er? How? Huh?

  18. #18 Caledonian
    June 28, 2006

    You say proximal, I say ultimate. In explaining biological causation one needs both levels of analysis.

    I don’t disagree — but I suspect that if we were to analyze the function of our brain modules, we’d find no module that seeks to increase the number of offspring, although some status modules might indirectly seek that. We *would* find a module that actively sought to maximize the number of sexual encounters we have.

  19. #19 woofsterNY
    June 29, 2006

    That was some nasty shit.

    PZ, I demand that you now post a picture of a happy golden retriever puppy, just for balance.

    I suggest: http://tinyurl.com/apahw

    Or maybe: http://tinyurl.com/lh54j

  20. #20 George
    June 29, 2006

    Double your pleasure, double your fun,
    With self-hemipenectomy, son.

  21. #21 Azkyroth
    June 29, 2006

    (And for most of human evolution we mostly lived to about age 30.)

    As I understand it, that’s an average figure, resulting from an infant mortality rate of as much as 50%. If you didn’t die before you were 5, your odds of living to substantially more than 30 weren’t all that bad…

  22. #22 thwaite
    June 29, 2006

    DHarmon,

    I was thinking of the ecologist David Lack with his 1950’s classic work on clutch size (# of eggs) in various birds. He noted it wasn’t always maxed-out at their physiological potentials, presumably restrained in response to environmental conditions in order to optimize lifetime reproductive success.

    Modern humans are pretty much incomparable to humans as we evolved – ever since farming and cooked meat (and -oh yeah- literacy). (Short summary of human history: from hunt & gather, to sow & reap, now to point & click.) Evolutionary psychologists evoke some “Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness” for their speculations about cognitive evolution. It’s merely unclear if that environment is the African savannah, the Ice Age challenges, or whatever setting in which the human bottleneck occurred (unless the bottleneck was an event to which no meaningful adaptation was possible, such as the volcanic Toba catastrophe.

    It’s unclear that our settled lives based on farming, like the Egyptians, was actually of better quality for most participants compared to the hunter-gatherer life. Life-span may have been a bit longer but disease was more common. As to the quality of life or adaptedness of the point & clickers – dunno. The Dutch paper you found highlights the probability for a broad human ‘demographic transition’ in which the human species becomes more pervasively K-selected, and this is consistent with UN projections that humanity will stabilize in the next century at about 12 billion. Then we’re all good to go … perhaps as you suggest via shore to shore suburbs, with enhanced nepotism (hmm) — if we don’t go extinct…

  23. #23 Azkyroth
    June 29, 2006

    Bleh, posted too soon. Anyway, this is deeply unsettling both gastrointestinally and social-psychologically.

    I guess this is what we call “bisectuality?” 😛

    On a healthier note…speaking of maximizing sex… *pounces wife*

  24. #24 thwaite
    June 29, 2006

    Azkyroth, good point, even for hunter-gatherers. This explains how grandparents could have such a prominent role in our Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness, and thus made an adaptive value for lives prolonged well after our reproductive lives ended. Grandparenting is lately appreciated as definitely affecting reproductive success (of kin). Of course since parenting started in early teens, one could be a grandparent at 30…

  25. #25 mythusmage
    June 29, 2006

    Some people are taken out of the breeding pool, some people do it to themselves. Be happy this idiot’s particular malfunction is self eliminating.

    The power of Wraethru strikes again!

  26. #26 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    holy sh!t. This should be illegal.

  27. #27 thwaite
    June 29, 2006

    Caledonian, I agree that (in principle) we could find some brain module we’re looking for concerned with maximizing sexual encounters – sex is fun (via some neuro-physiological wiring) as Diamond discusses. As to WHY we’re expecting to find such a module – that’d be the evolutionary adaptive value part of the explanation, and equally important.

    “How” and “why” are both parts of teleological analyses suitable for functional systems. For living systems, the How questions include
    * Cause – the immediate physiology and stimuli
    * Development – the physiological changes due specifically to maturation
    and the Why questions include
    * Evolution – the semi-random history leading to this individual
    * Function – the adaptive values favoring specific traits
    – you’ll note that these fall into a nifty mnemonic CD+EF, useful especially when dealing with analyses of Animal Behaviors (so AB=CD+EF)

    Teleological analyses go back to Aristotle. I’m familiar with them through reading the animal behaviorist Niko Tinbergen (who was Richard Dawkins’ advisor).

