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Penis-Theft Victims Get Testy
April 25, 2008 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Koro, previously, has gripped the streets of Kinshasa, Congo. Unlike the 1967 Koro Epidemic in Singapore, which was blamed on tainted pork, the afflicted men in Kinshasa have blamed the psychosomatic penile shrinkage on witchcraft by a rival sect, and responded with attempted lynchings. In order to prevent bloodshed of the kind seen in Ghana a decade ago, police have responded by apprehending the alleged sorcerers.

Note: this post is about the historical epidemics, but I suggest going to the "previously" for greater discussion of the actual disorder. If, you know, that's your thing.
posted by Navelgazer (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Koro is a mental condition in which men become obsessed with their penis (err…. doesn’t this happen all the time?), believing it to be afflicted by shrinkage with the ultimate result of retraction into the body

Pfizer must be kicking themselves... why didn't we think of marketing that?
posted by psmealey at 11:01 AM on April 25, 2008


These Rumours of penis theft have been greatly exaggerated.
posted by ornate insect at 11:10 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


They'll never catch me. For those interested in my 'shrink penis via tcp/ip' technology, email's in my profile.
posted by mullingitover at 11:11 AM on April 25, 2008


This is basically the contagious hysterical version of "got-your-nose", in which someone grabs at a child's face and then pretends their own thumb is the stolen nose, right?

Tragic and hilarious.

Although it does explain the theme of the some of the spam I receive. Korophobic, one might say.

(Also, yes, I do recognize the irony of describing psychosomatic phallic distress as "hysterical.")
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 11:13 AM on April 25, 2008


Instead of getting all hysterical, they should just check Second Avenue towards St. Mark's Place, where all those people sell used books and other junk on the street.
posted by phirleh at 11:18 AM on April 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


Welcome to the 1300s. Enjoy your stay.
posted by kjs3 at 11:22 AM on April 25, 2008


This is exactly the opposite of the problem I had in math class when I was in high school.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:25 AM on April 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Won't be long now!
posted by Floydd at 11:29 AM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've heard of cock-blocking before, but this is redickulous.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:32 AM on April 25, 2008


From the Daily Telegraph:

“It’s real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny,” said 29-year-old Alain Kalala.

...which implies that all across Kinshasha, men are showing each other their junk for evaluational purposes.
posted by djrock3k at 11:34 AM on April 25, 2008


Another market rife for the Penis Mightier. Calling Alex Trebek!
posted by stenseng at 11:36 AM on April 25, 2008


Congo Africa the world is a strange, strange place.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:39 AM on April 25, 2008


It's on a blanket next to a broken toaster oven.

Welcome to the 1300s. Enjoy your stay.


You won't like it here!
posted by Avenger at 11:45 AM on April 25, 2008


Detachable Penis
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:49 AM on April 25, 2008


“It’s real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny,” said 29-year-old Alain Kalala.

Can we assume that they had a "before" picture with which to compare it to?

Because, if this thing is real, I need to know.
posted by psmealey at 11:51 AM on April 25, 2008


NOO THEY BE STEALIN MAH BUKKIT (OF COCKS)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:57 AM on April 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


This shrinkage is clearly evidence of global cooling.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:58 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Somewhat remarkably, I was just reading about this condition in Anthony Burgess' novel Earthly Powers, where the narrator describes some of the ailments of the people in Kuala Kangsar.

I think he calls it "elok" or something similar. The victims described hook their penises to their legs so they won't disappear.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:17 PM on April 25, 2008


What those people need are some good cocksmiths.
posted by redteam at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2008


Damn ninjas.
posted by Artw at 12:42 PM on April 25, 2008


I'm pretty sure koro is primarily an affliction of obese men. [nsfw]
posted by dgaicun at 12:56 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whoa! Big-ass NSFW for the links above.

Not safe for anywhere, really...
posted by Navelgazer at 1:02 PM on April 25, 2008


NSFW? There's nothing to see! It would be like breasts without nipples. No need for black bars even.
posted by dgaicun at 1:07 PM on April 25, 2008


[added nsfw tag]
posted by jessamyn at 1:44 PM on April 25, 2008


Penis-Theft Victims Get Testy

Penis-Theft Victims Have Only Testes.
posted by three blind mice at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2008


Obviously some kind of cock and balls story.
posted by psmealey at 3:01 PM on April 25, 2008


Mike Davis discusses the superstitions of Kinshasa towards the end of Planet of Slums. It's the grimmest part of a very grim book. The US-backed Mobutu dictatorship sent the country deep into debt and then, at the IMF's insistence, eradicated the country's social services (and its middle class), starting with a 1977 SAP that laid off 250,000 public employees with no benefits. Ten years later, another SAP privatised more state companies, burying the public sector for good and resulting in 100,000 more job losses. All local industries except diamond mining disappeared and hyperinflation became the rule.

