From therapeutic castration to contraceptive vasectomy

Photographs taken before and after the Steinach operation.  Peter Schmidt, Conquest of Old Age, London, Routledge, 1931.
Brochure promoting masculine sterilization: Vasectomy: Love without consequences. A reality to recommend to all, Valencia, Solidaridad obrera, 1933.

Following the disappearance of eunuchs from the operatic stage, castration remained no more than a hated therapy or a marginal ritual act at the turn of the twentieth century. However, during the interwar period, different uses of vasectomy were tested and developed in the medical field. During the 1920s, the Austrian Steinach made this into a famous technique for rejuvenating the male body. In parallel, vasectomy was practiced from 1928 onwards in accordance with eugenic laws purporting to regenerate the social body. At the same time, the operation was practiced discreetly and even secretly in a number of European countries as a method of contraception. While only the latter use endured after the Second World War, the slow pace of the legalization and diffusion of voluntary male sterilization in certain countries underscores the complex relation between virility and sterility that still exists today.