RituaL mutilation. Subincision of the penis among Australian Aborigines

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1983 Sep;4(3):227-9.


Subincision of the penis is a traditional ritual mutilation unique to the Aborigines, the indigenous people of Australia. The mutilation is a urethrotomy in which the undersurface of the penis is incised and the urethra slit open lengthwise. Subincision is one element in the initiation of Aboriginal youths. In later ceremonies, repeated throughout adult life, the subincised penis is used as a site for ritual bloodletting. There also exists a ritual of penis holding which occurs when a subincised man enters a strange camp. The origin of subincision and the reason for its localization to the Australian continent has not been satisfactorily explained. The mutilation is still performed among tribal Aborigines, and identifies a man as holding a position of status within the tribe.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Bloodletting
  • Circumcision, Male
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander*
  • Penis*
  • Self Mutilation*
  • Social Dominance
  • Urethra