Men’s Issues  

Male circumcision can be worse than FGM rules senior judge

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One of the country’s most senior judges has courted controversy by declaring that male circumcision can be more harmful than female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sir James Munby acknowledged he was entering “deep waters” by highlighting inconsistencies in the law, but said it would be “irrational” to dispute the fact that male circumcision can be more harmful than some forms of FGM. The High Court judge made the comments as he passed judgment in care proceedings brought by a local authority seeking to take a brother and sister, from a Muslim family, into care on the grounds that the girl was a victim of Type IV FGM.

While the case failed on the grounds that damage to the girl’s genitals was probably caused by a condition called vulvovaginitis, Munby, who is president of the family division, felt compelled to highlight the sexist double standard that the case brought to light.

In summing up the judge noted that while subjecting a girl to Type IV FGM could result in that child being taken into care, male circumcision would not lead to a boy being removed from his family, even though the procedure is more harmful than at least some forms of Type IV FGM.

An inconvenient truth 

Campaigners against male circumcision have long been hampered by the myth that subjecting girls to FGM is different and always worse than circumcising boys.

The uncomfortable truth, to which Munby has now given judicial credibility, is that male circumcision is different and sometimes worse than FGM.

This is particularly true of Type IV FGM which incorporates practices such as pricking, piercing and nicking the genitals, which are less harmful and invasive than removing the foreskin in it’s entirety.

Male circumcision in the UK is often performed without anaesthetic, in non-medical conditions and can cause complications such as life threatening haemorrhage, shock, sepsis an in extreme cases death.

In 2012 a Freedom of Information request revealed that two boys a week are admitted to the emergency department of Birmingham children’s hospital as a result of male circumcision.

Society more tolerant of male circumcision 

However, despite Munby’s assessment that ”on any objective view” male circumcisions is sometimes worse than FGM, he also made clear that current judicial thinking is that there is no equivalence between the two practices.

“In 2015 ,” he said in his judgment, “the law generally, and family law in particular, is still prepared to tolerate non-therapeutic male circumcision performed for religious or even for purely cultural or conventional reasons, while no longer being willing to tolerate FGM in any of its forms.

“Given the comparison between what is involved in male circumcision and FGM WHO Type IV, to dispute that the more invasive procedure involves the significant harm involved in the less invasive procedure would seem almost irrational. In my judgment, if FGM Type IV amounts to significant harm, as in my judgment it does, then the same must be so of male circumcision.”

The phrase “significant harm” is important as this is the first threshold that must be crossed before a child can be taken into care under section 31 of the Children’s Act 1989. There is another criteria which must also be considered in care proceedings and this is whether the care given to a child is “what would be reasonable to expect a parent to give”.

Why the law is different 

According to Munby, while it can never be reasonable parenting to inflict any form of FGM on a child, the position is quite different with male circumcision.

Munby argued that there are at least two important distinctions between the two practices. Firstly, that FGM has no basis in any religion, while male circumcision is often performed for religious reasons. Secondly, that while FGM is said to have no medical justification and confers no health benefits; male circumcision is seen by some people as providing hygienic or prophylactic benefits, although opinions are divided.

Even taking the conflicting medical evidence on any perceived benefits into account, Munby concluded that “reasonable” parenting should be seen to permit male circumcision.

And that is where UK law stands on the matter today. The Head of the Family Division of the Family Court has judged that while male circumcision is sometimes worse than FGM, it is deemed to be reasonable for parents of all backgrounds to circumcise their sons, while carrying out a less invasive and less harmful from of Type IV FGM on their daughters is not considered reasonable parental behaviour.

A welcome coup for campaigners

Having a senior judge acknowledge that FGM can be less harmful than male circumcision is a welcome coup for those of us who advocate for the right of every human being to enter adulthood with intact genitals, except in rare cases where therapeutic surgery is unequivocally unavoidable.

The fact that our society, led by politicians and the judiciary, is still prepared to tolerate greater harm happening to boys than to girls, reveals a great deal about the sexist double standards we apply to the issues that affect men and boys in 2015.

The fact that we are collectively more tolerant of the harm that happens to men and boys, than the harm that happens to women and girls, doesn’t begin and end at genital mutilation.

Our shared cultural beliefs that “boys don’t cry”; that men should “man up”; that women have problems and men are problems; that females are the weaker sex and that we should always put the protection of women and girls first; is reflected in our inability to tackle a whole range of social issues that, predominantly impact men and boys, head on.

Why this is a men’s issue

These include male suicide; male homelessness; the high rate of male workplace deaths; men’s lower life expectancy; the expulsion of boys from school; the exclusion and marginalisation of separated fathers from their children’s lives; the way we respond to male victims of violence and the harsher treatment and sentencing of men and boys in the criminal justice system.

What Sir James Munby has uncovered is an inconvenient and important truth about men, manhood and masculinity in 2015 which is simply this—while the harm that happens to men and boys in our society is different and sometimes worse than the harm that happens to women and girls, we still view any harm that women and girls experience more seriously.

Munby is part of the problem he has raised, for while he acknowledges that male circumcision can be more harmful than FGM, he has essentially declared that while it’s reasonable for parents to harm their sons, it is never reasonable to harm their daughters.

Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men

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  • Nick Langford

    The InsideMAN agenda to slap a gender perspective on every issue regardless of whether it is appropriate starts to become irritating, I find. I think what Munby said in the judgement has been misinterpreted, and there are other, perhaps more interesting, questions which he raises. One is whether the law should make such a distinction between cultural practices and religious ones – he seems to suggest that the religious component might be used to justify MGM but the cultural component cannot be used to justify FGM. As an atheist I cannot see the distinction – surely all religion is cultural? He also, rightly in my view, identifies that MGM is more complex an issue because of the religious and medical arguments which do not apply to FGM. You don’t have to agree with those arguments, but you cannot deny they are there. Merely turning this into a gender issue misses all these nuances and complexities, I feel.

    • Inside MAN

      Thanks Nick

      It’s always going to be about gender and gender politics here, that’s the nature of insideMAN and those nuances you mention are reported above and open to discussion.

      What isn’t discussed here is that FGM is framed as Violence Against Women and Girls (there is no such thing as Violence Against Men and Boys) in policy terms—-we can only address this issue (which kills and harms boys in the UK) if we understand the gender and gender political nature of the problem (as well as the other nuances such as religion, health etc)

      You make a fair point though—-the attempt the tackle FGM as a gender political problem framed as Violence Against Women—without fully understanding the nuances of the problem—makes it harder to tackle the problem—-and purely framing male circumcision as a gender issue, without fully understanding the other nuances, can’t resolve the problem.

      However insideMAN is about gender and as such gender will always be the starting point of any conversation—where that conversation then goes is down to other readers and contributors like yourself.

      Best Wishes


    • Lawrence Newman

      Making the distinction between religion and culture is sophistry. There is no difference. This is just special pleading for irrational cults to be able to abuse boys.

      As for medical arguments, there are none. Any so-called medical benefit of circumcision is a post hoc rationalisation. They used to say it prevented TB and cured epilepsy. Now they’re trying to say it helps prevent HIV, UTIs and prostate cancer. Of course , none of this is true and there is no evidence at all. The few trials they point to have deliberately flawed methodology in order to skew the results in a pro-circumcision direction.

      And none of these medical reasons, even if they were proven, would justify sexually crippling a male. Circumcised men have lost all the most important erogenous tissue. As a consequence, they are 4-5 times more likely to suffer from ED. This is why the industrialised countries with the highest circumcision rates have the highest sales of viagra.

      • Nick Langford

        I think you’ve missed the point. The medical arguments may be spurious but there are medical arguments. There are no medical arguments for FGM.

        • Ally Fogg

          One of the most intriguing “dirty secrets” of this debate is that there has been some research in sub-Saharan Africa that has found women who have suffered FGM have lower rates of HIV transmission than women who have not.

          This is not widely known, primarily because it is considered unethical to research (or even acknowledge) a theory that FGM might have medical benefits.

          The double standard, of course, is striking.

          I’m on the move at the moment and can’t easily find the links, but I’m sure Google will furnish you.

          • Inside MAN

            Thanks Ally

            Good to see you over these parts!

            Happy New Year to you

            Best Wishes


          • Steve Rusch

            Careful, though: regardless of any findings, HIV transmission has nothing to do with any genital mutilation. Confirmation bias, or worse: deliberate. Goes to the nature of HIV. If you haven’t watched Brent Leung’s outstanding analysis of HIV, entitled “House of Numbers,” a full length documentary which includes many interviews with leading researchers in the field, well?— Youtube search it! It was there in full, last time I checked. It’s a game-changer.

        • Tamen

          It’s not true that there is no medical arguments for FGM.
          This study done in Kenya found “… an inverse association (OR=0.508; 95% CI: 0.376-0.687) between
          FGM and HIV/AIDS, after adjusting for confounding variables.”

          This study done in Tanzania which is a meta-analysis of three other Tanzanian studies also found a significant inverse association with FGM and HIV after adjusting for confounding variables.

          The thing is that while World Health Organization and others are prefectly ok with using similar studies done on male circumcision and HIV as arguments for pushing for male circumcision to curb HIV they aren’t using these studies to argue for FGM to curb HIV. In fact they don’t talk about these studies at all.

          So there must be some other reasons why FGM and MGM is seen as different. It seems pretty clear to me that the difference is gender.

        • Lawrence Newman


          One of the medical arguments for circumcision is that it reduces the risk of penile cancer. This is the only technically correct medical benefit since cutting any tissue off the body reduces the chance of cancer. That’s simply a truism. Likewise, cutting off the glans clitoris gives 100% immunity from glans clitoral cancer. That’s a statement of fact.

          Obviously, it would be insane to cut someone’s erogenous tissue off to give them a decreased chance or immunity from a form of cancer without their consent. Cancer of the genital region is rare anyway, and it should be left up to the people who own the genitals.

          There was also a study done that suggested that FGM decreased the risk of HIV, though that was quickly covered up and nobody ever suggested that we do it.

          Moreover, many doctors say circumcision is ‘more hygienic’. Well, by that logic, so is FGM.

          In countries where they do FGM, the reasons given for doing male circumcision are often used to justify it too, such as decreased risk of UTI’s and HIV.

