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Female Genital Cutting

 
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A clitoridectomy is the surgical removal of a woman’s clitoris, and sometimes her labia as well. Many modern women would be surprised to learn that this was a common method of managing women’s “mental disorders” from the year 1860 to 1937 in America.* At that time, medical professionals believed that mood disorders in women were caused by excessively sexual feelings. The quickest solution to this problem was to remove the clitoris and thus prevent masturbation and sexual enjoyment.

We can look back at this time period in a distant state of awe and horror, but we must also realize that clitoridectomies are still a common rite of passage in at least 28 African countries. They also take place in a small number of indigenous ethnic groups in Asia, and were common in Egypt until outlawed several years ago. These procedures are inflicted on young women between the age of four and 12, and are intended to ensure chastity, cleanliness, fertility, and beauty.

Westerners often prefer the more relatable term “female circumcision” to describe this procedure, but in fact, the two have very little in common. Removal of penile foreskin does not present nearly as many health problems as removal of the clitoris, and circumcision also does not interfere with sexual function or enjoyment later in life. Clitoridectomies often have severe immediate complications, including tetanus, infection, extreme pain, hemorrhaging, shock, and death. For this reason, the term “female genital cutting” has been adopted as a medically and culturally accurate way of describing the practice.

The most drastic form of female genital cutting is infibulation, which is common in Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and northern Nigeria. In this procedure, the clitoris and labia minora are removed, and the labia majora are sewn together. A small hole is created for the elimination of urine and menstrual blood, and also for sexual intercourse when the time comes. A pregnant woman will need to have this area cut open and then sewed back together after giving birth.

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EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

"...acts of violence perpetrated against women have an entirely different cultural and political resonance than acts of violence perpetrated against men, because of the inherent power differential between the two sexes."

That is of course true where adults are concerned, but when acts of violence are perpetrated on children, the sex of the children is much less relevant because children have no power at all. And FGC is primarily perpetrated by women, who are themselves victims of it, and will loudly (and when they are educated, eloquently) defend it. (See http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/article.php3?id_article=3752) So it's not a simple example of another bad thing that men do to women, though men are complicit. (Since FGC is so near-universal in societies that practise it, they probably would have no idea if they encountered one of the "uncircumcised" women they say they would never marry.) MGC is primarily perpetrated by men who don't know what they are missing. Western women probably have more freedom to protect their sons than African women to protect their daughters (from grandmothers, aunts and the whole community). It is a pity that discussions of FGC so often get hijacked by MGC, but MGC is happening here and now, perpetrated by some of the people posting here. What do the people posting against FGC ever do about it except wring their hands?

January 3, 2010 - 1:35am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Jill says:
^^ acts of violence perpetrated against men, because of the inherent power differential between the two sexes. Anyone who is interested in the liberation of oppressed classes should welcome discourse relating to the unique issues raised by violence against women. ^^

Did someone say they don't welcome efforts to help the defenseless and oppressed? (Although to call FGC violence against women is kind of odd since it usually performed BY women).

The most defenseless are infants.

There is NO society cutting females that does not also cut males.

94% of the world's population lives under laws forbidding female genital cutting including even a pin-prick to draw a drop of blood (although yes, they are rarely enforced). 0% of the world protects males from ampuations as haphazard or severe as caregivers wish. (South Africa comes closest with a ban on cutting males under 16, but they make religious exceptions, and they have the highest death rate for those who do get cut.) As a result of indifference to male genital mutilation a male is five times as likely as a female to be robbed of valuable sensual tissue. I acknowledge your struggle, Jill, and support it with my wallet. Please don't dismiss mine.

-Ron Low

November 5, 2009 - 8:36pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Hey Anonymous,

"I thought feminists desired equality not dominance?"

You thought wrong. Feminists desire neither equality nor dominance. Feminists struggle for women's liberation from oppression.

For example, it is an act of oppression to tell women what they may and may not write about on the Internet. My comment here, pointing this out to you, is part of the feminist struggle. Your remarks, of course, demonstrate that the struggle is far from over.

Furthermore, acts of violence perpetrated against women have an entirely different cultural and political resonance than acts of violence perpetrated against men, because of the inherent power differential between the two sexes. Anyone who is interested in the liberation of oppressed classes should welcome discourse relating to the unique issues raised by violence against women.

Jill Psmith

November 5, 2009 - 6:54am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

"Furthermore, acts of violence perpetrated against women have an entirely different cultural and political resonance than acts of violence perpetrated against men, because of the inherent power differential between the two sexes. Anyone who is interested in the liberation of oppressed classes should welcome discourse relating to the unique issues raised by violence against women."

Indeed, I am not denying that some of your statement be true. But when Shaina attempts to minimize Male Genital Mutilation as she did with, and i quote
"Where did you get the impression that removing the clitoral hood is equivalent to removing penile foreskin in terms of the risk of pain, disfigurement, and health problems? Can you illustrate the ways in which American males experience negative long-term side effects of circumcision? Are males able to achieve orgasm after circumcision? How often are circumcisions performed past the age of four?"

