Sex Gets Real with Dawn Serra

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Sometimes, you luck into an incredible opportunity. That happened to me when I heard Mariya Karimjee's story on The Heart or This American Life. It's about her experience with female genital mutilation and having part of her clitoris removed when she was a young girl.

I reached out to Mariya and invited her on the show to talk about being an FGM survivor, what it's been like in her life since her story went global, and she also brings some voices of other survivors to share with us.

We talk about Muslim women, sex, changing relationships with our parents, patriarchy, and the importance of sex education.

It's an important conversation that I hope you'll enjoy. I know I did.

Resources discussed in this episode

Mariya's episode on The Heart podcast

Mariya's story on This American Life

Additional voices on FGM

"I’ve asked your mother many times since this occurred, why an educated woman who resides in a country where this is illegal subjected her daughter to this practice? I never received a valid reason. Simply saying that “it’s in our religion” is not a good enough answer for me to accept that my daughter went through this." Anonymous father

"I had started to understand the terrifying implications of the practice which differed from person to person and the physical and mental trauma some of my own sisters and close friends had to go through, and are still going through. I also came across many justifications for the practice, some from my family elders which went along the lines of, 'This is done to curb a girl’s sexual desire so that she can put her mind to other things', among many others." Insia Jaliwala

"It may have been just a pinch of skin, but it was a part of me, a part of my femininity and a part of my womanhood." Mariya Ali

"I also don’t know whether girls from other communities enjoy better sex or not. There have been many reports about this that I am unsure of. There is actually a lot of vagueness on this topic that I would like to have some clarification on." Ummehani, from India

"One of my main insecurities about sex was that I felt like I was driving without the headlights on. Often times, I didn’t know where to go or how to guide my driver. I felt like a failure. To this day, I still have not experienced orgasm. While sex is enjoyable for me and I could describe what I can achieve as a “mini-climax”, I am bothered by the fact that I may never get to experience this wonderful part of life. While it’s no secret many women who have not been “circumcised” struggle with the same issues, a part of me will always wonder if that would have been true for me had this not happened. I will never know." Anonymous

"For the record, I have never been mutilated. I am not traumatized, damaged, or broken. Yes, something unfortunate happened to me that I wish had not; but I do not want to be labeled a survivor. Personally, I feel the word is inappropriate to my situation because my life was never at risk. What I do want is to live in a world where what happened to me no longer happens to others. The reason I want this is because although I have come to forgive my loved ones, accept what has happened to me, and move past the trauma, not everyone who has undergone khatna has been so fortunate." Anonymous, age 30

About Mariya Karimjee

Mariya Karimjee is a freelance writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She's currently working on a memoir about home and identity to be published by Spiegel and Grau.

You can learn more at, and follow along with her adventures on Twitter @m_karimjee and Instagram.

Be sure to also check out Sahiyo for more information and voices/quotes from survivors and people impacted by FGM.

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Direct download: Episode_146.mp3
Category:Health, Sexuality -- posted at: 10:04am EDT