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January 8, 2007 12:12 AM   Subscribe

The Surgery of Love. Dr. James C. Burt was an Ohio gynecologist who circumcised over 2000 women without their consent over a period of 22 years. He didn’t operate in secret, and actually published a book about it in 1975, which he called “The Surgery of Love”. He claimed that female genitalia were "structurally inadequate" for intercourse, and that by removing their clitoral hoods and "realigning" the vagina, he could turn women into ”horny little mice” (PDF). His surgeries often left women with sexual dysfunction, infection and the need for corrective surgery. But although other doctors in the area knew about him, they dismissed the problems with a laugh: “Oh, I see Jim Burt got hold of you.” At least 10 women who tried to sue Burt had their cases dismissed when no doctors would testify against him, and when one doctor finally reported Burt to the state medical board after treating one of his victims, he was ostracized by the local medical community for breaking rank. But the lawsuits, and their attendant publicity, finally caused the Ohio State Medical Board to pressure Burt into voluntarily surrendering his license in 1989. Further attempts to sue were dismissed because of statutes of limitation and a 1987 law giving hospitals immunity from certain lawsuits. James Burt retired to a comfortable life in Florida, making no apology.
posted by kyrademon (108 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
help me wrap my mind around this. whats more ridiculous, women being mutilated without consent, or with it?
posted by phaedon at 12:36 AM on January 8, 2007


It's bizarre that USians get in such a lather about female genital mutilation, when they accept its male counterpart as a matter of course.
posted by mr. strange at 1:02 AM on January 8, 2007 [5 favorites]


Please allow me to be the first to say....

Jesus H. Jumping Christ on a bicycle.

I don't read too many things these days that leave my jaw scraping the floor. This is one of them. I honestly would not have thought that a doctor could get away with this for very long.

Now I guess I know better.
posted by Clay201 at 1:03 AM on January 8, 2007


Actually Phaedon, I don't see too much wrong with that. The reasons that are listed in the article are no stranger than the reasons that individuals get tattooed or pierced. I personally wouldn't have the operation done, but why begrudge someone else's personal choice...it's not like I'm going to have to see it.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 1:06 AM on January 8, 2007


Another Directory
posted by Bodyguard at 1:16 AM on January 8, 2007


He claimed that female genitalia were "structurally inadequate" for intercourse

Well at least he wasn't a proponent of intelligent design...

phaedon, I'd offer to help, if you could make the first basic step of processing different things differently, maybe?

The article you linked to mentions different practices of plastic surgery and different reasons for them, from reconstruction of the hymen due to social pressures, where those pressures are sure creepy and fucked up, so the choice of these women is heavily affected but it's still their own informed decision to go to the surgeon, and most of all I'm sure you'll know that the procedure is a far cry from mutilation and what kyrademon is posting about; then the article goes on to mention plastic surgery for vanity or functional reasons, and we can all sit around and talk til we're blue in the face about how, even in the absence of direct pressures of the death threat kind, the choice of these women must be affected by some fucked up insecurity etc. however, when it comes to the functional motives, from what I saw in a documentary on this which included footage of said surgery, including that of a woman who only in her forties had a sort of early prolapse which was one of the most awful things I've ever seen on tv, and obviously impacted her sex life very dramatically, well I would never presume of telling a woman in this situation that she's not making a wise decision in availing herself of the benefits of surgery. The labia sculpting purely out of vanity to follow porn stars trends is another matter, and again factors of social pressures/vanity etc are a lot more fucked up, but hey, same as with any plastic surgery, just because it squicks me out and I wouldn't do it and I may have my unfavourable opinions of the motives of people who do it, doesn't mean I should compare it to the criminal and insane level of involuntary mutilation and medical malpractice of the sort kyrademon is posting about.

Hope that's helpful.

If it still isn't, then just imagine this doctor was performing said madness on males instead of females, and compare it to circumcision or male genital surgery for vanity/functional reasons, which also exists. I'm sure the comparison would sound even more inappropriate.
posted by pleeker at 1:25 AM on January 8, 2007


Great scary bedtime post, reminds me of the doctors in the movie Dead Ringers.
posted by tula at 1:43 AM on January 8, 2007


...whats more ridiculous...

Without.

There isn't even a debate.
posted by edgeways at 1:44 AM on January 8, 2007


As a quick comment, it bugs me just a little when people refer to cliterodectomy as circumcision. Fortunately, it isn't a common conversation topic, so I don't get bugged that often. But using the same word for the two very different things is either confusing or overly ideological. Circum+cision specifically refers to the circular cut on a male. The female operation in question has some gross similarities to circumcision, but it is quite different, and unless I'm wrong, most people would agree it is a worse practice.
posted by sidb at 1:53 AM on January 8, 2007


mr. strange: Learn a bit about what you are commenting on before you make stupid statements like this one.
posted by dubious at 2:00 AM on January 8, 2007


unless I'm wrong, most people would agree it is a worse practice

I honestly don't know if you're wrong or not. Why do you think most people would agree it's worse?
posted by pax digita at 2:11 AM on January 8, 2007


I'm thinking of having my eyelids removed -- unless I'm wrong to think that way?
posted by fairmettle at 2:21 AM on January 8, 2007


What's really crazy about this is how the other doctors knew what was going on and didn't do anything about it. Sort of a Good Old Boys Club, I guess. Pretty disgusting that it took so long for anyone to really take notice, and then he still got away with it without any major repercussions. Yuck.

As to women who choose to alter their genitals? Let them. They want to do it. It's not like they are going in for Procedure A and wake up minus a clitoral hood and with a redesigned vagina they didn't ask for.

Circumcision is defined as the removal of the foreskin of the penis or the prepuce (hood) of the clitoris. Cliterodectomy is the removal of the clitoris. Dr. Burt wasn't removing the clitoris, so the term circumcision is appropriate.
posted by Orb at 2:24 AM on January 8, 2007


What I don't get is the ass-covering by the other physicians. Did the Hippocratic oath mean nothing to them? Any medical procedure--especially one as risky and at the core of a person's psychological well-being as fiddling with their plumbing--that is done without consent with the exception of life-threatening emergencies is reprehensible.

Women were this crank's playthings, not humans so much as toys. Frankly this sort of quackery should be a capital crime (we have enough assholes on the planet already) and any all medical professionals who covered for him should lose their licenses permanently and cede their worldly possessions to the people they helped Dr. Shitbag hurt.
posted by maxwelton at 2:29 AM on January 8, 2007


By removing their clitoral hoods? I'm surprised he could even find it! *snap*

But seriously, this story is crazy. Dead Ringers is right.
posted by Brittanie at 2:42 AM on January 8, 2007


Okay, that was probably in bad taste.
posted by Brittanie at 2:46 AM on January 8, 2007


"without their consent".

