Called To Be Holy

Artwork by Mawena Aheto

By Audrey Obuobisa-Darko

My mother once said that my vagina is an open wound. I do not want to carry a bleeding, festering thing on my body. And so today, I celebrate my seventeenth birthday by removing it. The blade sinks into my skin with ease. My flesh gives away without a fight, an instinctive evolutionary behaviour, for our bodies have been doing this since the unfurling of time.

I bite my lip as I cut, just as I’ve seen my mother do. Past flesh and bone, through muscle and vessel, I carve out my vulva carefully. It makes no sound when it falls to the floor. I watch it beat, writhe, a living, breathing thing. 

My mother walks in. She stares far into the gaping hole between my legs. She does not say a word.


“The book of Matthew chapter five says it all. If any part of your body encourages sin, gouge it out and throw it away.”

I sit next to my mother in the small building outside the main church, where the women and girls worship; the one with the hard chairs and low ceiling and small windows. We nod and shout in agreement to our preacher, Lady Pastor Woman of Ultimate Grace Asantewaa. My mother places a firm hand on my knee and gives me a reassuring smile. My eyes dart away from hers to the small jar at my feet.

“It is better for you to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Let me hear Amen?”


“Now, it’s time to give testimonies to the Lord.”

My throat stings. My mother presses her hand on the small of my back and gently pushes me forward. The jar burns hot against my palms as I walk to face the congregation. A hundred eyes gape into my abyss below.

“Ha- hallelujah?”


My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. The room is quiet, expectant, but my mind waxes loud. I try to speak again, but no words come out, so I grip the jar with firmer hands, and raise it towards the sky, an offering.

A deafening chorus of cheers erupts from the gathering. The tambourine women surround me in a circle and begin a song. Soon, the entire congregation dances around me.

“Great is your reward in heaven, my daughter,” the lady pastor shouts over the din, “for you have killed that which may tempt men to desecrate your body.”

We all have grand canyons where our glory should be, all the women, all the girls, in our chests, between our legs, in our hearts. As we dance and sing praises for the holy joy of self-mortification, God’s light shines down on us, through the bottomless pits on our bodies.


Sixty-seven days have passed since the wound left my body. I am happy to not be a real woman anymore.

There’s a new girl in the kitchen this morning. She lifts her head up from the food she’s grinding on the floor. Her eyes land on my hole and stay there. She has no regard for my discomfort. Her eyes do not move.

“M- Ma?”

My mother turns to me.  “Yes, Kowa?” She sees the question in my eyes. “Oh, this is Adobea. Your cousin from our hometown. They have sent her here so I can train her to marry.”

The girl gets up from her low stool and walks over to the cupboard. My stomach turns when I see her body. It is a whole body with no hole.


“Why did you do this to yourself?”

“Do what?”

She points her broom to my hole.

I shrug. “It is what we must do. Why are you still whole?”

“I choose to be.”

“But you don’t have a choice. We have been called to keep our bodies holy. We are the most precious cre-.”

“I know I am precious. That is why I refuse to remove anything.”

“You glorify yourself, your body. God doesn’t want that. No man wants that.”

Adobea throws the broom across the floor and raises her arms. “What is wrong with all of you? Your mother is killing me. Everywhere I go, everyone is staring at me. Back home, here too. What is wrong with all of you?” 

She covers her face with her hands and breaks into tears. I do not know what to do. She stops sobbing and walks towards me, towering over me as I sit on the bed. “Where is it?”

“Where is what?”

“Your vagina. Where is it?” She paces about the room, rummaging through drawers, moving furniture aside. I want to scream for her to stop, but my voice fails me. She throws my clothes out of my closet, my shoes, my books. Finally, she gives up and turns to me.

“Where is it?”


“I just want to see it.”


“Kowa, show it to me.” 

I fold my arms and turn away from her. “Please, leave.”

“Kowa, come o-”


She scoffs and stomps away, slamming the door behind her. The gorge between my legs glares back at me in an echoing silence. I push my bed aside. My chest tightens as I feel around for the loose plank of wood. I dig my nails into the crevices and lift it up. There, below, lies the object of my shame. The organ drowns inside the jar, overcome with blood, secretions, and wild, overgrown hairs. My body grows weak on the floor.

“I left my broom in your-” Adobea pushes the door open. Her hands fly to cover her mouth. “Kowa!” She runs to me and snatches the jar from my trembling hands. 

“It’s okay, my dear, it’s okay,” she whispers as she drains the blood down the toilet. 

