In 1929 Henry L. Stimson, United States Secretary of State, was startled to learn that an agency in his State Department was secretly and without authorization opening the mail of various nations. Desperation during World War I had caused nations to breach previous standards of decency, snooping in the mail boxes of friends and foes. To Stimson, a fine Victorian gentlemen, this was intolerable behavior and he stopped the practice – temporarily as it turned out. Condemning such intelligence gathering, Stimson announced grandly:
“GENTLEMEN DON’T READ OTHER GENTLEMEN’S MAIL.”
I am reminded of that quaint story every time the subject of male gynecologists comes up. I want to proclaim a variation of Stimson’s quote:
GENTLEMEN DON‘T LOOK UP LADIES’ SKIRTS
Does a male doctor become sexually aroused when performing a pelvic exam on a female patient? Is the pelvic exam to some extent a sexual act for the male physician? Numerous internet sites raise this question, with the debate raging across the blogosphere. Some participants take the traditional medical establishment position, arguing that any pelvic exam is simply a medical procedure, as male doctors are trained to ignore the sexual overtones. On the other hand, suspicious women or their anxious husbands assert that all normal males are aroused by the sight of the female genitals, and that by it‘s very nature the pelvic exam is erotic. Most of the comments on all those blogs are based on emotions rather than logic and facts, and are self-serving, whether for the doctors or their suspicious patients.
“Gentlemen Don’t Look Up Ladies’ Skirts” is based on research (I spent my professional career as a college professor and am a published author.) mainly in the fields of psychology, biology, anthropology, medical documents, and memoirs of doctors. Dedicated research gleans surprising nuggets of information for the eager reader, such as.
In recent years the American, British and Canadian medical establishments have all made comments in print to their physician members that “erotic sensations” or “sexualizedfeelings” are normal reactions of physicians during certain medical procedures. Amazing! The leadership of the medical professions in several major modern nations is admitting the erotic nature of some procedures! Knowing this, one wonders why there is any debate about whether a pelvic exam has sexual overtones. This is discussed in the section entitled UNCOVERING THE COVER-UP – THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT SAYS.
But the debate goes on, because the male gynecologist’s reputation and employment depends upon the denial of eroticism. The medical defense phrases are like a mechanical mantra: “I am a professional.” “It is a medical not a sexual procedure.” “We see nudity every day.” The defenses are all in the parental, authoritarian tone of voice, and never contain any evidence of scientific research. The pelvic exam is not sexual because the doctor says it is so! And as a patient, you should accept this defense because I am the doctor.
From researching this subject, the following questions seem appropriate to ask of the male gynecologist: (The male doctor will find these offensive, as he desperately wants to avoid being seen as a normal male. Hold on to your computer mouse, as things may get a little rough here.)
** Common sense, as well as scientific research, tells us that men are sexually aroused by the sight of the nude female, even on paper or film. What scientific evidence is there that a male doctor does not gain the same sexual satisfaction from viewing and touching a live nude female?
** For those who research male sexology, sexual arousal is measured by changes in blood pressure, dilation of eye pupils, penile tumescence, increased heart rate, rapid breathing – all measurable with scientific instruments. Can you cite some research to prove that there is no measurable sexual arousal of the male doctor during a pelvic exam? Is there evidence that male doctors have learned to escape the normal male sexual arousal system?
** Sexual arousal is controlled by a portion of the nervous system that is automatic, beyond the will power of the male. Pupils dilate, blood surges, breathing hastens, blood flows to the penis – all outside the control of the subject. Are you saying this never happens to you during a day’s work? Would you be willing to submit to an experiment, using scientific instruments to test whether you become aroused during a pelvic exam?
** Until old age, men have erections frequently during the night and day. As a gynecologist, does this ever happen to you during the day – while hard at work? How do you resolve these erections?
** Males masturbate throughout their lives, according to researchers in the field of sexology. As a gynecologist, do you engage in masturbation? Do you use erotic scenes from your memory of a day at the office to enhance these masturbatory activities?
** When you were a high school and college student, you probably engaged in sex play with female friends. But somehow along life’s way – during medical school – you claim to have lost interest in the female genitals. How and when did this transformation take place? Does this “acquired impotency” have any affect on your sexual relations with your wife – or girl friends?
It is interesting to compare the shallow defenses posed by the doctor (We are professionals, We do this all day long, etc.) with the intellectual depth of the six questions listed above.
The above questions and other matters related to this debate will be explored on the following pages. This article is a thorough and serious discussion of a vital question of medical ethics and patient modesty. Some readers may not want to read such an extensive essay. If you dislike reading on the Internet, but would like to read the major portion of this article, turn to the section below entitled OH SAY CAN YOU SEE – MALE SEXUAL AROUSAL.
