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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

13 - Making them one with us: initiation, clitoridectomy, infibulation, circumcision, and castration


If you love your children and want them to become just like you; if you deeply identify with kin or age-mates and they deeply want to become one with you; if you meet someone you want to incorporate into your group, bond with, and become able to trust with your life; in short, if you want and need to create the most intense and enduring CS relationships with someone for the rest of your life, then in many cultures you must cause them excruciating pain by cutting their genitals, terrify them and inflict degrading suffering, or beat them horribly. That is, you must circumcise a boy, excise a girl, initiate them, “jump them in” to the gang, or haze them into the fraternity. Severe initiation creates life-long CS bonds of unconditional altruism and total identity with the other initiates, with the initiators, and with others whose bodies are marked like theirs. So in communities whose existence totally depends on absolute, selfless loyalty, people violently initiate their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, grandsons and granddaughters. Love, identification, and the moral obligation to forge unbreakable commitment to CS bonds – they are what motivates cutting genitals, horrific initiations, and other kinds of group-incorporation violence. The pain itself is crucial to the formation of the CS identity with the initiating group; indeed, the pain may be experienced as the sacrifice of an aspect of the self for the group as a whole (Morinis, 1985).

Initiation rites

A child becomes an adult, or an outsider becomes an insider when ritually controlled pain weakens the subject’s sense of empirical identity and strengthens his or her sense of attachment to a highly valued new center of identification.

(Glucklich, 2001: 7)