Spitzer Apologizes for Ex-Gay Study »« Three Cheers for Connecticut

What a Transvaginal Ultrasound Feels Like

Megan Carpentier has had a transvaginal ultrasound, as have a few friends of mine who have described it as a procedure that is extremely uncomfortable at best to outright painful at worst, and she tells the story of what it was like. For the men who pass bills requiring it, this is probably worth reading.

As you might be able to tell, it was vigorously uncomfortable — more than a typical pelvic exam, with which most women are very familiar. In part, it’s more uncomfortable because the technician has to press the wand directly against the areas she wants to get an image of — your uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries — so there’s more movement and more direct contact with pressure-sensitive areas of your body; you’re also not lying flat on your back to facilitate access to the upper reaches of your vagina; and you’re being penetrated with a longer, rigid object than is used in a regular pelvic exam. In my case, as the technician explained after, my uterus is “high,” or tilted toward my abdomen, so she had to tilt the wand accordingly — and because it was so uncomfortable, she halted the exam before fully exploring my Fallopian tubes or ovaries. If I had been pregnant (which I knew I was not), the exam might have lasted longer as she looked to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and locate the miniscule gestational sac.

It was not, however, like being raped, despite all the furor-generating headlines and “Doonesbury” cartoons that were printed. It was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, emotionally triggering (and undoubtedly is moreso for victims of rape or incest or any woman in the midst of an already-emotional experience) and something that no government should force its citizens to undergo to make a political point. But it wasn’t like being raped — and using language like that not only minimizes rape for its survivors but makes them and other women more frightened of the procedure, which has significant and important medical uses.

I think this misses the point, however. No one is arguing that a transvaginal ultrasound IS a rape, or is as painful and traumatic as one. But it is legally the same thing because someone is forcing something into a woman’s vagina against her will. It is the lack of consent that makes it tantamount to rape, not the actual physical or emotional pain that might accompany it. Forcing a medically unnecessary ultrasound insertion on a woman against her consent is no different, legally, than forcing a broom handle or a penis into her.

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    But since it’s all about shaming sluts, the more uncomfortable the better.

  2. Chiroptera says

    For the men who pass bills requiring it, this is probably worth reading.

    Why? To let them know that they’ve been successful in what they wanted to achieve? Pain and discomfort is the whole point of this, after all.

    -

    It was not, however, like being raped….

    Well, okay, there’s that, and that should be a big disappointment to the Christianist Sharia-enviers.

  3. neXus says

    “Forcing a medically unnecessary ultrasound insertion on a woman against her consent is no different, legally, than forcing a broom handle or a penis into her.”

    There is one difference – this broom handle takes pictures.

    >.<

  4. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Men who would pass bills requiring it would probably be reading one-handed.

  5. Scott Simmons says

    I’m sure her vaginal ultrasound wasn’t like being raped, since she presumably consented. So, the analogy would be: Megan’s TVU:forced TVU::sex:rape. I’m assuming from the description that her TVU procedure was a lot less enjoyable than having consensual sex. If that’s not the case, then I owe my wife a huge apology.

  6. brocasbrian says

    The men who pass bills like this it won’t be bothered by that story. They already think of women as less than human and little better than property. They’ll probably be titillated at how the woman suffers during the procedure. Punishment is the entire point of these bills.

  7. Larry says

    The tarts should have kept an aspirin between their legs if they knew what was good for ‘em!

  8. Michael Heath says

    Megan Carpentier:

    It was not, however, like being raped, despite all the furor-generating headlines and “Doonesbury” cartoons that were printed. It was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, emotionally triggering (and undoubtedly is moreso for victims of rape or incest or any woman in the midst of an already-emotional experience) and something that no government should force its citizens to undergo to make a political point. But it wasn’t like being raped — and using language like that not only minimizes rape for its survivors but makes them and other women more frightened of the procedure, which has significant and important medical uses.

    A sample size of one as an assertion for a large population is always convincing, not.

  9. Brony says

    @ Michael Heath

    Which assertions? Some seem like reasonable assertions that a woman would have a good perspective on, having met lots of women in lots of other contexts…

  10. Anneliese says

    It’s not a pleasant procedure. I had to have one several years ago and it had to be done with my bladder full-to-bursting. The tech was excellent; she made sure the “wand” was warmed and she told me exactly what she was doing. Had to ask her not to make me laugh unless she wanted to be dampened.

  11. leni says

    Trigger warning (rape):

    This reminds me a little bit about a doctor that was raping his mostly Mormon patients. Normally their religion wouldn’t matter, but they were an extremely fundamentalist sect and most young people were incredibly naive about sex, rape and medical issues, and so were primed for abuse.

    Dr. John Story established his medical practice in Lovell in 1958 and for twenty-five years was able to molest hundreds of these incredibly naive Mormon women by conducting prolonged pelvic examinations for insignificant sinus infections and headaches. The examinations were customarily followed with sexual intercourse. Many of the women, having a deep feeling of respect and awe for the doctor, did not realize what was happening to them and did not resist.

    Is giving a “prolonged” pelvic exam for a sinus infection really so different than a forced ultrasound? The biggest difference that I can see is that doctors are forced to participate. Sure, he technically had their “consent”, but it was definitely not informed consent and coercive. I think that is more similar to the ultrasound laws than it is different.

    I should probably note that one of the reasons some of the women and girls did not know they were being raped is because they couldn’t necessarily see what he was doing, and he told them that what he was doing was a normal part of the exam. Typically there is a sheet over your knees and you can’t actually see what’s going on. Given their ignorance, that makes their confusion a bit more understandable.

    In other cases he was probably allowed to continue because of the victims’ denial or their shame and fear about coming forward. Some of the women were apparently divorced after they came forward, and in a community where women don’t work, you can understand how difficult it would have been for victims to speak up. And there were rumors about for years, so it wasn’t just the victims that failed to come forward- it was pretty much the whole community.

  12. D. C. Sessions says

    The perpetrators make the argument that the victims have “consented” to the procedure, thus making it not-rape and medically kosher.

    By that argument, the actual charge would not be “rape” but “soliciting prostitution.”

  13. kermit. says

    I agree that this is not rape, but it is clearly a violation nonetheless, and one can’t help but see it as sexual in nature. “Rape by proxy” comes to mind, and it is creepy and religious and fascist in nature. In fact, sexual assaults on the formerly immune middle class seems to be on the rise. Strip searches when “perpetrators” are not expected to go to jail, nor are suspected of being armed; airport pat downs or scanners (flash or grope, your choice, sir); and now punitive and unnecessary medical procedures.

    Sexual humiliation is one of the tools of police states.

  14. uzza says

    WTF “tantamount”? The US dept of Justice defines rape as:
    “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, … without the consent of the victim,”

Leave a Reply