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Friday 18 April  
Campaign against FGM in Nairobi, Kenya
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Female circumcision: orgasm still possible?

Published on : 25 June 2011 - 2:50pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: AFP)
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Can you still have orgasms if your clitoris has been cut off? Certainly, say European researchers at the World Congress for Sexual Health, after studying African women who’ve been ‘circumcised’.

Love Matters

Love Matters

An RNW website about love, sex, relationships and everything in between.

Here you'll find loads of blush-free information to help you improve your sex life and stay healthy and happy.

FGM facts

Two million girls a year have their genitals cut, most of them in Africa.

There are three types of cutting:
Type 1: clitoris or hood of clitoris removed
Type 2: inner labia also removed
Type 3: vagina also sewn up
Doctors who perform it call it female circumcision. Campaigners have dubbed it Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Others say the term Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is less stigmatising. FGM/C is the compromise term.

Worldwide an estimated 135 million women have been cut.

Doubting critics say the research only encourages female genital mutilation. But you don’t help women by telling them they’re ‘mutilated’, the researchers argue.

Sexual pleasure
When Professor Sara Johnsdotter started studying Somali women living in Sweden, she didn’t think sex would be one of their favourite topics. After all, they had no clitoris.

They’d all experienced the most severe form of female genital cutting – or mutilation, as some prefer to call it.

But to her surprise she found they had a very positive view of sex. They had lots of sexual pleasure, including orgasms.

Her study squares with the findings of Italian researcher Lucrezia Catania, also presented at  the world sexual health congress, WAS.

After all, the little bump we think of as the clitoris is actually only the tip, she points out. In fact the clitoris carries on deep inside the body. So even if the tip is cut off, there’s plenty left for stimulation.

Soft approach
Egyptian sexology professor Hussein Ghanem is sceptical. Remember that the clitoris is the female equivalent of the penis, he says. His answer to men who argue about the effects of female circumcision: “Let’s cut off your penis and see how well you do!”

Hussein Ghanem says that in his home country around 80 percent of women have experienced what he firmly describes as mutilation.

“I think this soft approach against FGM is the wrong way,” he complains. “I think we must be very firm and clear that it is harmful. And that the majority of Egyptian and African women do not experience orgasm.”

There’s a problem with this tough line though, says Sara Johnsdotter. In Sweden she found that some circumcised women were more negative about sex. They were the ones who were more integrated into Swedish society, and more aware of campaigns stressing that genital cutting ruins women’s sex lives.

“You have women saying, ‘I thought I was normal, I enjoyed sex with my husband, but coming here I realise that I’ve lost so much,” she says.

Hussein Ghanem argues that the Swedish and Italian research is playing right into the hands of people who defend genital cutting. He’s heard a colleague of his – a member of the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood – arguing that the Italian findings show the practice isn’t so bad after all. Even though, as he’s quick to point out, top Muslim clerics say it has no place in Islam.

Hussein Ghanem and Sara Johnsdotter each accuse the other of being well-meaning but unscientific. And of muddling medicine with politics. Yet there’s one thing they firmly agree on: they want to see an end to the practice of cutting – or mutilating – girls' genitals.

Human rights
“Help the victims, but condemn the practice,” says Hussein Ghanem.

“You have real victims, women who suffer all their lives,” says Sara Johnsdotter. “But you also have many women who live very well with it. A respectful treatment would talk to both kinds of women, with all kinds of experiences.”

“Don’t start by telling people they’re barbarous and that they torture their own daughters,” she argues. Focus on “bodily integrity and human rights”. A woman’s right to keep her genitals in one piece.

Read more about female genital cutting.
Read about fighting FGM together and the Dutch campaign against female circumcision.


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Debbie 7 March 2014 - 8:30am / USA

How barbaric to cut the woman's clitoris. She will forever not enjoy sex. I am SO glad I chose to NOT cut my son for a circumcision. And we are Jewish and EVERY Jewish child has this procedure done but NOT my son. He is very happy at almost 40 years old with his intact body parts.

