Author: has written 5299 posts for this blog.

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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82 Responses

    DEAF FEMINIST PUNK!!! June 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm |

    WOW. I had no idea why homebirth is such an important issue for many women, and that it has a link to rape/sexual assault. I thought that it had something to do with tradition and culture, but I’m totally wrong about that.

    I once had a male doctor who made me really uncomfortable and he would grab my belly and rub it or rub my legs. This happened a few times at the doctor’s office when I was a teenager and I often dreaded going to his office. So I decided to switch doctors and got a female doctor, who was way cooler, not as weird, and respected my space.

    Uhhh… speaking of male OB-GYN doctors… I just don’t get why there’s male gynecoalogists (sp??). I’m sorry, but I don’t think a man will understand what having a vagina is like. That’s why I’ll stick to having female doctors.

  2. DAS
    DAS June 19, 2008 at 5:06 pm |

    I, for one, would be nervous about seeking the advice of this Dr. Crippen as he and his friends seem to have reading comprehension problems:


    I had no anger towards the doctor, only myself.


    The psychological issues became apparent then and, therefore, it must have been the doctor’s fault.

    It isn’t at all surprising that a victim of sexual-based trauma would have special problems with OB-Gyn exams and even more so child-birth. A physician, as a healer, ought to be sensative to that. Someone who doesn’t understand why, perhaps, a victim of sexual trauma would want to have a traumatic thing like childbirth occur in a comfort zone like a home, is perhaps a little too dense to be trusted to figure out what ails his patients.

    Part of the issue is how we select people to get into medical school in the first place in this country. Judging by who did well in med school selections vs. who didn’t do well when I was an undergrad, the key difference was the amount of self-confidence the applicant had. This is not, per se, a bad thing. A physician has to inspire confidence that s/he knows what s/he is doing and hence that you, as a patient, are “in good hands”. But once you go to far down that road, you end up selecting more than your fair share of asshats.

    Anyway, whatever happened to simple “bedside manner”? I’m sure the “traditionalists”, though, will try to find a way to blame the decline of bedside manner on feminism …

  3. Lauren O
    Lauren O June 19, 2008 at 5:10 pm |

    I was recently assigned to write a feminist critique of British health care, and I specifically cited Dr. “Crippen” as an example of the misogyny that exists in some NHS caregivers. It makes me so mad that anyone takes him seriously when he’s relying completely on the same lazy tropes that have been used to express misogyny forever: hysterical, not a “real” feminist, obsessive.

    I also hate that he accuses Debs of not knowing about female anatomy, especially in relationship to the term “tilted uterus.” He says that everyone has a tilted uterus, but that most are tilted one way, and some are tilted the other way. That may be technically true, but gynecology refers to the minority as tilted. I have always been told I have a tilted uterus, never that I “have a uterus that is tilted in a way that most uteri are not tilted” or something. It’s shorthand, and for “Crippen” to accuse Debs of not understanding female anatomy because of that is annoying as hell.

  4. zingerella
    zingerella June 19, 2008 at 5:14 pm |

    I think that some women prefer homebirth because they feel more in control, and that may have something to do with previous sexual trauma. Some women want to feel more in control for other reasons. Some women just like their homes better than hospitals. So, DFP!, I don’t think you were necessarily totally wrong.

    I had a male gynecologist. I was initially squicked out about it, but then I was like, “well, I have this Thing* on my girly bits and I want someone to look at it, and he’ll know what to do about it,” and it was fine. He looked at my Thing, and told me that it would need surgery, and told me about the process (he drew a picture), and I agreed, and we booked the surgery, and he did it, and that was fine. He didn’t need to understand what having a vagina was like from experience to know what to do about the Thing on mine, or to know that the Thing was not something that should be there. Any more than, say, and oncologist needs to have had cancer to know about treating cancer or an occupational therapist needs to have experienced physical disability to have access to strategies for accommodating disabilities.

    He was an older man, and I think, when he trained, there were fewer women in medicine, in general, and it was considered perfectly normal for men to go into OB-GYN. I know some men wind up there because they like performing deliveries. I’m not saying that I might not have felt a bit more comfortable with a female gynecologist, but this one did his job, and I wasn’t UNcomfortable with him.

    * not a pregnancy.

  5. melle
    melle June 19, 2008 at 5:22 pm |

    Incredible. Infuriating. I’m kind of at a loss for words as to the doctor and his attitudes. There is such a lack of connection with patients displayed by a lot of people in the health care system. By no means am I suggesting that most doctors fall into this category, but I would think that there would be a higher percentage of people in health care that are more sensitive than the average person – yet I don’t think that’s the case. I certainly have run into my share, and at this point I pretty much refuse to go to a male doctor. It’s just not worth the risk. Even as someone who hasn’t experienced rape, I can understand how someone who has would feel further assaulted (emotionally) by losing control in a medical situation. In any situation, really. If Dr. Crippen was really concerned about the health of these women he would focus rather on finding ways to make the hospital experience better.

    On a personal note, this reminds me of my mother’s experience when I was born. She was in labor for nearly 48 hours. The doctor gave her an epidural and left her for hours at a time – in the stirrups – occasionally coming in to check her dilation, and on some occasions he sent in an orderly to check it (yes, an orderly).

  6. Emily
    Emily June 19, 2008 at 5:29 pm |

    I think having an object in your vagina when you have specifically asked for it to be removed is pretty much the definition of rape. Sounds like what happened to Deb at her gynecologist.

  7. Fuzz
    Fuzz June 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm |

    Dr Crippen doesn’t write for the ‘NHS weblog’. He happens to be a doctor with a blog. Nothing on his blog should be taken as representing or speaking on behalf of the institution of the NHS.

  8. Jackie
    Jackie June 19, 2008 at 5:43 pm |

    Ok, just a thought but if women who have been sexually assaulted in some way do not feel comfortable giving birth in a hospital- than there is something wrong with the system for all women whether assaulted or not. Women should always be able to retain their dignity and atonomy.

  9. DAS
    DAS June 19, 2008 at 6:37 pm |

    if women who have been sexually assaulted in some way do not feel comfortable giving birth in a hospital- than there is something wrong with the system for all women whether assaulted or not. – Jackie

    Your conclusion may or may not be true, but it doesn’t follow from the premise. A woman might not feel comfortable giving birth anywhere but in the comforts of home simply because birthing can be a traumatic experience. I would imagine, although I cannot speak from experience, that birthing would be potentially more traumatic for those who have experience sexual assault, and hence the desire to just be at home is stronger. That doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with the system — even if the hospital was a dream hospital and perfect in every way, it still wouldn’t be home.

  10. Thene
    Thene June 19, 2008 at 6:47 pm |

    What Fuzz said; in conversation at Belledame’s place, it was questioned whether he was a real medical professional at all.

    Also, did you see Laura Q’s post about women’s bodies as an undiscovered country, colonised by male medics who’ve named various features of it after themselves? Good catalogue of stuff there.

  11. preying mantis
    preying mantis June 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm |

    “I had no idea why homebirth is such an important issue for many women, and that it has a link to rape/sexual assault. I thought that it had something to do with tradition and culture, but I’m totally wrong about that.”

    It’s a mixed bag. Having survived sexual assault ups the psychological and emotional ante when it comes to medical professionals who think it’s okay to mess around with a reproductive system without the owner’s permission, so it makes sense that you get a stronger reaction and representation from women who’ve suffered that sort of trauma. It’s hardly the case that all home-birthers have been sexually assaulted, though. You get reasons ranging from strictly practical–they can’t afford a hospital birth, the hospital in their particular area has a crap maternity ward–to things like a desire to undergo the process with only people of their choosing or a deep suspicion of hospitals’ tendency to come at birth with an assembly-line mentality.

