by Lillian Dell’Aquila Cannon
If you think that female circumcision is horrible and wrong, but male circumcision is no big deal, you are wrong. This video shows some circumcised females discussing how their female circumcisions were positive.
Why do I post this? To show that our culture influences our mind more than most people realize. Would you, as a woman, be happy without your clitoris? I would not, yet these women are, and they think that if they had clitorises, they would be gross and sexually unappealing, and that their sexual response does not suffer. This is exactly the same thing that circumcised men say here in America – and they are just as obviously wrong to intact men who know what it feels like to have a foreskin.
Here’s some more perspective on female circumcision from actual circumcised females. Note that this was written by a female anthropologist from Sierra Leone.
“The uncircumcised clitoris and penis are considered homologous aesthetically and hygienically: Just as the male foreskin covers the head of the penis, the female foreskin covers the clitoral glans. Both, they argue, lead to build-up of smegma and bacteria in the layers of skin between the hood and glans. This accumulation is thought of as odorous, susceptible to infection and a nuisance to keep clean on a daily basis. Further, circumcised women point to the risks of painful clitoral adhesions that occur in girls and women who do not cleanse properly, and to the requirement of excision as a treatment for these extreme cases. Supporters of female circumcision also point to the risk of clitoral hypertrophy or an enlarged clitoris that resembles a small penis.
For these reasons many circumcised women view the decision to circumcise their daughters as something as obvious as the decision to circumcise sons: why, one woman asked, would any reasonable mother want to burden her daughter with excess clitoral and labial tissue that is unhygienic, unsightly and interferes with sexual penetration, especially if the same mother would choose circumcision to ensure healthy and aesthetically appealing genitalia for her son?“
Are you convinced yet? If you are a woman, do you want to get circumcised now so you don’t get smegma or adhesions? As a woman, I have never had to clean carefully under my clitoral hood to prevent adhesions or smegma, and frankly, the idea sounds terribly painful and makes me cringe. Do you realize that if you just changed the gender of the nouns, this statement is exactly what you would hear from an American defender of male circumcision? You can no more clean under an infant’s foreskin than you could clean under an infant’s clitoral hood.
So why do circumcised men and women defend their circumcisions? A complex of psychological factors, but mostly denial. Denial is a psychological defense. It protects a person from a painful realization that he or she is not ready or capable of integrating without damage to the psyche. Many circumcised men and women deny that they are missing out on anything because to admit it would be painful, and it would require abandoning a lifetime of cultural indoctrination and identity formation, and most people cannot do that so quickly or easily. Circumcision is as integral to female identity in some parts of Africa as male circumcision is to male identity here in America.
Throughout this piece, I have avoided referring to circumcised men and women as victims, because many of them do not see themselves as victims, as the video attests. In talking to circumcised men, I have realized that many bristle at the idea that they are victims or that there is anything wrong with their penises. They will argue to the death that removing all the foreskin’s special erogenous tissue does not change sexual response or function in any way, even thought that is prima facie illogical. You cannot remove the most sensitive nerves without a loss in sensation. You cannot change form without changing function. They often claim to have normal ejaculation, not imagining that all the buildup and the orgasm itself offers more finer and varied sensations for the intact man.
Their psychological attitude hinges upon the fact that circumcision was forced upon these people as infants or children when they had no choice. They are coping with the effects of this as best they can, and if that means that they need to see themselves as whole and fine, that is their right. There is a metaphor for denial that is especially apt (and ironic) here: Denial is a warm blanket that protects a person from the cold and harsh winds of reality. If you try to rip it away from him, he will only claw all the tighter to hold onto it. Only he knows when he is warm enough to try to let it go and face reality naked.
This, however, does not mean that he or she has the right to force circumcision on his or her own children in order to preserve his or her denial. Though an American man may be fine with being circumcised, despite not knowing how being intact would feel, that does not give him the moral right to circumcise his child to complete his bubble of denial. A person who grows up with his or her genitals intact nearly always values them and would never choose to be circumcised. The fact that a circumcised person has adapted psychologically to his cultural mandate is a testimony to the plasticity of the human mind, but it does not justify handicapping future generations in the same way.
Men, if you are fine with your circumcision, then good for you. But if you were really fine with it, you wouldn’t need to force it onto your sons.