What part of that does nobody seem to be paying attention to? It's like going in for a circumcision and coming out with your penis cut off, and nobody taking you the least bit seriously because, hey, you still got your balls.
posted by watsondog at 3:17 AM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


What I don't get is the ass-covering by the other physicians.

As deeply disturbing as it is, it was basically a normal reaction at the time. It was only in the 1970s that men's sexual dysfunction issues began to be treated by specialists -- before that, they'd refer you to a urologist or something. Women's sexual dysfunction problems were assumed to be psychological and in any case were icky, and mainstream physicians probably just assumed that Burt, being neck-deep in the field, knew more than they did.
posted by dhartung at 3:47 AM on January 8, 2007


dhartung, I don't buy that at all. We're not talking about a disagreement as to the best patient protocols-- we're talking about doctors who refused to testify that women had been operated on without their consent. Regardless of what that operation was, the other doctors had an obligation to report and stop such an obvious breach of medical ethics. The details of the surgeries, while horrifying, are almost another, separate, layer of misconduct.
posted by miss tea at 4:20 AM on January 8, 2007


Exhibit A, or "Why I am scared shitless of doctors."
posted by tehloki at 4:42 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's bizarre that USians get in such a lather about female genital mutilation, when they accept its male counterpart as a matter of course.

Not that I'm in favour of it in either gender, but ... male circumcision does not hinder enjoyment of sex. Clitoredectomy, which is usually what people mean when talking about female genital mutilation, definitely does and is usually the real reason behind the practice.
posted by Zinger at 5:06 AM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Clitoredectomy, which is usually what people mean when talking about female genital mutilation, definitely does and is usually the real reason behind the practice.

I don't think the doctor in question did that though.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:35 AM on January 8, 2007


Regarding people who have the operation done willingly... after I came back from Egypt, I read that 80-97% of Egyptian women are circumcised. I just couldn't fathom that all of these amazing women I had just met had gone through that (probably when they were about 8), so I started doing a lot of reading to try to understand it rather than judge. I'm obviously opposed to it, but now I understand a little better why it continues. For over 1,400 years, people have been led to believe that the Koran says girls should have this operation (it doesn't), and that it will make their daughters better wives who will not stray (because sex isn't as much fun). It's really become a social pressure thing... people have their daughter operated on because it shows they are good parents who want to give their daughter what she needs to be most desirable as a wife to the best man available. Uncircumcised girls are sometimes considered unclean & are ostracised & teased. It's horrible.

Many of the people who try to convince them that the practice is bad & dangerous are outsiders, so that makes it difficult to change the culture. On one hand they believe that MoHammed says to do something... but on the other hand this stranger is telling you it's bad. Obviously, MoHammed is easier for them to believe in than some foreigner. Until local people start questioning the practice and stand up against it, there probably won't be any major change. And right now it's the last thing on the minds of most people in the Middle East, I think.

posted by miss lynnster at 5:46 AM on January 8, 2007


i think it can be safely said, any surgery, preformd on a patient, should be approved by that patient, or patient's guardian.
posted by nola at 5:59 AM on January 8, 2007


Agreed. Although some people's guardians aren't thinking too clearly either.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:09 AM on January 8, 2007


Why didn't they get doctors from out of the region to sue?
posted by delmoi at 6:22 AM on January 8, 2007


er, sorry not to 'sue' to testify.
posted by delmoi at 6:22 AM on January 8, 2007


Thank you for heading off our endless discussion about male circumcision. Although I have a feeling it is going to make a reappearance on this thread.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:03 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not that I'm in favour of it in either gender, but ... male circumcision does not hinder enjoyment of sex. Clitoredectomy, which is usually what people mean when talking about female genital mutilation, definitely does and is usually the real reason behind the practice.

Well, the foreskinistas out there will tell you it does reduce pleasure, but wahtever.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 AM on January 8, 2007


Zinger: "Not that I'm in favour of it in either gender, but ... male circumcision does not hinder enjoyment of sex. "

There's definitely some desensitization, although the degree to which that constitutes 'hindering enjoyment' is hotly disputed.

I'm wondering though, what it is that he thought that womens genitalia were structurally inadequate for?

Fisting, perhaps? :-)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:34 AM on January 8, 2007


Can we please - PLEASE - just once avoid dragging male circumcision into a discussion of FGM? I'm sympathetic to the anti-circumcision position, but to drag it into this topic is axe grinding.
posted by Richard Daly at 7:43 AM on January 8, 2007


Oh my god! That's an amazing and upsetting story.

Well-researched and interesting post.
posted by serazin at 7:46 AM on January 8, 2007


At the risk of being attacked but asking anyway out of curiosity:

Did the procedure that Dr. Burt perform on the women actually make any of them hornier, as was his stated intention?
posted by flarbuse at 7:53 AM on January 8, 2007


Not that I'm in favour of it in either gender, but ... male circumcision does not hinder enjoyment of sex. Clitoredectomy, which is usually what people mean when talking about female genital mutilation, definitely does and is usually the real reason behind the practice.

Zinger, male circumcision removes large amounts of erogenous tissue. This isn't debated within the literature.

What hasn't been solidly established is whether this reduces pleasure (although there is plenty of data in the peer reviewed literature which suggests it does). It has simply never been directly tested.

As far as I know, there is no study which clearly establishes that removal of female erogenous tissue reduces pleasure. In fact, many females voluntarily get circumcised as adults (I'm ignoring infibulation, since this clearly has terrible consequences, both reproductive and sexual).

Of course, it is absurd to demand evidence that FGM reduces pleasure - there is a prima facie case to be made that removing sensory hardware will limit sexual sensation.

The same applies to male genital cutting. One would not take a knife to a female's genitals unless it was absolutely medically necessary. We should similarly respect male sexuality.

See this video for a detailed look at the anatomy of the male prepuce, a widely misunderstood part of male sexuality.

The large majority of males on this planet are intact, and have no special problems with their penile health.

People should also be aware of the story of Dr. Lewis A. Sayre, who was the single most important figure in establishing male circumcision into North America. He also practiced clitoridectomies for the same reasons. (peer reviewed article here). Up until very recently, male circumcision's primary benefit was to curb the male sexual response.


