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Clitoridectomy or clitorectomy is the surgical removal of the clitoris. It is used rarely as a therapeutic medical procedure, such as when cancer has developed in or spread to the clitoris. Most removals of the clitoris occur as female genital mutilation, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons."[1] This procedure is also ritual practice in certain tribes in Africa.

Clitoral reconstructive surgery was developed by French surgeon Pierre Foldès. It has been clinically proven to allow women who have undergone female genital mutilation by clitoridectomy, to achieve clitoral orgasms and reduce pain.[2][3] One organization, Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation (CAGeM), offers this surgical treatment for free to victims of female genital mutilation.[4]

Historical use of clitoridectomy[edit]

Clitoridectomy was once used to curb female masturbation.[5] Gynaecologists in 19th-century Europe and the United States removed the clitoris to treat insanity and masturbation.[6] The first reported clitoridectomy in the West was carried out in 1822 by a surgeon in Berlin, a Dr. Graefe, on a teenage girl regarded as an "imbecile" who was masturbating frequently.[7]

Isaac Baker Brown (1812–1873), an English gynaecologist who was president of the Medical Society of London in 1865, believed that the "unnatural irritation" of the clitoris caused epilepsy, hysteria, and mania, and he worked "to remove [it] whenever he had the opportunity of doing so", according to his obituary in the Medical Times and Gazette. Peter Lewis Allen writes that Brown's views caused outrage, and he died penniless after being expelled from the Obstetrical Society.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New study shows female genital mutilation exposes women and babies to significant risk at childbirth" (Press release). World Health Organization. 2006-06-02. 
  2. ^ Foldes, Pierre; Beatrice Cuzin; Armelle Andro (14 July 2012). "Reconstructive surgery after female genital mutilation: a prospective cohort study". The Lancet 380 (9837): 134–141. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60400-0. PMID 22695031. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Barclay, Elizabeth. "Surgery Restores Sexual Function In Women With Genital Mutilation". NPR. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Azango, Mae (July 15, 2012). "‘Can’t Wait to Feel Like a Real Woman Again’: Clitoris Reconstruction for African Pair". Front Page Africa Online. Retrieved 4 September 2012. [dead link]
  5. ^ Duffy, John (October 19, 1963). "Masturbation and Clitoridectomy: A Nineteenth-Century View". JAMA 186 (3): 246–248. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.63710030028012. PMID 14057114. 
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Sarah W. "Rethinking the history of female circumcision and clitoridectomy: American medicine and female sexuality in the late nineteenth century", Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. 63(3), July 2008, pp. 323–347.
  7. '^ Elchalal, Uriel et al. "Ritualistic Female Genital Mutilation: Current Status and Future Outlook", Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 52(10), October 1997, pp. 643–651.
    • For a report of this procedure, see Black, Donald Campbell. On the Functional Diseases of the Renal, Urinary and Reproductive Organs. Lindsay & Blakiston, 1872, pp. 127–129.
  8. ^ Allen, Peter Lewis. The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present. University of Chicago Press, 2000, p. 106.
    • For the obituary, see J.F.C. "Isaac Baker Brown, F.R.C.S.", Medical Times and Gazette, 8 February 1873.
    • Also see Brown, Isaac Baker. On the Curability of Certain Forms of Insanity, Epilepsy, Catalepsy, and Hysteria in Females. Robert Hardwicke, 1866.