        • HaWeHa

          [The concept] of Circumcision of Minors (without immediate medical indication] is a Religion of its own, which is the Meta-Magical Bizarre Transfiguration from “Theft” into a “Gift”. There is no medical argument for the Ablation of a Healthy, highly erotogenic body part. There is no compelling reason in the name of “prevention” – and IF, then the Individual can still decide for themselves, in adulthood. I REQUIRE my Prepuce for the Sexual Function [my preorgasmic pleasure AND my climax triggered from the Frenular Delta] AND for Intercourse with my Spouse, who ist post meno pausal [I collect my preejaculatory Lubrication Fluid “under” it, which makes the GlanS and the Inner Prepuce slippery ], and everybody, that they proclaim health benefits from the Ablation of the Prepuce, are Deceivers of Mankind. I need my Prepuce, and quite not all those 1001 merely asserted benefits of “circumcision” All those that they read this, Circumcision is a Pseudo Medical Deception, it would prevent if not even cure 1001+ diseases THEN, including Elefantiasis, Syphilis, Bed Wetting, Club Feet, Mental Problems (the list goes on) which it does not prevent any more NOW, Honi soit qui mal y pense. Circum-Proponents are Aesop’s Foxxen without Tail. Beware of all Deceivers, that they declare the Male Prepuce for a special site of “disease”. The actual “disease” that they want to see “cured” in every BOY is, that these are prevented from lustfully pulling their Prepuce back and forth in their privacy. I claim, that the Human mind has not as much changed after the 19th century, when Doctors directed an unhealthy interest on underage autonomous sexuality. Kind regards from a Biologist from GERMANY.

        • John Garner

          Women sometimes need to have their clitoral hood cut off for phimosis.

          so doing that to little girls could be viewed as prophylactic.

          • Lawrence Newman

            That’s medical negligence, just like cutting off the foreskin off a boy for ‘phimosis’. Completely unnecessary.

            I remember seeing a programme on psychopathy, where it was claimed that the medical profession has the greatest percentage of psychopaths, more than any other profession.

  • karen woodall

    I disagree with Nick, this is, if anything one of the biggest gender political issues in our country to day in my view and Munby’s judgement absolutely crystalises the issues around MGM for me and makes clear the work ahead for anyone working with men and boys.

    Munby says that MGM can be more harmful than FGM but accepts that harm as being reasonable parenting. Standing aside from cultural or religious practice, it seems to me that the leading Judge in the land making a statement that it is reasonable to harm boys but not reasonable to harm girls is a very clear statement of two things – 1. The cumulative power of the feminist movement over the decades in silencing men in speaking about the issues that affect them and 2. The tolerance that we as a society show towards the harm we inflict (and accept being inflicted) on men and boys.

    This is a gender issue which in my experience has never been disconnected from the religios/cultural aspects either by the women who fight against FGM OR the men who fight against MGM. Just as in the fight against FGM, all of the religious and cultural aspects have been part of the fight against MGM ( I remember the debates about FGM in the eighties and how the religious and cultural aspects silenced many women who found the practice abbhorrent and I see that same debate going on in the fight against MGM).

    This issue represents – writ large for us all to witness – the current way in which men and boys are regarded….to me it is little different than it is has always been – men as cannon fodder, disposable and expected to grin and bear it and women as goddesses accorded all of the care taking a society can give (whilst spending their time arguing they are not equal, its not fair and their issues are overlooked).

    For me it is a big wake up call on gender politics and it defines what we need to do to ensure a fairer, more egalitarian society in which boys can expect to be safe from mutilation in the same way as girls and in which their voices are heard and considered as vital and urgent as girls. Only men (and women) working together on this issue will change that – only when we make it as clear that MGM is unacceptable as FGM (thereby forcing change in the mindset of the Judiciary) will we make this world a safer place for boys and the men they will grow into. Munby’s Judgement is not some remote, disinterested, divine or universal ‘truth’ it is his opinion based on a western legal framework. When his and other’s opinions are changed by the societal change, then he and others will Judge differently. That is how FGM came to the fore and got changed and that is the road ahead for the issue of MGM which exemplifies for me, the fight for a truly equal society.

    • Inside MAN

      Amen! (or here, here if you prefer a secular response)!


  • Peter Davies

    Thank you Glen for writing this article. I think that Sir James has been candid in voicing the dilemmas faced by the judiciary when faced with badly thought out and inconsistent legislation. There are further ramifications which also need to be considered and at least talked about.

    Firstly there is the smacking debate: whilst it is legal for parents to use mild chastisement there have been calls for this defence to be outlawed. How could it be “reasonable parenting”, legal and socially acceptable to take a knife to a new born baby boys, for mainly religious reasons on the one hand, whilst making it illegal, unreasonable parenting and socially unacceptable to use even mild chastisement on the other hand?

    Secondly, there is the paramountcy principle where, in family proceedings the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration. Calls to incorporate a presumption in favour of shared parenting and improved paternal involvement in the new Children and Families Act were dismissed because there was a great deal of lobbying (heavily influenced by feminist academics) that objected to any new presumptions on the grounds that they would usurp the paramountcy principle and the welfare of children. This case highlights how, parental religious and cultural preference would appear to conveniently override the paramountcy principle whilst failing to protect boys from having “significant harm inflicted upon them”. In other words, the welfare of boys is not the paramount consideration when it comes to the religiously motivated desire of their parents to mutilate their genitals.

    In Sir James judgement he highlighted another difficulty. The first prosecution under the 2003 FGM Act was not begun until last year: some 11 years after the Act became law. Despite the passage of time and the need to train experts to facilitate the implementation of the Act it became clear, during the first instance of FGM to come before the courts, that there was a serious paucity of expertise available to identify whether FGM had in fact taken place. Nonetheless, he has again illuminated a dismal level of training which is an all too common feature in family proceedings.

