2:37 am - 06/30/2009

How to Make your Pelvic Exam Not Suck

A friend posted this article on Facebook yesterday, and I wanted to share. It's a really great article, and hopefully can help people here.

[Edit: A lot of people have commented on the language in this article. While the tone may be off-putting to some, it's also geared towards an audience that is inclusive of transmen who may be less comfortable with medical terminology used for female bodies. Check out this excellent comment for more details.]

How to make your pelvic exam not suck
-Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

I’m a teacher at Pussy School, and I love my job! Okay, it’s not my official work title- but I am an educator with Project Prepare, one of a network of “gynecological teaching associations.” I have the most amazing, well-paid job teaching med students and doctors how to give pelvic exams that are pain-free, empowering and respectful of women’s and trans bodies and trauma histories. Emerging from the second wave feminist health care movement of the 70s, GTAs were started by dedicated feminists and lezzies who were appalled at the shitty standards of care given by most gynecologists, and the fact that back in the day, most med students learned how to give pelvics either on rubber models of the pussy (which can’t really say, “Ow, no, stop,”) or (even worse) on anesthetized surgery patients in teaching hospitals (who also are not awake women and trans people who talk back and have needs.)

In response, GTAs teach med students and medical professionals how to give pain-free pelvic exams in an empowering, respectful way. We are the most crazily empowered patients these students will ever meet- I get paid $75 an hour to be incredibly bossy, tell them they’re doing it wrong and reward them when they’re doing right. As such, I have a grip of tips to make your pap smear much better than the tension ridden, gross experience it may have been in the past. Read on:

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atalanta0jess 30th-Jun-2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
I really really really wish that she hadn't made it seem so unimportant to get follow up care if you have an abnormal pap smear. Follow up care is what keeps people from dying of cervical cancer. Sure, quit smoking, but also get your pap a month - it could save your life.
marionravenwood 1st-Jul-2009 07:43 am (UTC)
Yes--what's the point of a pap test if you don't follow up an abnormal result? I mean, I'm a big advocate of "watchful waiting," but that means "get another pap in 6 months rather than going straight to coploscopy." If the results don't matter to you, why get a pap test at all?
atalanta0jess 1st-Jul-2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
julieghoulie 30th-Jun-2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this article a lot. I prefer the language and the tone, quite possibly because when I was young, this was the type of language that reached me. I especially like the feminist message from this article.
eli_artemisia 30th-Jun-2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this! I found it really helpful.
amphibian23 30th-Jun-2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
I had no problem with this writer's language and was impressed by the attempt to be queer-inclusive. I did scroll as soon as I saw the words "alternative medicine" though, I guess I'm just too enamoured with the Man.
mercurychaos 30th-Jun-2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
What is "jam"? I assume it refers to the genitalia but I have never heard it used before, anywhere.
tyrsalvia 30th-Jun-2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
It looks like the author of this article has tried to coin that term for transmen's vaginas, in a way that's kind of offended a lot of people. This post got cross posted over in ftm, and there's some discussion about it over there:


Edited at 2009-06-30 10:14 pm (UTC)
bettymonroe_ 1st-Jul-2009 01:17 am (UTC)
I really liked this article. It reminds me (not in language but more in informational content) of Cunt: a Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio.

I don't assume that it's "trying too hard". It seemed possible to me this is the author's general use of slang and language.

I don't have any problem with any of the terms used, and I really wish people would stop giving them so much power!
quit 1st-Jul-2009 01:43 am (UTC)
I found it condescending and offensive, personally. And I fail to see how using such childish language makes it more inclusive. The first line about teaching at "pussy school" turned me off so much I had a hard time finishing the article. Personally, words like "pussy," "cunt," and "cock" have a sexual connotation to me, and sexualizing a pelvic exam? Uh, no.
Interesting approach I guess, but it just seems gross and unprofessional to me.
anacas 1st-Jul-2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
The more "professional" terms can also feel pathologizing/triggering to some people, and you'll notice the article specifically says they encourage medical practitioners to use neutral language like "genitals." Nowhere does it say a doctor or NP should be talking about a patient's pussy or cunt.

The emphasis is on finding terminology that works for you, and the importance of practitioners using language that respects people's preferences. If you like having your genitals referred to as vagina, vulva, labia, clitoris, etc., more power to you. Some of us don't, and it's not childish.
spinsterkitten 1st-Jul-2009 02:56 am (UTC)
While the language isn't my cup-o-tea, I understand it's use. As a student preparing to go into sex counseling, I would prefer more anatomically-correct terminology. But I also understand how a transmasculine person would find this a good read as well.

The information itself is good. I finally found a gyno that makes me feel comfortable and I feel really respects and listens to me. I can understand how scary a pelvic exam can be to a newcomer.

Edited at 2009-07-01 02:56 am (UTC)
pariker 1st-Jul-2009 06:05 am (UTC)
I thought the language was fine (made me chuckle at times, actually), and made reading about having my ladybits poked at a little more bearable. Kudos to the author.
renee_de_la_mer 1st-Jul-2009 07:18 am (UTC)
This. It seems that whether or not I object to the unprofessional language is irrelevant in the face of the good that same language could do to reach someone who didn't know that it is valid and okay to feel not-okay with the "standard" pap smear/pelvic exam procedure, or to ask the examiner to accomodate hir needs.

Also, !YES! to the Cytobrush for the pap! I just had my first one used today, and given that the awful little fucking spatula made me cry the last time I had a smear done, it was elating to have fifteen minutes of mild cramps and then done.
xhallucinationx 2nd-Jul-2009 06:38 am (UTC)
A few people are saying they were annoyed by talking about "the Man", so here's my take: I thought that was a way someone was psyching hirself up. Sometimes making something uncomfortable into a confrontation or contest to be won can make it easier to deal with.

Otherwise, I'm going to defer my opinion to that of the guys over at ftm.
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