You wish Dr. Kate were your gynecologist. She’s an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in Boston who lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. She regularly (and generously!) answers your health questions here on EMandLO.com. The following on sex-positive gynecologists is part of a continuing series inspired by the #MeToo movement. To ask her your own med question, click here.
As an OB/GYN, I not only try to help my patients avoid STIs and access the right contraception for them and get pregnant when they’re ready to, but I also try to encourage them to have healthy sex lives. Unfortunately, this is not the typical American OB/GYN approach.
I’ve come to realize how rare sex-positive gynecologists are. Most gynos wouldn’t just say they weren’t sex-positive, they don’t even think about sex as being a part of the field! I feel very strongly that genuine sexual health is a really important part of genuine women’s reproductive health. But we’re not taught that. My thinking doesn’t come out of medical school, it doesn’t even come out of residency. For me, it comes out of feminism and my view of the world and how I bring that into my practice.
I often joke that my two favorite things about being a doctor are 1) being able to write a doctor’s note for people who really need one (because of the power that comes with a doctor’s note) and 2) being able to give friends and family advice. The fact that I get to be a translator of the medical system for people is an aspect of this job that I love — to be there when they don’t understand something and to be an advocate for them, like a doula. I bring those elements to my practice: it’s why I write for women’s magazines and work with folks like you.
I can’t tell you how many women I know who’ve never talked to a gynecologist about sex before. And sometimes that’s because women have genuine medical problems that suck up the 30 minutes of the appointment — sometimes it’s hard to get to the sex stuff. But if you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you don’t have a ton of medical needs or chronic illness, those are the moments when you should be with a gyno who will engage with you on this stuff.
And if you’re happy with your sex life, kudos — you may be able to give your gyno tips that she can share with other patients! But if you are having any concerns — and it’s not just as simple as pain (though pain during sex is a big problem), it can just be about orgasms or comfort or desire or all those things — you should be able to bring that up with your gynecologist.
You deserve a gynecologist or female health provider who will not only not blush or change the subject, but who will actually engage with you. And if your current doctor doesn’t, you should try to find someone else.
Unfortunately, there’s no Yelp for who the good sex-positive gynos are, so ask your friends. Whenever you move to a new place and you’re looking for a new stylist, you ask those around you. They may not have had those conversations themselves, but if they’re totally comfortable with their doctor, a referral from a friend is pretty powerful.