Are doctors turned on by their patients?

Originally Published: April 11, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 3, 2014
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Alice,

Can you explain to me why I should not be bothered by the fact that my girlfriend goes to a male gynecologist (actually a group of four doctors). Am I supposed to believe that when a beautiful girl has her legs spread these doctors are not turned on? Is there a course in medical school that teaches a person to not have sexual thoughts and desires while on duty, but be able to turn these right back on when they go home to their wives or girlfriends? I have not seen this question addressed before. Please help me to understand.

Thank-you.

Dear Reader,

Health care providers, like the rest of us, are human beings; on occasion, a provider may unintentionally notice that a patient is attractive, or even experience feelings of arousal. However, as you postulate, good providers are able to set these thoughts aside and maintain a professional relationship with their patients. Health care providers who deliberately fantasize while examining their patients or, worse yet, are verbally and physically inappropriate with patients, violate ethical and legal standards for which they should be held accountable. If such incidents occur, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends reporting offenders to medical licensing boards (state agencies) in the state where the doctor practices.

Not convinced yet? Well, here's another angle that you might consider: while your girlfriend is no doubt beautiful and attractive to you, health care providers (like the rest of us), each have their own ideal of beauty and are likely not attracted to most of their patients. What's more, during a given week or month, doctors see hundreds of breasts, penises, vaginas, scrotums, buttocks, and every other body part. This unending parade of private parts can only help to remove any sexual or emotional attachment to the owners of these organs.

On a different note, consider that for some women finding a gynecologist is a formidable task. Perhaps your girlfriend has found a competent health care provider who she feels comfortable with (and who just happens to be male) — this would be something to celebrate, rather than cause for concern. It may also be prudent to consider the level of trust and communication between you and your girlfriend. Do you feel jealous or threatened by her male doctors? And if so, are you dissatisfied with the way things are going between the two of you? Do you have confidence in your relationship, or can you work to make it better?

Talking with your girlfriend about your feelings, or even talking them over with a professional counselor, might ease your mind. If you are a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment with a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services on the Morningside campus or the Mental Health Service at the Medical Center campus.

Best of luck to you,

Alice
Dear :) and Reader #2,

Thanks for sharing your perspectives as health care providers!


November 19, 2007

21357
Dear Alice,

A little while ago my family doctor was on vacation. I developed what I suspected was a urinary tract infection and had to see the doctor on call... it was a female... and I was...

Dear Alice,

A little while ago my family doctor was on vacation. I developed what I suspected was a urinary tract infection and had to see the doctor on call... it was a female... and I was mortified. As a woman I feel much more comfortable with a male doctor. Almost any woman will vouch for me when I say that having your privates clinically poked and prodded is one of the most stress-filled, uncomfortable things we go through. If a woman finds a gynecologist she's comfortable with — whether male or female — it doesn't matter what any man in her life thinks about it she has the right, and the obligation to herself, to continue seeing that professional.

May 9, 2004

20604
Dear Alice, Regarding the previous question about doctors being turned on by their patients during GYN exams: As a physician, I can tell you that for the majority of us, two things occur. One, we...
Dear Alice, Regarding the previous question about doctors being turned on by their patients during GYN exams: As a physician, I can tell you that for the majority of us, two things occur. One, we are so focused on what we are doing that we do not think of these "sexual parts" as sexual. They become purely parts of a person's anatomy just as a nose or ear is. There is simply no time to consider one's own sexual reaction. Second, some days you see so many penises, vaginas, etc., that you do feel ti red of seeing them. (And don't forget, many of the patients come in with bumps and lumps and odors and discharges, so that also makes it rather difficult to get turned on.) When home with my wife, I'm not a doctor anymore, and I don't look at my wife as a set of body parts. I don't examine my wife. I enjoy making love with her. So in a sense, yes, I do turn on and turn off that part of my brain just as I turn on and turn off the part of my brain that is thinking about pathology and disease during an exam. Hope this helps.

June 6, 1997

20306
Alice - I was just reading some of your letters, when I saw the one about MDs becoming aroused when they see a female patient. As a male nurse, I have to tell you that as much as I may joke around...
Alice - I was just reading some of your letters, when I saw the one about MDs becoming aroused when they see a female patient. As a male nurse, I have to tell you that as much as I may joke around about sex outside of the hospital, it is as if I change my whole perspective once I pass through the doors. I look at the patient as JUST a patient. If I do think that I will be turned on, I simply have someone else perform the duty I needed to do to avoid any complications. I think that people may watch too many movies. :)