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Designer Vaginas: Is Female Circumcision Coming Out of the Closet?

Posted on Jul 2, 2009
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By Gbemisola Olujobi

As a circumcised and sexually fulfilled African woman, when I consider the fuss that female circumcision has attracted to Africa over the years and the wind of labiaplasties and genital rejuvenations currently sweeping across Europe and America, I cannot help but ask in the words of Dr. Deborah Tolman, professor of social welfare at Hunter College School of Social Work, “What happened in the last three years to make [these] women’s labias so big that they can’t walk around with them?”

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I was watching an episode of “Dr. 90210” on E! Entertainment Television recently. A young American woman was getting a labiaplasty and clitoral hood reduction. She said her labia “didn’t look nice” and her clitoral hood was “uncomfortable,” especially when she was having sex. I didn’t know what to think.

I was circumcised (read labiaplasty and clitoral hood reduction) when I was 9 days old, in line with the tradition of the Yoruba of western Nigeria. And thanks to the “enlightenment” of Euro-American NGOs, I grew up lamenting what I thought was my irreparable loss and thinking I would definitely have been better off with my genitals intact. Imagine my confusion at the spectacle before me on television.

I have since seen more labiaplasties and clitoral hood reductions on “Dr. 90210.” I am an avid fan of the show and confess to being totally smitten with the effervescent Dr. Robert Rey. But the more of these procedures I see, the more I ... well, wonder. What are labiaplasty and clitoral hood reduction if not female circumcision?

Female circumcision, also known as female genital cutting (FGC) or the more demonized female genital mutilation (FGM), is defined by the World Health Organization as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.”


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FGC is practiced throughout the world, but seems to be more widely practiced in Africa than anywhere else. Not all ethnic groups in Africa practice female circumcision, though it is found in 28 of the continent’s 53 countries.

The WHO identifies three broad types of female circumcision. Type I circumcision is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce or clitoral hood. Type II circumcision is “partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora. Type III circumcision involves narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and repositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris. This type of circumcision is also known as infibulation or pharaonic circumcision. It is the most extensive form of FGM, and accounts for about 10 percent of all FGM procedures identified in Africa.

And what are labiaplasty, clitoral hood reduction, vaginoplasty and the other procedures classified as female genital cosmetic surgery? Labiaplasty is plastic surgery of the labia majora and/or the labia minora, which are the external folds of skin surrounding the structures of the vulva. The procedure involves reducing the size of one or both sets of labia. Clitoral hood reduction is an operation which repositions the protruding clitoris and reduces the length and projection of the clitoral hood. Vaginoplasty is the surgical modification of the female vagina. The most frequent vaginoplasty procedure is the narrowing of the vaginal opening to make it firmer.

These operations involve cutting that includes full or partial amputation of the labia or clitoris, as well as procedures to narrow or tighten the vagina—all hallmarks of circumcision and infibulation.

Now, from what I understand, some Euro-American women are becoming so disturbed by the appearance of their genitalia that they are asking plastic surgeons to modify them. But how did this new worry start? Or, as professor Tolman puts it, “What happened in the last three years to make [these] women’s labias so big that they can’t walk around with them?”

Physicians and mainstream mass media report that the widespread viewing of pornography has increased demand for labiaplasty. As more people see the shortened labia of pornographic actresses, they are getting the idea that trim genitals are the ideal. Human sexuality expert Bonnie Zylbergold argues in an article that women are getting the HD version of their vulvas outside a biology class for the first time. And “while women might not be trading notes on their vaginal proportions,” says Zylbergold, “they have become increasingly comfortable with mainstream pornography and that leads to one dimensional representations of what vulvas look like.”

Just as the phenomenon of Playboy magazine in the 1950s spread the craze for breast enlargements in the ’60s and ’70s, an increasing number of women are going to plastic surgeons with pictures of spread-eagled models in magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse and saying, “I want those clit and lips,” very much as some women have been ordering Angelina Jolie’s mouth and Jennifer Lopez’s butt in surgeons’ “supermarkets.”

Call it “labia envy,” says New York writer Louisa Kamps. A host of plastic surgeons are aggressively offering women relief from this new form of envy.

Kamps quotes Dr. Gary Alter, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, as saying: “Some women have this feeling they’re not that pretty down there. If you really think you’re deformed, you’re going to be less open to a sexual relationship. Before, it was the dark ages, because nobody really cared, or knew, what it looked like. But now, with Penthouse and all these magazines that show vaginas—I mean, they really show it—you have women, not just men, looking. And they start making aesthetic judgments.”

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By Zexsoofops, March 8, 2012 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
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just what an good site. Your info helps myself with my researching. I am with higher education and I have a term paper to write. I was going to get custom essay site via internet, fortunately your site has made it easier for me take care of freelance writers block and so i feel as if I can continue by myself. Thanks all for this good material.

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By Ahmed, October 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks Gbemisola, the world needs more people like you to stand up for the truth.

A recent study by Sitt Al Banat Khalid ‘Khitan Al-Banat Ru’ yah Sihhiyyah’ (2003) has shown that female circumcision, like male circumcision, offers considerable health benefits, such as prevention of urinary tract infections and other diseases such as cystitis affecting the female reproductive organs.

A more recent study, Orgasmic Dysfunction Among Women at a Primary Care Setting in Malaysia. Hatta Sidi, and Marhani Midin, and Sharifah Ezat Wan Puteh, and Norni Abdullah, (2008) Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, 20 (4) accessible shows that being Non-Malay is a higher risk factor for Orgasmic Sexual Dysfunction in women, implying that Malay women experience less problems in achieving orgasm than non-Malay women. As you know almost all Malay women in Malaysia are circumcised (undergo hoodectomy) in contrast to non-Malay Chinese women who are not. This would suggest that hoodectomy does in fact contribute to an improved sex life in women.

For more benefits of hoodectomy see

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By Cosmetic Dental Implants, June 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm Link to this comment

Thankfully some are afforded choice when it comes to many surgeries in the modern world. However, the debate for both men and woman circumcision continues to raise the conflict and as this article demonstrates more questions than answers.

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By jvtx13, February 16, 2010 at 5:00 am Link to this comment

It is interesting to read such black and white opinions.  It is unfortunate the author experienced forced circumcision due to religious/cultural beliefs.  However, a labiaplasty or clitoral hood reduction by choice, is an elected procedure and one that is a personal choice.  Who are we to suggest a human being SHOULD or Should NOT do something to their bodies.  That is their birth right, one of the few rights we have and SHOULD respect and appreciate.

I’ve met hundreds of women who have had these procedures done, and I really got to understand that some of them have been living in pain and embarrassment for decades!

Who are we to tell a man or woman to live in pain when there is an alternative?  Why should I be able to tell someone else what they can or cannot do with their body?

We must encourage education ( and empowerment, not judgment and chastise.

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By adrienrain, January 6, 2010 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

Good news! There is help - surgical restoration.

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By Lucy, January 6, 2010 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

WOW!Some of the commenters sound really dumb!
The author has written 3 pages to tell you these unapproved procedures that claim to enhance your sexual pleasure and beauty are SHAM and fed up by the poisoned media and advertisement of money-loving plastic surgeons with no conscious,
and still people say those are done for improvement of so called “patients”?

I’m speechless!

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By Ashlee, January 6, 2010 at 8:10 am Link to this comment
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I did labiaplasty after I saw some ads that suggested that big labia were abnormal.
Before that I had no physical discomfort or insecurities.
But after I heard about labiaplasty I got extremely ashamed of myself.
Now that I have done it I look mutilated and after 7 months I still have agonizing pain and sex is impossible.
To what extent do we have to butcher our normal bodies to catch up with the media created “ideals”? :(
I wish someone informed me (other than the money-grabbing plastic surgeons) about what normal vagina looks like!
You’re a hero. No one should be lured into voluntarily genital mutilation.
I wish you best of luck!

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By Sally, September 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I feel the author is coming from standpoint of feeling mutilated without consent
as a child.  She said she felt she was missing something.  The US has been
encouraging Africa to give up its FGM practices for some time now but ironically it
is becoming very popular here to alter female genetalia. Maybe she feels like
women should be left to be how they were naturally made.  I think there has been
a lot of support shown for the American women that chose to undergo genetalia

I have long labia and it has affected my sex life and my self esteem.  I know that
what I have is normal but according American standards it is subpar and should
be “touched up”.  That upsets me.  There is nothing wrong with me and I don’t
want to undergo surgery.

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By adrienrain, July 7, 2009 at 7:13 pm Link to this comment

All patriarchal religions suppress women’s sexuality to some degree. The more male-dominant they are, the more extreme the measures they resort to.

