Sunday, December 07, 2008

Elongation of Labia Minora- Zambia

I was browsing the web today and just now found out that elongation of labia minora is classified as Genital Mutilation type IV (where have I been?). So of course after my initial shock of "oh my God! I am mutilated!!!" abated... I had a few minutes to think and I have come to a conclusion on the subject. The researchers have erred.

History and Commentary:
Let me start by saying that the information contained herein will most likely upset/disconcert a lot of Zambians because we have trouble talking about our sexuality or sex in public places. Ritual/ traditional sexual matters are discussed in private among friends or at gender restricted traditional ceremonies.

The reason I feel strongly to speak on this subject is that as Zambian, we sometimes have a tendency to accept western standards as the norm, shunning our own cultures without much investigation other than the fact that it seems primitive. We often forget that when anthropologists come in from other countries to "study" us, they are not highly familiar with the language for a start, and the local people are not comfortable explaining everything or have trouble translating things to English. The evidence is clear in Chisungu: A girl's initiation ceremony among the Bemba of Zambia by Audrey Richards.

Yes there are a lot of inconsistencies and traditional teaching that has been done the same way for ages that we have no idea why it's done that way other than-- it was passed on by our forefathers that way. You could say the same for many religious practices too. Unfortunately, unlike religion, our history is not written, but passes on through fables or partially true stories, through dance and song or a village elders romantic view of the past.

Traditionally, young Zambian (and other African- Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, DRC...etc) girls are taught at puberty to elongate the labia minora for the enhancement a man and woman's sexual pleasures.

I recall receiving this information from our house maid when I was 10 or 11 years old. We had just returned home from a particularly trying game of Zambian 'rounders'. She approached my cousins and I and somberly informed us that if we did not pull on our labia minora we would not get married and hence would have no children. That was enough to scare us into sitting down with her on what would become our many "bathroom" sessions.

No. I never got them to the desired/ recommended length because I grew bored and my cousins and I decided to just screw the move and never get married. As it turns out, you CAN get married without altering your labia and...oh wow! You can have kids too!!!...lol.

Defense Motion:
Mutilation or maiming is an act or physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of the (human) body, usually without causing death. So technically-- the body part is altered when you elongate the labia, but you are not altering how anything feels down there. They also say that women with elongated labia tend to have more bladder and vaginal infections than others. Probably true for others... but not for me and women that I am close to, so I can not confirm or deny that.

The thing is Mutilation has really negative connotations. To me it's the cutting of the clitoris and other female body parts in a way to keep a woman submissive and violate women's sexual rights. If we use the original definition listed above, that would be assuming that a woman getting a hysterectomy is also being mutilated... which is in fact not true because the surgery is not done negatively or that women who choose to get hoodectomies to enhance sexual pleasure or labiaplasty to make their genitals look pretty are mutilating themselves right? See be very careful with evaluations of culture done by the western world.

So because elongating the labia is for positive reasons (pleasure) should it be considered FGM surely? The only weapons used are fingers, herbal oils, mango stems (really!), or clothes pegs in serious cases. Of course as with everything, some women get abused in the process such as those sent back from their marital homes because they didn't have elongated labia, or those abused during initiations ceremonies (which I wont get into today).

I mean I just don't see see how someone who thinks lobola is the buying and selling of women while they encourage the purchase of expensive diamond rings can tell me I am mutilated.
I am the proud owner of elongated labia minora and they have not caused me any mental or physical problems.
I am Manena-- and I approve this message.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tell it like it is gal! We are tired of being misrepresented. I have seen it with the current global financial crisis. Imagine a so called panel of experts discussing the effects of the crisis on Africa. However none of the panelists was African. I reached for the remote after the introductions.

Manena said...

I know right... sometimes it's a bit much when they bring on so called "experts on Africa" who are rarely African... that's not to say their observations are always inaccurate, but it is irksome.

