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HCPs also objectify female bodies

(85 Posts)
BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 13:01:23

Some of you might have heard that medical students are brought in to practice pelvic exams on women who have been put under for a surgery without the woman's knowledge or consent.

How do you feel about this? I am personally horrified and absolutely disgusted. I know that our culture objectifies women and their bodies, but we rarely refer to doctors while talking about objectification. I think it's time we did.

Viewing a female body as something to "practice" a pelvic exam on without even seeking the lady's permission is the worst form of objectification. I do understand that medical students need to learn, and I am sure that many women would be happy to volunteer to help them out. But taking advantage of a vulnerable woman like that is just so unethical!

They are just looking at her as a vagina, uterus and set of ovaries they need to "learn" instead of a living breathing person with feelings, modesty and rights.

This IMO is just another aspect of the obstetric set up as it is which is aimed at disempowering women. It's shocking how little the rights of women are taken into account when it comes to things like childbirth and abortion, and this mindset is a part of that.

Would I be unreasonable to say this is comparable with date drug rape? I mean, rape is rarely about sex. It's usually about power and misogyny. Isn't this a way by which medical professionals are abusing their power by taking advantage of vulnerable women?

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 13:04:16

It isn't just unconscious women who are abused.

I remember when my BFF had her baby. She had written explicitly in her birth plan "No forceps, no students". Unsurprisingly, they used forceps and they allowed ten students in to observe despite her express refusal to consent to either. She had specifically said she did not want a mid-high forceps delivery and would like to proceed straight to a c-section should the need arise. They completely ignored her and said they had to do a forceps because they wasn't enough time for a c-section. This would have almost been reasonable however, they prepped her for a c-section anyway and then the consultant spent double the normal time to perform the forceps delivery because he was explaining things to ten students at the same time. Even a nurse commented later that a c-section would have been much faster and that this consultant had been keen on his students observing a forceps delivery. So essentially he used her a guinea pig because he wanted his students to observe a forceps delivery. yes, this actually happens and the thing is we are not being able to do fuck all about it. angry

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:01:44

Anyone had a similar experience? Do you think the medical community contributes to rape culture?

scaevola Sun 12-May-13 14:09:43

The first link is to operations in Canada and explicitly states the situation in other countries (including UK) is different. It might be better to seek views on a Canadian parenting site as there'll be many more women there affected (or seeing effects on wider medical attitudes) than here on a mainly UK site.

The student example would not happen in UK either.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:13:19

The student example is from the UK. It was a teaching hospital in England which subjected my friend to this treatment.

I am aware that unconscious women are not subjected to practice pelvic exams in the UK (at least I hope not), but is this forum only for what happens to women in the UK hmm.

Haven't there been discussion on the condition of Afghan women or the misogyny of the Republican party?

Feminism isn't specific to countries. Women's rights are a global issue.

scaevola Sun 12-May-13 14:19:30

Then she should complain to PCT and onwards - this is a major breach and simply shouldn't be happening. No patient should suffer low quality care which breaches normal standards.

I suggested a Canadian site because you were asking for views on how the first example fitted "our culture" and I took that to mean the culture in which that type of abuse was happening.

kickassangel Sun 12-May-13 14:29:01

I once consented to a student helping with an internal exam. When going through fertility treatment.

I was fine with it until the doctor said the words "push as hard as you like, the patient won't be hurt" shock

Now, the patient had a name, was conscious and right there, and although no damage was done, could very much feel pain.

I realized right then that the doctor was seeing me just as a practice dummy, not a person.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:30:05

She did complain to the PCT. Unfortunately taking action against the NHS isn't as easy as one would hope. However, I used that example as an illustration and I don't want to digress with a discussion on how we can take on the NHS for their multiple cock-ups.

"Our culture" is a broad reference to the global culture of misogyny which exists in every country (albeit at different levels). Rape culture may be more prevalent in say India, but it is still relevant in the UK as well.
Women's rights are being abused in every culture and every country, even if it manifests itself in a different way. I don't like to be nationalist when discussing feminism.

Anyway, I was asking for opinions and you don't have to be Canadian to offer one.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 14:32:31

Yes, I was assaulted by a doctor and his student, I was in stirrups, an hour into pushing and exhausted, so unable to move or defend myself.
The head was crowning when the doctor walked in, didn't introduce himself, explain what he wanted to do or ask my permission, in fact he didn't even acknowledge me just went straight ahead and forced his hand into my vagina.

It was excruciating, far more painful than actually giving birth.

After what seemed like hours of me screaming and begging him to stop, and every fucker in the room completely ignoring me he turned to who I presume was his student and said, "do you want a go?" and the assault was repeated.

Eventually they had finished with me and the doctor told the student she could stay and watch if she wanted and left the room.

When they handed me my daughter I didn't feel the warm rush of love I had been waiting for, I felt cold and empty. It took me weeks to come out of the bleary daze the assault left me in and to feel love for her.

I still have nightmares reliving it more than 2 years later and will never have another child as I am not willing to leave myself vulnerable to this happening again.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:32:42

kickassangel Exactly! They view us as practice dummies and not as people. How is that better than the man who views women as breasts and a vagina for his personal gratification? It isn't. Both cases are objectification and I don't see how one can be excused because the perpetrator in one case has a medical degree.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 14:33:17

oh, and I'm in the UK

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:34:59


I am so sorry to hear about what you went through. It is appalling and horrifying. There aren't enough words to express how sorry and angry I am on your behalf.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 14:39:30

thanks swan

another interesting(?) aspect to it is that people do not want to hear about it in RL. I tried talking about it in baby groups and just got "oh well, forget about it, you should just be glad you have a healthy baby"

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:47:32

^^ People don't want to hear about it because they still feel women are incubators. As long as the baby is fine, the physical and emotional impact on a woman is irrelevant.

That is partly why doctors feel they can get away with this. They think they're doing us a favour by "giving" us a healthy baby (I am doubtful of how many times it is actually something they should get credit for), and we should be willing to put up with anything in return. I suppose allowing a student to examine you was your "payment" for the healthy baby. angry

Primrose123 Sun 12-May-13 14:47:58

Riots, a similar thing happened to me, except it was a midwife. She waited for my DH to leave the room to telephone our family, and said, "Right, I'm going to examine you now." She had been unable to do an internal exam, for some reason it had all suddenly become terribly painful, so she waited until DH wasn't there. If he had been there, her would have stopped her. It was the most painful thing ever. She then laughed at me when I started to cry.

Just like you, I felt cold and empty, and didn't bond with my DD for weeks. I felt very depressed for months, and feel as if that incident might have caused it.

When I had my second baby, I asked my consultant for a C-section, and had it. It was wonderful, and I recovered very quickly from it. It took months to recover from the birth of my first baby.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 14:50:14


Sorry to hear about your first experience and I am glad the second one was better. smile

You are lucky you were allowed a c-section, this is a choice many women are battling for.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 14:58:12

What a cow primrose

Did you ever complain? I have started a letter a few times but each time it has reduced me to a gibbering wreck as I KNOW it won't come to anything and my obvious lack of power will make me feel worse. There was no mention of it in the notes so the hospital can easily deny it. Plus they have since become 'baby friendly' so would probably just say they've already improved their services.

NiceTabard Sun 12-May-13 15:00:01

What horrifying stories.

Is it possible to complain about this treatment, did you complain at the time?

I had a bloody awful midwife (nothing like your stories though) and I wouldn't have said anything so I know it is hard to pipe up, but these stories are so horrendous would it be possible to complain?

Is it not assault if a HCP does something like this? (genuine question)

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 15:01:38

I think it's medical assault.

scaevola Sun 12-May-13 15:03:25

I suggested seeking Canadian views because women there are in a system which says it's OK. They would have a different take on it.

Here in UK the system doesn't say it's OK and doesn't permit this, and there are means of redress even if they are slow to work through. And of course there are individuals who through incompetence (and I consider poor attitude a form of incompetence) give truly dreadful care.

The laughing MW is appalling.

And I have received suboptimal nursing 'care' with a sneery sarcastic remark thrown in for good measure. But I attribute this to one inadequate person, and not representative of nurses or their culture.

Arseface Sun 12-May-13 15:05:27

Riots, Primrose I had the same with my DTs. Justification was that midwife panicked about me haemorrhaging when she saw blood in the amniotic fluid. It was after the DTs were born and DH had stepped into the side room to take them from the pads so he wasn't there to stop her. There were loads of people in the room and none of them would meet my eye as I asked, demanded then begged her to stop. Obstetrician finally looked up from the floor and told her there was no need for any further intervention. Was left horribly bruised and pooing blood for weeks after.
I had agreed to being prepped for surgery and delivering in theatre as a condition of being allowed to try and deliver the twins naturally. Didn't want to have my feet in stirrups but got railroaded into it at the last minute. Will never let myself be that vulnerable again.

NiceTabard Sun 12-May-13 15:05:57

riots I am not surprised you find it hard to write that complaint.

Have people heard of the birth trauma association who are a charity to help people who have had horrendous experiences. If anyone wants to talk stuff through they might be useful smile

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 15:08:33


Well, the system in UK is permitting it because it's happening. The Canadian system doesn't exactly say that this is acceptable but it still happens behind the scenes. I'm sure you realise that no system puts it down on paper that performing procedures without consent is OK. hmm That disturbing fact is that it is still happening.

And I wasn't talking about the culture of nurses, I made it quite clear I was referring to the culture of misogyny and objectification which is all pervasive.

BTW means of redress are useless. The emotional and physical damage has been done and can't be undone. I'd rather work towards a system where this sort of thing didn't happen rather than spending hours talking about what the redressal should be if it does happen.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 15:08:57

scaevola my experience happened in a room full of trained medical staff. there were around six of them. Not one of them challenged the doctor or even attempted to comfort me during or after.

Their silence and inaction made them complicit in assaulting me and showed that they didn't see anything wrong with it.

I think that in the medical culture in the UK, pregnant and labouring women are seen as nothing more than vessels.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 15:11:59


I am sorry about your experience.

I find it shocking that women need "permission" to deliver their twins naturally and those who choose to do so have "conditions" placed before them. It is your bloody choice to deliver however YOU want.

The same way, I find it shocking when women are denied epidurals and c-sections. It is every woman's right to make an informed choice about childbirth.

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