Ethics, Schmethics

Posted by – June 21, 2010

Alice Dreger, recently disliked by those in the trans (for defending Michael Bailey) and intersex communities (for being for the “DSD” diagnosis), has at least said, in print, in both Psychology Today and The Hastings Center Report, that maybe using a vibrator on a young girl’s clitoris is completely unacceptable.

Here more specifically is, apparently, what is happening: At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen, and Poppas also report a “capillary perfusion testing,” which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl’s clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. He intends to chart the development of their sexual sensation over time.

If this were requested reconstructive surgery, or absolutely necessary surgery that treated a dire medical condition, maybe this wouldnt’ seem to fucked up. But these are surgeries conducted on girls whose clitorises are viewed as “too big.” That’s all. Just “too big.” They worry that girls with big clitorises will somehow – I don’t know, that they’ll be socially traumatized, but all I can think is: it’s probably just more likely that they’ll have orgasms, & we certainly can’t have that


One time I asked a surgeon who does these surgeries if he had any idea how women actually reach orgasm. What did he actually know, scientifically, about the functional physiology of the adult clitoris? He looked at me blankly, and then said, “But we’re working on children.” As if they were never going to grow up.

Or, as Courtney on the MHB forums put it, maybe this article should be called When Ken Zucker calls you out for being a sicko, you’ve know you’re screwed.

3 Comments on Ethics, Schmethics

  1. KateMcG says:

    That is indeed sicko.

    But what to make of Dreger’s previous blog post called Sugar, Boys, and Sugar Boys? It appears she is still pushing the notion that trans women are really feminine gay men. At least she realizes it will be controversial.

  2. VivaZoya says:

    This makes me want to vomit.

  3. Rosemary says:

    This is more than sick, more than repulsive and more than vomitogenic (like the neologism?)……………….this is common or garden assault and battery and this practitioner in our country would be arrested and charged. We have rather strong feelings here about female circumcision/mutilation. I would dip further into this story to verify it but I value the uncontaminated state of my keyboard.

    YUK!!

    Dr Rosie Jones

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