    I’m still bemused at any possible function for hemipenectomy. As mythusmage notes it’s probably not heritable. Best chalk it up to some very random history if not disorder.

  28. #28 Jesper
    June 29, 2006

    I’ve spent time browsing the parent site (bmezine.com) before. Modblog is the webmaster’s site-related blog. Bmezine.com is an interesting place with extenstive “body modification” resources: photos, written experiences, encyclopedia of procedures and risks, etc.

    The free and public arm of the site deals with the typical stuff: tattooing, piercing, scarification, branding, and similar. My personal interest is in this realm. There is also an “extreme” subscription-based section which deals with surgical procedures such as amputation, cutting and splitting of various body parts, castration, and other surgical procedures.

    Out of curiosity, I once obtained a subscription and looked through most of what was there. It is implied from the content that most extreme modification is related to sexual fetish, and additionally that either: 1) the extreme procedures are largely undertaken by homosexual males, or 2) homosexual men represent the majority of subscribers and the content is based in their favor. The site owner is not homosexual, so it can be ruled out that he only posts material related to his own sexual interests.

    I believe this has a lot of relevance to the questions about an individual’s motivation to cut his genitals like this. I also do not find it bizarre or shocking as many posters have in this thread. It is unusual, but it’s not something that I find difficult to understand objectively.

  29. #29 Jesper
    June 29, 2006

    Here’s their encyclopedia entry on this topic.

    *Warning* Link contains multiple images of genital splitting.

    http://wiki.bmezine.com/index.php/Genital_Bisection

  30. #30 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    I also do not find it bizarre or shocking as many posters have in this thread. It is unusual, but it’s not something that I find difficult to understand objectively.

    That is not the point. The point is, that we humans have some brain circuitry dedicated to detecting pain of other humans, and making us partially experience it. So if someone does to himself something like that, he inevitably hutrs other people too. And that should be as illegal as spraying tear gas into a crowd.

  31. #31 Jesper
    June 29, 2006

    T_U_T, I find it hard to believe you are being serious with such nonsense.

  32. #32 Theo Bromine
    June 29, 2006

    That is not the point. The point is, that we humans have some brain circuitry dedicated to detecting pain of other humans, and making us partially experience it. So if someone does to himself something like that, he inevitably hutrs other people too. And that should be as illegal as spraying tear gas into a crowd.

    Perhaps I missed the sarcasm/hyperbole tags on this statement? Is T_U_T really suggesting that humans’ behaviour ought to be controlled and regulated on the basis of what makes others *indirectly* uncomfortable?

  33. #33 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    O.K. I admit, I was trying to troll a little, but…
    let it be a kind of … intellectual provocation… could you explain why it is a nonsense, or, what is wrong with the idea that hurting thers by selfmutilation through their sense of empathy could be prohibited ? 🙂

  34. #34 David Harmon
    June 29, 2006

    Thwaite: I think we’re more or less on the same page, it’s just a darn big page. 😉 In fact, “suburbia” as currently practiced has its own problems (too dispersed, ecologically disastrous, etc.), I was just pointing out that we can already see a tendency specifically to flee the crowded areas… to raise a family.

    Of course, evolution didn’t stop with the invention of agriculture, or even of history! Consider that the mere hundreds of generations since, say, the earlier cities, might not be enough for dramatic changes, but they’re surely enough for some changes — say, better social responses to such crowded situations (and to dealing with neighbors outside one’s own clan).

    I sometimes wonder if part of the problems in the Middle East and Africa come precisely from their populations not having spent enough time adapting to cosmopolitan environments. (Not to deny the effects of their current resource shortages and political issues!)