Here's an excerpt from the Policy Manual of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC:

Circumcision removes the prepuce that covers and protects the head or the glans of the penis. The prepuce is composed of an outer skin and an inner mucosa that is rich in specialized sensory nerve endings and erogenous tissue. Circumcision is painful, and puts the patient at risk for complications ranging from minor, as in mild local infections, to more serious such as injury to the penis, meatal stenosis, urinary retention, urinary tract infection and, rarely, even haemorrhage leading to death. The benefits of infant male circumcision that have been promoted over time include the prevention of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases, and the reduction in risk of penile and cervical cancer. Current consensus of medical opinion, including that of the Canadian and American Paediatric Societies and the American Urological Society, is that there is insufficient evidence that these benefits outweigh the potential risks. That is, routine infant male circumcision, i.e. routine removal of normal tissue in a healthy infant, is not recommended.

For more policy statements on male circumcision by other medical organizations click here .
posted by spacediver at 7:58 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


The only "evidence" that this doctor did anything against his patients' wills comes in a throwaway line in the legalaffairs.org opinion piece, which was itself sourced from a medical malpractice activism PDF file. That is, both the submitter and the legalaffairs.org columnist are sourcing their words from the PDF, which is called "Silent Violence, Silent Death -- A Consumers Guide to the Medical Malpractice Epidemic". There is only ONE source for the claim that these women were operated on involuntarily, and it's an activist screed against medical malpractice, not a news source.

I see several payment-required links, which are useless here.

Furthermore, the claim is extraordinary: that numerous (hundreds?) women received undesired surgery on their vaginas, and none of them had a husband or boyfriend who slew Dr. Burt.

You have an extraordinary claim, without extraordinary evidence. I don't believe this story as presented.

Evaluating the "evidence", such as it is, with a critical eye - I would guess that the women sought the surgery intentionally, and then were disappointed by the outcome, quite possibly because the doctor is a hack and a quack.
posted by jellicle at 7:58 AM on January 8, 2007


sorry, here is the correct link to the CPSBC policy manual.
posted by spacediver at 8:01 AM on January 8, 2007


watsondog does not have it quite correct.
The comparison is not "going to have a circumcision and having your penis removed," it is like going in to have a vasectomy and waking up to find that your ears have been removed - or your nose or both your big toes.
At its starkest, this is an issue about consent, and a doctor who, while his patient was unconscious, made surgical alterations based on his PERSONAL appraisal of her aesthetic attractiveness.

However well intended, the loaded issues of gender, sexuality and multiple standards raised by the posters do the horrors of the central issue and the suffering of the victims a disservice.
posted by defcom1 at 8:02 AM on January 8, 2007


This is clearly a fabrication by those evil liberal trial lawyers who oppose tort reform and want to bankrupt our altruistic, hard-working doctors.
posted by oaf at 8:03 AM on January 8, 2007


The same applies to male genital cutting. One would not take a knife to a female's genitals unless it was absolutely medically necessary. We should similarly respect male sexuality.

Wait, I don't think enough people got your point, can you please expand a bit more on the evils of male circumcision? because you see every time I hear stories of doctors accused of performing invasive genital surgery on women without them even knowing it and based on his own theories of what female genitals should be like, it gets so boring and repetitive, I need to hear more about male circumcision to find any interest in following the ensuing discussion. Thanks!
posted by pleeker at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


spacediver: pretty please?
posted by chundo at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2007


My kneejerk patriarchal response was also "Where are the husbands beating him up?"

However, examining the evidence with more than a critical eye, one finds this in the pdf at the end of the Ohio Medical Board link that kyrademon provided:


You noted, at page 271 of Surgery of Love, that, "(i)n many hundreds of these patients, the patient had not been informed that anything more had been done to her than delivery and episiotomy and repair or "Yes, you had stitches with your delivery.... In order to evaluate the coital sexual response efficacy of the reconstruction operation, hundreds of these patients, without being told that anything special had been done at the time of their delivery, have been asked as to whether there has been any improvement, a lessening, or no change coitally."


Pretty hard to get up in arms about something you DON'T KNOW ABOUT.
posted by felix grundy at 8:25 AM on January 8, 2007


(There's a twenty-five page citation from the Ohio Medical Board that gives a pretty detailed account, and at least thirty three individual cases. Not to mention what the good doctor self-published about himself.)
posted by felix grundy at 8:29 AM on January 8, 2007


sorry - it's just that when I see uneducated comments, I feel compelled to chime in.

and as I pointed out, the medical craze around female genital surgery has a deep intersection with the medical craze around male genital surgery.

I would think that bringing this to the table would enrich people's understanding of the issue.
posted by spacediver at 8:30 AM on January 8, 2007


In every discussion about Female Genital Mutilation done against a woman's will, a man will always wander in and change the topic to his penis and his circumcision.

Unless you've gone into minor surgery and woken up without your penis and a bunch of doctors trying to diminish your outrage and a court system letting everyone off the hook, then this discussion is not about you.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:31 AM on January 8, 2007 [9 favorites]


I don't really understand why male circumcision is being brought up in this thread. If you think it's a terrible practice senselessly inflicted on men, and you think it's truly comparable to what this article is talking about, then wouldn't this post provide enough cause for dismay as it is? If you think male circumcision isn't a big deal, then this is still horrifying because it really is a different matter (the lack of consent aspect, in particular- especially since unlike operations performed on children with parental consent, these were adult women). But if you think the horrors of FGM are comparable to male circumcision, then this is another tragedy, and it shouldn't be ignored just because similar things are practiced elsewhere. It doesn't make any sense to dismiss the horror of this article because you think that similar, or worse, things are happening routinely to anouther group.
posted by Oobidaius at 8:41 AM on January 8, 2007


felix grundy writes "You noted, at page 271 of Surgery of Love, that, '(i)n many hundreds of these patients, the patient had not been informed that anything more had been done to her than delivery and episiotomy and repair or 'Yes, you had stitches with your delivery.... In order to evaluate the coital sexual response efficacy of the reconstruction operation, hundreds of these patients, without being told that anything special had been done at the time of their delivery, have been asked as to whether there has been any improvement, a lessening, or no change coitally.'"

Holy fucking shit. He wrote that in his own book!? He was experimenting on people without their consent, and he was just out in the open about it. That just jaw-dropping. Were things that different in the 70s? 'Cause today, this guy would lose his license in the blink of an eye.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:41 AM on January 8, 2007


It doesn't make any sense to dismiss the horror of this article because you think that similar, or worse, things are happening routinely to anouther group.

by no means am i dismissing the horror here. There are a lot of horrifying things about misguided medical practice. My post was in response to zinger's claim. It was also to illustrate that the same overzealous motivations of some very misguided figures inside the medical esablishment, responsible for assaults on the female genitalia, are behind assaults on the male genitalia.

posted by spacediver at 8:48 AM on January 8, 2007


'Cause today, this guy would lose his license in the blink of an eye.

One would hope. But there are still plenty of cases of state medical boards being overly forgiving of malpractice, and doctors closing ranks while claiming to "police their own."
posted by mediareport at 9:43 AM on January 8, 2007


In every discussion about Female Genital Mutilation done against a woman's will on Metafilter, a man someone or other will always wander in and change the topic to his penis and his circumcision something they care about more.

Fixed that for you.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:09 AM on January 8, 2007


I remember this being reported on 60 Minutes at some point in the 80s. I guess that corresponds pretty closely to the loss of his license in 1989.
posted by dilettante at 10:14 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Talking about male circumcision in this thread does a disservice to these women. Yes, there are parallels between a male baby being circumcised without his consent and this story, and I'm personally anti-infant-circumcision, but all this rehashed hubbub from the same people about the male side of it just doesn't belong in this thread; it's totally irrelevant. Talk about medical accountability and the doctor community or something; we've heard all there is to hear about both sides of the male circumcision debate.
posted by tehloki at 10:34 AM on January 8, 2007


Very interesting post. Thanks.
posted by carmen at 10:34 AM on January 8, 2007


Jellicle, I am sorry if you found the evidence as presented insufficient, but there really is no question that the surgeries were involuntary. Dr. Burt himself freely admits as much in his book, as felix grundy points out (the link he refers to is at the bottom of the page linked to by the words "voluntarily surrendering his license in 1989.") Other quotes from "The Surgery of Love" include:

"[T]he coital area reconstruction operation for many years has been carried out in the delivery room at the time of episiotomy repair ..."

"[O]ne does not have to go into the complexity of sexuality with the patient and her partner; one merely does the operation of coital area reconstruction ..."

The Ohio Medical Board document then goes on to list a sample of 33 patients upon whom he performed the procedure unnecessarily, including during routine episiotomies.

There's also, as more indirect evidence, the sheer number of patients who sued him, reflected in the FPP links and Bodyguard's link to more recent lawsuit developments. Also, when the cases were dismissed, it was *never* on the grounds of insufficient evidence that the surgeries were involuntary.

Most of the links are not actually pay; the New York Times pieces should be accesible with bugmenot, and the medscape piece, although it doesn't have a lot of bearing on your point, can be gotten to free by googling "Medscape James C. Burt"; I'm not sure why it seems to be a pay link in the FPP, since it's the same URL.
posted by kyrademon at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2007


Great scary bedtime post, reminds me of the doctors in the movie Dead Ringers.

What's even scarier is that Dead Ringers was also based on a real story of twin brothers who collaborated as gynecologists, Cyril and Stewart Marcus.
posted by jonp72 at 10:44 AM on January 8, 2007


Tehloki,

In a sense, though, infant male circumcision is relevant to understanding the construction of medical "consent" in America. If we set aside the physical similarity/dissimilarity debate, we can use other surgeries like male infant circumcision and infant intersex sex assignment surgery, and historical use of clitoridectomy to treat various diseases like epilepsy and "hysteria" to ask how this particular situation is supported by the context of medical practice, and by the relationships between caregivers, medical practitioners, and recipients of surgeries.

It's not irrelevant to ask and interrogate why we might think these surgeries have similarities, and such an investigation could reveal interesting answers to, for instance, the question of why other doctors didn't put a stop to Burt's surgical practices.
posted by carmen at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2007


carmen has a point, but I still think female genital mutilation and "infant intersex sex assignment" are much worse than cicumcizing boys. Most circumcized guys and our partners can explain why easily.
posted by davy at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2007


Flarbuse, given that many of the women he operated on reportedly suffered from sexual dysfunction, infection, chronic pain and discomfort, incontinence, and the need for corrective surgery, I would argue that it probably did not actually make them into "horny little mice".
posted by kyrademon at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2007


there really is no question that the surgeries were involuntary.

Assuming that's true, I have to echo Jellicle's other question: How did this man avoid being murdered? Everybody supports the rule of law; but most also believe that absolutes are rarely valid, and that includes the absolute proscription against vigilantism. If the doctor was openly mutilating patients without their knowledge or consent, and his victims exhausted all legal avenues to no avail and the doctor kept cutting, I'm surprised that nobody decided to solve the problem with a pistol.

Then again, if you buy that logic, I suppose you also need to reconsider the perspective of people who bomb abortion clinics.
posted by cribcage at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2007


Cribcage, one possible reason is that since the patients weren't told what had been done, they didn't necessarily know they were having problems other than a very bad recovery from a purportedly different surgery until years later. Many of the efforts to sue him were dismissed because the statute of limitations on malpractice lawsuits had run out.

When what he had been doing for more than 20 years hit the news in the late 80s and became common knowledge, he promptly moved from Ohio to Florida.
posted by kyrademon at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2007


(Add to this the fact that, when patients went to other doctors in the area for the problems that had developed, they were apparently not told, "My god, what's been done to you! You should sue!", but something along the lines of, "Oh, that wacky Dr. Burt, at it again! *chuckle*")
posted by kyrademon at 11:14 AM on January 8, 2007


... and now the NYT links seem to be inacessible, although they still exist in the Google cache. Weird. If anyone's having trouble, the articles were:

"Ohio Doctor Offers to Quit" (1989) and "Suits Against Ex-Gynecologist Are Rejected" (1991).
posted by kyrademon at 11:30 AM on January 8, 2007


Up until very recently, male circumcision's primary benefit was to curb the male sexual response.

Then I believe I speak for several hundreds of million (billion?) of my cut brethren in saying that circumcision is perhaps the largest failure of a medical procedure in the history of mankind.

Your statement is of course not true. Circumcision throughout history has been done almost exclusively for religious and societal reasons.

I also echo the responses above that I would have expected some vigilante action by an angry spouse. If not outright executed, the man would have been beaten bloody on a weekly basis.

If my wife's clitoral hood were removed and her vagina "realigned" I can promise you I would notice the first time we were intimate, regardless of whether we were told of anything by her doctor.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:34 AM on January 8, 2007


davy:

Fair enough, but the point is that the utility lies not in trying to determine "better or worse" but in providing insight into how the situation arises at all. Who is enabled to make these decisions and what social/medical norms and notions support them? Male circumcision is useful because most of us feel that it is fairly innocuous. There are pros and cons, but for the most part, we agree that it is acceptably within the realm of the parents and medical professionals to come to a decision on behalf of their ward.*

So when does this cross the line? Why, how? While most people can agree that parents (appropriately) have to make difficult decisions for their children, and for medical problems they do so (appropriately) in consultation with their doctors, how much control do doctors really have over this process? Here, including intersex becomes useful. Suzanne Kessler and others have found indications in their research that doctors have tremendous sway over parents' decisions in these matters. Does the power that doctors have with respect to decisions about intersex condition extend to their decisions over other patients? If so, who, to what degree, and how is this power institutionally supported? How do doctor's view the role of informed consent when they consider a procedure to be vital and necessary? Do they think proceeding without consent is valid in some cases? Do they think it is acceptable to manipulate information so as to help ensure consent in these cases?

Historically, women, children, minorities, and the mentally ill were disproportionally the victims of non-consentual surgeries. But in the case of children and the mentally ill, there is sometimes a need for a caregiver to become informed and give consent on their behalf. So there is a grey area. It is worth questioning whether, to what degree, and by what processes women (and minorities) get configured as "grey area" medical subjects rather than as primary decision-maker/consent-giver medical subjects.

I'm not suggesting that all this can be answered by a discussion on Metafilter, of course, but it seems far more interesting and pertinent than endless debates over whether or not it's objectively "worse" to have A or B genital surgery, and whether or not it is acceptable for persons with surgery A to compare their experiences of non-consent with recipients of surgery B, etc.


* Not everybody agrees, and after several years of studying various kinds of genital surgeries, I myself would never make that decision for another person. But it seems clear to me that those who view male circumcision as *absolutely* wrong and/or *absolutely* not within the realm of what parents should decide for their children are in the minority, here and elsewhere.
posted by carmen at 11:35 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ynoxas, cribacge, jellicle, et al:

I think you underestimate the degree to which unquestioned respect for doctors has changed over the last 40 years (and in the 20 years between when Dr. Burt started performing his procedure and when people actually started trying to sue him for it.) I also think you overestimate how frequently people would make the assumption, when someone comes home from surgery suffering from bad side effects, that unnecessary surgery or even malpractice was performed upon them.

And if you don't buy that, in at least one case of this kind of FGM, a woman sued both the doctor and her husband, saying the two of them had conspired together to perform the surgery on her without her will because the husband thought it would make the sex better.

I would very much like to think, however, that in the vast majority of cases the reason was 1970's unwillingness to disbelieve a doctor.
posted by kyrademon at 11:59 AM on January 8, 2007


What a monster this so-called doctor Burt was! What an outrage to do that to patients who trusted him. And disgusting that the community around him did nothing, over many years but laughed at those who suffered, trivialised their having been violated, disfigured against their will, without their consent!

Yes, where were the husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers of these women? Did none of those doctors who stood by and did nothing have daughters they would have defended if such a criminal mutilation were done to them?

And there are still doctors who get away with such abuses. If I remember correctly, there was some other psycho doc, who recently carved his name into a woman's abdomen.

Pathological malignant narcissists, who feel entitled to do such acts on others, often find others to support and enable their sadism and seem to have an almost hypnotic effect on those around them in camouflaging their abuses.

The Psychopath as Physician, by Hervey Cleckley, M.D
posted by nickyskye at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not everything is about dicks.

That said, I'm getting a file-not-found on the first link.
posted by loiseau at 1:56 PM on January 8, 2007


Loiseau, the NYT links were working this morning, but appear to be down or inaccessible now. They still can be found in the google cache. Try googling for:

New York Times "Ohio Doctor Offers to Quit"

or

New York Times "Suits Against Ex-Gynecologist Are Rejected"

and checking the cache.

The medscape link can similarly be accessed by googling Medscape James C. Burt.

Sorry about the links, everyone, and I don't know why they've become awkward to get to. The PDF book chapter, findarticles link, legalaffairs link, and Ohio government link seem to still be working fine. I particularly recommend clicking the Ohio government link ("voluntarily surrendering his license in 1989.") and then going through to the "view documents" pdf link at the bottom of it if you want to look at some original documentation in addition to the reportage.
posted by kyrademon at 2:04 PM on January 8, 2007


The Psychopath as Physician

that's it in a nutshell, and that the community would even joke about it--horrendous--someone should Lorena Bobbit him.
posted by amberglow at 2:07 PM on January 8, 2007


Man I have a huge cock. Like a f’ing horse.
...I’m just sayin’

I get stopped coming out of the grocery all the time because they think I shoplifed zucchini or cucumber or something.*

“Not everything is about dicks.”
!?

I can only express puzzlement that borders on alarm.

“I'm thinking of having my eyelids removed -- unless I'm wrong to think that way?” -posted by fairmettle

Worked for Bodhidharma. And good for tea.


*(as per the metafilter “always wander in and change the topic” rule...I hate to belabor the obvious, but y’know in case someone thought I’m serious...or hadn’t really read the thread)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:01 PM on January 8, 2007


So...someone’s husband hasn’t killed this guy?
Huh. (!?)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:03 PM on January 8, 2007


I hereby give a hearty kick in the balls to everyone who insists this turn into a conversation about penises. Every time there's a post about FGM, some twit has to come along and whinge on about his cut dick. Fuck off already.

Thank you for your attention. We now return to the discussion of female sexuality and this miscreant doctor's crimes against women.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:18 PM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Every time there's a post about FGM male prison rape, some twit has to come along and whinge on about his cut dick her daddy's game of "Hide the Quarter." Fuck off already. I respect that, because I'm willing to consider the possibility that other people suffer, too, and because nobody commenting on MeFi is suffering very much at all in global terms. I'll bow to anyone who's missing a clit, and shake hands as equals with those who've had their clitoral hoods removed, unless they volunteered.

All y'all FGM-only moderators should take it to MetaTalk.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:18 PM on January 8, 2007


No.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:19 PM on January 8, 2007


To paraphrase Noam Chomsky: it is a moral truism that we are responsible for the atrocities that we commit, while our attention to the atrocities of others only serves, at best, to make us feel morally superior, and at worst, to hide our own crimes.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:25 PM on January 8, 2007


This sort of thing is scary - and to have it go on for so long.

Exhibit A, or "Why I am scared shitless of doctors."
posted by tehloki


In a similar vein, I present this...

(Nothing gross, just dark and unsettling humour).
posted by tomble at 5:35 PM on January 8, 2007


It's a truism that only a shithead would think it necessary to bring up the topic of circumcision in a thread about a sociopathic doctor who performed nonconsenting surgery on his patients, bungled those surgeries to the point of causing mutilation, and was then protected from being held accountable by a misogynistic professional association and legal system.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:41 PM on January 8, 2007


Thank you five fresh fish.
posted by nickyskye at 7:11 PM on January 8, 2007


I didn't bring it up... but I'm unimpressed by your vulgarity and self-righteousness.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:22 PM on January 8, 2007


Wow. I now have a new checklist should I ever have surgery on anything ever again.

Vagina? Check.
Clitoris? Check.
Bizarre stitches in genital area? No? Phew.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:55 PM on January 8, 2007


ap: so take it to MetaTalk already.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:02 PM on January 8, 2007


Since it was already mentioned (twice!) and since the constant circumcisory axe-grinding really is driving me batty (and I wasn't going to mention it here because others already have and there's no need to clutter the thread with it), MetaTalk.

Yep, paging all penises, here's a MetaTalk thread, just for you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:15 PM on January 8, 2007


Here's an interesting thing. Women have in the past been unfamiliar with their own biology. I know that it challenged me when i first came across the idea to take a mirror and have a good look. The biology I was taught in school and by my parents did not include the word clitoris and if someone had changed my anatomy for me up until the age of 18ish, while I would of course have been aware of the pain, I could not have told you how differently things looked. I was born in 1967 in Australia to a not-religious family. So I can see how these women were unaware that this surgery was done to them. They would have (obviously) know that something was different, but what?

So, I think this demonstrates clearly that we must educate our children well in their biology and also in that of physical norms. There is a website (i think I saw it here but I'm not sure of the link and reluctant to look for it because of the likely results) which showcases the normal non-sexualised breast. The variety is enormous. And it's very different from what is commonly portrayed in the media (ie perky).

Regarding the practice of invasive surgery to correct non-existent problems, i think it's interesting that no-one has brought up how tonsilectomies used to be the norm in the 70s and earlier. In fact, in cheaper by the dozen, (a semi-factual book) the father insisted that all the children should have their tonsils removed on the same day, healthy or otherwise, to be efficient. I hope that we would, as a community, see this sort of behaviour as unnecessarily invasive, particularly with the risk (however slight) due to the anaesthetic.

A very interesting post and subsequent thread.
posted by b33j at 11:25 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


b33j: Interesting note about the tonsils - while they used to be removed given that they had "no discernible purpose," doctors have now discovered a link between the tonsils and the immune system and go to greater lengths to try and avoid removing them. (Though in the case of chronic infection, removal is still the best course of action.)

Also a good point about why the women may not have come forward about their suspicious surgeries sooner. I know I was raised by hippies with a copy of "Our Bodies Our Selves" proudly on display, but not everyone has had that luxury.

(Though I will admit that at my first gynecologist's exam, I elected not to view my cervix in the mirror. Not because I was squicked out or anything, just because I wasn't all that fascinated and I wanted to get out of the stirrups as soon as possible.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:31 PM on January 8, 2007


Reading all of this, I have been wondering how a woman could have her clitoris removed and not notice. I would know pretty much as soon as the bandages came off what I was missing. So, thank you b33j for reminding me how lucky I am to be a woman born in an era when I am expected to know my genitals as well as, well, the back of my hand.
posted by Jilder at 4:26 AM on January 9, 2007


I'm with fff. It's astonishing how often and with what utter tin-eared inappropriateness (verily, tin-eared to a Friedmanian degree) the Circumcision Police manage to insert their agenda into any even tangentially-related thread.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:29 AM on January 9, 2007


The visible hands that treat patients are not the hands of scientists, but of practitioners whose conventions, habits, and modes of practice are molded first by watching their teachers, then their peers. This is the process of practical medical education, and also of cultural transmission.

The unscientific results of this process have only begun to come under scrutiny, most sharply in recent work on "small area variations." Studying patterns of surgical practice in different parts of the country, researchers have documented enormous fluctuations in rates of common operations like hysterectomy and tonsillectomy. These variations cannot be correlated with population demographics, morbidity, or mortality rates for the areas in question. The significant variables for predicting the incidence of a procedure, it turns out, have to do with the number of physicians operating in a specific locale and their deeply-inbred local styles of practice. In the case of hysterectomies, for example, surgeons' criteria for operating depend not on what is reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but on what fellow surgeons do at the local hospital. [66]

From their residencies onward, most doctors discover that pressure to conform to what is considered standard within the local medical community is irresistible. In turn, these practice standards, imbued as they are with medical authority, shape patients' preferences. For patients normally presume that what doctors accept as medical policy is also the best thing to do. This deference to medical authority is especially powerful in questions involving medical technology, perhaps because, as Timothy Ferris has remarked, "science in principle has to do with knowledge, technology with power." [67]

The doctor-patient relationship contains a built-in mechanism of mutual reinforcement, encouraging both parties to follow the pack. With the passage of time some practices harden within medical and popular culture alike, so it becomes impossible to sort out how much demand for a procedure should be attributed to physicians and how much to patients. [68] In this respect, the peculiar history of neonatal circumcision in the United States exemplifies the process by which physicians, despite having no solid science of clinical outcomes, succeeded in transforming standard medical practice into social custom.


(from here)
posted by spacediver at 5:30 AM on January 9, 2007


Ignore the last sentence of that quote - I didn't want to bring up circumcision, but rather hysterectomies. Should have previewed it first.

Just pretend the quote ends at "how much to patients. [68]"
posted by spacediver at 6:10 AM on January 9, 2007


Bah. As for physicians covering up for each other, when I broke my elbow really badly, my primary care guy (who I loved dearly, as he was the only doctor I'd ever met who took migraines seriously) told me the specialist working on my elbow was "the best! you're lucky to have him! there's no one better in the city!" The physical therapists concurred.

And then I found out the bastard got caught by the Ohio medical board self-prescribing Vicodin, yet was still allowed to practice, and... I would've sued him for screwing up my surgeries and all his related behavior, but my lawyer told me I couldn't until my other lawsuit relating to the accident was settled, and by then it was too late.

The arrogant ass even physically abused me with my PT specialist watching, and didn't think twice about it. She rushed me away as soon as she could to alleviate the pain with ice.

Now, every time I enter a doctor's office, my blood pressure shoots up so high that my current primary care doc wants to put me on meds. I finally told him "no offense, doc, but it's a result of past Bad Doctor Behavior... it goes right back down the second I walk out of here."

There will always be doctors who are looking out for themselves more than for their patients -- the trick is finding a way to avoid them as much as possible in a system where even the good doctors are blind to their faults.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:43 AM on January 9, 2007


What's even scarier is that Dead Ringers was also based on a real story of twin brothers who collaborated as gynecologists, Cyril and Stewart Marcus.

Ok I'm curious now, I remember reading something about them in relation to the movie but I've never understood to what extend they actually damaged patients. The real life twins I mean, not the movie twins. Found this after a quick search (which turned up stuff mostly about the movie, not much about the real brothers):

Cyril and Stewart Marcus, two of the most prestigious OB/GYN specialists on Park Avenue, managed to keep a full docket of rich clients stepping over piles of garbage in their offices while they acted completely crazy (the movie actually understates the reality)

So did their acting crazy also end up harming clients specifically?
posted by pleeker at 12:10 PM on January 9, 2007


“There will always be doctors who are looking out for themselves more than for their patients”

I’m honestly astounded no one really takes the law into their own hands after a bit though. It’s not like being screwed out of money or some such. This is your - or you S/O’s - life and health. And indeed, I’m in no way advocating that position or saying it’s what should occur. But...I mean people don’t raise their voice to my wife much less harm her in anyway without serious risk. I’d lose it if a doctor treated her this way. I’d be very hard pressed not to put the SOB in the ground if he mutilated her or left her in pain.

I think b33j is perfectly correct: “So, I think this demonstrates clearly that we must educate our children well in their biology and also in that of physical norms.”

But this reminds me of the police ‘protecting their own’ and such. One either adheres to the practices and standards of one’s profession or one is not of that profession. A dirty cop is not a cop. A doctor like this, I would have thought, no doctor would want to associate with lest their own reputation be tarnished.
Granted no one wants to have shit where they eat, but the coverup MUST be made more costly than the act itself.
Not sure how to do that though. Wish I was smarter.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2007


I’m honestly astounded no one really takes the law into their own hands after a bit though

That's not astounding at all really, they just realised that the idea of spending the rest of their lives in prison and making him a martyr, on top of his already being untouchable and well protected, was even less appealing than unwanted surgery in the genital area. The astounding part is that he was so untouchable by regular authorities you'd expect to have kicked in.
posted by pleeker at 2:12 PM on January 9, 2007


One topic that hasn't been discussed here yet a lot is Burt's whole attitude of "women's genitals are poorly designed - I can make them better!" There seems to be an astonishing level of hubris there, especially for a male doctor. But can he be dismissed as just a crackpot, or does that attitude point to something more pervasive in society? Without having anything in particular to back it up, I feel like there's an underlying social assumption that women are "alterable" to meet sexual standards.
posted by kyrademon at 2:36 PM on January 9, 2007


Smedleyman, I'll tell you -- despite being a (for the most part) non-violent person, I have never wanted to see someone get decked so much in my life as I did when that idiot surgeon turned away from me post-op (as I was asking a question about pain meds) and said to my (then-) 6' 5" boyfriend: "Well, it's not like we opened her up again..."

It is the only time I ever saw Boyfriend's jaw drop fully open in the 10+ years I knew him.

Kyrademon -- I think there is an underlying social assumption that women are "alterable." See: breast enhancement surgery. (And nothing against breast enhancement or reduction, I'm not raising that as a particular beef). But extending that concept to remodeling the clitoris to fulfill some sicko "research" fantasy? ("Why, I'll make them horny little rabbits, I will, I will...") Hooo boy, that's screwed up.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:47 PM on January 9, 2007


“they just realised that the idea of spending the rest of their lives in prison and making him a martyr”

Sure, rationally, that’s what one thinks (although I doubt the martyr part). But I’m sure bitter-girl.com’s boyfriend had to restrain himself from doing anything rash. It simply surprises me that given such egregious harms someone hasn’t just flipped out.
Certainly it’s better that they didn’t. And certainly it’s better if the authorities did something (and surprising if they don’t).

But I’m surprised the - as bitter-girl.com puts it - the social assumption that women are alterable isn’t trumped - vehimently - by the social understanding to not alter or otherwise mess with “my” woman.
I’d’ve thought the more primative understanding (that one might be subject to violence for doing so) would be stronger.

There just seems to be that kind of social contract among guys (yes, it’s mysoginistic, but it’s an experimentally verifiable phenomenon).

Unless the S/Others were somehow hooked into this ‘horny mouse’ thing. Then they’re as screwed up as the doctor.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:33 PM on January 9, 2007


All I can say is it's a damn good thing then-bf didn't whomp the surgeon. A 200+ pound muscular 6' 5" 20-something could've inflicted some pretty serious damage on a 60-something Vicodin addict.

Although, after what the bastard did to me, I certainly would've cheered him on.

Also, it was originally kyrademon's point about women's "alterability"...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:10 PM on January 9, 2007


In replying to your thought kyrademon...The other day when sluglicker posted Floramagica, I was impressed how many people found the vulva unattractive and wrote "ew" or some such comment.

And then when goodnewsfortheinsane posted about Kola Boof and she mentioned she was infibulated I looked it up, didn't know what that was. When I googled images of what an infibulation looks like, I was interested to see it basically takes away what makes a female look female. It was as if it were an attempt to make a vulva look like an anus.

My thoughts about this were best elucidated in June Campbell's book, Traveller in Space: Gender, Identity and Tibetan Buddhism. The gist of what I got out of the book on this subject is that, historically, the simplicity of the concept of facts is associated with the simplicity of the appearance of the phallus. On the other hand, the mysterious and unpredictable nature of emotions are associated with the complexity of the vagina and vulva. Simple has traditionally been seen as good, complex as untrustworthy, bad and scary.

So it would make mysogynistic sense for the simple=good=less-dangerous mind-set to want to eradicate the complexity of female genitalia, which symbolises what is emotional and unpredictable.

I'm trying to put a number of thoughts together briefly and I hope that makes sense.
posted by nickyskye at 4:28 PM on January 9, 2007


(Incidentally, if there's anyone new to the thread at this point, quite an interesting discussion about it has started in grapefruitmoon's associated metatalk thread, about, er, 350 posts in.)
posted by kyrademon at 4:47 PM on January 9, 2007


kyrademon, I think you're right. 90% of intersex babies are assigned female (including boys who show every indication of being fully sexually reproductive as men). Despite one doctor's disgusting comment that the reason is that "it's easier to dig a hole than build a pole", I think that it has to do with the notion that women are more appropriately the subjects of medical treatment/experimentation than men, but there's nothing I can really specifically point to that demonstrates it clearly.
posted by carmen at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2007


Kyrademon -- I think there is an underlying social assumption that women are "alterable." See: breast enhancement surgery.

See also: high heels, shaving armpits, make-up, face lifts, foot binding, corsettes, etcetera endless etceteras.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:38 PM on January 9, 2007


Now that this thread is starting to head off the front page, I just wanted to note that it's taken some very odd turns. The comments about male circumcision were predictable, but the fairly interesting discussion they eventually led to on the metatalk thread was not. Meanwhile, in this thread itself, we had several posters finding the story the post chronicled either incomprehensible, strange, or downright implausible - but for the (to me) bizarre reason that no man in the victims' lives (?!) beat up or killed the doctor (??!!). One poster found it so unlikely that he or she went so far as to posit that the 2000-some women in question actually underwent the surgeries voluntarily and then were disappointed in the results! Which, to me at least, sounded uncomfortably similar to the imaginary epidemic of false rape accusations that some people seem to believe exists ...

Don't really have an agenda for commenting on this. Just wanted to.
posted by kyrademon at 9:12 PM on January 9, 2007


It simply surprises me that given such egregious harms someone hasn’t just flipped out.

