Some Doctors Are Afraid of Vaginas. Really.

I’m a doctor. And doctors aren’t squeamish. We love blood and guts. But not all docs can handle genitalia.

In med school, a gay classmate was completely grossed out by gynecology. When I asked how things were going, he said, “After this month, I never want to see another vagina again.”

Some docs find respite in specialties. A colleague in ophthalmology disclosed his relief at not having to deal with penises and vaginas anymore. 

Kolpophobia is the fear of genitals, particularly female. This is not to be confused with misogyny, the hatred or dislike of females that manifests in sexual discrimination and objectification of women and girls. Both disorders affect the general population—even, surprisingly, doctors.

I attended a good-old-boys’ med school in Texas, where female classmates and patients were called the most shocking pejorative terms. That was 20 years ago. Thankfully, times have changed.

Then a premed student came to me for a physical last week. She said, “It boggles my mind when men in my anatomy and physiology class geared toward people entering health professions can’t say ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ and refer instead to these two anatomically correct names as wee-wee, vajajay, and icky stuff.”

I asked my patients what they thought of this. Here’s their message for future health care professionals:

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Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician in Eugene, Oregon. Watch her TEDx Talk “How to Get Naked with Your Doctor.” Photos by Geve.

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42 comments on “Some Doctors Are Afraid of Vaginas. Really.
  1. AMAZING. I have heard similar sentiments from my classmates and it needs to change. Going for a gynae exam is hard enough on the patient, doctors don’t need to make it worse.

  2. Not every medical student should be required to do genital / rectal exams. Medical schools should change their requirements and cut down on the number of pelvic, genital, and rectal exams for the sake of patients’ wishes for privacy and modesty. There is no reason for medical students who are planning on going into specialties such as cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, rheumatology, ENT, ophthalmology, etc. to be required to be skilled in doing pelvic, genital, and rectal exams. Doctors in those specialties do not do any invasive exams. I understand some medical students are not sure what specialty they want to go into. But many medical students already know what they want to specialize in. Some medical students such as the stressed medical student left medical school because she had strong convictions that she should not do any genital, pelvic, or rectal exams. That medical school should have waived the requirements for her since she was planning on going into a specialty that did not require her to do those exams.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thanks for your insight. I have not previously thought about changing the way we teach medical students to do genital exams. Obviously this needs to be addressed. Both patient and physician (medical student) should feel safe.

      • That is an interesting point. Perhaps it would work in the USA – but in my country, South Africa, it would not. After we graduate we do two years of compulsory public healthcare work, where we are required to rotate through all components of medicine and surgery again; and then one year where we work as general practitioners. Needless to say, being able to do pelvic exams is important for a GP.

        I would also be wary of the claim that many med students know exactly what they will specialise in. I have seen many of my colleagues who were convinced of their specialty change their mind in our final year.

        I do agree that students should perhaps not have to do as many invasive exams, though. I don’t think it is fair for a patient to have PVs done by eight or so students.

        There is definitely room for these issues to be discussed by the international medical community. Could turn out to be very interesting and game-changing.

    • I’ll tell you what, it’s a PAIN in the vagina for a doctor to come in on rounds followed by a large train of students who all avoid one’s face, aren’t allowed to make reassuring comment or even squeeze a hand. This is non personalization to the max, disrespectful to individuality, and very cold to the patient. Teaching must be done, but, in the more routine cases, can’t it be telecast? A small group (3 or so) isn’t so bad, but even in the more ”interesting” cases, telecasting could work, and could leave the patient unidentifiable by sight. A large video library could be built for ”slow days” and for studying for specialties.

    • Joe Paczkowski, DO says:

      The problem with a lot of specialties (cardiology and rheum from your list) is that they’re medicine sub-specialties. If a patient comes in with a basic genital complaint when those specialists are doing their internal medicine residency, then the resident has to be able to do an exam. Similarly, being able to do a rectal exam is a part of a full neurological workup (this includes ortho if ortho is examining some spine cases).

      Similarly, unfortunately, I’ve seen major infections of the genital region (fournier’s gangrene, which is a major, life threatening skin infection) being missed simply because no one wanted to look at the homeless man’s testicles.