    I personally want a homebirth if/when I have a baby due to a combination of the cost and the way a lot of hospitals seem to get a hammer in their hands and start seeing nails everywhere. If I need a drug or surgery, fine, I’ll go with it and thank my lucky stars that I have that option available to me in my time of need. But I don’t want to wind up with a c-section because some jackass decided that a little unconsented-to pitocin couldn’t hurt anything.

    There also seems to be this feeling that, so long as mom’s still breathing and fertile at the end of it, any birth that ends in a healthy baby went perfectly and unquestionably well. Midwives and doctors who’ll do homebirths tend to at least acknowledge that the mother going through a lot of completely unnecessary pain and trauma during the delivery is a Bad Thing To Be Avoided.

  12. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne June 19, 2008 at 7:08 pm |

    “Why is there such a ferocious insistence that it was the childbirth experience that caused the PTSD and not the previous sexual assault?”

    This is what makes me question if this guy is a doctor at all. Has he never even heard of PTSD triggers? I’m not a doctor, but, geez, I’ve seen episodes of “China Beach” and I know that PTSD can be triggered by things that are not directly related to the original trauma.

    Although I’ve had good male doctors, I’ve pretty much adopted a policy of going to female doctors (usually Asian female doctors). I just seem to have better luck with them.

    Oh, and when I said “ouch!” during my most recent exam, my doctor said, “Oh, sorry” and stopped what she was doing until I relaxed again. Really, it’s not that complicated.

  13. Leah
    Leah June 19, 2008 at 7:11 pm |

    How much do you want to bet “Dr” Crippen would never, ever hold down a male patient during a prostate exam, continue the exam, despite the patient saying “stop” and “that hurts”. How much you want to bet that he would find that outrageous?

    What about the right to refuse medical care, “doctor”? What about the right not to have objects inside your sexual organs when you don’t want them there?

    By the LAW, the LEGAL DEFINITION, “doctor”, what happened to Deb was RAPE. And you’d better read up on that law before you touch another patient’s sexual organs.

  14. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne June 19, 2008 at 7:27 pm |

    Oh, and it’s pretty creepy that the guy refers to himself as “Dr. Crippen” given why that name is so infamous in England. He’s basically calling himself Dr. Ted Bundy.

  15. akeeyu
    akeeyu June 19, 2008 at 7:28 pm |

    What a fucking prick.

    One of the times I was in the hospital for preterm labor, I had four doctors milling around, randomly inserting instruments into my chooch and then just LEAVING them there (very uncomfortable, mind you) for long periods of time while they discussed my case, my body, the machine I was hooked up to, etc. It was not great.

    The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that the doctors involved WOULD stop pestering me when I told them to. It matters, you know? Consent MATTERS, whether it’s in a medical setting or not. Why is this so hard for this doofus to understand?

    When they were done, I said to my husband “Gee, this whole experience would have been really unpleasant if I still had…uh…what’s the word? Dignity.”

  16. hypatia
    hypatia June 19, 2008 at 7:31 pm |

    I actually wrote about this about a month ago now. I thought that while it was unfair to label the doctors “rapists”, that is was surely still sexual assault even if they didn’t “mean it”.

    “Dr. Crippen” actually did reply.

    The link if you’re interested.

  17. Pansy P
    Pansy P June 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm |

    Dr. Crippen? Really? Like the homeopathic “doctor” Dr. Crippen that was hanged in London around the turn of the century for killing his wife? Is his website for real?

    I’m sure the names are a coincidence. But given the post you’ve quoted, it’s kind of an ironic coincidence.

  18. belledame222
    belledame222 June 19, 2008 at 7:36 pm |

    Oh, and it’s pretty creepy that the guy refers to himself as “Dr. Crippen” given why that name is so infamous in England. He’s basically calling himself Dr. Ted Bundy.

    I bin sayin’. Especially given the context.

    and yeah, he’s just a -real- prizewinner; amazingly, he’s (arguably) even more of a jerk in a later post on the subject of dementia. I reposted it here.

    What’s really awesome about the latter, besides his EPIC fuckwitaciousness (read it and boggle), the irony is, well.

    1) On the one hand, he sneers at the idea of midwives and DIY home births, wacky feminist crap, leave it to the professionals;

    2) otoh, taking care of an aging relative with dementia, a 24/7 job quite possibly for years and years, well, that belongs at home innit?

  19. akeeyu
    akeeyu June 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm |

    Also, Christ on a christmas tree, this is absurd.

    One of the commenters over there, a woman who says:

    “What is most important is that research shows that claims of “birth rape” and “birth trauma” cannot be confirmed by independent observers. That’s because it exists only in the minds of women, NOT in reality.”

    …has a blog called (I shit you not) “Treat Me With Respect” in which she talks about the need for doctors to treat patients with respect.

    Um…I believe this is a case of ‘Physician, fuck (heal) thyself’??

  20. belledame222
    belledame222 June 19, 2008 at 8:13 pm |

    Yeah, they’re big on “objective reality” over there. for instance, -objectively- speaking, the assertion that one’s medical trauma was rape or even rape-like is very Offensive to, well, people like Dr. Creepo. -nods-

    also comments to the effect of, this wackiness was brought to you by the same lunatic fringe who brought the absurd concept of “marital rape” to our poor legal system and menfolk (I paraphrase, but not my much).

  21. Katherine Kramer
    Katherine Kramer June 19, 2008 at 8:19 pm |

    I’m an OB/GYN physician (and also a survivor) and I make sure my patients know what is going on at all times, what I’m going to do and am totally open and upfront with patients. I’ve noticed that a lot of physicians (especially some men) are insensitive to what the patient is going through and tend to just see people as “patients” without dignity. Leaving the patient uncovered after a vaginal exam, not talking to the patient and explaining things, not stopping procedures when consent is expresly withdrawn, etc.
    In my opinion, when consent is withdrawn, I think it could be considered an assault.

  22. Renee
    Renee June 19, 2008 at 8:20 pm |

    Until I came across this story I didn’t have the language to express my experience with the birth of my first child. Doctors are taught to examine and treat the vagina and not the person. There is a disconnect that occurs presumably so that they can be professional. This disconnect is harmful to women in that it does not acknowledge our feelings.

  23. Jay
    Jay June 19, 2008 at 8:32 pm |

    I don’t even know where to start.

    I don’t need to get any more pissed off tonight so I won’t check out the Crippen blog, although I’m kind of relieved to find out that I’m not the only one who thought “he didn’t really choose that name, did he?”.

    Some medical procedures can’t be stopped in the middle without endangering the patient, but a pelvic exam does not fall into that category. I do routine office gynecology but I don’t have all the different sized speculums that a gyn has, so if someone tells me I’m hurting her, I stop and sometimes just cancel the exam and refer. If I can talk the woman through the pain with some relaxation breathing, I’ll continue, but if she wants me to stop, that’s that. Same with breast exams, or lung exams, or abdominal exams – I don’t force people to get undressed if they don’t want to, either. Simple, basic respect.

    Home births in a more complex issue, although I completely agree with Jill about the AMA’s most recent attempt to corner the market. I have never belonged to the AMA and I can’t imagine that I ever will. I fully support women who want to work with doulas and midwives. I think if docs want to compete with midwives, they need to learn what midwives know about really listening to and partnering with women. But I would discourage a friend or a patient from attempting a home birth, no matter how healthy the woman and how straightforward the pregnancy. I wouldn’t condemn her if she disagreed, but if asked for my opinion I’d suggest a midwife and a doula and an unmedicated birth in a hospital or at least a birthing center. BIrths can just go very bad very quickly, even in the best of situations.

