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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?

NiceTabard Sun 12-May-13 15:13:42

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

YY well put.
Not by all HCPs obviously, but enough, and the general attitude seems to be that way.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 15:15:59

Thanks for the link Tabbard

fishybits Sun 12-May-13 15:18:46

I went into have my gallbladder removed wearing knickers and in full control of my bladder. I came round not wearing knickers and temporarily couldn't control my urine. I got nowhere with the hospital, PALS. Stonewalled at every turn so I gave up looking for answers and just accepted that I'd never know what had happened.

Some years later I became friends with a surgeon and asked him what possible reasons during general surgery would there be for me to lose my knickers. Apparently I probably had any number or students examining my vagina whilst under GA sad

I would never ever have consented to this. I am someone who is not in awe of the medical profession and who understands that it's my body whether it's surgery, pregnancy or giving birth. Nothing happens without my informed consent except apparently when under GA when any Tom, Dick or Harry can inspect the most intimate parts of my body angryangryangry

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 15:20:52

That's vile fishy

you don't have to be pregnant to have your wishes ignored and your body violated then... just a woman.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 15:37:25


Oh my gosh sad That is just awful. I am so sorry to hear this!

I can't even imagine how rough they would have been to cause you to lose control of your bladder!! [shocked]

How is this NOT objectification? They are viewing women as an inanimate object. Honestly, if any doctors or students who do this sort of thing are reading this thread here's my message to them:

If this is not a big deal and you use the old "how will they learn" argument, then I have a suggestion. Why don't you people practice on each other? Why not nominate yourselves or your wives/daughters etc to be practice dummies for students?

fishybits Sun 12-May-13 16:49:53

I would love for my surgeon friend (now a consultant) to have been winding me up but I don't think he was. I dated a med student for about a year (18 years ago) and he said that they did examine each other. I think it was the anus and rectum of one of his classmates that he examined. Things may have changed with the students but my surgery was early 2008 so not that long ago.

I did give permission in 2007 for students to examine my uterus during surgery to remove cysts and endometriosis tissue. That was informed consent and they had my blessing. The more knowledge gleaned about endometriosis the better. But I did not give consent to have my vagina examined during the gallbladder removal, the subject wasn't even raised and why would it be.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 17:06:09

I do think they should stick to examining each other and the patients who choose to give them permission. Examining women who haven't consented or coercing women into agreeing to the examination is just unethical.

HullMum Sun 12-May-13 21:36:18

This is vile and misogyny is "our culture" in every country unfortunately. How fucking disgusting, I am struggling to see how this does not count as sexual assault. Letting a stranger touch your vagina and cause you potentially unknown harm. angry

I know so many people with horrible birth stories that nothing surprises me regarding the medical community and it's treatment of women anymore.

HullMum Sun 12-May-13 21:40:12

From a practical perspective (ignoring the huge ethical issue) if a person wakes up and something has gone wrong the doctor who performed the surgery wil have it come back on them.

I'm shocked the author needed his little brother to question the ethical side for his to realise it was an assault as well.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 21:46:01

^ It ^is sexual assault. People throw rocks at me when I talk about medical rape or birth rape, but I think these terms are legitimate.

Especially since nowadays more and more people are admitting that rape is not about sex, it's about power and control.

RiotsNotDiets Sun 12-May-13 21:47:44

Yes Swan birth rape is the perfect term for it.

BasilBabyEater Sun 12-May-13 22:04:24

I'm beginning to think there should be escorts at all times when women come into contact with HCP's. Some of these stories are horrifying.

lyndie Sun 12-May-13 22:19:47

Fishy I doubt you were sexually assaulted, and the anaesthetic and analgesia is probably the reason you couldn't control your bladder.

UK medical students must seek written permission from the patient to do an examination under anaesthetic. It has been so for a long time.

Medical practitioners examining someone without consent is battery and should be reported as such. A subtle difference is in an obstetric emergency but permission must be sought.

BlackSwan7 Sun 12-May-13 23:52:26


Honestly, you don't think that putting fingers, hands, instruments into a vulnerable woman's vagina without her consent is assault?? hmm

Like I said, rape is not about sex- it's about the abuse of power and the objectification of women. Viewing a woman as a practice board and abusing your power as a HCP by examining her intimately without her knowledge is most certainly assault.

In any country, not just the UK, medical students must seek permission before examining anyone and doctors must seek permission before performing a procedure. The gap between theory and practice is what this thread is addressing. They are not doing what they should do and are getting away with it.

BeehavingBaby Mon 13-May-13 00:09:04

I work in theatres often and also feel there could be an innocent explanation fishy - common to take a few hours to recover bladder control following abdominal surgery and they wouldn't send you to recovery with knickers covered in iodine and blood. Assume that is what Lyndie meant too - not that what your friend suggested would not represent assault.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Mon 13-May-13 02:54:40

Really shocking and terrifying stories sad

Am so sorry this happened to you, I'm sorry we live in a world where this is accepted or minimised.

fishybits Mon 13-May-13 06:56:59

The word "assault" hadn't entered my head.

I've had 5 GAs and this is the only one where I seemed to have lost temporary control of my bladder. I asked if a catheter has been fitted and was told no.

An innocent explanation would be lovely.

BlackSwan7 Tue 14-May-13 18:50:07


There is no way of knowing for sure what happened. I hope that it wasn't anything sinister but if it was what you said it might be, then I can assure you that qualifies as assault.

RootinTootin Wed 15-May-13 10:53:05

Feminists slagging the NHS. The very definition of irony.

RiotsNotDiets Wed 15-May-13 10:57:56

Should I be grateful that there were medical staff there to assault, abuse and dehumanise me Rootin?

RootinTootin Wed 15-May-13 13:23:31

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RiotsNotDiets Wed 15-May-13 13:34:06

Did you read my experience rootin? Do you think that it is acceptable that a doctor did not even acknowledge me, let alone explain what he wanted to do or ask for permission before forcibly invading my body for no genuine medical reason and ignoring me begging him to stop?

Do you think that it is ok that after this he asked his student if she 'wanted a go' on me, as if I was a medical dummy and that a whole room of people who were supposed to be taking care of me stood by and watched as I was violated and in agony?

Of course I am glad that there are trained medical staff available to women in the UK and that maternal/infant deaths are much less common now than they used to be, but that does not mean that I have to accept being treated like a worthless piece of meat and live the rest of my life suffering from PTSD in order to deserve to benefit from antenatal/delivery/postnatal care.

lottieandmia Wed 15-May-13 13:47:29

Gosh this thread has made me so sad and angry. Black Swan, thanks for posting the thread though - it is so important that people are informed about this. I had no idea it went on.

Riots - how unspeakably awful what you went through and fishybits. I just cannot believe this kind of thing happens. It's utterly disgusting.

lottieandmia Wed 15-May-13 13:50:30

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Lottapianos Wed 15-May-13 13:51:19

Am so shocked by these horrific stories. I am so sorry for all of you who have been assaulted in this way. In my mind there is no question, this is sexual assault and totally unjustifiable.

Rootin, please stop trying to silence women and prevent them from telling their stories. They are allowed to have feelings about these experiences even if you don't agree with them.

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