It is a truth universally acknowledged, or at least one broadly held, that female genital mutilation proceeds because women believe that men want it. Many men DO in fact want it, but not because they know what it is. Rather, they go along because, for the most part, they, too, are trapped by mutual expectations of honor and shame. Defying this social pressure takes courage — whose symbol deftly appeared, then disappeared again in an interview when Dr. Pierre Foldes flicked open his shirt to reveal a knife wound on his shoulder, souvenir of an irate patriarch’s office visit in St. Germaine-en-Laye. In Burkina Faso in the late 1980s, Foldes had also been verbally abused by a powerful male nurse who, when learning about the sexual pleasure the surgeon had enabled a patient to revive — the first who revealed the joy his removal of the clitoral scar had given her— admonished the battlefield doctor to relieve pain but ‘leave that alone — or else’. Not soon after, Pierre returned to France … and the rest of the story is told by Hubert Prolongeau in Undoing FGM. Pierre Foldes, the Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris.
Another bold young man whom UnCUT/VOICES Press has the privilege to publish is Kameel Ahmady, the first writer whose book reveals the very existence of FGM in four provinces in Iran. Over ten years, a team under Ahmady’s direction gathered demographic evidence in 4000 interviews conducted in Hormozgan, West Azerbaijan, Kermanshah and Kurdistan. His work among men is impressive, as I’m sure you’ll agree after reading this excerpt:
Although FGM happens within the female realm, the role of husbands and brothers cannot be overlooked. Some men take cover behind religion, labeling any endeavor to end FGM a Western idea derived from ‘women’s lib’. And although they may not say it, some surely realize that the scarred vaginal entrance, tighter than when intact, increases sexual pleasure – for the male. In any case, in most conservative cutting cultures, men refuse to marry an uncut girl.
Some Iranians are convinced, moreover, that FGM dampens women’s sexual drive. Compared with Shia Persian or Turkish groups, they would brag, their community is purer, with fewer moral problems. Often Sunni men would assure us of this. If their women had been spared the blade, they said, they would be like Shia females or TV and film stars — out of control. Regarding sexual intercourse with intact partners from elsewhere in Iran, the smoother and smaller ‘circumcised’ genitalia, better for sex, were often preferred even if uncut women were superior at foreplay.
Finally, FGM was unknown to a number of respondents whose wives’ genital status was also beyond their ken. Interestingly, once we outlined the dangers and impairment of women’s sexual enjoyment (i.e. the cut partner’s delayed arousal might impede men’s marital amusement), most confirmed that, indeed, sexual relations at home could be improved. Some admitted that their women were “not hot” or “do not give us pleasure.’’ They also confessed that to stoke their own desire, they had other lovers or simply married a younger second wife.
Later they were asked whether, in light of their new knowledge of FGM, they would be willing to have their daughters cut, thereby exposing them to the same agony in bed and perhaps to a husband who cheats. Our interviewees could not answer. Instead, they remained silent and looked away.
Of the many themes evoked here, we find research imparting “new knowledge of FGM.” Not hiding behind ‘cultural relativist’ pseudo-neutrality, these interviewers recorded opinions AND shared information about the custom’s health damage. Excision is also presented as a human rights abuse.
And finally, UnCUT/Voices’ author Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko joins this noble trio with WAAFRIKA 1 2 3. 1992. Kenya. Two Womyn Fall in Love. I’m reproducing the announcement of my Harvard speech with a description here:
The drama has enjoyed a successful debut in Berkeley, CA.
To conclude, we owe gratitude to the many who have stepped forward to support us, confronting their (literally) fellow men. Honorees include the chair of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for endorsing our books; Dr. Dan mon O’Dey for performing plastic surgery on the infibulated vulva; and Dexter Dias, QC, for his outspoken advocacy (note TEDxExeter presentation) http://tedxexeter.com/2018/02/01/dexter-dias/
There are MANY more: the Maasai Warriors playing cricket to end FGM; the executive director of the Inter-African Committee, Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté; former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon; U.S. Senator Harry Reid; NY Representative Joseph Crowley, to name only a few. And because of their importance, FORWARD – Germany has launched a project addressing men from immigrant communities to act as change agents advising against the cut. With men’s support, the end of FGM draws near.