Angry and/or bewildered readers write me or raise their hands at my talks with tales of doctors who can’t or won’t inform them about sex.
Just a few of the many examples seniors have shared with me:
- One woman described how her oncologist bolted from the room when she asked how her cancer treatment would affect her sexuality.
- A man emailed me that he finally got the nerve to tell his doctor that he could no longer have erections. “You have ED,” he was told, and that was that. I was the one to tell him that ED is a symptom, not a diagnosis, and he needed to get tests run to find out what was going on.
- Several women with vaginal pain reported that their doctors offered them no help other than telling them their vaginas were “normal” and they should just use more lubricant. A referral to a vulvar pain specialist or a pelvic floor therapist would have helped these women enjoy sex again.
- Several men told me that they were never told that treatments for their medical conditions would interfere with their erectile difficulty and that other options were available.
A woman at one of my bookstore talks told a roomful of sympathetic listeners that after a hysterectomy at age 70+, she asked her doctor what she should know about resuming sex. He asked, “Do you have a partner?” “No, she replied. “Then you don’t need to worry about that, do you?”
When I retell this story in different parts of the country on my travels, there’s always someone who says, “I know that doctor!”
I always rush to defend doctors, being a doctor’s daughter and a doctor’s sister, and having had my own life saved and quality of life restored by brilliant medical professionals.
But that doesn’t mean that I think doctors and other medical professionals adequately address senior sex — they do not. I know that their medical training barely addresses sexuality at all, and doesn’t deal with senior sex whatsoever. Unless doctors make an effort to educate themselves (and bless ’em, some do!), they just don’t know what to tell us.
I give my readers and audiences tools for talking to their doctors, for example, saying, “If you can’t help me with this, give a referral to someone who can.”
The worst thing we can do is keep silent about our sexual challenges or mumble and give up.
I invite your comments — your stories about doctors who have or have not helped you regarding your sexuality, and especially what you would like doctors to know about what we seniors/boomers/elders need from them in that realm.
For example, Ron posted to my Naked at Our Age Facebook page (which I hope you’ll visit and “like”!), “Docs need to be up on the sexual side effects of medications and we need to be sure to tell docs we don’t want any meds that somehow reduce our libido or capability.”