LUSE said...

luse has left a new comment on your post "Elongation of Labia Minora- Zambia":

what you raise in this posting is something close to my heart. For some reason, we Zambians (Africans) have been shy about telling our own story. It is utterly annoying for those of us studying to have to quote books written by westerners on topics that are Zambian! And reading these books by so called experts you come to realise they are written, mostly, for a western audience.
So, while we lament the above fact, we have to get our act together by having the manenas of this world actually begin writing books with that perspective that only being zambian gives one.
oh, and while am at it, what we are calling for is not a naive following of everything and anything zambian - we are the first to admit that certain abuses in the name of tradition or culture have to go. We have to reflect creatively and intelligently on who we are; an attitude of, as one african philosopher terms it, 'alleluia our ancestors have thought' won't do! Well, thanks for getting me thinking....

Manena said...

Thank you LUSE... always nice to hear from you.
It is true that certain traditional or cultural practice abuses occur mostly due to a lack of understanding on our parts as to why things are done the way that they are.
When I have time... especially if married to Warren Buffet I will spend my days investigating matters and documenting them as accurately as possible...lol

thepicturemonger said...

Manena,
This is a well written and 'nail head hitting' article. Its misleading to continue following the works of people who are not Zambia (African) to talk about matters they ill-understand.
Just imagine, we recently received a cassava expert from Europe, who did not know how cassava looks like.

thepicturemonger said...

Manena,
This is a well written and 'nail head hitting' article. Its misleading to continue following the works of people who are not Zambia (African) to talk about matters they ill-understand.
Just imagine, we recently received a cassava expert from Europe, who did not know how cassava looks like.

Manena said...

LOL...Richie that's so funny, but not funny at the same time! How can you be an expert on cassava without knonwing what it looks like??? See the people they send us?

Chimaobi said...

Sister Manena.

I have just read your article, and would like to thank you for the insight. I have been scourging the net and reading journals about this very subject.

Indeed, it should be Female Genital Modification, not Mutilation.

As a Brother, I am appreciating you speaking up on behalf of the community.

Peace and respect.

- Chi

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with everythng you are saying, although i am zimbabwean we experience the same things where an anthropologists come and place themselves among a tribal group for a few months or years and is then labelled an expert. its about time for us african women to remove the cellotape from our mouths and express the truth and not forgetting the pride we hold towards our cultures. im really sick of outsiders assuming that all african women are trapped by their cultures.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Manena, thing is i think,the western people want to call it fgm cause they didn't think of it first. If it was so bad, why would some high priced prostitutes pay to have it done. They want to shun it till they think of something better. If hubby likes it dangling, let 'em sag! Proudly African:)

Jes said...

I think the core issue with any kind of genital modification is consent. If a woman, fully informed and fulling consenting, wants to have her clitora removed, that's her choice. Likewise, if a woman, fully consenting and fully informed, wants to stretch her labia, then that's cool with me. But if a mother forces her daughter to cut herself, or be cut by her family, that is not ok.

I'm interning for a human rights organization in Washington DC (who I do not speak for!) and we had a client who did not want to be stretched, and spent years fighting her aunts about this. Finally they just started ambushing her, and tugging on her much more roughly than necessary to help her catch up. In her tribe, after the stretching, they cut the labia.

If she had chosen to do this, she would not have fled to the U.S. seeking asylum.

As a westerner, I totally agree--lots of westerners are "experts" on cassava without ever having seen one. But I think every woman and man has a right to choose what happens to her or his body.

To sum up, it's not the procedure which is a problem it is the process.

Thanks for reading,

Jessica
feelingelephants.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a well written, informative blog. Why do Europeans and Americans always know best? How can people advocate freedom, and then preach against free choice?

Body alteration is not necessarily mutilation. I don't consider the piercing of my ear lobe to be mutilation. To me, the difference between alteration and mutilation lies in the informed free choice of the subject.

And, by the way, I am a white male from New York. I am a free thinker who rejects cultural mandates and restraints. I find elongated labia to be extraordinarily beautiful.

To all: think independently, act freely, and harm no one. Peace.

A Very Proud African said...

Jessica stop justifying yourselves. I am an African living abroad but these westerner has brainwashed most of our fellow African and the whole world at large with a notion that the western culture is the only acceptable culture. Manena just put it right for you. The is a very big and really big difference between Genital mutilation and Labia Elongation. And like you said westerners sit in their offices wherever they are and begin analysing Africa when they do not even know where Africa is. I have met lots of professors who make comments about African culture and they are hailed as experts but when i talk to them they ask who is the president of Africa. I am against FGM but i support labia elongation and i think its sexy. Whosoever person you met claiming they were forced may wanted a green card.

Lady Manena, Speak it out loud and let them hear it. We are proud to be who we are as Africans and we are proud of our culture and norms as long as they healthy practices.

Anonymous said...

I am going to continue pulling my labia minora...thanks to you Manena!

Anonymous said...

go Manena!

My man love my long labia, pulls too! !

Mayase Monica Phiri said...

Manena, I wish to disagree with you on what you said about elongation has benefits for both the male and female. I wrote a paper on the subject at my uni and from the resaerch i did, women have a higher libido than men and hence take longer to come or have an orgasm. The elongation of the labia actually reduces the woman's 'powers', so that she comes earlier than normal for women.To me this seems like she's getting a raw deal and not fully experiencing the pleasures of sex.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Manena. Today is the first time I have actively interrogated the idea of labia minora elongation. Past Western misrepresentation, I wish we could discuss this issue a bit more... for instance, my one side is longer than the other, and that is the side that feels less pleasure than the one that my weak left hand could not pull. I wish science could objectively join the debate so we could get a scientific reason why pleasure is said to be enhanced, etc. Also, I read somewhere that in Rwanda, the herbs they use while pulling have been tested and found to be anitbacterial, and anti-inflamatories. So there...

Billy said...

Wonderful blog Manena!

I love women with long labia(am from Uganda)and can never be faithful to a woman who doesn't have them.

those who share my feelings would find the following links interesting:

http://www.iiav.nl/ezines/web/FeministAfrica/2005/No5/feministafrica/feature-sylvia.htm

http://www.firstglobalselect.com/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=globalone001/globalone/htm/news_article.r?vcnews-id=327477

http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8909&Itemid=70

www.sexylabia.com

Anonymous said...

I'm malawian and this practice for labia elongation is highly practiced here too!! In my experience , the clitoris is the most sensitive part of a womans privates and the elongated labia just pulls the mans attention to the coz they are longer than the clitoris which is more sensitive and hence brings more pleasure when touche or rubbed slightly !!!! We listen to elders on these issues and it is part of our culture and that's what makes us and western women different !!!! So let's embrace our culture as long as it doesn't affect us negatively !!!

Anonymous said...

Thanx pipo 4 da knwledge rili ddnt knw ths much.bt m ntrestd n elonhatn em,hw do i do d@ traditionaly.rili nid yo help!

Anonymous said...

Am a proud zambian 23,wth long labia,my hubby luvs them n i wil pas on dis info to my kids n grandkids cz its tradition and it makes us unque,it dosnt hurt.

Anonymous said...

What oil is used 2 do this in the westErn world

Anonymous said...

Where can i get the oils in europe

Anonymous said...

Let some of these traditions die. There is more to a woman than her private parts! It is not wise to spread such useless information to young people. Move on with the times. These days some women do not even want to marry or have kids!! So the basis of doing all these modifications is not there

Uncle D said...

hi Manena,
am just more interested as a man to know more on this topic.
is it true that this practice give an excessive sexual pleasure or boost the sexual satisfaction and if yes, does it give both parties more advantage to enjoy sex more than individuals whose Labia were not elogated?

thanks alot . this is great culture and i would like to do my own road test with an alogated woman to have my own proof.

have a great

McFelix said...

It is a good act of traditional as long as its done in a more professional way. I like, admire, desire and love women with a well elongated labia, I just look at her in nude and there and than know she know something good. I will be faithful to her i real life of love and every act. One good thing with
women with long labia they always expose their nude to there husbands, this is very interesting.I can not hide this from you:I can never be faithful to a woman without long labia, because many of such women, their pussy is never attracting and they never lets you feel their pussy with your hands and never let you look at it.

McFelix said...

Wonderful and amazing blog Manena!

I just came across your blog. It is please and very pleasing for a woman to have an elongated labia. Am a male and I love very much, I desire, admire and interested so much to always have sex with a woman with long labia. I can not hide this from her:I love women with long labia and can never be faithful to a woman who doesn't have them.
Women I encourage them to pull their labia. Thanks

Anonymous said...

can i get your email address

McFelix said...

without ID why do you need my email, ok its here {mcfvora@yahoo.com} lets see the ups and downs of you nbeing Anonymous

McFelix said...

