"I remember the excruciating pain and feeling betrayed. I was told not to talk about it."
I thought that things like this only happened in remote areas of Africa. But apparently not. These Christian parents in white America took it upon themselves to make female genital mutilation a reality in this country. Great job, guys.
Dr. Renee Bergstrom, who is now 72, was a victim of her Christian parents’ fear of masturbation. When she was only three, her parents noticed that she seemed to be rubbing her genitals. This was enough for them to take her to the doctor for a clitorectomy. She was THREE years old with hardly any idea about her body, and her parents put her through female circumcision. Wow.
Bergstrom was brave enough to talk about her experience in an opinion piece that she wrote for The Guardian.
She said the procedure “took place in a church clinic that used a scalpel on girls who masturbated... I remember the excruciating pain and feeling betrayed. I was told not to talk about it, but keeping the secret meant I was alone with my questions as I grew into puberty: what was missing? What would it be like to be ‘whole’?”
After the operation, she experienced discomfort and a lack of sexual pleasure once she got older. It also caused complications with her pregnancy later in life.
“My first child and I could have died — an almost universal impact of FGM is difficulty giving birth. I, like so many women around the world, did not know genital scar tissue does not stretch. I wanted to be fully awake to experience giving birth, but my obstetrician performed an extensive episiotomy under anesthetic that took months to heal. He was compassionate and shocked to hear the origin of my scar.”
This sort of thing happened a lot more than most people would think, unfortunately. Bergstrom talks about how she wasn’t the only one that experienced the pain.
“I witnessed Christian religions declaring masturbation a sin, some Christian leaders and doctors recommending female circumcision to prevent it, physicians carrying out the practice, and our American culture first accepting this form of sexual abuse and then denying it ever occurred.”
In a recent interview, Dr. Sarah Rodriguez from Northwestern University Medical School gives a little insight on the prevalence of the clitorectomy.
“It was a quick procedure, it was done in a physician’s office, and also because it probably wasn’t anything that families talked about amongst themselves either — largely because it was done as a treatment for masturbation.”
While doctors who had performed this procedure in America in the past have been looked down upon, it is quite surprising that these Christian groups got away with it.
After spending years of her life dealing with the emotional and physical pain of having her clitoris removed, Bergstrom now spends much of her time helping end female genital mutilation across the globe. While she still remains quite religious, she recognizes the flaws in fearing masturbation and defiling a woman’s body because of it.