Rejuvenating vasectomies

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I have used some of my free time this summer learning more about some areas where, well, I could learn more. Hormones would be one of those areas. To give me some current information and a bit of historical background, I turned to Randi Hutter Epstein’s book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything. For an overview, it is an informative and entertaining read. This for example:

Beginning in the 1920s, and for nearly twenty years, [Vienna physiologist, Eugen] Steinach pioneered one of the most popular and controversial rejuvenation treatments. He claimed that vasectomies boosted sex drive, intellect, energy, and just about anything else that withered with age. Steinach believed that blocking the exit of manly juices (which is what a vasectomy does) prompted a congestion of them, much the way a traffic jam causes a pile-up of cars.

If you rate success by the quantity and quality of scientific evidence, vasectomies for rejuvenation don’t rank high. If, on the other hand, you rate success by testimonials plus the number of paying customers, the practice was a global sensation. It was so popular, in fact, that Steinach’s name became a verb: to Steinach meant to do a rejuvenating vasectomy. Sigmund Freud was Steinached. William Butler Yeats, the poet, was Steinached. (pp. 72-73)

Raise your hand if you were familiar with that bit of Freudian trivia. You will want to remember this, because I would not be surprised if this is the topic of a Stephen Chew trivia question at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP). ["At what age was Freud Steinached?" Answer: 67.]  If nothing else, you can give "Steinached" as your answer to any trivia question you don't know. It would give you the opportunity to talk about Freud's vasectomy, which you certainly must be itching to do. 

As for Freud, if you live by speculation in lieu of data...

Steinach did not perform vasectomies, however, he did guarantee that your vasectomy would be rejuvenating if he was present to supervise. No word on whether Steinach supervised Freud’s vasectomy (he probably did since they were friends) or if Freud found his vasectomy rejuvenating (he probably did since he provided a testimonial).  

One last comment before we can all stop thinking about Freud and his testicles. There is something strangely beautiful about testimonials driving that vasectomy-for-rejuvenation craze. The words testimonial and testis share the same etymological root, a root that means “witness.” Not all witnesses are created equal, however. I prefer my witnesses to have data derived from established research methods. Or at least that would be my standard before I allowed anyone near my testicles. If I had testicles.

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.