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Surgery to restore sexual pleasure after female circumcision

There was a fascinating article in The Guardian over the weekend about a surgeon who performs surgery to help restore genital (in particular, clitoral) sexual sensation to women who have undergone female circumcision.

The article as a whole is definitely worth reading. The first part of the article is a bit too focused on the background of the people organizing and offering the surgery: the doctor who performs the surgery is transsexual and the activist who has organized the service is a member of a goofy religious sect called the Raelians.

It would be hard for any journalist to ignore the background of the people offering the service-- it is just interesting, if nothing else-- and the author of the article has a legitimate concern about the surgery service being a front for evangelization (she concludes it is not). But the author seems to go out of her way to heap disdain on the Raelians, perhaps to ensure the reader that the article is not a product of her being duped by a 'cult.' There is nothing wrong with despising the Raelians-- it is just not relevant to the heart of the story, which is the patients themselves and their struggle to have functional sex lives and a healthy self-image regarding their bodies.

The article also does a great job of conveying how female circumcision is not just about the physical alteration of women's genitals. The physical change of circumcision reifies and reenforces a host of social and mental constructs about women and their relationship to sexual pleasure, their power within marital and sexual relationships, and their role in the community. As with almost any body modification, successful surgery is only the first step in a long process of mental reevaluation and readjustment.

Links:

Article in The Guardian (August 24, 2013): High hopes: the UFO cult 'restoring' the victims of female genital mutilation

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