      Now do I personally look forward to doing a genital exam, regardless of male or female? No, but every job has something that isn’t especially enjoyable. However, it’s my job and I promise I’ll do it as quickly, comfortably (both physically and mentally), and competently as possible… which makes it easier for both of us.

    • Elizabeth N says:

      I can’t even begin to tell you how much I disagree with that. A patient involves the entire body, including genitalia. If a potential doctor is too shy or uncomfortable to deal with genitalia, then that person is going into the wrong field. Anyone who calls genitalia icky stuff, vajayjay or other such words obviously can’t cope with dealing with all facets of health and should find another profession. Anyone who would actually leave medical school because she can’t handle doing genital, rectal or pelvic exams has some shame issues when it comes to those body parts. I wouldn’t want someone like that coming within 20 feet of me, even if the person was a cardiologist.

  3. Heather says:

    The problem with changing the way we learn genital exams in medical school and giving certain students a pass for this part of medical education is that you never know if you’ll actually match and get the residency that you want. Many of those specialties mentioned are not the easiest to get into, the are the most difficult and it’s often necessary to be in the top 10% of your class to get some of these specialties.

    Personally I never thought I’d be interested in ob/gyn… EVER; and guess what? I’m finishing my first year in ob/gyn residency right now and LOVE it. There’s no way I’d pick anything else but ob/gyn at this point and I really attribute most of my decision to being forced to do an ob/gyn rotation and falling in love with it. I can say 100% that my first pelvic exam was one of the most uncomfortable things I have probably ever done in my life and now I do many of them on a day to day basis without a thought. So, you just never know where you’ll end up and genital exams are part of the full history and physical and should not go anywhere from medical education in my opinion.

  4. Geoff says:

    I believe calling things by their proper names is vital for one’s connection to reality. Calling body parts by vulgar or slang terms is degrading – the equivalent to a racial slur – even if referring to one’s own body parts. We, as human beings, are sacred, and therefore, all of our parts are. Very powerful photomontage. May we all treat all of ourselves and all of others with the respect that befits our humanity.

  5. Heather says:

    I thought the photoessay portion was great! I totally agree with this whole campaign and really appreciate the effort you’ve put into it. I find it really strange when my patients refer to their own genitalia in whatever derogatory form they’ve been taught is normal in the clinic before/during/after exams. Vagina/Breasts/Penis/Rectum, etc are just not words in most people’s vocabulary and I suspect until they’re put there and used often we’re going to keep hearing all of the strange concoctions of adjectives/nouns used to describe one’s genitals on a day to day basis.

    I especially think that bringing to light how afraid some doctors are to do pelvic/rectal exams is huge because this truly is a BIG problem. Patients can go years without these exams because their PCP’s don’t do them due to their own (the doctor’s) discomfort/unaware of need/etc and so they never offer them. For one example, doctors don’t do pelvic exams unless they’re doing a pap – a pap is to look for abnormal cells on the cervix but there’s other parts to a pelvic that get missed which is looking for other cancers/prolapse/etc. Once women have their cervix removed with hysterectomy they should still be getting pelvic exams, however many physicians think this is a reason not do a pelvic exam any longer and avoid it completely.

    I’ve ran into a few of these examples myself. I haven’t been able to find a PCP that does a comprehensive physical exam in the city I’m in now. All of the ones I called to schedule with have you go see ob/gyn for your paps which really I believe is putting up barriers to patient care rather than creating more access. If patient’s prefer to see ob/gyn for their routine care they’re welcome but I’m in the camp that PCP’s can do the screening tests just as well and routine health maintenance as ob/gyn’s can.

    I once had a family physician tell me that he does not do breast exams on women in their 20’s unless they ask for one – what patient is going to ask/demand that their patient does an exam when they can tell that the physician obviously isn’t comfortable doing it? A breast exam is a screening exam, something that should be done before problems show up.

    I also used to work in a urology office and we’d run into the same thing where we found that patient’s family doctor’s wouldn’t do/offer prostate exams. They’d offer PSA lab draws all day long but not the prostate exam. It really reflects poorly on our medical training and patient’s go too long without these exams which sometimes turns into presenting years down the road with cancer throughout their body that is too late to treat. Screening exams are to detect disease before it’s too late to treat.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      I actually had no idea how uncomfortable my colleagues are/were with these exams. Absolutely needs to be addressed in medical education.

