In the mid-1950s, obstetrician gynecologist James Burt began performing what he claimed was a modification of episiotomy repair. An episiotomy is an incision made by physicians from the opening of the vagina toward the rectum done on women during childbirth with the intention of preventing undue tearing as the baby’s head emerges from the vagina; physicians then repaired this cut by stitching it up following the birth (episiotomies used to be very common in the United States, with some hospitals reporting rates of up to 90% of all first-time mothers undergoing one). By around 1975, Burt began calling his modification of this stitching up ‘love surgery’ and by this time he had also added female circumcision (which is how I learned about him). He began offering love surgery as an elective surgery to women of whom he was not delivering a child, though he also continued to perform it on his obstetric patients. Burt performed love surgery until 1987, and he practiced medicine until early 1989, a few months after a group of women upon whom he had performed love surgery who were suing him for malpractice accused him on a national television show of operating on them without their informed consent. After this negative exposure, Burt was pressured to give up his medical license; in January 1989, he voluntarily stopped practicing medicine, though he maintained he would teach love surgery to any interested physician.

A chapter of my book, Female Circumcision and Clitoridectomy in the United States, concerns Burt and his practice, and I have also published an article that appeared in the journal the Archives of Sexual Behavior. A link to the PubMed abstract is below. I am currently working on a book about Burt and his practice of love surgery.

"Female Sexuality and Consent in Public Discourse: James Burt's 'Love Surgery'," Archives of Sexual Behavior (April 2013):