Female Genital Mutilation: Long Term Psychological Effects


The Psychology Department
The Final Paper
Dr. F. Cramer Presented
By: Tim Abbas ID # 92-1356

Female Genital Mutilation, or Female Circumcision as sometimes called, is the
partial or complete removal of the female clitoris immediately after birth, few
years after birth (early childhood), or several years after birth (adolescence).
Originally, female genital mutilation was practiced to ensure female virginity
until marriage; as it was discovered that by the partial or complete removal of
the clitoris, a female\'s sexual urge is minimized and, therefore, a girl could
have more control over her sexual desires. Because virginity was and remains a
very crucial factor in almost every society, circumcision was invented way in
the past before any of the Heavenly Religions appeared. In fact, the most
traditional and conservative type of circumcision is the Pharoanic type
(Infibulation), where the complete removal of the clitoris occurs and the vulva
walls are stitched together leaving a small opening for urination and menstrual
discharge. Nowadays, however, it continues to be practiced in Africa and the
Middle East mostly due to social forces. New reasoning developed through the
years to keep the ritual going on. The many reasons given for the practice are
bewildering and unfounded in any scientific or medical fact. They fall into four
main categories: psycho-sexual, religious, sociological and hygienic. Among the
psycho-sexual reasons is a belief that the clitoris is an aggressive organ that
threatens the male organ and even endangers babies during delivery. It is
believed that if a baby\'s head touches the mother\'s clitoris during birth, the
child will be born with a low IQ. Hence, a girl who is not circumcised, is
considered \'unclean\' by local villagers and thus unmarriageable. A girl who does
not have here clitoris removed is considered a great danger and ultimately fatal
to a man if her clitoris touches his penis. Also, the circumcision issue is seen
as a form of beauty. It is seen as aesthetically beautiful, as genitals are
disfiguring and ugly in their natural state (Real Net, 2). In short, nowadays
the practice isn\'t done to explicitly mean that girls are untrustable, but
because, presently, the woman\'s clitoris is considered to be an ugly part in a
woman\'s body and perceived to be harmful in many ways. And not long ago, Sigmund
Freud wrote \'The elimination of clitorial sexuality is a necessary precondition
for the development of femininity.”

According to psychologists, the practice is known to be done in order to
suppress women. A patriarchal society is what defines most of those African and
Middle Eastern countries. It is argued that a man keeps his superiority over
women by controlling every aspect in her life. And since sexuality is such a
major part in a human\'s life, a close control over this specific aspect in a
woman meant to keep here under a tight male control. Circumcision ensures that a
woman will not have had any sexual intercourse before marriage and thus is
subject to what she is told to do by her husband. That is, due to past
inexperience and low internal sexual drive, she is totally ignorant of what she
is supposed to do regarding this matter. According to an article in the Real Net
Access, “Women have been persuaded to see their sexual impulses in terms that
suit men.... man\'s pleasure is paramount and women are merely vehicles for
procuring this enjoyment.”(Real Net, 2). Thus, the husband entails what should
be done and what shouldn\'t, according to his preferences. So, it is only when
and how the husband needs; the wife here is reduced to nothing but an object of
pleasure. Psychologists, thus, argue that to deny a woman the basic right to her
sexuality, is to deny her the rights to having strength, power and identity. The
inability of a women to regulate their lives inhabilitates them; “they remain
under the heels of patriarchal structures.”(Real Net, 1). Thus circumcised women,
unable to have sex for pleasure\'s sake, are reduced to baby-makers. Without the
driving force to desire, they lost much of the power of self-initiative and, as
a result, are more dependent on male authority to define their lives.

As a result, a woman\'s integrity, worth and need in society is based on if she
fits the sexual criteria. Many fear that an uncircumcised girl would be a social
outcast whom no one will marry. In some societies, non-mutilated girls are “
ridiculed and forced to leave their communities and fend for themselves.”(Real
Net, 2). Usually, these girls turn to prostitution in order to survive, because
they cannot otherwise survive within the context