Female Genital Mutilation and Male Circumcision…Different Debates

5/10/18, by F.A. Cole,

Following the defeat of the Female Genital Mutilation Ban bill in Maine, there was one excuse that continued to provide political cover for lawmakers who voted against the ban…

…A misguided comparison between Female Genital Mutilation and male circumcision.

As a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders, painful sexual penetration, and feelings of low self-esteem at times (relating to my sexuality). It is upsetting to hear people compare the forceful amputation of my clitoris and labia at age eleven to the standard circumcision of a newborn male.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation is the intentional [and forceful] removal of either all or part of the external female genitalia for no medical reason — and without anesthesia.  External female genitalia includes the clitoris, labia, pubis, vaginal opening and urethra.

What is Male Circumcision?

Male circumcision, on the other hand, is the removal of the foreskin from the penis, for medical reasons. The only thing removed in this case is the foreskin. In the most common procedure, the foreskin is opened, adhesions are removed, and the foreskin is separated from the glans.  After that, a circumcision device may be placed, and then the foreskin is cut off.

Health Benefits vs. Health Risks

There are absolutely NO health benefits associated with Female Genital Mutilation. None. Period.

There are however many health risks such as:

  • Difficulty Urinating,
  • Fistula,
  • Infant and Maternal Mortalities,
  • Difficulty Conceiving,
  • Menstrual Difficulties.

There is also a range of other infections with a myriad of short and long-term medical health risks, including PTSD and panic attacks for most victims.

Meanwhile, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are medical benefits in male circumcision. In fact, male circumcision has proven to be a medical treatment option for problematic cases of phimosis, balanoposthitis that does not resolve with other treatments, as well as chronic urinary tract infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, circumcised men are also at a lower risk of STD’s and penile cancer.

Furthermore, there is no skin on the female genitalia to pull back or pull forward in order to clean the area, as in the case of an uncircumcised boy.

To the best of my knowledge, no boy has died from circumcision when it is performed in a clinical environment. However, many girls have died in clinical environments from Female Genital Mutilation.

Impact on Sex

Female Genital Mutilation impairs the sexual desires and performance of victims. Women who experienced this horrific abuse as a child are often left with sexual self-esteem issues throughout their adulthood.

Female Genital Mutilation can render sex painful and undesirable. And amputating the clitoris actually destroys most (if not all) of the thousands of nerves in the female anatomy.

Meanwhile, with male circumcision, since only the foreskin is removed, the procedure does not cause impotence or impairment to sexual desires or performance. And while many argue sex is less pleasurable for circumcised males, the most prominent study making that claim has been largely debunked. And many other studies claim there is no significant difference in sexual sensitivity between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis.

Life-Long Emotional Scarring

A male who was circumcised as a baby does not have any memories of the procedure.

However, I remember — in detail — what happened to me thirty-four years ago.  I’m also reminded daily that my sexuality was brutally restructured, and no amount of reconstruction surgery can erase those painful memories.

This is not to suggest there is no case to be made against male circumcision. But the fact is, it’s a different and separate debate.

Claiming male circumcision and Female Genital Mutilation are the same is misguided. There is no comparison. Forcing the faulty comparison serves no purpose other than providing a pass to Maine lawmakers who voted to allow Female Genital Mutilation to continue.


F.A. Cole is an advocate, survivor, speaker and author. She has dedicated her life to sharing her story in the hopes of one day ending the barbaric ritual of Female Genital Mutilation.