SHOW AND TELL — THE LOST ART OF MODESTY
Consider the following bizarre but true story that occurred in the Atlanta area. Recently a man was arrested by police and charged with impersonating a doctor and other crimes. His method of operation was to approach a woman in a supermarket and offer her a chance to become a fashion model. If she agreed she would meet at his home for a photo shoot. During the shoot, after he had gained her confidence, he would explain that his modeling agency demanded that each model signing a contract must have a physical exam – including a pelvic exam. As he was a medical doctor as well as a photographer, he could take care of the entire package – free of charge!! Very generous of him, wouldn’t you say? One woman whose modeling career didn’t turn out well complained to the police, but by that time he had successfully photographed many unsuspecting dupes. The police found over a dozen videos taken during the physical exam of women who had been taken in by the bogus “doctor-photographer.” These women had never filed a police report, and only came forward after one woman made a fuss and the news media provided advertising. Think of this episode! The gullible woman is approached by a stranger in a supermarket and takes him at his word, then agrees to go to his home – alone, with no chaperone – to be photographed. Some even fall for his demand of a pelvic exam. Obviously these woman have no idea of the sexual drive of males and the length to which they will go just to see the female genitals. The real male gynecologist working in a legitimate office has little trouble obtaining willing subjects. Immodesty and vanity – with a dash of naivete – are alive and well in our society. The medical profession depends on this.
Modesty is as foreign in a gynecology office as virtue in a brothel. Many husbands are astounded, feel emotionally betrayed, or are even angered when their wives prepare for their annual gynecological exam by a male doctor. A husband’s natural primal protective instincts are aroused, for men see this appointment as a violation of their wedding vows and an invasion of their wives most private areas by a stranger. The pelvic exam is loaded with sexual overtones, and for the woman the accompanying embarrassment, humiliation, even emotional terror is one of the most searing experiences of her life.
Assured by medical personnel that nudity is not sexual ( if the man has a stethoscope, wears a white coat, and has medical training) there is a virtual nudity parade daily at each gynecologist’s office – actually there are about 250,000 pelvic exams performed each day in the US. By submitting to a pelvic exam with a male doctor some women perceive that they are personally joining the “sophisticates” of the 20th century in rejecting modesty. I have heard women questioning their own uncomfortableness at the male gynecology office, and then scolding themselves for their outdated feelings. Modesty is as old fashioned for those women as the bustle, the girdle and the horse and buggy.
Knowing the female sexual arousal system responds to a warm, romantic setting, the male gynecologist creates a stark, unromantic examination scene. The intimate and sensual nature of the pelvic exam must be concealed by the harsh office atmosphere. The gynecologist knows how to play the game, to reassure, to distract and to confuse the unwary patient. The exam room is brightly lit, the doctor wears a uniform – a sterile white coat – conversation is guarded and business-like; an atmosphere of warmth and sociability is avoided. Obligingly, a third person joins the scene – a nurse-chaperone – whose presence is necessary because the participants cannot be trusted alone. Knowing how explosive the intimate examination is, if another person – the chaperone – is witness to the event, somehow the sexual dynamics are neutralized, or so it is implied. Common sense would suggest that if the exam is so loaded with emotion, so sexually explosive, the exam should not take place at all. The presence or absence of a third person is basically irrelevant and the sterile atmosphere is merely a smoke screen.
Instead of such a sterile scene that conceals the true intimate nature of the event, consider in your mind’s imagination an alternative scene – a gynecologist’s office with a romantic atmosphere. The waiting room has plush seating and dim lighting; coffee, perhaps even wine, is available, and soft romantic music is playing. In the exam room a mood-setting lamp in each corner replaces the harsh glare of overhead fluorescent lighting; romantic music wafts through the tastefully appointed room. The doctor appears in a fashionable jacket and slacks, engages in friendly conversation with loving pats on the knee and shoulder preceding the main event. No chaperone intrudes, for the doctor performs alone in order to enhance the sensuous mood. NO! you say, this will never happen, and of course it won’t. The male gynecologist, like a deceitful chameleon, hides his true nature in a disguise of confusion. He needs the glare of lights, stark surroundings, and abrupt nature to confuse his quarry and complete the intrusive exam. The medical profession is acutely aware of the sensitivity of the female to a romantic setting; the stark atmosphere of the modern gynecologist’s office gives the female patient reassurance. All is well! Just submit!
So the image that exists in this sterile office scene, played out a quarter million times each day, is that the hapless, naive patient lies on the exam table completely nude under a skimpy gown and sheet, feeling flushed and somewhat breathless for the event. The male doctor has just uncovered the female patient’s breasts (often only one breast is exposed at a time, as this is thought to defuse erotic thoughts), viewing and examining each thoroughly. Then the crucial moment arrives and he asks her to scoot down to the edge of the table, thereby gaining clear access to her most private parts. After an external exam, he penetrates her vagina with two fingers, and, when necessary, also enters her rectum. For most women it is a searing, humiliating moment – like none other.
