“Farewell. We will never meet again.” A blogger for RNW Media’s Mali platform Benbere wrote a letter to her clitoris – lost to female genital mutilation at a very young age. She expresses pain, grief and anger at the lasting effects on her life of a practice deeply rooted in tradition and culture in some parts of the world.
Exact numbers are unknown, but UNICEF estimated in 2018 that at least 200 million girls and women around the world have been cut. In Mali, 89% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 are thought to have undergone FGM, 75% of them before the age of 14. You can read the original French version on the Benbere website.
Letter to my clitoris: you’re gone and I’ll never see you again
Awa (a pseudonym) still hasn’t come to terms with what happened to her, so she has written a letter to her clitoris, chopped off when she was a child. The mutilation of this essential part of her sexual being has left her feeling empty. “Why did they cut you when you didn’t pose a threat to anyone? Why did they deny me sexual pleasure by getting rid of you”, she asks?
Dear departed organ,
I am writing you this letter to tell you how much I miss you. I know you must be surprised because they cut you off before I even know who you were. I was too young to have any memories of you. I was only a month old when my grandmother took me to Ami Kanté, the butcher, that portly woman who has no heart. She mutilated so many girls, young and old, in villages and cities, and for so little. I wonder what my grandmother paid her to separate us forever.
The pain still haunts me
I tell myself that you too must have memories of that horrible day. Are you still there somewhere? Do you still have a breath of life in you? For me, there’s still a feeling of loss, a huge emptiness, a wound, which is so painful. It reminds me that you were there and that the women who should have protected me from harm put me in the hands of that woman. You must wonder how I manage to keep alive the memory of that horrible day and what they did that to me.
Well, my dear clitoris, you must know that that pain is etched in my spirit. It has remained here for my entire life as a woman. I won’t tell you it’s a physical pain, but I have tried to understand how those women could cut such an intimate part of me. I used to make my fingers touch the spot. They don’t feel anything, just the ever present wound.
Sex is just an obligation
You must wonder what type of sex I have had without you, the most important part of what could have been my G spot. Well, nothing. Nada! I have never felt anything at all. It is as if I am numbed by the pain I have felt.
I got married, had five children, and I delivered them without many problems. My kids are beautiful and in good health. Their father is not a bad guy. He’s a loving man and takes his role as husband very seriously.
But he knows I am frigid. For me, sex is nothing more than a marital obligation. Could it actually be something different? Do other women experience other sensations when they play this sport which my husband adores? Hmmm. I don’t know.
Why were you a threat?
I shouldn’t ask you that question because you didn’t have an easy life either. In fact, you didn’t have a life at all because the witches robbed me of you, seared my nerves, and turned me into this frigid person who gazes back at life without enthusiasm.
Poor you. You probably tell yourself that I’m way over the top because you haven’t even had a life. You have probably disappeared, withered entirely over these long years.
I’m so sorry that I have to send you this letter to do some soul-searching. It’s so easy to decide to cut a clitoris in this country. It must be seen as a threat. But the other’s genitalia, the man’s -the one behind this atrocity – is much more dangerous. He rapes, makes young girls pregnant when they are only children themselves, sleeps with prostitutes and passes STDs from one woman to another
Dear clitoris, I’m not sad. I have experienced pleasures without you…other pleasures. I have had satisfactions, like not bearing a baby girl who I would have also had to circumcise. That was my husband’s duty to our sons and the wounds feel different. They heal much more quickly. The foreskin they remove is just a bit of skin that they are anxious to remove. It’s different.
Would I be different if you were still here?
I’ve turned 50 and I can’t stop asking myself: would I have become this expressionless person who is sexually dead if you were still with me? Is it possible to rediscover feelings after that operation?
You probably can’t answer my questions.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t blame you. I don’t blame anyone.
The women who cut you killed me bit by bit.
I hope that life is not too hard for you, wherever you may be.
You are not alone. All those organs which were cut off for no good reason are together with you, and I know that new ones join you every day.
I don’t really know how to end this letter.
See you soon? Even though I know we will never see each other again.
Byebye? We will never meet again.
Farewell? We will never meet again.
That might be right.
Farewell to that oh so precious part of my sexual being
I know that I will never see you again.