    TUT: Consider that when you throw out the religious objections to “obscenity”, you’re still left with the point that it “grabs” people’s attention in unwelcome fashion, much like, say, painting your house hot pink. That is, even ignoring morality, excessive sexual display is tacky, therefore rude. In a public context, stuff like split phalli would certainly qualify under the same rule. Of course, PZ did *not* throw that image out into his public forum, indeed he gave strong warnings about the image in question!

  35. #35 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    that image out into his public forum, indeed he gave strong warnings about the image in question!

    O.K. but that is not what I was talking about. I claim( semi-seriously, though), that any selfmutilation should be made illegal, because it potentially wreaks havoc on human sense of empathy.

  36. #36 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2006

    That gets into some serious ethical problems though. Why should your sense of empathy be the source of law for other people’s behavior? Do unto yourself as others would do unto themselves is a kind of freaky way to restrict behavior, one that demands a little too much conformity.

  37. #37 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    Why should your sense of empathy be the source of law for other people’s behavior?

    The problem is that this sort of sense of empathy is supposed to be universal for almost all humans ( psychopaths are an exception though )…

  38. #38 Caledonian
    June 29, 2006

    Here’s a thought: people who construct elaborate rationalizations for making the legal system force conformity to their personal aesthetics should be bludgeoned to death with their oversized egos. In the absence of a heftable ego, a 6″-thick bar of iron with the Elevenths Commandment (“Thou shalt not stick thy nose into other people’s business”) engraved upon it shall be substituted.

  39. #39 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    people who construct elaborate rationalizations for making the legal system force conformity to their personal aesthetics

    .
    &lt troll mode &gt prove me guilty, then… you know… presumption of innocence &lt /troll mode &gt

  40. #40 sdanielmorgan
    June 29, 2006

    It is unusual, but it’s not something that I find difficult to understand objectively.

    I’m all for keeping freedom free–but I still don’t understand what in the fucking hell is wrong with the guy who I saw took a knife to his testicles. I’m sorry, but this is weird. Really fucking weird. I would even go so far as to say that it implies some kind of mental health issue, to take a knife to your ball sack.

  41. #41 Caledonian
    June 29, 2006

    It doesn’t do a lot of good to say you’re all for freedom, but then limit that freedom to only what you approve of.

    It also doesn’t help to declare things to be ‘mental health issues’ when that’s really nothing more than a label for “a thing I don’t like and don’t think should be permitted”. Oh, and it corrupts the very concept of medical ethics as well.

    Look at it this way: whatever causes people to want to castrate themselves is virtually guaranteed to be self-limiting. Don’t worry about it.

  42. #42 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    &lt troll mode &gt If you consider that to be only a matter of aestetics and subjective taste, you are surely against outlawing of female genital mutilation, aren’t you ? &lt /troll &gt

  43. #43 Carlie
    June 29, 2006

    Non sequitur. Female genital mutilation is forced onto adolescent females whether they want it or not, for the specific reason of appeasing their future husbands. It has nothing to do with what the individual herself wants.

    Damn, I fed it.

  44. #44 calladus
    June 29, 2006

    Well of course a rational person would be against female genital mutilation if it were done against her will, or without informed consent – which is the way a lot of it is done, I believe. A minor is unable to give consent – and it’s my understanding that it happens to minors a lot.

    As for this guy – I’m gonna go with John Stuart Mill on this one, what ever doesn’t hurt me is fine for this guy to do.

    T_U_T, you’re complaining that something should be illegal because of it’s “yuck factor”, not because of any “empathy”. If you had the ability to feel empathy for this guy, you would feel as he did, that doing this made him feel good in some way. Maybe he’s crazy, I dunno – and until he proves himself unable to understand the results of his decisions I’d say it would be immoral to restrict him from it.

    If we start banning things based on “yuck factor” I vote we ban Escargot first!

  45. #45 Caledonian
    June 29, 2006

    Female genital mutilation is forced onto adolescent females whether they want it or not

    Of course, some of them *do* want it. Which is an indication of how stupid people can be when faced with social pressures.

    It also demonstrates that children need to be given more protection from the parental right to make medical decisions.

    If an adult wishes to mutilate themselves, so be it. There are no grounds for making it illegal just because some idiot finds it unpleasant to know it takes place.