The similarity of this physical intimacy to husband and wife making love at home is striking – a nude female in recline, a male offering soothing words, a brief interlude of foreplay with breasts, positioning the female in a provocative and advantageous manner, penetration of her vagina, followed by resolution and reassurance. Only two men have such access to the woman’s genitalia – her husband and her gynecologist – one her lifetime lover and partner, the other a complete stranger.
In answer to the charge of critics that the male doctor is after all a normal human male and may gain some erotic needs for himself, I have heard women defend this sensuous adventure with the caution: “He wouldn’t dare try anything,” or “My doctor has never done any funny business.” The patient is surely quite aware of what is happening to her at the hands of a man she hardly knows, but assures herself that her male doctor would never try any “funny business.” Astounding! Is not the very act of the normal, professional pelvic exam “funny business?” A male stranger viewing and feeling breasts, examining and penetrating the vagina – but there is no ”funny business” allowed?? Such self-delusion, with its child-like trust in the male doctor, allows the female patient to get through the embarrassing exam. She is guarding against any unusual and unprofessional action, one that rarely happens – a slight rub of her clitoris, fingers lingering too long in her vagina, or a secret camera recording the private event – which could result in a complaint being registered. But she is missing the larger point – why am I allowing this stranger to see and touch me like this?
It is a scene filled with intense eroticism and immodesty, confused and conflicted emotions, incongruities and self-delusion. In a male gynecologist’s office this intimate scene with a new woman is replayed 20 to 30 times per day, in thousands of medical offices across the land. According to the male doctor, the exam is entirely medical and has no hint of sexuality. This male doctor, who otherwise is a normal red-blooded man, possessing all the genetic male sexual forces, experiences nary a touch of sexual arousal while at work. He has learned where the “off switch” is located for his sexual system, and he has turned it off for the day.
(For advice about modesty issues in medicine (see : www. patientmodesty.org)
OH SAY CAN YOU SEE — MALE SEXUAL AROUSAL
Female patients enter the male gynecologist’s lair with differing emotions. Some women find their pre-examination days filled with dread; appointments are delayed or cancelled. When the traumatic appointed day finally arrives, the timid woman submits to the exam in a state of shock; lying on the table, she stares at the ceiling, having an out-of-body experience, carefully avoiding eye contact with the intruding male. At the other extreme, some women take pride in what they regard as their new found freedom from modesty’s restraints and eagerly plunge ahead, a few even turning into “seductive” patients who vamp before the male physician. The degree of modesty varies from person to person. Modesty is a mood – a subjective condition – that cannot be measured or quantified in a laboratory and varies from person to person.
But what of the male – the doctor? Can his arousal be measured? Or perhaps there is no arousal and he has found an “off switch,” a way around the normal male response? When and how does this unusual self-control emerge in the life of a male doctor? Popular books such as Sex on the Brain by Deborah Blum and scholarly works such as The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Donald Symons are helpful in understanding male sexual arousal.
Most mammals, with the exception of humans and primates, engage in sexual or mating activity only occasionally, as determined by the female coming into estrus, or heat. In these mammals, estrus occurs once or in a few mammals several times each year and lasts only several days. The male mammal is only aroused for sexual activity when the female is in heat. Male mammal sexual desire is triggered by odor, by chemicals emitted by the female once or occasionally during each year. The sight of the female shape is not the critical factor to the ardent male. It is sense of smell not his sense of sight that triggers arousal. Thus for these males, sexual activity is an infrequent occurrence and is determined by the action of the female. There is an “off” switch – – but it is under the control of the female. Significantly, for these mammals mating is apparently only done for “serious business” – creating a new life. There seems to be no such things as “recreational sex” in this mammal world – no sex just for fun.
There are two mammals, however, that conduct their sexual business differently – the Bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee, a primate of central Africa and, of course, our own species, Homo Sapiens. Bonobos are the closest genetic relative to humans ( genetically as close to humans as a coyote to a dog ) and each species has separately evolved a lusty, unique sexual life. There are few restraints to the sex life of the pygmy chimpanzee – day and night, homo and hetero, young with old, family and stranger, friend and foe, vaginal, oral, anal, to heal quarrels, to obtain food, to meet new friends, group arrangements and auto-eroticism – anything goes! Rape hardly exist in the forests of the Bonobo, for the female rarely says “No!” Bonobo play is a constant round of sexual activity – a primate orgy! They do not make good subjects for display in community zoos because they attract too much attention with their unrestrained sexuality! And, it should be noted, they are fervent voyeurs, watching each other at sexual play.
