The cover of my forthcoming book, Pet Goats & Pap Smears, has generated controversy on the proper display of women’s bodies for public consumption. During the last few days, I’ve heard from over one hundred people who have shared their joy (and their rage) over my book cover.
I was intrigued by such divergent and emotionally charged reactions.
A patient offered this analogy, “A typical magazine at a grocery checkout counter will advertise 101 chocolate cupcake recipes next to how to lose 15 pounds in 15 days. Americans are overfed, yet starving. It’s the same thing with sex.” she explained, “Our culture rams it down our throat and then says it’s bad, don’t do it.”
America is excessively sexualized, yet I find many people are clueless about their feelings, their bodies, and their sexuality.
I grew up in Texas–a landscape of strip clubs and churches. I’m well adjusted to the ads with bikini-clad women holding M16 assault rifles and toddler beauty pageants with four-year-old girls prancing about in false eyelashes, spray tans, and high heels. This is America.
I remember being a girl. Once my little brother opened the bathroom door while I was peeing and asked, “You pee out of your butt?” I said, “No.” He was only five, so I let him slide. But when forty-five-year-old men ask if women pee out of their vaginas, I take a deep breath, sit down, and pull out a diagram to explain the three holes. As a physician, I shouldn’t have to review basic female anatomy with grown men. Should I? But I’ve been explaining basic anatomy to patients for years. Some women complain that men can’t find the clitoris, even in the middle of the day.
None of this surprises me–anymore.
While editing my book a few months ago, Michigan State Representative, Lisa Brown, was barred from speaking on the House floor during a debate on reproductive rights when she said the word “vagina.” Apparently, male legislators felt the anantomically correct term was offensive.
At the same time, I was gathering endorsements from physicians for my new book. That was when one doctor said that he could not endorse my book. I wondered why. He told me he was uncomfortable with some of the topics in my book. Intrigued, I asked, “What topics?” He explained that, as a specialist, he didn’t have to deal with chlamydia, gonorrhea, penises, and vaginas anymore.
Then a few weeks ago, two male photographers entered my clinic to shoot the cover of Pet Goats & Pap Smears. I explained that there would be a woman wearing undergarments in the Pap position. They looked baffled and laughed. “What exactly happens during a female exam?” they asked. I pulled out the stirrups and jumped up on my exam table to demonstrate the position that every woman in America gets into every year for their exams. They were most appreciative for the explanation. And they took a perfect cover shot. Thanks guys!
Here’s what surprises me: In America men can find pole dancers, but they’re not too sure how many holes women have. In America, we have male lawmakers and doctors who make decisions about women’s health, but they’re not exactly comfortable with the word vagina. In America, it’s okay to drape half-naked women over gun ads. But please don’t put a woman in the anatomically correct position for a Pap smear on the cover of a book that celebrates women’s health. Oh, with a goat facing the audience wearing a stethoscope. Now, that’s offensive.
Interesting stuff! I showed the cover to a friend yesterday, however, and her response was not about sex. It was about the positioning of the goat’s head–seemed like the goat’s head was right between the woman’s legs, which it is.
I am so proud of the great approach you take on this, Pam!
Living in Sweden I am blessed with a less contradictory morals than what you discribe the US display. I live in a country where women have fought long and hard to make a position in the work environment and society. Swedish women are accepted as equal to men in thought, voice and action. We live a century and country where the passed is present as parents and grandparents struggle to accept the freedom we and for sure, our kids, take for granted.
So is there a backside to this?
Possibly that equality, brings feminism and masculinity to a point where confusion hits. Men and Women are no longer stereotypes.
It is as common for women to be found building on the house as finding men taking care of the kids while cooking dinner and cleaning the house.. all at the same time.
In our great Swedish revolution Men do know how many and where our holes are located, and they know how to make women sexually content.
It is a good start and we are still on our journey.
And one day in America we will be like your progressive Sweden! Let’s start with the holes and where they lead and we can build from there! 🙂
Very encouraging. Thanks for sharing this. Unfortunately for Americans, I don’t see the US making great strides in this department anytime soon. I look forward to moving to Sweden someday, and hope your country’s values spread to the US and soon!!!
And I agree with everything you wrote. But America must change its prudish and uptight attitudes about human bodies. Working on that now.
canada and usa are the same crap concerning heterosexual sex ,gays are encouraged
I loved your article and can’t wait to read the book.
I myself am frequently amazed by how little a lot of people know about our body. Even the most basic stuff, like men who think women can hold back from bleeding during their periods, for example. This I think can be corrected with proper education starting at a young age.
I teach first grade, and love that most of my students know they have a penis or a vagina, and use proper names without thinking it’s funny.
Maybe there’s hope.
I’m dying to read your book Dr. Wible! When can it be ordered at Barnes and noble? They have a placeholder for the book but no ordering info? Thanks!!
Lamenting that you are on the road teaching, but really how could I be so selfish? It is with great anticipation I wait for your book that I’m sure holds gems of truth. Rachael Naomi Ramen put some humanity into doctoring, and you are clearly opening that door ever wider and with great aplomb. KUDOS!
Thanks Sheila! Really appreciate your support. I’m opening up myself and sharing the truth of my patients’ lives (with their consent, of course) with the greatest degree of vulnerability possible. For some it is too much to take in, but it is the raw truth of life that gives us the greatest wisdom. On the Pet Goats & Pap Smears website, I have posted one of my favorite chapters “Raw Truth.”
I agree with many of your observations regarding our over sexualualized and sexually repressed society. You make some excellent points. Unfortunately, many are going to be turned off by the imagery on your front cover, and will pass over your book. It is offensive, and effectively diminishes your message.
Hi Barbara ~ A small subset of women over 50 have been offended by the cover. This took me by surprise as the cover is consistent with the profound and at times lighthearted and playful message of the book. I hope you will give it a read. I am happy to mail you one with the front cover torn off if you send me your address.
I don’t understand why the cover would bother you? As mentioned, sex sales, Bob Barker had sexy women to showcase the goods, Vanna White became rich turning letters on Wheel of Fortune.
Is it the “frontal” view of a woman in stirrups? Is it the goat that plays doctor? Did your mind make the leap that a…wait, I’m starting to understand…goats will eat anything, including “cans” and “boxes”! I get what you’re complaining about Ms Rice. Thank you. And…and a Goat acting like an ob/gyn…think of the shock and outrage!!!
Hmm, this fan fiction stuff just writes itself doesn’t it?
Barbara Rice, I hope you can forgive my joking above, it was meant in good humour.
Yep! I don’t get why people are offended. The cove is a Rorschach test. You see what is already on your mind. Hahaha!!
I love the last paragraph! May I also add, as a breastfeeding mother I am quite perplexed and put out at how socially acceptable it is to see cleavage and even barely concealed breasts on magazine covers, while it is very unacceptable to breastfeed in public (even though I always wear a nursing cover!). People are extremely uncomfortable with and even rude about this. Maybe I should wear a sign on my head that says, “Pardon me, but this is actually the purpose of my breasts, and my baby is hungry.”
I love your last sentence! Try it and film the reactions of “innocent bystanders.” Have you seen Erykah Badu’s music video for her song window seat. Check it out on YouTube.
When my wife’s sister had her first child, she was about to feed it in the room and I averted my eyes. She asked if it made me uncomfortable to see her breastfeed. I told her I was just being gentlemanly, I’m quit fond of breasts who ever has them out. 😉
Understandable. Human nature. Human nurture.
I think that we (men of America) are used to sexploitation. An improbably proportioned woman in nothing but a g-string strategically hiding her nipples with 2 beer cans is perfectly acceptable. That doesn’t bother us since selling beer is a perfectly normal use for breasts. Their purpose is to titillate after all. When some woman uses them for feeding babies that just seems bizarre and perverse and of course we find it very offensive. It jars our world view. It forces us to see a woman’s bosom as a natural part of her body that serves a non-sexual purpose and suggest that women might be human beings and not sexual objects. It’s a lot to be slammed with out of the blue and we can only process so much in an instant.
And seeing lots of cleavage is accepted, but seeing the bump of nipples through a shirt is not. Unfair to those of us without cleavage!
You said it in a nutshell, B.Ward.
I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!
LOVE YOU TOO Elizabeth!
I’m a Sociology Major and have been studying the responses to the book 50 Shades of Grey. This site came up and I’ve enjoyed the read. I hope to be reading your book as well, as soon as I can.
It amazes me how the dichotomy in America is so strong – as mentioned above,
“In America men can find pole dancers, but they’re not too sure how many holes women have. In America, we have male lawmakers and doctors who make decisions about women’s health, but they’re not exactly comfortable with the word vagina.”
I remember a few years ago an episode of the cartoon King of the Hill where Peggy Hill taught a Sex Ed class and could only say “Penis” out-loud by quietly leading off with “hap-PENIS”.
I know my wife’s Ob-gyn and have been in the room while exams have been performed. I’m pretty sure I know her three holes inside and out 😉 (heck, I’m trying to find a 4th!)