It's as if she is saying cutting off 4 fingers is bad, but if you cut of only 2 it's not as bad as cutting off 4.

There are far lighter versions of female circumcision which only involve a slight nick of the clitoral hood. And there are far more extreme versions of male circumcision performed in Africa which i myself am trying to forget even exist.

The point of the matter of the original poster wasn't to try and steal the spotlight, it was to inform that Females ARE NOT the only ones having their genitals mutilated/sexuality attacked. That Genital Mutilation of ANY sort should be outlawed. That a vulva is no more worthy of protection from the knife than a penis.

If you feel you must decide which is the greater evil. (of which in this case they are both atrocious and immoral) Which is worse, 4 million people who have one finger cut off Unjustly , or 1 million people who have four fingers cut off unjustly.

ALL GENITAL MUTILATION MUST END.

November 5, 2009 - 2:05pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Your attempt to minimize genital cutting on the opposite gender is most offensive. I thought feminists desired equality not dominance?

When will Anti-FGM realize we're all on the same side and fight for both genders? Everyone has the right to an intact body, not just women.
Women are often enough the ones deciding to mutilate their own baby boys in America. Then campaigning to end FGM in a completely different country. What logic is there in this? None...

Think about it Shaina <3

November 5, 2009 - 12:14am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

All Genital Mutilation must end, before we can start changing the world let's stop the abuse in our own country first. It's done to millions of baby boys for reasons such as "we want him to look like his father" to cultural reasons to "women prefer it" to falsified medical benefits (very similar to why african women wish genital mutilation of their daughters)

The fact of the matter is it's the infant's body. Not yours, Not anyone elses. All genital mutilation must end, and what hope do we have of ending female genital mutilation in Africa if we overlook male genital mutilation in our own countries?

November 5, 2009 - 12:01am

Readers who are interested in learning more about the effects of male circumcision can see http://www.circumcisionforum.com/. There are a lot of interesting conversations and information there. Those who would like to discuss female genital cutting can continue to leave their thoughts in this comment thread.

November 4, 2009 - 4:20pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

If you compare all MGC favourably with all FGC, then don't be surprised if men with bad experiences of MGC come along to challenge your comparison, and are annoyed if you try to silence a discussion of MGC that you started. FGC is evil enough in its own right without making an odious comparison. (And so is MGC.)

The site you mention is interesting, but it's not exactly busy, and it is focused on circumcision, when the starting point should be intactness. A list of sites is at http://www.circumstitions.com/links.html#general

Blue Cross Blue Shield covered FGC in the US until 1977. One victim of it, Patricia Robinett, has written a book about her experience, "The Rape of Innocence", which is shortly to come out in a revised form.

November 4, 2009 - 3:53pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Most African Female Circumcision (FGM) is the removal of the clitoral hood and labia and NOT the clitoris. All FGM is heinous and bad, but the normal version (labia and clitoral hood) is pushed for the same hygiene and disease reasons that male circumcision is pushed here in the US. A Tanzania study says labia and clitoral hood removal lowers HIV risk by over 50% for women (IMO BS) and women with labia and clitoral hood removal say the sex is fine and they get orgasms and want to do the procedure to their daughters - just as US male MGM victims want to have their sons cut. The arguments and sexual mutilation are in parallel, but many people in the US are only against the US version. That is an unacceptable sexist and and culturally biased position.

Also, the sexual damage done to men in the US is actually much worse than the labia/clitoral hood removal. The foreskin is not just skin and does not just protect the glans(head). Circumcision is ablates the most sensitive parts of the male genitals. This surgery takes away the main male pleasure zones with over 20000 fine touch and stretch nerve endings amputated. The foreskin has several parts including the ridged band that is great for ones pleasure (that is why nutters like Kellogg wanted to chop em off, to curtail masturbation), Masturbation is important for men's physical and mental health. The ridged band directly contacts the vagina for very great pleasure all around. The dynamics of sex and the actual mechanism of the penis are drastically changed by circumcision. The foreskin can normally be slipped all the way, or almost all the way, back to the base of the penis, and also slipped forward beyond the glans. This wide range of motion is the mechanism by which the penis and the orgasmic triggers in the foreskin, frenulum, and glans are stimulated

The only touch organ possessing as rich erogenous innervation as the foreskin is the clitoris. Circumcision deprives man of 2/3ds of the main erogenous zone constituted of the foreskin and the glans.

All GM is heinous, particularly if done to humans without their consent or understanding. It is not reasonable to justify one practice by saying male circ somehow is not as bad or not comparable. All removal of erogenous tissue without consent is bad and should be stopped. Speaking up against what is done in Africa, while MGM contiunes here is not at all reasonable.

November 4, 2009 - 10:54am

Readers who are interested in learning more about the effects of male circumcision can see http://www.circumcisionforum.com/. There are a lot of interesting conversations and information there. Those who would like to discuss female genital cutting can continue to leave their thoughts in this comment thread.

November 4, 2009 - 8:15am
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