Human beings have the physical potential for this vigorous sexual activity, but our culture and our conscience deny us these joys. Humans are ready for sex all the time also; the human female does not have an estrous cycle, and her sexual attractiveness is not based on the occasional emitting of an attractive odor. It is not the sense of smell but the sense of sight that triggers the male sexual interest – particularly the sight of the female genitals. The sight of the female form in general and the female genitals in particular is a constant and immediate source of sensuality to the male. Lust – the immediate and urgent need for sex – is in the nature of human males, and to many scientists this lusty behavior is thought to be the basis for the success of the human species. Researchers working in the field of sexuality have found that male testosterone shoots upward when an attractive female simply offers a smile, or when a male hears a soothing female voice. Male sexual arousal is on a hair trigger, some even see the male Homo Sapiens as a sexual predator. Men in the prime of life can learn to disguise or delay this powerful force, but it is never far from the surface. (Internet sites depicting sexual activity are among the most frequently watched sites – “What hath Bill Gates and Google wrought?”)
Sometime during the last 6 million years when the ancestors of Homo Sapiens split off from the other primates, human sexuality moved from the sense of smell to the sense of sight. What a profound evolutionary change! For it was thereby determined that human males would be in a near constant state of arousal, in a constant search for the female body. There would be no “off switch” as in the animals with female estrus. This constant state of arousal is genetically programmed into the male brain and nervous system and has been there for hundreds of thousands of years, and perhaps millions of years. Genetic commands, thousands of generations in the making, are not overridden by four years in medical school or several years of medical practice. If the male medical profession has some scientific evidence that indicates that they are immune to this ancient genetic arrangement- that a medical doctor does not find the female genitals stimulating – they should provide the evidence. But the burden of proof is on them, for they are claiming an exception to the rules of our genetic nature.
Another factor in this scientific inquiry into male sexual arousal is the nature of the human nervous system. Sexual arousal is largely under the control of the autonomic nervous system, autonomic meaning “not subject to human control.” The male sexual arousal is involuntary, beyond the male consciousness. There is no ”off switch!” The human male has no more control over sexual arousal than he has over his heart rate or the functioning of his liver or emitting saliva. Digestion, circulation of the blood, operation of the lungs and sexual arousal are among the numerous bodily functions run by the autonomic nervous system. When food is placed in the mouth salivating begins. Such bodily actions are not turned on or off by the conscious will – they happen automatically. When researchers conduct tests on male human subjects to determine how the sexual arousal system works, they measure several aspects of the autonomic nervous system — blood pressure, breathing rate, heart beat rate, skin temperature, pupil dilation, penile tumescence. Male sexual arousal is a measurable factor and is not simply a subjective condition. When male subjects are shown videos or photos of female genitals or human sexual activity, a reaction is immediately recorded, sometimes even unknown to the male subjects.
Male gynecologists and their defenders assert that there is nothing about the pelvic exam that is sexual. Well, the debate could easily be settled. Doctors could be hooked up to medical measuring devices, while they go about their daily exams, including a penile ring to measure tumescence, blood pressure cuffs, heart rate monitors, etc., then we would know what is happening in the secret recesses of their bodies. This is a crucial point – male sexual arousal is measurable and is done in research laboratories around the country regularly. For male doctors to simply assert that they derive no sexual pleasure from a pelvic exam is symptomatic of an old authoritative, patriarchal system and is bordering on fraud. Either they are completely ignorant of the male sexual arousal system or they are deceiving patients.
Normal males experience between three and five erections per night during sleep, and numerous erections spontaneously during the day, at least during their prime sexual years. Males have erotic thoughts each day, researchers dispute how often, but all agree that male sexual thoughts significantly out-number those of females. Some recent research suggests that the average male thinks of sex each hour of the waking day. When male gynecologists claim that the pelvic exam is merely a medical procedure and carries no sexual connotations for them, just when do the male doctor’s normal daily erections occur? and when do they think “naughty thoughts” like other men? The relevant point is – what is the male gynecologist thinking while performing the pelvic exam? Does he squeeze in his usual spontaneous erections during his work time? And what “erotic thoughts” is he thinking while hard at work? The male gynecologists simple assertion of non-sexual procedures begins to break down under careful analysis.
To dig even deeper into this controversial matter, researchers in sexual psychology claim that around 90% of men masturbate throughout their lives – several times a week. Well, the inevitable question is – do male gynecologists masturbate?? Do they use tactile and visual scenes from their daily work to stimulate their erotic habits? Or just considering normal marital intercourse, do the usual scenes from the gynecology workplace (“Please scoot all the way down to the edge of the table, Mrs. Smith!”) provide arousal for the medical doctor during sexual intercourse with his wife? If the normal male experiences several spontaneous erections each day and thinks of sexual thoughts 10-15 times per day, does the male gynecologist do the same? While at work? Or has this particular group of men found some way to bypass this genetic preoccupation with sex?
