In ancient civilizations, removal of the human penis was sometimes used as a means of demonstrating superiority: armies were sometimes known to sever the penises of their enemies to count the dead, as well as for trophies. The practice of castration (removal of the testicles) sometimes also involves the removal of all or part of the penis, generally with a tube inserted to keep the urethra open for urination. Castration has been used to create a class of servants or slaves (and especially harem-keepers) called eunuchs in many different places and eras. In Italy, it was used to preserve the pure, high voices of young male singers, who were known as castrati.
In the modern era, removal of the human penis is rare (with the exceptions listed below), and references to castration and removal of the penis are almost always symbolic.
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The missing penis in Egyptian myth
Osiris was killed by his brother Set, torn to pieces, with the penis disposed of in the Nile. Osiris's wife, Isis, with the assistance of Thoth, was able to return Osiris to life, but had to implement a makeshift artificial male member. Through it, she conceived Horus.
Human penis removal in medicine and psychology
Some men have penile amputations, known as penectomies, for medical reasons. Cancer, for example, sometimes necessitates removal of all or part of the penis. In very rare instances, botched childhood circumcisions have also resulted in full or partial penectomies.
Genital surgical procedures for transwomen (transgendered or transsexual women) undergoing sex reassignment surgery, do not usually involve the complete removal of the penis; part or all of the glans is usually kept and reshaped as a clitoris, and the skin of the penile shaft may also be inverted to form the vagina. When procedures such as this are not possible, other procedures such as colovaginoplasty are used which do involve the removal of the penis.
Issues related to the removal of the penis appear in psychology, for example in the condition known as castration anxiety. Others, who associate the organ with rape and male dominance and aggression, may consciously or subconsciously see the organ (their own or those of others) as a weapon and express a hatred for it, potentially desiring to see it violently removed.
Some men have undergone penectomies as a voluntary body modification, but professional opinion is divided as to whether or not the desire for penile amputation is a pathology, thus including it as part of a body dysmorphic disorder. Voluntary subincision, removal of the glans penis, and bifurcation of the penis are related topics.
Involuntary penis removal (assault)
There have been incidents in which men have been assaulted, usually by their girlfriends or wives, by having their penises severed. Lorena Bobbitt, for example, is well-known for cutting off her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt's penis for revenge when she discovered his infidelity. Bobbitt's penis was successfully reattached, and he went on to have a short career in pornographic movies.
This was not the first modern case, however. On May 18th 1936 Sada Abe (also known as Abe Sada) strangled her lover Kichizo Ishida (Ishida Kichizo) and cut off his penis, placing it in her kimono and carrying it around with her for days before eventually turning it over to the police. She spent a very brief time in jail, and was granted amnesty in 1940. The penis was last seen at a department store exhibition in 1949. This episode was the basis of the film In the Realm of the Senses.
Other forms of penis-related violence have also been recorded. For example, in July 2000, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a 17-year-old girl superglued her boyfriend's erect penis to his abdomen to punish him for his infidelity. The boyfriend required emergency medical attention but not removal of the penis.
Symbolism and ramifications of involuntary penis removal
Mutilation or forcible removal of the penis has special symbolic significance. As a symbol of male sexuality, fertility, masculinity, and, some feel, male aggression, the removal of the penis may be inspired by a desire to emasculate, and sometimes results in the emasculation of, the victim. Another motive, particularly in cases of spousal assault, is obviously sexual.
During the popularity of the Lorena Bobbitt case, late night television comedians and comedy clubs enjoyed a great source of material. Penis removal and detached penises in jokes often drew laughter from unexpecting audiences. However, the popularity of such jokes have waned since the Bobbitt case and can be seen more commonly on the Web.
The following are documented cases of men having their penises severed:
- Dr. W.C. Minor, a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary who suffered from schizophrenia, performed an autopenectomy to pay for sins that may have been imaginary.
- Grigori Rasputin's penis was severed in the assassination that ended his life on December 16, 1916 (O.S.): it was reported rescued, kept in a wooden box and much cherished by his daughter, Maria. It has reportedly been on display in various locations. His penis is 30 cm long.
- The penis of Napoleon was reportedly severed at his autopsy, and purloined: it was some years later sold to a urologist for $40,000.
- In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt cut off the penis of her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt with a kitchen knife. It was surgically re-attached, and he subsequently became a porn star, then a minister.
- In March 2001, in the town of Rotenburg, central Germany, cannibal Armin Meiwes, cut off and flambéed a man's penis, with his consent, and the two men ate it together. The other man, Bernd Jürgen Brandes was then killed by Meiwes, also with his consent. The song "Mein Teil" by Rammstein was inspired by the case. 
- On December 11, 1997, a California resident Alan Hall was admitted to NorthBay Medical Center after having his penis severed. Hall claimed his penis was severed by an attacker named 'Brenda,' in a revenge attack because Mr. Hall had killed Denise Denofrio in July 1983. Later, Hall admitted he had removed his own penis while intoxicated, expecting that it would easily be reattached by surgeons.
- Alfonse Mumbo, a Kenyan villager, castrated himself in order to punish his wife for adultery.