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mustapha razak 7 October 2013 - 12:37pm / ghana

i am dading almost ten ladies. Only one is mutilated. N she happened to be de one i enyoy sex with. She easily gets stimulated and squit more than the rest. She makes me go crazy on bed. Though FGM is not good, it does not prevent orgasm.

Sonny 1 September 2013 - 2:22am

Since it is just after the anniversary of the AAP's statement on circumcision (the AAP's statement was made on August 27, 2012), it might be worth it to do a news story about the condemnation of the AAP's statement on infant male circumcision by 38 doctors representing various international medical associations. This is groundbreaking and historic. Why? When was the last time you have heard of so many doctors and their organizations condemning another doctors' organization?

Cultural Bias in the AAP's 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision

Sonny 1 September 2013 - 2:20am

Females and males deserve equal rights! Human rights! What are the benefits of chopping off the eyelids and do the benefits outweigh the risks? The benefits of foreskin outweigh the risks of circumcision. The foreskin protects the baby from infections if it is left alone. It provides the adult with greater sensitive during sexual intercourse which means less work and more play! With less forceful thrusting than the circumcised denuded glans the woman enjoys the experience more. She does not have a scraper that scrapes out her lubrication. There is no need to waste time and money on lubricants since the foreskin of the male and the vagina of the female provide an adaquate amount that the couple needs. His skin in skin protects her delicate vaginal walls from abrasion. Circumcision is not worth the risk.

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Sonny 1 September 2013 - 2:20am

Females and males deserve equal rights! Human rights! What are the benefits of chopping off the eyelids and do the benefits outweigh the risks? The benefits of foreskin outweigh the risks of circumcision. The foreskin protects the baby from infections if it is left alone. It provides the adult with greater sensitive during sexual intercourse which means less work and more play! With less forceful thrusting than the circumcised denuded glans the woman enjoys the experience more. She does not have a scraper that scrapes out her lubrication. There is no need to waste time and money on lubricants since the foreskin of the male and the vagina of the female provide an adaquate amount that the couple needs. His skin in skin protects her delicate vaginal walls from abrasion. Circumcision is not worth the risk.

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baku 21 July 2013 - 4:35am

My family migrated to England when I was very young and I didn't learn that I had been mutilated until I was thirteen. My mother made no apology for allowing this to happen to me, and I left home as soon as I could, unable to forgive her.
I have visited various doctors and have been offered "reconstruction", but no guarantee that I will ever experience sexual pleasure.
This has ruined my life! Society today glorifies sex and men expect their partner to enjoy sex as much as them. Boyfriends quickly leave when I explain what has happened to me : I have never known sexual excitement and I cannot respond to their advances in the way that they want. When I do have sex I get so jealous of my partner's obvious pleasure, and there have been occasions when I have caused pain to a partner's genitals out of jealousy. I can see no treatment or cure being found in my lifetime, and my frustration is leaving me lonely and bitter.
Those here that say orgasm is still possible for people like me are talking rubbish in my opinion: if there was a way to orgasm I'm certain I would have found it by now.
BTW, I hear that there are experiments going on in America where an orgasm can be induced my stimulation of the spinal cord or direct to the brain, so perhaps there is hope in the distant future that I could at least experience this. I cant see this being part of a loving relationship though!

nabil chehade 30 June 2013 - 3:13pm / Canada

My experience with a Coptic Egyptian woman (girl friend) who had all her pleasure parts cut off was horrible. She was frigid like a stone. She blames it on the "cut". (She had a son from a previous marriage, and never enjoyed sex with her husband)
Please take this matter seriously. There are women living with us today who are deprived of one of the most essential causes of living. Sexual pleasure.

babyKay 26 June 2013 - 9:50pm / nigeria

Hmmm @ my tender age,wen I saw wat I felt was a penis that I didn't see in other girls,I felt I was abnormal until I grew up andd started havin sex,nd guys tend to appriciate it a lot,nd until nw I reallY I am lucky to have my clit intact,but I cannot orgasmm if you donot stimulate my Clit,no matter how you thrust up and down

Anonymous 6 April 2013 - 2:58am / U.S.