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By truedigger3, July 7, 2009 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

FGM is cultural tradition and not Islamic religious tradition in most of Africa and parts of the middle and near East. It is practiced by some Christians in Egypt, and the Jews of Ethiopia and Christian and anamist African too.
Hopefully education coupled with some governmental pressure and laws by the local governments will eliminate that scourge and injustice to women.

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By appalled, July 7, 2009 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
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I don’t care what whacko things a woman wants to do to herself after she’s an adult.

But to do this to a baby or little girl? I’m speechless that this author and the commenters don’t seem to notice the difference between voluntary and involuntary.  How about surgery and assault with a knife?

By the way, we do a similar cutting on baby boys every day in every hospital in America.

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By adrienrain, July 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

Burt and Schramm’s paper on vaginal surgery seems to imply that doing this surgery to women will reduce the incidence of wife beating!!

What does that mean? That men beat their wives because they don’t like their boxes? I don’t know whether that insults men or women more.  On one hand the abused wife is at fault for not having the perfect box, and on the other, men are driven to brutality by the wrong box. 

The ‘third world’ isn’t alone in detesting women’s natural equipment. For decades in Ireland a horrible procedure called symphysiotomy was used instead of caesarian section, because doctors (for religious reasons, of course) believed that C sections might encourage birth control. This surgery left many women incontinent, partially or wholly crippled, and sometimes unable to even pick up their own babies because of the pain. AND it was done without the mother’s consent, during labor.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, American and British doctors were committing clitoridectomy for all sorts of reasons - frigidity, nymphomania, hysteria, and masturbation!

And there has been SO much literature about ‘castrating females!’

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By KDelphi, July 7, 2009 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

snowdancer76—He never did any jail time and gave his victims as little as $5000 for their pain and suffering. Most never were able to have “normal” sex again without pain.

There were literally thousands of them, and, he retired to Florida to live on a yacht, I hear…lost his medical license (surrendered it—-to save himself money) and moved to , they think somewhere in Central America…

I found this, but his book, “The Surgery of Love”, cannot be found online…I alwasys wondered what happened to this unpunished monster! Hadnt thought about him in years—we should never forget! Some of these women will go in to have their “genitals look better” and come out unable to have sex or urinate withut pain, but, who will listen? No one listed to Burt’s patients for 27 yrs.I asked my family doic “Isnt Dr Burt kindve wierd?” my 19 “wierdo meter” had detected, He just said, “youre too young to go to him” CAN YOU IMAGINE?!...

Here’s a little info for those who think that “massive unjustified lawsuits” are the cause of excessive health care costs:

According to the Dayton Daily News, November 20, 1988, one of Burt’s own forms, used to explain his surgery, defined it as “surgical redesign of the female coital area” and says that “more than 4,500 operations were done between 1966 and 1977.” That’s a span of 11 years. He operated for 22 years. He might have performed the operation as many as 9,000 times without a license to perform surgery. And yet neither the hospital nor the state medical board nor the police nor the press paid enough attention to the complaints even to discover that he wasn’t a licensed surgeon. When the hospital and the doctors around him became concerned about what he was doing, the action they took was to limit their own liabilities, not to protect patients. We continually are asked to believe that physicians place the welfare of patients first and foremost, but they simply don’t. ..

...It is difficult to discuss this case without seeming to exaggerate. Cases like this routinely are dismissed by medical professionals as bizarre exceptions. The only thing exceptional about it is the numbers. Which is why he finally was caught. Doing it thousands of times finally generated enough vocal victims for them to find each other and launch an organized effort to get someone to listen. When someone did, it was someone out of state. There was no one in their community who would pay attention even to an organized and vocal group….

...That is the landscape for most victims of adverse events in medicine. 97% of legitimate grievances do not find a lawyer and fewer still have anything result from filing complaints. If you think things must have changed since then, see Dr. Vikas Kashyap. As a result of the Burt case the Ohio State Medical Board reorganized and got more funding and more investigators and became a model for what it is thought that a state medical board should be, and yet, as the Kashyap case shows, they still do no better for patients than they did before. No matter how well organized a mission might be, when the people in charge do not believe in the mission, the mission does not get accomplished.”

I also knew his (criminal) psychologist partner, who co-wrote the book with him and “counseled” his patients..

His license was finally revoked in 2007.

Maybe he should apply to work under the license of some of the criminals who de-famed their roles as “psychologists” at GITMO…

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By adrienrain, July 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

Yes cutting off female’s penises would be ridiculous, but I didn’t say that.

The clitoris is, however, the female equivalent of the penis. Simple circumcision - if it only cut the hood, or foreskin off, as is done to boys, would be the equivalent of male circumcision - painful, perhaps, and unwarranted, but not drastic. Removing the clitoris, as is often done. IS the equivalent of cutting off boys’ penises.

Infibulation is an even more disastrous procedure, which is responsible for a number of horrific situations, including death in childbirth, fistula, and a host of different types of infection.

Here is a passage from an Islamic website:

“How infibulation is performed
    “Let us now look at what may happen when infibulation is performed. The operation calls for cutting off most of the labia majora and the complete removal of the labia minora and the clitoris. When this is done, a match is placed in the labia majora aperture. After the wound has healed, a small opening is left, from which urine comes out. At the age of puberty, menstrual blood is let out of the same opening. At the end of this operation, when the match is already placed, the girl’s legs are tied together for forty days to make sure that the wound heals well.”

And sure, it’s a ‘rite of passage,’ marking the destruction or diminution of the girl’s sexuality. That is one hell of a ‘rite of passage!’ And I don’t believe there is anything to compare with it in male rites of passage.

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By truedigger3, July 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

barbatus wrote: “That’s it: RITE OF PASSAGE”

No barbatus no, it is not done to female as a “rite of passage”. It is done, depending on the procedure “, either to severely reduce or entirely eliminate any response to sexual stimulation and consequently any response and enjoyment to sex.
The reason for that is to reduce the chance that adolescent girls or young girls will stray and seek sex before marriage will dishonor the family and

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By Jim Stillwaggon, July 7, 2009 at 11:56 am Link to this comment
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What a lot of beating about the bush, if I may so express it!  Three pages without reference to the loss of a clitoris with all it’s glorious nerve-endings!  Madame ... you are guilty of an astounding amalgam, confusing aesthetic surgery with the intention to annihilate orgasmic arousal.  Your points addressing aesthetic consciousness are well-taken.  But you dodge (or ignore?) the importance of a functioning clitoris.

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By barbatus, July 7, 2009 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

To adrienrain:

“Some cultures” cut off penises of “female children”?

Really? Now that’s interesting.

. . . Yes, it is just a right of passage. Get some anthropology, or at least check it out at Wikipedia.

It doesn’t mean I agree with that particular ritual, or any other ritual, for that matter.

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By Rakiya, July 7, 2009 at 10:50 am Link to this comment
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Ore! ma da awon people yi lohun. Ko ye won rara. Ko de ni ye won lailai. You’ve written a fantastic article and the comments show how confused those people really are. Well done

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By adrienrain, July 7, 2009 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

Rite of passage - no less, no more??

Would any society inflict a rite of passage on its male children that involved cutting off his penis? Because that is what some cultures do to female children. And infibulation is even worse - and dangerous to women and their babies.

Find another rite of passage, please!

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By barbatus, July 7, 2009 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

“Imagine the indignation of millions of Africans who have been forced to abandon this rite of passage [...]”

That’s it: RITE OF PASSAGE! That’s what it is, no less no more. Neither male nor female circumcision have nothing to do with “beautification” or being neat, clean, etc. Ritual cleanliness is not hygiene, though they might overlap.

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By WykydRed, July 7, 2009 at 3:54 am Link to this comment

“By stipe, July 6 at 5:47 pm #
(Unregistered commenter)

First time I’ve been here, first article I saw and read.

I will never, ever come back to this site again and I will write a mass email ( read: ripple effect ) letting my folks know to protest this site.”

Sooooo, would this be a good time or a bad time to bring up Anal Bleaching?.....

Because I do feel that the porn industry IS responsible for introducing this one to ... well, the world in general. (Anyone who wishes to jump in and yell, “We were doing it first!” please do so, as I would REALLY like to know where this procedure was first popularized.)

I don’t really feel the porn industry is responsible for all these “vaginal beautification” procedures, as women have always been paranoid about how their bodies and its individual parts looks because (sorry guys) GUYS and yes, women’s lesbian lovers too have a habit of comparing one set with someone else’s they used to play with. LONG before the porno industry started showing us a bunch of them we’ve never seen before. If anything, the porno industry tends to “present them as they show up” because if there is one thing the entire industry knows, there’s always someone out there who’s going to like that one! They were mixing people of all colors, sizes, surprises and looks long before it became acceptable in society as a whole, and when they found people who had amazing things done to their—well, amazing things, they’d ASK. “Why the hell did you do that to it?” Or, “Is that something women generally do in Brazil?”

