Female Genital Cutting and sex

New Scientist, September 24, 2002

Female circumcision does not reduce sexual activity 12:30 24 September 02
NewScientist.com news service

Circumcised women experience sexual arousal and orgasm as frequently as uncircumcised women, according to a study in Nigeria.

The researchers also found no difference in the frequency of intercourse or age of first sexual experience between the two groups of women. These findings remove key arguments used to defend the practice, they say.

Friday Okonofua and colleagues at the Women's Health and Action Research Centre in Benin City studied 1836 women, 45 per cent of whom had been circumcised.

During the operation, all or part of the clitoris and the labia are removed. Proponents of female circumcision claim it makes virginity at marriage and marital fidelity more likely. Opponents condemn it as dangerous and painful.

The women filled in questionnaires, asking about their sexual history. The results show "female genital cutting cannot be justified by arguments that suggest it reduces sexual activity in women," write the team in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Two million women

Circumcision is common in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan. It is often performed using crude, non-sterilised instruments.

Okonofua's team also found that the circumcised women were more likely to have lower abdominal pain, genital ulcers and urinary tract infections.

An estimated two million women and girls undergo genital mutilation every year. But in some regions, it is the women themselves who must be persuaded the practice is undesirable, say local health workers.

Circumcision brings women respect from other members of the community, points out Sudanese women's health rights campaigner Nahid Toubia.

Journal reference: BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (vol 109, p 1089)

Emma Young


J Sex Med 2007;4:1666-1678.

Pleasure and Orgasm in Women with Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

Lucrezia Catania, MD, Omar Abdulcadir, MD, Vincenzo Puppo, MD, Jole Baldaro Verde, PhD, Jasmine Abdulcadir, and Dalmar Abdulcadir

Introduction. Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) violates human rights. FGM/C women's sexuality is not well known and often it is neglected by gynecologists, urologists, and sexologists. In mutilated/cut women, some fundamental structures for orgasm have not been excised.

Aim. The aim of this report is to describe and analyze the results of four investigations on sexual functioning in different groups of cut women.

Main Outcome Measure. Instruments: semistructured interviews and the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI).

Methods. Sample: 137 adult women affected by different types of FGM/C; 58 young FGM/C ladies living in the West; 57 infibulated women; 15 infibulated women after the operation of defibulation.

Results. The group of 137 women, affected by different types of FGM/C, reported orgasm in almost 86%, always 69.23%; 58 mutilated young women reported orgasm in 91.43%, always 8.57%; after defibulation 14 out of 15 infibulated women reported orgasm; the group of 57 infibulated women investigated with the FSFI questionnaire showed significant differences between group of study and an equivalent group of control in desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction with mean scores higher in the group of mutilated women. No significant differences were observed between the two groups in lubrication and pain.

Conclusion. Embryology, anatomy, and physiology of female erectile organs are neglected in specialist textbooks. In infibulated women, some erectile structures fundamental for orgasm have not been excised. Cultural influence can change the perception of pleasure, as well as social acceptance. Every woman has the right to have sexual health and to feel sexual pleasure for full psychophysical well-being of the person. In accordance with other research, the present study reports that FGM/C women can also have the possibility of reaching an orgasm. Therefore, FGM/C women with sexual dysfunctions can and must be cured; they have the right to have an appropriate sexual therapy.

FGC (like MGC) is a human rights outrage regardless of its effect on sex, if any.

When FGC seems to have no effect on sexual response, this is seen as an argument not to do it, yet the self-same "fact" in the case of the male is used in the US as an argument for doing it. In fact, however, this result (like that of such work as has been done on the effect of MGC) is probably just an artifact of using too crude a measure of sexual response, ability to have intercourse and reach orgasm.

Someone responded to the above article that a woman circumcised before puberty learns her erotic response with whatever erogenous tissue she is left, such as her nipples. (In the same way, paraplegics gain an inordinate sensitivity in the parts of their bodies still wired to their brains.) So it would be quite wrong to say that her sexual response was unchanged.

While the quantity of women's arousal and orgasm may be undiminished by FGC, the loss of erotic tissue inevitably degrades its quality.

It may be true that most sexual activity happens in the brain, but the response of the brain depends on the quality of the stimulation it receives. All music appreciation happens in the brain too, but the quality of the music depends on the quality of the instruments as well as the performance.

The same is true for circumcised men.


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