A common explanation of the so-called “non-sexual pelvic exam” is the argument that because the male doctor sees so many vaginas, the man becomes jaded and his sexual drive is diminished. What implications this condition has for sexual relations with the gynecologist’s wife is an interesting field for research. (Perhaps you have seen the cartoon showing a doctor reclining at home in the evening after a busy day at work, when his wife becomes amorous and slips into something sexy. His response is, “Oh no, not more of that!”) In the days before the internet, when the male public had no access to photos of a women in full display and in explicit sexual poses, it was possible for the male doctor to get away with the canard about “seeing too much.” But in the age of the internet, such a lame explanation is no longer persuasive. Any man can search the internet and look at videos of naked women in the same pose as the male gynecologist enjoys. Not 20 or 30 naked women, but hundreds, if he chooses. It is not noted by therapists who treat male subjects for sex addiction, that men are “turned off’’ by this intimate spectacle, but some counselors comment on the common occurrence of dependence on porn – the desperate need to constantly see female genitals!
A male becoming jaded to fresh nude females would be surprising news to scientists and farmers who breed domestic farm animals. Quite the opposite actually occurs. Novel sex raises the libido. An improbable joke would serve to illustrate the nonsense of this medical distraction. The story called “The Coolidge Effect” is named after the president of the 1920’s whose dour countenance is completely out of place in this somewhat bawdy joke. It seems that President Calvin Coolidge and Mrs. Grace Coolidge were visiting a government breeding farm and were separated for the tour. Mrs. Coolidge took the tour first and when she saw the large, aggressive rooster in a pen she asked the guide how often the rooster performed his assigned duties. The guide told her that the rooster mates a dozen times a day, a fact which impressed Grace Coolidge, and she said to the guide, “Please tell that to Mr. Coolidge.” Soon after, the President came to the rooster pen and the guide told Calvin that Grace wanted him to know that the rooster mated a dozen times a day. President Coolidge was initially taken aback, but then asked, “With the same hen?” The guide answered, “Oh, no. With a different hen each time.” Coolidge responded, “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
It is well known in animal husbandry for centuries that a male mammal will perform better, producing more semen, when a new female is introduced – sexual variety stimulates the male sexual arousal system – it does not dull the erotic senses. The male gynecologist comes in contact each day with two dozen new females – in an intimate way. Quite a variety on parade. If there is scientific evidence that male sexual attraction is not stimulated by such exposure to a new female, it should be brought to this discussion.
If these kinds of questions seem impertinent, over-the-top, I suggest that the medical community is asking for such an inquiry. They are making outrageous claims that males looking at and touching female genitals and breasts has no sexual connotation. Someone is bound to doubt and inquire: Is the gynecologist’s office really a “sex free zone?”
UNCOVERING THE COVER-UP — THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT SAYS
As early as 1995, the Canadian Medical Journal published a surprising lead article entitled “Managing erotic feelings in the physician-patient relationship.” Surprising because, of course, there would be no erotic feelings to manage if the pelvic exam is indeed a non-sexual experience. This article and subsequent ones are meant for the eyes of medical insiders, much like the incriminating notes floating through the corridors of tobacco companies, secretly admitting the cancer-producing nature of tobacco. Such notes were never to be shown to the consumers. By the mid-1990’s, male doctors were feeling the heat of competition from female doctors – their female patients were being “stolen” and they fought back. During their salad days when they had a monopoly of female patients they could do what they wanted. It is interesting how a monopoly brings out the worst in people. So let’s look at what the medical professionals say quietly to each other about the sexual nature of these medical procedures
Within the last ten years the National Health Service (NHS) of Great Britain has become concerned with the frequency of sexual boundary violations among its medical staff. In studying the issue the NHS has provided explicit guidelines for medical personnel and made some candid observations – so candid that I assume they were not meant for the general public to read. For example, in advising about a medical education for aspiring young doctors, an NHS document reads: “Medical students must be taught that there is nothing unusual about sexualized feelings towards certain patients.” Notice the candor of this NHS document: “nothing unusual about sexualized feelings towards certain patients.” As I read this and the surrounding text, the NHS is saying that it is normal for a male doctor to have sexual desires for a female patient, especially given the intimate nature of a medical exam. Erotic thoughts do occur, lust follows, the autonomic nervous system kicks in, and bang… The candor of this NHS document is refreshing, but it puts the lie to all the claims that a pelvic exam is merely a medial procedure.
And in a publication entitled Sexual Problems in Medical Practice (Lief, ed. P. 20, 1981) published by the American Medical Association (AMA), the author makes a similar honest comment: “The medical student or physician who does experience erotic sensations(while performing a physical exam) should recognize that this response is neitherunusual or abnormal.” Sexual responses of male doctors are “neither unusual or abnormal.” This quote is from a textbook used for the eduction of medical students.
Neither of these publications was intended for general public consumption, but both acknowledge the inevitable consequence of males seeing and touching female flesh. It is merely the autonomic nervous system doing its job. As both publications go on to say, what is important is that the male doctor not act upon these impulses. Thoughts cannot be controlled; actions must be.