All the tightening and lifting stuff done inside a vagina was basically because men were bitching that it was “too loose” or “too big”. Women simply weren’t being taught to shoot back something along the lines of, “Well if your thing was bigger, we’d both be happy!” Men tend to react very, very badly to any point about their things being deemed less than perfect. In fact, they can react hideously violently to their goods being (even jokingly) denigrated with things like their fists, fire, lamps, guns, etc.

But when a man speaks that way about a woman’s goods, she is expected to curl up, cry and immediately run out and find “a cure”. (See, there was in fact a point coming.)

I think we’re missing a very viable point in this article about being forced as a child to suffer hideous and irreparable “mutilation”. And it doesn’t involve the porno industry AT ALL. Imagine if you will, just for a moment, you’re one of these women this hideous thing has been done to as a child. And then imagine yourself as a woman surviving her childhood traumas being in a country that isn’t sexually repressed. Can you figure out how to fit in? Can you imagine being free enough to jump in an indulge with people who have never heard of these things? Can you imagine living in a society of people who want to hear everything about what was done and how, and having to justify your own society in the unyeilding disbelief and shock and judgment of your “backwards” and even “Stone Aged” people?

If you were one of these women, would YOU have the guts to bring it out into the open, let alone expose yourself to a male not from your society?

Imagine having to get yourself “fixed” because everyone tells you you are wrong.

And as for the whole “how does she know she’s sexually fulfilled?” thing, how does anyone “know”? Simply, a person knows when they are sexually happy, even when it doesn’t fit in with someone else’s standards. If you are happy with the intimacy you have in your life and look forward to more of it, then you ARE sexually fulfilled. Despite what other people tell you you should be doing.

So there ya go, stipe. Be sure when you gang-email your X-tian buddies, you make your points as to why you consider the things you do, and not just “they talk about SEX and punannies n’ stuff!”

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By stipe, July 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment
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First time I’ve been here, first article I saw and read.

I will never, ever come back to this site again and I will write a mass email ( read: ripple effect ) letting my folks know to protest this site.

It’s not journalism. It’s biased, unresearche, dishonest banality.

At best.

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By adrienrain, July 6, 2009 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

snowdancer wrote:
” I decided to finally read the whole Bible on a regular basis and I have become so dismayed by all the blood-letting in the Old Testament that I have practically quit reading it and stick mainly to the New Testament.”

Problem is, that the Deity of the one is the Deity of the other, as well. So the god who condoned or even encouraged genocide in the OT, gradually became more civilized - like His people - and changed his mind about wiping out all the Gentiles? Well you could say that the human race has not become less violent - only more hypocritical about it. But the fact is that this Deity was only tagging along, responding to the circumstances of his followers.

When they were warriors, conquering the Medianites and the Philistines, in the conquest of their land, Jehovah was a warrior god without mercy.
When they themselves were the conquered subjects of the Roman Empire, god became passive and compassionate, refusing to act in the affairs of men.

And speaking of men, this was always a patriarchy, with a patriarchal god, and women are blamed for every evil, suppressed in every way, bought, sold, enslaved. So speaking of Abraham, god stayed his hand after demanding that he sacrifice his son. But that same god said nothing when Jephthah sacrificed his daughter on a kind of bet or dare.

Your mythical deity was not a leader, but a follower. Created by men, in their image.

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By Anarcissie, July 6, 2009 at 4:39 am Link to this comment

‘Let’s not be mistaken about where and how this came to be. The truth of this matter is that young and mature female Adult Porno stars made this the surgery of choice for display in pornographic material in DVD’s, magazines and over the internet that strickly enhance perfection for looks. What looks good we buy into. ...’

I think pornography tends to follow rather than set cultural norms.  The overall norm here is that women should look childlike; the application of the norm to the appearance of the genitals follows.

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By adrienrain, July 6, 2009 at 12:07 am Link to this comment

warbad wrote “I imagine there are many ‘sage’ women in various cultures who happily repress other women’s sexuality by taking a knife and gouging out of others what they no longer have themselves.

It reinforces the acceptance of their own mutilation.”

And defending this tradition does something similar. The writer is vague about the extent of the mutilation that’s acceptable is very telling. When is a woman mutilated enough? Hood gone? Clit gone? Infibulation, with only a tine opening left? There are many degrees of these antisexual procedures. How much is too much? And why would you impose any of this on a helpless child?

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By warbad1, July 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment
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I imagine there are many ‘sage’ women in various cultures who happily repress other women’s sexuality by taking a knife and gouging out of others what they no longer have themselves.

It reinforces the acceptance of their own mutilation. And as long as the victims are young enough to not know the difference, then how easy it is to think one is passing along tradition and not torture.

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By Mike, July 5, 2009 at 7:11 am Link to this comment
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Let’s not be mistaken about where and how this came to be. The truth of this matter is that young and mature female Adult Porno stars made this the surgery of choice for display in pornographic material in DVD’s, magazines and over the internet that strickly enhance perfection for looks. What looks good we buy into. It is very sad that African women have dealt with this nonsense, but women in porno do it for the money that they receive as compensation from a billion dollar pimping industry. The excuse is that women are complaining of vaginal pain when they walk. The complainer’s are the porno stars that have sex 15 to 20 times a day.

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By nhs, July 5, 2009 at 7:02 am Link to this comment
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I’ll never be convinced that needless cosmetic surgery undertaken by an adult with full consent is the same as needless cosmetic surgery done to a infant or child for religious reasons.

The prior is plain stupid, the later is cruel and barbaric.

TRUE religious values involves loving ones children just as they are.  Healthy babies are born complete, no enhancements are necessary or required.

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By snowdancer76, July 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm Link to this comment
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To boggs:  Yes, I can just imagine those apes laughing and saying, “And those humans think we’re stupid?”

To KDelphi:  Wow!  What a horror story!  Are you sure that doctor’s name wasn’t Dr. James BRUTe?  Somebody should have shot him right where it would have made him the angriest.

To Paracelsus:  I agree totally.  Abraham was crazy!  In addition to starting the circumcision of innocent babies, I think he was a weakling for giving in to Sarah and sending Ishmael and his mother,Hagai, into the desert and starting the whole Arab vs. Jew thing in the first place.  I am a Christian and I decided to finally read the whole Bible on a regular basis and I have become so dismayed by all the blood-letting in the Old Testament that I have practically quit reading it and stick mainly to the New Testament.  In fact, just knowing all the terrible things Abraham did in the name of “his” God has made me more of a Christian than ever.  I’m just so glad that Jesus set the record straight about what God is really like (pure love) and not like (a vengeful warmonger).

and finally To evolumental:  Thanks, I needed that!  (your comment on large labia)  lol

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By AeonFluxxus, July 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This writer is really pushing it.  The horrible genital mutilations in Africa which destroy women are not to be compared to anesthetized procedures which do not obliterate pleasure but enhance it.  I think my POV has been displayed many times here and I agree with the last post that barbarism should end in Africa and around the world (towards women in particular and children in general). As to saying Honduras is important so why write about vaginas in a response?  Why does one thing nullify another? It is ALL about human rights and important.  I hate how much women’s issues are trivialized, especially by authors like this who only points up the necessity of more education.  I am grateful to read so many apt responses here.

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By Olaf, July 4, 2009 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

OMG… how can a rational person compare a cosmetic surgery procedure undertaken by an adult woman to an Islamic tribal ritual performed on an infant! Truthdig now ranks with the Afro-centric idiots who claim that anything from Africa is good. It is incredible that there are still Islamic women who defend that religion’s barbarities. While the other religions of The Book have moved beyond the barbarism of their tribal origins, much of Islamic world still accepts and even glorifies that barbarism.

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By KDelphi, July 4, 2009 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

Did anyone else see the HBO special the other night (stil “On Demand”) about transsexual surgery in Iran?(“Be LIke Others”)

That is very strange to me, especially since so many said that they wouldnt have done it if they didnt live in Iran (most were just gay, if you ask me)

But, sex change is almost encouraged, whereas homosexuality is “illegal”.

Watch this show—you will feel bad for these guys…and it could, even possibly, make ‘Merka “wake up”—-nah, probably not.

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By FilmDog, July 4, 2009 at 11:06 am Link to this comment
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Several of the comments already made have pointed out that this article blurs all distinctions regarding the exact nature and purpose of the various kinds of alterations made upon female genitals. I’m afraid that the destructive practices of certain African peoples are not made less damaging by pointing to the cosmetic work requested by some Western women.

We’re talking about two very distinct problems. In one case we have genital alteration that leaves the woman with reduced sexual enjoyment and impaired urogenital functioning. In the other case we’re looking at perfectionistic “fiddling” .  The latter is like a “nose job. The former is like an amputation of the nose and a partial closure of the remaining nostrils.

Let us also not put in either category those women and girls who suffer from a genuine deformity of the genitals which render them dysfunctional or truly hard to look at. That would be like calling a person vain for correcting a 45 degree hook of the nose—a condition that would look really bad and cause some serious difficulties in breathing.

While I’m all for being open to cultural differences, let us not be so foolish as to enshrine every practice of every society. EVERY culture has is blind spots and wicked ways. Real genital mutilation is a nasty business. Over-fastdiousness about issues of minor bodily aesthetics is merely unfortunate.

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By j, July 4, 2009 at 9:12 am Link to this comment
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Why are you printing 3 pages of this utter verbose crap?!
Please leave this kind of boring stuff to the main streem media and continue to bring us news and editorials that challenge the mind and brings to light the under-reported items you organisation is known for.

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By Arabian Sinbad, July 4, 2009 at 8:57 am Link to this comment
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For me as a male, this was a good informative article on female inner biology that I never studied in school. Moreover, it’s indicative that, sometimes, what is labeled as primitive practices are indeed common sense approaches to problems that can be truly described as being ahead of their times.

Good for you plastic surgeons; this is an area of expansion for your business and an extra given privilege to peak into a world that most of us will never see!

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By Anarcissie, July 4, 2009 at 7:39 am Link to this comment

Tony Wicher:
‘It’s hard to say which is worse, the old-fashioned African customs or the modern high-tech ones. ...’

Those which are involuntary.

But it is curious that the desire to alter / modify / mutilate the body, one’s own or one’s children’s, seems to arise out of a similar distaste for the body given by nature in both African and European and American contexts.  Plus we have the usual religious nuttery.

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By, July 4, 2009 at 1:44 am Link to this comment

This is a totally innane article.  It does not even distinguish clearly between “circumcision” (hood reduction) and “clitorial removal.”  This last would tragically remove the most sensitive portion of female genitalia, very likely leaving the victim incapable of reaching orgasm.  I can understand if there is real discomfort or deformity to do something about labia or hood reduction-like if you had a cleft palate or so.  HOWEVER, LARGE LABIA IS LIKE FLESHY LIPS—THE BEST SEX I EVER HAD WAS WITH A FEMALE THAT HAD THE LARGEST LABIA I’VE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN MY LIFE, AND TO THIS DAY I STILL FANTASISE ABOUT HER.  I FIND LARGE LABIA SO MUCH MORE APPEALING TOO—AGAIN LIKE FLESHY LIPS.  LADIES, PLEASE SAVE THE CASH, FEEL LUCKY IF YOU HAVE LARGE LABIA, ENJOY IT, DISPLAY IT PROUDLY AND LET YOUR PARTNER ENJOY IT.  Put it this way, large labia is like the “joie de vivre” (the joy of life), nothing wrong with it—to the contrary—kind of I imagine like you ladies might think about cock size, capice?

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By CJ, July 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment

There’s nature and then there’s alteration. Like a pair of pants or a skirt. So as to fit some particular set of bizarre “values.” Apparently including the length, width (extension actually) of a woman’s labia. Now sometime after so many “felt need” to have breasts enlarged. Men too. For $15,000, a kid can get the thing “enhanced.” Made better: longer and fatter around. (I don’t know for sure, but think most Western boys are circumcised. Though I’ve also read/heard not so much lately. In the interest of the children, naturally. Maybe for once. Maybe not.)

Pornography now the standard. Great. While we’d save nature, we’ve not much actual use for what nature provides. Need one mention media yet again? Innocent media that forever claims to have zero impact? Hefner is celebrated as Michael Jackson. He practically invented porn, though actual word, “porn,” is never mentioned in connection with Hugh. (Not so, but one would think so by media.) Wonderfully airbrushed, as I recall when a kid in the 50s. Damn straight I looked! Eventually I like to think I grew up. I discovered real female. I loved what I discovered. Thought her and every one after the first absolutely splendid. Amazing, fascinating. Wow, kid!

Those I’ve know intimately all with exquisite parts of the most amazing variety. Then this obsession. Finally with conforming to some standard, which is…standard?

As I’ve aged myself, I’ve learned more of what is required. I’ve learned of just how juvenile we’ve become—culturally, thus individually. (Economically politically too, of course, or rather first.)

While surgery clinics are doing VERY well, thank you. Marketing. Spectacle. Women viewing porn and then looking down to discover…nope, not pretty enough. Men doing the same, only to become impotent, in need of drugs to make the damn thing stand.

As though sexuality, even more so sensuality, weren’t purely of natural-given brains, then by way of body. Or both at once. Straight, lesbian/gay, bi. Whatever works best for any given person.

This piece by Olujobi really is terrific. She gets at a number of serious issues, not least ongoing colonization, depths of which have yet to be fully plumbed.

I’ve always had some doubts as to the virtue of reason, though persist in it as only (Tom Paine) possibility for humanity. Tradition then the enemy. Not so fast. Tradition also allowing for some kind of connectedness to something more than oneself. Like damnable religion! Olujobi writes of tradition where she’s from. She writes of Western judgment, and of now irony. She got trimmed, but for vastly different reason, whether or not effect was/is the same. She notes of her own sexual fulfillment, though I assume she would be even had she not undergone circumcision.

Leaving aside those for whom cutting (of clitoral hood, for instance; and of malformed breasts and penises; not so different from, say, burn victims) might really result in greater satisfaction, I—for the life of me—cannot understand obsession only with appearances. I’ve been with some of high (cultural) standard, always only wound up profoundly disappointed. Looks don’t make it.  Sounds trite, but it’s really not about what looks great, including stuff between legs or out back, or, in case of female, atop pectorals.

Westerners are getting it done for the sheer narcissistic glory, not even out of good or bad tradition. How sad is that? What better commentary on advanced industrial societies? How pitiful? Then we wonder of those driven to desperate acts. Sometimes unnatural? What’s unnatural? First, they’re not seen as pretty—by themselves and then by others. Then discarded, and then… Great. Brilliant.

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By adrienrain, July 3, 2009 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

? I think Judaism should recognize Abraham as a mentally ill man, who heard voices instructing him to mutilate his child. I had introduced this concept to a Jewish chat room and I was accused of being Moslem!”

Amusing - the Muslims also circumcise their boys, only they wait a few years, rather than doing it to the babies. I don’t know which is worse.

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By Paracelsus, July 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

<>i>All we need now from Truthdig is a nice long article on the virtues of cannibalism.  Yuk!</i>

Perhaps it is to make bris look alright in comparison. The Jewish community is in great controversy over male circumcision. If Moslem female genital mutilation can be compared favorably with female labiaplasty then it would take the heat off of the mohels. Many ‘doxie Jews defend FC as it would vindicate male circumcision if it could be though of as a social-religious custom that should be tolerated under the rubric of diversity and multiculturalism. I think Judaism should recognize Abraham as a mentally ill man, who heard voices instructing him to mutilate his child. I had introduced this concept to a Jewish chat room and I was accused of being Moslem!

All the states of the Union condemn polygamous marriage and no mainline Mormon is polygamous, so I see no conflict with state statutes prohibiting genital mutilation of children, male circumcision included. I feel as long as any sort of nonconsensual genital mutilation is allowed, then no child is safe. Perhaps bris will have to be moved up to 18 years of age, the age of adult consent. In my heart I feel this is right, and I am willing to continence the imprisonment of both mohels and Moslem fgm practitioners for assault and battery. I feel no fear of being called anti-semitic or anti-Moslem as I do not see it as persecution, but as the rightful application of the police authority of the state to censure those who harm another against their uninformed free will. The law is meant to protect the weak.

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By Tony Wicher, July 3, 2009 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

It’s hard to say which is worse, the old-fashioned African customs or the modern high-tech ones.

According to Heraclitus, doctors cut, burn and torture the sick, and then demand a fee for their services. Personally, I follow Heraclitus and avoid them altogether. “Physician, heal thyself”.

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By blah blah, July 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment
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No, really.  Westerners should just leave Africa alone.  If Africans want to chop off clits, so be it!  I’m sure everything will be great in Africa once people from the west stop butting - what with their silly ideas and aid and all.

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By Sophie, July 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment
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Frikken Kids, I completely agree. When I was in college, I had a film class on female genital mutilation—the filmmaker was there to describe in detail what happened to the young female children when it was time to cut their genitals. Most of us were left in tears after watching the film.

It is exactly as you have described, a patriarchal custom to inhibit or eliminate the sexual pleasure of women and to force them to remain “virginal,” until a man takes a young girl for a wife. The author of this unfortunate piece has several unaddressed issues of her own regarding genital cutting in general.
The practice of cutting young girls is not equivalent to cosmetic surgery by consenting adult women, although it is no doubt another cultural harbinger of the absurdity of extreme female perfection.

Joe Franks, there is nothing “clever” about what the author has written. The two acts: clitoral/vaginal mutilation, (including the sewing of the labia together after cutting with unsanitary tools, so that even menstruation cannot take place normally)—VS. cosmetic surgical removal or partial removal of the labia or clitoral hood, do not compare on any level other than to illustrate the absurdity that women will WILLINGLY particpate in allowing their bodies to be abused for supposed sexual fulfillment, while the other despicable act is forced upon unwilling and terrified young girls.

Truly pathetic.

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By gezelda, July 3, 2009 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment
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All we need now from Truthdig is a nice long article on the virtues of cannibalism.  Yuk!

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By KDelphi, July 3, 2009 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment

By progwoman, July 3 at 8:15 am #

“In Ohio in 1970 I shared a hospital room with a woman who had undergone, I believe, a hood reduction. The gynecologist had insisted that it would make her more sexually responsive, but instead the result was extremely painful intercourse. She was hospitalized to repair the damage, and, later, the doctor lost his license for performing these operations, sometimes without consent under the guise of episiotomy repair.”


The Love Doctor!! I actually went to this guy, as he was the only ob/gyn on my insurance plan! He asked me if “things were ok in bed” and, even though I said that they were fine, great, whatever, he said he could “improve on it”  or “make me a virign again” (!!) I was pretty young and didnt give a twit about “virginity”,(still dont—it just hurts) but its a good thing I wasnt sucked in! I justs shook my head and then, set about explaining something to me that sounded so barbaric that I never returned! Thanks gawd!

Whatever happened to him? Did he go to prison? He should have! M<any of these women were never able to have decent sex again!

Here the basterd is, from 1989:

“...Far from “fixing” her, claims Mitchell, 43, Burt ruined her health. Following the delivery and “repair,” she developed chronic bladder, urinary tract and vaginal infections. Twelve years later, in 1979, Burt performed a hysterectomy on her. In 1985, still trusting her doctor, Mitchell submitted to yet another operation at Burt’s hands, intended to correct her bladder problems. Since then she has been unable to have intercourse with her husband, Hence. “I had all the faith in the world in Dr. Burt,” she sobs. “He never told me he was going to do Move surgery’ on me. I don’t know why he did that, unless he hates women.”

Mitchell is only one of at least 40 women who say they are victims of what Burt called the surgery of love—experimental operations, performed sometimes without informed consent, which he claimed would revolutionize relations between the sexes. Over 20 years, the ambitious doctor reportedly performed surgery on as many as 5,000 women, realigning the vagina and removing the skin from around the clitoris, leaving it exposed. Burt boasted in a self-published 1975 book that the resulting improvements on nature would transform a woman from “a scared, reluctant little house mouse” to “a horny little house mouse.”

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By Eowyn, July 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment
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The fact that it is often, or even usually, women who perform female genital mutilation on the next generation shows that this is a form of extreme hazing.  Each generation inflicts on the next generation the trauma and extreme suffering to which it was subjected.

There is no room for “cultural sensitivity” about this issue.  If some African tribes said murder, or even cannibalism, is not a crime, we wouldn’t allow them to practice their beliefs here, would we?  Barbarism is barbarism. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls the prophet Mohammed a criminal, a liar, and a pedophile.  She abhors the cruelties and degradation that women in Islamic societies are subjected to.  She also acknowledges that the West is very far from perfect.  But she also says we must accept that in ways we do have a more civilized society, and we must continue to improve it, rather than allowing the concept of “cultural relativism” to excuse the crimes of less legally developed societies.

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By adrienrain, July 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

Marilyn wrote
“Young women survivors of enforced genital cutting promote continuation of the practice because they believe it necessary to pass on the pain and trauma of the cutting to ensure acceptance of and marriage of the genitally cut survivor. Survivors will suffer excruciating pain and trauma during sex and childbirth for the remainder of their lives.”

It would seem as if the lady who wrote the article did not have as extreme a procedure as is possible - perhaps she had the one sometimes attributed to Mohammed: “Reduce, but do not destroy.”

But I doubt that she is trying to pass on the pain and trauma, etc.

I think she may be as much traumatized (and even pained) by being regarded by some in the West as an oddity, a victim, sexually stunted, by being born into a family of ignorant savages. She is actually lashing out against what must seem a kind of racially-tinged dehumanization, defending her family, and the women of her family, and the traditions and lives of her people, by likening a procedure performed on non-consenting minors to a vanity procedure chosen by a few shallow, self-absorbed women with more money than sense.

We can disagree with her, of course, but we need to see how rhetoric on this subject in the West may be counterproductive, making those who have had such a procedure feel looked down on and pitied, rather than inspired toward action.

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By NABNYC, July 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment

The umbrella term is “Female Mutilation.” 

The use of knives to alter women’s bodies is one of the most severe weapons of sexism and hatred of women in any society.  Of course, removing the clitoris is supposed to eliminate women’s ability to have orgasm, remove most of her ability to enjoy sex, so she will understand that her duty is to submit to her husband whenever he wants, and expect no pleasure in return.  Something pleasurable (sex) is reduced to a chore.  Much as it is in modern western religious practices.

The use of knives to surgically alter the appearance of women just shows how much real women are hated in our society.  The “ideal” woman in this country is—a child Kind of.  No hips, skinny legs, tight little you-know-what, no pubic hair.  A child, but with balloons inserted under her chest wall.  Preferably she should speak and act like a child too, and do as she is told.

Women are desperate for acceptance, try to please, because their survival is dependent on pleasing some man, or a series of men, since women continue to be underpaid and largely excluded from equal opportunity in this country.

If the “fashion” became noseless women, you would see young women lining up to have their noses removed.  But I don’t blame them—I blame the society which trashes women and treats them like disposable blow-up dolls to be used for sexual purposes when they are VERY young, then turned into servants.

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By rolmike, July 3, 2009 at 11:51 am Link to this comment

well, what is practiced in africa is to keep that immense female sexuality under control, it’s the worst form of cattle farming posessiveness and ought to be outlawed indeed, obviously a lot of education in Africa is required.

As to vaginal reconstruction: I have run into a couple of liberated women who had their thousand or so lovers who definitely needed a retread! Some men find vaginas ugly,
for me they always looked like flowers, thus a muff diver I became, and rarely did anyone say NO. Of course not entirely for aesthetic reason. On doc said: “sniff before…” And he had a point. Anything that smells like a rotten fish… is dangerous.

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By Tony Wicher, July 3, 2009 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

As far as I can see, none of the procedures which are described here as “female circumcision” can be equated with the “clitoral hood reduction and labiaplasty” of the plastic surgeons, since the former seems to involve removal of the clitoris, which diminishes sexual pleasure, whereas “clitoral hood reduction” would seem to imply not a removal of the clitoris but its greater exposure, presumably to increase sexual pleasure.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy that has watched a lot of porno.

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By boggs, July 3, 2009 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

First off to Robyn Downey, I loved your “We deserve to become extinct!”, wonderfully put.

ProletariatPrincess—-We veil the most vicious acts behind religion. No wonder Atheism is becoming popular.

Political Insurgent—-I certainly hope the only way their fame is carried forward into history is via PENTHOUSE.

I bet even the apes are laughing at us on this one!

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By Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN, July 3, 2009 at 10:52 am Link to this comment
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On the one hand, this article discusses the genital cutting of non-consenting minor girls and, on the other, cosmetic surgery requested by consenting females. Totally different motivations. The first is to control, the second is the yearning of a woman to “be normal.” What’s normal? Everyone is a variation on a theme. Individual differences are what make us unique.

Young women survivors of enforced genital cutting promote continuation of the practice because they believe it necessary to pass on the pain and trauma of the cutting to ensure acceptance of and marriage of the genitally cut survivor. Survivors will suffer excruciating pain and trauma during sex and childbirth for the remainder of their lives.

Those requesting genital cutting for cosmetic reasons will suffer amputation neuromas and other horrific consequences of genital cutting, all the while touting their delight with the surgery and their acceptable appearance following it.

Genital mutilation of children is only acceptable because it has been practiced for millenia. When we look at these harmful traditional practices—whether inflicted on females or males—through the legal, ethical, and human rights lens of the 21st century, we realize there is no place for these anachronistic blood rituals in a civilized society. When, we work to educate people about accepting individual differences, women and men will no longer feel a need to subject themselves to harmful, life-changing surgeries in order to conform to what they consider to be the “norm.” Again, we are all variations on a theme, and it’s time we need to love, respect, and protect one another’s rights—first, to genital integrity and, second, to individual differences.

It’s time to put scalpels down and to reassure people that their bodies are normal and perfect, as is!

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By adrienrain, July 3, 2009 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

In my very first life drawing class in the early 70s, there was a gasp from some of the older students in the room when they young hippy model dropped her gown and raised one arm. HAIR! (No, really, Mabel, she doesn’t shave under her ARMS!) I was young and ‘liberated’ - I repressed a sophisticated smirk.

A few years ago I returned, as I do from time to time, to a life drawing class, and when the young woman dropped her gown it was MY turn to gasp. HER liberation took the form of a decoratively shaven cooch!

Fashion takes the strangest forms and adopts the oddest rationales. . . . . . .

Maybe altering the appearance of one’s genitals is just another fashion - tho’ it is an obscene misuse of medical expertise when so many are in need of essential care.

But the mutilation of little girls, for the stated purpose of reducing their sexuality, often leading to difficulties in childbirth, or on occasion, death from loss of blood on the spot, is unjustifiable. It lacks the elements of informed consent, of humane motive, and surgical cleanliness, at the very least.In the worst cases, infibulation may cause fistula:

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By In Partial Agreement, July 3, 2009 at 8:31 am Link to this comment
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Come on guys, cut her some slack.

Whatever our views on FGM, it’s clear that the author is simply juxtaposing two practices to show how one is considered brutal and cruel the other rational by the same people. I don’t think any of us can disagree that we in the “developed” half of the world have had a tendency to be hypocritical on many issues (our aggressive pro-market stance to the world v. our agricultural subsidies that make it impossible for non-American farmers to compete in the same romanticized market, for example).

Besides, the author has brought to attention something that merits further discussion—the word “force” and its connotations. Performing FGM on a 9-day-old infant is “force” of a kind, but dare we disagree that women who “voluntarily” undergo procedures such as labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons are responding to social pressure—being “forced” in some sense as well?

We like to nuance the word. We pretend there’s a difference betweem the two uses of “force” above as the first is irrational while the second enlightened. We like to apply this distinction everywhere.

But are we, women in wealthier countries, really more “enlightened” when we “voluntarily” allow people to fiddle with our nasal bones, tear tissue from our legs or sew it into our breasts, and carve permanent engravings on our bodies? We wear spikes under our feet, burn our hair, allow some metal wire to push on our teeth for years, never questioning the absurdity of it all. What is this if not social pressure, a need to feel accepted?

And then we pretend it is okay for France to ban burqas because Muslim women there don’t really want to wear long black gowns—they’re simply yielding to social pressures, and we, with our self-congratulatory higher moral standing, need to go fix such brutality.

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By johannes, July 3, 2009 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

We are speeking here about some very pervers docters, wo are only making money.

The last time I wash invited for a intiem evening, I had to go home, afther drinking 4 or 5 wiskey’s, I could not stop laughing, withs side I looked the woman had the same ugly pumpt up faces, real rediculous and laughable, and what a shame, to trow your own face out of the window to geth an carneval mask.

But if their where no docters who for the love of money do everything, this would not happen.

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By Robyn Downey, July 3, 2009 at 7:03 am Link to this comment
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We deserve to become extinct!

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By John Thompson, July 3, 2009 at 6:34 am Link to this comment
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Maybe I am just cauterized by hundred of post I have read over the years by American Mothers and Fathers who are expecting their first son and all of a sudden are faced with a moral dilemma, that they “must” circumcise their son, but deep down, they know the reasoning sounds as lame as…well as it actually is. But they go on and list the same reasons the Author of this story list, “no harm, perfect sex life, hygienic, and family pride…”...

I just am not shocked by this article…wish the author had made the comparison of her pride to the pride American men have with their circumcised penises, but maybe it is such an accepted practice in the Global scene, that no one thinks of the millions of infant males who were circumcised against their cultural backgrounds and consent and are forced to accept and justify it, like she has.

The real journalism should be the hundreds(No actual count) of botched circumcisions that happen to infant males in America that are silent their whole lives due to the embarrassment they would face for exposing it. That never seems to be as shocking though as an article on female circumcision, which is what journalism is supposed be right? Shocking.

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By proletariatprincess, July 3, 2009 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
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I always wondered what posessed ancient man to think of circumcision in the first place.  What purpose did is serve?  Why is it so wide spread in many cultures? 
Female circumcision is just barbaric and used sole to subjugate women, but male circumcision had another purpose. 
It is believed that the earliest warlike Jewish tribes circumcised men to prevent them from being injured when raping defeated enimies.  Rape was (and still is in some instances) such an common and expected act of war and a way of conquoring defeated tribes while populating them with the victors offspring, that however barbaric it seems…and is…it had a practical purpose it seems.  It was religious to the extent that it was “gods will” that they conquor these enimies.
It took some research on my part to find this bit of information and it is just speculation.  Why we humans still want to mutilate our genetals for any reason in this modern day is still quite remarkable to me.

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By Becky, July 3, 2009 at 6:15 am Link to this comment
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Whoah.  I read firsthand accounts by some African women.  What was done to them, was completely different.  I’m a little confused here .... those women had their clitorises CUT OFF.  Completely.  As children.  No meds.  No sexual pleasure.  Like a man having his penis completely cut off.  What this author is talking about, is more equivalent to a man having the hood of his penis removed (the US male circumcision)and maybe loose skin around his balls getting a ‘facelift.’  HAVING YOUR CLIT CUT COMPLETELY OFF IS NOT AT ALL LIKE A VAGINAL “FACELIFT.”  Is this author just not well read at all, or assumes all the women who have had THEIR CLITORISES COMPLETELY REMOVED experience what she did?  Sorry for the all caps, but wow.  IT’s worth shouting.  Has this author read anything at all about what happens when the wall between the vagina and colon breaks down (which can happen from sewing the vagina almost completely shut), and they become outcasts from their communities due to the smell, and permanently disabled (except for those helped by groups like Doctors Without Borders).  She had a point to make in her own case, point taken, but the gross generalizations in this article are very disappointing and ill serve the thousands of women who had THEIR ENTIRE CLITORISES REMOVED.  Sorry, yelling again.

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By Political Insurgent, July 3, 2009 at 6:01 am Link to this comment


Don’t know and don’t care. Ain’t MY money. 

It appears I read this article wrong. It isn’t just about the idiocy of the western world when it comes to bodily alterations, it’s about the hypocrisy of the Western world when it comes to looking down their noses at the doings of foreign cultures, and then turning around and doing the exact same thing under new “civilised” reasonings—primarily M-O-N-E-Y and V-A-N-I-T-Y.

It does my heart glad to know these people won’t make it into the Brave New World of reason, intellect and culture that we’ll be looking forward to in some zillion or so years.

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By progwoman, July 3, 2009 at 5:15 am Link to this comment

In Ohio in 1970 I shared a hospital room with a woman who had undergone, I believe, a hood reduction. The gynecologist had insisted that it would make her more sexually responsive, but instead the result was extremely painful intercourse. She was hospitalized to repair the damage, and, later, the doctor lost his license for performing these operations, sometimes without consent under the guise of episiotomy repair.

Our narcissistic cultural obsession with minute details of our appearance is offensive in view of all the problems in the world, and extending it to our vaginas is just depressing. (Men aren’t exempt, I still get spam offers for penile enlargement.) I wish we could channel our obsession about our looks into reforming a health care system that prioritizes problems that endanger people’s immediate physical and mental health. That precious resources are squandered on this nonsense is unethical.

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By walt, July 3, 2009 at 3:49 am Link to this comment
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The internal inconsistency in this article is that while the author explains all three types of Female Circumcision, two of which include partial or total removal of the clitoris (which in no way sounds ‘cosmetic’) the entire article is based on labial reductions, which I suppose could be argued as such.

Or did I miss something?

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By WykydRed, July 3, 2009 at 1:53 am Link to this comment

The Perfect Vagina You HAVE to watch this movie! It explains why women think their vaginas are “ugly” and therefore, need surgery to “correct what they look like”. You’ll love it, really!

Since I have already been called “prejudiced” for even bringing up the subject of female mutilation earlier on TruthDig, and been called “maladjusted” and even a liar for insisting that this stuff DOES happen quite a lot in the Muslin world, it’s nice to see another maladjusted liar speaking out on the subject….

But I do not agree with “every” instance of vaginal adjustment being done “only for medical reasons”. Some women do in fact have plastic surgery done to enhance the mere look of their vaginal organs. Not usually for “medical reasons”. Hell, Japanese women were having sheepskin implanted in their vaginas to make their husbands believe they were virgins years and years ago. Now, women are worried that their vaginas aren’t “pretty enough”—mostly because males are stupid and uncaring enough to say really idiotic things about vaginas. Granted, women say stupid, uncaring things about penises and how they look, but we usually don’t say it to the men behind the penises. Unless we’re mad at them.

It’s simple: If you and the other women in her circle have to hold a child down and cut her genitals (or sew her vagina shut, as is also prevalent) for religious reasons or the sake of “well we all had it done to us too!” it is mutilation and should be stopped. If a woman (see: grown up girl) WANTS to have it done later in life without being pressured by the hysterical droids in the village, and anesthesia is used along with a clean environment and tools (yeah, they can be glass at that point, who cares) for her own reasons, then it is a choice and should not be condemned—unless female village elders are giving her grief about it HAVING to be done, and then it’s right back to abhorrent mutilation. Bad women! Bad! Check them for witchcrafting!