Why do you need my email yet you are Anonymous. Okay here its {mcfvora@yahoo.com} Lets see the ups and downs why you need the email.

Anonymous said...

Manena thanx sis. U r preaching the truth. Women genitals with elongated labias r good to look at because they seem full and the vaginal canal is also fleshy and warmer. Having sex with such kinda woman, u don't regret. Infact u wish to have the more of her. Here in uganda even other tribes that were not practising it like the nilotics, hav picked it and passing it on to their kids. We the men here we love it even get competition from western men on ugandan girls leaving theirs' with lean, hollow genitals.
We shud keep our culture it's our identity. Not everything western is good. Big up 2 all the manena followers

Anonymous said...

Can one woman sincerely say tht they enjoy sex with their long labia, no one has fully convinced me to pull the labia only that the man likes it and it is good if u want to keep your husband. Now, one question comes to mind? does the woman like it. Sex in Zambia is concentrated on the man, the woman is ignored entirely, i have not heard a woman confess and say she enjoys the long labia sex. if am not wrong,one of u just said u have less feelings on the longer one.

I agree it is not mutilation, but at the same time i dont see why i should pull them. coz anything that i do to my body should benefit me also.....from the way i see it. Men need to stop being brain washed by the notion that they cant enjoy sex unless the woman has long labia. you men musturbate, the sensation is the same, u dont need elongated labia to achieve orgasm.

Someone should scientifically prove to me that my sexual pleasures will be enhanced if i pull my labia.

Anonymous said...

lllllllllllll

Chisanga said...

Hi Manena
I know this post is 4 years old, but I am taking a chance. I am a filmmaker based in Johannesburg and I am looking to do a film precisely about Labia elongation and the varying views and choices African women have about this.
Could you contact me on chisangafilm at gmail dot com? or on Twitter @chisanga_wesu
also, any of the people who commented who would like to speak about this issue, male or female, can do so...

Anonymous said...

Anything oily because the oil is for grabs but not scented oil you can use olive oil or vitamin e oil

Anonymous said...

Hie Manena, am a 24yr old african lady n wld loove to enhance my labia"elongate them" any home remedies that i can use to accelerate the process??

Anonymous said...

i think its just perfect to leave the labia as it is ..those with large long ones are blessed as they look sexy to men its wholesome and in oral sex there is something to suck and lick on which makes sex much more wholesome for those that love having oral sex with their partners.i think the western countries have it all wrong..i'd love to see woimen at nude beaches walk with their labias hanging out ..that sure would be a turn on..long live labias..i love long labia ladies or ILLLL :)

dorothea musorowedu said...

hi i love long labia how do i pull them?and what type of oil do i use

Anonymous said...

I am not part of this culture but I am just concerned and want to ask this question to those who claim that labia elongation is mutilation and violation of women's rights. If they call this practice mutilation, what would they call breast or penis enhancement surgeries and many other plastic surgery procedures? These things are done for beauty and pleasure and shouldn't be classified by some ignorant westerners as criminal.

Anonymous said...

I am a white westerner (United States). I guarantee you that 99% percent of us do not care if you pull on your labia or not. Western women do all types of things to attract men (lipstick, breast implants, etc). Cutting the clitoris on the other hand does seem barbaric to most of us, but still it is none of our business what you Africans do with your lives. The types of Westerners that go to Africa and preach nonsense to you do not represent the rest of us.

Colloquial said...

Manena... Thank you for taking a stand girl.

magichag said...

I am Beautiful woman. i,like many other african women have been exposed to this through our peers and threats of being pinched if you didnt have them the first time u have ur first periods. Looking back, i resented this pressure.perhaps my friends had different experiences. and over the years i have realised that i dont need manipulated labia to enjoy sex. so in short all i have to be is to be me, real. I dont think i want to encourage people to manipulate their labia because this does not define who they are. They can still be beautiful, with normal labia and still be african.

Anonymous said...

Calling this mutilation is ridiculous.No different to exericising & building muscle to make your body how you want it.Im European, but my wife is a traditional bemba woman. The the most perfectly formed woman I've ever seen & our lovemaking is out of this world

Lynn Gray said...

Is there anyway we would be able to have you on a radio show to talk about this topic?