  46. #46 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    illegal because of it’s “yuck factor” not because of any “empathy”.

    that assertion is simply not true.

    If you had the ability to feel empathy for this guy, you would feel as he did

    this is not the sort of empathy I was talking about. I was talking about the brain machinery that attempts to make you partially experience other people’s pain

  47. #47 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    It also demonstrates that children need to be given more protection from the parental right to make medical decisions.

    &lt troll &gt Oh, and why ? If mutilation is matter of pure subjective aestethics, why should we intervene ? &lt / troll &gt

  48. #48 calladus
    June 29, 2006

    that assertion is simply not true.

    Nice study – but you’ll notice its flaws? It was preformed on partners who do not use pain as a form of recreation. If it were preformed while one partner watched the other eat some chili-peppers, maybe the outcome would have been different – especially if they both knew that the partner enjoyed the endorphin rush from eating the peppers.

    Or maybe you have empathy for pepper eaters, and would like to ban that too?

    And I still say you’re standing on a “yuck factor”. You do not empathize with this guy’s pain, because unlike your quoted study, you were not there when it happened. If you met this guy on the street, with his pants zipped, you would have no reason to feel empathy.

    Oh, and why ? If mutilation is matter of pure subjective aesthetics, why should we intervene ?

    We shouldn’t, if it is a matter of ‘pure subjective aesthetics’. If a grown woman wants to do that, and is able to legally consent – then go for it!

    Making female genital mutilation illegal for everyone unilaterally is as immoral as making it legal to do against those who do not or can not consent. Morally, a minor, or someone with reduced mental capacity is unable to consent.

    I’m done feeding this troll. Sorry all.

  49. #49 Betty Cocker
    June 29, 2006

    Thwaite and Dave,

    I think your idea of a direct genetic link to reproductive quantity in today’s world for humans is likely going nowhere.
    Humans as a species are outstandingly successful, possibly too much so for our own long-term good.
    If you trace the reasons for this, much of it comes from technology. When you trace the roots of that you come back to our ability to communicate and pass on ideas.
    Symbolic language was a pivotal event in our evolution. But something strange happened. Once we could communicate symbolically, we ourselves became both the generators of, and the environment for, blocks of information that Dawkins called memes.
    Now these control much of our behavior – religion, science and culture being parts of this information system. Much of our behavior is memetically rather than genetically controlled. This explains a lot of those behaviors that clearly don’t help us genetically (suicide bombing, or self mutilation, for example). Since memes mainly demand that we have big brains and can communicate symbolically, identical twins or cloned humans could come up with completely different behaviors with regard to reproduction. Even someone with very little sex drive, can with suitable cultural influence produce many children. So I doubt you can look at this in a basic biological way, once the equipment is in place. Humans are indeed a very strange species.

  50. #50 thwaite
    June 29, 2006

    I think your idea of a direct genetic link to reproductive quantity in today’s world for humans is likely going nowhere.

    I thought Dave’s summary that “Now, most of human “instinct” is a fragmented, confused thing, but we still show traces of it, usually varying among individuals.” did pretty well to describe the tenuous links to humans behavior. A more graceful image is evoked by Mel Konnor’s title THE TANGLED WING: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit, and that book is a more detailed and mature exposition of “evolutionary psychology” than most. Evo Psych is more an expectation than a complete science, though.

    Leaving humans – as indeed very strange animals – and also leaving the realm of the adaptive, I can’t believe no-one’s brought up the evolved pseudopenis of spotted hyena females – through which they give birth! This is at best a very constrained adaptation (two-page .pdf file)

  51. #51 Betty Cocker
    June 29, 2006

    Thwaite,
    Thanks for that book reference it looks interesting, I have ordered it.
    “Evo Psych is more an expectation than a complete science, though.”
    Correct, one feels one is looking in the right direction, but there is not much to see yet.

  52. #52 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    If it were preformed while one partner watched the other eat some chili-peppers, maybe the outcome would have been different

    Have serious doubts, that eating chilli and enjoying it could trigger other people’s pain empathy circuits. And equating eating spicy food to mutilation is rather bizzarre. I’m slowly ceasing to be sure who is here the troll 🙂

    >because unlike your quoted study, you were not there when it happened.

