The other day I made a disturbing discovery. Sitting on a train, my book title was kept well hidden from public view, as it was held face down in my lap. I certainly did not want to attract attention or raised eyebrows. The subject matter being of such a sensitive nature. Neither did I, nor do I want to be labelled as some perverted person reading such material. I am no such thing. This is too serious for that and I would find that label offensive. It’s simple: I am one female in a quest to know, educate, prevent, and wish to help eradicate, in my own small way, a terrible, terrible thing. It is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision.
My train journey was to take me to a London hospital to visit a Well Women African Clinic, which treats women who have been subject to such a procedure. If you want to know more about the subject, then visit my blog, Zero Tolerance for Women. To date, this is the most active site visited, whether for morbid curiousity, perversion or genuine interest and concern. My next blog will concentrate on that visit but for now something I need to get off my chest that is more pressing.
In my reading that day I learnt a new thing. It concerns C19th England. It is well known by Christians and non-Christians that the bible has very exact and rigid views regarding sex. I believed in my ignorance that FGM was a ritual carried out mainly by African tribes and some other eastern nations dating back to pre-Islam, and possibly originating in Egypt.
WRONG! FGM was practiced in England on woman, up until the last century, as a means of curbing the sexual excesses and appetites of women, with specific concern over the practice of masturbation; perceived by religious authorities as a sexually deviant practice. In effect, clitoridectomy (removal of the clitoris) and other FGM procedures were carried out as acceptable curative methods of female masturbation. Bennet, an English gynaecologist, also advocated the use of leeches applied to the vulva, or uterus, or administering silver nitrate or hydrate potassium to the uterus with a hot iron instrument for women’s mania or hysteria. The English obstetrician Samuel Ashwall recommended the removal of an enlarged clitoris when causing sexual passion. This procedure soon swept Europe and in England the practice reached its height in the1860’s, becoming widely accepted by surgeons. Issac Baker Brown who was highly regarded at the time as a talented doctor, saw it as a means of curing every kind of women’s ailments.
The Church Times condoned the practice and described Baker Brown as an “eminent surgeon”. Female masturbation was seen as sign of insanity, harshly condemned and seen as a threat to all men. This sexual behaviour did not sit well in society, including the Christian church, as women were supposed to be seen and perceived as delicate, week and feeble creatures. This included a belief that women were not to have any kind of say, as to the expression of their sexuality, by an act called masturbation. Eventually, much heated debate did occur over the procedure of clitoridectomy and the practice, (which had extended further into the USA and Canada) continued until as recently as the 1940’s as a cure for female “deviance’s” including masturbation.
I was very shocked by these findings, not only was this subject more closer to “home” than I expected but that the practice was encouraged by a Christian church that I had believed in for over 23 yrs. Was this an excuse I had been looking for to leave the church, after my recent discussions concerning my own faith? I was mindful that this would be wrong to use this subject as an excuse, an exit clause, for abandoning my own faith and giving possible good reasons for doing so. BUT I do have a genuine dilemma. How can I go on aligning myself to a faith, that has supported the very practice that I wish to give my life too fighting for its eradication. I can not sit comfortably at all with this and I need to investigate further.
This leaves me religious question and vitals ones for me, who as part of her profession, studies the human body and is key for me. Why would a God give a women a unique and beautiful piece of anatomy called a clitoris, designed for sexual pleasure and other important functions, then in his mandate called the bible give the women such controlling restrictions on her use of it? Or is this so called bible not the divine word of God after all, but a controlling manual of life written by and written for the privileges, power and control of men. This has left me posing a new mad theory, most theologians would scoff and regard as madness and heresy. Has God been misread? Would he really be happy to see a women’s clitoris chopped out just because she was exercising being a sexual human being? The one according to the Adam and Eve story he created.
If there is a god, I don’t think he would be happy with that. And if he did intend for this to happen then I am no longer happy with him.