Yoder and FGM
VOLOKH at mail.law.ucla.edu
Wed Jan 9 13:56:32 PST 2002
The distinction between male circumcision and female genital
mutilation must, I think, turn on their impact on sexual pleasure
(apparently very little for men, though it's obviously hard to do good
comparisons, and apparently vast for women).
The medical benefits of male circumcision are, I'm told, not
entirely clear, but I take it that Rick would agree that even if male
circumcision were proven to be medically neutral, it shouldn't be
prohibited. Conversely, if FGM does indeed decrease or largely eliminate
female sexual pleasure, I would guess that it would have many more indirect
medical benefits than male circumcision: Lack of sexual pleasure will
probably, all else being equal, mean less sex, and therefore fewer sexually
transmitted diseases (both very serious ones and the much more common less
serious ones) and unwanted pregnancies. If it were proven that FGM had more
medical benefits than male circumcision, would we say that female FGM
couldn't be banned? I don't think so.
Ultimately, then, the difference must return to sexual pleasure.
FGM irreversibly deprives -- or at least comes close to depriving -- women
of what many people see as a tremendously important part of their lives;
male circumcision does not. In fact, this ties to Rick's analysis of Yoder;
if he's right that any educational damage, if damage it is, caused by the
lack of education from 14 to 16 can easily be repaired, then indeed the
practices are much less harmful than FGM. But if some families concluded
that their children had to be reared without access to human language for
the first 12 years of their life -- which I understand would cause
irreversible damage to their linguistic abilities -- then we might take a
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rick Duncan [SMTP:conlawprof at YAHOO.COM]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 12:07 PM
> To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
> Subject: Re: Yoder and FGM
> Pain is only part of the compelling interest
> supporting a ban on FMG. The primary difference
> between FMG and male circumcision is that one practice
> is pure mutilation (cutting off parts of a young
> girl's body with no medical justification) and the
> other is accepted by the medical profession as a
> reasonable type of optional surgery that produces some
> medical benefits.
> I think the Yoder/FMG analogy is a silly one for many
> reasons. The Amish do not physically mutilate their
> children's bodies, rather they provide a different
> (but still a valuable) type of education for their
> children following the 8th grade (vocational training
> instead of 2 or 3 years of high school academics).
> Moreover, FMG is permanent. Once the mutilation
> occurs, it cannot be undone when the child becomes an
> adult and decides her parents ways are not her ways.
> However, if an Amish child changes his or her mind
> about education when he or she comes of age, he or she
> has 50 or 60 years to read Shakespeare and Dickens and
> Frost and Whitman and perhaps even Paul Monette (and a
> very useful skill such as carpentry or farming to
> It is almost slanderous to compare the Amish lifeways
> to FMG. I don't see the slightest similarity.
> Cheers, Rick Duncan
> "Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm."
> --President George W. Bush (quoting John Page)
> "When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred;
> middle things are gone." -C.S. Lewis
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