Genital Cutting and Western Discourses on Sexuality

Med Anthropol Q. June 2005 June; 19(2): 125-148.

Genital Cutting and Western Discourses on Sexuality

Bell K


This article explores dominant discourses surrounding male and female genital cutting. Over a similar period of time, these genital operations have separately been subjected to scrutiny and criticism. However, although critiques of female circumcision have been widely taken up, general public opinion toward male circumcision remains indifferent. This difference cannot merely be explained by the natural attributes and effects of these practices. Rather, attitudes toward genital cutting reflect historically and culturally specific understandings of the human body. In particular, I suggest that certain problematic understandings of male and female sexuality are deeply implicated in the dominant Western discourses on genital surgery.

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