What is Female Genital Mutilation and how does it affect sexual empowerment?
Sexual empowerment is a basic human right that all women should enjoy. It is an important factor in general well-being, confidence, and self-worth. However, feeling sexually empowered can be difficult for victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons (this simply means that it serves no health purpose and doesn’t benefit the girl/woman in any way).
Although FGM is a worldwide issue that affects millions of girls and women, it is more common in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and is also practiced in several immigrant populations throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. FGM has been made illegal in most of these countries, but millions of girls are still at risk today.
The trauma and physical harm from FGM can leave women feeling disempowered and uncertain about their sexual identity. It can also cause sexual dysfunction that may lead to low sex drive and contribute to marital conflicts or divorce. Since an estimated number of 200 million girls and women are living with FGM today, it is important to find ways that can help women reclaim part of that aspect of their human rights that have been trampled upon.
If you’re a victim of FGM who is seeking to restore your sexual power and identity, the steps below can empower you to enjoy your sexuality and revel in the confidence and pleasure that sexual empowerment brings.
Steps to Take towards Reclaiming Your Sexual Empowerment
Reclaiming sexual empowerment is a process that requires patience, self-love, and self-care. Here are some steps girls and women can take toward reclaiming their sexual power:
- Acknowledge and Address the Effects of FGM
FGM can have serious physical, emotional, and mental consequences for women. The immediate effects after FGM can be excruciating pain, bleeding, infections, and even death. In the long term, physical trauma to the female genitalia might result in complications such as urinary and reproductive disorders. Its emotional toll can be even more devastating. FMG victims frequently experience melancholy, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Women who have had FGM may be embarrassed, humiliated, or even disgusted by their bodies. Consequently, it may result in them having problems with intimacy and hamper their ability to develop healthy sexual relationships.
Because of the profound physical, psychological and emotional effects of FGM, it is essential to address that before beginning the process of reclaiming sexual empowerment. Medical attention may be necessary to address the physical complications from the experience while counselling or therapy addresses the emotional and psychological trauma.
It is important to remember that healing is a process, and there is no timeline for it. Take all the time you need to heal physically and emotionally before embarking on the journey toward reclaiming your sexual power.
- Let go of any shame or guilt you feel from the experience and explore your body and sexuality.
It is normal to feel shame after any form of violation and FGM can leave you feeling different, embarrassed and self-conscious. However, it is important to remember that it is not your fault, and you have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Therapy can help you release these feelings that can be difficult to shed. Physical interventions in the form of reconstructive surgeries like clitoral reconstruction (rebuilding the clitoris) and deinfibulation (re-opening up the vagina) can help reduce the feeling of self-consciousness and also reduce the pain involved in sex as a result of infibulation (narrowing the vaginal opening). The procedure is covered by some health insurance. If that sounds like an option you might be interested in, do some research and find out if your health insurance covers it, and health centres that accept health insurance for the procedure.
Another thing that can be extremely helpful in removing shame and embarrassment is only engaging patient, understanding, and supportive sexual partners that will not make you feel self-conscious or different.
- Surround Yourself with Supportive People
The people you have around could either be helpful or a deterrent to your ability to heal and reclaim your sexual power. Due to this, it is important to build a support network of family, friends, and peers who can offer emotional support and validation. Surround yourself with positive people who understand and support you on your path to recovery and reclaiming your sexual power.
- Join support groups and networks
Apart from your immediate circle, joining support groups and networks can offer a safe space for women affected by FGM to share their experiences, receive emotional support, and learn about resources and alternative practices. There are different types of groups; in-person and online. Some groups are led by mental health professionals, while others are led by peers.
Options for FGM support groups and networks can be found through local organizations, social media groups, and internet forums. Ensure that you find a group that understands the unique needs of women affected by FGM.
Some resources for women affected by FGM include:
- Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation
- Orchid Project
- The Girl Generation
- United Nations Populations Fund
- NHS UK
- National Library of Medicine
- Womankind Worldwide
- Explore alternative Healing Practices and other forms of pleasure
There are some alternative techniques that can help you improve your sexual pleasure and healing. Some of these practices are:
- Yoga and meditation: Yoga and meditation can help you connect with your body while reducing stress and anxiety related to FGM.
- Pelvic floor therapy: Pelvic floor therapy is another alternative practice that can help address any physical complications related to FGM and improve sexual function.
- Energy healing: Reiki and acupuncture are examples of energy-healing practices that are helpful in releasing emotional trauma and improving your overall well-being.
- Sensual healing: Sensual healing practices like tantric yoga and erotic massage can also be beneficial in helping you connect with your body and experience pleasure in a safe and consensual manner.
Bear in mind that alternative practices should be used in conjunction with traditional medical and mental health treatments and should be approached with caution. Engage only certified practitioners and do your research before committing to any alternative practices.
Apart from the healing practices that usually require the aid of a professional or another person, experimenting with clitoral stimulation, toys, and sexual fantasies on your own can also help increase sexual excitement and desire.
- Speak Up
Speaking up is essential. Make sure you communicate openly with sexual partners to set boundaries around sexual activity to avoid doing anything you’re uncomfortable with that could trigger a traumatic reaction. Be open and clear about what you’re comfortable with, and make sure your partner respects your boundaries before engaging with them sexually. Also, endeavour to use contraceptives and insist on protection to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.
Conclusion: Reclaiming your sexual power
Reclaiming sexual empowerment needs persistence, self-love, and self-care. If you have experienced FGM, the process is even more challenging but possible. Women who have been subjected to FGM may have suffered tremendous trauma which needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Counselling, therapy, and support groups can all help with this. Seek out mental health providers who have received trauma-informed care training and are familiar with the unique needs of women affected by FGM.
Dealing with the trauma and emotional distress can open you up to alternate forms of pleasure, and give you a renewed sense of confidence and pride to explore your sexuality and reclaim your power. Every woman deserves sexual empowerment. So do you.