    Do you really think that the result would be different if the event would be recorded by a camera and shown later ?

    If you met this guy on the street, with his pants zipped, you would have no reason to feel empathy.

    If I knew about his condition, I would…

    Making female genital mutilation illegal for everyone unilaterally is as immoral as making it legal to do against those who do not or can not consent.

    That is a nice display of your hypocrisy is that ! It is neither immoral nor illegal to dress your child in something she, or some other people consider ugly (i.e. school uniform ),
    And if mutilation is pure matter of taste, just like fashion is, we have no reason to prevent parents doing it to their children. So, make up your mind, please.

  53. #53 Torbjörn Larsson
    June 29, 2006

    “”Why should your sense of empathy be the source of law for other people’s behavior?”

    The problem is that this sort of sense of empathy is supposed to be universal for almost all humans ( psychopaths are an exception though )…”

    I have some empathy with this. 🙂 One could perhaps make a law based on general empathy instead of moralism. But I think it is a weak argument, especially in cases such as this when you don’t see the result too often. Individuals that selfmutilates have sometimes great and legitimate feelings of pain and depression if they are not allowed to proceede according to their wishes.

    But there are other concerns. They can’t expect medical personel to help them, because the personels feelings of empathy are greatly provoked. And selfmutilation means health costs that they should be prepared to pay.

    I have an outstanding question about such selfmutilation that means cutting of a leg or an arm. Has some people always had these urges and it is a larger and more communicative population that makes these cases reported now? Or is it a modern phenomena, perhaps due to that one can now easily see such surviving people from war pictures or car crashes?

  54. #54 Jesper
    June 29, 2006

    Here’s one person’s explanation for genital splitting:

    “My decision to surgically remodel my genitals was deliberate, of deep satisfaction to me, highly exciting, sexually adventurous, and erotically exhilarating…Full erections are still maintained as previously, but now in two complete, separate halves. The erotic zones of my penis are still the same, with orgasms and ejaculations functioning perfectly. Entry into the vagina requires a little extra effort for insertion, but once my penis is inside, it’s opened effect on the vagina’s inner lining is more pronounced, giving better, female orgasmic feelings.”

    Quoted from Carl Carrol in PFIQ #15, Sourced from Vale, V. and Juno, Andrea (Eds.). (1989). Modern Primitives. Hong Kong: RE/Search Publications.

  55. #55 Jesper
    June 29, 2006

    T_U_T:

    Notice that Carl Carrol doesn’t refer to what he did as mutilation but instead as remodeling. And judging from the rest of his rhetoric, it doesn’t appear that there was any psychological pain involved.

    Did he use pain-killers? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly likely. Perhaps he is instead an individual whose physical pain is overwhelmed by the psychological pleasure of the act. There are also many people who appear to enjoy extreme pain for varying reasons; even though it is painful, it is also exhilirating for them.

    Your argument doesn’t allow for any of the situations I just mentioned. It also doesn’t allow for something like a painful but necessary medical operation.; or sports like boxing, wrestling, football, and many others; or such common things as bikini waxes.

  56. #56 Steviepinhead
    June 29, 2006

    Speaking of books–this is admitedly off-topic to this post, but may have some more general interest to readers of this blog–Univerity of Wisconsin-Madison EvoDevo biologist and science writer Sean B. Carroll has a new book coming out on October 9–The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution.

    This just showed up in my Amazon.com recommendations. It sounds good (I’ve enjoyed both of Dr. Carroll’s previous books and several of his scientific publications), but the blurb for the book raises expectations that may be difficult to fulfill:

    NA is a living chronicle of how the marvelous creatures that inhabit our planet have adapted to its many environments, from the freezing waters of the Antarctic to the lush canopy of the rain forest.

    In the pages of this highly readable narrative, Sean Carroll guides the general reader on a tour of the massive DNA record of three billion years of evolution to see how the fittest are made. And what an eye-opening tour it is – one featuring immortal genes, fossil genes, and genes that bear the scars of past battles with horrible diseases. This book clinches the case for evolution, beyond any reasonable doubt. (My emphasis.)

