Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In the late 1960s, Singapore was gripped by a genital panic!

At the very end of the Malay peninsula sits the city state of Singapore, which was once plagued with retracting penises. In 1967, in one of the best-documented epidemics of koro, (or genital retraction syndrome) ever, hundreds of people rushed to hospitals, deathly afraid that if they loosened their grip they would die.

Today Singapore is one of the wealthiest and most successful countries on earth, and much of its old character seems to have been washed away by a tide of modernization. An international crossroads for hundreds of years, the city is now clean and safe and has everything most countries aspire to. You can walk along the street and be sure none of your body parts will disappear. But this wasn’t always the case.

The mass genital shrinking epidemic began in October of 1967. In one case, a 16-year-old male rushed into the General Hospital’s outdoor clinic with his parents close behind. “The boy looked frightened and pale,” as one report described it, “and he was pulling hard on his penis to prevent the organ from disappearing into his abdomen.”

The boy’s parents shouted for the doctors to help because the boy had suo yang (the Chinese word for koro, which we consider a culturally-related “genital retraction syndrome”) and if the retraction didn’t stop, he would die. The doctors reassured the family and gave the boy ten milligrams of chlordiazepoxide, after which he improved. Full story...

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