Enforcing such things on children for the sake of “religious” purposes is horrible and idiotic and downright vomit-inducing and SHOULD be condemned world-wide. In “civilized countries” (ha ha! I use that oxymoron with intentional hilarity), if it’s forced on any child, that child should be removed from the household and handed over to some sane, loving atheists for rearing. Yes, it’s that simple. You mutilate your child, you don’t EVER get them back. End of story. Or hell, give them to the multitude of activists AGAINST genital mutilation to raise. Call Iman. Ask her how hers went, and why if it’s so lovely and all, WHY she was one of the original activists bringing a hopeful end to this atrocity against females? Ask her if she enjoys sex! She’ll tell you she doesn’t! David Bowie is a saint. Really!

Sooo, download the movie (no it is NOT virused in any manner, at least on my server) and see what all the genital mutilation hubbub in England is actually about. And NO. There isn’t any clit cutting!

And guys, don’t think I don’t feel for you too. I think it’s abhorrent to just cut away! Even people who aren’t Jewish say, “If we do it now when he’s just a few days old, he won’t have any memory of the pain.” Well there’s a good reason to go around lopping off someone’s penis skin, isn’t it? Go forth and slap your parents unexpectedly. Preferably at dinner. Always takes them by surprise. Because as a penis-lover myself, I can in fact verify that the flesh lost DOES have a great deal of feeling, and is loads of fun. (You’ll have to just trust me on my knowing penises well…) I’m all for stopping the mutilation on boys as well, as they can decide for themselves after adult whether they want the turtleneck or not!

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By Eowyn, July 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm Link to this comment
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Read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s autobiography, Infidel.  She writes very openly about the horrors of FGM, about her own experience as an unwilling recipient of the practise, and also that of her sister, who was psychologicallly so damaged by the mutilating torture that she never recovered, and ended up committing suicide as a young woman. 

Hirsi Ali also writes about the reaction of a Dutch gynaecologist who was horrified at the mutilation he saw in the bodies of young Somali women who had moved to the Netherlands.

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By Eowyn, July 2, 2009 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The author seems to be totally confused about what she really feels about female genital mutilation, or FGM.  Cutting the body is mutilation, and it is sick, whether for boys or girls, no matter what specific forms it takes. 

I agree with the many other commenters here that we can’t take the author’s word that she is sexually fulfilled.  How would she know what her sexual life might have been like if she hadn’t been mutilated?!

I also do not believe her statement that FGM is practised all over the world, unless it is done by people from Africa who have emigrated to other countries and brought the practice with them.

I noticed that the author did not mention obstetric fistulas, which seem only to occur in African women, and are an extremely devastating consequence of the kind of FGM that involves the sewing closed almost entirely of the vulva after whatever other hideous and cruel cutting is performed.  Not only does this make having sex very difficult and painful for the woman, but when it is time for her to give birth, she is unable to do so normally because of the restriction caused by the nearly closed vulva. The pregnant woman’s body still tries to push the baby out, of course, and since the baby is unable to come out forward as normally happens, it is pushed backwards into the body, causing horrible tearing of many tissues, which results, among other problems, in urinary and fecal incontinence to the mother, if she even survives the birth at all.  Some of the women who have been mutilated in this way simply die in childbirth—they simply are unable to push the baby out.  And we wonder why maternal death rates are so high in Africa!  This is a significant reason, but it seems no one is willing to speak or write about it.  Those who are able to somehow push the baby out, but suffer fistulas in the process, are pariahs in their societies, being shunned by everyone, including their own families.  I am surprised that this horrifying condition is not talked about when people discuss FGM.  Perhaps it is so outrageously horrible and cruel that people can not even bear to consider it at all.  But if we are to talk and think about FGM realistically and truthfully, we (society at large, not just this blog on this website) need to include obstetric fistulas as an essential part of the discussion.

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By boggs, July 2, 2009 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment

You think these rich bitches are getting these crotch beatifications for the purpose of procreation?

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By KDelphi, July 2, 2009 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment

Why is this here? How does she know if she is sexually fulfilled? There is really no way to quantify it.

I agree with someone who said that all this shaving has led to people “paying way too much attention” (I said that part) to what their genitals look like up close. (pssst—if someone’s that close, you’d better trust them enough to like you anyway!)

I also agree that total shaving is probably a way to look more childlike.

Cutting gentitals before the age of consent seems to be mutilation to me, except there are supposedly hygienic reasons. Doing it at an older age just seems stupid.

There is also no way to know if these “patients” will regret doing it later. I wonder if the “good dr” does any of these for free for poor women with “ugly genitals”...jeez..

I know some guys born at home that arent circumsed. Looked ok to me..!!

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By Paracelsus, July 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment

As to Moslem women who dares to ...

That should be:

As to a Moslem woman ... I had too much beer this evening.

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By Paracelsus, July 2, 2009 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

I oppose any genital cutting of children as it constitutes maiming, mayhem and battery. If a man or woman wants to do this at his or her age of majority with informed consent then that is their business. I see it as an individual rights issue that transcends the right of some collective, who sees it as necessary for some sort of tribal unity. I think most any libertarian could see it this way.

As to Moslem women who dares to compare consentless and forced genital cuttings for children with plastic surgery for adults concerned with increasing their pleasure, I think she is being dishonest. I would bet her a 2 hour multiple orgasm that she would like her clitoris back. Thing is if she is morally right in this I don’t understand how I could pay her that debt. It would be like giving silver to a monkey.

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By Cate, July 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No one has the right to pierce, tattoo, or genitally mutilate anyone under the age of fully informed consent. It the author’s family offered her this operation at 19 years of age, and she wanted it to be more “beautiful,” that would be fine. But her story, as-is, is mostly sad.

Inherit the Wind: If you read the circumcision/HIV studies themselves, you will be less apt to conclude that they prevented any HIV.  These were overhyped, to say the least. Male genital cutting before the age of consent is also wrong.

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By Waste Of Space, July 2, 2009 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment
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WTF Scheer? Designer Vaginas vs female circumcision? Seriously?

  It’s tough to believe that Truthdig of all places, is running articles of this type while we’re engaged in two large, optional wars that have killed in excess of a million people and displaced at least five times that.

  Something amazing happened recently of note that I see no extensive mentions of - An attempt to break the inhuman, Nazi-like starvation of Gaza with aid has resulted in kidnapping of a Nobel Peace Laureate and a US presidential candidate (and former congresswoman) on the high seas, by the Israeli navy.
  These seem like far more pressing issues. And there are many, many more.

  The author states in her run-down of female ‘circumcision’ types, that about ten percent of total female genital alterations are of the third, not Necessarily mutilating type. Comparing the practice as a whole (90% either total or partial clitorectomies) when only 10%, at Best, MIGHT not result in irreversible damage to the genitals, to properly performed surgical labial reduction and clitoral hood modification, well that’s a whole load of crap.

  The linkage between the clitoris and female sexual satisfaction is incredibly well established. Removal or partial removal of the clitoris has exceptionally predictable results, and denies the Victim all or a very significant percentage of her possible sexual satisfaction.

  This invalidates nearly the entire premise of this article.

  If 90% (likely much more - grandma’s hand is likely to slip once in a while, and snail slime ain’t bactricin) of the girls receiving female circumcision lose part or all of their clit (not just the hood), that’s an atrocity for anyone concerned about female rights.

  If 20% of women involved in forced marriages Aren’t routinely assaulted by their ‘husbands’, would that legitimize the practice?

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2009 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

‘One of the questions unasked in the article is the extent to which these procedures in the US coincide with the increasingly common practice of closely trimming or removing pubic hair. Part of the purpose is to display genitals more boldly…. ‘

Is that it?  I had the idea that it was the opposite.  Or, possibly, that body hair is seen as dirty.  Or an effort to look more like a child.  I do life drawing (that is the artistic practice of drawing naked people in fixed poses) and I’ve noticed that the younger models (both sexes) are increasingly trimmed or entirely hairless except for the tops of their heads.  It seems weird to me, but I haven’t really interrogated any of the people who do it so I don’t know what their purpose or feeling is.  An desire to look more childlike could also motivate genital modification.

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By pikawicca, July 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

And you were, of course, “cut” by a qualified plastic surgeon under sterile conditions, and the procedure was performed to make sure that you experienced no discomfort later in life.

You are a liar, pure and simple.  There might be a handful of western women who have genital reduction surgery for medical reasons, but no one does this for cosmetic reasons.

The reason that females are cut in some (mostly African and Muslim) cultures is to make sure that they are considered marriageable by possible mates.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with their own well-being, and is utterly barbaric.

