According to George Gould and Walter Pyle in Anomalies and Curio­sities of Medicine, ancient medical texts from India describe how women of the Cossiah tribe killed their husbands premeditatedly by grabbing their balls in a single movement and then squeezing as hard as possible until they dropped down dead. Not that long ago the author had to stitch a tear running lengthways across the scrotum of a man of about 40. Following a nocturnal row after excessive indulgence in alcohol his wife had decided to try to tear his scrotum literally to shreds, and she had partly succeeded. She must have had very sharp nails. . . Six months after this incident they were divorced – the wound healed very nicely, though.

Men themselves also do weird things. When in the spring of 2006 Wales inflicted a painful defeat on England at rugby, 31-year-old Geoffrey Huish cut off his own testicles. He carried out the operation in ten minutes with a blunt pair of pincers. He then threw the testicles into a plastic bag and set off proudly for the pub to show his mates that he had been as good as his word. Only when he reached the pub did the heavily bleeding Huish collapse. His drinking companions kept the testicles in a beer glass full of ice. But once he arrived at hospital it was clear that there was no hope for the Welshman: he would have to go through life without balls, and subsequently spent some months in a psychiatric institution.

Six months after this idiotic gesture Huish explained the facts. ‘I said before the match to my friend Gethin that Wales didn’t have a hope in hell of winning. It wasn’t a bet, I just said I’d cut my balls off if we won. So after the match I kept my word. I went to work with the clippers. It took about ten minutes and I was in a lot of pain, but I just went on. The pincers were so blunt that it was a difficult job. There was a lot of blood, though I’d expected even more.’ He concluded on a philosophical note: ‘I think about what I’ve done every day, but I can’t give any reason why I did it. I had a lot on my mind and felt a bit down. Well, I can forget kids now. I’d still like a family, though, so perhaps I’ll adopt.’

Contrasting with this ludicrous and at the same time gruesome story is a beautiful poem by Richard Newman called ‘The Silence of Men’:

A man I’ve never dreamed of before walks into my apartment and sits in the green chair where I do my writing. He carries in his left hand a large erect penis which he places silently on the floor.

The phallus begins to waltz to music I cannot hear, its scrotum a skirt; its testicles, legs cut off at the knees.

I want to know why this disfigured manhood has been brought to me. I look up, but my guest is gone. His organ, deflating in short spasms like an old man coughing, spreads itself in a pool of shallow blood.

The silence between us is the silence of men.

In the urological literature there are regular reports of human bite wounds to the scrotum. Such bite wounds are quite frequently com­plicated by a bacterial infection, and that also applies to dog bites. Post­treatment research at Groningen University Medical Centre showed that virtually all patients who had reported to A & E with bite wounds in the crotch had been attacked by a pitbull terrier.

In the past conscripts were taught that a vicious kick in the crotch was the best way of taking out a potential enemy. Nowadays there are martial arts from the Far East that have turned dirty kicking into a fine art. Women doing a course in self-defence learn how to teach manners to an attacker. That sensation will be familiar to every man who has ever sat on the saddle of his bike too enthusiastically. It is no accident that footballers forming a wall to keep out their opponents’ free kick hold their hands over their crotch.

Such injuries are a source of embarrassment. Injuries to the scrotum are common in hockey and kick-boxing. They are extremely painful because of the previously mentioned remnants of abdominal membrane in the scrotum, which make the pain nauseating. If the kick or ball is hard enough, the cover of the testicle, the tunica albuginea, can even rupture. If this is stitched as soon as possible, there is a 90 per cent chance that the testicle will be saved. If things are allowed to take their course, the chance is only 50 per cent. The operation is almost always performed under general anaesthetic, gas or injection; local anaesthetic is insufficient.