America's Forgotten History of Female Circumcision
In the USA, while involuntary female circumcision never became routine like involuntary male circumcision became, it was promoted and done by some of the same doctors who were doing it to boys.
Clitoridectomy: Nineteenth Century Answer for Masturbation
The following six excerpt quotes are from actual American medical journals:
"...that the girl who becomes irritable, disagreeable and hysterical may become charming, interesting and possessed of all feminine graces when her prepuce[clitoral hood] is forcibly peeled away from the glans of the clitoris, and we have made a distinct step forward in civilization..." [Is evolution trying to do away with the clitoris? Transactions of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Vol. 5, 1892, pp. 288-302]
“I for one have circumcised as many girls as boys, and always with happy results.” [Circumcision of Girls. Journal of Orificial Surgery, Vol. 7, July 1898, pp. 31-33]
"Many neuroses and even psychoses have their origin in pathological conditions of the hood of the clitoris." [Circumcision in the Female: Its Necessity and How to Perform It. American Journal of Clinical Medicine, Vol. 22, No. 6, June 1915, pp. 520-523]
"Circumcision will relieve one of the greatest causes of masturbation" [Why not circumcise the girl as well as the boy? Texas State Journal of Medicine, Vol. 14, May 1918, pp. 17-19]
"The same reasons that apply for the circumcision of males are generally valid when considered for the female." [Circumcision of the Female. General Practioner, Vol. 18 No. 3, September 1958, pp. 98-99]
"If the husband is unusually awkward or difficult to educate, one should at times make the clitoris easier to find[by amputating the clitoral hood]." [Female Circumcision: Indications and a New Technique General Practioner, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 1959, pp. 115-120]
Here are three personal experiences:
Where is my clitoral hood?
”The other day I had one of many debates that I have with a particular man in my life. This debate is on how he tried to defend his newborn circumcision and his reasons why all boys should be circumcised. His final argument when he realized none of the standard careworn and overused ones were working?
"You are a woman without a penis so you really have no right to weigh in on this circumcision debate anyway."
It was then that I knew it was time to step forward and to stop hiding. I am thirty years old. I am white, not Middle Eastern or from Sudan or Malaysia or of the Muslim faith. My father is Irish Catholic. My mother is a Jewish woman who converted to Catholicism when she married my father. Both of my brothers are circumcised and my mother is adamant in her defense of their circumcision.
I step out of the shower and I stand in front of the mirror and I look like your average European American, pale skin, red hair, green eyes. I am not your average woman though.
I am circumcised.
I am a white American, non-Muslim woman who was circumcised as a toddler by the same pediatrician that circumcised my brothers and at the same hospital at which I was born. I have no clitoral hood and only a V shaped scar and the tiniest bit of inner labia they were kind enough to leave behind. I always knew something was different. I have a half sister seven years my senior and she had a normal looking vagina. Mine always looked wrong to me but I never said anything because after all, every woman is unique and different.
I also have this vague and disturbing memory from when I was two and the most uncomfortable sexual feeling even at a young age around male doctors. When I married young to my now ex-husband on our honeymoon he said, "I have never seen a vagina like yours! It is amazingly perfect, too perfect, like something is missing." That too perfect vagina was most certainly missing something, and would cause me serious sexual issues that I chalked up to a sexual assault at the age of eighteen. If only I had know that it had been assaulted by a knife long before that perhaps I could have come to terms much sooner.
It was only as I was nearing my late twenties, had been divorced and had other sexual partners all of which commented in some way or another on the difference of my vagina, that I had an uncontrollable urge to dig deeper. Then at a well woman check up with my now favorite Ob/Gyn he told me or rather asked me why I was a circumcised female. He felt awful when he realized that I did not know and he had assumed I had consented to vaginal cosmetic surgery. As an aside I am happy to report that because of my experience and continued dialogue with him he is now against MGM (Male Genital Mutilation) a practice he used to support.