    • Crystal says:

      I don’t think it’s that simple. Most of my male patients will decline a rectal exam by me and so after being ‘rejected’ so to speak, after awhile I just got used to sending them to the urologist because they’d agree to doing that much more often. I find the same issue with women who no longer need Pap smears. They don’t need paps anymore and so they come in for their physicals and they will let me do a breast exam but they always leave their bottoms on because they don’t care to have the pelvics anymore.

  6. Nu says:

    Does not amaze me at all. Doctors tend to be very square and uptight but Doctors like Pamela Wible and Patch Adams are slowly changing that view. I have tried posting on Kevin M.D. for example and I noticed that my comments are being censored. Dr Wible had a picture up of some human lips with a heart on a tongue for example and Doctors are making a big deal out of it like it is some sort of Porn or something. Crazy. No wonder people feel like numbers instead of humans in their presence. Hierarchy is obsolete.

  7. Laura says:

    I think context is everything with communication. It seems to me that the people who are afraid of genitalia, and I still tend to be one of them, have had experiences in which they have learned to hate some aspect of their own sexuality – then transfer this onto their further experiences of their bodies and other’s bodies. It’s a hugely painful problem. I wonder how a more empathetic approach to their (my) fears might, in the future, be expressed.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      What do you think would be a more nurturing way to train medical students or to help others with these issues?

      • Laura says:

        I can’t speak to the issue of what people are taught – only what they might do once they know something that’s hard to know. I have personally gotten a lot from counseling – and trying to have faith in God. These have given me much perspective to try to perceive my understandings from a gentler inward stance. Just because I know something is true it doesn’t mean that I can always respond from a peaceful place about it. So, like someone I once knew in a “recovery” group told me: the idea of personal change is not about perfection – but progress.

        • Pamela Wible MD says:

          Perfectionism is a curse. I know. Much better to make steady progress than aim for a perfect result. Life is an adventure. Mistakes are where we learn our best lessons. Thanks Laura.

      • Randy says:

        I was taught to do pelvic ,breast ,rectal and genital exams by nurses who volunteered to let us examine them.They were paid.They were able to put me more at ease,they talked us thru it. .They knew we as med students were uncomfortable learning these exams.Its was new different … up close and personal.We learned on both male and females.It was a very good way to teach these exams.I have no problem whatsoever performing these exams now.Iam an Internist.Women get their paps from me and men get their prostate exams .I like your website and your approach to medicine .Your talk on TEX was very entertaining.I only wish I was having as much fun as you.

        • Pamela Wible MD says:

          Thanks Randy! We could all be having fun. The question is: Why aren’t we?

          P.S. I also learned the same way. On models. Mostly African-American nurses who were very funny and strong!
          (possibly still scary for some shy male med students)

    • Couldn’t a female physician do the parts of an exam on a female patient that make a particular male physician uncomfortable? It’s not a large bloc of time, but if schedules are set in stone as they are for my GP’s clinic (hospital-owned), then a second appointment can be made for a non-squeamish physician. Same thing could be worked out to protect the sensitive patient.
      It would be a courtesy thing for all involved.

      I read a book to/for/about nurses. One story in it was about a rather ”mature” lady who came in to be seen because, as the patient stated,
      she had ”a tree growing out of her Virginia.” Somehow, in her youth, she’d inserted a potato in her vagina for some then-logical reason…
      I wish I could cite it, but I read it ten years ago. .

      Good luck on this one. It will be hard to get even the simplest changes made. Remember, ”Change” is another ”C-word” like ”Cancer” that everybody tries to avoid.
      Dandy — dayondaxx.49@xxgmail.com (Remove xx to email me.)

  8. if all women just kept their legs together they could control the world

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yes. There are examples of women ending war by holding back until the men could “play nicely” with each other.

