Your doctor may find you sexually attractive
The following contains strong language and adult themes.
One of the reasons my blog anonymous is subjects like the above. I am reticent about even posting this post. But the blog is a forum for me to get my thoughts together, and it's raw material, and it's quite deeply anonymised, so here goes.
Forst, two images. One, it's early in the shift, just after midday. I'm working in Florey, the IP4 - the sheet of paper we pick up with the patient's details, all their data, the clinical presentation - says twenty nine year old woman, skin reaction. It's quiet, but it'll get busy later on, and I'm trying to get through this. I knock on the side of the cubicle walk in, there's a woman sitting on the bed, one leg folded under her. I remember chestnut hair and an aquamarine top. I open my mough to introduce myself, but as soon as she sees me she speaks.
"It's here, it's probably nothing but I thought I should - ,"
And as she speaks she drags the aquamarine teeshirt over her head. She is naked underneath.
The second time was when I was in Shipton. I had a patient in X12, one of the overflow rooms. Shipton was not build to be an ED*, and there are long corridors with rooms branching off them, opening to something that may have been a patient lounge back in the seventies when people lounged. So I was trudging down a corridor to see Male, 77, Blocked Feeling in Ear, and I as I walked passed room J the door was open a few centimetres, and there was a woman, maybe late teens, maybe early thirties, bending over to pick up her clothes, holding the hospital gown to her breasts, but still, from the side, I saw the curve of one breast.
Both of these events were more than five years ago. In each case you continue on - you don't break stride, you trudge on down the corridor or you introduce yourself and say you'll have a look in a minute, but when did it start and so on. In each case there was that moment, that kick that startles you with its unexpectedness, that sudden full feeling behind the breastbone, that adrenaline alertness. One of the patients I had no need to talk to, and I didn't, the other was fairly straightforward, one of the consults which, if I was writing about anything else, I would call in-and-out.
But each of these cases troubles me, I think for a number of reasons. There is no room for this. There is absolutely no room for any of this in medicine. And just writing what I have written makes me scurry to supply reassurances and explanations - nothing happened, I didn't treat anyone differently, I said nothing, did nothing that couldn't have been examined in detail by the medical board without concern.
But still -... I can understand something like that catching you mentally off guard, smacking you before you've got your hands up. I can understand that the part of me that I usually don't allow free to grope and grunt and glut myself is still there, is probably still the vaster part of me. I can understand that part of me revels in an unequal power dynamic that tell myself I find repugnant.
But still, I am troubled. People have to be safe in the Emergency Department. Women have to be safe. The triage system assesses heart-rate, blood pressure, pain. It does not mention dark eyes and smooth skin.
Anyway - two brief beats of desire. There have been other cases, both for me and others, which in some sense went further. I will post about them next post.
Below is a brief diversion into how the brain side of swearyness works.
Thanks for listening,
Steven Pinker, a linguist and overall smart guy, writes about swearing and what it says about the human mind. He breaks terms for sexual intercourse into two groups - the transitive and the intransitive. Broadly and simplistically speaking, he points out that when we use the intransitive term, "John and Mary verbed" (made love, had sex, whatever), it is polite, it is gender-symmetrical (we can say "Mary made love to John" as easily as we say "John made love to Mary"), and it's non-violent.
But when we use the transitive terms, it's less polite. I fucked her**, I screwed her, I banged her. The metaphors are more likely to be violent - when we cluster bomb villages, the inhabitants are not made love to. And they are virtually always used by men about women rather than the reverse. In this way of speaking, to fuck is simultaneously to have sex with and to exploit, to damage.
These are not new observations, but Pinker points out that these patterns in language are indicative of patterns in the brain, of patterns in how cells fire, the neuroanatomical correlates of thoughts. We speak that way because we think that way.
*We say ED, you say ER.
**First noted by the linguist Quang Fuc Dong.