Not Just Bodies: Strategies for Desexualizing the Physical Examination of PatientsAuthor(s): Patti A. Giuffre and Christine L. WilliamsSource: Gender and Society, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Jun., 2000), pp. 457-482Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.Stable URL: .Accessed: 08/05/2014 21:48Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at..JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].Sage Publications, Inc.is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Gender andSociety.This content downloaded from 22.214.171.124 on Thu, 8 May 2014 21:48:09 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
NOT JUST BODIES Strategies for Desexualizing the Physical Examination of Patients PATTI A. GIUFFRE SouthwestTexas State University CHRISTINE L. WILLIAMS University of Texas at Austin Health care professionals use strategies during the physical examination to stay in control of theirfeel- ings, the behaviors of their patients, and to avoid allegations of sexual misconduct. To investigate how healthcare practitioners desexualize physical exams, theauthors conducted 70 in-depth interviews with physicians and nurses. Three desexualizing strategies were general ones, used by both male andfemale health care providers, and were employed regardless of the characteristics of the patients: engaging in conversationand nonsexual joking, meeting the patient clothed before the exam, and using medical rather than colloquial terms. Six strategies were used only in specific contexts or were used primarily by menor women. These gendered strategies include using a chaperone, objectifying the patient, empathiz- ing with the patient, joking about sex, threatening the patient, and lookingprofessional. The authors conclude that desexualizing the examis gendered and, in some contexts, (hetero)sexualized. Using cer- tain strategies bolsters stereotypes about gender and heterosexual relationships in the hospital. Physicians and nurses routinely examine naked bodies and discuss intimate, sex- ual issues with their patients (Friedman andBoumil 1995; Komaromy et al. 1993). Yet, these health care professionals are expected to avoid or deny personal sexual feelings and ignore the expression of any sexual desire from their patients(Hearn and Parkin 1987; Henslinand Biggs 1998; Parkin 1989; Pringle1998). How do they do it? That is, how do they desexualize the physical exam?