Tyranny of the Esthetic

February 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

Martha Coventry shines a light on the practices of genital “corrective” surgeries through her own experience and the experiences of others.  As a child she had her clitoris reduced because it was deemed too long.  The surgery violated her sense of self and wellbeing.  She struggled with identity and self-esteem and endured a great amount of suffering over her secret surgery.   Most importantly, the surgery which was supposed to “save” her from feeling abnormal was the very thing that created that feeling.  She shares similar stories from others and shows the great damage done from these practices.  In spite of these testaments from the patients themselves, the medical community refuses to acknowledge these surgeries as mutilating, harmful and completely unneccessary.

What was most shocking for most of us reading the essay was the position of the American Pediatrics Association has remained unchanged.  The APA STILL recommends surgery on infants whose clitorises are over 3/8 of an inch or with penises less than an inch.  Normal human variation is being stigmatized as so incredibly offensive that it must be eradicated.  Why? Furthermore, in these instances, why wouldn’t it be wise to see if their body caught up to their genitals or vice versa?  And say they don’t fit into the perfect image after given time, so what?  Really? The surgery can be done later, with CONSENT, so what is the rush?  This greatly bothered me and after weighing out several alternatives I believe the greatest motivational factor here is to ease the discomfort of the parents.  They are the only ones who will see their childrens genitals for many many years and it is for their comfort the surgeries are done.  The kids themselves don’t know what everyone else has in their pants until someone tells them, again, much later.  So what’s the hurry?  The parents get creeped out.  I find that a surgery done, not in the child’s benefit but for the comfort of the parents, is absolutely unacceptable.  This IS genital mutilation.


§ 3 Responses to Tyranny of the Esthetic

  • akugler says:

    I completely agree. It is extremely saddening to me that an innocent child is put through these surgeries over someone else being uncomfortable. They would have to deal with it for a few years, until the child can do most things on their own. But when mutilating a child’s genitalia, the child must deal with this physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. They may say, “Why did you never change me?” but then they have the choice to do so themselves.

    The part that really tears me is that the doctors are creating something new that isn’t there. The new genitalia will more than likely not work properly or not to the person’s pleasure. And how it is scar tissue and the child will continue having to have surgery as they grow, is a horrible burden to put on another human being. I definitely agree that the surgery should wait. The body grows and changes. And if it doesn’t, then the child can make a decision for themselves with its own feelings. No one knows your body better than yourself.

  • stephoa says:

    Well, I don’t think agree with you saying that parents are motivated because they are forced to see their children’s genitals. I wouldn’t, and in any case, the thought of performing surgery on my children just because I think their pee-pee is ugly is kind of disgusting. If I decided to do it, it is because I am merely thinking about my child’s future and whether they will suffer from emotional trauma of not being like anybody else. To wait for their consent is to wait for them to realize that they are different, that they do not fit in. And also, it doesn’t help that they’d actually feel the pain of their surgery and remember it when they are older, unlike newborns who will forget said pain when they start getting conscious memories of their childhood.

  • gdobler says:

    After thinking about this issue quite a bit in the past week or so that we have been talking about it, I have been fighting with mixed emotions. I have come to the conclusion that I agree with you. The genital reconstruction surgeries are done when children are babies or very young, this is way to early. I don’t think it is right for doctors to lie to parents and encourage these surgeries. If a doctor were never to mention the surgery to the parent, would they even know that something was “abnormal” about their child? I don’t think they would. Who knows what will happen to the child, they might grow into their genitals or they might not, but I don’t think that should be the choice of the doctor or the parent before they know for sure. I have never been in the situation so it is hard to say what I would want for myself, but I would want anything done to my body to be my choice and I know that for a fact. This essay is just appalling, because it really puts these surgeries that we often don’t think about into perspective.

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