    There’s no question that greed and misogyny have driven much of the medicalization of birthing over the last 200 years, and there are far too many unnecessary procedures and interventions, but there are also women and babies alive today who would have died if they’d attempted a home birth.

    Anne Clifton Fadiman has an epilogue to her wonderful book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down in which she describes how connected she became to Lao culture while she was writing. She rails against “western medicine” to a friend, who looks and her and says “Anne, western medicine saves lives”. At our best, we do save lives, and we’re not always the enemy.

  24. Poetry
    Poetry June 19, 2008 at 8:39 pm |

    Uhhh… speaking of male OB-GYN doctors… I just don’t get why there’s male gynecoalogists (sp??). I’m sorry, but I don’t think a man will understand what having a vagina is like. That’s why I’ll stick to having female doctors.

    @post #1: You’re making unfair assumptions here. I had a female gynecologist who had dreadful bedside manner. After she gave me my exam, while I was still in the stirrups, she said: “Oh, by the way, you have a beautiful cervix. It just felt absolutely wonderful!” I found that to be a mega creepy thing to say, and I’m not going back. Poor bedside manner is hardly limited to male gynecologists. I’d take any male doctor who treats me with respect and who knows what he’s doing over that lady. Here’s why there are male gynecologists: they want to help women. I think that’s a good enough reason to go into the field no matter what your gender.

  25. harlemjd
    harlemjd June 19, 2008 at 9:06 pm |

    Poetry – agreed. My first OB/GYN was a man, and he was great. Very professional, very considerate, listened, etc. I only left because I moved out of state. My second, a woman, was OK until I asked about birth control options and then she got horribly judgmental because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the pill. Who cares if she knows what it’s like to have a vagina if she thinks she always knows what’s best for mine.

  26. Kate
    Kate June 19, 2008 at 9:41 pm |

    I feel so lucky to have a GYN who specializes in trauma survivors. I saw her three times before she touched me. She never does anything with out telling me what it is she is doing. She always stops if I ask her to or even if it seems like I am disconnected from the experience or disassociated from my body. If she is going to do a procedure that cannot be stopped she tells me ahead of time, explains how long it will take and makes sure someone is with me to hold my hand. When the procedure is over she asks me if she can keep going or if I need a break.

    After a horrendous visit one time (because of my own PTSD stuff, not anything to do with the doctor) she even chatted with my therapist on the phone about how to make me more comfortable in the future.

    As a fat woman I love that when a procedure is difficult because of my size she will say something like, “this is complicated because of your anatomy; no judgement, I just want to let you know why things are happening.”

    Oh, and she always offers to let me see my cervix.

  27. belledame222
    belledame222 June 19, 2008 at 9:48 pm |

    How much do you want to bet “Dr” Crippen would never, ever hold down a male patient during a prostate exam, continue the exam, despite the patient saying “stop” and “that hurts”. How much you want to bet that he would find that outrageous?

    Not that he isn’t clearly, unquestionably a misogynist fuckpig, but to be fair, or something, there was also this charming post:

    David, a great friend of mine, has just left his job in histopathology at the age of 49. Having been doing the job for 26 years he had probably looked at and reported over half a million slides. Two years ago he correctly reported a prostate biopsy as showing cancer.

    Histopathology of the prostate gland

    The surgeon acted on the report and removed the patient’s prostate. David reported the slide correctly but it was the wrong slide. It had been mis-labelled by one of the technicians. David did not notice. He is in charge of the department. He was therefore responsible. He took the responsibility, and admitted the mistake. His defence organisation paid an agreed amount of damages to the patient who had had the unnecessary surgery.

    I do not condone the mistake. Nor does David. Now he has left medicine completely, not because of the mistake, but for other reasons. He was one of the most talented and outstanding histo-pathologists in the country. Is he missing the job? I asked. No, not at all. It is only now that he is out of medicine and relaxed that he realise how much pressure he was under; how badly he was treated by the NHS and by the government. More and more pressure was put on him by the government to increase throughput of the department whilst at the same time they reduced his staffing levels.

    Years of excellent work are ignored but let there be one mistake and there is no support from the hospital. No quarter is given by management or by the media.

    There are headlines today about the alleged misreporting of some mammograms in Manchester. A doctor has been suspended. The facts have yet to emerge but it seems that there has been a significant number of mistakes. Maybe there was too much pressure. Maybe the doctor cracked-up. The facts will emerge and, of course, whatever the mitigation, it should not happen.

    Nonetheless, when did you last see in the paper a headline saying:

    “British Breast Radiologists doing a wonderful job: last year they reported over two million mammograms with an error rate of less than 0.001 percent.”

    You did not. But they did.

    He’s awfully defensive about -something-, isn’t he? God only knows what his real story is.

  28. Wired For Noise » Blog Archive » The Outlaw Homebirthers

    […] to add this post by Jill. Not exactly on the AMA topic, but a good look at homebirth, choice, and women’s bodies: […]

  29. theobromophile
    theobromophile June 19, 2008 at 11:16 pm |


    A few links for you (here and here). Until recently, it was legal in Virginia for a medical team to practise gynaecological exams on women who were under anaesthesia. Women would often not find out until later that their bodies – and a very intimate part of their bodies – had been used my medical students during their rotations while they were sedated.

  30. TempAnon
    TempAnon June 19, 2008 at 11:17 pm |

    Jeez – the whole issue of medical rape aside, some birthing experiences can simply be traumatic in-and-of themselves.

    The aftereffects of my second birth were so traumatic that now, eight years later, my husband simply does not know what happened – I have never told him. Consent was never an issue, there was no time and I would have given consent anyway. It doesn’t matter. An emergency D&C with no anesthesia is traumatic. Severely traumatic. When I finally managed to tell a close friend (a chaplain) about it this spring I was literally sitting in my bedroom closet while on the phone, curled up into a little ball and shaking like a leaf.

    Take prior trauma, or consent issues, or loss of dignity or autonomy, or any of a host of other things to pregnancy and birth and it’s not surprising a callous or oblivious physician can cause major problems. What’s shocking is how callous and oblivious some of them are to what seems an obvious fact.

  31. Kyra
    Kyra June 19, 2008 at 11:29 pm |

    And now Dr. Crippen, who runs a large and widely-read blog, has made his point on the back of a woman who underwent an incredibly traumatizing event and was still strong enough to write about it

    Incredible. Infuriating. I’m kind of at a loss for words as to the doctor and his attitudes.

    I’m not.

    Dr. Crippen is a self-important, over-entitled, spectacularly deluded, sadistic disgrace to the medical community and humanity, and he’s an ape-felching, miswired, faecocephalitic douchebag—and anyone, him included, who combines that level of assholery with a position of authority over the people he so derides, can please go suck off a dead camel.

  32. Jenny
    Jenny June 19, 2008 at 11:36 pm |

    At the worst this doctor is an a-hole who should not be practicing and at best he’s just terrifically insensitive. PTSD can be triggered by many things and I’m fairly certain that having something painful that you can’t control being done to your vagina is a pretty major one. He can spout medical reasons why doctors do what they do all day long but common sense dictates that you understand these emotions are valid and common in assault victims.

  33. Two Cents: Modern Obstetrics and Gynecology « The Trial of Labor

    […] at 10:05 pm (advocacy, childbirth, empowerment) I happened upon an interesting self-ascribed feminist post about “medical rape” and the “medicalization of childbirth.”  […]

  34. Kate
    Kate June 20, 2008 at 3:09 am |

    I’ve been catching up on posts, and I just wanted to say thanks.

