Jimmy Miller said in a Quora answer:

Apparently, the most extreme forms account only for 10% of them all: in most cases, the ability to feel sexual pleasure is not reduced at all (my source is the aforementioned article by Brian D Earp).

The article he referred to says:

You often hear that genital mutilation and male circumcision are very different. FGM is barbaric and crippling (‘always torture’, as the Guardian columnist Tanya Gold wrote recently), whereas male circumcision is comparatively inconsequential. Male circumcision is a ‘minor’ intervention that might even confer health benefits, whereas FGM is a drastic intervention with no health benefits, and only causes harm. The ‘prime motive’ for FGM is to control women’s sexuality; it is inherently sexist and discriminatory and is an expression of male power and domination. That’s just not true for male circumcision.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with these claims. Almost every one of them is untrue, or severely misleading. They derive from a superficial understanding of both FGM and male circumcision; and they are inconsistent with what scholars have known about these practices for well over a decade. It’s time to re-examine what we ‘know’ about these controversial customs.

Does Female Genital Mutilation reduce the ability to feel sexual pleasure?

  • 1
    In case anyone wants to doubt the notability of this claim, I'm sure there are plenty of notable statements that FGM does affect the pleasure of sex, which is almost the same claim. – Andrew Grimm Apr 15 '17 at 8:14
  • 4
    I'm guessing this claim is, generally, an attempt to elevate standard male circumcision as an equivalent of female genital mutilation, so part of that attempt has to minimize, to a certain extent, the practice of FGM. I'll leave it at that and will avoid offering further editorializing.. – PoloHoleSet Apr 17 '17 at 14:57

FGM Classification and sexual pleasure

The WHO categorizes FGM in four classes:

  • Type 1: separated in Type 1a (removal of clitoral hood/prepuce), and Type 1b (removal of the clitoris)
  • Type 2: separated in Type 2a (removal of the labia minora), Type 2b (removal of the clitoris and labia minora), and Type 2c (removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora)
  • Type 3: separated in Type 3a (removal and apposition of the labia minora), and Type 3b (removal and apposition of the labia majora). Both can - but do not necessarily do - remove the clitoris.
  • Type 4: Other

The clitoris is an important source of sexual pleasure, so its removal obviously reduces sexual pleasure. The apposition of the labia minora or majora can also impact sexual pleasure.

This means that Type 1b, Type 2 a/b, and Type 3a/b will reduce sexual pleasure. Type 1a is more comparable to male circumcision, and Type 4 is a broad category that may or may not impact sexual pleasure.

10% Claim

The 10% mentioned by the OP likely refers to the 10% of women that experienced Type 3:

The type of procedure performed also varies, mainly with ethnicity. Current estimates (from surveys of women older than 15 years old) indicate that around 90% of female genital mutilation cases include either Types I (mainly clitoridectomy), II (excision) or IV (“nicking” without flesh removed), and about 10% (over 8 million women) are Type III (infibulation). Infibulation, which is the most severe form of FGM, is mostly practiced in the north-eastern region of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan

Clitoridectomy means the (partial) removal of the clitoris, which can be part of Type 1 and 2 as well, and which will reduce sexual pleasure.

General Research on FGM and sexual pleasure

Most research focuses on specific countries, as practices vary greatly. Because of this, it is difficult to give more concrete facts on such a broad question.

Still, here is an article looking at 7 studies:

While three of the seven FGM/C studies that included a control group found decreased orgasmic functioning in affected women, no study fully controlled for demographic differences between groups or separated the FGM/C group by clitoral integrity. The impact of FGM/C on orgasm therefore remains unknown; however, indirect evidence suggests that orgasm rates would be reduced in women who cannot engage in direct stimulation of the external clitoris. Female genital mutilation/cutting and orgasm before and after surgical repair.

Another article also contains an overview of some studies, with more concrete numbers:

There is increasing evidence that FGM damages sexual function and this would seem logical given the removal of sexually sensi- tive tissue such as the clitoris. However studies on sexual function post-FGM are small and often lack appropriate standardised sexual function questionnaires and appropriate control groups. Alsibiani and Rouzi recruited 130 sexually active women with FGM and 130 sexually active women without FGM in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Each participant completed a version of the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) questionnaire translated into Arabic [20] . The results showed no group difference in mean desire score or pain score. However, there were statistically significant differences between the two groups in their scores for arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction, as well as the overall sexual function score. A small study of UK women from 13 African countries with high preva- lence of FGM identified a significantly reduced sexual quality of life, based on the Sexual Quality of Life-Female (SQOL-F) questionnaire [21] . Berg and Denison conducted a systematic review and meta- analysis of the sexual consequences of FGM, combining total of 15 studies with 12 671 participants from seven different countries [22] . The authors note both the heterogeneity of the available stud- ies as well as their varying methodological quality. However, their meta-analysis results showed that women who had been subjected to FGM were 52% more likely to report dyspareunia, more than twice as likely to report the absence of sexual desire, and a third of recipients reported reduced sexual satisfaction. Long term health consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)


While it is true that about 10% of women experience Type 3 FGM, other types may also include the removal of the clitoris, which will lead to a reduction in sexual pleasure. A meta-analysis of studies showed that a third of women self-reported reduced sexual satisfaction. Only FGM Type 1a could in any way be compared to male circumcision.

  • @MohammadSakibArifin It is backed by data, see for example the meta-analysis of studies at the end. But as the studies also state, data from surveys isn't actually needed, as the logical conclusion of the removal of the clitoris - which is the primary source of sexual pleasure in women - is reduced sexual satisfaction. You might also want to google what a straw man is (it isn't just any argument or data you personally do not like) – tim May 7 '17 at 7:50
  • "A meta-analysis of studies showed that a third of women self-reported reduced sexual satisfaction." not = "All FGM reduce sexual satisfaction" Such generalization is straw man by definition. And I was referring to the overwhelming oppsition of FGM as straw man not your answer. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin May 7 '17 at 8:08

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