Sexual Mutilations

pp 131-135

Similarities in Attitudes and Misconceptions about Male and Female Sexual Mutilations

  • Hanny Lightfoot-Klein

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Enlightened Westerners, existing in a world far removed geographically and psychologically from the strange and disturbing practices of sexual mutilation in Africa, may be tempted to disregard them as something that does not concern the West. The practice of female circumcision, which many Westerners regard as barbaric and irrational, however, has had its parallels throughout history in secular male circumcision, as practiced in the United States. The reasons given for female circumcision in Africa and for routine male circumcision in the United States are essentially the same. Politically, the underlying similarity between male and female sexual mutilations is that both are perpetrated by force on the generally unanesthetized, helpless bodies of unconsenting infants and children.