Female mutilation has existed for 4000 years and is still practiced all over the world in 1998, even in New York city. Sexual pleasure is destroyed; and some women are maimed, incapacitated or even killed if they bleed to death or have a heart attack. Student Kerry Ann Bastan (Fall, 1996) did extensive research on clitorectomies, even finding a teenage "cut" woman in her building to interview. She imagines two different points of view of the event:
"Imagine: on the first day of your wedding, your clitoris is knifed out of you; and the next day, before your vagina has had any time to heal, you are having a penis pushed in you. A welcome to motherhood!? If a girl reaches her late teens without being married the ceremony is often performed anyway, and when a younger brother needs to be circumcised to enter the warrior class, his elder sister must have her genitals cut first. This mutilation is not only controlled by, but centered around, the male....In the Horn of Africa, the most severe and harmful form of cutting, infibulation, is practiced. In this particular mehtod, the clitoris and some or all of the small genitalia is cut away. Then an incision is made in the large lips so the raw surfaces can be stitched together, covering the urethra and most of the vagina. Only a small opening, as tiny as a matchstick or as large as a small fingertip, is left to pass urine and menstrual blood."
"Mikira, a young woman, who lives in Ivory Coast, Africa, is to enter womanhood tomorrow via an intense, religious and momentous ceremony that honors her as a woman and an important member of the community. There is a strong bond that holds this community together, a feeling of being part of something more important and powerful than oneself. All Mikira has to do is give up a small part of her clitoris, just a little nick to honor her God and her people. Many would say that this is not, on a relative basis, too much to give. Nobody would say that it is no small thing to sacrifice a part of a woman's sexuality, but mosİ would say it is well worth it to be a clean woman. Mikira is so excited because she is finally going to grow up tomorrow. She has been waiting her whole life for this. She knows what's going on. She is to join her mother and grandmother and great grandmother and their wonderful world of womanhood in a tradition that has sustained these African cultures for thousands of years. She knows she will endure pain, just as her husband will in his own way, such as in protecting the home, fighting for survival.
The only function for a clitoris is pleasure: it has no functional role. As a good citizen, Mikira knows a woman's role in life is to care for her children, keep house and cook. This is best accomplished by reducing sex to a marital obligation. If she has not been cut, a woman might think instead about her own sexual pleasure. Clitorectomy is part of a girl's dreams of womanhood, a father's desire to show off with a big party and a family's way of proving its conformity to social convention. In these societies, women have no way to survive without a husband, and parents insist on the rite so their daughters are marriageable. Female mutilation controls teen-age girls' sexual appetite, wards off unwanted pregnancies and helps insure a woman's fidelity to her husband and family.... This diminishing of sexuality transcends into a greater good."
Could female circumcision be considered a kind of sex therapy for men, ensuring their potency through dominion and control over their bride whose stitches they cut open on their wedding night; and making sure their masculinity is not threatened by excessive sexual demands? How have different cultures encouraged or thwarted the sex drive? Compare the persecution of witches in the Middle Ages with the orgies of the Roman Empire.
From Dr. Ruth to your average psychiatrist and impotency clinic, Americans have sought professional help to sort out a basic biological drive. Or is it a biological drive? Are some expectations of sexual performance cultural rather than biological? Why do people in our society have so many sexual problems and why are they are so worried about them? Do people feel inadequate when they cannot experience a never-ending feast of orgasmic delight? How can people feel good about their bodies when the cultural ideal for a good body is so unrealistic? i.e. for women: thin, lean and trim but with large firm round breasts (breasts are mainly fat); for men: tall, handsome, muscular, well-proportioned (what does that mean?) Anyway, if you look hard enough, you'll find something about yourself that is not considered "right." What does this do to one's sexual well-being? How has the threat of AIDS changed our concepts of what is sexy and appropriate and fun? How can healthy men and women be compatible with each other when their physiologic needs are so different? Is every satisfying sexual experience a compromise? How has your religious upbringing affected your sexuality? How many physical illnesses and conditions such as low back pain etc. are initiated or exacerbated by sexual frustration? If a character is sexually satisfied at the beginning of a fictional love story, where can the narrative go unless the loved one is lost, murdered or betrayed?
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