It is not only in war that gunshot wounds to the penis occur. Recently a fifteen-year-old boy was admitted to our hospital after being sprayed with buckshot by a pimp, and wounded in his private parts. How did this happen? Together with some boys of his own age he had got talking to a prostitute sitting at a window. Not only in her view, but also in that of her protector the conversation went on for too long. They didn’t get down to business, so the youngsters were told to leave. They were foolish enough not to do as they were told, and the dramatic result was a blast of buckshot in the crotch. One of the eight bullets on target hit him in the middle of the right erectile-tissue compartment. After circumcision the skin of the penis was stripped off – the way one cleans an eel – and after much searching the piece of buckshot could be removed. Fortunately the urethra was undamaged.

During the Arab-Turkish conflict at the beginning of the twentieth century the Arabs had the gruesome habit of amputating the penises of Turkish soldiers killed in battle and stuffing them in the victims’ mouths. The assumption was that if the dead man went to heaven, he would at least no longer be able to experience any sexual pleasure. . . More or less the same happened during the war in former Yugoslavia, when prisoners-of-war, it is said, were forced to eat the penises of their dead brothers-in-arms.

The ancient Egyptians practised penis amputation on a grand scale. In about 1300 bc the Egyptian commander Menephta returned from a campaign in what is now Lebanon, bringing with him 1,235 severed penises as war trophies! This deed is commemorated in hieroglyphics on a monument in Karnak. In the Bible (i Samuel 18) we are told how Saul dispatches his son-in-law-to-be to fetch his bride-price: a hundred Philistine foreskins. In fact it was Saul’s vengeful intention that David should perish in the attempt. However, David succeeds in securing not a hundred but two hundred foreskins, and Saul gives David the hand of his daughter Michal in marriage.

‘Torture’ by women has also been reported. In the chapter in which he explains why he firmly believes that the penis is considerably more sensitive than the vagina, the sexologist Havelock Ellis mentions a man who consulted him with a swollen, itchy penis:

The wife, the night previous, on advice of friends, had injected pure carbolic acid into the vagina just previous to coitus. The husband, ignorant of the fact, experienced untoward burning and smarting during and after coitus, but thought little of it, and soon fell asleep. The next morning there were large blisters on the penis, but it was no longer painful.

At the time of the consultation the foreskin was retracted and puffy, the whole penis was swollen, and there were large raw patches on both sides of the glans.