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Yael Tamir, a professor of philosophy, looks at what our revulsion at clitoridectomy tells us about ourselves

By Yael Tamir   November 1996

Boston review

Summer 1996

Not since masters and Johnson has the clitoris-or its absence-been a topic of such intense debate. In philosophical discussions about multiculturalism, it has taken over the role once played by cannibalism, slavery, lynchings or the Indian tradition of suttee. Clitoridectomy defines the boundary between us and them, between cultures we can tolerate and those we must condemn.

Clitoridectomy is obviously a deplorable practice. It is an extremely painful, traumatising mutilation of young girls that deprives them of sexual enjoyment. We should express no sympathy toward those who practise it.

But we should also be suspicious…

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