Oh I do understand that, I would have murderous instincts too in a situation like this, but I'm supposing that, apart from the rational and ethical sense kicking in to prevent people taking revenge that'd get them into trouble, it was also a matter of him being in the position of a respected doctor protected by those of his rank and by the indifference of the law.

Of course that sense of powerlessness would make people want to take things in their own hand even more, but at the same time, it's also a deterrent, because if you give a good kicking to someone in a privileged position you usually end up getting into even more trouble than giving a good kicking to an average 'nobody'.

That's also what I meant when I said he'd end up being the martyr (especially if we're talking about more drastic solutions than just a good kicking or 'delivering a message' gangster style).

See also: high heels, shaving armpits, make-up, face lifts, foot binding, corsettes, etcetera endless etceteras.

Now wait a second, surely you're not suggesting if I shave my armpits and wear make up (haven't got to the plastic surgery yet, maybe in thirty years, who knows!), I'm sharing something of the mentality that may have been behind this doctor's abuse of his patients?

I understand there is a very stretched parallel to be made if we broaden the topic to the social pressures on women and their looks, even for common, deliberately chosen, harmless, practical/fun things like shaving and make up and high heels, rather than surgery or foot binding which are in turn different things, but really, I still find it very stretched and I don't see why enlarge the scope so much anyway.

This was such a unique case. Obviously the doctor's crazy ideas and practices, and the 'oh I see he got a hold of you' reactions from other doctors, do reflect a disturbing mysoginy.

But talking about plastic surgery or any cosmetic intervention as if it was even in the same category with this... well I think that risks ending up as treating all women like incapable dumb puppets whose choices in respect to their looks can never be really consensual and free because it must all be social pressures. There is such a thing as degrees of pressure and degrees of choice and consent. Here there was none at all of the latter. It's not comparable.
posted by pleeker at 2:49 AM on January 10, 2007


And sorry to pick on a tangent but I just clicked on the Floramagica thread nyckyskye linked to... my impression is the 'ew' reactions were not a case of 'finding the vulva unattractive', but a case of finding those specific photos with the flower-vulva photoshopping unpleasant and a little disturbing - which, also judging from the photographer's other works, I'd bet was exactly what he wanted, seems like that's his style. I don't think he made that photo project with a 'look how lovely this is! shiny happy flowers and vulvas! let's join hands and sing about the beauty of female genitals', I think it was a little more mischevious and dark kind of fun, at least, to me, it's like he came up with the idea of making it look like carnivorous flesh flowers, a little menacing. In any case, it's the juxtaposition and style of the photos that's unsettling.

The notion of 'alterable' that this doctor must have had to do what he did, it's a whole other plane altogether anyway.
posted by pleeker at 3:12 AM on January 10, 2007


It's bizarre that USians get in such a lather about female genital mutilation, when they accept its male counterpart as a matter of course.

The word you're looking for is "Americans".
posted by spaltavian at 5:46 AM on January 10, 2007


pleeker: But talking about plastic surgery or any cosmetic intervention as if it was even in the same category with this... well I think that risks ending up as treating all women like incapable dumb puppets whose choices in respect to their looks can never be really consensual

Actually, I think when the first cosmetic surgery mention came in a few posts above here, it was to demonstrate the doctor's mindset and not the patients' -- that women are "alterable" for men's pleasure even without their own consent, and Burt did these surgeries, sometimes with the husband's cooperation and knowledge, accordingly.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:02 AM on January 10, 2007


Which, to me at least, sounded uncomfortably similar to the imaginary epidemic of false rape accusations that some people seem to believe exists ...

Not trying to be a jerk, but you do realize there was a very high profile case of this just recently involving the lacrosse team at Duke?

I have lived most of my life in fear of a false rape accusation, and as I've mentioned before, due to my particular sexual preferences/fetishes, I won't have sex with a girl until she practically begs me, and I'm *STILL* afraid of false accusations. Every "first time" with a girl has been somewhat tarnished by the fear that the next day they would decide after the fact they were not willing and report me to a justice system that absolutely DELIGHTS in attacking rape cases (see Duke, above). Overzealous DA's are not an exception, they are the rule. And most grand juries only need to hear the word "rape".

There are A LOT of false rape accusations. I know of 2 against teachers at my old high school and 1 in my own family. A family member was nearly railroaded despite the accuser recanting ON THE STAND.

People react so violently about this topic. Note that one can accept there are far too many rapes, many of which go unreported, and still understand that some reports of rape are unfounded. These are not mutually exclusive positions. In fact, it is the only reasonable viewpoint.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:08 AM on January 10, 2007


Ynoxas, I do not dispute that false accusations of rape exist, and that they are a problem. I merely have trouble believing that there is the vast epidemic of it some people have posited, particularly one brought on by women who have consensual sex and then feel conflicted about it afterwards, which I have seen suggested here on metafilter as a likely cause.
posted by kyrademon at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2007


the doctor's mindset and not the patients' -- that women are "alterable" for men's pleasure even without their own consent

Yeah, sure that was this doctor's mindset, in a very extreme fashion, but even if we're talking doctor's point of view, I still don't see the parallel. This case doesn't have much to do with actual doctors of the normal sane kind who perform cosmetic surgeries requested by the patients.

Point is, I would be very wary of extrapolating about social attitudes in too wide a manner here. To answer kyrademon's question, I think it's a case of both him being a crackpot, and there being social attitudes at play that allowed the crackpot to get away with it - namely the 'not breaking rank' among other doctors, and the dismissing the issue with a laugh, obviously those who reacted like that didn't care much and didn't think it was a big deal, which says a lot about their ideas of women, yeah.

But that's where the 'idea that women are alterable for men's pleasure' extrapolation ends for me - everything else women do to 'alter' themselves more often or more visibly than men, with all sorts of degrees of pressure, or none (or next to none - is there even such a thing as zero social pressures in any behaviour? not sure), for all sorts of reasons, including for their own pleasure, is in a whole other dimension.
posted by pleeker at 12:24 PM on January 10, 2007


Joining back in late here, but my point with male circumcision is that the purpose for *that* procedure is not, ostensibly, the deliberate reduction of pleasure. It is done for "health reasons" (although I regard this as dubious at best) and religious reasons. Female genital mutilation as it is usually done is about the deliberate reduction of a woman's ability ot enjoy sex. In other words, the procedures are not comparable.

But FunkyHelix was way more blunt and to the point than I was:

Unless you've gone into minor surgery and woken up without your penis and a bunch of doctors trying to diminish your outrage and a court system letting everyone off the hook, then this discussion is not about you.

posted by Zinger at 3:48 PM on January 10, 2007


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