In 1885 the United Kingdom’s parliament updated The Offenses Against the Person act of 1861. The 1885 update reinstated anti-sodomy laws and made carnal knowledge between two consenting men a crime punishable by prison. The law also gave homosexual relations the moniker of “Gross Indecency.” When Queen Victoria was asked why there were no laws prohibiting homosexual relations between women she is reported to have said, “Because women don’t do that sort of thing.”
I was reminded of Gross Indecency and Queen Victoria’s thoughts on the nature of same sex versus opposite relations on the fourth of October when I went in for my annual physical. As a man of mature years part of my physical examination involves a prostate check via a rectal exam, something to which I have submitted perhaps a dozen or so times in my 55 years. Wednesday’s exam, however, was different. It was different because for the first time in my life my general practitioner is a female. All of my other examinations have been performed by men.
I am old enough and mature enough to not really care whether a man or woman prods, palpitates or pokes me. I want my doctor to be honest, competent and caring, in that order. No, it was not the fact that a female twenty years my junior was performing my rectal exam that made me think of Gross Indecency but rather the fact that before delving into my inner recess she informed me that she first had to bring a witness into the room.
“A witness?” asked I. “Truly? Is that because we’re opposite sexed? I’ve never had a witness before.”
“Yes.That is why,” my doctor replied. “And when a male doctor performs an invasive exam on a woman such as a pelvic exam there must be a third party present as well.”
My thought was, ‘I’ll be damned!’ but my reply was, “I had no idea. They really don’t put much trust in you, do they? Well then, witness away,” which is exactly what she did.
After the examination I thought about the underlying precepts that a law requiring a third party/witness being present are built upon. What the law is saying is that doctors are not to be trusted exploring the inner cavities of opposite sexed patients. That during this most vulnerable of times the risk of a doctor either taking advantage of the opposite sexed patient, or of said patient fearing this, is so great that doctor and patient must be chaperoned to protect both.
God in Heaven what a horrid thought.
Then I had an even more terrifying thought. This law obviously assumes that the only danger is from opposite sex encounters. That men will only prey upon women and that women will only prey upon men. (By the way, it is my heartfelt belief that this law is designed specifically to protect female patients from male sexual predators that are also in the medical field and that the law includes female doctors examining male patients as camouflage to hide this fact. I will return to this theme in a moment.) This mandatory chaperonage induced me to check the statistics on sexual assault as it relates to abuser and abused. I’m afraid that my findings befuddled me.
The first avenue that I tried to follow was what percentage of sexual abusers are male.
I was able to find a pretty straightforward answer that 96% of reported sexual child abuse is perpetrated by men but there was no easy way to find figure concerning the likelihood of a girl being abused as opposed to a boy. Still, it appears that girls make up about 80% of childhood sexual abuse victims while boys represent 20%.
My real goal was to discover how likely it is that a woman would sexually abuse a male. My assumption was that the likelihood of a female perpetrator and male victim was low, as this is usually what the media states. This bias was reinforced by most sources though Time Inc had fascinating stats concerning the number of men and women who are “penetrated;” the threshold Time used to define sexual assault. Time stated that when penetration is the standard that males are raped at roughly the same rate as females and that women are frequently the rapists.
And now the real surprise: when asked about experiences in the last 12 months, men reported being “made to penetrate”—either by physical force or due to intoxication—at virtually the same rates as women reported rape (both 1.1 percent in 2010, and 1.7 and 1.6 respectively in 2011).http://time.com/3393442/cdc-rape-numbers/
Delving further I learned that since 1999 2,400 of the US’s nearly 1,000,000 physicians have been sanctioned for sexually assaulting patients. That is one quarter of one percent, a large yet statistically insignificant amount. (To be fair I must state that the assumption is that most cases go unreported.) I found anecdotes about male and female doctors sexually abusing patients but no clear, readily available stats. (I am in no way making light of the outrages that have occurred, I was simply hoping for more hard data.)
Easy, verifiable answers eluded me but I searched onward. What I learned is mostly what I already figured.
As a statistical issue doctors sexually abusing patients in the examination room is rare. Despite this fact one website flatly said that no woman should ever have a male gynecologists:
1.) It is best for a female patient to never go to a male gynecologist if possible.
So I have no summary. I was unable to find hard numbers defining the scope of the issue, how many doctors might be involved, how many same sex versus opposite sex incidents have been reported, nor what percentage of perpetrators are men versus women. What I do know is that I am confident that none of the doctors who have probed me have done so for sexual gratification, a statement I wish everyone in the world could make, though I known this is not the case.
I also know that I’m one of the lucky ones, that I am not the 1 in 71 males or 1 in 4 females that are said to be victims of some sort of sexual abuse, some version of rape, that occurs in a person’s lifetime. I hope you’re not either but if you are then I pray that you found a doctor who was honest, competent and caring and helped make the pain go way rather than adding to it.