    Well, beyond any reasonable doubt, sure. But when have the evolution-deniers ever succumbed to reason…

  57. #57 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    Your argument doesn’t allow for any of the situations I just mentioned. It also doesn’t allow for something like a painful but necessary medical operation.; or sports like boxing,

    wow ! what a nice straw man u have errected 🙂

  58. #58 Jesper
    June 29, 2006

    wow ! what a nice straw man u have errected 🙂

    hehehe… you said erect.

    Seriously, I don’t see the straw man. Your hyperbolic statement–that any one person’s act that another person can surrogately experience as painful through psychological mechanisms should be illegal–leaves itself wide open to my generalizations.

  59. #59 T_U_T
    June 29, 2006

    that any one person’s act

    just go on with your straw man…. make it the biggest in the town…

  60. #60 jaimito
    June 30, 2006

    Friends, you are all wrong. All the tattoing, remodelling, accessorizing improves the owner’s sex appeal and improves his/her chances of getting laid. It makes perfect evolutionary sense.

  61. #61 sdanielmorgan
    June 30, 2006

    Caledonian declaimed:
    It doesn’t do a lot of good to say you’re all for freedom, but then limit that freedom to only what you approve of.
    Um, did I “limit” anything, or use my own freedom of speech to air what was obviously a personal opinion? Hooked on phonics worked for me, you ought to try it.

    It also doesn’t help to declare things to be ‘mental health issues’ when that’s really nothing more than a label for “a thing I don’t like and don’t think should be permitted”. Oh, and it corrupts the very concept of medical ethics as well.
    Thanks for re-writing my own intentions. I always like to be paraphrased. After all, I just said “im for keeping freedom free” but I must not have really meant it, and you saw through the charade, eh? Depression is a mental health issue. Is it “permitted,” genius? Can I “stop” it?

    So, when you see this video (I am not paying to watch it, but I trust the description and screen shot are accurate), professor, tell me, what, if not a sort of fixation with self-mutilation and pain, drove this man to saw through his testicles with a knife? And, tell me further, professor, whether you consider such actions to be “mentally healthy”? Take a solid position.

    Look at it this way: whatever causes people to want to castrate themselves is virtually guaranteed to be self-limiting. Don’t worry about it.
    Do I have to be “worried” to tell you that it takes a sick fucker to saw through his balls with a serrated steak knife?

  62. #62 Caledonian
    June 30, 2006

    Um, did I “limit” anything, or use my own freedom of speech to air what was obviously a personal opinion?

    Declaring something a mental health issue puts clear limits on it. And falling back on the “it’s just my personal opinion” defense is really, really weak. You made an argument; cope.

    Thanks for re-writing my own intentions. I always like to be paraphrased.

    You’re the one who said “I would go so far as to say it implies some kind of mental health issue”. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t understand what consequences declaring something a matter of mental health has.

    After all, I just said “im for keeping freedom free” but I must not have really meant it

    You don’t really mean it, or at least you mean it only for a subjective personal sense of ‘freedom’.

    Calling a behavior, attitude, or belief ‘sick’ necessarily implies that it is inherently invalid, impermissable, and should be ‘cured’.

  63. #63 mythusmage
    June 30, 2006

    What I’m hearing here is a lot of people excusing the man’s actions, instead of understanding them. In addition to some fundamental naivity of the underlying psychological state. As I noted before, it’s a self-eliminating disorder. And let us be thankful this sort of pathology is not usually passed on to future generations.

    Just remember, sadism is tickling carried to a destructive extreme.

  64. #64 Jesper
    July 1, 2006

    As I noted before, it’s a self-eliminating disorder.

    How do you know this? According to the written experiences of a few individuals who have done this, “it still works.”

    Also, there is a lot of talk of “mutilation”. That word implies harm or harmful intent, but if you look at Carl Carrol’s explanation for his decision to do this (I posted this a few comments back), it is clear that his intent was not mutilation but, as he termed it, “remodeling”, and that he is quite happy with his decision. Referring to all activities of this sort as mutilation negates the idea that these could be positive or affirming experiences for certain people.