The most dramatic and candid comment on the sexualized nature of the pelvic exam is presented in the Archives of Family Medicine, a now-defunct publication of the AMA in its May-June, 1999 edition. The article “Time and Tide” is the reminiscence of a male doctor as he describes his conflicted but profound sexual feelings while performing a pelvic exam on a young and beautiful female patient. She is a delightful woman; unmarried, virginal and full of life. In his dreamy mind they escape the sterile confines of the medical office and cavort on the seashore, like any couple in love. A year later, when she returns for her annual exam, the same rush of emotions sweeps over him, but this time she is engaged to be married, and the subject of birth control comes up. Eventually the intimate exam begins and, in the author’s own words: “the nurse takes her place, standing guard over the patient, over me, and over the deep. I pull away the drape, look up, and suddenly lose myself in her eyes.”
The be-smitten doctor seeks counsel from an older physician, who tells him these sexualized feelings are normal, but that if any action is taken, any actual conduct that is out of bounds occurs, the older doctor will report it and there will be consequences.
In all these incidents cited here, authored or tacitly approved by august medical bodies in America, Canada and the United Kingdom, there is the admission of the sexualized nature of a man examining the body of a woman, then the cautionary note about not allowing any improper action. The male doctor can dream, fantasize, carry the memories in his mind forever. Just don’t take advantage of the opportunity.
But this is not the message received by millions of unsuspecting women and their husbands every day at the clinic. “It is not sexual. It is just a medical exam,” goes the mantra. Denial and deceit is the rule in every medical office rather than candor and full disclosure. If a manufacturer falsely advertised their products in such a dishonest and harmful manner, they would shortly be standing before a judge.
NOT A SEX-FREE ZONE –WHAT THE DOCTORS DO
The internet is filled with stories about male doctors having affairs with women patients, or anecdotes of male doctors swapping stories – “You should have seen the one I had at 10:45 this morning,” – acting more like horny youths than professional physicians. But are anecdotes to be believed, especially on the internet? I have my own anecdote to contribute to the lore; for what it is worth, an actual story from my life. I grew up with a friend who was as close to me as a brother. When we passed through our high school years and began the dating ritual, we double dated cousins and went through our teens in the normal girl-crazy way, although my friend’s life was not like the rest of us. He was so sex crazy that he drove a tiny motorbike into a large city to rent “stag films,” as they were known, carrying film and rented projector precariously through heavy urban traffic on his tiny scooter to his home. He couldn’t get enough of the junk and made the trip frequently. He was employed part-time at a hospital working as a male orderly, transporting patients to and from surgery, as well as other tasks. If the surgical patient were a female, my friend would take a peek under her garments on the way back from surgery. The elevator door would lock, there were no security cameras, she was drugged, so off came her covers. I was young and astounded at the audacity of his actions. He also engaged in a good bit of looking in neighbors’ windows – a Peeping Tom. He was a voyeur, even engaging in criminal activity. What is the point of all this? He became a medical doctor, and a good one by all apparent measures. There were no sanctions nor penalties in a long career healing people.
My point in telling this story is to emphasize that doctors who are apparently competent and effective may have a very dark side. None of his patients would ever know what inner thoughts and demons possessed my doctor-friend. But I know that his voyeuristic streak remained with him throughout life, and was a partial motivation to pursue a life in medicine. Medical schools have no screening tests to eliminate such perversions. Medical associations do take punitive actions if and when doctors are caught violating sexual boundaries, but that is no solution to the matter dealt with here – Men are by nature voyeurs and ever nude moment is recorded in their brain, every nude image evokes an erotic thought.
Gynecologists are more likely to cross sexual boundaries due to the intimate nature of their work. Few doctors will admit his transgressions as Dr. Gary Dresden did in his memoir, Confession of a Gynecologist (2003). In Dr. Dresden’s own words: “There are situations that awaken you sexually especially with exceptionally erotic or fit women. If you find them attractive, it is easy to revert to the role of a man, instead of continuing in the role of a doctor.” As one reviewer commented: “White coats aside, they are still men – inherently visual creatures who still get turned on when exposed to the nudity of our wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters…. all cloaked in a veil of medical legitimacy.” Dr. Dresden’s candor is refreshing but rare.
