FGM at Cornell University

Serious post today, ladiez – WARNING for distressing details of FGM at Cornell University, USA.

The Sh! Girlz just got alerted to this article about FGM being practised in America, and felt we had to pass it on and ask you lovely ladies and gents to join us in protesting about it.

It’s come to light that a paediatric urologist at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University is not only cutting away little girls’ clitorises, but performing invasive post-operative testing on them.

This sounds like something from the 1850’s, doesn’t it? No. It’s happening now, at Cornell University in the USA.

Dr Dix Poppas is performing clitoral reduction procedures on little girls – a dodgy operation in itself. Essentially, if it’s decided that a child’s clitoris is ‘too big’ – either due to an intersex condition, or to pure biological variation – he is surgically reducing it by removing parts of the shaft, and reattaching the glans, or tip, of the clit to the tissue that’s left. This is supposed to be a less horrendous procedure than the one commonly performed, which involves simple removal of the end of the clitoris.

This surgery – in whatever form – is invasive and unnecessary. There is no evidence that having a larger clitoris can harm a child in any way, have any influence on sexual function, or do any damage at all. But some doctors in the USA are still more than happy to claim that a larger clitoris is a ‘problem’ and offer this vicious surgical ‘correction’ for little girls from birth onwards. Partly, it seems, from fear of anything that is the least bit gender-ambiguous, which doctors argue will prevent a child from ‘fitting in’, and partly from basic misogyny. (To draw a parallel – can you imagine a doctor offering to surgically reduce a small boy’s penis because it was too big? But it is still apparently OK in this corner of the USA to surgically reduce a girl’s clitoris).

But in this instance, the story gets worse. Dr Poppas is also doing follow-up appointments to girls who have undergone this surgery – seeing them once a year, if possible – and testing the sensitivity of their clits using either a cotton bud or a ‘vibratory device’. This is deeply troubling. Not only is he excising a child’s clitoris, he’s then testing it with a vibrator to see if it’s still sensate. I mean, what exactly is he going to do if he finds out he has removed someone’s clitoral sensitivity, and maybe any possibility of sexual function?

There is a lot of evidence from people who have experienced this sort of intervention in childhood, and have suffered terrible physical and psychological after-effects – not only from the surgery, but from the invasive and distressing folllow-up appointments. Dr Alice Dreger, in this article, talks about her experience of working with intersex people who had similar treatment as children. They very often singled out the follow-up examinations as the most distressing part of their experience.

The argument given for this post-operative testing is that Dr Poppas is concerned about preserving some sexual function in his patients, but we think if he was that bothered he wouldn’t be performing these operations in the first place.

We don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘normal’ clitoris, and that is something to celebrate! Every woman has a unique clit, and, for heaven’s sake, it’s about time we celebrated that, rather than allowing misguided doctors to ‘normailze’ a unique and wonderful organ to make it look better.

So, essentially – and we can’t say this too loudly – what’s happening at Cornell is not OK. It’s not OK to cut away part of a child’s clitoris for the sake of how it looks. It’s not OK to expose that child to repeated, invasive and scary post-operative tests. It’s not OK to perform these treatments on a child who is too young to give consent, or even to understand how much this treatment may impact on their later life.

If you agree, please help us to pursue this. You can email from this page to protest – and please spread the word!

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