"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn

"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn
it's a jungle out there

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday Sermon: Circumcision

I know it's Monday, but this came up last night and, you know, it's summer and one day rolls in to the next.

And I needed a minute to think.

And I worked a 12 hour day.

So all in all, I feel a significant level of accomplishment getting this posted.

applause please


So last night as I'm cleaning up after dinner, Jack and Ty come into the kitchen bickering.
T: There is so.
J: No there isn't.
T: Yes there is.
J: No there isn't. There's no such thing.
T: Yes there is. Ask mom. She told me so.
J: Mom, is there such a thing as female circumcision?

I've read a little here and there. The bulk of my knowledge comes from Possessing the Secret of Joy and random magazine articles. I remember once I was getting my hair done in a swanky Westport salon and the lady in the chair next to me was an artist. She cast sterling silver into flowy Georgia O'Keefy flower shaped mini sculptures to be worn on a cord around the neck. Though they looked like lillies, they actually represented female genitalia. All proceeds went to some organization in some African country that was working to change the cultural practice of female circumcision through education.

I remember back in nursing school there was a Somali mother and child who were both in the process of reconstructive surgery, having been recipients victims of female circumcision.

I also remember the sweating shaking resident sent into the newborn nursery to do his first circumcision. see one do one teach one. Poor thing. This nice Jewish boy who was so traumatized by having to perform a circumcision that he came out of the nursery, called his fiance, and swore they would never have their sons circumsized.

OK. Ty wants to know.
Do girls have foreskins?

My boys are not circumsized.
The thought of a piece of their newborn baby meat being cut off and thrown into the red hazardous waste bin was just not ok with me. Would I cut off one of their earlobes for no good reason?
No I would not.
We're talking about their penises, people.

OK. Back to vulvas.

Do you guys know what girl parts look like? Have you ever seen a picture or anything?
Well, Mom, Mia runs around naked all the time said by Ty with incredulous disgust and horror

Ok. Apparently my boys still have vigin eyes. I think. Maybe. Jack was pretty quiet though very attentive through the whole thing. hmmm...

I'd show you mine but I think that would be traumatizing

Ugh. Mom. I feel violated already

Sorry honey.

I thought about a google image search then decided that might be problematic...

So I drew them a picture. Stirrup view. Vaginal opening urethra peehole anus butthole clitoris the super sensitive part like the head of your penis labia minora labia majora.
What's that word Mom?
Labia honey. Its latin for lips.
Lips Mom? Lips? hee hee Seriously?

That's when Bruce walked in to the kitchen. He looked like a damn cartoon character. One foot through the doorway as I say clitoris. In a split second he's turned on his heels and high tailed it outta there.


I tried to explain in objective and only mildly judgemental way the why's of female circumcision. Not so easy to be nonjudgemental. Even the boys thought it was messed up once they wrapped their brains around it.

So they want sex to be painful so the women don't cheat?
Partly. It's partly just custom. Part of a girl growing up. Sometimes it's religious. It sounds weird, but its been done for so long in some places people don't think twice about it. But now people are being educated as to why it's a bad thing, and its happening less I think.
I hope.

That's screwed up mom.

People are screwed up, honey.

So Mom... do girls have a foreskin?


To read more about female circumcision/female genital mutilation go here, here, and here.


  1. I love that your boys are not circumcised. Thank you. (I've been informed repeatedly I'm not allowed to have an opinion because I'm not a man and I don't have sons. But I do still have an opinion, I just don't voice it.)

  2. Yay for foreskin! This has been very informative. Zoe's 4 and wants a penis. Sam is 5 and says he doesn't blame her for wanting one because they're so dang cool!

    I tackled homosexuality and gay marriage on Saturday night so hopefully that will hold mine for awhile. I did not draw any pictures.

  3. Oy. You're brave.

    My boys are not circumcised either. My husband is Swiss, and when it came time to talk about it, he was aghast -- had no idea that it was generally accepted here. Relief that for once I didn't have to make a decision!

  4. My boy is also not snipped. Ack. Couldn't imagine it.
    How do you work 12 hours and bang out a post like that? Good work.

  5. When it comes time for the talk with my kids about girl and boy bits and what they do ...I'm hiring you ok?

    And my kid is circumsised. We weren't sure what we were going to do, then he lost a kidney, nephrology and surgery people wanted that foreskin gone and I agreed.

