Everyone Has Genitals, Let's Not Mutilate Them
By Albie Nicol
Genital mutilation is a term that encompasses a lot of things, which is why it can be hard to understand. It’s not something you can answer with a quick Google search- it takes a lot of articles and a lot of reading to understand what all genital mutilation describes, so we’ve done the work for you. All you have to do now is raise awareness and share this article.
Genital mutilation can happen to anyone, regardless of gender. Female genital mutilation is described as: procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Male genital mutilation is typically known as circumcision. Yes, circumcision is a completely optional and aesthetic procedure that can actually harm the patient in the long run.
Looking at the definitions of each sex-characterized mutilation, let's take a look at where and why it’s happening across the world. Different societies use genital mutilation in a number of different ways. But a lot of these ways assign unrealistic and negative expectations for the women in the society. Common reasons for performing genital mutilation or “cutting” on women include, but are not limited to: making sure a women remains a virgin until marriage, adherence to religious beliefs, rite of passage within the society, to increase sexual pleasure for the woman’s husband, just to name a handful.
As for where? While fairly uncommon in the United States, some immigrants from female genital mutilation countries bring the practice with them as an important part of their heritage. Outside of the United States, the procedure mostly is found mostly in parts of northern and central Africa, in the southern Sahara, and in parts of the Middle East and Asia.
While some cultures may genuinely believe female genital mutilation is beneficial to the women, the facts point in the opposite direction. According to the World Health Organization, “Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.” None of these risks seem beneficial to the women, right? Like, in any culture, right? We can all agree on that.
As for male genital mutilation, a lot of people are familiar with why it happens in a variety of societies: belief of hygiene, aesthetic (can we take a moment to reflect on the fact that it’s weird moms care about their child’s aesthetic for genitalia?), religious beliefs, and societal norms. While male genital mutilation is prevalent in some cultures more than others, it’s a common practice in the United States, shockingly enough. While it is normalized in our culture, it definitely shouldn’t be. When performed after birth, babies are strapped to a surgical table and often receive no pain relief of any kind and are awake during the procedure. While it’s important to call out oppression against women, we have to hold the same standard with any oppression and talk about male genital mutilation as the large issue it is as well.
Once again, while seen as an aesthetic preference, male genital mutilation isn’t useful to the patient at all. Often times doctors cut too much of the foreskin off, which can lead to desensitization of the penis and also, babies can easily die on the table or shortly after male genital mutilation.
So, what can we do about it?
I’m so happy you asked.
Speak out against the oppressive reasons genital mutilation exists. Take to Twitter, Instigate on Instagram, and Face Facts on Facebook! Help the people in your life normalize the ‘taboos’ genital mutilation enforces.
Educate children about consent. While not all genital mutilation occurs at birth, quite a bit of procedures do. So find safe for work ways to teach kids about consent: asking for high-fives instead of demanding. Have people at family events ask for hugs, and be ok receiving ‘no’ as an answer. Small steps add up to a bigger picture.
Call your representatives! At local and national levels we need to find ways to ban genital mutilation for all sexes, in all parts of the world. So ask your representatives about their plan to discuss genital mutilation and the problem it is, and how they plan to create legislature to ban it.
While these may seem like small steps, that’s how every great movement starts. We can all agree that bodily autonomy is important in an age where we have to constantly be educating others on our existence, and consent. Let’s show everyone how important it is by taking steps forward to a more conscious tomorrow.