Well written article, thanks.
And is it wrong that I really want that stupid goat to move? 😉
Hey Shane! Thanks for the words and insight. Funny how this came up with your Shades of Grey search. Really? Love to send you a book. and hey, ya gotta watch the videos of the goat in my office. Super fun and the goat does move out of the way — a bit. Many men have requested that the goat move over. 🙂
I think the cover is hilarious, and based on the funny and moving excerpt at “Miranda’s” Crab Diaries, the book should be great too- I’ll buy it. I know more than one rough diamond like that Texan ancient.
I did find your Swedish admirer insufferably smug and condescending, though. I wonder what your old redneck mentor would have thought of her?
Hi Steve! Yes! You will LOVE the book. There IS a divide between redneck mentor and Swedish admirer, but you know what they say: If we were all the same life would be SO BORING! I love wandering along the cultural edges . . .
I guess you know I do too!
Wanna trade a Querencia for Goats and Smears? Miranda has my addresses & numbers if you don’t see them here…
I have no idea what you are talking about . . .
Sorry– you sounded familiar with my writing , and Miranda of Crab Diaries, an oncologist and blogger whose link sent me here and who knows me, seemed to know you. I assumed too much and am blushing. I was just offering to trade books.
I am also a blogger, and have written quite a few books. See the Amazon page for Stephen Bodio or Google Stephen Bodio’s Querencia, my blog and also the title of a New Mexico memoir you might enjoy—- or if you DO know Miranda, ask her…
Oh yes! Now I get it. Just saw you have 6 books on Amazon. Would love to trade books, I’ll email you my address and you can send yours. I know Miranda just through her blog and we have a mutual admiration and a love of medicine.
Excellent points. I have gone through this myself even with my incredibly intelligent and kind husband. I had to explain to him that yes, there is a third hole for a woman’s urethra. At 25 years old (and older) men still don’t know basic anatomy. American schools don’t do enough to educate children about each other’s bodies or how to protect themselves from STDS and pregnancy. We are absolutely living in a sexually repressed society in the US, while at the same time displaying highly sexualized ads, billboards and movies that also often portray violence against women. I would like to live in Europe for many reasons, one being their more progressive stance on this issue, as well as better attitudes towards vacation time (which leads to better worker productivity). The US has the highest teen birth rate of all industrialized nations, which I believe points out the main idea of this article as fact.
Also other cultures laugh when they find out that American men get “turned on” by women’s breasts. They know that women’s breasts have one job -feeding babies!! And I would love to be able to breastfeed in American without the shame that comes along with it. You get the stinkeye and have to go do it in some stinky bathroom – even then the women in there are like What the Heck? It’s all cultural and I don’t believe that it will change any time soon.
Ah! Pet Goats & Pap Smears will wake America up and things will change very soon. Mark my words.
I’m getting SO fed up with American society’s idiosyncracies about sex, gender culture, education, and anti-European hysteria.
I’d love to travel on an extended basis and “shop” European countries and Canada till I found a society that didn’t drive me through the roof!
Wish me luck- and the money to do it.
There is nothing offensive about the cover. I am sure that there is nothing offensive about your book. You are the daughter of a Pathologist and a Psychiatrist and you have had your fill of assembly line Medicine. You choose now to slow down and listen to each patient in the treatment room and provide detailed and quality medicine.
You are the leader of the IDEAL MEDICAL PRACTICE movement. It is a group of private practice Family docs who take the time to really listen and to provide a comprehensive service. Your numbers are at 250 now. I hope that your numbers grow to 2500 soon. The Doctor-patient relationship is sacred and your group respects that.
I wish to let your group know that I will do more than just provide lip service to what I believe in. I have told you this privately and now I will be public.
I will make myself available to you and to your group to answer questions on the BIG PROBLEMS facing private docs today: Sham Peer Review, State Medical Board abuse, audits, RACs, ZPICs, MICs, Medicaid Fraud Control Units ( MFCU), HIPAA, HIPAA-HITECH-The Final Rule, Texas HIPAA, OSHA, The Office of Inspector General, ObamaCare, the list is endless. My contact information is below:
Oh shove it. By your standards, men don’t pee out of their penises.
I realize that everyone pee’s from their urethra, but for all intents and purposes, women pee out of their vagina, and men pee out of their penises. Don’t try to get all up in arms about layman’s logic.
As a physician, YES YOU SHOULD HAVE TO EXPLAIN BASIC BIOLOGY. That is your job, and you are quick to jump in and correct everyone, YOU are the one who is so enthusiastic about informing everyone, don’t complain about having to inform people.