    Thanks for being a voice of reason. For acknowledging that you often don’t have the answer, or that your answer might not work all the time. That these issues are tricky and there are often massive grey areas – that even where they are black and white, there might not be an easy solution.

    Thanks for accepting that other people’s opinions and feelings are valid, even if you admit that you don’t think they are. That’s a hard line to walk, all the time, and I think you do it well. It’s a reminder that we all make judgements – and that’s ok. Just so long as we don’t act on them in a way that hurts someone else.

    Thanks for talking, for starting and continuing conversations, for mulling, for chewing things over. I am not kidding myself that we’ll ‘solve’ any of these problems – the big ones or the little ones – any time soon. But I know we’re all a step further along that road for teh conversation. In some ways, I think the conversation can be more important than a solution.


  35. piny
    piny June 20, 2008 at 4:15 am |

    Even if you accept Crippen’s argument–and I don’t: I’ve never heard of a doctor refusing to stop an exam because the patient was shrieking in pain, and I would complain about any doctor who treated me that way–it’s a really disgusting place and manner to air it. “Suck it, ladies! You’ve just been the victim of an unprovable crime!” It’s apparently an open question whether Debs’ doctor behaved inappropriately, and women wouldn’t already know that the deck is stacked against justice? Yeah, fuck you, BTK M.D.

    Here’s why there are male gynecologists: they want to help women. I think that’s a good enough reason to go into the field no matter what your gender.

    I agree with the basic point, that female doctors can be plenty disrespectful and inappropriate. Too, women aren’t exactly immune from a misogynistic professional culture. If female physicians and nurses are taught in training that people with vaginas are hysterical and childlike, then they’ll treat their patients that way, too. My worst two gynecologists were women; the best one was a woman; my current gyn is a man and neither awful nor spectacular. (But none of them ever complimented my junk.) Veteran male ob/gyns have recently written incisive pieces about how legislative control of women’s reproductive function leads to sepsis and death, and their critiques of the anti-choice movement have been completely feminist.

    Also, when this subject came up on the IBTP boards, and some commenters expressed suspicion of male gyns, someone pointed out that it’s a pretty sensible focus. Fewer people have brain tumors than yeast infections.

    But I think that this is one of the instances where a professional culture can select a cohort. If the industry adopts a Crippen-esque stance, and takes the position that female patients cannot be trusted, that doctors cannot be blamed, and finally that “medical rape” is a contradiction in terms because a patient has no bodily autonomy during a procedure, then it’s not unlikely that predators will see gynecology as a perfect fit. If, on the other hand, gynecologists are taught to respect women and told that a failure to do so will result in professional censure, then the profession will probably attract and keep people who want to do right by their patients. It’s a little like the “troubled teen” industry: if you take the position that the people in your care make shit up to attract attention, then abusers will want to work for you, because they will be safe.

  36. Sarah
    Sarah June 20, 2008 at 5:26 am |

    I’m actually quite pro-medicalised childbirth, it’s definitely something I’d want for myself. In fact I very strongly want to have a planned C-section rather than vaginal birth, this is for various reasons that I don’t want to go into detail about, but is related to sexual assault and bad experiences in the past. I’m glad this procedure, and epidurals, and all the medical interventions are available for those women who want and need them.

    But, I can’t stress too strongly how important I feel consent is. No one should be forced to accept medical treatment against their will, even if it’s ‘for their own good’, even if it’s to save their life. That to me is an absolutely basic human right, and it’s very telling that some people, including doctors, feel that right should be ignored if the patient is a woman, or in particular a pregnant or birthing woman. Whether they realise it or not, they are saying that a (pregnant) woman is not a full human being.

    I also hope ‘Dr Crippen’ is not a real physician. I would hope that it would go without saying for any doctor that consent is required for every procedure, and if the patient says ‘no’ or ‘stop’ then you listen to that! And that he can’t see how an experience like a painful vaginal examination could be triggering to a rape victim, or that the doctor is committing a similar assault if he ignores the patient’s repeated insistence that she’s in pain and wants him to stop. Whether or not there was a ‘medical reason’ for doing the examination in the first place is entirely beside the point.

  37. carson
    carson June 20, 2008 at 5:38 am |

    While I don’t think there’s a question that what happened to Debs was inexcusably wrong and a violation, I think the story raises an interesting question about the nature of rape: To what extent must the act be sexual on the part of the rapist? I firmly believe rape is about power, not about sex. Nevertheless, “rape” is usually used to describe cases where the rapist derives or is perceived as deriving sexual pleasure from the encounter (even if that sexual pleasure is derived from the exercise of power). It doesn’t seem like this was the case (though it may have been; who knows? perhaps only the asshole doctor). Though I am not AT ALL apologizing for or agreeing with what Dr. Crippen said, I do think the “date rape” analogy is pertinent, but in a different way: “Rape” has very particular connotations in our culture – these can be very useful in drawing attention to horrible wrongs. But it can also obfuscate and alienate – certainly there are cases that I would consider rape that the person who experiences it might not. Of course, just because something is a subjective experience, doesn’t mean (as Crippen alleges) whether it happened is impossible to determine. I do wish, though, that there were ways of talking about how *wrong* particular behaviors are with more nuance. Having sex with someone too drunk to consent is WRONG. Continuing a procedure when someone says no is WRONG. But is there something to be gained by introducing a broader vocabulary about individuals’ experiences? Could we make it easier to talk about Is there a way of portraying the absolute unacceptability of individuals’ behavior without a binary? Or is it likely to just enable a “gray area” view that is generally f***ed up and rape-apologist? I’m genuinely curious.

  38. carson
    carson June 20, 2008 at 5:40 am |

    Hit submit without completing a thought – should read (from fourth line down): “Could we make it easier to talk about violation for women who have experienced seriously shitty things by not automatically asking the question: Rape or Not? Is there a way…”

  39. Sarah
    Sarah June 20, 2008 at 5:53 am |

    And I think the most infuriating thing was that Dr Crippen (and others) refused to acknowledge that the argument Debs was making was not that the procedure was like rape because it hurt, but because it was done/continued without her consent. He seemed determined to believe that feminists were saying that every painful/uncomfortable/unpleasant experience a woman has is ‘rape’, which is of course nonsense, and no one was suggesting it.

    I don’t know why he is so obtuse, except that it gives him an opportunity to ridicule a woman like Debs without having to consider the possibility that she might have a point. Or maybe he has done such things in his past without realising why it was wrong, and it’s too difficult to admit to himself or others that he has done something very like rape, regardless of what terminology you use.

  40. Ellid
    Ellid June 20, 2008 at 7:26 am |

    The fact that “Dr. Crippen” uses a handle taken from a notorious murderer who killed and dismembered his wife really, really bothers me. Unconscious misogyny, perhaps?

  41. Pipkin
    Pipkin June 20, 2008 at 8:02 am |

    I’ve lived in the UK temporarily and specifically avoided gynecological treatments by the NHS because of horror stories I’d heard about painful ob-gyn exams and insensitive doctors. Something appears to be wrong in the UK with ob-gyn treatment.

  42. Jennifer-Ruth
    Jennifer-Ruth June 20, 2008 at 8:42 am |

    Pipkin – “Something appears to be wrong in the UK with ob-gyn treatment.”

    Well, I can only speak from my own experience, but all my ob-gyn experiences in the UK have been great (as great as they can, anyway). However, I have always been examined by women. I wonder if this makes a difference?

