Why does something as simple as a gynaecological check-up cause some men anxiety? Our Sexologist answers two reader questions.
‘My husband seems to lose interest in sex before and after I visit the gynaecologist, he says it’s just a coincidence, but I have noticed this for a number of years, he used to want to come with me to my appointments many years ago or send me to a lady doc, but I would never change and there is no way he could come in, its private between me and the doc, I told him to get over himself, he says he has, but has a noticeable drop in sex drive, every year at the same time, and it lasts for weeks on end, so I believe he still has issues, how can I help him get over his silly issues without letting him come into my appointments, I don’t even think the doc would allow him in anyway, but it bothers me intensely, as he is always horny, and at this time a little appointment, and he seems to look at me totally asexual, whatever I do.’
‘I read in a previous post about a husband with male gynae issues, I am a husband with the same issues, but I want sex before and after, I cannot understand my feelings about a quick check up every year, I also would like to go with my wife, which she wouldn’t allow, but I would worry that the doctor would think I was a pervert or a controlling husband if I did go, I am embarrassed to mention my feelings as I know how stupid they are, have there been any studies that get to the root of this problem, I have joked with a few mates about the gynae, and it seems that many men have the same feelings, but are embarrassed to mention them, even to their wives, there must be a study or a solution to this problem, I know gynaecologists don’t encourage partners to attend unless for pregnancy, and society says if the husband must attend, they should wait outside, or they are jealous or perverts, I am neither, and my feelings are in secret, but I can’t seem to get rid of these feelings, even I know the professionalism, I trust my wife and her doctor 110% and all that, but it does seem to affect my sex life at that time.’
I think many heterosexual men struggle with the idea of anyone getting close to, looking at, or touching the intimate part of their partners’ body. Part of this may be protective of her and her ‘honour’. In other words, ‘what if he tries to do something…?’. Whilst this is an admirable stance, it neglects to consider two aspects: firstly the professional ethics of the gynaecologist and secondly, their partner’s ability to stop any unwanted touch. The latter can be awkward since the patient often feels that the doctor is in a superior/more powerful position and might not feel confident to speak out, so I would encourage partners to attempt to allay their fears by finding out how his partner would handle such a situation or if they would prefer a chaperone.
Trusting the gynaecologist’s ethical behaviour is safe in the vast majority of cases, but sadly, as in all professions, there are rare exceptions. I would suggest that blind trust of any healthcare practitioner is not healthy and that the public should always feel that they can question or ask about procedures and also ask for time to think about it, without feeling embarrassed or that they are wasting the doctor’s time. The gynaecologist is no different. If your partner feels uncomfortable at all, she should feel able to stop the consultation or the examination. If you, as her husband, discuss these scenarios with her, it will not only increase your confidence that she might be able to protect herself; it may also enhance her sense of responsibility for decision making in the consultation.
Another possible reason why men may become anxious around their partner’s gynae appointments may be the fear that she might like being looked at or touched by the gynaecologist. The fact that partners may ‘tidy up’ the vulva before going may make this anxiety worse. In fact, this is not too different to brushing your teeth before going to the dentist – don’t all of us do this? The vulva is an area that many women feel is ugly or dirty and therefore usually wash or trim in order to feel less uncomfortable to prevent imagined offence for the gynae, just like most of us wouldn’t like to have food stuck between our teeth or bad breath when going to the dentist. Whilst, as always, there may be exceptions, most women feel quite exposed and do not enjoy gynae examinations at all. Many women struggle to share this part of their body with their partner in full light, so doing so in a very clinical environment with a relative stranger only amplifies this discomfort. It is perhaps for this reason, that once women trust their gynae, they are reluctant to move on to others (female or otherwise) – once you have gone through this experience with one doctor, it’s easier to return than to go through the discomfort with a new professional.
If men continue to be anxious despite working through the above two possibilities, I would suggest that he and his partner may benefit from therapeutic support to address the problem and/or irrational anxiety.
(Health24, May 2012)
First gynae visit guide
Questions? Ask the Sexologist
(Picture: Doctor and patient from Shutterstock)