This Is Not Really About Pleasure (FGM)

This Is Not Really About Pleasure (FGM)

Cuttings’ stitched wounds
don’t leave much room
for babies, pee, their own
seepage, periods–
though, yes, penises
Cuts made by other women, cut
140 million.


I am still in the throes of  “Half the Sky” a documentary about the oppression of women made by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDonn.  One focus – female genital mutilation (FGM) – the cutting and sewing up of the vaginas of very young girls. Many think the practice, also called female circumcision, only (ONLY!) cuts away the clitoris of girls so that they will not be tempted by sexual pleasure, but in many cultures, the cuts are far more expansive with horrible consequences for women’s health, particularly their reproductive health, for their lifetimes.  The World Health Organization estimates that there are currently living 140 million women who have suffered some form of this cutting.  

Some talk of respect for the traditions of different cultures; I can’t think of that applying here. 

I am linking this to With Real Toads, a prompt by the wonderful Mama Zen to write something about conflict in less than 30 words.  (In my case – not including title!) 

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26 Comments on “This Is Not Really About Pleasure (FGM)”

  1. Mama Zen Says:

    Hell of a job capturing a barbaric practice that cannot end soon enough. Powerful write.

  2. brian miller Says:

    ugh…dang…the picture itself was emotive…then your words….tight and impactful…but then you note….you are jacking with my tear ducts tonight k…need to get a hold of this documentary…

  3. Ella Says:

    This was so well done~ An emotional tug of war!

  4. Thanks for writing and sharing this piece. As poets we need to speak for those who can’t.

  5. The picture you paired is very apropos, K. SO sad, this topic is appalling really. Thank you for addressing it.

  6. I live on a continent ruled by Culture and Tradition. These two words are often used to excuse the worst forms of abuse, and perpetuate archaic and brutal practices. Did you know that hundreds of teenage boys die every year from botched “bush circumcisions”? Change is very slow in coming.

  7. Mary Says:

    I own and have read this book, but have not seen the documentary. Some difficult chapters, heart-breaking practices, sad stories…..and also some hope that slowly some of these things are changing…but it will be a long battle. I am thankful for Kristoff and his wife for having brought these things to light. Your poem is an important one, speaks hard truth.

  8. ladynyo Says:

    K…thank you for bringing this horrid practice to light here. Yes, there are village women who continue this practice and profit by it.

    In certain cultures, this practice starts as early as a girl at 7.

    The abuse and control of women’s sexuality by this practice is beyond the pale for most of us. Unfortunately, not for all cultures.

    Many women in these countries, cultures, develop horrendous infections that not only leave them sterilized but can and do kill them. Many women are forced to live outside of their families and villages because of the stink of their infections. When one woman was cured of her rampant infection, she then was allowed to return to her parents. Otherwise, she was seen as a leper, and shunned also by her husband and family.

    There are many women who suffer in groups and only medical attention, Western medical attention, can change their circumstances.

    Female Genital Mutilation is only about power and control by men and culture.

    A powerful poem and a powerful picture on top of it.

    Lady Nyo

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hi Jane – thought I responded but it didn’t go through. Thanks for your informative comment. Yes, I agree it’s about control and domination. Individual women are highly expendable, and yet there seems to be a need to keep women as a group submissive since they are such workhorses. Pretty awful. k.

  9. hedgewitch Says:

    The frightening part to me is that this has been going on for centuries. You would think knowing this was in store for your child, women would stand up to what is basically primitive, brutal sadism and bullying and demand more for themselves. Obviously, the cultural brainwashing must start at birth. I was watching another documentary, about eating disorders, that showed some very painful footage of an African mother forcefeeding her daughter so she would be fat enough to be considered marriage material–many girls apparently die from this also, having their stomachs rupture, or of diseases from the unpasteurized milk that is the main staple of this appalling practice. Again, this is perpetrated on girls by their mothers. It’s just amazing to me that in this day and age such practices survive. Anyway, I digress, but thank you for speaking out. I will see if I can’t find the book–don’t think I could watch the film.

  10. it is frightening what is done in the name of tradition…how can they make them suffer so much without drowning in guilt and nightmares…

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Agreed. But most of the women have also suffered in this way. What’s terrible is that in some cultures it is almost impossible for a woman to get married if she has not been cut, and in some, a baby born to a woman who hasn’t been cut will be taken away and killed. So so terrible. k.

  11. Helen Dehner Says:

    So very hard to read this …. but we must.

  12. janehewey Says:

    it is a barbaric practice. In our culture, or at least in this part of our country, we are only now introducing the topic of pleasure as a normal ingredient in sex education. may we all continue to evolve in ways that allow us to thrive as healthy humans. great write K., I appreciate your attention to this difficult subject matter.

  13. Susan Says:

    It is not about pleasure. You tell the story well, in brief, with all delight cut away, as per your subject. Dis-belief remains, and facts.

  14. k. succinct and powerful ~ an indictment for our world

  15. dani Says:

    it is heart wrenching to think of the conditions MOST women in the world are subjected to!!!

  16. […] the world without thinking of women’s rights to keep their bodies intact.  I have written on this issue (FGM) before. […]

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