Discussion Thread: Cornell University and FGC

[Trigger warning for female genital cutting and sexual assault. To quote meloukhia, "There are not enough content warnings in the world for what you are about to read."

At New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, there is a pediatric urologist named Dr. Dix Poppas who has performed clitoral reductions on girls whose clitorises he has deemed to be "too big," and claimed that follow-up examinations have proven he has successfully removed parts of the clitoris while retaining sexual sensation.

First: There is no such thing as a clitoris that is "too big."

Second: The follow-up examinations to evaluate sensation, referred to in Poppas' paper by the remarkably clinical term "clitoral sensory testing," consist of what is, by any reasonable definition, sexual assault.
At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen, and Poppas also report a “capillary perfusion testing,” which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl’s clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. He intends to chart the development of their sexual sensation over time.

…[Co-authors Jennifer Yang, a pediatric urologist, and Diane Felsen, a pharmacologist, who reportedly did not participate in the follow-up examinations, which were performed by Poppas and his nurse practitioner] and Poppas describe the girls "sensory tested" as being older than five. They are, therefore, old enough to remember being asked to lie back, be touched with the vibrator, and report on whether they can still feel sensation. They may also be able to remember their emotions and the physical sensations they experienced. Their parents' participation may also figure in these memories. We think therefore that most reasonable people will agree with [Ken Zucker, a psychologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto] that Poppas's techniques are "developmentally inappropriate."
There is more, oh so dreadfully much more, at the link.

Alice Dreger, a Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who co-authored the above-linked piece with her colleague Ellen Feder, also has a piece here, further explaining the issues surrounding why these bullshit surgeries are being done in the first place, and why they shouldn't be.

I could talk endlessly about why this is wrong and how it has been allowed to happen—because, fuck, this is just wrong on every conceivable level—but I simply don't have the will.

I will only say this: Human rights violations exactly like this are the inevitable consequence of a culture in which female bodies and/or bodies with variant presentations outside some arbitrary spectrum of "normal" are treated as property of someone other than the person within whose body resides the mind capable of making decisions regarding autonomy and consent, but denied that fundamental right.

And now I'll turn it over to you for discussion.

[H/Ts to Shakers Quixotess, The Chemist, Michelle, Claire, babydyke, PeggySue, and Cait. Many thanks to each of you.]

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