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March 08, 2007

Female Genital Mutilation vs. Hoodectomy

Update: Today is International Women's Day. I had forgotten about it, but it turns out that this post is a perfect fit for the day. Since I write about sex, a blog post about women and their enjoyment of sexuality sounded like a perfect fit. Hoodectomies are a very controversial topic - one which fits beautifully with political and feminist blogs. I can see pros and cons regarding hoodectomies.


I was contacted by VibeReview, which wanted to know what I thought of an article on its web site about Clitoridotomy, or Hoodectomy VibeReview's article is written by an anonymous woman who had had a hoodectomy, and she raves about it. VibeReview wanted to know what I thought of the article. I'll have to admit that I had a very visceral reaction against the article when I first read it. All I could see were African girls held down on tables and bleeding while their mothers and aunts hacked away at their labia with dull, unsterlized knives.

Once I calmed down, I took a second look at the article.

Hoodectomy is apparently much different from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In FGM, the clitoris and all of the external female genitalia are removed. It is done against the wishes of the woman or child subjected to it. It is also done with crude instruments and without anethesia. According to the World Health Organization, FGM comes in the following forms:

Type I - excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris;
Type II - excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora;
Type III - excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation);
Type IV - pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or labia; cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue; scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice (angurya cuts) or cutting of the vagina (gishiri cuts); introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purpose of tightening or narrowing it; and any other procedure that falls under the definition given above.

WHO also states that FGM is done for "cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons."

Hoodectomy is apparently different from FGM. It's cosmetic, and done willingly by adult women, mostly in Western countries. A hoodectomy is "the surgical removal of the clitoral hood (prepuce) with the result that the clitoral glans (the tip of the clitoris) is left permanently exposed. This procedure (which is generally called "clitoridotomy" or "hoodectomy") is undergone as elective surgery and its purpose is the enhancement of sexual response."

A 2000 article in Scientific American stated that some women had difficulty coming to orgasm, and that "clitoral phimosis" is to blame. This means "the hood of skin surrounding their clitoris is too tight or there is no opening in the skin for the glans of the clitoris to protrude for stimulation." A hoodectomy is necessary to expose the glans so that the woman may feel more sexual pleasure. The equivalent would be an uncircumsized man with an extremely tight foreskin. His erections can be extremely painful. The remedy for this problem is that his foreskin is removed to expose his penis. Removing the hood surrounding the clitoris could be seen as a similar operation.

I have mixed feelings about hoodectomies. On the one hand, I say live and let live. If a hoodectomy makes you happy, improves your sex life, and gives you better orgasms, I say go for it. If you have clitorial phimosis, that's a good reason to get a hoodectomy. The anonymous Vibereview writer compared a hoodectomy to plastic surgery. I take it she means the type seen on "Nip/Tuck". I do think that American society is too obsessed with physical appearance and youth, and plastic surgery is a profession that takes advantage of people's insecurities. Hoodectomies don't strike me to be quite like that. Western women get them to enhance their sexual pleasure. It reminds me of how drugs like Viagra and Cialis have helped many men with erectile dysfunction get and hold erections. While Viagra and Cialis have their critics (including me), the drugs have helped men's sexuality. The one thing I do wonder is how many women who have difficulty reaching orgasm really have clitoral phimosis, and don't know it? They would be helped by a hoodectomy.

Posted on March 8, 2007 at 12:45 PM | Permalink


As a general principle, I would avoid surgery to enhance the sexual experience of otherwise healthy people. I think it is okay in cases where a person cannot experience normal sexual pleasure such as an abnormally tight foreskin or an unexposed clitoris. As a man of modest proportions, penile enlargement surgery might enhance my sexual pleasure but I consider the expense, pain, and risk of error to be too great.

As for Viagra and Cialis, again, I think it is helpful for men who are unable to experience normal sexual pleasure. But let's face it: sexual pleasure isn't the ultimate goal of life. Its good, but only so good. Are we right to reach for the scalpel or the pills just because normal sex doesn't meet our outlandish expectations? As we age, sexual desire and performance naturally deteriorates. A normal, healthy person should have some other things to live for when sexual pleasure fails to satisfy.

Posted by: Matt at Mar 8, 2007 11:53:33 PM