Female Genital Mutilation at Cornell University
Cornell students: female genital mutilation is being practiced on your campus. What are you going to do about it?
posted by DAN SAVAGE/SLOG
While the whole world was debating the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position on “female genital cutting”—the AAP was against it before they were for it, and now, after an outcry, they’re against it again—Alice Dreger and Ellen Feder have been raising the alarm about “medical research” currently being conducted at Cornell University. A pediatric urologist at Cornell—Dix Poppas—has been operating on little girls with what he judges to be oversized clitorises, cutting away important clitoral tissues, and then stitching the glans to what remains of the shaft. Poppas claims that, unlike past clitoral-reduction procedures, his procedure is “nerve sparing.”
First big problem: “nerve-sparing” surgeries don’t always work. And the chunks of these girls’ clitorises that the doctor is cutting away—large pieces of their clitoral shafts—may be just as important as the clitoral glans. Dreger:
To shorten these clitorises, Poppas is saving the glans (tip) but cutting out parts of the shaft. Bo Laurent has pointed out that Masters and Johnsons showed that many women masturbate by rubbing the shafts of their clitorises. (Think about it: the clit is the homologue of the penis. How do men masturbate?) Many women seem to find their clitoral glans almost too sensitive. Poppas’s patients are loosing the option of touching parts of their shafts, because he’s throwing them out (after the cut-away parts have been sent to pathology to see if he accidentally took out a nerve).
There’s lots to be outraged about here: there’s nothing wrong with these girls and their healthy, functional-if-larger-than-average clitorises; there’s no need to operate on these girls; and surgically altering a girl’s clitoris because it’s “too big” has been found to do lasting physical and psychological harm. But what’s most outrageous is how Poppas is “proving” that his surgery “spares nerves.” Dreger and Feder: