"The price to pay for our common good": Genital modification and the somatechnologies of cultural (in)difference

Nikki Sullivan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

One "folk custom" (or set of practices) that "Australia" seemingly finds "repulsive" is that which is referred to in State Crimes Acts as "female genital mutilation" (FGM). While this term is used in the context of Australian legislation to refer to illegal practices such as "infibulation; the excision or mutilation of the whole or a part of the clitoris; the excision or mutilation of the whole or a part of the labia minora or labia majora; any procedure to narrow or close the vaginal opening; the sealing or suturing together or the labia minora or labia majora; or the removal of the clitoral hood" (Legislative Council and Assembly of Victoria), to date such legislation, and the definition of FGM on which it is founded, has not been used to prosecute surgeons who perform "elective" "cosmetic" procedures such as labiaplasty, vaginoplasty, vaginal rejuvenation, hymen reconstruction, and clitoroplasty on (apparently non-migrant) "Australian" women. Further, intersex and sex-reassignment surgeries are exempt from prosecution, as are surgeries deemed necessary to the health of the person concerned. This paper will explore these inconsistencies and the material, political, and ethical effects they produce. At the same time, it will provide a critique of the notion of the "common good" and the liberal idea(l)s that inform it and that shape both individual and political anatomies in problematic ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-409
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Semiotics
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007

Keywords

  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Designer vagina
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Intersex
  • Whiteness

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