Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Female Genital Mutilation in the US

This post is about a specific incident/article. It is about the mutilation and abuse of girl children. It is not about circumcision. Unless you have one HELL of a convincing/excellent/relevant comment including circumcision in it, it will NOT be approved for posting. If there is enough demand, I’ll open a post on circumcision. But this is not that post, please respect that.

http://www.thehastingscenter.org/Bioethicsforum/Post.aspx?id=4730&blogid=140

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fetishes-i-dont-get/201006/can-you-hear-us-now

http://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/06/16/female-genital-mutilation-at-cornell-university

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/what_is_the_right_size_for_a_c.php

All of these blog posts and articles discuss the genital mutilation of girls performed at Cornell University by Dr. Dix Poppas. Dr. Poppas performed surgery on the clitorises of elementary school-aged girls to make their genitalia look “more normal” (i.e. smaller). He used a procedure that is theoretically “nerve-sparing”, in order to preserve sensation in the clitorises (clitorii?). He then, over the course of several years performed regular sensitivity tests on the girls, using a small medical vibrator device (not a huge vibrating cock, let’s be fair before we string him up).

I really don’t have the words for how angry, sick and depressed this makes me feel.

I’m angry at the parents who decided that a “large” clitoris was enough of an excuse to inflict a painful and unnecessary procedure on a girl-child that puts her future sexual function and enjoyment at great risk. Now, let me emphasize here that there is rarely (very rarely) a medical reason to decrease clitoris size. They weren’t going to die from it. Their parents were concerned that their genitalia didn’t look “normal.”

I’m fucking furious with a doctor who has sworn as part of the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, and who has caused immeasurable harm to these girls. I’m also fucking furious with the society that has these parents so terrified of their children’s “abnormalities” that they are willing to let this butcher at them, at a society that doesn’t recognize the wide variation in healthy genitalia.

Granted, what do you expect from a society that has things like vaginoplasty and anus bleaching in it?

Several commenters at various blogs, etc… have stated that the parents just wanted to save the girls the embarassment of having a boy feel them up when they were teenagers and then yell “Ew!” because they had a big clit.

So… sexuality destroying surgery is the answer so a boy doesn’t say “Ew?”

Really?

I think I need a lie down about now.

Seriously. I just… As one commenter said over at Pharyngula (paraphrasing), so it’s LESS traumatic to have a painful surgery on the most sensitive part of the female anatomy and then have an adult male doctor masturbate you annually in front of your parents to see if he killed your sexuality?

I… Yeah… I have no words. In fact I’m kind of nauseated right now after typing that sentence.

For those of you screaming for the blood of the Cornell IRB, apparently, according to several sources, what the IRB had cleared him for was the evaluation of the medical files of girls who underwent this surgery (whether in the past, or had recently undergone it). His IRB app reportedly said nothing about the vibratory device or touching little girls’ parts for years afterwards, I’m guessing, other than for regular post-op treatment for that surgery. And as far as the peer-review process for articles, when you submit journal articles (at least as far as dentistry and immunology), you don’t submit your IRB application. You state in your article that you had IRB approval. Some journals MAY ask to see your IRB application to see if it matches what you say you’ve done, but most won’t bother. That would be why the Peer-Review process didn’t catch it. They would have assumed his IRB checked out his procedure and found it ethically sound.

That this procedure and study exist is a symptom of a sick society. A very sick society. A society in which conformity to arbitrary norms trumps actual health and well-being, particularly for women and girls. A society that dictates that women starve and carve themselves to look like unattainable beauty ideals, even down to perfect pink anuses and teeny little clits like buttons.

In several places on the web, sorry to depend on anecdata, but as several people have pointed out there are few, if any, studies on the range of normal regarding female genitalia, women who had “large” clitorii as children who WEREN’T operated on, have come forward to say that they either “grew into it,” or even if their clit remained proportionally large, it wasn’t a problem.

