June 25, 2010 Leave a comment
Slate’s Hannah Rosin has a really interesting article about the media misportrayal of a doctor who does reconstruction of girls born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a rare, and unfortunate condition that leads to an enlarged clitoris. Sometimes as enlarged as much as a penis (not something any girl wants, I presume). Here’s the lede:
The story has all the makings of a gynecological horror flick: “Cornell Surgeon Used Vibrator To Stimulate 6-Year-Olds,” gasped the headline inJezebel. Dan Savage declared himself so angry that “I hardly know where to start.” (On our own XX Factor blog, my colleague Rachael Larimore called it “appalling.”) The villain in this medical horror story is one aptly named Dr. Dix Poppas, a pediatric urologist at Cornell University who specializes in genital reconstruction.
Alas, things are much more complicated, as Rosin explains. Basically, the doctor is trying to test that the nerves still work when he does his reconstructive surgery. I also love Rosin’s conclusion:
To his critics, however, these details don’t matter. Savage calls this a conspiracy of “out and out homophobia.” He claims the medical establishment pushes these operations because girls with bigger clitorises are more likely to be lesbian. This claim is a stretch; girls with CAH are only slightly more likely to be lesbians or tomboyish when they are young. The vast majority are heterosexual and comfortable as girls. Gender norms have shifted pretty drastically in the 40 years that this operation has been performed, and still more than 95 percent of parents choose it for their children. Why? Because much as Savage might like it to be, the world is not yet a place where most little girls can have a clitoris that looks like a penis and feel entirely at ease [emphasis mine]. And few parents would want to use their daughter to test that proposition.