Female genital 'modification'

Thu, 5 May 1994 17:13:00 PDT

Mizrach writes:

"... sheer bodily alteration; rather for social control - largely having been
introduced through Islam, the practice originated partially due to Arab
folk beliefs that women's sexuality was much more uncontrollable than that
of the male..."

Mizrach has put together in one sentence (1) a claim, (2) an incorrect
assertion, and (3) a "folk belief" as if they all relate to the same domain.
First, whether female genital circumsion is "for social control" is a
hypothesis, not an established datum. Second, Islam has no linkage to female
circumsion; i.e., female circumsion is not mentioned in the Koran. Further,
female circumsion occurs only in Egypt (I believe) in the Arab world and its
origin seems to be from sub-Saharan Africa. Third, I believe the concern has
more do with potentially uncontrollable male reaction to females who are
considered to be strongly sexual; the cultural solution has
to do male and female relations, modes of dress, etc., NOT female circumsion.

He continues:

"... I had my foreskin lopped off at the tender age of eight days. I
assure you, I had no say in the matter, but I do not think I was
mutilated... "

Precisely. Your culture tells you that you were not mutilated and that is
part of your construction of reality.

Mizrach continues:

"but I get the feeling that female circumcision is something
more serious, since I assume (lacking any basis on which to know otherwise,
either from direct experience or the medical literature) that lacking a
clitoris makes it impossible for a woman to experience orgasm."

Definitely incorrect. For example, some women experience orgasm simply from
stiulation of the breasts. Further there is the notion (folkbelief?) that
the most powerful sexual stimulant is the brain. Further, note the impact of
victorianism that seems to have left a legacy of many western women being
unable, or only with difficulty, experiencing orgasm even with an intact

Mizrach continues:

"The problem with this example (female circumcision) for exploring cultural
relativism is that it's wrapped up in layers of sexuality, gender, race,
and colonialism. "

Or maybe that is exactly why trying to link cultural relativism and
moral issues becomes so problematic.

D. Read