No society looks good in this debate


Writing in the British Medical Journal, Ronan Conroy, senior lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, says the growing acceptance in Britain and elsewhere of so-called “designer vaginas” was exposing Western double standards.

“The practice of female genital mutilation is on the increase nowhere in the world except in our so-called developed societies,” he writes. “Designer laser vaginoplasty” and “laser vaginal rejuvenation” are growth areas in plastic surgery, representing the latest chapter in the surgical victimisation of women in our culture.”

I think women choosing to have their genitalia surgically altered is strange, at best, but defining this as female genital mutilation is absurd. As I’ve mentioned before with male circumcision, which is worth expanding to include women, I don’t care what adults choose to do to their bodies. If women want to succumb to bizarre societal norms that may or may not be real, they should be able to choose that for themselves. Research it or not, have a good time. I hope it works out for them. But in that context, it’s cosmetic surgery. This is not that:

Mr Conroy writes: “It is Western medicine which, by a process of disease mongering, is driving the advance of female genital mutilation by promoting the fear in women that what is natural biological variation is a defect.”

There was an assumption by Western critics that in the developing world the practice was forced on young girls. In fact, it was often welcomed as the mark of entry into adulthood and they were proud of it, he said. “The high moral tone with which those in richer countries criticise female genital mutilation would be more credible if we in the North had not practised and did not continue to practise it,” he added.

We in the West are barbarians for allowing adult cosmetic surgery, and that’s somehow analogous to girls having genital surgery forced on them? No. Where is Mr. Conroy’s attack on adult male circumcision as male genital mutilation, since society perpetuates the myth that men are defective without surgery? Would he then defend infant male circumcision because most men in the West grow to think that their circumcision is wonderful? The whole idea is preposterous.

Men and women should be allowed to choose any body-modifying surgery they wish for themselves. But only for themselves. Genital mutilation┬╣ of children is wrong, whether it’s done on girls or boys. Adults can consent. Children can’t. That is the travesty, not the way some adults choose to disfigure themselves.

┬╣ Some will challenge the use of mutilation to describe male circumcision. Consider the World Health Organization’s definition of female circumcision, which is most often called female genital mutilation:

“All procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.”

What makes female genitalia more worthy of protection than male genitalia? Male circumcision involves partial removal and injury to the genital organs, so the conclusion is the same. Circumcision for non-therapuetic reasons is mutilation.