Thursday, March 24, 2011

Permission to do what?

I love my gynecologist. One reason I love her is that she allows me to insert the speculum during my Pap smear. Yeah, you heard that right. I get to insert the speculum.
Now, setting aside the question of why I would want to do that (short answer: control freak), this is something I've shared with other women. Almost universally, they react with astonishment. "You're allowed to do that?" Well, sure, why not? It doesn't take a medical degree to insert something into one's own body. It's not like I'm doing the actual Pap smear: once the speculum is in place, the gynecologist takes over. But it seems like I'm doing something forbidden, something that not all doctors would allow. Why? Why should a doctor object? After all, I'm a lot more familiar with my vagina than any medical expert - I know best how to insert items, to be blunt.
Why don't we feel empowered to take charge of our medical care? I think part of it stems from women's general discomfort with our genitalia. (Obviously that's a generalization that doesn't apply to all women). We go to the gynecologist and try to pretend that nothing is going on. Most of us hide our underwear in the middle of our other clothes (don't you? be honest!). We hate the whole procedure, worrying about our appearance, what the smell is, etc. I have yet to meet a women who truly enjoys looking at or interacting with her own genitalia. Even masturbation is cloaked in shame and secrecy - something that "nice girls" don't do.
I think the other piece is that people tend to defer to doctors as authority figures who know everything. It goes without saying that they would be better at inserting anything anywhere. I mean, we're not allowed to take our own temperature at the doctor's office. We forget that we are the consumer: we can refuse treatment, fire our doctors, etc.
So I say, take back your power! Remember that while a gynecologist may know more about vaginas in general, s/he doesn't know more about your vagina than you do.

No comments:

Post a Comment