The economy - and with it almost all social interactions - began to seem totally irrational. The army ran a massive pyramid scheme. Gambling became a national sport. In 1991, the population looted Kinshasa. In 1993, the army did. The IMF and the World Bank fled the country, its economy having become mostly based on barter. Most of the country's wealth had gone to Swiss bank accounts. The civil war that followed the overthrow of Mobutu killed 4 million people, mostly from starvation and disease, and drove more and more refugees into Kinshasa's slums. Most Kinois have grown up in a country where basically nothing make sense, there is no work, money appears and disappears like magic, two-thirds of the population are starving, one-fifth are HIV+, and the biggest growth industry is Pentecostalism. From Planet of Slums:
The crisis of the family, moreover, has coincided with both the Pentecostal boom and a renascent fear of sorcery. Many Kinois... interpret their fate within the larger urban catastrophe as "a type of curse or ensorcellement." As a result, literal, perverse belief in Harry Potter has gripped Kinshasa, leading to the mass-hysterical denunciation of thousands of child "witches" and their expulsion to the streets, even their murder.... Aid workers emphasize the novelty of the phenomenon: "Before 1990, there was hardly any talk of child witches in Kinshasa. The children who are now being accused of witchcraft are in the same situation: they become an unproductive burden for parents who are no longer able to feed them. The children said to be 'witches' are most often from very poor families."

The charismatic churches have been deeply complicit in promoting and legimitizing fears about bewitched children: indeed, the Pentecostals portray their faith as God's armor against witchcraft. Hysteria amongst both adults and children (who have developed intense phobias about cats, lizards, and the long dark nights of power blackouts) has been exacerbated by the widespread circulation of lurid Christian videos showing the confessions of "witch children" and subsequent exorcisms, sometimes involving starvation and scalding water.
Davis also quotes the confession of a child witch:
I've eaten 800 men. I make them have accidents, in planes or cars. I even went to Belgium thanks to a mermaid who took me all the way to the port of Antwerp. Sometimes I travel by broomstick, other times on an avocado skin. At night, I'm 30 and I have 100 children. My father lost his job as an engineer because of me -- then I killed him with the mermaid. I also killed my brother and sister. I buried them alive. I also killed all of my mother's unborn children.
Is it any wonder than men in Kinshasa feel they are at risk of being literally emasculated by an arcane and evil force beyond their control? Without wanting to sound like a party pooper, it bothers me slightly that this humanitarian catastrophe is being chuckled about as a bit of quirky gossip, without any politics except maybe an implication that Africans are just naturally a bit irrational and childlike -- if anything, reinforcing the idea that it could be a good idea to send some well-educated Western authorities in to sort out their problems.
posted by stammer at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2008 [15 favorites]


As always "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions."
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2008


> The charismatic churches have been deeply complicit in promoting and legimitizing fears
> about bewitched children: indeed, the Pentecostals portray their faith as God's armor
> against witchcraft.

So, complicit. "Choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act." Promoting and legitimizing baseless fears--a choice, and a most culpable one. Let's just note, though, that culpable choice requires awareness. So, lessee, the millions of Africans of which the African charismatic churches are composed... they don't share the cultural assumptions of other, non-church Africans; these Africans are, somehow, perfectly well aware that there is no such thing as a witch, but choose to pretend otherwise , promoting and legitimizing irrational fears for wicked church purposes BWAHAHAHA. Unlike non-church Africans who, we are entirely ready to assume, harbor and propagate these fears out of sincere, unfeigned, innocent cluelessness.

Those of you who read over the quoted line without so much as a quiver or a twitch, y'all did so because I made wax dollies of you and stuck uncritical-pins in your brains. And, yep, they're still there.
posted by jfuller at 7:07 PM on April 25, 2008


if anything, reinforcing the idea that it could be a good idea to send some well-educated Western authorities in to sort out their problems.

Or just leave them alone and let them sort out their own problems in their own way.
posted by three blind mice at 12:11 AM on April 26, 2008


I'm pretty sure koro is primarily an affliction of obese men.

Jesus X Bushman, those guys make GG Allin look like John Holmes. The first guy looks like he has a clitoris attached to a nutsack. I'm not sure the other guy even has a schlong at all, it looks more like some kind of unholy double-gunt. Where the hell did you even find those? No, don't tell me, I don't want to know.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:49 AM on April 26, 2008


stammer: Thanks for the history and background. I've got no medical training, but my thoughts on this come from a comparison to Capgras Disorder, wherein the victim becomes completely convinced that his wife has been replaced with an impostor. The reality seems to be that brain-damage has destroyed his natural emotional response to her, but as much as that may be explained to even the most intelligent of victims, they cannot accept that their own rationale for the circumstances isn't correct. Back when this was first recorded and studied, the husband or wife was always said to be replaced by an impostor, while since the mid 20th-century on, it's usually a robot that replaces them.

The point is that the explanation for the mental disorder is based on predictable pop-culture of the time and culture, and no matter the rational explanation, it cannot be debated.

I don't think Africans are more irrational than western cultures - I just think that whatever circumstances give rise to these epidemics are more likely to occur in Africa and Asia, and that the stories the afflicted come up with will just be the ones that make most sense in their culture. Hence, in Singapore, it's about bad pork, but in Congo, it's about the child witches.

If it happened in the western world, would we be likely to notice it? Would we blame it on science or terrorism? How many victims would even come forward at all?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:21 AM on April 26, 2008


*facepalm*
posted by lostburner at 9:39 AM on April 26, 2008


facepalm? I love the smell of facepalm in the morning!!
posted by psmealey at 10:37 AM on April 26, 2008


Do these pants make my dick look small?
posted by Iron Rat at 4:45 PM on April 26, 2008


Several hours later, after actually reading the posts in this thread, especially stammer's, I retract my *facepalm*. It makes juvenile light of the plight that these guys are in, and I didn't realize how bad things actually were. I also didn't think of the angle that these superstitions are rooted in humanitarian catastrophes. My bad.
posted by lostburner at 5:39 PM on April 26, 2008


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