  9. TOPICS: MAN AND WOEMAN
    MIND & HEART MATTERS BY BERNIE SIEGEL, MD
    Dear Everybody,
    I received a copy of a magazine called The Sun. One page, entitled SUNBEAMS contained many quotes about the feminine position in our society. Personally I wish women ran this planet because of what I have seen and respect them for when they or their loved ones are dealing with cancer. So what follows are many quotes. Some of which will get a laugh but many will also get you to stop and think and I hope help us to change our world and respect women so they can vote, hold office, go to school and drive cars and have a life of their own. On my web site http://www.berniesiegelmd.com you can read my story, “What Does Every Woman Want?” The basic message is that they each deserve a life of their own. One in which they can be their authentic self and not just fulfilling a role imposed upon them for the benefit if others. When I went to medical school there were only six female students in the entire class. Things are different today but we still have a long way to go. So here goes.
    The day will come when man will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of nature. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race. Susan Anthony
    The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.”
    Shirley Chisholm
    If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around your neck? Linda Ellerbee
    There are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody.
    Florynce Kennedy
    Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel. Bella Abzug
    The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots. Rebecca West
    Every time we liberate a woman we liberate a man. Margaret Mead
    And the concluding comment by Alice Borchardt. Women have the power of life and death. We, after all, give birth and the fate of humanity is in our hands. That is why men try so hard to rule us, my dear. They know if we once looked well on what they have made of the human existence, we might close our legs and within our barren wombs bring the comedy to an end.
    I had never thought of the power women really do have over life and if they came together and utilized their power they could change the world in short order. I also do consider life to be a human comedy and recommend William Saroyan’s book The Human Comedy to you all. It is a novel about life and death and relationships and more. I must add that I consider life to be a comedy too but I also see it as a tragic comedy. If we are to survive we need to come together to support each other and help one another to survive the tragedies that life makes inevitable. We need to be truly the family of man.
    Just as noted above having a sense of humor is one of the things which help us to thrive and survive. The following are poems I have written based upon my relationships. I recommend you write some and read them to your partner in life.

    PERFECT
    God didn’t ask my wife to be perfect
    I did
    so I ought to be perfect and set an example
    well there goes my plan
    I’d rather tell her how to be perfect
    but then she tells me about my imperfections
    well there goes my plan again
    I guess God was right
    His plan is easier
    just give them free will and life
    because perfection is not creation
    and don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed

    SHOULD WE ARGUE OR MAKE LOVE?
    shall we have an argument or make love?
    there are benefits to both
    if we argue I can show you how smart and right I am
    I can yell and sulk and turn away and try to sleep
    now that I won the argument
    and I always win
    if we love there are no words equal to the feeling
    we both sleep in peace
    there are no losers
    only winners
    who have given their winnings away
    I see the answer to my question is
    let’s make love

    A BEAUTIFUL BURDEN
    if you don’t go i’ll have a heavy heart
    if you do go i’ll have a hernia

    my wife and I often travel together
    we are a team sharing fair and foul weather
    at times our travel takes us into the air
    I carry all the luggage in order her back to spare
    i’ve heard love makes one’s burden lighter
    but Bobbie’s bags would burst if packed any tighter
    so I brave the chance of a hernia
    since she makes my day much brighter
    i’ve learned from traveling alone
    that the load is really no lighter
    for a lonely heart weighs much more than a bag
    which can’t be packed any tighter

    LEAVING A PART OF ME BEHIND
    I kissed myself good bye this morning
    no I am not self-centered
    I am more than me
    I and another are one
    our clay has been sculpted for so long
    that we are an inseparable creation
    my other parts enable and disable but they are me
    so I kiss me good bye

    next time I will be more passionate
    I deserve a good kiss
    no peck on the cheek
    wait till I get home
    to the rest of me
    It will feel so good to be whole again
    and in love with my whole self

    I DO NOT TRAVEL ALONE
    “you’ll be traveling alone,” she said.
    “I can’t sit so long.”
    “i’ll stay home.”
    today I travel alone
    without a wife or luggage
    an empty seat beside me
    a bin above
    no hand to hold when
    we rise into the air
    I close my eyes
    reach out my hand
    say my prayer
    a smile parts my lips
    my empty hand is held
    my wife has joined me
    my prayers are answered
    I do not travel alone

    A COUPLE
    the ocean and the shore
    confront
    struggle
    roar
    embrace
    conform
    survive
    a man and a woman
    confront
    struggle
    roar
    embrace
    conform
    thrive