  • Lawrence Newman

    Male “circumcision” is more sexually damaging than type 2 FGM. If people viewed it objectively and logically and knew about the anatomy of the penis, they would understand this.

    Virtually all sexual sensation comes from the ridged band and frenular delta, two parts of the foreskin that are cut off in circumcision. The glans penis is almost sexually insensitive, contrary to popular myth. The glans penis’s importance is as a source of rigidity, while the foreskin’s importance is as a source of light-touch and stretch-reception. The foreskin is meant to roll back and forth behind or over the glans, depending on the man.

    A woman can have her glans clitoris removed and even part of her labia or hood and still be able to have sex and achieve orgasm. Society seems to ignore this when the issue of MGM vs FGM comes up. I hear nonsense like FGM is like cutting off the penis. That is obviously untrue since if that were the case type 2 FGM would mean women couldn’t have sex, which isn’t true. A man who has had his ridged band and frenular delta cut off can’t feel sexual pleasure. A guy like me has to rub scar tissue in the frenular area to try and generate friction to get a weak ejaculation.

    I had a foreskin until I was 14, when the UK’s NHS duped me and my parents into getting me circumcised without my informed consent for ‘phimosis’, something I later found out was medical negligence. I know it destroys sexual sensation. Most circumcised men, just like most victims of FGM, were cut at birth or in prepubescence and don’t know what they’ve lost.

    Modern Western society is SO gynocentric, always viewing the same bad thing done on women and girls as worse than when it’s done on men and boys.

    “The glans penis is primarily innervated by free nerve endings and has primarily protopathic sensitivity [43]. Protopathic sensitivity refers to cruder, poorly localized feelings (including pain, some temperature sensations and certain perceptions of mechanical contact) [44]. In the glans penis, encapsulated end-organs are sparse, and found mainly along the glans corona and the frenulum [43].”

    Neurological analysis has shown the glans penis to be almost sexually insensitive, so logically the majority of sexual sensation is in the foreskin.

    All the people who say FGM is worse than circumcision are always full of logical fallacies, such as ‘but most circumcised men don’t complain!’ Well most circumcised women don’t complain either due to the reason I mentioned earlier. They’ll say it’s ‘just a piece of skin’, but that’s been disproven. They’ll say ‘but FGM is done to sexually suppress and circumcision isn’t’. Well circumcision is 7000 yrs old at least and has always been rooted in religious sex negative attitudes, done to deny earthly pleasure. Any other reasons that have been dreamed up recently are post hoc rationalisations. And the reason doesn’t matter if the result is the same.

    When I discuss this with people, I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. People are just SO STUPID.

  • Edward von Roy

    Basic Human Genital Anatomy

    Neurologically, the most specialized pressure-sensitive cells in the human body are Meissner’s corpuscles for localized light touch and fast touch, Merkel’s disc cells for light pressure and tactile form and texture, Ruffini’s corpuscles for slow sustained pressure, deep skin tension, stretch, flutter and slip, and Pacinian corpuscles for deep touch and detection of rapid external vibrations. They are found only in the tongue, lips, palms, fingertips, nipples, and the clitoris and the crests of the ridged band at the tip of the male foreskin. These remarkable cells process tens of thousands of information impulses per second and can sense texture, stretch, and vibration/movement at the micrometre level. These are the cells that allow blind people to “see” Braille with their fingertips. Cut them off and, male or female, it’s like trying to read Braille with your elbow.

    Physiologically, the clitoris is richly endowed with thousands of these specialized pressure-sensitive nerves and the clitoral foreskin is virtually bereft of them. The ridged band at the tip of the the penile foreskin is richly endowed with thousands of these same specialized pressure-sensitive nerves and the glans is virtually bereft of them. Lightening speed feedback by somatosensory transduction from such tactile sensitivity gives humans intense pleasure, environmental awareness, and control. Cut off these super-sensitive cells and with lack of awareness comes lack of control. To say that amputation of the clitoris or amputation of the mobile roller-bearing-like portion of the natural penis, and consequently thousands of these specialized nerve cell interfaces, does not permanently sub-normalize a woman’s or a man’s natural capabilities and partially devitalize their innate capacity for gliding action tactile pleasure is grossly illogical denial of the bio-mechanical and the somatosensory facts of human genital anatomy.

    Mechanically, the natural vaginal and penile lubricants are kept inside the vagina during male/female intercourse by the organic seal effect of the mobile penile foreskin. The mechanoreceptors in the buried legs of the intact clitoris straddle the entroitus of the vagina and are stimulated by the identical mechanoreceptors in the thick bunching accordion folds of the mobile penile foreskin. The clitoris and the penile foreskin are also intensely vascular – thickening when stimulated. Millions of years of trial and error evolutionary forces have synchronously engineered the human sex organs to function synergistically. We can be sure Nature has evolved (if you prefer, God has created) these differences and duplications for a reason. The brilliantly engineered unaltered female body is the perfect match for the equally brilliantly engineered design of the natural penis; they evolved together to compliment each other and they function collaboratively to achieve two common goals – mutual pleasure and insemination.

    A woman can live without the sensitivity of the visible part of her clitoris. A man can live without the mobile and most sensitive part of his penis. But, both men and women are better off with their natural fine-touch parts intact – all of them. And so are their sexual partners.

    Gary Harryman

  • Edward von Roy

    Female genital mutilation of any type has been recognized as a harmful.

    FGM of any type is a violation of the human rights of girls and women and must be prohibited.

