Based on an association between ‘feeble-mindedness’ and a parcel of other traits allegedly abundant amongst the ‘defective’ classes, eugenicists’ attempts to curtail the reproductive freedoms of the mentally ill and ‘subnormal’ were gaining ground across the US. Mississippi joined those states, enacting compulsory sterilization for the mentally ill and mentally retarded, in 1928. However, the castration of ‘idiots’ was by no means legally sanctioned.
In the American South, castration was typically used as a punishment for blacks accused of rape or attempted rape, as well as a means of taming animals. Benjy’s treatment highlights the ugly trend in dominant white ideology of defining all who did not conform to its own image according to a clustering of supposedly linked characteristics: blackness, sexual rapacity, animality, uncontrolled instinct and intellectual inferiority.