    I think the problem may not be with ob-gyn treatments but the general attitude of (mainly) male doctors to their female patients.

    Also, here is a post on the F-Word from Amity Reed about birth rape:

    and some posts in relation to Dr. Crippen:

  43. links for 2008-06-20 « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?

    […] Medical Rape and the Medicalization of Childbirth from Feministe […]

  44. Natalia
    Natalia June 20, 2008 at 10:09 am |

    Having read his blog and realized that this is definitely not a one-off, all I have to say is that Creepy Crippen is an epic jerk.

  45. Dr John Crippen
    Dr John Crippen June 20, 2008 at 10:24 am |

    The posts I have done on this have been misunderstood and misrepresented. The legal definition of rape in the UK concentrates on the penetration of orifices. The full horror of rape though is even worse, but for reasons that do not have full statutory recognition. The peculiar horror of rape is being subjected to a violent, non-consensual sexual act performed for the perverted sexual satisfaction of the perpetrator.

    If we start to broaden the definition to rape to include all sorts of other physical assaults then we devalue the word.

    I accept entirely that woman have had appalling experiences during childbirth and sometimes during other medical procedures. I do not underestimate the horror of these experiences. If the doctor or health care professional who is responsible for these experiences is a true rapist – in other words has physically assaulted women in a sexual manner for his own sexual gratification – then this is absolutely the worst possible kind of rape as it is rape carried out by abuse of the doctor/patient experience. The perpetrator should be locked up, and the key should be thrown away.

    If, however, there is no sexual motivation and no intent to perform a non-consensual sexual act on the patient, then it is not rape. That does not mean that there is not a criminal offence; there may well have been. And it may be a serious offence. But it is not rape in the commonsense meaning of the word.

    If you want to use the word rape to describe this sort of experience, so be it. But then we need to invent a new word for the more repugnant sexual offence of assaulting a woman for solely for your own perverse sexual gratification.


  46. juju
    juju June 20, 2008 at 10:32 am |

    @Kate #26

    I feel so lucky to have a GYN who specializes in trauma survivors.

    How would one go about finding an ob/gyn that specializes in working with patients who have PTSD?

  47. Olivia
    Olivia June 20, 2008 at 10:37 am |

    Uhhh… speaking of male OB-GYN doctors… I just don’t get why there’s male gynecoalogists (sp??). I’m sorry, but I don’t think a man will understand what having a vagina is like. That’s why I’ll stick to having female doctors.

    Same here. I did see a male doc once because my usual wasn’t available, and he didn’t make me uncomfortable. But, in general, I just don’t trust a male ob/gyn to understand or be able to empathize with medical issues that only women experience. I want a doc who knows what it’s like to be in those stirrups.

  48. belledame222
    belledame222 June 20, 2008 at 10:43 am |

    Kyra: marry me?

  49. roses
    roses June 20, 2008 at 11:25 am |

    John, you don’t get to tell rape victims what rape is or whether they’re diluting the word. If women who have been raped by a man are telling you having a medical object inserted into their vagina without their consent also feels like rape, then shut the fuck up and listen to them because they would know better than you would.

  50. emjaybee
    emjaybee June 20, 2008 at 11:31 am |

    Did not read all the responses, but let me tell you: I felt assaulted at my son’s birth. I was coerced into taking pitocin, refused the things (freedom to move,use the shower for pain relief, to eat, to be alone) that I had been told I would have, the dr. started cutting on me before I was numb when I did finally end up with a c/section–that bastard–and I had to scream, twice, to make him stop and wait for the fucking epidural to work.

    I am not a rape or assault survivor, but the first time I was examined afterwards, I had a classic survivor response-I leaped a mile, I was dreadfully afraid to be touched, my blood pressure went through the roof, I was in tears. I went through a deep depression afterwards. It was not just postpartum depression; it was a feeling of violation, fear, and self-hatred that my friends who are survivors tell me is very similar as their own feelings. It’s been two years, and yeah, I’m still too afraid to go back to an OB. That’s bad for my health, but I just can’t yet.

    Fuck that guy.

  51. belledame222
    belledame222 June 20, 2008 at 11:39 am |

    Ohhh, look what the cat drug in.

    Listen, you pompous gobshite, what is this “we” shit? “We” don’t need to do shit. -You- need to shut the fuck up and listen to what people are telling you about their own actual experiences. And if you’re not capable of doing the latter, as becomes increasingly supported by evidence, at least, as you so charmingly told yet another woman you don’t know from a hole in the ground when she was trying to get help, “then shut up.”

    And, yeah, since you’re here, what IS with the handle? -Is- that your name, or do you think that’s funny? If the latter, ffs, -why-?

  52. magikmama
    magikmama June 20, 2008 at 11:41 am |

    Dude – rape is putting something into someone else’s orifice without consent.

    That’s what happened to the lady, so she called it what it was.

    How about you undergo what she went through, and then you can come back and argue about whether or not it was sufficiently arousing enough to your assaulter to be a crime?

  53. belledame222
    belledame222 June 20, 2008 at 11:44 am |

    and BY the way: since when is -motivation- so all-fired important all of a sudden? Because before, you and your commenters were all like, o, we can’t rely on the woman’s -subjective experience,- just the facts ma’am, please.

    But now that we’re talking about HIS interior monologue, NOW it matters what was in his squishy little heart of hearts when he kept rooting around inside a woman on the medical table? Because of course there’s -no way- that -anyone- might -also- be sexualizing that, I mean, it’s not -supposed- to be sexualized, therefore of course it isn’t, and also the guy’s my friend and a PROFESSIONAL, QED. Fuck off.

  54. belledame222
    belledame222 June 20, 2008 at 11:53 am |

    and ALSO by the way, please explain how you are NOT conflating “real” aka “sexualized” situations which might lead to rape with a medical setting in this post:

    Imagine a large, well-furnished room. It is well lit, with no windows. It is soundproof. A psychological experiment is to be conducted. John, a twenty-one year old man, and Mary, a nineteen year old woman, are placed in the room and the door is closed. Eight hours later, the door is opened and John and Mary are interviewed separately and asked to describe what happened during the eight hours in the room. They both give honest and plausible accounts. At least, you think they are both honest but there is a problem. Their accounts are completely different. How do you establish who is telling the truth?

    It is not possible.

    Change the scenario a little. The room becomes a student bedsitter in a University Hall of Residence. John and Mary voluntarily enter the room together late at night after a party. They have both been drinking. The next morning, Mary leaves the room in tears and tells a friend that John made her have sex against her will. The friend calls the police. John is arrested. John agrees that they had sex, but says it was consensual. How do you establish who is telling the truth?

    It is not possible.

    The controversial, adversarial nature of rape cases is not helped by some of the more militant feminists. We looked recently at some of their writings on “obstetric rape”.

    I have never been raped, in the sense of that word as most people use it, so I can’t say, “It felt like rape”. But it certainly felt how I would imagine rape feels. And all the ingredients are there: man penetrating woman’s body, woman telling him to stop, man carrying on regardless…. (Debs)

    A woman who is raped while giving birth does not experience the assault in a way that fits neatly within the typical definitions we hold true in civilised society. A penis is usually nowhere to be found in the story and the perpetrator may not even possess one. But fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors… these are the tools of birth rape and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passer-by off the street and tied her up before having his way with her. (Amity)

    Sometimes, men get a very raw deal indeed.

    Gemma Gregory falsely accused seven different men of rape. Why did she not go to jail?

