OVERVIEW OF Female Circumcision and Clitoridectomy in the United States: A History of a Medical Treatment - In the nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, American physicians treated women and girls for masturbation by removing the clitoris (clitoridectomy) or clitoral hood (female circumcision). During this same time, and continuing to today, physicians also performed female circumcision to enable women to reach orgasm. Though seemingly paradoxical, the dual purpose of these clitoral surgeries reflects consistent medical ideas about the clitoris as a sexual organ. In recent years both the popular media and academics have weighed in on the rising popularity in the United States of female genital cosmetic surgeries, including female circumcision, yet these discussions often assume such surgeries are new. In Female Circumcision and Clitoridectomy in the United States: A History of a Medical Treatment, I present a surprising history of surgeries on the clitoris, revealing what the therapeutic use of clitoridectomy and female circumcision tells us about changing (and not so changing) medical ideas concerning the female body and female sexuality.
The book is available through booksellers or through the University of Rochester Press at http://www.urpress.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14559
INTERVIEWS - I was interviewed on Chicago Public Media's Vocalo in December 2014, and you can listen to that interview here: https://soundcloud.com/vocalo/a-medical-history-of-female-circumcision-in-the-united-states
- On the blog Nursing Clio: http://nursingclio.org/2015/01/06/clio-reads-female-circumcision-and-clitoridectomy-in-the-united-states-a-history-of-a-medical-treatment/
THE USE OF FEMALE CIRCUMCISION TO PROMOTE FEMALE ORGASM - A link to an article I wrote for Pacific Standard on the use of female circumcision to treat a lack of female orgasm can be found here: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/female-circumcision-sexual-therapy-past-future-plastic-surgery-73229/
FEMALE CIRCUMCISION, CLITORIDECTOMY, AND AMERICAN CULTURE - Read a blog post I did for Nursing Clio on the history of the practice in the United States here: http://nursingclio.org/2015/01/08/female-circumcision-clitoridectomy-and-american-culture/
HOW DID I BECOME INTERESTED IN THE HISTORY OF FEMALE CIRCUMCISION & CLITORIDECTOMY IN THE US? - My book, Female Circumcision and Clitoridectomy in the United States: A History of a Medical Treatment, will be coming out this fall, though I began writing about this topic some years back. How did I become interested in this topic? I first learned about the practice of female circumcision and clitoridectomy in the United States as medical therapy through Alice Walker’s book, Possessing the Secret of Joy. In the book, a white North American woman’s clitoris was removed when she was a child in the early twentieth century in an attempt to stop her from masturbating. Until then I had also only heard of it within an ‘African’ context, and curiosity (and the need for an undergraduate honor’s thesis topic) prompted me to go looking to see if this indeed had ever occurred in the United States. I ended up writing about 100 pages for my honor’s thesis on female circumcision and clitoridectomy as medical therapy, and decided to go to graduate school for the history of medicine. (I am not certain where, or even if, a copy of my undergraduate thesis exists which, really, is just as well.)
But while working on my masters degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I became interested in other areas, and put aside this topic. After moving to Nebraska, I returned to graduate school in order to restart my work on the history of female circumcision and clitoridectomy as medical therapy, and ended up writing my dissertation on it – and again considered myself finished with the subject. Over lunches with a friend at Maggie’s in Lincoln, I decided to revise part of the dissertation into an article, published in 2008 in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. Re-smitten with the subject, I began doing more research, and ended up rewriting the dissertation almost entirely for my forthcoming book.