I’m going to tell you personal shit here, whether you like it or not. Are you ready? I have two labial piercings. So now we are Friends because you know things about my pant region. Suck it up, motherfuckers.
Both were carried out under the correct hygienic conditions and for the simple reason that I wanted them done. My fouf, my choice (that should totally be on a tshirt).
But my fanjita is now potentially illegal. I MIGHT HAVE AN ILLICIT FOUF, PEOPLE! LET US GATHER TOGETHER THE ILLEGAL GENITALS AND STAND PROUD!
This confusion has been caused by the Department of Health’s recent decision to regard intimate piercings as a form of female genital mutilation (FGM). From the Telegraph:
…now any woman whose clitoris or labia has been pierced – even if it was entirely her own decision – will be seen as an act of FGM.
In return, the DoH had this to say:
While there are challenges in this area and adult women may have genital piercings, in some communities girls are forced to have them. The World Health Organisation has quite rightly defined this as a form of FGM.
“We are taking every precaution to record genital piercings that have been done within an abusive context.
“The new data collection will help build a picture of the scale and the nature of the problem we are facing. We are continually working on ways to improve and develop the NHS response to this terrible practice
Now see, this is all well and good and right and proper. But seriously – how many GPs have the time to decide who looks victimised and who doesn’t, if all they’ve come in for is some cream for their spotty arse and Doc happens to notice the metal bits (this might actually have happened to me, possibly, shush)? Or practice nurses carrying out a smear test? I don’t work in a surgery, but my guess is that the simplest thing for them to do will be to record any dangly metal bits they notice on their female patients, just in case. As it happens I am due a smear test – even as an adult woman who generally gives not one tiny shit for opinion, I now have a little voice in my head going ‘urk’ at the idea of whether my fanny is about to be judged. I’ll still go for the test, but how many women now won’t, because they’re worried about the consequences? And it doesn’t matter what the ‘actual’ consequences might be, it is the perceived ones that will cause the problems.
So now the NHS has the right to declare me a victim. How bloody DARE they make the assumption (on a technicality, no less) that I do not know my own mind? How bloody DARE they take the focus from the real issue of girls having their clitorises cut off with rusty blades and no anaesthetic, just in case?
I’ve had it argued to me that my own piercings won’t be recorded because ‘they weren’t done in an abusive context, natch’, to which the only answer can be but how does a medical practitioner know that? I’m pretty sure that many abused women do not present as such. Which gives more weight to my ‘just in case’ theory of all piercings potentially being recorded. My friend Em, who is herself a pro piercer:
Yes, people can be coerced, but in nearly a decade I have NEVER had anyone in for clit hood piercing that had been made to be there. Mostly, I performed genital piercings on 30-40 year old, professional women who would stop in after work to get it done.
I have met a number of women controlled by others before and these women were not them.
I don’t know what ‘communities’ the report was discussing when they suggested enforced female genital piercings, but it’s not one that ever came through my door.
And this is Kat, a tattooist who assists with piercings:
genital mutilation happens usually to prevent the female from enjoying sex, a clit piercing is made to intensify it…….
so how is it mutilation?? and how are they exactly going to monitor this when some people already have them how are they gonna tell a new from old piercing??
All this confusion comes before we even touch on the inequality of this decision. Circumcision in little boys is done without their permission and can in some cases cause serious medical and sexual problems in later life. Granted it happens to a lesser extent than in cases of FGM, but it happens. Are the NHS going to start noting down who’s got the extra bit and who hasn’t?
My boyfriend has several genital piercings – in fact they’re way more physically intrusive than either of my little studs. I don’t see anyone worrying about whether he was coerced into it? Yes, I am (purposely) muddying the waters here somewhat, but the argument is sound – if it is abusive in women then it is abusive in men.
All that will happen now is that the figures for registered cases of FGM will go sky high, and this will inevitably cloud the real figures (and the real tragedies) that lie underneath. This from Larné, another friend of mine (who doesn’t have any piercings herself so has no personal bias):
Including vaginal piercings with incidents of FGM would be like comparing an ear piercing to Mike Tyson’s attack on Evander Holyfield. Maybe the average person on the street can’t imagine just how horrific the physical injuries young girls subjected to FGM are, but it is nothing like a piercing.
FGM involves the ‘pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning’, and/or removal of part or all of the clitoris and/or labia, and/or the narrowing of the vagina (source). It causes life long difficulties, both physically and psychologically. It is illegal. It is not a piercing.
In a society that is focused on perfect bodies, where bodily functions, especially those messy, female ones, like periods and breastfeeding and giving birth are expected to be hidden away, we have lost sight of what is normal. And as a result anything slightly unusual is declared abnormal!
By including female genital piercings as FGM we are doing two communities a disservice. We are criminalising (only) those women who choose to have piercings, and those who pierce them. How will it impact their future health care? Will they be so keen to get a smear test if they’re going to be judged for having a piercing? And what about those women with genuine FGM? How do they feel about having their experiences lumped in with consensual piercings?
And Lucy (funnily enough, a lot of my friends are quite worked up about this):
It’s also a bit “first they came for the xxx and I did not speak out because I was not a xxx”
A serious, terrible issue is potentially being clouded by the Department of Health once again using blanket policies in order to make themselves appear to be ‘doing something’. The implication is that it’s for our own good and if we’ve nothing to hide then we’ve nothing to worry about. Once again personal liberty and privacy is being gradually, insidiously eroded and we’re expected to accept it because They Know Best.
I’d really like to think that They know what they’re doing, but I’m far from convinced.