    I DIDN’T WRITE A POEM
    I didn’t write a poem
    I talked to one today
    I met a beautiful child
    You say all children are beautiful
    Yes, until they meet their co-creators
    Then the poem is often ruined
    Losing its rhyme and rhythm
    When you meet a beloved child
    It is pure poetry
    The rhyme and the rhythm are perfect
    I wish I were a better creator of poems

    HONEY
    she calls me honey
    but I am not sweet
    her call is a gift to me
    I sweeten and blend into the honey
    I dissolve in her kindness
    it sweetens our life even more
    Honey
    i’ll try

    and in conclusion the humor that holds us together
    DIVORCE
    tomatoes don’t belong in the refrigerator
    i did it again
    my wife may never forgive me
    our marriage is on the rocks
    i snore, put tomatoes in the fridge
    walk and eat too fast
    the divorce lawyer doesn’t know how to help us
    reach a valid settlement for my cruelty
    he suggests we try to work it out
    give love a chance
    and don’t put tomatoes in the fridge
    i read his settlement to my wife
    she laughs
    i love her when she laughs
    and forget the difficult times
    we fire the lawyer
    and take the tomatoes out of the fridge

    Women aren’t perfect. Three quarters of all women can’t understand fractions and the other half doesn’t give a damn. Bobbie Siegel

    Now go out and make a difference for a feminine member of our society.

    Peace, Love & Healing,
    Bernie Siegel, MD

    A man may make mistakes, but he isn’t a failure until he starts BLAMING someone else. John Wooden

  10. Jennifer Harr says:

    Many doctors also seem to dislike the other end of the body, the mouth, as well. As a dentist, I have numerous patients who tell me their doctor never looks in their mouth. Maybe doctors could take a cue from dentists about doing these uncomfortable exams, both ends of the body. So much about the body can be evaluated from looking at the mouth, head and neck. I suspect the same doctors who dislike the genitals also skip the mouth.

  11. Daniel Lang says:

    I must say there are no sacred cows with Pamela.

  12. Pamela Wible MD says:

    In 1965 my mother, Judith Wible, received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Of 160 graduates, eight were female. The dean and fellow students reminded the ‘girls’ in the class that they were ‘taking a man’s seat’ and they would never use their degrees. Even the anatomy professor refused to accept female anatomy and persisted in addressing women as men. Despite her protests, my mother remained ‘Mr. Wible.’ Women were excluded from urology—from palpating penises and prostates—while men dominated obstetrics and gynecology. Daily, the women were exposed to filthy jokes that demeaned female patients, and in the evenings they slept in cramped nursing quarters while the guys had fraternities complete with maids, cooks, parties, and last year’s exams.

    ~ Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change, Elite Books, 2011

    • Mary DeForest says:

      At least they didn’t send you down for a ripe cadaver, and then stop the elevator on you to try to run you out.

      I think that you have super patients-and their has 2B a nice doctor-patient relationship for you to even talk about this, let alone do this project.

      I knew a very good OB-GYN. When I asked him why he chose this field, he said that in dermatology, he itched and had rashes. When he had cardiology, he felt like he had heart problems, etc. He knew that he couldn’t become pregnant, so–

      I also had a friend on an ovary cancer research project. The women were dying and in great pain. The women would be examined by many GYNs and oncologists. They insisted that he be a team player and examine these women. He asked them what medical knowledge could he add? They still ordered him to examine- then he refused. That hurt his career.

  13. Pete Benson says:

    The psychology involved is influenced by the surrounding culture, of course. This sort of squeamishness and anti-feminism is ingrained early, in boys and girls both, going back to our puritan roots (in the US, and similar repressive religious notions elsewhere) that human bodies, and especially genitalia, are shameful, to be covered at all times, and never mentioned directly, so the circumlocutions and slang terms arise. “It was all Eve’s fault, because she tempted Adam.”

    Can this be changed? I believe so. We’ve already come a long way since the 19th century when those garments for breasts got named “brassieres”, which in the original French means “arm straps” (as close as they could get anatomically to the unmentionable body parts), and not only people but even tables didn’t have legs, but “limbs” (because human legs are attached close to another unmentionable part). Is there progress? Even now, at a nudist club or nude beach, a penis or vagina in plain sight is no more remarkable than a hand or nose, because the entire body is regarded as healthy and normal, to be respected.

