Conclusion

This chapter has examined the different rationales that were offered to legitimize female genital surgeries or alterations. These procedures, which began in the early 19th century, were rooted in the great terror associated with masturbation. The sustained effort for more than 100 years to control the bodies of women and children gave rise to a vast array of devices and techniques to surgically alter their genitalia. In retrospect, the therapeutic rationales offered since the early 1800s are clearly specious. Given the World Health Organization's definition of female genital mutilation ("all procedures that involve partial or total removal of female external genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs for cultural or any other nontherapeutic reasons"), then the conclusion that the Western history of female genital surgery should be considered genital mutilation is compelling. More troubling is the realization that the procedures now conducted in the name of elective genital enhancements in Western countries are no less a form of mutilation. Thus, genital mutilation is not a practice peculiar to far-away developing countries.

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