Hi Friend,

Have you been keeping up with our social media? We’ve been facing some difficult truths the past few weeks as we reveal the realities of FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION. Continue reading for a summary of what we’ve learned.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

This practice goes by many names: sunna, halalays, gudniin, tahur, megrez, khitan, female circumcision, female genital cuttung and more. For the purposes of this newsletter, we will stick with the globally-recognized term “female genital mutilation” or FGM, for short

There are four major categories of FGM:
  • Type I - Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce.
  • Type II - Partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.
  • Type III - Narrowing of the vaginal orifice by cutting and bringing together the labia minora and/or the labia majora to create a type of seal.
  • Type IV - All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
Contrary to expectations, Type III is the most severe type of FGM, and Type IV is the least.
“When you’re infibulated you can’t really have sex until you’re cut back open. That’s why they took me to a doctor in downtown Manhattan to be reopened. And this doctor told me I had to have sex right away in order to keep it open. That’s when I realized what it meant to be infibulated and what FGM actually means.” 
Jaha Dukureh, FGM Survivor

FGM is not a “Foreign” Problem

While many people think that FGM is a cultural phenomenon rooted in certain countries, it is in fact practiced around the globe, across cultures and religions.
“This is not an African problem, it’s not a Middle Eastern problem. It’s not Black, it’s not White, it has no color. It’s everybody’s problem...FGM is saying that women don’t have a right to sexual pleasure. It says we don’t have a right to our own bodies. Well, I say 'no' to that. And you know what? 'BULLSHIT'. That’s what I have to say to that.” 
– Khadija Gbla, FGM Survivor
Meanwhile, FGM is many things:
  • It is violence against women and girls
  • It is child abuse
  • It is sexual assault
  • It is about controlling women’s sexuality
  • It is non-consensual
  • It is dangerous
  • It is a human rights violation
“The world hasn’t tackled FGM because the majority of it affects Black children. There would be an outrage if this was white girls...You know, we can’t say every child matters, and then pick and choose the ones that matter.” 
– Leyla Hussein, FGM Survivor

The Reality of the Situation:

“I was cut for my future husband so I don’t have sex outside marriage, so I don’t enjoy sex...The women who held me down, these were aunties, family members, you know, family friends. Before I knew it, I was screaming and I could feel my flesh being cut off. But I just remember him saying, ‘You’ve been naughty. Behave yourself. It doesn’t hurt.’ And I blacked out from that moment...Once you undergo something like this, there’s no way back. There’s no way back from this.” 
– Leyla Hussein, FGM Survivor

FGM vs. Male Circumcision

While they are both forms of circumcision, male and female circumcision are not really comparative. Yes, male circumcision doesn’t include consent from the child (most often), similar to FGM; however, it results in almost no complications while FGM can (and often does) come at the risk of:
  • excessive bleeding & hemorrhaging
  • infections, fever, shock
  • painful urinations or UTIs
  • vaginal discharge, bacterial vaginosis & other infections
  • painful sex or decreased sexual satisfaction
  • increased risk of complications during childbirth
  • painful menstruation or difficulty passing blood during menstruation
  • depression, anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem
  • required surgeries later on to re-open the vagina for childbirth or other reasons
  • death
Studies have shown that male circumcision leads to decreased risk of HIV acquisition, other sexually transmitted infections, and urinary tract infections, while FGM has no health benefits (Gee et al., 2019).
“These were the days when they had Dolly and Girlfriend [magazines]...there was always an article about pleasure and relationships and, of course, sex. But it always assumed that you had a clitoris though and I thought this doesn’t fit me, this doesn’t talk about people like me. I don’t have a clitoris. I watched TV and those women would moan like “Oh! Oh!” and I was like, “these women and their damn clitoris!” What is a woman without a clitoris supposed to do with her life? I want to do that too! I deserve pleasure and do you know what you have taken away from me, what you have denied me. You have invaded me in the most sacred way. I want pleasure. I want to get horny, damn it, as well...I was an African-Australian girl. I lived in a society that was very clitoris-centered. It was all about the damn clitoris.” 
– Khadija Gbla, FGM Survivor
Women who are subjected to FGM are often unable to experience sexual pleasure, can have painful sex and are at risk of infertility, while that is not the case with most male circumcisions.
“I remember laying on the surgical table and my mom watching me and that was when I really realized that I was going to be mutilated...I woke up tied to a surgical table. I remember those rough fingers pulling things in a place that no one ever touched me before, especially a man...They have to tie your legs together for 14 days. Within four hours, you have to use the bathroom somehow. I refused because I felt it was my only control.” 
– Soraya Moray, FGM Survivor

What to do now?

Support FGM survivors by doing your part. Check out some of the amazing work these organizations are doing and see how you can support the fight to end FGM.

Carnal Theory:

“70% to 80% of people with vulvas require clitoral stimulation in order to reach orgasm.”

Danielle Bezalel
Listen Now


Why is expanding our definition of sex important for our pleasure? Where does faith have a place in our sexuality? How can we build healthy relationships? Why is owning our sexual story important?

We dive into a lot in our episode with host of Sex Ed with DB, Danielle Bezalel, and hope you'll finish the episode with some questions to reflect upon that will help you build the best relationship with sexuality (yours and others) possible.

Writing Prompts:

Take what you’ve learned through our social media, Carnal Theory interviews, this newsletter, blog and more to inform your inner reflection and self-exploration:

✏ What do I need to heal from my pain?
✏ Who can, or has the power to, support me in that healing process?
✏ How has FGM influenced my relationship with my sexuality?

✏ What am I willing to do to stop the spread of FGM?
✏ How would my sexual biography be different if I’d experienced FGM?
✏ What are three goals I can set for myself that support the ending of FGM?

This voluntary monthly prompt invites you to explore your sexual biography.
Tips on exploring this: Set aside 20 minutes with your phone on silent and relax in a comfortable space with a pen and paper. Go slow. Start with what comes to mind from your first read of the prompt. Continue writing from your stream of consciousness. 

Mantra of the month

“I have the power to turn my pain into action.”
– Amanda Fisher-Katz-Keohane 

Researching our sexual biographies:

Have you experienced, or do you know of someone who has experienced FGM?
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Each month we ask a question in support of our leading mission at My Sex Bio. As we grow we plan to help fund and supply research for sex education. The results of these questions may be shared on social media as well as the following month’s newsletter. These results will also help curate relevant content for our readers, like you, moving forward. Responses are voluntary and anonymous.

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