There, in fact, have been NO studies about how the genital size of infants and children relates to the genital size of the full grown adults they become. So, really, we have no proof that a five year old girl with a big clit (or micro-penis) is going to grow up to be an adult woman, or even a fifteen year old girl, with a big clit. Just as we have no proof that an infant boy with penis size in the low range is going to grow up to be an adult man with a small dick. We don’t know. The doctors don’t know. Nobody fucking knows.

So, for all these parents and this doctor ACTUALLY know, they have performed a completely unnecessary plastic surgery on these girls. A completely unnecessary plastic surgery with a good chance of destroying their ability to experience clitoral arousal and orgasm when they do become adults. But that’s ok, right? I mean, it’s not like women are SUPPOSED to enjoy sex or anything.

I have to stop writing this, it’s just making me angrier and angrier as I think about how incredibly unnecessary these procedures are. UNNECESSARY! You heard me. If a little girl grows up to be a woman who wants to have her clit shortened because it’s long, and can consent to a surgery after being informed of the risks, more power to her. But doing this to children who really don’t know what they could be losing?

Fuck you. Fuck you, parents of these girls. Fuck you Dr. Poppas. And fuck you society that says this shit is ok. Fuck you right in the ear.

ETA: I would like to encourage you to also read TextualDeviance’s post on the subject as well: http://textualdeviance.livejournal.com/594473.html Textual mentions CAH, which is often a cause of genital malformation, including large clits, however, while some symptoms require surgery, large clits… don’t.

The existence of this “study” and the reaction to it also touches on the problematic way in which our society treats Intersexed individuals, or those who are born with indeterminate (meaning that you can’t tell at a casual glance, apparently) genitalia. Until fairly recently, the common practice was to decide which gender the genitalia most looked like, and then surgically alter it to “fit.” BUT I want to stress that Dr. Poppas was not performing this procedure on Intersexed individuals, but rather apparently cis-gendered female children with “large” clitorii.

This entry originally posted at http://polimicks.dreamwidth.org/

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29 comments on “Female Genital Mutilation in the US

  1. textualdeviance
    June 18, 2010

    Made a big ol’ ranty post on this m’self.
    Rage. Serious rage.

    Like

  2. julzerator
    June 18, 2010

    Thank you for writing out just how I feel.
    I wish I could pay you to just write for a living.

    Like

  3. garpu
    June 18, 2010

    There’s a special circle in hell for people like him.

    Like

    • polimicks
      June 18, 2010

      Indeed.
      Now, granted, he probably does think he was doing good, as do those parents.
      But as the fundies are fond of spouting: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.

      Like

      • garpu
        June 18, 2010

        What’s even sadder is the number of people who don’t know what a clit is for and why it’s a travesty to kill feeling in it.

        Like

      • polimicks
        June 18, 2010

        Oh… don’t get me started….

        Like

  4. onogoro
    June 18, 2010

    Oh fuck this.
    I really still don’t even know what to say about this and I read it and have been trying to mentally digest it since yesterday. This is seriously one of the most disgusting, sad, and rage inducing things I have ever read in my life. Ever.
    People need to keep their aesthetics off of women’s genitals as is. The fact that we’re SO FUCKED UP that we think that doing this to CHILDREN now is okay is just beyond me. It’s ABUSE. Just because it’s sanctioned by the parents and performed by a doctor doesn’t change that. It’s abuse.
    These poor girls.

    Like

    • polimicks
      June 18, 2010

      Actually, people have thought doing this to children has been ok all along. What’s relatively new is the outrage about it. Physicians in the US regularly performed clitorectomies on girls because of problems with “hysteria” as recently as the late 1950s/1960s, symptoms of “hysteria” could include everything including masturbating, talking back, “nervous behavior,” etc…
      We do not have a good track record regarding ANYTHING to do with sexuality in general and women’s sexuality in specific.

      Like

      • onogoro
        June 18, 2010

        😦 That’s right. I forgot about that. Tucked it away in the back of my head as some forgotten part of scary medical history.

        Like

      • polimicks
        June 18, 2010

        When you read the common medical practices of the 50s and earlier, you kind of understand why women developed complexes about sex and their own bodies.
        Hell, the 80s and earlier.
        Let’s face it, there are times when the whole medical profession just plain scares the shit out of me on a general level.

        Like

  5. acrimonyastraea
    June 18, 2010

    UGH, some of the comments on Pharyngula. Everything must always be about the menz!
    But it’s fucked up that to get this level of outrage from so many people, this has to happen to children who are not intersex.

    Like

    • polimicks
      June 18, 2010

      Yeah, that’s why I thought I’d nip that in the bud right now.
      Ms. Magazine had an article about the arbitrary sex assignment of Intersexed children several years ago.
      If I remember right, they got a lot of, “But what if they play doctor with another child and that leads to questions?” bullshit then, too.
      Why are these people so fucking afraid of questions? Like they’re the worst things in the world.

      Like

      • acrimonyastraea
        June 18, 2010

        Because of course a little confusion is so much worse than risky surgery that could affect their sexual lives forever!

        Like

      • polimicks
        June 18, 2010

        Totally.
        assheads

        Like

  6. botia
    June 19, 2010

    Feel free to keep this comment screened–I just wanted to express a question in my mind that maybe could be covered in the future relating to this whether or not anyone has done a similar test on similar-age boys post-circumcision. I feel like the doctor thought he was entitled to the bodies of these girls because they are female.

    Like

    • polimicks
      June 21, 2010

      I think this is a valid question, and honestly I wonder about that too. Because as far as I know, they don’t.
      BUT I don’t have kids. So if any of my childed friends with boys could pipe up on this.

      Like

      • botia
        June 22, 2010

        And, as my mind keeps turning it over, I wonder…if they DID do similar tests on boys, if they’d be more likely to have the boys touch their own parts instead of having someone do it for them? Because (in the eyes of the patriarchy) it’s acceptable and normal of course for boys to be touching and otherwise preoccupied with their genitals, but little girls shouldn’t even be taught what they’ve got down there, let alone permitted or (oh dear!) encouraged to explore their own bodies. Best to let a man do that for them, the poor things, lest they become utterly befuddled and confounded by the messy, scary, terrible secrets tucked between their legs!

        Like

      • polimicks
        June 23, 2010

        Yeah, I’ve never been ok with, let alone understood the double standard. Fuck that shit. Either everybody plays, or nobody plays.
        I prefer everybody plays, myself.

        Like

  7. gloraelin
    June 19, 2010

    One thing I found interesting [in a really disgusting way] is that there was apparently some reference to “girls with big clits grow up to be lesbians.” So, let’s toss some homophobia on that steaming pile of fail, it’ll just be the ~cherry~ on top.
    *vomit*
    I just. This is… I STILL start raging every time I think of this, and it’s been three days! GAH.

    Like

    • polimicks
      June 21, 2010

      Yeah, I had to quit reading about it, and I’m not sure I would have posted but I got prompted by someone.
      There are days when I hate the world.

      Like

  8. Anonymous
    June 20, 2010

    Advocates for Informed Choice is a non-profit organization advocating for the legal and human rights of children with intersex conditions or differences of sex develoment, like the ones in this story. We work in collaboration with bioethicists, doctors, parents, affected adults, and many others. If you are interested in taking action to help protect these children, and to be sure that possible human rights violations are investigated, please join our Facebook page at http://ow.ly/20wTY or sign up for our Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/aiclegal. You can also donate to support our work at http://aiclegal.org/we-need-your-support/

    Like

    • polimicks
      June 21, 2010

      Thank you very much for posting this!
      Sorry I wasn’t online to unscreen it earlier.

      Like

  9. sarmonster
    June 20, 2010

    Who the hell are these parents? How many people do they anticipate are going to see their daughter’s clitoris? It’s not like being born with an extra finger or something.
    Isn’t not being able to FIND the thing the complaint of sexual partners everywhere? NOW someone has one that is easily located and it needs to be disposed of?
    These guys all get the special hell.

    Like

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