FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


At Your Cervix
By Anne Flanagan

Tuesday night. 9:20 p.m. I am hoping to catch a friend's show at 10:00 -- yet another improv group, another opportunity to "give us a location!" -- but it's not looking good. I'm in East LA, I'm naked, and the guy hunkered down between my thighs can not find my cervix.

This is my fifth and last student of the evening. Korean by birth, he has limited English so "vagina" sounds suspiciously like "vanilla" as in "Now I touch your vanilla," but it's late, so I let it slide. At present, Number Five's index and middle finger are jammed up into my "vanilla," his knuckles pressing hard against my labia. "Maybe this it?" he stammers, fingers still fishing.

"I won't be able to feel it. Do you sense something that feels like a slippery rubber ball?"

"Yes. No. I don't know." He blushes. He's sweating. He's 22 years old and I just may be the first naked woman he's ever seen.

I sigh. "Take your time. Feel for an object the consistency of your nose, cartilaginous, but about the size of your chin."

He labors between my legs, groping, and snags my pubic hair in the cuff of his latex glove. Ouch.

I grab his wrist. "Relax your hand." I firmly bend his wrist at a 45-degree angle and guide his fingers downward so he can locate my cervix. "Got it?"

"Yes, yes." He looks like he's going to vomit.

I pat his hand. "Good. Let's move on." I reach over his arm, his fingers still inserted in my vagina, and I grab the instrument resting in a tub of water on the metal side table. I hand him the shiny, duck-billed device. It rattles in his trembling hand.

"Take the speculum," I say, "and follow my directions. Exactly."

I am a Pelvic Model.

More precisely, I am a Non-MD, Gynecological Instructor. Sort of a "professional vagina," I use my own body to teach health care professionals how to perform gentle and effective "well woman" breast and pelvic exams.

It's not your typical job. Not something you tend to see advertised in the Classifieds. Not a profession well represented on Career Day. Type "pelvic model" into any search engine and you won't get a lot of hits. (Actually, you will, but they are of the "Secretary Whores" variety.)

Despite what people first think, the Naked Job, as I call it, is not sexual. It's not voyeuristic, it's not freakish, and it's definitely not glamorous. (Admittedly, only one person ever thought it might be glamorous -- and she doesn't get out much.)

What the Naked Job is falls somewhere between "Rewarding/Giving Back" and "Well, I Guess Somebody's Gotta Do It."

An adult, sexually active woman should have a gynecological exam once a year. The exam consists of laying spread-eagle on a padded table, partially covered in a flimsy gown, while various body parts are poked and prodded. Cells are then swabbed from the cervix with tools resembling a mascara brush and a giant Q-tip. These cells will be examined under a microscope for evidence of cancerous conditions and sexually transmitted diseases.

Obviously, the medical personnel that performs this exam has to learn how to do it somewhere. Neophyte medical students practice on rigid, unwieldy plastic mannequins or, at more affluent universities, a $20,000 "Pelvic Exam Simulator" (an electronic "female pelvic cavity" complete with interior electronic "sensors" and handy-dandy abnormalities like fibroids or ovarian cysts).

After that, students progress to examining a cadaver. Yep, a real live, or in this case, real dead body. I know this may give those who plan to donate their bodies "to science" pause. Sure, your spleen could be the very one used to develop a revolutionary life-saving drug, but you may just as likely end up butt-naked on a slab, your intimate orifices repeatedly violated by 25 clueless newbies.

From the student's standpoint, doing a pelvic exam on a dead person has its advantages. The corpse is, after all, pretty relaxed and you don't have to worry about hurting it. The downside is that the body hasn't been "prepared" yet and, in probing the rectum, the chance the bowels may release a copious amount of feces is pretty high. Sort of like removing one's finger from a dike, it gives new meaning to the term "shit storm".

In the medical student's second year, they are allowed to perform genital/rectal exams on an anesthetized patient without the patient's knowledge or consent. This was a common practice in California until 2003, so if you've ever woken up from an appendectomy with a sore anus, now you know why.

At some point in the mid-1970s, universities began using live patients. At first, these patients were mostly hookers, drug addicts, and anyone else hard up for cash. The "model" would sit passively while a doctor led the students through the exam. Surprisingly, hookers and drug addicts don't make the best patients as they tend to have STDs, hallucinations, and a generally hostile attitude.

In the 1980s, various health advocacy groups cropped up around the states and began to protest against the staggering amount of poorly trained doctors being foisted upon the unsuspecting public. As a result, the universities and training hospitals saw the need for live-patient interaction and feedback. This is where I come in.

A "Gynecological Instructor" sounds odd, yes, but face it, the only other way young doctors learn how to perform pelvic exams on a live person is to learn on their patients -- i.e. you. So, besides being an exceedingly well-paid gig (it'd have to be), it's actually rewarding in that I'm helping make pelvic exams kinder and gentler the world over, and my students are always so appreciative. How many times are you hugged at your job?

PAGE 1 2

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2007