Friday, March 29, 2013

Africa's Penis-Snatching Epidemic

I first covered penis-snatching back in 2008, with an article about this supposed black magical practice prompting arrests in Congo-Kinshasa. At the time I noted how ridiculous the whole idea seemed, but it nonetheless remains a serious problem in Africa. Accusations of penis-snatching commonly lead to mob violence and lynchings, even though I have no idea how anyone could possibly believe his penis to be been stolen by a black magician. I mean, can't you just pull down your pants and look? Even the mob that claimed a witch stole a car and then turned into a goat actually brought a real goat to the police as evidence.

Besides the mechanics of it, the motivation for penis-snatching also strikes me as quite dubious. I suppose if I really knew a penis-snatching spell it would make a particularly nasty curse, but beyond that it seems rather pointless. However, a recent episode of The Current revealed the truth. Apparently, a market exists for stolen penises, so black magicians can make a tidy sum by selling off their ill-gotten members to wealthy individuals.

We started this segment with an eyewitness account from Mayowa Adebola in Lagos, Nigeria, of a theft that can't possibly have occurred. The tape from freelance journalist Sam Olukoya illustrates what can happen when someone claims to be a victim of what is called penis-snatching. In these cases, a victim claims his genitals were stolen or shrunken through the use of witchcraft.

The alleged motive sounds as preposterous as the crime. Victims say the loot may be sold to wealthy Europeans or a powerful local person. These incidents are referred to as penis-snatching or Koro, and these days, Nigeria is Koro-central. There's been a spate of reported penis-snatchings in Nigeria in the past few months. And the incidents are increasing in some other African countries as well.

At least the idea of magically shrunk genitals is not quite as hard to believe as outright theft, as there are a number of other culture-bound dysmorphic conditions in which sufferers believe that parts of their bodies have changed in size. But at the same time, this doesn't really fit with the idea of a market. A snatched penis could in theory be sold, but a shrunken one that remains attached to its owner? There couldn't be much of a market for that, no matter how many rich people are out there looking to expand their cock collections.

I'll add that if this is a real spell it might be worth learning, just because it's so utterly bizarre. On the other hand, if penises are really being snatched, how is it that the victims aren't showing up at hospitals without them? It seems far more likely to me that this is another case of classic witch-hunting, with trumped up charges being made against individuals that the community just does not like. Because unlike spells that manipulate probabilities, it would seem that the effectiveness of a penis-snatching technique would be particularly easy to demonstrate.

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Brian K. Hahn said...

Ok, so this is a cultural hysteria. But here is a satirical side to it, that is provided in a serious fashion.

Scott Stenwick said...

Funny article! The satirical side of this is really what makes it amusing, even though I'm sure for somebody suffering from this bizarre belief it's no picnic.

I remain confused about what the witches want to do with "stolen" genitals that are clearly still attached to their owners. I can't think of any genuine magical use for them that makes any sense.