After months of demanding, digging, and putting my foot down I obtained the records from my birth that told me nothing but did lead me to my childhood pediatrician. Those records revealed the ghastly truth of a two-year-old girl circumcised at her mother's request. In sadness I confronted my mother and was adamantly told that she had always done what was best for her children and had no regrets but did not want to speak of it.
I made an appointment to speak to the now retired physician only to have him move away before I could speak with him. I am still searching for him. I know he was an old friend of my parents who also did my brothers' bris. Surely he will know why my mother would request such a thing for her daughter. My father remains largely silent on the issue. "You know your mother," is the only answer I receive from him.
When my son was born I was young, I had familial and societal pressure. But I did NOT allow him to be assaulted with a knife . As a mother all that was in me cried out to truly research and know that genital mutilation is not okay. And now I know that not only as a mother but also as a survivor of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) every instinct told me not to allow him to be cut.
I will speak out against MGM because just like those innocent baby boys my prepuce has been removed. Can I orgasm? Yes I can. Within about sixty seconds of sexual contact I orgasm. Sounds good right? WRONG. After I orgasm I experience oversensitive raw pain for the duration of the sexual contact. There is no hood to protect my clitoris. I may very well be the only woman out there who is looking for a partner who is a "one minute wonder" to spend the rest of my life with. Even now, years later, clothing, undergarments, contact... all of these irritate my overexposed clitoris. I also have to deal with the fact that if I choose to have a new sexual partner I will deal with the inevitable comments and questions which leave me feeling unattractive and just plain wrong down there.
So I say: I DO have a right to speak out against MGM and I will continue to do so. I know the continued frustration and all that is missing due to being circumcised and no baby, boy or girl, should ever have to live with this choice being forced upon him or her.”
Healing the Trauma of American Female Genital Mutilation
I am a white, anglo-saxon, protestant woman who was circumcised in the USA in the 1950’s. Some women advocate routine infant circumcision for males while decrying FGM in Africa. I cannot advocate cutting anyone, ever, for any reason.
What follows is my story. Thank you for reading it with an open heart.
As far as I can tell, I have scars on my labia set at 90 degree angles where flesh obviously met metal, and a “V”-shaped scar where a clitoris used to be. An expert on female genital anatomy told me I was also missing my clitoral hood.
My parents are both dead so I can’t ask them for details, but I have pieced events together and it seems to make sense that I was cut in two stages: the labia when I was one year old, and the clitoris and hood when I was six. I didn’t find out about it until I was over 50 years of age, so I lived in a bit of hell for many, many years.
My early photos show that I was the happiest of children — until I was in the first grade (see the photos on my website). Then a cloud came over me and after that time photos were full of anger, resentment and rejection. I lived that way for decades. I wanted to be dead. I rejected everyone and everything. I ran away or pushed away everyone who tried to love me… and I had no idea why. I was miserable and thought it was “normal”. I couldn’t understand how people could be happy and love each other. I had few friends. Although I usually had a boyfriend, I was always was exceedingly lonely. I am grateful that I did not turn to alcohol or drugs. A brush I’d had with an angelic voice when I was a little girl let me know suicide was not an option. Eventually, I learned all I could about healing. But nothing seemed to help me out of my own empty anger and grief.
No one could understand me, including myself. And then — a miracle! — I was wondering why most “men” were so different from most women and I realized that most of the men in the United States had been traumatized, when they were just babies, by circumcision. How cruel!. I was shocked, appalled, aghast. Due to my crisis counseling work, I knew that such a terrifying event could ruin an entire life. I felt quite safe around the people I met who were clear about not cutting children and I began to work with them to prevent circumcision. After I’d been involved for a couple of years, through a series of interesting “coincidences,” I discovered that I too had been circumcised. I had lost my clitoris, clitoral hood and labia. All of a sudden, my life made perfect sense. Knowing that I had been traumatized made sense of my feelings and behavior. A year or so ago, I met a wonderful therapist who was safe enough that I could allow myself to think about my childhood and piece together the memories. Healing the trauma came fairly quickly after that. After 50 miserable years, my little black cloud evaporated. I look in the mirror now and I see the happy smile I’d lost at age six. I am happy, at last, to be alive.