    All nations must establish clear policies against genital mutilation (FGM, female and MGM, male genital mutilation) and enforcing existing laws which prohibit it.

    Probably we should talk about HGM (human genital mutilation, i. e. FGM and MGM).

  • Edward von Roy

    FGM Type I is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (clitoridectomy). Type Ia is the removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; Type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

    Male genital mutilation (like Islamic khitan (sünnet), Jewish brit milah, US-American AAP-standard, etc.) can’t be compared to Type Ia. Instead MGM is the equivalent to clitoridectomy, that is FGM Type Ib.

    • Lawrence Newman

      MGM is so much worse than clitoridectomy. The foreskin contains virtually all the sexual sensation. The glans clitoris contains only part of the woman’s sexual sensation. Women primarily get pleasure from penetrative sex. It’s amazing how this fact seems to be lost on people when discussing the equivalence of MGM to FGM.

      I believe type 3 is when infibulation occurs, which obviously everyone sees as worse because it prevents sex entirely until the vagina is opened. But in terms of sexual sensation and tissue irreversibly lost, male circumcision is worse. I’m not saying male circumcision is worse than type 3 overall, just that the sensation/tissue lost is more.

      • Vanessa

        Let me say first that I am completely against routine infant circumcision and I agree with you on many things, but you are very wrong in one thing. “Women primarily get pleasure from penetrative sex.”……this is not true at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. Very few women can actually orgasm from penetrative sex alone. Many even state that they hardly feel any pleasure for it. There are not as many nerve endings in the vagina as in the clitoris. The real pleasure and orgasm comes from the clitoris, so cutting the glans clitoris off would eliminate or reduce pleasure.

        • Lawrence Newman

          You were saying?

          Sorry, but you’re wrong. Why would women evolve external genitalia when they are not in use during penetrative sex?

          If women didn’t get pleasure from penetrative sex, dildos wouldn’t exist and women wouldn’t prefer thicker penises. Many people don’t know this but the clitoris is an external and an internal organ. The glans clitoris is the external part, but 3/4 of the clitoris is internal and wrapped around the vagina in a wishbone shape. This is partly why women are pleasured by vaginal penetration-the stretching of the clitoris internally. There are also sex nerves within the vaginal canal that give pleasure.

          It amazes me that so many women repeat this nonsense when it has no basis in reality. Do you think men are stupid? I’ve seen my ex-girlfriend have plenty of orgasms via penetrative sex without any stimulation of the glans clitoris. Yes, the glans clitoris is sensitive and provides even more pleasure on top, but losing it does not prevent sex or destroy sexual pleasure, as evidenced by that study I gave you.

          Maybe your vaginal canal is defective in some way, but what you say makes no logical sense.

          Either way, male circumcision destroys sexual pleasure. I am proof of that. As is this guy:

          • Vanessa

            Sorry but no I am not wrong. I think I would know more about this as I am woman who actually researched why penetrative didn’t feel as good as I thought It would and didn’t get me to orgasm. I though something was wrong with me, but guess what, there is NOTHING wrong with me. I am normal and I resent the fact that you said I must be defective.

            It is a universal fact that most women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. You said “Women PRIMARILY get pleasure from penetrative sex.” That is flat out wrong. Women primarily get pleasure from stimulation of the glans clitoris.

            I didn’t say penetrative sex doesn’t feel pleasurable. For many, if not most, it does feel good, but not good enough to orgasm. It feels more like a sensual internal massage. There are actually not that many nerve endings inside the vaginal canal, with most of them right in the opening, which is why most women don’t feel a tampon or a menstrual cup when it’s inside. Yes a penis or dildo does feel good when it’s stretching the vaginal canal and stimulating the few nerve endings found near the opening of the vagina, but even with this, most women will still require clitoral stimulation to actually orgasm since penetrative sex is not the main source of pleasure for women.

            I know all about the clitoris. I know most of it is internal and some women can achieve orgasm by penetrative sex and finding the right spot inside to stimulate but again it is NOT the primary way to get pleasure.

            You said “you think men are stupid?”. No, not men. I think most men do know that women get most of the pleasure from stimulating the glans clitoris. It’s just you who are very misinformed.

            That pubmed link does not disprove anything I said. It doesn’t say that they are getting orgasms from penetrative sex. I’ve actually gotten into debates were I explain why women who have their glans clitoris removed can still get orgasm from stimulating that area, no penetration needed. That is likely how those women are able to have orgasms. Because even if the tip is cut off ,it doesn’t destroy the whole clitoris and rubbing that area or using a vibrator can still make a woman orgasm.

            You will not find ONE study or article to prove that women primarily get pleasure from penetrative sex. That was the only point of yours that I was refuting.

            “About 75 percent of all women never reach orgasm from intercourse alone — that is without the extra help of sex toys, hands or tongue.”

            “Actually the vagina is not a highly sensitive area and is not constructed to achieve orgasm. It is the clitoris which is the center of sexual sensitivity and which is the female equivalent of the penis.”

            “Most women experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation rather than through vaginal penetration.”

          • Lawrence Newman

            The main point I was trying to make is this:

            The glans penis of a man if for all intents and purposes sexually insensitive. 95% of its surface is protopathic, with a scattering of light-touch receptors on the corona that barely register in the grand scheme of things. Basically all sexual sensation on the penis comes from the ridged band and frenular delta. All circumcisions excise the ridged band, and the vast majority excise all of the frenular delta. This is stripping the penis of sexual sensation.

