By Rashida Mustafa
With all the things being written about female genital circumcision and the astonishing opposing claims of its alleged benefits or alleged harm, one would think we were living in the dark ages. It seems we know a great deal about the brain and the body, even the individual names of a million DNA, but a woman’s body and a woman’s sexuality is still in the area of the Great Unknown.
At the heart of the discussion, is sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is easier to measure than other forms of pleasure, because it has a definite, visible, unmistakeable and known end. It’s not as nebulous as happiness, because it ends with a biological bang, and yet, despite that, a woman’s orgasm is as mysterious and unknown as ever. A great many women don’t even know it exists. Some may even read about it, but wonder if it’s the Most Closely Guarded Women’s Conspiracy and everybody’s really faking it and not letting on.
This article intends to examine this whole business, because given everything that is being written about it, with one group insisting that circumcision is the route to sexual pleasure, and another group alleging that circumcision kills it forever, it’s clear, a discussion is in order.
Let me begin by admitting that yes, the female orgasm is indeed elusive. It requires a human body, but doesn’t occur just by having one. Like all good things, there’s one component that’s physical and there’s another that’s mental. The mental component is called romance. Fantasy can sometimes substitute for romance, but nothing brings it on like a person to be in love with.
This is vitally important because love in itself sorts so many things out, that the mechanics of consummation and sexual bliss can almost be taken for granted when love happens.
But love, love, love, love! Who can expect, demand, ask for love from life? A flutter at ten, a crush at fourteen, and after that, only if one is profoundly lucky, can one hope to find that other who you break your heart for. It may be the stuff or every song and every film, elusive, tantalising, a thrill that sears your body, but everybody who has crossed that threshold into the marital bed, knows there is more to sexual relationships than that.
Couples need to work at sex perhaps in the same way as you work at cooking or building. If you go into a kitchen without a plan, without thinking, what am I making here? How do I make it happen? Which ingredients do I need? What is this doing? How is this supposed to turn out? chances are you will make a curry when you set out to make a cake or a stadium when you wanted a home. In the same way, you need to figure out, how is this encounter in bed meant to turn out? It’s not meant to be a bore, it’s meant to be pretty cosmic. And that’s not going to happen without head, heart and body.
So, yes, while the mind needs to be engaged, there are body parts you need to reach and move, but so tricky is a woman’s body, so personal is her private love life, so elusive is her heart, that just like her hidden inner self, there are hidden parts of her body where her thrill lies that are as private, mysterious, wonderful and orgasmic.
Hidden. Deep deep inside.
There is one organ, the clitoris, exactly like the male penis, in which a woman’s orgasm lives. A tiny bit of it, like the knob of a man’s penis, is exposed. The rest of it is subcutaneous with a spot inside the vagina called colloquially, the G spot. That means that a woman can have orgasm from the stimulation of either end of her clitoris, the external and the exposed, which can be touched; or the hidden and the inner which can only be reached by intercourse.
Neither however, will yield any pleasure, without her complete consent, and therein lies the role of love.
There’s more. A woman is born with a hood over her external clitoris. In every country in the west, women have the option of an hoodectomy - removing this hood over their clitoris to ensure that the wonderful clitoris, full of nerve endings of pleasure are exposed when they have sex. In other countries when some Muslim women are circumcised at seven, a tiny slit or about 2 mm of this hood is nicked to achieve the same sort of result in a more natural way by the time the child matures and the organs take shape. That essentially, is a circumcision.
So, sex is more fun for both partners. The external clitoris is open and easily stimulated to get you in the mood, and the internal clitoris has always been ready and waiting for more.
Now, the funny thing is, that given that both a circumcision and a hoodectomy exposes the clitoris, it is biologically impossible for a woman who has been circumcised not to have a heightened sense of sensitivity in her clitoris. It is true that some women claim that they have been “mutilated” for life, but given that it is biologically impossible to expose the clitoral glans and not have more feeling therein, one wonders what is going on. Whether these problems are indeed physical or mental or accidental, only independent examinations would be able to establish.
In the meantime, all women can use the opportunity of the media interest and discuss these issues that have opened up to improve their own sex lives.
There are several resources on the net that teach women how to achieve orgasm, though these are generally clitoral orgasms. It’s not the full Monty, but it’s a starting point. The aim of these are to help you figure your body out because once you know what you are looking for, it’s easier to find it.
Are you missing out because you have a biological problem? A mental problem? A deprived life? There was a time when sexual fulfilment for women wasn’t considered important because you could still have babies with or without the perks. But now, no woman wants to be without an opportunity to find love and sexual fulfilment just as certainly as she wants children from that activity.
On the other hand, if you are sure that you’re happy in your relationship but still don’t find sexual pleasure, do consider visiting your gynaecologist to check whether or not you would be better off with a circumcision or hoodectomy, because if you are hooded over, sexual pleasure is a needlessly difficult job. A circumcision is generally enough to sort out normal women; a hoodectomy is more definitive. Nevertheless, if you pluck up the courage and go for the procedure, you can be sure that after that, you may find it hard to deal with everyday vibrations, such as, for example, riding pillion on a motorbike; such is the power of the unhooded clitoris! And this is worth doing because being happy in bed, will then lend itself to an ability to receive other pleasure from life.
On the other hand, if you are circumcised and feel brutalised, try to ascertain whether it wasn’t an accident at the event or a mental trauma connected with the whole delicate process of childhood sexuality that harmed you in some way. Because even if, by some accident at the time of the procedure, much of the clitoris was hurt through a genuine act of circumcision, it should in no way impact on the capacity for sexual pleasure or orgasm twenty years later – simply because a part of it lives inside your vagina; and an old mental trauma of whatever nature, related to the circumcision, or another, can be vanquished through the thousand opportunities real life offers for healing.
If you are a young girl, be patient. There’s a lot one has to learn about oneself before you can relax enough with a person you love to let it happen. In the old world, this used to be called marriage. If he loves you, it will get better for you and then as a result, better for him, too. It’s not going to happen the first time because you are distracted by the fireworks in your head and heart, and that’s the way it should be. Just being in his arms is worth the whole universe. Real sex like real love has its own music and its own rhythms and takes its own time.
Orgasms are real. They get better with age. That’s the way nature compensates for maturity. Older women are indeed, better in bed. But when you’re young, your head is rockin’. That’s not something to dismiss either.
Gentlemen, marry young and grow old together and you have a win-win through your lady’s entire life.
Ladies, be happy. Half of this is biology. There is no way that part can’t work.
Rashida Mustafa is a clinical and psychoanalytic psychologist.
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