I found that I was always good at handling emergencies, so I specialized in dealing with people in trauma… at a crisis center and in private practice as a hypnotherapisst. This gave me a good background for dealing with my own situation when I discovered I’d been mutilated.
My entire life was hell before I found out I’d been cut, so when I found out, a lot of bad old feelings actually went away.. So I am hoping that healing can begin for many of my sisters and brothers who are still unaware that they were traumatized as children. Until they know the horror of it, and until they release the fear and terror around it, they might just be wondering why they kick the dog, throw the cat against the wall, yell at the wife, beat the kids, hate the boss, and frantically accumulate wealth to the detriment of their own integrity.
I hope this blog and my book will plant seeds of hope for your healng and/or compassion for the overwhelming number of people—both men and women—who have had this awful thing happen to them.
I am hoping to find out, by way of a book I wrote (and this blog), how many American women in the United States have been subjected to female genital mutilation. I suspect there are far more than we would ever imagine. I hope, if you were cut, you will get in touch with me. I am sorry it happened to you, and we can support each other in the process of healing the mental, emotional, and spiritual wounds… maybe we can ever figure out, like men have, how to restore our bodies to their original function.
If you would like, you can read more about my book here: http://rapeofinnocence.com/2010/12/17/fgm-circumcision-in-the-usa/. I hope you will enjoy it and it will be of value to you.
Missing Pieces of Myself
I am a 57 year old, white, Canadian, Anglo-Saxon woman of Irish/English decent, non-religious but deeply spiritual. My story is still in the rough stages. It has only been a matter of weeks since I became aware that I am missing a couple of genital “pieces”. The new awareness has certainly answered many questions for me, and explained a lot about who I am. I was flipping through a book when I came across a picture of two fingers holding onto a clitoris. Impossible! They were describing the head of the clitoris as a wee button. No way! I got out a mirror and studied myself ever so carefully. I have done self explorations before, and pictures in books never looked like me. My conclusion was always that there was something wrong with the pictures! Not this time. I got onto the web, and studied as many pictures as I could find. I couldn’t find one that looked like me. I called my youngest sister. She was adamant that there was a tangible something in the clitoral region, known as the clitoris. You could touch it. It felt good to touch. Interesting. I called a childhood friend with whom I still talk regularly. She agreed with my sister. I called my other sister—two years younger. She would have nothing to do with any self-exploration, she wasn’t interested, sex had always been painful, could we change the subject, please. I have reason to believe she too endured a “cut.”
Anyway, further research on the net turned up a procedure called a clitoridectomy.From my research I determined that this procedure was quite common in the 1800’s, less common in the early 1900’s, yet still being conducted in North America into the mid-fifties, was covered by Blue Cross until mid ’70’s, and not completely banned in the U.S. until 1996. Although the tone of this paragraph sounds all whitewashed and devoid of emotion, my whole being was coming apart as I dredged up this data.
I was beginning to open the door to a truth which I had somehow managed to bury just under the surface of my consciousness. Flashbacks began. I remembered, as a child of 3 or 4, having “something” I could hold on to down there. Being of insatiable curiosity, I questioned my mother about it—as I did for just about everything that entered my line of vision. She was a staunch Roman Catholic of the extreme variety, hung up on sex and particularly masturbation. Somehow she managed to turn my question around to understand that somehow I was upset, disturbed and did not want this thing I was giving my attention to. She could make me “nice and pretty” and in this manner she solicited my agreement. I recall nothing of the actual procedure, but I have had flashbacks of events after the procedure. I recall sitting on the toilet seat and my mother tending the area, and telling me I was “nice and pretty” now. The “tending” happened over numerous occasions.
