Dear Maasi is a column highlighting everything you want to know about sex and relationships, but were afraid to ask. It’s a partnership between Sahiyo and WeSpeakOut. It’s for all of us who have questions about female genital cutting (FGC) or khatna, and how it impacts our bodies, minds, sexuality and relationships. We welcome you to submit your anonymous questions.
I’ve been hearing that the clitoris is much bigger than the external pea-sized part we mostly hear about. This gave me some hope as a survivor of female genital mutilation/cutting. Does this mean I can have orgasms more easily? I’ve only had a few in my life, and I’ve been sexually active for twenty years.
I felt the same way when I first saw a 3-D depiction of the clitoris, which is far larger than a pea! In fact, it is wishbone-shaped and is about 10 centimeters from the tip of the glans to the end of one of the 4 legs. Watch this 1 minute video to get a better idea of its appearance.
Globally, sex education has been dismal. We don’t learn about sexual pleasure, communication, consent, or boundaries; and this is especially true for those of us born female. Although the 3-D model shown in the video has been around for over a decade, most people are unaware of it.
Pro-FGM/C advocates believe that a girl’s sexuality can be controlled by cutting external genitalia. Among Bohras the target is the clitoral hood, but many survivors also report damage to the glans. While FGM/C is medically unnecessary, potentially dangerous and often traumatic, these cuts damage only a very small part of the clitoris (think of the tip of the iceberg analogy).
So what does this mean for a survivor’s ability to experience pleasure? Well, it’s complicated… and hopeful.
Here are a few things to consider, Fatema:
1) First, I want to emphasize that sexuality doesn’t have to be genitally, or orgasm, focused. We can feel pleasure through all parts of our bodies as well as through our minds. Even if you’d like more orgasms, broadening our concept of what’s erotic can be helpful. Watch this 2-minute video by Psychologist Esther Perel to get a sense of this or watch this longer video on erotic intelligence.
2) Trauma often gets stored in our bodies as stress responses that can interfere with pleasure. This can be true for people who haven’t experienced FGM/C, as well. You may have to untangle and heal the emotional trauma to enjoy more pleasure.
3) It is hopeful that even if one part of your clitoris may have been harmed, there are internal parts that can be accessed for pleasure. Read this short article on learning about what kind of touch might work for you.
Fatema, enjoy your 10 centimeter-long clitoris! Sexual pleasure is our birthright.
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. Disclaimer: 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.