The most searing indictment of male gynecology is the book by Dr. John M. Smith entitled Women and Doctors (The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992). After spending nearly twenty-five years in gynecological training and clinical practice, Dr. Smith paints a dismal picture of the woman’s specialist. “Male gynecologists, like all men, go through the kind of ‘attitude setting’ that occurs in the proverbial locker rooms while they are growing into manhood.” Dr. Smith, whose practice was in Colorado Springs, says that “It is common and acceptable among practicing gynecologists to speak about their patients bodies, sexual behavior, or medical problems indiscriminately, in terms that are demeaning and reflect a lack of kindness and respect.” (p. 27) Becoming more explicit, he charges them with eroticizing the medical scene: “It is a rare male who is able to see women day in and day out, examine their bodies, hear details of their sex lives, and not only never have a lascivious thought or abuse that access but always remain clinical…” (p.29) He confesses that “I have had a colleague invite me to do an exam on one of his patients under the false guise of a consultation because ‘she has a body you won’t believe’.” “I have seen a physician walk out of an exam room and tell a hallway full of doctors and nurses about the disease his married patient had contracted as a result of an affair. I have seen more than one gynecologist walk into an operating room where another doctor’s patient was already asleep for surgery, lift up the sheet, admire the patient’s breasts, and continue his conversation without pause.” (p.27) Dr. Smith concludes dramatically: After twenty-four years of medical education and clinical gynecological experience, it is my opinion that males should not be gynecologists. The role properly belongs to women.” (p.29)
The British Medical Journal reports that a survey of 595 Dutch gynecologists found that 84% had experienced sexual attraction towards their patients and a majority felt that such feelings were acceptable. Of this group of Dutch physicians who were surveyed, 4% admitted to having sexual relations with their patients. What? But this is supposed to be a “sex free zone!” Four percent of the male gynecologists had sexual relations with patients! To be clear, a large percent thought this was wrong. The article concluded that “sexuality exists in the doctor-patient relationship. Gynecologists have a higher risk of having sexual conduct with their patients” than other medical specialties. Does that last sentence surprise you?
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Online (2009) found “that 5-10% of physicians surveyed have had sexual contact with patients.” Nearly all violators were male and nearly all victims were female. To give this statistic some perspective, could you imagine the uproar if it were reported that 10% of the male teachers at your local high school or college had sex with students? Or what about learning that 10% of the bosses were having affairs with their secretaries? Perhaps there is more sex going on in medical offices than elsewhere.
The Texas Medical Association reported that 4% of doctors dated their patients and 3% had sexual relations with them – nearly all were male doctors. A Vanderbilt University Medical School survey found that between 6% and 10% of doctors admitted to sexual boundary violations with patients, with the highest violators being in counseling and gynecology. One international psychiatric journal found that 80% to 85% of Dutch gynecologists and American psychologists agreed that “Erotic feelings towards ones patients are a normal emotional reaction.” Most claimed not to have acted on those sensuous emotions.
New Zealand officials in 1995 reported that in a survey of nearly 200 doctors, 6% had dated patients and 4% had engaged in sexual relations with current patients. Thirty-five percent felt that dating and sex with patients was acceptable.
If you doubt these alarming statistics, spend some time with your Google, or if you prefer use your Bing.
Keep in mind that these surveys of doctor behavior are based on self-reporting; doctors are being asked to admit to professional violations and criminal acts. There is a great incentive for doctors to deny and under-report. Should these figures be increased 2x, or 3x to accurately reflect physicians’ behavior? I don’t know, but it is apparent that the doctor’s office is not the “sex free zone” doctors like to portray, nor is the male physician the choir boy that he pretends to be. The pelvic exam at your local male gynecologist’s office may be just the beginning of an intimate friendship.
Floating around the ether of the gynecology office is the notion that gynecologists are provided with instruction or indoctrination during medical training about de-sexing the pelvic exam. On the contrary, what Dr. John M. Smith alleges in his book Women andDoctors is not encouraging: “What I recall (from my training as an intern and resident) is a barrage of sexist talk and behavior that has been unmatched by any definable experience since that time.” (page 19) Further, he asserts this behavior runs deep in the male culture: We (males) learn at an early age that women are weak and in need of protection, and that they exist for our pleasure the taking of which should be under our control and direction.” (p. 26) Female patients assume, or perhaps hope in a childlike manner, that there is some book, some film, some lecture, some class that miraculously informs the eager male medical student about turning off the sexual switch. This instruction in ethics, it is hoped, will defuse millions of years of evolutionary sight-based sensuality, calm dozens of erections each week, and permanently remove ever-present sexual fantasies in the male memory bank. But there is no such book, film, lecture or class. Medical schools know such efforts are useless in the face of the powerful genetic-based male sexual arousal system. Thoughts cannot be subdued; only actions can be disciplined.
The Easter bunny fantasy tale that the medical establishment tells about the non-sexual examination of the female genitals by a male doctor is without scientific basis and it defies common sense. Consider this scenario to emphasize its fallacy: a young vigorous man, we will call him Michael, enters college at 18 years of age, eager to begin his sexual life, enthusiastically pursuing any female who will submit. Like all young men in the throes of his sexual peak, the sight of the female genitals is overpowering – the sight-based sexual arousal system is working to perfection and the autonomic nervous system sends immediate and powerful messages to his own body. For several years, into his 20’s through his college years, he plays the role of Casanova, dating and conquering with ease in the modern “hook-up” society; the toll rings for each new mount – 5, 10, 20, more!! The years move by quickly and eventually Michael decides to become a doctor. In the later years of medical school, when Michael is 24 years of age doing clinical work, he must learn the art of the pelvic exam. Again he is face to face with numerous female genitals in all their glory, but now, in medical school, when confronting the familiar female form, he is passive – no sensual response urges him on, as the sexual based sight system and the autonomic nervous system fails! The labia, the clitoris, sexual pouch of the vagina – well, these are no more interesting to him than the folds of an ear or a crook of the knee. Something has changed Michael: Presto, he is a new man! No longer the Casanova, he is now a medical doctor. Welcome to fantasy land!