    In my youth and early adulthood, half a century ago, condoms were never called condoms but “rubbers” or some other circumlocution or colloquialism. Now, they’re always “condoms”. We use circumlocutions only for concepts we’re uncomfortable with.

    But those little rooms for excretion, even in public buildings, are still called “bathrooms” or “restrooms”, even though they aren’t designed for bathing or resting. Maybe that’ll be the next change in terminology.

    The mere fact that we’re having this discourse is evidence of ongoing change.

    All that said, I have no problem with using colloquial terms when the setting is appropriate (as long as they aren’t derogatory terms, of course). If I’m with a lover, I refer to my “cock” and her “pussy”. With my doctor, I refer to my “penis”. To a friend, “that bicycle seat hurts my ass;” but to a doctor, “I have a pain in my buttocks.”

    The culturally induced kolpophobia and mysogyny cannot just be switched off when one enters med school. Med students (or diplomate M.D.’s) must be counseled out of it when it pops up, if possible—because we don’t want to shut down med schools until a new generation grows up with healthier attitudes. If such remediation doesn’t work, the doctors or med students might do well to consider a different field, just as someone who (say) discovers he doesn’t like getting his hands greasy wouldn’t remain long in the profession of auto mechanic, and an acrophobe wouldn’t do well as a high-rise construction riveter. What riveter would get hired if he said, “I can rivet, but don’t send me higher than the second floor, please”?

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Great ideas Pete! You really have a nice perspective on origins of the kolpophobia/misogyny and what we might do about it. Yes! Just having this online dialogue means we have come a long way.

  14. Bill says:

    I’ve just switched VA clinics, to one “intimately” connected to my state’s large (and only) medical school. I’ve been informed that my primary care contact will be a resident from the college. I was asked if I had any problem with the gender of my resident. I replied that I was much more concerned about the ability of this critical person in my life.

    I agree with Dr Wible that the program might need to be evaluated to allow exclusions, where it’s valuable for both parties (institution/student). I’m most comfortable with (and deserve) a budding professional who is repulsed by neither my nethers nor my almost-70 body.

    All the best, Doctor. You might just become the next Doctor Who, I mean Oz.

    Bill Hampton

  15. Pamela Wible MD says:

    STEVE writes:

    “And human evil dwelt at my residency program. I saw women manipulated with grades and honors if they would put out.

    I was hated and objectified there some – to see such objectification was disgusting. It was like peering into the mouth of hell.

    And when anyone complained, the organization rallied to protect itself.

    My career as a physician was dirty-touched by that residency.”

    steve

  16. Marv Brilliant says:

    This is disgusting! Doctor’s and students who shy away from reality in medicine should forget about the practice in the medical field! Doctor’s who are who are completely ignorant of the facts of reality in the field should be disbarred from their so called practice! They are cowards!

  17. Pamela Wible MD says:

    From TERRY NAIL:

    “We lived on the Gulf Coast of Alabama in a little community call Bon Secour for 5 years before we moved to Hippiegene. My doctor was female. When I went in for a physical every year she had me strip down only to my shorts. Examined my eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart rate, blood pressure, and then send me out for labs. Not once did she ever use the word anus, penis, prostate or testicles to me. After I had been seeing her for about 3 years I ask her if I should have a prostate examine as I was over 40. She said she did not do those type exams on men instead if I felt I needed a male problem exam she would let her dad who was also a physician do it.”

  18. A Banterings says:

    Does anyone know the reason human beings don’t like to use the words like penis and vagina, but prefer “pussy,” “cock,” “privates,” “wee-wee,” etc.?

    Context. Those scientific terms are sterile and devoid of emotion. Those parts of our bodies are very emotional to us all.

    I think that it is good that physicians feel that way because they will take the time with the patient to make the experience comfortable for both the physician and patient. Too often the stories heard in the news are of physicians too comfortable with genitals of people that they think nothing of exposures, exams, consent, etc.

    I am also glad to hear that no one advocated learning these exams on anesthetized patient (which use to be SOP source here: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/05/pelvic-exams-while-under-anesthesia-sparks-debate/ and here: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/2012/09/conversations-we-shouldnt-still-be-having-pelvic-exams-under-anesthesia/ ).