    This reminds me of “drug use” vs. “drug abuse”. There is a distinction between the two involving the ratio of harm to benefit, but authorities are keen on referring to any illegal drug use as drug abuse. Again, this negates the idea that drugs used illicitly could be positive or affirming experiences for people, or that people could use such drugs in a responsible manner where benefit outweighs harm.

  65. #65 sdanielmorgan
    July 1, 2006

    Caledonian,
    Declaring something a mental health issue puts clear limits on it.
    If you have the authority to declare it as such, then it carries with it medical limits/prescribed actions. If I declare something “a crime against humanity”, is that the same thing as putting someone on trial in Geneva? I have clearly expressed an opinion, one with no authority to make it a declaration of fact. You know this.

    And falling back on the “it’s just my personal opinion” defense is really, really weak.
    Um, okay? It isn’t a defense, goof, it’s the truth — I clearly stated an opinion on a mental health issue as a non-medical expert…

    You made an argument; cope.
    So, in your definition, unsupported assertions are “arguments”? Hardly so in my world…where are my premises to support the bald conclusion?

    You’re the one who said “I would go so far as to say it implies some kind of mental health issue”. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t understand what consequences declaring something a matter of mental health has.
    None, if you’re just spouting off at the ass, without any semblance of authority in declaring medical disorders. None, that is, except to possibly make someone who participates in self-mutiliation a bit defensive or offended.

    You don’t really mean it, or at least you mean it only for a subjective personal sense of ‘freedom’.
    Do I have to pay you for this, or is your typical psychic reading free?

    Calling a behavior, attitude, or belief ‘sick’ necessarily implies that it is inherently invalid, impermissable, and should be ‘cured’.
    Um, okay? Here, Caledonian, let’s make it clear: freedom in the sense that I used it means, “it isn’t restricted by the state, or any other authorities,” and in that sense, I completely support people’s freedoms over their own bodies, to do as they wish with them, whether it’s “sick” in my opinion or not. I would strongly, and passionately, oppose any law regulating how people can modify their own bodies. Are you happy now? I clearly thus don’t want the state “curing” it, anymore than I want the state “curing” my depression, or taking over the treatment of Asperger’s.

    Jesper/Caledonian,

    Perhaps a clarification is in order:
    not all of this is in the same category.

    The people who seek to “remodel” themselves are one thing, but the guy who put a fork through his scrotum to pin it to the cutting board, then used a serrated steak knife to cut through his testicle, wasn’t doing anything other than mutilation. And that is some sick shit.

    People who want to change their sexual experiences are one thing, and people who hurt themselves terribly and find it somehow erotic are another.

  66. #66 Caledonian
    July 1, 2006

    If you have the authority to declare it as such, then it carries with it medical limits/prescribed actions. If I declare something “a crime against humanity”, is that the same thing as putting someone on trial in Geneva? I have clearly expressed an opinion, one with no authority to make it a declaration of fact. You know this.

    We’re discussing philosophical points. Declaring something to be a mental illness has philosophical implications… and declaring this position to be your ‘opinion’ does not remove these implications.

    Um, okay? Here, Caledonian, let’s make it clear: freedom in the sense that I used it means, “it isn’t restricted by the state, or any other authorities,” and in that sense, I completely support people’s freedoms over their own bodies, to do as they wish with them, whether it’s “sick” in my opinion or not. I would strongly, and passionately, oppose any law regulating how people can modify their own bodies. Are you happy now? I clearly thus don’t want the state “curing” it, anymore than I want the state “curing” my depression, or taking over the treatmentof Asperger’s.

    Guess what? There is a long and colorful history of the medical establishment’s taking precedence over individual rights. For decades, all that was needed to de facto abolish an individual’s freedom and rights was for a doctor to declare them mentally unfit. With that, they lost everything, even down to their rights over their own bodies. Things have improved somewhat, but many attitudes are still the same. I’m painfully aware of how powerful and how dangerous concepts like ‘mentally ill’ are (not to mention how poorly they’re based in actual scientific understanding and the available evidence). If I’ve overreacted to your statements, I’m sorry, but you need to understand that there’re good reasons to be upset.

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