I am writing an 8 pg argumentative essay on why I oppose female circumcision for my college english 2 class. It is saddening to read the horrific terminology for the four types, how the procedure is done, who performs the procedure, and the long term deadly side effects. The beliefs these cultures and religions have is straight up nonsense. The parents end up brain washing most children. For those other children who grow, they disgust and have hatred towards those they were closest to that participated in pinning them down. They have every right to. This sickens me so much. I feel for those who were forced to have this done. Laws are being created, but most cultures and religions, mainly in african countries, manage to find a way around it to make it still happen.

Katherine 17 March 2013 - 9:12am / Nigeria

I grew up to notice I don't have a clitoris. Sex with a person for the 1st time could be frustrating as my concern will be how he'll feel if he discovers there's no clit. I fear losing a guy for a new 1 cos I don't want to start all over trying to make him comfy with d fact thet I don't have a clit. Some guys love clits and they just end up dumping u if they discover u've got none. I enjoy sex though but getting lubricated could take some time. Have had a few orgasms too. If there's a solution to this, I'd like to know so as to enjoy sex better. Thanks.

Anonymous 6 March 2013 - 10:34pm / USA

i came from one of those countries where FGM is practised. so was my ex-wife. as it was said the clit is only the tip, but the roots are still there (G sopt). my ex-wife was severely circumcised, there were no clit or labia minora, but understanding the problem, we had to go through a long foreplay (20 minutes)that include gentle rubbing of the clit area & finger stimulation of G-spot. then the pinus penetration must be slowly also the movement in & out which could be increased by her demand. man might need to focus on stimulating G-spot by his pinus by rubing the ceiling of the vagina & keep shooting up not down. to prevent premature ejaculation there are some creams & sprays available in the market or by prescription. i can say our sex life was successful & she had orgasm in 90% of our sex life.

shell 9 May 2013 - 6:14am / america

How wonderful that you were such a tender lover to your wife :)

Anonymous 10 February 2013 - 8:46pm / USA

I'm a woman who does not have a clitoris. I did not realize this until I had daughters. I couldn't see mine, but figured it must be there, somewhere. But, when I saw my baby girls' genitals, I could very clearly see that they each had a clitoris that was unmistakable, mostly covered by a prepuce.

I'd had a terrible time with sex in all the 26 years I was married. The only thing that I really felt was deep thrusting during intercourse. I have learned, since, that there is a "G-spot" deep inside the vagina. Had my husband been willing and able to give me that, I would not have disliked sex. He had a serious premature ejaculation problem, and quite often insisted on doing only shallow thrusting. Our relationship was not good, in general, He was very abusive, mostly emotionally, but some physically, too. But, the sex problem certainly didn't help matters.

I don't know for sure what happened to my clitoris. I was born in a US Naval hospital in 1954. I know that they circumcised the baby boys, without seeking any input from the parents. I have heard of cases where a physician thought that no man would want a woman with a noticeable clitoris and decided it would be doing a baby girl with a larger than average clitoris a favor, by cutting it off for her.

I've never really had an orgasm. There were a few times I felt like I was approaching that, but that was all, and even that was rare. If I rub where my clitoris should be, I don't feel much. If I rub harder, it feels like there are nerves under there, but pushing on them is uncomfortable.

I'm divorced, now, after 26 years of marriage. I would like to marry again, one day, but I'm very afraid of the sexual issue. I don't want to be back to hating and avoiding sex again. I'd like to be able to find out what a normal marriage relationship is.

By the way, I feel that it is extremely hypocritical to condemn female genital mutilation, but embrace male genital mutilation. All children, female, male and the rare, but just as human, intersexed children, deserve to grow up with their healthy bodies intact.

One more thing. Perhaps I misunderstood, but didn't you say that the most severe form of FGM is clitoradectomy? Actually, there is a much more severe, totally horrifying, form, called infibulation, which essentially cuts out the entire vulva and stitches up the edges, leaving only two small openings. For the record, no one who actively opposes infant male circumcision is suggesting that it is comparable to infibulation.