            Whether you support the notion that penetrative sex provides more pleasure than the glans clitoris or not, is irrelevant. What’s relevant, as you indicated in your reply, is that penetrative sex DOES PROVIDE PLEASURE. So we have type 2 FGM, which still allows the woman penetrative sex and stimulation of the vaginal canal and thusly pleasure and the ability to orgasm; then we have MGM, which doesn’t allow sexual sensation because all the erogenous tissue is cut off.

            I don’t need to get embroiled in a big argument about whether penetrative sex provides more pleasure than stimulation of the glans clitoris, because I’ve got the main point across, that type 2 FGM is most definitely more sexually damaging than MGM.

            As someone who has experienced both being intact and being circumcised, I know this.

            Another point I’d like to make relates to what I read on this article you gave me:


            It makes the distinction between orgasm and ejaculation. This is an important distinction. Women who’ve been FGM’d, as I showed by linking that previous study into FGM/orgasm, most women who’ve been FGM’d can orgasm. As a victim of MGM who has experienced orgasm and sensation prior to when circumcision was forced upon me, I can say with 100% certainty that, not only does it destroy all sexual sensation, it also removes the ability to orgasm. I am only able to achieve a weak ejaculation after rubbing scar tissue very vigorously and holding my breath. It’s very difficult and in most sexual positions, e.g. missionary, I could never ever even ejaculate. It’s effectively thrusting a numb dildo with no feeling. I need to put pressure and friction on the frenular region, where there are obviously a couple of nerves left. But no pleasure.

            ” For both men and women, an orgasm produces rapid muscle contractions usually in the genital and anal area and sometimes throughout the body. These contractions, in the sexual and reproductive organs, the muscles of the pelvic floor, and the anus occur at the very same intervals (0.8 seconds) for both women and men. Men average four to six orgasmic contractions. Women average six to ten.”

            I’m prepared to accept that vaginal sex stimulates women less than clitoral stimulation (how would I know for sure anyway, as I’m a man). However, like I said, the relative degree of sensation of the clitoris and vaginal canal is irrelevant in this context; what’s important is that we’ve established that victims of type 2 FGM can still reach orgasm and still get some pleasure, while a victim of MGM cannot, though it’s very difficult to prove this due to so many men circumcised at birth with egos who refuse to accept they were sexually crippled. When a man is circumcised at birth, he can never appreciate how damaged his penis is due to never experiencing the exquisite sensations contained within the foreskin. I can’t even get involuntary erections because the foreskin is removed. This is why viagra is sold the most in the developed countries with the highest circumcision rate. Not only does MGM remove all sexual pleasure, it humiliates the man because the man is the one responsible for getting an erection and is, in general, the active participant, while the woman is passive.

        • Kelly

          Penetrative sex with a circumcised male is uncomfortable for the woman and causes her vaginal canal to tense up and resist his abrasive, unnatural thrusts. The studies that play down the female experience of penetrative intimacy are invariably conducted by those making no discrimination between a natural penis (and in turn natural man) and one brutalized by a circumcision surgery.

          When it comes to sex I can’t take seriously anything coming out of a country that does something so drastic and cruel to one partner’s primary sex organ.

          I’ve never been with a woman who required her clitoris, quite honestly.

          • Lawrence Newman

            From my limited experience (circumcision actually caused me to give up on women once I faced up to the reality of what was done to me), women get great pleasure from penetrative sex, but stimulating the clitoris at the same time heightens the experience. But stimulation of the clitoris was never necessary to induce orgasm or pleasure.

  • karen woodall

    I have to say this debate and the comments has absolutely set this issue as the core issue in gender politics for me and it has clarified why refocusing gender equality is absolutely about the needs of men and boys and their right to live their lives with all of the choices accorded to women and girls. Collectively, we, the people who care about equality, fairness and justice in the world, have to move this up the agenda and MAKE people listen. Thank you Glen and Dan for raising this, the comments above are eye openers for me and the piece posted by Edward by Garry Harryman is utterly compelling.

  • William

    I feel that anyone who mutilates a male or female child needs to be imprisoned and punished severely and permanently registered on the sex offenders list. It is a violation of the rights of the child and the adult they become one day.

  • Lawrence Newman

    If anyone’s interested, this is categorically the best book on the damaging physical and psychological effects of male genital mutilation. My own story is in here, along with 49 other guys’.

    It was the only thing that managed to wake my parents up about the extent of the barbarism that was inflicted on me.

  • Edward von Roy

    FGM is Islamic. Judge Sir James Munby is wrong, the circumcision of girls is part of several hadith and many fatwa.

    The Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) of Shafii madhhab and many Ulama of Hanbali madhhab regard FGM as wajib, i. e. as a religious duty. So FGM is part of religion.

    Muhammad said to the muqaṭṭiʿa al-buẓūr (cutter of clitorises) Umm ‘Aṭiyya:

    أشمِّي ولا تنهكي
    ašimmī wa-lā tanhakī,
    [Cut] slightly and do not overdo it,

    اختفضن ولا تنهكن
    iḫtafiḍna wa-lā tanhikna,
    Cut [slightly] without exaggeration,

    Who tells Judge Munby: What is the Ruling on Circumcision for Women?

