Dear Maasi is a column about everything you wanted to know about sex and relationships but were afraid to ask! It’s a partnership between Sahiyo and WeSpeakOut, and is for all of us who have questions about khatna (female genital mutilation/cutting or FGM/C) and how it impacts our bodies, minds, sexualities and relationships. We welcome you to submit your anonymous questions.
This month we received lots of questions through our anonymous form. Dear Maasi will answer two interrelated questions for February’s column about the clitoral hood and sexual pleasure:
Can you please send us links to see how actually a circumcision is done? What part is snipped? The hood or half of the clitoris?
Khatna, aka female circumcision, aka Type 1 FGM/C, involves cutting the clitoral hood. Other Types involve cutting or doing harm to other parts of the genitalia. Have a look at this diagram.
However, there isn’t standardization because 1) each body is different 2) most khatnas are done by amateur cutters 3) khatna often happens under duress (think about how precise a cut would be if the child squirms or resists).
I’ve heard of survivors who have scars on their hood, no hood at all, or a partial hood. Some khatna survivors report that the nub of the clitoris was cut. Learn more about the parts of the clitoris here.
The best way to understand what parts of your genitals were cut is to use a hand mirror to have a good look. If it’s hard to see, you might ask a trusted medical professional, partner or family member to describe what they see. For example, under bright lights, my gynaecologist was able to detect a thin scar on my hood. But do keep in mind that some survivors have no detectable scars at all.
It’s said that khatna increases the sensuality of the clitoris, and it directly affects the sexual appetite of the female subject in a positive way. How true is it? How does FGC impact pleasure and orgasm?
I have heard pro-khatna advocates sharing the opinion (or shall I say myth?) that a cut to the clitoral hood improves pleasure and orgasm.
Some survivors have said that khatna has no impact on their pleasure. I haven’t heard of anyone who thinks khatna improved their sex life, but I wouldn’t argue with them if they felt this way. Psychosexual functioning is very individual and impacted by physical and emotional factors, including trauma.
For many survivors, khatna was a sexual trauma. Sexual trauma can impact a survivor’s ability to trust and to experience sexual comfort and pleasure.
—In a Sahiyo survey conducted in 2017, 35% of respondents reported that FGC had affected their sex life, and of those, 87% felt that it had been impacted negatively.
—In a 2018 WeSpeakOut study, nearly 33% of respondents said the same. They experienced many different emotions:
- Fear, anxiety, shame, depression, low self-esteem, difficulty trusting people
- “Low sex drive, inability to feel sexual pleasure, difficulty trusting sexual partners, and over sensitivity in the clitoral area were some of the problems identified by several women.”
The clitoral hood has an important function. It protects the sensitive clitoral tissue from over stimulation and irritation. There are also glands in your clitoral hood that produce a lubricant that helps the hood move smoothly over your clitoris.
Globally, one of the main arguments for FGM/C is to control sexuality. In recent years, those who resist the #endFGM movement have come up with all kinds of arguments about why it is “good” for girls and women. I’ll bet that this “increased pleasure” argument is one such fiction.
About Maasi, aka Farzana Doctor:
Farzana is a novelist and psychotherapist in private practice. She’s a founding member of WeSpeakOut and the End FGM/C Canada Network. She loves talking about relationships and sexuality! Find out more about her at http://www.farzanadoctor.com
While Farzana is full of good advice, this column won’t address everyone’s individual concerns and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical or psychological care.