    It is not deemed politically correct to put the case of the male “victims” of rape and so it was good to see a courageous article by an American psychologist putting just such a case. The article is courageous because she is female…


    That’s your -real- beef here, isn’t it, John? And yeah, naturally you’d think Dr. Helen is “courageous.”

  55. Pipkin
    Pipkin June 20, 2008 at 12:09 pm |

    there is no sexual motivation and no intent to perform a non-consensual sexual act on the patient


    It is the LACK OF CONSENT ON THE PART OF THE VICTIM that defines rape, not the motivations or desires or feelings of the rapist. No one gives a damn about the motivations or desires or feelings about the sick fucks who rape people, except from an academic point of view, perhaps. If a person does not give, or withdraws, consent to having her/his sexual organs touched, she/he is being sexually assaulted. Did you just skip the part of med school where they taught that, “Dr.?”

    You are fucked in the head and I seriously hope you are not an actual doctor.

    What are you trying to excuse by coming up with this sick theory of justifying non-consensual acts based on rapists’ “motivation?”

  56. belledame222
    belledame222 June 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm |

    Dr Crippen killed Belle Elmore
    Ran away with Miss le Neve
    Right across the ocean blue
    Followed by Inspector Dew
    Ship’s ahoy, naughty boy!

  57. pinkphantasm
    pinkphantasm June 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm |

    But then we need to invent a new word for the more repugnant sexual offence of assaulting a woman for solely for your own perverse sexual gratification.

    I think that sexual gratification is not the only, or even primary, motivation for rape. It is really about power and hatred. So, from the point of view of the perpetrator, there is a difference between medical rape and ‘regular’ rape. The doctors in question are not hunting women to rape them for sport. Most doctors probably do what they do with, to some extent, the interests of the patient in mind.
    However, there may be no diffference between the two from the perspective of the patient. If patients are experiencing feeling of violation and a lack of autonomy and control over their bodies during gynecological procedures, they are experiencing assault. And, their experiences are legitimate.

  58. Leah
    Leah June 20, 2008 at 1:16 pm |

    It seems, Dr Crippen, that you do not own a dictionary.

    From Webster’s:

    “Main Entry: sexual assault
    Function: noun
    Date: 1971
    : illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority ”

    “Main Entry: 3rape
    Function: noun
    Date: 14th century
    1 : an act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force
    2 : unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent — compare sexual assault, statutory rape
    3 : an outrageous violation ”

    Notice neither definition requires for the attacker to recieve sexual gratification? However both definition requires “against the will” of the victim.

    It’s the ACT, not the INTENT.

  59. GroucheeAtheist
    GroucheeAtheist June 20, 2008 at 1:45 pm |

    Rape is horrifying and traumatic whether you knew your attacker or not, but I am so tired of the whole “it’s not like he was waiting in the bushes to rape women!” meme because, indeed, most rapists do not wait in the bushes and it doesn’t change the fact that they are still rapists. Most rapists know their victims. They are fathers, brothers, husbands, dates, and friends to their victims. Rarely are they strangers. Also, rape isn’t always violent and, again, that doesn’t make it better than violent rape. There is no “better” or “worse” rape.

  60. » links for 2008.06.20

    […] Medical Rape and the Medicalization of Childbirth This entry was written by quinn, posted on June 20, 2008 at 2:00 pm, filed under del and tagged toread. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed. « links for 2008.06.20 […]

  61. Leah
    Leah June 20, 2008 at 3:37 pm |

    I am so tired of the whole “it’s not like he was waiting in the bushes to rape women!” meme

    Or the “Well he didn’t intendto rape her so it wasn’t rape!” meme.

  62. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl June 20, 2008 at 3:55 pm |

    Rape. Histopathologist.

    Who cares about accurate definitions? Nice try though, John.

  63. Caroline
    Caroline June 20, 2008 at 4:33 pm |

    Dr. Crippen –

    “The posts I have done on this have been misunderstood and misrepresented.”
    – Yeah, and so was Debs’s post. A mixture of misrepresenting and a couple of callous attacks has also led her to make her blog private. Makes it easier for you, I guess. I mean, I’ve been through your comment threads on behalf of someone else – those comments were utterly disgusting. Try and think about that – someone who was coming to terms with a traumatic experience and sharing it with her relatively small audience and you and your readers swoop down upon her (and I hope she didn’t read that thread, but I suspect she did). All because you misrepresented her. But still, no harm done to you, eh?

    “If we start to broaden the definition to rape to include all sorts of other physical assaults then we devalue the word.”
    – I accept that legally she wasn’t raped. Thing is though, I don’t find that UK law wholly embraces women’s experience and I am more inclined to go with the common definition of rape to mean a violation. Debs was grossly violated by the doctor. And you’ve done fuck all to restore women’s faith in the medical profession. Furthermore you brushed aside her experience as though it was nothing and allowed a whole load of trolls to go mock and deride her (I mean Jesus, what the fuck was that “Rape Apologist” post about? It was foul and the comments on it were even worse.)

    “If the doctor or health care professional who is responsible for these experiences is a true rapist – in other words has physically assaulted women in a sexual manner for his own sexual gratification…”
    – there’s a great deal of thought that men who rape are asserting their power and dominance over women and as it happens, sexually gratification is not a primary motivator. I’m happy to dig you out a study relating to this.

    “But it is not rape in the commonsense meaning of the word.”
    – It IS rape in the common sense. It is not rape in the legal sense. There’s the debate – legality and sexual motivation. I’m more than happy to thrash this out, which I think was Debs’s intention to start with.

    You’ve been bloody cruel, Dr. Crippen. Debs and I have had our differences and I’ve been a bit of an arsehole at times, but fuck me – I’d never go at anyone the way you did her.

  64. sara no h.
    sara no h. June 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm |

    Something tells me this is not the post to be reading mid-pregnancy. :( And fuck you, Dr. Crippen.

  65. sarah c
    sarah c June 20, 2008 at 8:02 pm |

    A few links for you (here and here). Until recently, it was legal in Virginia for a medical team to practise gynaecological exams on women who were under anaesthesia. Women would often not find out until later that their bodies – and a very intimate part of their bodies – had been used my medical students during their rotations while they were sedated.

    The problem with this is not that med students did pelvics as much as the patient is NEVER informed or consented that a pelvic exam will be done at all during the surgery!

    Take med students out of the picture. How often does a doc tell the patient that they will be doing a pelvic for a routine c-section? Never. The OR nurse does a pelvic, the resident/assistant does a pelvic, and the attending surgeon does a pelvic.

    This is a problem of consent, NOT med students practicing.

    Docs dont consent for pelvics during ob/gyn procedures in surgery.

  66. EKSwitaj
    EKSwitaj June 21, 2008 at 4:40 am |

    Dr. Crippen, I am a survivor of a rape that, presumably, even you would consider rape, though I cannot be sure since I somehow got the impression that the rapist’s motivation was primarily one of asserting power. Given that, I think I have a bit more of a stake in the definition of the term than you do.

    And you know something? I don’t think that defining this sort of act as rape reduces the impact or power of the word. Rather, what it does, is to highlight certain connections: the same social beliefs and attitudes that lead some medical practitioners to treat women with utter disregard for their wishes and comfort underlies a culture that condones and excuses other forms of rape as well.

    As for the question of motivation as a defining factor, I for one believe that we need to stop looking through the eyes of the perpetrator and start looking through the eyes of the survivor.

  67. wiggles
    wiggles June 21, 2008 at 12:34 pm |

    if I ever were to have a baby, I would want it in a hospital and jacked up on as many painkillers as you could give me. But that’s because, for me — with my background, my beliefs and my experiences — that’s how I feel safest.

    Watch “The Business of Being Born” some time. I’ll bet $100 you’ll change your mind.

  68. belledame222
    belledame222 June 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm |

    His latest, btw:

    As soon as you start saying “when a woman says ‘no’ she does not always mean it” you are in hot water. I have been hung out to dry on various feminist sites recently for maintain that, whatever is going on her or in similar circumstances, it is not rape in the ordinary sense of the word. There has to be a sexual context and (assuming the doctor is not an extraordinary pervert) there is no sexual context. The feminists see this sort of thing as an “exercise of power” against an unwilling female and as far as I can judge feel therefore that it is a sexual assault.

    “Hot water” and then “hung out to dry;” and then ironed, I guess. and the OP is, well, it all sounds very -scary.- I mean, if you’re him. I guess I just didn’t realize how -hard- things were for people like him. Just, you know, your -ordinary- sort of pervert, one presumes. Or, no…

    Well, but really; how do we know he doesn’t -want- to be flamed, much less hit with a malpractice suit? Besides, it’d be for his own good.

    “Your lips say ‘no,’ but your eyes say ‘I’m a big ol’ troll'”

    –the late blogwarbot, with whom I increasingly suspect engaging would be far more productive, even posthumously.

  69. belledame222
    belledame222 June 21, 2008 at 12:47 pm |

    I for one believe that we need to stop looking through the eyes of the perpetrator and start looking through the eyes of the survivor.

    Or, for that matter, the patient.

    of course, “we” already do; “Crippen” seems incapable of even conceiving of such a thing, fuck knows why. He seems to be one of those individuals for whom “empathy” means “yes, you really should give me some” and that’s it.

  70. season of the bitch » Saturday links edition.

    […] 2. Jill lays it down on medical rape, childbirth and the like. […]

  71. Emily
    Emily June 22, 2008 at 10:20 pm |

    Now, I happen to like doctors and modern medicine quite a bit; if I ever were to have a baby, I would want it in a hospital and jacked up on as many painkillers as you could give me. But that’s because, for me — with my background, my beliefs and my experiences — that’s how I feel safest.

    I had felt this way before I got pregnant, and then I did a ton of research, and read Henci Goer’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. I highly, highly recommend it; even if you do decide to go ahead and buy the hospital ticket and take the hospital ride, you’ll be far better informed about why most OBs perform the procedures they do (usual answer: for their own convenience, not for the well-being of the woman giving birth) and about how important it is to have an advocate (partner, doula, whoever) with you who can try to help make sure your choices are heard and your body is respected. Often routine obstetrical interventions actually cause the complications that terrify so many people and make them believe hospital birth is the safest option. Childbirth Connection has a good, if brief, article on what’s known as the cascade of intervention.

    The British Medical Journal published the results of a major study of planned home birth in North America, which concluded this:

    Planned home birth for low risk women in North America using certified professional midwives was associated with lower rates of medical intervention but similar intrapartum and neonatal mortality to that of low risk hospital births in the United States.

    Basically: planned, attended home birth after a low-risk pregnancy is just as safe as a hospital birth for the baby, and less invasive for the mother.

    It is for these reasons that I decided, with my partner’s full support, to give birth at home with professional midwives (which are covered in full by the provincial health care here in Ontario, Canada) and a doula. I won’t lie about the pain — it was brutal — but the experience as a whole was beautiful and sweet and so very, very satisfying. The midwives respected our little family as three whole people, and they took such good care of us.

    Not everyone would make the same choices we did, and that’s fine. I just wanted to add more about other reasons for home birth.

  72. Dianne
    Dianne June 23, 2008 at 10:43 am |

    Two separate points in this post, so it might ramble a bit…more than usual.

    First, how can non-consentual penetration be anything other than rape? So what if the object used for penetration was a speculum and the motive was not or not ostensibly sexual pleasure or power? Unless I much misunderstand the meaning of the word “rape”, it’s still rape. The only reason I can imagine for not stopping a medical procedure if the patient said to is if to stop immediately would be unsafe. If, say, the patient says “stop” just when the colonoscope is getting a view of the appendix, it’s clearly going to take a little while to get it out and going too quickly may be dangerous. But the practitioner must make clear that he/she has heard and understood the patient and is moving with all safe speed to carry out the patient’s request. Continuing a pap smear (if that’s what it was) when the patient asks you to stop may not be intended as sexaual assault or motivated by desire for sexual dominance, but it is nonetheless rape. Much as a practitioner who gives a Jehovah’s witness a transfusion against his/her wishes may not intend to assault the patient and certainly doesn’t wait in the bushes for people to assault but nonetheless has legally committed assault and almost certainly traumatized the patient badly.

    As far as home birth goes, I’m by no means in favor of making it illegal…I’m not even sure how that could be done. However, people contemplating home birth should be aware that they are taking a risk, take that risk willingly, and have a backup plan in case of emergency. My pregnancy was “low-risk”, but I would have definitely died, in great pain, along with my kid, if I had not been able to get a c-section when I needed it. It’s clearly the right of the woman who is pregnant to chose what risks she wants to take, but advocates run around talking like there is no risk when there is and that seems like another form of coercion.

  73. Judy Slome Cohain
    Judy Slome Cohain June 26, 2008 at 7:03 am |

    ” No matter what the doctor did, it could not begin to compare to the original assault”. Correct. What the doctor does is MUCH worse. We need a new word.
    I suggest Mars Attack.
    Thats right. I was raped by someone I didnt know, and in less than 5 minutes, the little prick held a knife to me, pulled down my pants and was in and out. I wasnt a virgin and I just dont give it weight. It was 25 years ago. I wasnt physically hurt. I knew no action would be taken against him. Bad, but nothing compared to the large episiotomy that was done to me for no reason, that took weeks to heal. Nothing compared to a million unnecessary cesareans a year.

    It isnt rape because, when you are raped, usually the rapist is not convincing you that it is good for you. There is something honest about rape- it is only good for him and he knows it. he is not waiting for you to have an orgasm before he comes or anything.

    I suggest we use the word
    Mars Attack. You know- from the Movie “Mars Attack”-
    The martians say
    “We come in peace, we come in Peace,”
    and then the kill everyone with these fiery nuclear weapons.

    What some doctors have done to women in front of me(acting as a nurse, doula or midwife), is not rape.
    It is just like those aliens in Mars Attack. THey come as if they are kind health professionals, and they take money for f*cking up your body, and leave you dead in a pile, never to fully recover.
    And i am going to start a blog now and collect women who agree.

  74. Debs
    Debs June 29, 2008 at 5:31 pm |

    Just to let any women affected by the issue of obstetric or gynaecological violation know I have set up the Medical and Obstetric Rape Awareness Group, an awareness-raising project, so that women can share their experiences. Debs x

  75. Meredith
    Meredith July 3, 2008 at 7:12 pm |

    @ Sara C:
    You wrote:
    “The problem with this is not that med students did pelvics as much as the patient is NEVER informed or consented that a pelvic exam will be done at all during the surgery!

    Take med students out of the picture. How often does a doc tell the patient that they will be doing a pelvic for a routine c-section? Never. The OR nurse does a pelvic, the resident/assistant does a pelvic, and the attending surgeon does a pelvic.

    This is a problem of consent, NOT med students practicing.

    Docs dont consent for pelvics during ob/gyn procedures in surgery.”

    I’m an MD and worked as surgical coordinator in an OB/GYN’s office prior to medical school. While I know this practice is not universal, the GYN for whom I worked always included exam under anesthesia as part of the consent process. While in medical school, I encountered exam under anesthesia while on a gynecologic oncology rotation, where examination under anesthesia was done and was also part of the consent process. Prior to surgery I believe it is standard of care to perform a physical exam on the part of the body on which you are operating to evaluate anatomy, particularly in the case of a tumor which needs to be localized prior to cutting.

    Truthfully, however, pretty much any patient undergoing anesthesia is going to be exposed while under, whether during the preparation, catheter placement, draping, etc., so exposure is not just limited to gynecologic surgery. I’ve never found any staff member (RN, MD or otherwise) to be anything less than absolutely respectful of patient’s privacy and dignity, and I’ve never seen a patient left exposed unnecessarily. I think I’ve had the good fortune to work in excellent hospitals though, I know this can’t be the case everywhere.

  76. Day of Blogs » 28: Medical Rape
    Day of Blogs » 28: Medical Rape July 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm |

    […] recently shared her story of violation at the hands of a doctor and was ruthelessly attacked and insulted by another blogger for the mere suggestion that rape might be a proper word to describe the […]

  77. MC Kean
    MC Kean July 31, 2008 at 3:32 am |

    “Medical Rape” is a good term. I do not care if the intent is “education”; it is education by rape. The criteria that an act of rape be an act performed for the sake of the offenders sexual gratification is not rational. In that case then rape for the sake of extracting information may be torture but it is not rape. Rape for the sake of revenge is assault but not rape as it was not for the sake of sexual gratification? Furthermore, the disrespect of women’s autonomy, of their dignity reinforces a rape culture, establishes a cult of secrecy and provides the space for sexual assault of women in hospitals. They lie and tell us hospitals are safe places for women but they are not. After repeatedly requesting female only care while I was under anesthesia, and this request repeatedly being violated I suffered physical trauma and an STD infection indicating rape. So the medical rape lead to a sexual rape. It was covered up. Physicians argue that if they did not cover up what is going on women would not seek medical care and think this justifies the lies rather than reform. So, even if you request males be excluded, even if say no practice exams, even if they perform a little play that goes something like, “Oh, look we have an all female team. How unusual, enjoy girls. bla bla bla.” It is a lie, as soon as you are all the way under the men enter the room, and you may be left in male care after surgery. It seems these surgeons are trained to lie and rape patients.

  78. Violation of bodily privacy by a physician « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?

    […] Also semi-related: this older post from Feministe. […]

  79. Hilary
    Hilary August 5, 2008 at 1:36 am |

    what about when the midwife is a “rapist”? I’ve been severely betrayed by my midwife in a time when I needed her after the birth. She was bossy with me, during labor–ignoring the cues I was giving her. My husband couldn’t be as much a part of the birth as we wanted, and to top it off, my midwife, 2 days postpartum, began a long rant at me, yelling even, how I was “divorcing” my son because I didn’t want to breastfeed, and that I was “failing” him. I have severe PTSD which I made her aware of, and there was no sensitivity to that issue.

    Of course there is a gamble when one takes a midwife, home birth SHOULD be a beautiful thing, but in my opinion and sadly enough, the midwife practice can be as corrupt as the more sterile, “cruel” hospital route. I am still recovering from the physical and emotional trauma, and I am in to my second month. I was unable to receive prompt medical treatment because by midwife was so convinced that I was “fine” and that going to the hospital was unnecessary and even dangerous to me because of all this “Mars Attack” bias.
    I had a severe UTI, endometritis, and postpartum fever, and was hospitalized for 7 days.
    Whats more, I had to protect her by not mentioning that I had a home birth (She told me that her license was taken away), because the local doctors were after her, and she ran the risk of being arrested. The people I live with are very good friends of hers and were furthering to put pressure on me. I had to lie to the doctors about having a midwife so they performed painful examinations on me that in reality, were completely unnecessary had they known I had a midwife, they would have had a better idea of how to go about things regarding my birth-related infection.

    I hate to be the opposing one here, but I think its my duty to provide perspective. My pain and trauma has been swept under the rug long enough, I am sure there are lots of other women out there in the same position.

  80. Hilary
    Hilary August 5, 2008 at 2:01 am |

    I would like to add…. that I do still value the home birth approach (sadly, I can’t have another one because of health conditions I wasn’t aware of). I am partially to blame for the outcome of the birth and postpartum period because I did not choose my midwife wisely. It was my first birth, so I was naive, and did not ask all the questions I should have asked. I wasn’t assertive with my midwife when I should have been. I should have made known my boundaries a little more clearly. I am afraid of doctors, I’ve been treated by MANY in my life so far, many for GYN problems. I should have followed my OWN intuition when I knew there was something going terribly wrong, and when I felt myself becoming severely ill. A lot of the time, no one can know whats best for the woman except for the woman. A doctor doesn’t always know, a midwife doesn’t always know. My previous response was very emotionally charged. I failed to credit my midwife one thing: she obviously cares about the women she treats, she cares about herself, & she cares about the future of home birth.

    The tragic thing in this whole story is that medical politics is so strong, and “medical rape” becoming such an often coined phrase, that the real needs of the patient fall by the wayside in the fight between doctors vs. midwife. And that’s the unique situation I found myself in.
    Unfortunately the medical practice today whether public(as in the case of hospital births) and private (use of midwife at home) is rapidly becoming corrupt. So, the core issue here is to be what is the best interest of each and every individual woman. For this topic blanket generalizations are hazardous.

  81. Hilary
    Hilary August 5, 2008 at 5:37 am |

    ANOTHER thing (think I’ve had enough to say?)
    I wasn’t aware of the terminology “rape” I thought it was a loosely used term. Yes…as a teenager I was raped by another boy my age and told no one. After weeks of having my internal wounds fester, my sister took me to her most trusted OB/GYN for an exam. He was sensitive to the story and was even empathetic while conducting the examination. I felt a little more trusting but still very afraid.
    Now, the disturbing part of this story is later, when I was 19, I came to the same GYN because I had trusted him since my early incident at 15. I was currently being treated for polycystic ovarian syndrome. While conducting the exam, I felt him touching my clitorus. I just froze stiff, not sure of what I “thought” was happening to me. Then after the exam and ultrasound, and I had got off the table, still in robe, he urged me to his desk, by patting me on the butt (which was exposed through the gown) I am not sure if this was a cultural difference I was not used to, as this doctor was an Arab immigrant practicing with his wife (they owned their own office and were very reputable people—responsible for helping hundreds of women conceive, my sister being one them). 4 years after this incident, I saw a news special about this same man, who apparently did this same thing and more to other women and was being investigated. Eventually, he was tried and found guilty of numerous accounts of patient rape. Funny how some women found him a saint, others a devil. Also something interesting— the man who I was in a serious relationship with at the time was deaf at birth…the same OB/GYN who had been seeing him was the same doctor who treated his mother and was her pregnancy doctor. He used forceps on my Bf causing the auditory nerve to be crushed. My ex’s father could’ve strangled that doctor…. but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I brought that up as a side illustration of how all events seem to be connected and for a purpose I cant seem to understand just yet.
    Midwifes are capable of violation, as I’ve had my breasts fondled intrusively after the birth in her attempt to get me started on breastfeeding. Something I was totally uncomfortable with, but given her firery personality dare not question her. Now I know better, if something doesn’t feelk right, you gotta put your foot down.

  82. » Blog Archive » Ave Maria, sancta Maria?

    […] I haven’t talked to my friend about this yet, because she was upset enough as it is. And my knowledge of medical malpractice law in this regard isn’t very extensive. But there are some extremely sketchy consent issues going on there. In fact, it sounds like medical rape. […]

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