If women can bear breasts why can't men take on their tackle?

Women just have to get used to the idea the doctor's going to cop an eyeful, however much they try to avoid it.

Share

It seems strange in these days of
Something For The Weekend, ("Can you guess which is your boyfriend's sphincter? And just to make it more difficult we're going to conceal it in a row of teatowel holders!") that we are, many of us, still too embarrassed to go to the doctor and discuss any problem concerning the sensitive area of our bodies. I suppose, seeing as babies pop out of woman's most sensitive area, that it is unavoidable for many women, who just have to get used to the idea that the doctor's going to cop an eyeful, however much they try to avoid it.

It seems strange in these days of Something For The Weekend, ("Can you guess which is your boyfriend's sphincter? And just to make it more difficult we're going to conceal it in a row of teatowel holders!") that we are, many of us, still too embarrassed to go to the doctor and discuss any problem concerning the sensitive area of our bodies. I suppose, seeing as babies pop out of woman's most sensitive area, that it is unavoidable for many women, who just have to get used to the idea that the doctor's going to cop an eyeful, however much they try to avoid it.

No, it is particularly men who avoid discussing their weaponry and its attendant pathology until, in enough cases to seriously worry the medical profession, it's either about to explode, drop off or they're about to pop off. Recently, we passed through Bowel Cancer Week, (put it in your diaries for next year, chaps). The Big Intestine lobby tried their best to mess things up by squabbling over the date and dragging the trim-bummed Prince Charles into their dispute. Even so, it is difficult to understand how wall-to-wall coverage of the bowels and information about the symptoms of bowel cancer on your average Richard and Judy type show has not led to people taking the information on board.

So why is it still so hard to get the message across?

First, perhaps these campaigns are targeting the wrong viewing group. It is obvious, I suppose, that the vast majority of viewers of This Morning and its ilk are still women and that men are still not getting the opportunity to absorb the knowledge. Or maybe the intention of charities is to get the message across to women in the hope that they will pass it on to their spouses. "Right, just before I get your pie out of the oven, have you had any rectal bleeding lately, dear?"

It seems that this may well be the case, as I spotted a tiny article in the newspaper last week detailing a plea by the medical profession for women to get involved in checking their partner's testicles for lumps when they're in bed together. There was no more advice than this, so I am not sure whether women are supposed to have a surreptitious feel disguised as foreplay, or whether they are supposed to come right out and suggest a clinical examination before the main event. Fair dos, maybe people in their enlightened, drunken 20s may find it a bit of a laugh, though I suspect the age group being aimed at includes slightly older couples who haven't seen each other's genitalia since England won the World Cup. Of course I am happy to be corrected on this.

The breast cancer charities seem to have evolved slightly further in approaching and dealing with human sensibilities, with the advantage that women are far more likely to have a forum in which to discuss their fears (namely with their women friends) than men, who tend to steer clear of more personal things. I know this is a cliché, but I think it still holds.

The fact is, ironically, that women have a lot more to lose if their most obvious sexual feature is in some way sullied, because for many women, still, the biggest gun in their armoury is their looks. For men, however, their attractiveness to the opposite sex does not depend quite so exclusively on their tackle being in perfect condition. In terms of education, storylines in soap operas can help. Take Peggy in Eastenders. I am sure that following the progress of her breast cancer was a great comfort to women going through a similar trauma. Then, unfortunately, husband Frank went off and romped with two-breasted ex-wife Pat on holiday, and I reckon you'd have a lot of trouble convincing Peggy it wasn't anything to do with her breast surgery.

How successful would a storyline in EastEnders or Coronation Street be about bowel cancer or testicular cancer, I wonder. Perhaps people would laugh at it. Still, if breasts can move out of the sniggering zone, surely bowels and testicles can follow.

I still retain a vision, however, of overworked GPs sitting in their surgeries, heads in hands, despairing over the latest health campaign that has attracted yet another queue of what are called "the worried well" to their door with their latest anxieties, following a Watchdog health special or an article in the paper. Different GPs vary enormously as to how dismissive they are of your fears, from the "Don't be ridiculous!" variety to the sympathetic ones who have time to listen.

Of course, the other problem with us as a nation is the delicate problem of phrasing our complaint, and those of us who are not medically trained have enormous difficulties in deciding how to articulate our condition. It may seem a small thing, but the fear that they will be laughed at or present their problem in a way that makes them look ridiculous sends people into paroxysms of anxiety. I know from experience that this fear of losing one"s dignity can prevent people presenting themselves at their GPs until they have almost died from the problem.

When I worked in a psychiatric emergency clinic, I once interviewed a new patient and we sat in tortured silence until he finally managed to blurt out his intimate physical problem. Poor bugger had psyched himself up for days only to end up in the wrong clinic. I had to send him off to the local general hospital knowing that he would have to go through it all again there.

So what's the answer? Perhaps the anonymity of the phone line will help some people, or even advice on how to describe an intimate problem at the doctor's. Maybe targeting men at their place of work or in the magazines they read, rather than expecting women to take on the responsibility, might help too.

Also, GPs, despite their wealth of experience, may need to be more aware of how excruciatingly humiliating it can be to explain, using a child's medical vocabulary, what you think is wrong to someone looking quizzically across a desk at you. I'm sure it's no consolation to anyone, but it feels 10 times worse if they've seen you on the telly.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a friendly, confident i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Primary Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: At Tradewind Recruitment we are currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: Physics Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment is currently working ...

Recruitment Genius: Case Manager - Occupational Therapist / Physiotherapist

£28000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would tackle our looming dementia crisis

Susan Greenfield
 

Letters: NHS data-sharing is good for patients

Independent Voices
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee