You may wonder, and you would be right to wonder, what motivation anybody could possibly have the cutting the penis along its entire length on the underside, so that it opens out like a banana, split down its side.

This is one of the practices that has been known in traditional cultural circles such as the Western Desert Australian aborigines for a long time. In their culture it is classified as an initiation ritual,the although there are those who have suggested different motivations for the practice. Read about this here.

What might be more interesting to members of the Western world, supposedly affluent and emotionally intelligent, is why this procedure has been adopted in a fairly widespread way by the western body modification subculture, and what purpose it serves those who engage in.

This seems a really extraordinary practice -- and it is. That a lay practitioner or a man himself should cut his penis along its entire length of the urethra is extraordinary. This is no minor piercing; it is gross body deformation.

There has been little psychological research on why people engage in body modification, although it is clearly some kind of body dysmorphic disorder, an attempt to modify the body in a way that makes it more satisfying or acceptable to the individual concerned. In so far as this is true, the motivation for penile bisection, which is a more accurate description than sub-incision, is a deeply unconscious motivation that is probably very negative, such as self-hatred, penile hatred, or a fear of or aversion towards masculinity.

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Even so, this still remains hard to understand, at least if you're coming from a rational position whereby pain and body deformity are to be avoided.

The body modification Wiki contains more information on this extraordinary practice and offers the following description of the various possibilities the man who wishes to have his penis sliced along its length: that it could be either partially split along its length or totally split along its length, usually along the bottom side. The penis usually remains functional, in the sense that it can become erect, because the two halves of the corpus cavernosum are maintained.

In 1966 the Journal Human Nature published an article about male genital modification, in which Dr Raven Rowanchilde suggested that body modification in this way was a deliberate attempt to establish identity and social status.

Clearly it's true that genital modification does send some kind of message about a person from one individual to another; but only through being part of subculture that understands the message! She also said it served an important role as a social and sexual signal. She even argued that it was possible that genital modification of this extreme form indicated to a woman that the male was reliable because he could endure pain and risk. To coin a phrase, I've never heard such garbage.

From me, the only explanation necessary as to why somebody would slit the penis along its length is because they have a deep level of self-hatred and extremely low self-esteem. Some evidence to support this comes from 2006 study in the Journal Death Stu dies, in which Dr Julie Hicin bothem surveyed many individuals who took part in body modification, and found that people with body modifications had a higher incidence of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide before their body modification procedure than those in the wider population.

What does penile sub-incision body modification mean?

As the body modification wiki states, with possibly a considerable degree of understatement, sub-incision will greatly affect urination, allowing urine to spray in all directions and necessitating the need to either sit to urinate, or for an individual to carry a small metal tube which he can use to position the opening of the penis to direct the flow, if he still desires to stand to urinate.

The wiki also makes an attempt to defend this extraordinary practice by suggesting that an open urethra is more sensitive to sexual stimulation, and offering another justification in that it allows a man to ejaculate whilst his partner fellates him without her receiving semen in her mouth. What nonsense!

You will probably have gathered by now that I actually don't believe that body modification in this rather extreme form is either a desirable practice or comes from a clear, clean decision made by a person of their own free will.

So what motivated the tradition of aboriginal Australians who practised subincision?

Well, the answer lies deep in a culture that is still a mystery to "whitefellas", although one author does have an interesting account of how one group of aboriginal Australians believed that splitting the penis down the middle could control the environment around them.

If this were true, then one would have to regard the cultural belief underpinning this extraordinary act of mutilation as the product of ignorance and superstition.

But as the article quoted from the Australian suggests, another motivation might have existed - a form of ritual sexual abuse of young boys by older men, facilitated by the process of subincision of the penis.

There is a strong tendency to defend any cultural tradition as the property of the people who practice it, yet I think few of us would these days except that female genital mutilation was a cultural practice worth defending on the grounds that it was the intellectual property of people who practiced it for generations.

Similarly I'd extend the argument that sub-incision cannot be justified on any grounds and it certainly isn't a practice to which modern aboriginal boys are subjected. Enlightenment is slow in coming to the human race, as history has demonstrated, and progress has often been hampered by those who defend the indefensible.

Even so, you can read more about the practice here.

From a psychoanalytic point of view it's significant that the individual concerned refers to his "urogenital organs" rather than his penis and testicles, and he speaks of them as a source of "much concern and shame".

He speaks of feeling inferior as a child because he'd been circumcised, and how his father inserted catheters into his urethra in a painful attempt to stop him wetting the bed. He speaks of feeling raped, terrified, and not saying anything the intense burning pain. If you read the account, he has a theme of sexual inhibitions from religion, inhibition about his sexuality and masturbation, and being totally ridden by shame.

So there is some kind of circumstantial evidence here that my assessment of the psychological profile of people who engage in extreme body modification might have some truth in it.

He goes on to talk about how it took him 50 years to overcome his shame - the end result of which was him posting pictures of his subincised penis on the Internet. He speaks of craving love for himself and from others, and a lack of acceptance of himself.

Here's a summary: "So, overshadowing my childhood, there were two things: the fear of my father and the feeling bad over my lack of control (my bedwetting). Two major tendencies governed then my life: to regain control (to have mastery) and to overcome fear."

And it's fairly clear from his account that he regarded his frenulum as a restraint, and believed that if he cut it, he would free his glans from restriction... all deeply interesting stuff for a psychotherapist.... but not as interesting as what happened next.

He started by enlarging his penile opening -- a meatotomy. Gradually enlarging his penile opening using a knife. He admits to questioning why he was having these secret compulsions to cut himself. [Because he believed he was bad.] He says: "I only knew it was not dark, not masochistic." But that's the nature of shadow -- it seems to be normal when it appears out of the darkness.

And then, after going through a couple of relationships he told his lover about his desire to cut further into the urethra in the form of a subincision -- and his lover encouraged him to do it. And he speaks again of feeling no pain, confirming the fact that he was completely cut off from his emotions and feeling. Confirming that the pain of his childhood have been so great that he dared not feel it.

He did the subincision gradually, a centimeter at a time. It's certainly a fascinating account of the psychosexual problems he had: "In making love with her I also loved to rub her clit against my hole while imagining it a little dick! I really have never felt any attraction for men, but I like the feeling of being both a man with a huge penis and a woman with a little vulva and a vagina! I liked to be inside her or in her mouth, but I liked also to be penetrated into my urethra."