Your Response to our Show on Pelvic Exams

One of the missions of White Coat, Black Art is to tackle subjects some feel skittish about -- none moreso than pelvic examinations. A gynecological examination is a critical part of womens' health; it's use to detect such things as cervical cancer, ovarian cysts and tumors, not to mention sexually transmitted diseases. That said, the pelvic is an intimate exam that for some women -- not to mention some doctors -- is steeped in ambivalence and shame.

On Saturday, July 19th, we re-broadcast our show on the pelvic exam. Then, we heard from you! I thought I'd put a few of your comments on this edition of our blog. In some cases you've asked that your name be witheld. In others, we've decided to do so ourselves:

Margaret Patterson writes " For the first time we have a program that deals with the real issues and experiences every day people have with the health care system. Yesterday's program on the taboo subject of pelvic examinations was a case in point. It was fascinating to hear the perspectives of doctors and women about this everyday health care experience which I have never heard discussed on the air before. Well done."

Michelle Cordy of London, Ontario writes "What a great show! I've never heard the word vagina so many times in a half hour. It was especially interesting to hear the doctor's perspecive on pelvic exams. Well done!"

That was one of our main missions: to reduce the stigma of the words associated with gynecological exams.

Some of you shared your experiences with pelvic exams. Here's one from a listener on Georgian Bay. " I am 62 and when I was growing up, the topic was almost totally forbidden. On the subject of male vs. female gynecologists, I would like to share an experience from years ago. My Mother, and many other females in our acquaintance, drove 50 miles to be examined yearly by a woman gynecologist. As a young woman, I began going to her too. On one occasion, I missed my appointment, and was told that I would have to wait a year for another one. I decided instead to go to our local male GP, and have never looked back. He was 10 times more gentle and considerate. Now that was many years ago, and not all female gynecologists can be judged by that one, but there is something to be said for treading softly in a less- than- familiar place."

My favorite email comes from a woman who lives in Barrie, Ontario. "Thanks so much for your show on gynocology and in particular the difficulties realized in relation to pelvic exams. It's the first accurate, shameless and all-encompassing show I've ever heard on the subject and I found it a breath of fresh air. I particularly appreciated hearing the physician's point of view. After several years of shying away from a pelvic exam at a time in my life
where I should be getting them frequently, I have decided after hearing your show to get ready to raise the skirt, so to speak."

Thank all of you for writing in. I've heard from far too many women who are not asking for pelvics, and physicians being reluctant to do them. We need to end the shame. If, after hearing this show, even one woman decides she's going to insist on having it done, it will have been worthwhile.

If you missed it, the show is available as a podcast. Click on the link above.

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Previous Comments (4)

Fair comments but as usual the male world is neglected in this our politically correct era.
I am a retired male who moved from a large urban centre to a small rural area. Along the way I have acquired a number of distinctly extreme genital piercings [ but the word extreme tattoo could be substituted I suppose] My age group are endlessly counselled to have prostate exams which is laudable IF local doctors are available. There is a severe shortage of physicians in the rural areas which means there are few if any options. The local clinic only has female physicians who take exception to extreme body modification so...???
Try that story again including males and the annual prostate exam or heaven forbid, the colonoscopy gantlet, with only female physicians in attendence. Perhaps more sympathy is due the males particularly those with anything 'unusual' down there.

rmnichol, July 29, 2008 2:26 PM

your piece about the pelvic exams was great but the real problem I have now is the stupid grin that comes over my face every time I look up and see a cobweb. My wife will spot me grinning and will look up and then we have our secret giggle while all around us think we are both nuts. Now then you do need to do a piece on the male - internal. I am now 63 and my doc has said I should have an annual colonoscopy. His nurse then said "hows your schedule - it will take about 1.5 years to get you in"??? What is wrong with this picture?? gotta love public health care.

John Rogers, August 9, 2008 6:22 PM

The male medical community has long had an unhealthy fascination with female genitalia. From "therapeutic message" originating in the first century to the patent of the vibrator by Dr. Joe Granville in 1883 for curing "hysteria" to the premarital exams of the 1950's (and even up into the 1970's) where the physician was encouraged to cut the hymen, to massage the vagina and clitoral area and even insert a test tube to simulate a penis--so that the bride would be receptive on her wedding night.

How do I know this? My father was a physician and kept everything. I came across his monthly journals from the 1950's when I was about 15 (in the early 70's). I immediately realized that this was not a medical exam but medical rape at worst and legalized sexual assault at best. Others online, have concurred that they also saw this same traumatizing information in "marriage manuals" from the era.

It continues to this day.

Go online and educate yourself--mothers complaining of Drs trying to do breast exams on 13 year old daughters before they can play soccer.

Another female OB/GYN derides her professor at the University of Michigan who stated that "if a proper breast exam is done, no lubricant should be necessary." She had little respect for the man thereafter.

Are your listeners aware that medical students practice pelvic, rectal and breast exams on non-consenting anaesthetised women and men at teaching hospitals.

Studies show that between 10 and 12% of physicians anonymously admit to sexual transgressions with patients. The penalty is usually insignificant. Would you send your child to school if 10% of teachers were pedophiles. How many other Drs experience sexual thoughts when performing intimate exams-white coats do not block the flow of testosterone.

The medical profession has demonstrated that it is incapable of policing itself.

The medical community and female activists have convinced women that they are going to die if they don't get a yearly (intimate)physical when in fact the odds are extremely low. No doctor pays any attention to my genitalia.

If you only knew how many relationships have suffered a loss of intimacy and even ended as a result of unnecessary and non-emergency cross-gender exams, you would see how much harm has been done in the name of medicine.

Try researching "How husbands feel" or "Women against stirrups" or "No pelvics please" or try a physician's blog "Naked" to see the extent of people who are concerned with modesty and the maintenance of intimacy in a relationship.


John, September 4, 2008 10:31 AM

i would love to hear the podcast on pelvic exams that was rebroadcast in July, but i dont see it on the web. would it be possible to get a copy of this podcast?

love the show, sorry to see it end.
catherine (MD)

Catherine, March 1, 2009 12:37 PM
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