Sex After FGM // Introduction
And as you may be aware, I am currently in the midst of a ‘Sex After’ series on G’s Spot. So, in response to tomorrow’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilations, G’s Spot has collaborated with friend and activist Isabella Rooke-Ley (aka @the.f.sex) to curate a post that will discuss women’s experience of ‘Sex After FGM’. It will be published tomorrow.
We have used the G’s Spot platform to shine a ‘Spot’-light on survivors’ stories of FGM, and how it has affected their sexuality.
Together, we have partnered with anti-FGM author and activist Hilary Burrage: tomorrow we will publish extracts from her book Female Mutilation: The Truth Behind the Horrifying Global Practice of Female Genital Mutilation, in order to frame FGM in the words of women who have experienced it themselves.
The Link to Female Sexual Pleasure & Gender
Isabella and I met and connected with each other over a year ago through our mutual passion for liberating female sexual pleasure and removing the shame from it.
Isabella sits as Vice-Chair on the Youth Advisory Board of the charity SAVERA UK, which tackles ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices which violate human rights: including FGM.
FGM is a patriarchal and strategical technique used to shame, repress, and disable female sexual pleasure.
Many forms of unfounded justifications for FGM are put forward: women’s cleanliness, purity of the female body, religious prescriptions, female aesthetics, ritual passage to a superior social level, self-control, family honour etc. (REF: Hilary Burrage, Female Mutilation, p.6). For example, in some communities, infibulation is thought to achieve smoothness, which is considered beautiful – (REF: Human Rights Watch)
In reality, these justifications are not based on truth.
Raising Awareness of FGM and Debunking Misconceptions
FGM is not a culture. Because FGM cannot be considered an element of culture when it consists of inflicting severe pain on girls and women, as well as serious mental and physical health complications including infections (as a consequence of using unsterile cutting instruments such as knives or razors) and even death. To aim to eradicate FGM is not an ‘interference in cultures’: it is to aim to end criminal violence against girls and women.
Nor is it a religious practice, despite religion being tirelessly manipulated in order to maintain the existence of FGM.
The reality of FGM is that it is an act of criminal violence with many traumatic impacts physically, obstetrically, psychologically, intellectually and socially. It is a violation of the rights and the physical and psychological integrity of girls and women, wherever the practice exists. (REF: A statement by Pierre Foldes extracted from Hilary Burrage, Female Mutilation, p.128.)
FGM constitutes a patriarchal ideology, which has involved creating excuses— such as religion and the aforementioned examples above — in order to enable FGM so as to ensure the ascendency of patriarchy.
Our Post Tomorrow
The sexual complications and sexual trauma FGM creates amongst girls and women are extensive. Loss of pleasurable sensation, dyspareunia (painful intercourse) and deinfibulation (when a girl or woman’s vagina is unsewn/un-sutured, after infibulation, to allow for the entry of a penis and for childbirth) are some of the physical, sexual consequences that FGM can produce. Tomorrow’s stories will provide an insight into the sexual problems that two FGM survivors have experienced. We will use extracts about women’s experiences of sex after FGM from Hilary Burrage’s book ‘Female Mutilation’.
Discussing FGM through the lens of sexual pleasure – an important note from Hilary Burrage
It is worth noting that whilst the majority of women’s capacity for sexual pleasure is debilitated after FGM–to whatever extent— there are some women who can still orgasm or experience sexual pleasure: even if this is limited.
Hilary Burrage has made a note in response to this:
“Discussing FGM in the context of sexuality and pleasure is a very delicate area.
It is easy to paint a picture that survivors of FGM have a damaged, insufficient and unpleasurable sex life.
There are women who challenge this idea; albeit there are others who are massively grateful to get real sensation after reconstruction.
Not every survivor perceives herself as having a ‘sexual’ problem – perhaps because the erectile tissue (clitoris) is still there enough to make things work, or perhaps because the woman is sexually satisfied in other ways, or perhaps that she has expectations of sex which are achieved anyway. We all carry our own ideas about ‘what works’, and, especially in communities where sex is not discussed, women may not know that others beyond their community have different experiences.
There are women who say their sex life is fine after FGM; but I suspect there are many more for whom that is not actually true. How can we actually know? And maybe anyway, what you don’t know isn’t something you miss?
Also, of course, the harm of FGM can be other forms of damage than to sensation and sensitivity – for example, infection, childbirth, fistula…”
See you tomorrow…
At least 200 million girls and women alive today living in 30 countries have undergone FGM (Unicef, Oct 2019).
Tomorrow we will share two of these women’s stories.
Resources and Links
Savera UK: https://www.saverauk.co.uk/
Female Mutilation Worldwide: https://femalemutilationworldwide.com/
Desert Flower Foundation: https://www.desertflowerfoundation.org