  6. having JUST had the circumcision discussion (read: argument) nine days ago, this is timely for us. of course, when i called "genital mutilation", that's when it went from "discussion" to "argument". "are you saying that I've been genitally mutilated??" we didn't speak for a couple of hours.

    anyway, all of it is difficult to wrap the brain around - Warrior Marks is a great follow-on to Possession the Secret of Joy. non-fiction. OY.

    i won the argument. my Little Boy escaped with his foreskin intact. i think it was when even our sweet, softspoken midwife said she doesn't use anesthesia because she "doesn't see the point", T changed his mind. if i'd thought to mention "a piece of [his] newborn baby meat being cut off and thrown into the red hazardous waste bin", the conversation would have ended a lot sooner. sometimes you just need a visual.

    this is one of those moments when i'm glad i don't have Mommy's artistic talent.

  7. You are SUCH a good mommy.
    And I'm with you- why not give our children ALL of the bodies they were born with? Jesus. I'll never understand the cutting off of the foreskin.

  8. Shortly after Joey's birth, I watched a circumcision via you-tube (like ten of them) and was horrified (even more so with every click to view). I totally wish that there would be some major education sweep of the nation so that people would stop and think before getting their sons circumcised

  9. See, that's where all this talking leads to. Then you have to go and talk about female foreskins.

    Yay for talking to kids though. That will be me in a few years.

    Over here, circumcision is not the norm at all (just for religious and sometimes medical reasons) and it seems rather ridiculous that it is elsewhere. I would find it weird to have sex with a circumcised man. But then I haven't tried it, so I suppose I shouldn't really have an opinion on that. It looks strange to me, though.

  10. I do want to add that I don't judge people who choose to circumcise boys. I just want people to think about it before assuming it's best.

    About FGM? I find it complicated. I will say that my very dearest Liberian friend says in his experience, women who've been FGMed are voracious sexually - as though they cannot feel complete satisfaction and keep trying. NOw he's been around but has not had sex with a large enough sample to make that scientific. I thought it interesting and ironic (in Liberia, some tribes practice it, some tribes don't). (I was engaged to a Liberian and asked him once, "What if we had a girl and she came of age to circumcise and you belonged to a tribe who practices it? What would we do?" "But my tribe doesn't." "What if it DID?" "But it doesn't." Culture is deep ... and questioning how things are isn't really acceptable anywhere.)

    I also know the shame of my Somali friend who didn't have FGM done - because she was abandoned by her parents and shuffled around Somalia and refugee camps most of her life between various relatives, she missed the usual times it's done. While she's usually ok about it and doesn't want it done now, when with family groups if it ever comes up she is called a liar, and they are so shamed that she may still be intact.

  11. "People are screwed up, honey."

    No truer words, my friend.

    Hope you don't hold it against me that both my boys are snipped. I left it up to Hubs. He said yes.

    The image of Bruce high-tailing it - priceless.

  12. You are so right, people are screwed up. I've read some awful stories of botched female circumcisions, it seems such a barbaric rite of passage. Male circumcision is too, wonder who thinks up this stuff we pass down through the ages?

    You are such a good and honest mom. thank goodness I have never been asked such pointed and specific questions. I try to always tell the truth to my kids, it's been interesting. Using the O'Keeffes to help illustrate is genuis.

    Thanks for your kind comments on my latest. Damn straight, we need us some revelry, and soon.

    xxoo back at you.

  13. can you please post the picture you drew?? Maybe Adrienne can make a vulva out of boiled felt?

    You are a good woman, a great mom, and a total crack up...

  14. What a wonderfully honest conversation this was with your boys! I so admire you, your head and your heart.

  15. I am blown away . . . by all of you!

  16. I love the honesty with your boys. What an awesome mama you are!!!

  17. great conversation, honest and plain.

    love the 'flowers' :)

  18. I just LOVE the HELL out of you. You are a hero in more ways that I have words to tell you. Missed you bunches, and sending lots of love.

  19. Wow, I thought I was progressive by teaching my boys that girls have what is called vulvas (it doesn't sit right with me when people say boys have a penis and girls have a vagina....ummmm, last I checked we have more parts in our vulvas that the vagina part. But a diagram--wow. You're a great parent!

  20. Interesting. And funny; I could easily picture Bruce hightailing it!

    When Kyle expressed an interest in seeing his sister's vagina (he was maybe 4 or 5), I took the opportunity to show him some sketches from Our Bodies Ourselves or something like that. That took care of his curiosity (probably for the rest of his life.)


so... wadaya think?

Your fairy is called Columbine Icedancer
She is a bone chilling bringer of justice for the vulnerable.
She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows.
She is only seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup.
She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers. She has icy blue butterfly wings.