    Circumcision is obligatory upon men and women according to us (i.e. the Shafi’is). (Majmu’ of Imam An-Nawawi 1:164) The circumcision is wajib upon men and women according to the rājih qawl of Shāfi’ī madhhab. Answered by: Sidi Abdullah Muḥammad al-Marbūqī al-Shāfi’ī. Checked by: Al-Ustāż Fauzi ibn Abd Rahman

    A Cutting Tradition. By SARA CORBETT. The New York Times. Published: January 20, 2008

    Inside a Female-Circumcision Ceremony. Photo: Stephanie Sinclair

  • Nick Langford

    I think that possibly the comment I made rather too early this morning and perhaps not very clearly has been misunderstood and needs clarification. First off, I think mutilating children’s genitals is abhorrent and indefensible, whether for cultural, religious or medical reasons, however spurious. Secondly, as stated, I don’t agree with Munby’s reasoning, and I don’t accept his distinction between cultural or religious practices.

    Nevertheless, I do maintain that viewing this or other issues through a relentlessly gendered lens can blind us to other factors. I disagree that Munby says it is acceptable to mutilate boys’ genitals and not those of girls. Not everyone sees these matters as gendered and I don’t think Munby necessarily does; his argument is a legal one, and he believes that because – in his view – there are medical and religious arguments which apply to male genital mutilation but not to female mutilation it follows that a legal dispute over MGM would necessarily be less straightforward than one over FGM.

    That may simply be that these arguments were not raised in this particular case, or it may be that Munby is unaware of them.

    I may be wrong in this instance – I’m always happy to be persuaded by an alternative argument – and of course Munby is wrong, as other posters here have clearly and fascinatingly demonstrated, but I think the general principle holds: by interpreting everything according to a particular agenda we may lose sight of alternative explanations.

    In addition, such a perspective can also be very unattractive. There is little public support for the men’s rights campaign, and even serious and respectable campaigners can find themselves ridiculed, as Mike Buchanan has found this week.

    Focusing on a limited range of issues may be a more effective strategy than trying to turn every single issue into a gender one. Child genital mutilation may, as Karen says it should, be one of those issues, I don’t dispute that. Demonstrating that mutilating a boy’s genitals is as vile an act of child abuse as mutilating a girl’s may well be a way to shake the prejudices of the public (and the judiciary). The message we should be sending is that child genital mutilation is unacceptable, regardless of gender. Unfortunately turning an issue into a gender issue tends to encourage competition – in this case with each side seeking to show that their mutilation is worse. That can be quite a turn-off for the people we are trying to persuade. As family law campaigners have found, turning anything into a father’s rights issue invariably becomes a competition which fathers are destined to lose.

    Posters who have posted at length about the biology of the issue have perhaps missed the point that this was a legal case and Munby was making a legal argument and not a biological one. The biological argument is certainly compelling, but we also need to engage with the legal one. Which begins with reading the judgement.

    Finally, if even a seasoned campaigner like myself finds that the gendered interpretation of every issue is becoming tiresome, it might benefit us to consider how the public perceive our discussions, and whether this is the best way forward.

    • Lawrence Newman

      I agree with everything you say. Unfortunately this competition seems to be unavoidable when it comes to any discussion of this because 1) There will always be people ready to say circumcision is ‘no big deal’ and ‘not as bad as FGM’; and 2) FGM is seen as sexually suppressive, so it becomes necessary to provide the historical and biological facts pertaining to circumcision and the foreskin.

      The World Health Organisation regard any genital cutting of girls/women against their will as a human rights abuse. It is simply not feasible to see male genital cutting as not a human rights abuse within the realms of reasonableness, rationality and physiological reality. You would have to be completely uneducated or have some kind of agenda to not see that FGM and MGM are no different in principle.

  • Nigel

    Whatever the arguments for and against any GM. It seems pretty clear that the decision is one for the person themselves once reaching an age to make such a decision of an “elective” procedure. It would seem Mumby is pointing out current law and legal practice is not child centred( in that parents can decide on a harm to be done to an infant)  and this is particularly so for male infants. Of course this occurs to male infants in very much greater numbers than female as well. 
    Though not the only issue , male disposability is pretty central to the sanctioning of genital mutilation of infants. 

  • Not Yours to Cut

    Why would this “court controversy”? It’s entirely obvious that a pinprick into the clitoral prepuce is less harmful than excision of the entire foreskin.

    • Inside MAN

      Why do you think it’s controversial?

  • karen woodall

    Nick I think that you may be missing the point of how and why it is important to look at this as a gender political issue (which it is) and how working with gender politics changes peoples lives.

    You might feel that gender political issues are simply he said/she said and making everything that is said about women also about men but it isn’t. Gender politics are an essential way of thinking and working with PEOPLE, not men and not women but people. Gender politics are about equality, some call it humanity, others have tried to make it only about feminism but in truth, gender politics are about equality, and how about how we navigate difference between men and women and how we maintain an approach to men and women that brings about equality of opportunity – not equality in that everyone has to be the same, but equality in terms of the opportunities to make choices about our lives that allow us all freedom.

    Gender politics brought me into the world of men and boys issues and ultimately it freed me from feminism. It is impossible to understand gender anaysis for example and continue to believe that feminism is about equality. Gender politics are what assisted me to uncover the truth of family law legislation and why so many fathers are shoved out of their children’s lives after separation.

    Gender analysis is what allows me to recognise that Munby’s ruling is wrong and why it is wrong, it also allows me to understand where the work needs to be done to bring about a society in which the Munby’s of the future will rule differently.