At the point I was having the above flashbacks, there was still a place in me which wanted to believe I was making all of this up. However, I had another friend who I had shared my concerns with. She had been sexually abused, and as part of her healing process, she had attended a women’s workshop, where they did shared self-exploration as part of getting to know and love their bodies. So she had seen many clitoris’s and felt that perhaps mine was simply small enough that somehow I just couldn’t find it. We arranged a show and tell. She couldn’t find it either! It seems that the “head” of the clitoris is missing. The rest is still in place. She noticed something else. Part of the clitoral hood was missing! There is no scar tissue, no discolouration …nice and pretty!
That same night, as I was in the place between waking and sleeping, I experienced the most intense pain in the genital area. I could actually feel the places …which are not there! Because this experience was not a fleeting thing, taking nearly a half hour to subside, it left no question that my suspicions were true. I had yet another flashback about trying to tell my mother how much it hurt, and how it hurt to pee. It hurt for the longest time. I remembered confusion, connected to pain, connected to my mother. My mother always used corporal punishment to discipline us and she began her disciplining as soon as we could crawl. I associated pain and my mother with being a bad girl. I believe I spent the rest of her life trying desperately to please her, so that I would never endure this pain again. Then I married her clone and spent 31 years of marriage following the same pattern. Now that the pain has resurfaced, it feels like it has always been there. Anytime I want to direct my attention to that area I can feel the places …which are not there! When I am very tired the pain returns like a nagging headache. I am amazed at the degree of denial I had to exert in order to block the pain and the memory.
Something I do remember vividly is that when I reached puberty, my mother took me to the doctor without any notice or explanation where I was subjected to a visual genital exam. There I was at 12 or 13 years of age, on the examining table, fully displayed for the doctor and my mother. who were at the end of the table, discussing and pointing at my genitals. This was so totally unexpected, I was so embarrassed and humiliated, that all I could hear of their conversation was Charlie Brown’s Blah! Blah! Blah! As we were leaving the doctor’s office I asked her why I had the examination, and she told me it was “none of my business!” I can only conclude that for whatever reason related to puberty there was a need to check up on their handiwork.
I have always been a deep thinker with an insatiable curiosity. So I have noticed a number of things about myself which I could attribute to this early childhood trauma. For instance, I have always noticed myself not being fully present in the moment. Whenever the going gets rough, I get going, right into some sort of comatose-like, dissociative state where I am not fully present, not fully alive. Could this be a learned behaviour from a childhood trauma?
Although I am 57 years old, there is a little girl in me who has never grown up, who is “unsure” of herself, who is easily frightened, who second guesses absolutely everything I do and say. I have done enough personal growth work that I can actually “feel” her. She is ever longing for parental love and approval. So sensitive, always needing reassurance. Years ago, a mentor once said to me how she gave me credit for all my accomplishments, but was very aware of a part of me which was still so childlike. She asked if I could explain it. I knew what she was talking about, but pretended I didn’t because I couldn’t explain it and was embarrassed by it. Can I explain it now? Is it arrested development as a result of childhood trauma? Will I be able to get a handle on it now? It has definitely stood between me and fully coming into my own as an adult.
And sexually speaking? Sometimes one will never know, what one never knew. I wasn’t a tomboy, but I didn’t go through the girly-girly phase either. I had no longing to dress up, make up and strut my stuff. I didn’t understand flirting. I didn’t understand the chemistry thing that happens between teens when their hormones are raging. My ex-husband picked me out of a group of girls I was with, and decided that very night that I would be his wife. I was flattered beyond words that some guy would actually pin point me in this way. I was 21, and there had only been one casual boyfriend in my entire young life. I was in love with love, and we were married a year later. In my limited opinion, he was a highly sexual man. The little girl in me wanted to be everything he wanted me to be. Perhaps that is where the real problem was! Psychologically perhaps, I just never grew up enough to be a sexually mature woman. Like I said, perhaps I will never know, what I never knew.
Here are some videos giving an overview and three personal experiences: