No Longer on the Fence: The Vaginal Lobotomy

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the most extraordinarily clever way to subdue and assert domination over the feminine under the untouchable guise of “cultural practice”. FGM is not only a symbolic attack; it’s a clever little combination of assault upon mind and body, woven into a tapestry of ancient cultural tradition. The concept of her womanhood, and the details of her psyche, are shaped and restrained with the wave of a knife in between her legs at an age at which she cannot protest.

This opinion, I have come to, through a point of reason and compassion, rather than a sense of western cultural superiority. To allow for any cultural wriggle-room on the issue is nothing more than an intellectualism of one of the wickedest forms of subjugation existing today.

The removal of her clitoris and the sewing closing off a large portion of her vagina will eradicate, or at the very least, reduce her capacity to reach her full sexual potential. She may never have an orgasm. She may be robbed of that precious bonding moment after love-making in which she is flooded with dopamine, oxytocin and opioids; all three are powerful chemicals, providing the female brain with a surge of energy, bliss, creative drive and self-love, in turn creating a headspace in which she is liberated and powerful.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf, in her recent book Vagina, talks about this nirvana in the mind of the woman. Wolf explains the overwhelming and transformative power that good, generous, fulfilling and wholesome sex can have upon the individual’s sense of self. Wolf explains that through the chemicals released in the brain during sex, women can enter a state of heightened awareness of beauty, love and self. The longer lasting effects of these chemicals is heightened when in conjunction with an ongoing healthy sexual experience, more long-term sense of energy, power, and above all, creative energy, whether this be artistic, intellectual, social, or dare I say, political.

Considering this link between sex and power, the removal of the clitoris is an action equivalent to a lobotomy; an outdated procedure which serves to dull the madness of the mind by stabbing at the brain with a long needle. This leaves the patient quiet, uninspired, and never again to experience their complete mental and emotional potential. Now the victim is docile, cooperative and no longer able to embarrass the world with their hysteria.

Every woman who claims she is proud to have undergone the procedure, I feel for, as she will never experience her total sexual core. Every girl who cries out against what happened to her without her consent, I mourn for her, as she recognises a loss: the lobotomy of her vagina.

Ugliness, unimportance and nuisance – these words describe problems with the vagina that FGM sets out to “fix”, beginning by making the woman marriageable. The uncut vagina is seen to be ugly; the ceremony of girl-becomes-woman is considered necessary to allow her to function as a wife.

This ceremonial act will continue to thrive and maintain cultural acceptability as long as the underlying premise remains strong of the fundamental unimportance of female sexual potential, and by association, the absolute lack of interest in what a powerful notion of the feminine has to offer a society.

The final insult is the sewing closing a portion of the vagina in order to make it impossible for her to insert anything into it until she is married. This is called infibulation and is used in about 20 per cent of all FGM cases. This means sex outside of marriage becomes impossible until the vagina is cut open or the penis of her husband is forced into it, most likely causing it to tear, allowing for penetration for the benefit of the man’s ejaculate.

Consider for a moment the philosophical implications of infibulation. The obvious aim is to prevent the woman from taking pre-marital lovers. The fact that surgical measures are then taken to physically prevent women from having sex boldly acknowledges and promotes the idea that women must not be trusted and there is something innately devilish about their natural desires.

All “deep-seated mistrust and suspicion of females” aside, I guess it’s true that women would be more likely to have sex if their vaginas weren’t sewn shut. Here’s a thought…men also have sex! Does this not also pose a problem? The solution? It could be suggested to community leaders that they start sewing little boys’ penises to their stomachs by the foreskin so that it naturally grows onto the naval and permanently attaches. This way, when they get an erection, they won’t be able to insert it into anyone. On the night of his wedding, his bride could simply cut it off his stomach.

Ah, but see, now we have come to a roadblock. I have this niggling little feeling that men wouldn’t allow something like that to happen to their bodies, probably because it sounds absolutely absurd, outrageously restricting, violating and ridiculous.  

However, when inflicted upon women, what is it about the absurdity and cruelty of FGM that seems to bypass people’s sense of injustice and disgust? Why is the issue still up for debate in feminist circles? Could it be that thousands of years of tradition have numbed us to the cruelty of this procedure?

Men wouldn’t allow culture to inhibit the workings and domination of their penises. They cheer each other on when they play sport. They praise each other as musicians, artists and politicians. They praise a male pope, paint pictures of God with a beard, high-five each other when they have sex with women. They worship their penises, their strength and their natural inclination to demand respect.

Women need to start doing the same for themselves and each other. With this in mind, I’ll be damned if I am going to stand by and listen to my fellow feminists tell me that I should be more accepting of FGM due to tradition and “cultural significance”, which we apparently fail to understand.

Throughout every moment in history, women have been raped, beaten, oppressed, denied legal rights, told to be quite, medically categorised as hysterical, refused education, refused inheritance, refused respect, deterred from having sex by copping ridicule afterwards, called bitch, slut, whore, skank, cunt and cock-tease when we don’t have sex, get stoned for getting raped, told to be sexy (but not too sexy, you slut), taught to appreciate great art, great literature and great music created by great male artists, and are constantly expected to prove to our fellow professionals that women can be as politically and socially ruthless as men.  

Female genital mutilation is a human rights struggle, and like every other struggle in history, it has found itself being intellectualised for the benefit of those who wish to do nothing to advance the rights of those who have found themselves time and time again crushed by society. FGM is one of these issues, the physical and psychological ramifications of which are degrading and destructive right down to the very core of the feminine.

 Heloise Millikan