She motions for me to take the member out of the jar. It pulses softly against the palm of my hand. She leads me to the bathroom and lowers my hands under the tap, guiding my fingers over its folds, cleaning it tenderly. I follow her lead as I run my hand over its lips, the delicate tufts of hair, the supple flesh within. Her breath is mellow against my neck. She washes the jar while I pat the bodypart dry. She hands the clean container to me and leaves.


It’s been ninety days since I offered a part of myself as a living sacrifice. I still do not feel holy and acceptable unto God. Adobea and I lie on the bed, staring at the jar, a heavy silence between us.

“I’ve been cleaning it like you showed me,” I finally say.

She turns on her back and settles her gaze on me, the corners of her lips slightly raised. “I can see that.”

“Do others care for theirs, do you think?”

She laughs. “I bet you a million vaginas they don’t. Probably buried them somewhere or burned them I’m sure.”

Silence again. 

“Can I show you something?” she asks.

We sit facing each other. Her eyes never leaving mine, she takes the vulva out of the jar, cups it gingerly with both hands, and kisses it. An electric sensation circuits my body, escaping my mouth as a soft gasp. She kisses it again, gaze locked on me, searching my face for something.

With two fingers, she pries its lips apart, revealing a small mass of thrumming flesh, and kisses it. 

She runs her fingers over it, lightly, just as she did while cleaning it, and then, more firmly. I let out a long sigh as my body shudders. Fear washes over me, but beneath that fear, something far above all I’ve felt before.

She pauses. “Are you okay?” she asks with her eyes.

“I don’t know,” I say with mine. 

She nods and takes my hand in hers, slowly tracing my fingers around the mound, alternating between mild and steady motions. She lets go of my hand, and slowly, pushes two fingers inside it. Back and forth, gently, she moves, pleasure mounting higher within my body. A warm light strikes my head, pouring over my shoulders, down my back, through my knees, past my feet. I let out a loud cry as my body jerks, a mighty force eclipsing my being. 

I fall limp into her arms.


I can see the pastor’s mouth move, the choir, the tambourine women, the people around me, but I do not hear a single sound. I haven’t seen Adobea for days, but I hear her through the walls, her hoarse laughter at my mother’s jokes, her swift footsteps on the kitchen floor. 

God, I’m sorry.

A rough hand jolts my shoulder. I bat my eyelids and see the congregation looking back at me. “Hm?”

“Lady Pastor is calling you,” my mother whispers.

My legs carry me with a mind of their own, up the podium and around to face the church. When I finally lift my head, I see her. She stands at the back of the church, arms folded, wearing a loose, revealing dress.

I swallow. “Ha-hallelujah?”


“I-” my voice takes leave of me. Her eyes pull me in and hold me, wild and empty, the same look from the first day. My heartbeat mounts, reverberating inside my head. I cannot wrest my eyes away. 

“I-” I cannot breathe. Her stare burns more holes inside my body. “God-” I burst into tears, and run out of the church building, never stopping until I get home.

I push my bed with a strength I never once knew. I scratch my nails frantically at the hardwood floor, splinters tearing away at my flesh. I grab the jar and smash it on the ground. The open wound rolls out, fresh and flaccid. A guttural scream tears out of my chest as I crush the organ with my feet. My vision clouds over with tears. I cannot hear a sound, save for the rhythmic marching of my feet, shards of glass searing through my skin.

I stand back and look upon the mush of flesh and blood on the floor. There’s a dull, throbbing pain somewhere inside my body. My head spins, and all goes black.

God, are you happy now?


Daylight burns my eyes when I first wake up. My temples pulsate lightly. My room has been put in order. A dark brown box sits on the bedside table. There’s a note next to it.


I’m sorry, I’m running away. You’ve been unconscious for days. I tended to your treasure while you slept… loved it back to life. 

It’s okay if you don’t want to put it back; you’re a real woman regardless. But I hope you come to value it, give it love, pleasure it. That is where your power lies.

I grab the box with quivering hands and lift the lid. There, below, lies the object of my glory, overcome with love, passion, and wild, overgrown flowers.

I lift it to the sky, a precious offering, kiss it, and put it back in my body.


1 comments On Called To Be Holy

  • I loved the imagery in this. So well written. Self mutilation —at least a metaphorical one— hasn’t felt so empowering! Your words and the imagery evoke such strong emotions. And I’m a guy so I can’t even imagine how real it must feel for women. Well done and never stop writing!!

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