    Gender work in MGM includes all of the issues that you raise and examines the issue within that context. Additional posts in this conversation have opened up the debate and informed us all more about MGM. This debate has progressed in exactly the same way as the FGM debates I was around in the eighties (although somewhat more technical and barring a potential argument between posters above, so far done without personalising things. In feminist politics by now, we would have arrived at the point where everyone would be sharing their personal stories and the aim would be to force each other to check their privilege to the point where everyone bar the most harmed, most oppressed, most wounded person was recognised, acknowledged and then venerated and THAT would be the position everyone adopted on the issue)….that is why this space is important and why, in my view, the gender political approach it takes is so crucial.

    It is crucial because it is redifining gender political conversations and demonstrating that men have issues too and men can conversse and debate those issues with women. It is undermining and changing the notion that only feminism is about gender equality. And it is building a following of people who are clearly able to work with the issues of equality outside of the feminist movement. That is the way that we will change the consciousness of the world we live in, that is how feminism will be (is being) shown to be not the only road to equality. All the while giving men and boys a voice and a platform to share the issues that affect them. To call it anything else but what it is, is to remove the power for change that this space has in my view and move it away from equalities.

    You can be a seasoned campaigner and find the gendered approach off putting but it doesn’t stop you being a part of the conversation. The conversation is the important bit so simply ignore the gender political approach to it perhaps and shape the conversation yourself. The issues that you raise are considered and thought through, they are not ignored because some of us see this as a gender political issue. We may write about gender political here and analyse it as such, that doesn’t mean that we talk about it this way everywhere we go, I for example, don’t talk about gender politics to the families I work with, I simply get on and do the work but in order to help me to understand the issues, shape the arguments and put my energies where I think most change is possible, I use gender analysis and on here it is useful for me to consider this through the gender lens first.

    It is first a conversation and then a gendered issue which is analysed and as gendered issues encapsulate every element of the issues that surround and impact men and women differently, in order to think through to a place where strategies to bring about fairness, justice and equality are shaped and then voiced and then enacted, it is about life, as we know it and how we would like it to be.

    • Inside MAN

      Thanks Karen, that was the most beautiful and intelligent love letter to insideMAN and the conversations we aim to pioneer about men, manhood and masculinity and I love you for it.


  • karen woodall

    missing word in the bit about feminism above… is everyone bar the most wounded, most harmed etc would be silenced and the most wounded and harmed person’s experience would be adopted as THE position on the issue…hope that makes sensea1

  • Nick Langford

    Thank you for your analysis, Karen. I think I may disagree with the point rather than have missed it, but there you are. I think you come at this as a reformed feminist while I come at it as a never-feminist and our thought processes are thus rather different (and may be incompatible!), even if we come to much the same conclusion that mutilating children of any gender is abhorrent.

    The conversation so far here has been fascinating, but it hasn’t actually engaged with the legal aspect of the judgement. Munby seems to be struggling with the legal framework, and the fact that there is an FGM act but not an act concerned with male mutilation (because it would be seen as anti-Semitic). He has to rule within that framework, and although he accepts that male mutilation falls within the FGM spectrum has to tie himself in knots of illogic in order to square what is self-evidently illogical with the law as it stands. His view that one form of significant harm justifies taking a child from its parents but that another form (which he admits is more severe) doesn’t justify adoption makes no sense at all.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with looking at this as a gender-political issue, but the legal aspect has also to be considered. We can all exchange personal stories and wave our willies at each other, but that isn’t going to change the law, or the way in which these cases are judged; a change in culture might.

  • karen woodall

    thanks Nick though I don’t have a willy to wave so will have to pass on that one :) . Seriously though your last line says it all, a change in culture might change the way things are judged, it is exactly why this is a gender political issue. FGM was only made illegal when the culture changed, it has been an issue for decades but only a legal issue for a short period, it was feminism that brought about that change – or to put it better, women’s rights work and it will be men’s rights work that brings the cultural change in which these judgements will be made … which is gender politics in action whichever way you cut it.

    • Nick Langford

      Interestingly, the first FGM trial in the UK was on Tuesday, despite it being illegal since 1985. I don’t know what the outcome was. Munby’s judgement shows the difficulty of securing a conviction. Cultural, rather than legal, change is more likely to end these barbaric practices.

      • Lawrence Newman

        Unfortunately immigration policies of the UK since WW2, but especially since 1997, are effectively importing problems like this. Not only was FGM not an issue before WW2 in the UK, if it hadn’t been for New Labour’s deliberate third world immigration/asylum policies, circumcision of boys would have been so much easier to ban. As it stands, we have a growing FGM and MGM problem, and a reluctance to prosecute for FGM and make MGM illegal due to ‘political correctness’ (the irony).

  • Nick Langford
  • Nigel

    It is interesting as this is a  “show” case. The one following a lot of political pressure on the CPS because there had been no prosecutions. Interesting because it isn’t a case of FGM as such but a “repair” to already mutilated genitals( at age 6 in Somalia.) of an adult woman. I expect the court  to decide on guilt or innocence but again one wonders at the assertions about the widespread nature of FGM being done in this country. Certainly barbaric the practice still appears ” imported” and people leave  the UK to have it done. Yet there are widespread briefing and training sessions. It would seem much more useful to focus on the domestic communities of the African cultures known to practice FGM. Again a contrast with MGM which is quite commonly done to infants in the UK. It is interesting that the “show” case

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