I’m shocked American women get in stirrups willingly. Aus and NZ threw those things out with the 1950’s. I’ve literally never seen real life stirrups before this picture and believe me, I’ve undergone many pap smears. They look scary!
Kudos! Unfortunately, the people that need to be educated most about our bodies are the people that will not read this. Most people do judge a book by its cover. The evangelicals will have a field day. They will draw a circle around that cover, extend the legs, declare it a pentagram and with goat, well, its got to be devil worship.
Sadly, most men know less about their own anatomy than they do about their wives and girlfriends.
Sadly such ignorance is not confined to sexual matters – US citizens are woefully ignorant about most aspects of life. From airbrushed “history” lessons to spurious claims repeated endlessly by priests and politicians that go unquestioned, the motto seems to be Dumb Is Good.
And here you are, trying to give people facts so that they can make better choices and be happier. Shame on you!
Is god a pervert that he created women and men nude? Does he have no decency ? Or was he perhaps in cahoots with the textile industry?
Sad but true.
Sometimes when I travel to foreign cultures, this king of insecurity and shame towards our own bodies and our own humanity becomes glaringly apparent.
Recently I was riding my mountain bike in the heart of the bible belt, South Carolina.. the heat index was in the upper 90’s.
I came off the trail near some ball fields and the local little league was playing a game.. some of the smaller kids were milling about. One little boy about 5 or 6 looks at me and says.. “you don’t have a shirt on..” I said, yep it’s hot.
I thought to myself, why is this even an issue.. Nothing you wouldn’t normally see around a pool. And something that wasn’t at all uncommon when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s.
The more I got to thinking about it, the more it occurred to me. In this culture, sexual perversion and shame has become so commonplace or seems so because of the media, danger and sexual predators are all around us and that has become how parents raise their children.. to be wary and intolerant of something even completely unrelated to sex.
Contrast this experience the last time I was visiting Asia. I had an apartment and kept passing a lady with a baby stroller when going up the stairs. One day I was outside the building waiting on my landlord and she comes out with the stroller. We said ‘hi’ in our different languages.. She gets about 10 feet away in the parking lot and stops as if she forgot something. She wheels stroller around, pushes it me, I grab it. Then she goes back inside the building for 10 minutes then comes back outside says thank you, grabs the stroller and goes on her way. There was a little girl inside about 2 or 3.
That would never happen here.
I have a theory.. in her culture, men are seen as protectors of women and children. The thought of a man trying to kidnap or harm her child wouldn’t even occur to this woman.
I grew up in the heart of the Appalachian bible belt in Southwestern Virghina. I moved to NYC when I turned 24. I ran away from what I thought to be an insanely repressive community. I couldn’t stand it and I felt I didn’t belong. I recently told my husband (from Rochester NY) about the hoochie coochie girls at the county fair when I was young. These ladies would stand outside the tent in scantily clad clothing luring men to pay for a ticket to see more of them inside. When telling my husband about this, he was blown away that such a repressed community so obsessed with the bible would have striptease shows at their county fair. How I wish I could go back to those days and talk to the women. Back then I was taught that they were indecent. Now that I am 55 and have lived in the north for more than half my life, I believe these women were just desperate and had few choices. I remember getting to college and finally finding girls who would talk about sex. It was so liberating! I was just reading up about Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia. He left NJ and moved to Virginia. I left Virginia and moved to NJ. Ken introduced the radical trans vaginal ultra sound bill that forced women seeking abortions to go through the trans vaginal exam first. There is no medical reason for that exam except to humiliate women who are already freaking the hell out because they find themselves with child and not ready for it. I know about this personally. I thank the high heavens every day that my parents were pro choice and gave me a way out! I would have been doomed to a life of poverty and misery had I been made to have a child in my teens and out of wedlock. I am all for reducing abortion. But let’s do it with proper education about sex, easy access to birth control, prenatal and child care for women, healthcare for children, and programs to help girls get their education if they have a child before they are ready and able to care for the child. Ken Cuccinelli home schooled his children, yet pushed abstinence only education in public schools. He pushes harsh punishments and legislation that blocks doctors and facilities from providing abortion services. He is opposed to oral sex and sodomy. I just don’t know how you go about regulating that! It would be funny if these repressed people didn’t have so much influence on public policy. These Dominionist tell us that we should fear extremist Muslims. I just don’t see much difference in Muslim, Christian, or Jewish fundamentalism. They are all very oppressive to women.
