Re: infibulation/relativism/sexuality

Mon, 16 May 1994 10:17:00 PDT

Young-Leslie writes:

" Janice Boddy published an article in American Ethnologist (15;1
1988) entitled "Spirits and selves". she says "Circumcision and
infibulation operate to establish in women a sense of self congruent with
the cultural image of woman as reproducer" (pg 4). I think that much of
the discussion of infibulation as horrendous and evil 'control' of women
through control of their pleasure circuits must be understood as coming
out of a *north american discourse* in which women (feminists) had lately
claimed the power to HAVE pleasure during sexual intercourse."

Note that the "power to HAVE pleasure during sexual intercourse" only makes
sense if currently there is a LACK of sexual pleasure during sexual
intercourse. That is, the issues facing women in the west and the issues
facing women in Africa are likely of a very different nature. In effect,
Young-Leslie is saying that we ought first to understand practise X in terms
of the culture in which it is embedded before we make pronouncements about
its goodness or lack thereof when we claim that we are doing anthropology or
speaking as anthropologists . (I put the qualifier "doing anthropology"
since obviously, one can make moral pronouncements whether or not one
"understands" the practise in question.).

D. Read