The Fault in Our Clitoris

Somewhere in Nigeria, a girl will be pinned down and a part of her flesh will be cut off, while she is conscious, in pain and wailing. This would be done to her by older women who have likely gone through the same process, they would claim it is for her own good, it would…

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Somewhere in Nigeria, a girl will be pinned down and a part of her flesh will be cut off, while she is conscious, in pain and wailing. This would be done to her by older women who have likely gone through the same process, they would claim it is for her own good, it would ensure that she is not promiscuous, she would not have an “itch” down there. She would bleed and endure this pain between her legs, because God made her female.

Some might wonder what all the fuss about female circumcision is, after all baby boys also get circumcised and nobody is complaining about it (at least not in Nigeria). But circumcision in men is different from what is done to women and it is certainly for different reasons.

In male circumcision, the prepuce or hood of the penis is what is cut, the clitoris also has a hood or prepuce, there’s a surgical procedure called clitorial hood reduction or hoodectomy, it involves the removal of the clitorial hood or prepuce, the point of which is to allow women have increased sexual stimulation or orgasm. INCREASED SEXUAL PLEASURE FOR WOMEN? I understand that this may be unthinkable for some who believe this could make women promiscuous. And promiscuity in women is very unacceptable. You know, sexual pleasure is a thing reserved only for men and promiscuity in men is acceptable and should not be questioned.

Before this practice became known as a form of mutilation, it was called female circumcision and it still is called female circumcision by some. Some people believe that we let western ideas define us and we only take up activism for western ideals. Someone even opined that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) not be called FGM because it is a name coined by the west to denigrate African practices. To mutilate means to deprive a person of an organ, or destroy the use of an organ. Women who have undergone FGM have been deprived the use of an organ, an organ meant for pleasure, but is it so unacceptable for women to enjoy sexual pleasure, enjoy pleasure like their male counterparts?

The WHO defines FGM as all surgical procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons. It is classified into four types:

• Type 1(clitoridectomy)- this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris

• Type 2 (excision)- this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva),

• Type 3 (infibulation)- excision of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora. The vaginal opening is then narrowed through stitching for the passage of urine and menstrual flow.

• Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures like pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.

I was shocked to find out that someone I know had been cut. I had imagined that this was the kind of practice only people in very secluded rural settlements undergo. But that is not the case. With about 180 million people, about 20 million Nigerian women and girls have undergone FGM. Nigeria accounts for approximately 10% of women who have been cut.

In May 2015, the Federal Government finally outlawed FGM but this does not mean that FGM is illegal in all states. Each state still has to adopt and enforce it. Unfortunately, most states have not.

We live in a society where promiscuity is only judged in women but not in men, who are needed in order for it to happen. A society that tries to control women’s sexuality in a bid to curb immorality. We have a society where women are shamed for their “body count” and men are praised for it. Through FGM, they try to alter the biology of women to correct an imbalance the society has created.

You see, our society is patriarchal and so the man is superior, superior means more power- more sexual power too. And so it makes sense to some that men should be entitled to more sexual pleasure. The problem with the clitoris is that it dared to give women this high power reserved for men. So it has to be faulty, for how dare you try to rival and claim a right in sexual pleasure, and so they tried to correct this ‘fault’, and they alter it or cut it entirely off (good riddance!), and it is for the good of the woman.

As long as we have a society that continues to see women as sexual tools needed for a man’s pleasure, who continue to look down on women and try to mould them psychologically and biologically into what they are not, we will continue to have women’s rights violated, and the right to sexual pleasure is one of such violations.

I recently watched Khadija Gbla’s TedX talk titled: Born a girl in the wrong place. Khadija calls herself the lucky one, after the trauma of being cut, the psychological effect, the painful menstruation and painful sex, the fibroid, and the struggle to conceive. This is the sad reality for a lot of FGM victims, because they were born female.

The clitoris is not a dirty organ, it is not something that women need to be cleansed of or rid of. It is a God-given organ of sexual pleasure and it is not a fault in women’s anatomy that needs to be corrected.

I’ll conclude with Khadija Gbla’s words: “Dammit!” Every child [girl] has a right to a clitoris.”

