IF YOU HATE WOMEN, and you hate their sexuality, and you are terrified that you cannot control it, the most effective thing you can do is to mutilate female sexual pleasure. This can be done by a sexual lobotomy, which will destroy an essential and sacred part of a woman’s natural makeup. In achieving this feat on all women, you will become able to ruthlessly dominate them.
That’s what female circumcision is all about.
It’s about obliterating the clitoris, or the entire outer vagina. It is the barbarity that exists where misogyny festers most: in the Muslim and African world.
The Muslims are the principal religious group that practice female circumcision. In Egypt, for instance, 97 percent of women are circumcised. Their clitorises are amputated. In countries like Sudan, meanwhile, the women-haters are not so kind: all the women’s external genital organs are completely removed. In a savagery called infibulation, the clitoris, the two major outer lips (labia majora) and the two minor inner lips (labia minora) are amputated.
Nawal El Saadawi has documented these horrifying realities in The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World. She demonstrates how the violence of female circumcision is performed on girls anywhere from the ages of one month to puberty. Usually, it is done around the age of seven or eight. Anesthetics are never used. The child is pinned down by several women, while one of them attacks.
After infibulation, the small outer opening of the vagina is the only portion left intact. A tiny piece of wood or reed is inserted to allow urine and menstrual blood to seep out. Extra narrowing of the opening is carried out with stitches, which remain until marriage. The victim’s legs are often bound together from hip to ankle and she is immobile for about a month or two.
This violence has to occur because, in much of the Islamic world, the female’s genital area is considered dirty and unacceptable. For example, in Egypt the uncircumcised girl is called nigsa (unclean). Thus, it has to be made "clean."
Many of the victims lose their lives during this torture – which is often inflicted with broken glass. Many other victims are afflicted with acute and chronic infections for the rest of their lives.
With serious and disabling lifelong consequences, the mutilation robs women of their equilibrium. It deprives them from enjoying the fullness of their sexuality and the completeness of their lives. In terms of sexual pleasure, for instance, we know that approximately 75 percent of women cannot achieve orgasm without clitoral stimulation. In other words, the possibility of orgasm has been obliterated for tens of millions of women in the Muslim world. So what does it mean if the psychic, mental and physical health of women cannot be complete if they do not experience sexual pleasure?
The terror of the circumcision itself tracks its traumatized victims down like a nightmare. Most, if not all, of these poor women end up suffering from serious sexual and/or mental distortions. The mutilation of their sexual being becomes the epicenter where sex and violence meet constantly in their lives – with them as victims.
Wedding night is often quite eventful. In some parts of the Arab and African world, the husband assaults the wife after the wedding. In Somalia, for instance, the groom beats the bride with a leather whip. After this romantic apex, he cuts the sealed vagina with a sharp scalpel or razor in order to have intercourse. He then has prolonged repeated intercourse with her for a week – to prevent the scarring from closing the vaginal opening again. During this time the wife must lie still and not move. Meanwhile, the husband takes the bloody sharp object, which represents the virginity of his wife, and makes rounds around the community – showing it off for approval. Scholars such as Raphael Patai and Vincent Crapanzano have documented these phenomena.
After this honeymoon period, the woman is now, for the first time in her life, actually recognized as a person – because she has become the extension of her husband. Her status might even improve if she has a child (a boy). She will be humiliated and shamed, however, if she has a non-child (a girl).
And if a little innocent girl enters this world, it will only be a short time before her genitals share the same fate as that of her mother’s. When the torturers and soul-destroyers begin to slice, who will hear her cries?