Cornell thinks it’s okay to use a vibrator on little girls in the name of science

*TRIGGER WARNING*

This morning, Jezebel published an article about Dix P. Poppas, Cornell surgeon who performs clitoroplasties on girls as young as six.  During follow up “care,” Poppas uses a vibrator to stimulate the girl to test for nerve damage:

Though the entire study should raise about a thousand red flags, Dreger and Feder focus on Poppas’s technique for determining whether the children retain sensitivity in the area after he has performed the surgery. In order to test sensation in their nerves, he takes a cotton-tip applicator and/or a “vibratory device” and stimulates the girl, who is usually between age 6-10, asking her whether she is able to feel his motions. More specifically:

Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen, and Poppas also report a “capillary perfusion testing,” which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl’s clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls. He intends to chart the development of their sexual sensation over time.

At the age of six, these girls are old enough to remember their visits to Poppas’s office. They are old enough that the memory of a much older physician stimulating them with a vibrator will be easily accessible in later years. And Poppas wants to do this annually.

The article goes into further detail about the disturbing reasoning behind the surgery, but what it basically boils down to is that the patient’s physician thought their clitoris was too big.  The author also notes, “large clitorises have been linked to an increased probability that the girl will later identify as gay,” meaning homophobia fueling some of the decision-making behind these mutilations.

When I was 17 I had to go into the hospital for what they thought might be appendicitis.  While I was there, the doctors wanted to perform certain exams that I would never have consented to (and over a decade later, still wouldn’t).  They tried to convince my parents to let them perform the exams if I needed to go into surgery to have my appendix removed, since I’d be under anesthesia. Let me tell you: few things in life have made me panic that much, because I’m 100% positive that my parents would’ve let them do it.  Luckily, I didn’t end up needing surgery after all, but being completely powerless to stop something from happening just because you’re not old enough to legally have a say is absolutely terrifying.

So the thought of these little girls having unnecessary surgeries that could lead to nerve damage, then being molested annually during their “follow-up care” makes me feel simultaneously furious and nauseated.  How the fuck did this get approved by the Cornell review board?  How the fuck can parents stand by while someone uses a vibrator to stimulate their six-year-old?  And how the fuck does this guy get to keep his license?

Some commenters on the Jezebel article helpfully provided this contact info:

Dean of Weill Medical College, Antonio Gotto: dean@med.cornell.edu

Dr. Poppas himself: dpoppas@med.cornell.edu

University President, David Skorton: president@cornell.edu

Rosemary Kraemer, PhD,
Director, Human Subjects Protection
(646) 962-8200
rtkraeme@med.cornell.edu

About Melissa

I love donuts. Chocolate iced, hold the sprinkles.
This entry was posted in medical fuckery, things that scare me, whatthefuckery and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Cornell thinks it’s okay to use a vibrator on little girls in the name of science

  1. Julian Real says:

    OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is completely atrocious, with nothing redeeming whatsoever.

    Any doctor who does that to a child needs to have their medical license revoked immediately.

    I’m also going to post about this article from Jezebel. I’ll also encourage readers to come here to read your post, Melissa.

    How utterly terrifying and horrifying.

    So much for all those Westerners who argue “Well, in OUR society we would NEVER do anything like… [name the atrocity happening to girls].” It doesn’t get much more mainstream and “culturally approved” than Cornell.

  2. AICintern says:

    Advocates for Informed Choice is a non-profit organization advocating for the legal and human rights of children with intersex conditions or differences of sex develoment, like the ones in this story. We work in collaboration with bioethicists, doctors, parents, affected adults, and many others. If you are interested in taking action to help protect these children, and to be sure that possible human rights violations are investigated, please join our Facebook page at http://ow.ly/20wTY or sign up for our Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/aiclegal.

  3. Leah says:

    This is sickening. The part about the large clit being a “problem” makes me want to puke. I have an “intersex condition” and I STILL, as an adult, will not go to the gynecologist because of how horrifying it was, how policed I felt, the “treatments” they wanted me to receive the first time I went, when I was a teenage. *Thank God* different circumstances (and lies) allowed me to bypass the parent’s forcing me to do it thing….I simply cannot fathom who is consenting to have their six year old be molested yearly.

  4. Julian Real says:

    @Leah,

    I am so glad you managed to escape parental and other policing of your body. Who says lying is always wrong?!

  5. marybullstonecraft says:

    This is so horrifying, and I can’t believe that the mainstream media *still* hasn’t reported on it (at least that I can tell).

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