Claim: A philandering cheater is handed a hacksaw by a wronged spouse and offered an unappetizing choice.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, December 2009]
A wife finds out her husband is a low-down, philandering cheat. He has a detached garage about 100 feet from the house which he likes to use as a work room, so he has all kinds of work tools [wrenches, vises, saws, nails, etc.] as well as work tables, workbenches, and so on in the building.
One evening, he goes to his work space and after giving him a few minutes, the wife dresses in a sexy outfit and ambles in. The husband, not knowing his wife is on to his outside activities, is pleasantly surprised when she comes over and rubs up against him. She proceeds to sexually tease him until he removes all his clothes. Without warning, she grabs his manhood and tightens a vise around it, then removes the handle of the vise and throws it aside.
"You no-good cheat," she hisses, picking up a hacksaw. "I can't believe you've been banging all those floozies." She brings her hand with the hacksaw in it to within an inch of his reproductive organ.
The terrified husband looks at her and whimpers, "You're not going to cut it off, are you?!"
The wife picks up two cans of gasoline and a book of matches. She hands him the hacksaw as she walks towards the door. "No," she says. "You are. I'm going to set the garage on fire."
Origins: This legend of revenge over sexual impropriety speaks to a desire common among those who have
been cheated on to strike back at the significant other who wronged them. In this tale, the act of revenge is taken to extremes, leaving a straying male either dead or permanently mutilated.
Our oldest Internet sighting of the tale is a 1999 post in the USENET group alt.jokes. In that telling, an irate husband treats the man he found in bed with his wife with the vise, hacksaw, and burn down the garage routine. Yet the "wife punishes philandering husband" version has been around almost as long; we've found Internet sightings of that positioning of the tale dating to 2000.
In his Rationale of the Dirty Joke, Gershon Legman hypothesized (but was unable to confirm) a much older origin for this tale while offering a version from a book published in 1966:
A farmer came home late one night and caught a traveling salesman in bed with his wife. The farmer knocked the traveling salesman cold and when he came to, he discovered himself in the barn, where the farmer had tightly clamped his little dove the girls all love in a big vice, nailed to the bench, and the handle to the vice was gone! Looking around, he saw the farmer was sharpening a large knife. "Ye gods, you're not going to cut it off!" cried the salesman. "No," said the farmer; "You can do that ... I'm going to set the barn on fire!"
A number of our readers confirm having heard the tale in the 1950s and 1960s.
This legend about marital infidelity revenged is somewhat unusual in that the punishment zeros in on the body part that committed the crime. In most other vengeance stories, the wronged party gets back at the cheater via financial upset (e.g., leaving the cheater's phone connected to a number in Tokyo for a few weeks, selling his beloved Porsche for a pittance, ruining his new home by way of sewing shrimp into his curtains) or embarrassment (e.g., making sure everyone attending the wedding hears the down and dirty on the cheating bride or groom, taking the adulterer and his paramour for a ride in the family RV before parking the vehicle in such a way that they can't escape without assistance). Yet in this comeuppance tale (whose only counterpart is the superglued penis legend), the actual offending appendage is targeted for retribution. Moreover, just as it was the cheater's decision to stray, so it is left up to him to choose between being a eunuch or a cinder.