A Slice of Life That Didn't Make the Cut ; Last Night's TV ++ THE CASTRATION CURE CHANNEL 4 ++ THE BIG DAY BBC1
Hanks, Robert, The Independent (London, England)
In a better-ordered, more cheerful universe, The Castration Cure would be a tribute band staffed by eunuchs (in my head I can already hear their voices piping "Boys Don't Cry"). In the world we're stuck with, The Castration Cure was a grim little documentary about paedophiles that only lived up to half its title, and not the good half.
David Russell's cameras followed men in California and Texas, all convicted of sexual assaults on children, who had volunteered for one or other form of castration in the hope that, unchained from desire, they would be free to resume their places in society. The first stop for a would-be ex-paedophile is "chemical castration", a testosterone-inhibiting drug administered by daily injection or through a long-term implant. Fred Hoffman testified that since taking Lupron, his uncontrollable need to molest young boys had vanished; and he did appear to be the model of the reformed prisoner, soft-spoken and polite. The disadvantages of this "cure" are that it is not final, and it has side effects, including weight gain, hot flushes and softening of the bones.
Greg Grant, a fellow inmate at Atascadero State Hospital in California, already had bone trouble, and so had opted for (let's wrap this in medical terms: it sounds cosier) a "bilateral orchidectomy". There, that didn't sound too bad, did it? Russell included footage of the operation though, and it looked horrible; apparently, the excitement of filming the unfilmable had blotted out the realisation that it might also be unwatchable, not to mention pointless. Grant believed the operation had cured him of sexual thoughts: "I can hear the word 'enema' or 'spanking' or anything else, and it's just a word" (Grant's sexual history was notably odd). He also didn't miss his testicles: "I don't feel I'm any less of a man. I'm more of one." You wonder, though, how his definition of manhood fits in with the enemas and the spanking. Hoffman (I'm deliberately resisting the film's practice of referring to these men by their first names) was so inspired that he was planning to follow Grant down Surgery Road.
As far as these two were concerned, removal of lust was the end of the story. Others are less sanguine: Dr Juan Stern, a urologist who dabbles in surgical castration, would admit only that it could help an individual lead a "more tranquil" life; but in his view, the "cure" in the programme's title was illusory: paedophilia, he reckoned, was an addiction rather than an expression of sexual desire. …