“Not that I’d ever get with someone who’d be like that… I mean, who I thought was… had a… std. Or something.”
My doctor gives a damn about my sex life. A damn. She does not care who or what goes into my body (much like you, dear reader, she gives not a damn). I am just a patient. A young patient who for some reason feels the need to make sure that she knows that I am not an “irresponsible floozy” as some staunch conservative would say. Point is: my doctor, luckily, is a good doctor because she doesn’t care who or what I am having (or not having) sex with. What she’s concerned about is what the chart is going to tell her.
“That’s nice” she mutters. Blasé, I’m sure she tells this to everyone who comes into her office. Why do I feel compelled to make sure my doctor, whose job it is to tell me if I am healthy, accept me without judge me and answer my questions “knows” that I am (for lack of a better word) cautious with my sex life? But it’s not even that- it’s making sure that my doctor knows that I have:
1. A litmus test– I select my partner based on facsimile and superficial readings and qualities, that in turn creates some sort of illusory “standard” that translates as “I am good, I am responsible, I am worthy of medical attention”
2. Guilt. I have maybe done something that I think has violated these “standards” and in turn, need her to tell me, to prove to me that I am still worthy. And that I can be shocked.
That’s right: I reserve the right to be shocked by any diagnosis that might render me “unworthy,” “irresponsible”… a floozy.
This is the opposite of why my doctor is there to begin with. But then if I think about it enough I realize that’s actually not true.
My doctor’s specialization was the result of a culture that needed to make, classify, understand the female body as an inherently separate entity. It needs a special doctor, with a special eye and special tools. Tools that look like something used by aliens that are going to auction my clitoris at the space equivalent of Christie’s or Sotheby’s no less. My point here is that although I’m grateful that there is an acknowledgment of the female reproductive system, the rhetoric of a visit to the doctor’s office is infused with shame and the procedures are often equipped with images associated with debasement and fear and abject horror. My sexuality and my body will in some way be commodified, despite whether or not the participant (patient here) is unwilling or if the doctor is intending.
And it became a much larger health issue. I went through and burned through many a binge drink and wasn’t really concerned about the relationships I was having with myself and my partner. I always felt so nervous before an appointment and so devastated afterward.I was constantly freaked out by it… and “being” what I was afraid my doctor was thinking.
Thing is, my doctor wasn’t thinking it. I was. I was telling myself that I was a drunken floozy and I was the one wrecking my mental, physical and sexual health because I was too afraid to admit that I’d invested so much of how I value myself into things and people I knew I probably didn’t want to.My doctor was there to do her job and I refused to accept that I had to revaluate the way I thought about my health. There’s a lot of “I”s in here and please forgive it. But, let me make it clear that in no way do I regret this experience. I learned what I like and what I don’t like,and what I want to change. And, in no way do I consider myself a slut, so if you’re feeling judgey you can take it somewhere else because you’ve been reading something else. Here is my idea on why we need to change it: health is important and we need a healthy way to educate people about health.
1. The concept of sluthood is destructive in more that the obvious ways. Since I’m talking about health here, I’m not going to repeat what everyone else on this blog has already masterfully pinpointed. Calling or categorizing people as sluts damages mental and physical health. It contributes to feels that are icky and make people feel like they desrve to be abused.
2. Slut and victim blaming severely cripple the relationships you can forge with your doctor. They also contribute to patients not disclosing needed information which, in the case of rape,disease exposure, pregnancy and you name it are time sensitive. Oh, and you have the right to experience shock at anything. Or disappointment or relief. You get to feel.
3. Your doctor is this person who can help you and you can help you and your partner. That relationship needs to be well established, respected and maintained. But how can they help me, you asK? Ex: information about safe practices, STDs and STIs, medications, home remedies for swelling, figuring out what exactly is going on with your body, responses, things that may seem odd, pregnancy and OPTIONS for a variety of things.
4. Know what legal rights you have when it deals with your health:
You’ve discounted hysteria as a diagnosis. Good.
You’ve got Roe v. Wade. And Casey v. Planned Parenthood (which is somewhat dicey depending on how you look at it but helped reinforce the basic provisions of Roe) Good.
You’ve got Griswold v. Connecticut. Good.
And don’t forget Eisenstadt v. Baird. Really good.
And! Doctor- patient confidentiality. AND, and, and…even counseling for domestic violence.
All of these things are good. But they’re really not good enough. If we’re really serious about health, in particular here Women’s Health, we’ve got to be active about passing the legislation to protect it. Being afraid that a landmark case, or worse, becoming comfortable in the idea that there’s just no way someone’s going to overrule the provisions of Roe v.Wade for example are really dangerous, lazy and bad ideas.