REFERENCES

28 Too Many (2016). Country Profile: FGM in Nigeria. Available at <http://28toomany.org/countries/nigeria/>

TEDx Talks (2014). Khadija Gbla: Born a girl in the wrong place [Video File]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4n0zcsdoN0>

WHO (2017). Female genital mutilation Factsheet. Available at <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/>

Responses

  1. Chioma
    Write a response…”Dammit!” every girl has a right to a clitoris”

    I cannot fathom a more appropriate response to FGM,
    If there’s any.

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  2. Optimus Prime
    “But circumcision in men is different from what is done to women and it is certainly for different reasons.”

    Child Abuse is Child Abuse. Those male babies don’t smile when their foreskin is ripped off their penises. They go through excruciating pain. Male circumcision should be outlawed as well……for the same reason as FGM.

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    1. Rasheed
      Great wtite up
      @optimus-prime male circumcision shouldn’t be outlawed infact it reduces d risk of penile cancer and also reduces d risk of transmission of Papilloma virus from man to woman which increases d risk of cervical cancer in women.Male circumcision should be done under anaesthesia instead .Female circumcision however is a terrible act of terror that should be discouraged totally.These young girls r exposed to excruciating pain,infections (HIV,Hepatits) and life long deprivation of sexual pleasure.
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      1. Optimus Prime
        Purveyors of FGM will also tell you reasons the barbaric practise should still continue. Men lose a great deal of sensitivity when they are circumcised too.

        The choice should be left for the male babies. What if I want my foreskin intact? Why subject babies to a painful practise without giving them a choice?

        Both practises should be outlawed. Men with full circumcision still get infected with HPV and what not. Circumcision has nothing to do with STDs. Good hygiene and safe sex are what keeps people away from STIs.

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        1. Mojisola Salaudeen Post author
          Valid! Circumcision does not guarantee that men will not have HPV, just like when people tell me to lose weight so I won’t have a heart problem, it’s really no guarantee. Circumcision started at a time when there were no medical studies to confirm or deny its perceived benefit, and we are only just finding reasons to support the benefits of male circumcision, none of which is to make men less promiscuous. I’ve come across some write ups about male circumcision leading to less sensitivity and promoting hygiene and reducing the risks of certain diseases, so people hold on to the positives of male circumcision. Does the positive outweigh the negative? I tried to find out the positives of FGM and I did not find any except we say disinterest in sex or inability to orgasm is a benefit – which I do not think is an outcome in circumcised men.
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      2. Mojisola Salaudeen Post author
        Thank you Rasheed. The reality is these two practices are done for different reasons, and while cleaner and safer procedures have been invented for male circumcision, FGM as it is today is still practiced as a way to control women’s sexuality which is probably why it is difficult to convince the health sector to find cleaner and safer procedures instead of making it illegal.
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  3. OddMrB
    Was listening to one of my favourite shows on radio (It’s okay with Okey on 91.3) a few weeks back ,and this subject sort of popped up in the midst of their usual jokes and ramblings. To my surprise, the first caller that called in (who happens to be the most frequent female caller on the show) supported it because in her words “it helped in preventing women from being wayward”.

    I’m glad the guys on the show just cut her off immediately, but it’s really shocking that in 2017 this belief is still held by many so called educated people.

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    1. Mojisola Salaudeen Post author
      I am surprised people still have this mentality, especially people who seem exposed, but that is the sad reality in our society – let’s make sure women are not wayward, let men have sexual freedom, but this is an unreasonable imbalance, “it takes two to tango”.

      I hope the guys made her see reason why it is bad. I have come to realize that some people only agree with some things just to be politically correct. it is important to help enlighten people on why something is bad, and not just agree with the crowd, then do something else.

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  4. Fatade Oluwatosin
    Well done Mojisola. Probably of more concern than the deprivation of sexual pleasure that attends the practice of FGM is the crude and unhygienic manner it is conducted. It poses a high risk of infections, injuries among others. I do not think it is a remedy for promiscuity, it is barbaric and should totally be outlawed. I do not think it is fair to compare FGM to male circumcision as @optimus-prime did, the clitoris is the female correlate of the penis itself! Only the foreskin is removed in the male, a more appropriate analogy of FGM in males will be Penile Amputation, that is unthinkable! You should grab your crotch in defense as you read this, lol.
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    1. Optimus Prime
      This is not a pain threshold comparison. Circumcision is a very painful experience for both genders. Babies(males and females) are sensitive to pain, just like older children and adults.