    I am in my 40’s and have not had a genital exam since I was 8. I like it that way. My body, my choice.

    I also question why physicians do not use self-pap tests like they do in Europe or promote self exams. If a physician can learn to do it, why can’t anyone else. I am not against these exams. Ask first, if declined explain why it should be done (do not push or bully), respect the patient’s choice, and move on.

  19. Rose says:

    Where could I get a do-it-yourself PAP kit? How much does it cost to get the lab work?

    Any sort of ob/gyn stuff is hard to get in my state due to high insurance rates driving ob/gyns out of the state. Sadly, few GPs seem to know anything below the waist exists, or these days, above it. Physicals have gone out of style. Can’t type and do a physical at the same time.

    I think male doctors attitudes have improved. Back in the 1970s, male GYNs had serious attitude problems. One guy tried to make a date with me, while doing a pelvic–with my husband sitting in the waiting room!

  20. Jennifer C. says:

    I realize this is not the same thing as an exam, but it is a process to be done to perform hemodialysis.

    My last kidney doctor would enter the dialysis unit and see me putting in my 15 gauge dialysis needles in my fistula (dialysis access). He told me he could never do that. I said it didn’t hurt as I was focused on what I was doing. Besides, who will know my arm and fistula as well as I do?

    Doctors may be uncomfortable even with routine procedures in their specialties.

    In the waiting room, this same doctor told a future dialysis patient how everyone hates dialysis. The patient looked scared and worried. I said I don’t hate dialysis. It has made it possible for me to live my life for the last 35 years, go to college and graduate school, relocate from East to West coasts, get married, travel internationally and have a super career. The patient relaxed and smiled. My doctor thanked me for talking to this patient.

    I wonder, yes dialysis is not hot and sexy or as much fun as everyone says, but how can a kidney doctor provide a treatment he doesn’t believe in or talk about negatively?

  21. Carolyn Nunes says:

    Great post
    I also love the idea of telecasting, as one poster mentioned.
    Just fyi…
    Ive never encountered a bashful male Gyn. (At least, I never sensed any issues).
    If anything, in my experience, it has always been the women who seem more skittish while performing paps.
    As far as having a train of med students rolling thru the exam room, THAT I would not appreciate.
    Maybe this would be more settling an experience if they asked the patient if a few students could come join the doctor and SIT IN (actually sit down, being down on the same level as everyone else in the room, including myself).
    Grant it, not a great visual vantage point, but really… How many pairs of eyes can you fit in that area anyway?
    Again, a great reason for the telecasting option!

    I don’t enjoy being stared down upon while lying in that very uncomfortable position.
    Its like you’re not attached to the BIG PINK ELEPHANT in the room. You’re just this vagina, thats front and center!
    Also, if during the exam, I try to ignore whats occurring by “assuming the position”, with my head laid down flat, I feel disconnected.
    But, if while laying there, my head is raised up, I feel the exam is more calming, I can see the doctor (mostly) and I feel included the process.

  22. Amber says:

    I am not a doctor or a nurse , but a patient. I do not want to go to anyone besides a OB/GYN for a pap. I have had paps from family doctors and I noticed they actually hurt worse when the doctor seems nervous. After having 2 childre, my first child I seen a certified midwife and my second child I seen a OB/GYN, I will go to a woman’s clinic concerning anything about my vagina. Lol

  23. just and opinion says:

    I think this very article is exactly why it is like that. The reason is, this article continue to propagate how big issue it is to talk or refer to vaginas. if you have it wrong for whoever’s opinion, it is turned into a big fuss because it is so “sacred” its no longer just a body part. Get it wrong and the media campaign and social justice worriers is out in arms. The fact that women make such a big fuss over it, is the reason why men in particular would prefer to avoid it or not be comfortable talking about it to begin with. If you want to solve a problem you created for yourselves, then you need to think on a different level than the time you created the problem. This is actually more of the same. I’m surprised that male doctors do not start avoiding female patients due to the increasing social and legal risk in it. If I were a doctor I would refer every women who have a issue below the belt to a specialist just to avoid the drama that may transpire.

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