I’m dismayed that TruthDig is publishing such rot.

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By Political Insurgent, July 2, 2009 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

When Zero-Population Growth edicts are enacted, I hope all the people who wasted money on crotch enhancements can get a full refund. They’re going to need it.

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By rage96, July 2, 2009 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hold up! Lemme get this right! We can’t get the dimwits in Congress to even consider a public healthcare option in an alleged 1st world nation that really should be receiving international accolades for our more than half a century of socialized medical service advances responsible for saving the nation and the world from AIDS and the common cold! Yet, instead, we’re most irrationally chatting up the virtues and need for what is quite honestly an outrageously UNNECESSARY surgury to aesthetically correct the debatably unsightly appearance of some used-up, nondescript self-mutilating whore’s often and wrecklessly abused coochie-coo? TAKE ME NOW, SWEET JESUS!!!

What I can’t truly understand is why we idiot American humans are not extinct already! We’re certainly certifiably stupid enough to qualify to be the least viable phyllum in the human species currently engaged in that evolutionary battle for the survival of the fittest. There currently isn’t enough national, let alone personal or disposable income available in economically DEAD America, what, with global economy having decomposed and oozed into the flaming fissures of the ground, to make VJJ cosmetic surgery even remotely feasible! This crazy-talk more than demonstrates our national pandemic insanity. Fortunately for us, though, the other combatants, compelled by the Geneva Convention, have graciously decided we’re not really fit to kill! I just hope and pray any public healthcare option we are eventually fortunate enough to get offers comprehensive mental healthcare and no-cost public institutionalization. We so desperately need that quarantine!

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By hippie4ever, July 2, 2009 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment

Inherit the Wind: While male circumcision is simpler and less intrusive than female circumcision, I would not call it benign.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment

The key word is “consent” and the second key is “anesthesia”.  Male circumcision is far simpler and less intrusive than female circumcision, in all its forms, even the most benign.

Male circumcision has now been shown to reduce the chance of HIV infection by 40%-60% in Eastern Africa. It has rapidly become the most practiced elective surgery for men there.

In contrast to the author, I remember an Egyptian author described HER experience as a pubescent teen in far, FAR less glowing terms, describing her inability to enjoy the sex act because her clitoris was removed…she still felt desire but could not fulfill it.

Still, it’s getting very strange when people go to plastic surgeons to have their genitals changed…

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By hippie4ever, July 2, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

I had a friend who had his circumcision at the age of 12, thanks to his castrating bitch of a mother. This wasn’t done from a religious or cultural imperative, but from a family tradition. All the males in her family were circumsized at early puberty so she was insisting it be done to her son, who was ever so thrilled. As you can imagine (let’s call him) Fred has some major issues regarding women.

It interested me that Fred’s mom was solidly middle class and otherwise well educated. She held a degree in mathematics from Dartmouth.

I was “cut” as an infant because it was considered “more sanitary.” That practice seems to have subsided, beginning in the 1970s, thank god. One argument against male cutting is that the head, constantly exposed, receives more stimulation in non-sexual situations and therefore loses some sensitivity. Maybe, although I don’t know how you can prove something like this.

(Unless you get a government grant.)

Or it’s possible that circumcision actually increases sensation during sex and this explains its relative popularity compared to the numbers performed simply from religious edict. That would make sense & also explain the drive in patriarchal societies to dampen the female sexual response.

We have sex for a variety of factors including the instinctual biological imperative , desire for immortality, pleasure, communication, comfort, domination. Lots of guys are on that last trip, and keeping women down really gets them off.

I couldn’t exactly read the writer’s pov either but that is my cultural deficit; even so I suspect she has been victimized culturally and has tried to make a decent life for herself anyway. This is admirable and I wish her well, but I don’t believe it’s a recommendation for female circumcision.

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By mister_vernacular, July 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

I agree with the last point. This is far less urgent than the coup in Honduras.

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By Commune115, July 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

Nice to see Truthdig is becoming more and more mainstream: There is a raging battle in Latin America against a fascist coup in Honduras, a situation just as serious as Iran, and the front page story is about vaginas.

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By mister_vernacular, July 2, 2009 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

One of the questions unasked in the article is the extent to which these procedures in the US coincide with the increasingly common practice of closely trimming or removing pubic hair. Part of the purpose is to display genitals more boldly. One can interpret trimming, shaving or other forms of public hair removal as an attempt to emulate the pre-pubescent genitalia. Yet genital display among humans and many primates is a fundamental part of the mating ritual, an element of eroticism that need to be immediately tagged as a sign of latent pedophilia.  Of course, when the genitalia are bared, aesthetic issues that were previously hidden in the bush begin to come to the fore. I raise this not to take a pro- or con- position, only to say that the increasingly common practice of public hair trimming or removal, among men and women, has created a new problem, previously less conspicuous.

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By Blackspeare, July 2, 2009 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

Circumcision, whether its male or female, is shrouded in ancient tribal identification and superstition.  The Hebrews tribes codified it by placing in the OT as part of the covenant (clever those Jews), but it was nothing more than a mark of tribal identification.

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2009 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

Until fairly recently, infants with ambiguous genitals were surgically altered to one (apparent) norm or the other, often with catastrophic outcomes.  Maybe they still are, but for awhile the practice was falling out of favor.

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By truedigger3, July 2, 2009 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

I am not sure what is the purpose of that misguided woman, or may be malicious woman, to write such stupid and dumb article?!
Is it to make fun of and poke jabs at a “trend”? Or make fun at the Western women who objected to females circumcision “Dr. heal thyself”?!. Or to have an “identity” or “uniqueness” like those people who pierce their tongues.
The only and only purpose of female circumcision is at best is to diminish the response to sexual stimulation or enjoyment of sex and at worst is to almost to remove any feelings whatsover and make sex initially painful for quite a while. This not done as a rite of passage or for “cosmetic” reason.
It is done to prevent girls from “straying” before marriage.
The writer claims she is sexually fulfilled. How do she know that? She was handicapped from the very beginning. Maybe she was partially spared or by luck or by her special nerve endings constitution.

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By Joe Franks, July 2, 2009 at 8:33 am Link to this comment

Interesting article, made me think less of vaginal plastic surgery and more of female genital mutilation.

She creates a clever juxtaposition and makes an unlikely comparison, but Olujobi misses one crucial difference between the two. Granted, the plastic surgery is undertaken for aesthetic and social-conformist reasons, just like the mutilation. (Though who makes the choice is different between the two.)

However the surgery takes pains to avoid reducing subsequent sexual pleasure by either “partially or totally removing” the clitoris (Types I and II FGM), or “possibly” (aw shucks, who knows?) excising the clitoris (Type III FGM). In fact, the surgery is often undertaken to increase sexual pleasure or reduce sexual discomfort; and Dr. Rey would certainly be out of business if he were performing a surgery that “partially”, “totally” or even just “possibly” removed the clitoris - regardless of how lovely the labia were left.

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By Frikken Kids, July 2, 2009 at 7:38 am Link to this comment

I’m still stewing about this. 

Imagine if there were thousands upon thousands of boys having their penises chopped off entirely as children to keep them clean and pure in a society completely dominated by females where men became property of the wife upon marriage and had virtually no rights.

This article would be the equivalent of a circumcised guy complaining that it’s no big deal because what was done to him as a baby hasn’t stopped him from enjoying sex.

I cannot believe Truthdig published this insult to journalism and more importantly to millions of mutilated and subjugated women.

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By darangatang, July 2, 2009 at 6:43 am Link to this comment

I completely agree, “Frikken Kids”. The author defines a “Euro-American” daughter as 19 years old in her last paragraph - this is well above the age of sexual awareness and presumably there may have been a genetic rationale for both mother and daughter to have this procedure done in a modern clinical setting. A comparison to the unsanitary conditions you described, done to infants in the name of tradition and “rite of passage”, is completely baseless. I too became pretty irritated with this writer’s dubious perspective.

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2009 at 6:36 am Link to this comment

I think it’s interesting to note that a similar aesthetic ideology frames both Western and African genital modification/mutilation.

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By Frikken Kids, July 2, 2009 at 6:11 am Link to this comment

Does this woman actually have the temerity to compare a minor labia or clitoral hood trim done with informed consent with the act of slicing the labia majora and minora completely off, completely removing the clitoris, and binding everything shut with cactus thorns all so that a new husband years later can cut his wife open so he is sure she a virgin and know that sex is so horribly painful for her that she won’t possibly cuckold him? 

Her “circumcision” wasn’t so bad so what is everybody complaining about? 

Is this a joke, willful ignorance, or a lame attempt to deflect attention from true barbarism?

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By boggs, July 2, 2009 at 6:00 am Link to this comment

You know what? It’s getting extremely embarrassing to be a human!

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