Excellent post, Martha. The bible is indeed a harsh critic of women. They are portrayed as the downfall of man in nearly every book of the Old Testament. Fundamental Islam orders women to “cover themselves” and the Evangelical Right labels Jesus’ female companion Mary as a whore who came to her senses. (In all honesty, I believe the “Grail” is the familial bloodline of Jesus and Mary, but that’s another discussion). At what point in time did we decide to allow the first and second estates (clergy and nobility) to dictate or sexual orientation or appetite? I am no hedonist, but I do enjoy my pleasures. If I’m neither hurting nor exploiting anyone, it’s nobody’s business but mine.
I blame the Puritans; and my parents. Look but don’t touch. Touch but don’t taste. Taste but don’t swallow.
I need to move to France and “get busy” before things start falling off my body!
I’ll take guns, conservative values and censorship over the liberal filth that is taking over my country.
I actually agree with you.
Men are Cowards at heart and just about everywhere…!!!
that is the hypocrisy of the north american society,ignorance,we all were born because one day a man and a woman decided to engage in sexual intercourse,nothing bad,nothing dirty,but that trauma is inflicted in the minds from adolescence in the minds,and on top refuse to legalize prostitution,in germany,nederlands,which is europe,is legal years and years ago,why not here,people will be more happy,violence would be scrapped ,we came to this world through the vagina,so why the fuss,only human stupidity permits the prolongation of this nonsense
American women are generally undereducated, weak emotionally and often snarky.
Which makes practically any positive interaction with men difficult.
For them, sex is generally a means to an end.
A better job, an easy life, etc.. They come off as really not liking it. It is just a chore. Most have never had a good sexual experience due to the insane amounts of shame imparted onto them during their upbringing. Sure, some manage to overcome this. But they can not outrun their own biology or their diminishing value.
Not to mention they’re socialized to compete with and behave like men.
However, whenever they face problems, to men for a solution is where they run. I find them in reality to be quite frail, weak creatures comparatively speaking to women in other cultures.
The amount of anger many possess towards the opposite sex, and what they call the patriarchy is often breathtaking in scope.
They don’t understand beauty or even how to properly care for themselves physically or mentally.
As I guy I find it all rather unsavory. And much prefer uncorrupted women raised in other cultures.
These are the very same Texans in your article that are all bent out of shape seeing Drag-Queens reading books to children in public schools and libraries. They immediately see…perverted gay-sex in the harmless Storyhour sessions and say it is sexualizing and grooming kids for a life of perverted and immoral homosexuality. How are these educational events any different from costume parties on Halloween or Mardi-Gras,clown shows or all the “drag-queens” at the local St.Patrick’s Day Parade…dolled up in green wigs,painted faces, big red booze-noses, and lots of rowdy drunks!However,as you state, they see nothing wrong with taking 10 year Johnny to Hooter’s or exposing children to AK-47’s,rifles and other firearms or bringing precious littel Kelly to see scantily dressed women at “Beaury Pageants” being objectified and “sexualized” with huge silicone melons for breasts.They proudly take their minor children to these events with no concern,whatsoever. This is “normal” to them,as long as it is not perceived as…gay in any way!
I’m a guy who grew up Catholic, went to Catholic grade school, and am now nearly 63 years old. My father a first generation Italian/American who prided himself on how tough he was, never had the courage to talk about sex to his kids.
Being honest now, I was so uptight as a young man that I would never had approached my Dad or Mom about my less than sizeable penis. This consequently negatively effected my future relationships.
Thankfully I learned through experience and the honesty and openness of one the lady in my life, how to compensate.
I don’t blame my parents. I blame society,and the Church, that used to teach that sex was for procreation only. Of course we know how damn ridiculous that is. Certainly the church above everyone else should know how repressing and stifling human sexuality works…. If not ask the priests who have abused children.
What I’ve learned is to say what you want, without cringing. My sweety and I have pet names for each others genitals, and it’s our secret that we both giggle about. The openness is one of the things that makes me love her even more.
Ladies, guys, maybe if we all get used to calling a clit a clit, and a penis a penis, just like we call a chair a chair, then eventually the taboo will go away.
As a man who grew up Catholic and oppressed, then learned how to be open with my Sweety, I say get used to being open with each other and your kids about human sexuality, and maybe it’ll start a trend…
USA substitutes violence for sex. I hope people get lots of sex and no violence, don’t you? WASP Pilgrims arrived, outlawed song and dance, slept in clothing, denied female pleasure, imported dark skinned people to enslave while exterminating 60 million brown people, making Nazis look like amateurs that mere industrialized the mass murder of 9 million