The switching of emotions from” sexual demon” to “impotent eunuch” is alleged to take place daily in every male gynecologist’s office. Arriving in the office at 8 am, he dons the white uniform, switches off the sexual arousal system and begins his daily grind. Then at the end of the day when arriving home, he switches the system on and engages in sexual activities with his wife. The same mysterious and sensuous female curves and folds that excites his passion at 9 pm, meant nothing to him at 2 pm! There is no other human male who claims this amazing adaptability – only men in the medical profession. All other males have the switch on every minute of the day. But we never hear any specific details about how this trick is performed by medical doctors.
Just how does this sexual transformation take place ? Does the male doctor lose his attraction to the female genitalia instantly upon donning the cloak of the medical professional? Does the prestige and responsibility of the MD title immediately prompt a new, non-sexual attitude? Or, does this loss of interest in the female sexual parts take a period of time – something that erodes over months and years? If this is a gradual transformation or is there a sexual epiphany? What exactly happens in the interim? I have heard numerous gynecologists affirm – in the most heated manner – that the pelvic exam is not sexual, but I have never heard any details about how this miracle comes about.
If all the previous illustrations have not convinced the reader of the impossibility of the medical profession’s argument that pelvic exams are merely medical procedures, this final argument should clinch the story. If indeed the pelvic exam is a simple medical procedure, then a male doctor should not hesitate to perform an intimate exam on his own MOTHER! or his own DAUGHTER, or his GRANDMOTHER, or any other female relative! Of course the mere thought of such an intimate exam on a close relative is alarming and disgusting to consider. Why? Because it raises the image of incest – sex among relatives, one of the most forbidding actions in human behavior. From this simple illustration we know positively that a pelvic exam is loaded with sexuality – it is not a mere medical procedure. In denying the sexuality of the pelvic exam for a century, the medical profession has been committing a fraud – a deliberate misrepresentation – on female patients. SONS DON’T LOOK UP MOTHER’S SKIRTS and FATHERS DON’T LOOK UP DAUGHTER’S SKIRTS.
IN THE GLOAMING — THE END OF MALE GYNECOLOGY
In the late 19th century when the American Medical Association and the gynecological specialty were established, men held firmly to their monopoly over medical services. Few women applied to college and no women were admitted to a medical school. In retrospect, we can only speculate how much better medicine would have been for women patients if the powerful forces of the US government had been arrayed against these male monopolists, just as the Justice Department was breaking up monopolies in oil, steel, railroads and other business activities. It would have been interesting to see President Teddy Roosevelt charging after the exclusionary practices of men physicians using the anti-trust laws on the books.
Through most of the 20th century, either because of male deeply held patriarchal views (women were inferior, too sensitive, unable to do the job) or because men did not want competition from women doctors (female patients would flock to their own gender), female patients were forced to go to male physicians if they valued their health. In the early days of medicine, the matter of male doctors viewing the female body was still scandalous and all the subsequent rationalizations, evasions and deceits had not been worked out. Recognizing the erotic nature of the male viewing the female genitals, the common practice during an exam was for the male doctor to feel the genitals only, while the female kept herself covered by skirt or sheet. This practice, frequently mocked in today’s “sophisticated” society, was a clear recognition of the Homo Sapiens visual-based sexual arousal system. The male doctor would touch but not look. That peculiarity seems to have lasted only briefly before the female patient bared all. Some Victorian women never took that last step.
Decades ago during the male monopoly in medicine, I had a dear female relative who would not go to a male doctor for any intimate exams. “No male is going to look at my private area,” she proclaimed. She never relented, even when troubles began – “down there, up front.” She died of cancer of the reproductive system far too early in life. In my opinion this lady over-valued modesty. She chose to keep her modesty and gave up her life. Too many women for too long were faced with the same dreadful moral dilemma as my relative.
Male gynecology is a remnant of an old patriarchal system in which men could do what they chose, including taking advantage of and abusing women, then casually deceive and explain it all away. Today male gynecologists face the competition of female doctors, and all indications are that women are flocking to their own gender, just as was assumed a century ago. I have read some estimates that over 90% of the residents in OBGYN are female doctors. If so, the male monopoly will soon be broken. A decent respect for women and a recognition of the basic erotic nature of the pelvic exam suggests the demise of male gynecology cannot happen soon enough.
GENTLEMEN DON‘T LOOK UP LADIES’ SKIRTS
Written by – Eros Modestica www.modestyxxx.com
If you found this essay worthy, please pass the link along to a friend – or to an enemy.