Years ago a woman told me on air how embarrassed she found seeing advertisements for sanitary products on television. “I can’t look my son in the eye when they are going on” she said.
I said I thought that was a pity.
She didn’t understand.
“Because” I explained” it is likely your son is going to go out with a young woman who uses these things and you have a chance to establish straightforwardness, which is invaluable. Even if he doesn’t go out with girls, there will be women in his circle of acquaintance and acting as if this is something shameful just makes the already charged relationships between men and women more difficult.”I also remember being brought in to contribute to a programme to discuss some sexual research featured in a now defunct publication of irreproachable thoughtfulness called New Society. Once the programme was over, the presenter – a BBC radio “name” and am I glad I was never such a prune!) turned on me with
“Well, Anna, I hardly think that is what the Great British Public wants with its toast and marmalade !”
I said I had not chosen the material, I had been asked to comment on it and I had used the correct words in context.
So here we are, more than twenty years later, awash with every kind of sexual boast and detail, sending pictures of our parts to strangers, discussions on the art of sexting, fashion that leaves nothing to the imagination, everybody starring in their own movie and glued to the screen to see who will go furthest – and a significant number of young women can’t discuss anything “down there” with a doctor, still less use the word “vagina”.
They won’t initiate the subject for fear of having to have an examination.
Don’t like the doctor?
Don’t trust him or her as a profession?
What is going on?
If you thought you had been done on your phone deal or sold the wrong dress, you would stand up for yourself.
Why can’t you stand up for your body? It’s the only one you’ve got.
You know that old saying about “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”?
If you can use words properly or use the proper words to convey what is happening to you, the doctor can do his or her best to help you.
This is not a public relations exercise for the general practitioner. They are good and bad, like everybody else in the world, some more sympathetic than others. I particularly respected a woman many years ago who stopped me as I started to speak to ask if she might refer me to a colleague “because I am much better with broken bones than contraception”. Fair enough.
Where is it written that “everybody must know everything”. They can’t. And they don’t.
The problem with self diagnosis is you often don’t know what you are looking for or how to interpret it.
So the mass of information offered by the ever helpful search engines may be barking up the wrong tree. You won’t know if somebody doesn’t take a look – at you not the screen.
The consultant I saw about my troubles as couple of years ago told me that he had to break it to a young woman of 25 that nothing more could be done for her. Her cancer was inoperable. Because although ovarian cancer is known as a disease of older women, young women get it too but they would rather turn to the screen and the search engines than get up close and personal with a physician.
I had a lot of childhood illness and a gynaecological history like the Hundred Years’ War. I learned directly that not every doctor was as bright or caring as others.
I spent a lifetime on air encouraging people to go and see somebody – a real somebody, face to face, even the wrong somebody (it’s a start) – because nobody can prescribe or help you till they have seen you and yes, that may involve an examination and you may be embarrassed.
There is no substitute.
Unlike cancer, embarrassment doesn’t kill you.
Use the words and live
My thoughts about this are, to some people ( not myself, I would consult the Doc) are that once the doctor has diagnosed the problem you are then stuck with it, whereas searching on line you have the option to talk yourself out of any of the symptoms. None of us really wants to here the worst news, I think searching on line for a medical condition is very dangerous.
Coming across this, a couple of years after it’s been written, and I’d like to comment.
All the “stuff”, the sexting, pics, godawful programmes of people going at it for the cameras – isn’t the whole shebang depersonalised, and isn’t that wherein lies the difference?
While everybody is doing it, the embarrassment is less, if any. Any moments of shame watered down by the public consciousness, and besides, isn’t this the new rite of passage for a young woman?
Yet on the topic of examinations “down there” (more depersonalising?), how many of our young females are in contact with cancer? Was 1 in 3, now it’s 1 in 2. Highest rates ever, and people still equate cancer with a death sentence, so there is more than a little reluctance to go.
Let’s also use the cervical smear as example. Although girls in their teens can get it, the medical profession doesn’t allow smears until age 25 – by which point, many (most?) women have been sexually active for years! Are smears talked about in schools? Not sure, but I think not. Given the discrepancies, is it any wonder women avoid like this?
I’m in my fifties, I’ve had four daughters. I came from the era of hushed tones re periods, awful, cringeworthy books on sex education. I now watch horrified as the Geordie Shore et all bunch shag each other at the drop of a pair of pants. Are they worried about STD’s? I dunno, but they should be. Are they worried about cervical cancer? Why should they be, the BMA doesn’t feel that way! If we want our women to be health conscious, talk. Talk in schools, talk at home. Raise awareness of HPV, how many adults, the 8 of 10 it affects. Remove the stigma. Break the barriers.