      Rationales offered in cultures that promote female genital mutilation(hygiene, disease prevention, improved appearance of the genitalia, and social acceptance, etc) are similar to those offered in cultures that promote male circumcision.

      Whatever the rationale, forced removal of healthy genital tissue from any child(male or female) is not only unethical, it is a gross child abuse. Boys have the same right as girls to an intact body, and to be spared this inhumane, unnecessary surgery. Every child(male or female) has the right to be protected from bodily harm.

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      1. TosinFatade
        You are right, but let’s stick to the narrative of this post. I mantain that male circmucision is not the same or in any way comparable (asides slightly anatomically) to FGM.
        On a different topic, one that is dedicated to whether males should get a say in being circumcised or not, I might have more grounds on agreement. But bringing that here seems like sharing the death of my dog on a post where the author shared news of parent’s demise. I hope you get my drift.
        For thought however are these two points;
        How does male circumcision affect the male negatively afterwards? Has any male child that was so circumcised ever remembered the event or had cause to wail about the incident? If choice was to be granted, those who want the circumcsion eventually will have pain to contend with.
        If pain is part of the problem (I note you already said this isn’t a pain threshold comparison), ear piercings for females would also fall in same category of mutilation.
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      2. Mojisola Salaudeen Post author
        Choice, the right to decide whether to be circumcised or not, to decide whether to be vaccinated or not.. the reality is parents are going to make choices for their babies based on their beliefs whether the child will grow up to agree with these choices or not. The choices which parents make are influenced by the society, which is why circumcision (male and female) continues whether the parents know the benefit or not. The society can start a conversation about male circumcision or ear piercings that’ll lead to its outlaw, until then, parents will continue to choose.
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  5. Jagz
    The reality is that FGM is more common than we know and the side effects could be far reaching.

    Male circumcision I’m sure is quite painful to the infants but the side effects of are much less and most guys really don’t mind.

    For the sake of being politically correct, everyone should be given a choice.

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    1. Mojisola Salaudeen Post author
      Yes, it is more common than I thought, and it is not even only in seemingly isolated places. If it was just about pain, I’m sure it could be done by health experts and pain can be reduced or minimized.
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  6. Slim
    “In May 2015, the Federal Government finally outlawed FGM but this does not mean that FGM is illegal in all states. Each state still has to adopt and enforce it. Unfortunately, most states have not.”

    – When the FG makes laws, it is binding on the whole country (unless the law was specifically made for only the FCT).

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  7. Femme
    This topic alone makes me cringe…..
    I am glad that i was not cut but the thought of what anyone who has been cut had to go thru, the pain…..ouch! It is bad enough that even with a complete clit, orgasm na govt work, now add ‘without’….unfair to those affected!

    I look forward to the day that it will stopped totally over the world.

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  8. Seyi
    As in you get am, even with full clit orgasm n work now cun add without.
    My younger sis was circumcised by my paternal grandmother without her telling my parents and she cleaned up the blood with the top I was wearing! My sister’s cries brought my mum to the room to see the evil work. I’m still anxious for my sister on how things will be. I always don’t want to think about it. No one has told her sef.
    Prime why is it that when ladies are talking about their struggles some of you guys come with your woes as if that negates our suffering? The topic here is about FGM, if you want to talk about male circumcision and enlighten us be free with your own post, don’t distract from the main point here. If male circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity and you guys are this randy I don’t know how you’ll be without circumcision #joking
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    1. God expressed
      Like! The topic is not pain thresholds of sensitivity to sexual pleasure @optimus-prime The topic is the suppression of female sexuality using FGM just incase some other man or woman wants to argue about how FGM is equal to some other random thing. If there was a hood for the entire vulva that was removed for hygienic reasons etc then we can equate FGM to male circumcision. Unless there’s a practice that removes a man’s penis so he won’t be promiscuous, leaving just the sperm bags so he can do invitro insemination when he’s ready for children, let’s all listen and spread the word and better still, write about a different topic if we want to.
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