February 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Tyranny of the Esthetic by Martha Coventry was a very controversial piece. Throughout the essay, Martha talks about the problem of altering male and female genitalia if the genitalia does not look “normal”. She states in her essay, that those men born with small penises or those women born with big clitorises are perfectly normal and it’s not the bodies of these children that are wrong, but it is the way society perceives them.

As I read the stories of the girls who lost their ability to find any sexual pleasure due to the operations they went under to become “normal”, I felt very bad for them because they lost their sex drive simply because their parents questioned their child’s normality. I found it interesting to see that all the girls who had the procedure also suffered some sort of identity crisis. One of the girls questioned her own sex while another turned to harmful substances to cope with her problem.

The reason I found this article somewhat controversial was because I thought Martha Coventry demonized parents and doctors who think they are making the right choice for their children. While Coventry has experienced the procedure first hand, she is not a doctor. I personally believe that Dr. John Gearhart makes a very good point when he stated that female genital mutilation and reconstructive surgery are far from the same thing. I also have some sympathy for the parents who make this tough choice for their children. I somewhat subscribe to the notion that society will reject a child with atypical genitals, so I can see why parents would make the choice they do. Finally, I would just like to state that I think many children would have the exact opposite reaction of Coventry and be upset with their parents if they did not take some sort of proper action at a young age. Speaking for myself, I know I would be upset with my parents if I had “abnormal” genitalia and they did nothing about it.



  • smschutt says:

    After reading this article a few times, and few different people views on this essay, I would have to agree with you. The parents and doctors are just doing what they think is in the best interest for their child. This seems like it is a lose lose situation, no matter if they choose to have there child go through the reconstruction surgery or not, no one is happy. I understand that each case is going to be different but not matter what the doctors and parents will not be able to make everyone happy.

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You are currently reading THE TYRANNY OF THE ESTHETIC RESPONSE at genderculture.


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