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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Opinion: Cornell and the Clitoris Barbarians: Clitoroplasty is just vaginal mutilation by another name

September 1, 2010
Sara Kassabian / CU Independent
Armed with surgical tools and operating behind the protection of academia’s bureaucracy is Dix Poppas, a pediatric urologist at Cornell University practicing “medical research” that is essentially genital mutilation supported by university research funds and a few degrees.
Under the guise of medical research, Poppas and others have been operating on what they judge to be “oversized clitorises” on women ages five to 25.
There is no research that states that having a slightly large clitoris will hinder the sexual or mental development of young girls. The potential risks that follow Poppas’ clitoroplasty are severe and highly probable as patients have the potential for nerve damage, urinary tract infections, incontinence and an inability to experience orgasm.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) withdrew their initial policy statement in May regarding female genital cutting (FGC), stating that FGC can be life threatening.
“…It is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world.”
The idea that female genital cutting is a practice limited to the third world where women are considered to be second-class citizens is a grossly ignorant assumption.
The World Health Organization notes that while female genital mutilation is often carried out by traditional circumcisers in tribal communities, it is becoming increasingly commonplace for it to be performed by health care providers, like Poppas.
Female genital cutting, or mutilation, or “nerve sparing ventral clitoroplasty,” is happening in cultures around the world, be it in tribal huts or on Cornell’s surgical tables in New York City.
As if genital cutting prescribed by doctors wasn’t controversial enough, sex educators like Violet Blue, (whose post is where I first became aware of this evil) and bioethics experts have cried out about the malevolence and lack of oversight of the post-operative techniques utilized by Poppas and his fellow researchers.
In an effort to test whether the surgical tactics will retain the vital sexual nerve endings of his patients, Poppas and co. have decided the most efficient way to check their work is by placing pressure and vibrating devices on the post-op clitoris until it “blanches.”
As I understand it, Poppas is doing this illegally. It has been reported that he does not have the approval of the institutional ethics board for his post-operative procedure.
I believe that stimulating the sexual organs of young children after performing a surgery that is described as unnecessary and unethical is both reckless and evil.
According to the report patients older than five years old were considered “candidates for CST.”
CST is then described as a test where, using a cotton tipped applicator and/or “vibratory device,” the patient is asked to report the degree of sensation on a level of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum sensation) as it is applied to the inner thigh and genitalia in various locations. The force of the vibration is increased on these patients until they can recognize the sensation.
It appears to me that there is no way to justify this post-operative exam, which occurs annually as Poppas tests the development of sexual sensation for the girls.
So, if the girl recognizes a feeble sensation, or none at all, the option for clitoral orgasms is out, because those nerve endings cannot be replaced or replicated.
It just doesn’t seem logical, ethical or fair to me that the sexual well-being of young girls is being gambled away by parents and doctors who likely have never experienced the trauma of genital reconstruction and sexual manipulation.
A doctor’s stimulation of a child’s post-op clitoris does not prove that she hasn’t been physically or emotionally harmed by the operation, nor that her sexual health will be “improved” by this operation that hacks away at important nerve endings, as well as erectile tissues and glands in the clitoris.
Allison Dreger and Ellen Feder wrote about this outrageous practice in the Bioethics Forum noting that, because the girls are described as older than five years old, they will remember being asked to lie down and open their legs as they are touched with a vibrator and report on the resulting sensations.
Dreger and Feder note that they will be able to remember their emotions and physical sensations experienced during this exam as a consenting parent watches as their daughter’s sexual stimulation is manipulated, charted and tested in a sterile room.
This practice is sickening and wrong. I believe that it is our responsibility as people of this global community to speak out against this procedure and how it manifests itself inside and outside of operating rooms.
Another point of concern is that it has been shown that girls with larger clitorises are sometimes more likely to identify as a lesbian after reaching adulthood. That’s not to say that everyone with a slightly larger clitoris likes to have sex with other women, but rather that sometimes lesbians have larger clitorises.
I am concerned that these surgeries may be motivated in some cases by homophobia.
The same research has shown that sometimes men who like to have sex with other men have larger penises than the norm.
I’d be curious to see the next time parents sit down with a doctor and decide to surgically shorten their son’s penis because it was deemed larger than normal