Anonymous 3 September 2013 - 4:54pm / Ausie

Hi your sharing inspired me, I am a 34 yr old mum of 4, an accident trying to unthinkingly shave my pubic hair at 15yrs old cut the external part of my clitoris off. It was agony for 8/9 yrs just my underwear touching me loosely my experience before then with guys & sex was much like you said with touching yourself there without the anticipation excitement romance or lust it's a slightly sensitive thing that does not like being poked at.If you want more than company make sure they excite you deep down in the pit of your stomache as well as your brain, make sure you know they are sexually attracted to you not just wanting sex with you. I have been able to orgasm since I was 16 though I could not stand anything but carefull penetration which turned my partner off as he liked oralsex petting etc for yrs sex was once a year in a hurry to be over with our relationship broke down for other reasons as we were still friends sex isn't everything. After a couple of yrs alone I was lonely and scared of being found lacking but after 1 1/2 yrs chasing the man of my dreams my wildest dreams couldn't imagine there is no pain after sufficient fussing before petting,foreplay keep yr clothes on untill you absolutely cant stand them being in the way. If you really are atracted to someone a backmassage done right will arouse you. As for FGM the term offends me. Male or female circumcison I think if it is for religeous reasons with an appropriate qualified surgeon to infants protected by mums milk we don't have any right to judge except if it is right for our own. If it is being done out of fear understanding and education can help. If it is being done to teens religeous, psycological and sexual councelling should be made available to all people involved before during and after to ensure its done as well as possible.

Anonymous 11 February 2012 - 3:04pm / Somalia

i am one of the..... that is experiencing this. so is there anything the can be done differntly to reach an organism

Anonymous 25 September 2012 - 1:42pm

Cutting of the clitoris does not equate to the removal of the Glans Penis, the Male Glans actually has about 50% of the nerve density of the Clitoris, while the stimulation is directed in the foreskin; primarily the frenulum. The Glans Penis is not the primary erogenous zone. Though aesthetically and functionally prominent it is in fact NOT the primary erogenous zone and hardly equates to its foreskin counterpart. We all agree that involuntary acts on both genders is unlawful. Unfortunately science will not convince anyone since monetary and religious/cultural agendas continue to push the detrimental mutilations still.

Anonymous 25 September 2012 - 1:39pm

I agree, cutting of the clitoris does not equate to the removal of the Glans Penis, the Male Glans actually has about 50% of the nerve density of the Clitoris, while the stimulation is directed in the foreskin; primarily the frenulum. The Glans Penis is not the primary erogenous zone. Though aesthetically and functionally prominent it is in fact NOT the primary erogenous zone and hardly equates to its foreskin counterpart.

Hugh7 27 June 2011 - 11:38am / New Zealand

"Focus on “bodily integrity and human rights”. A woman’s right to keep her genitals in one piece."

If you're talking about human rights, make that "a person's right to keep their genitals in one piece." It's not about severity, it's about freedom from surgical sexual violation, at any age.

Julian Abelar 27 June 2011 - 3:13am / USA

You can't ask people who are missing something whether they are missing something. The only proper research would be to find a woman who has had significant sex before and after circumcision. Also, there are guys who have lost their penis due to cancer or accident. They can still orgasm (with the stump or through anal stimulation) however, I'm pretty sure they would say it is more difficult to acheive. I had male circumcision as an adult, and will say that a LOT of sensititivy is actually lost -- for guys that can be a good thing since stamina (premature ejaculation) can be a problem, but for women I've never heard of one that is premature and so reducing their sensitivity just doesn't make sense.

Anyway, my point is that the research is flawed unless it evaluates people who had experience both before and after -- that is the only possible way to quantify loss.

Brian 26 June 2011 - 7:38am / Usa

Interesting- men who have been cut also think they have fine sex- despite missing the most sensitive tissue of their penis. So let's pretend men are fine but women are not. And , no cutting off the clitoris is no the same as removing a mans penis- it the same as removing the nerve laden foreskin.

It's time to stop cutting the sexual organs of all children. If an adult wants it and understands the consequences, from true unbiased information, them let them do it. But forcing it on children is abuse, plain and simple, no matter how you package it.

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