Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sex (or the lack thereof)

Are Singaporeans ready for this?

Not many patients consult GP’s for sexual problems. I don’t mean sub-fertility or menstrual-related problems. I’m talking about actual problems with the physical act of intercourse. ED is probably the most common sexual problem for which males consult their GP’s since the advent of the little blue pill (Viagra, for those who have been living under a rock). Even then, most patients with ED feel more comfortable consulting male doctors.

I have had a few female patients come to me with the distressing problem of vaginismus. They were generally very embarrassed by their problem - so much so that one of them waited a whole year of non-consummation of her marriage before striking up the courage to talk to me about it! It can be extremely distressing for a couple faced with this situation, as they are often too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg; God knows how many people live with problems (emotional as well as physical) with their sex lives. And judging from responses from the patients who have approached me, they are unaware that there are specialists out there who can help with these problems.

In a conservative society like ours, sex, let alone sexual problems is a difficult topic to bring up for discussion over coffee or the dinner table. And, conservative or not, parents are probably the last people on earth one would want to discuss one’s sexual life with!

And it doesn’t help matters that sex education is so lacking in the local schools. I think the majority of teachers are ill-equipped to handle this sensitive subject. For crying out loud, many people (teachers included) can’t even utter the words “vagina” & penis” out loud without humming & hah-ing or sniggering! I remember going through my son’s Primary 5 health education book when he was still attending a local all boys school, & seeing a chapter on the human reproductive system. When I asked him if his teacher (a lady) had gone through that chapter yet, he said yes, but she skipped the bits on the female organs! I was quite astounded.

Judging from the very successful turnout of the first sex exhibition held in South-east Asia last year, I think Singaporeans are more than ready! Heck, I was surprised to find this on a government website! Yeah...I think we're ready...


igakunogakusei said...

Given that GP tend to look after not only the patient in question, but usually also their families, immediate and extended - how much of this refrain could be due to concerns of a potential breach of patient confidentiality, be it intentional or otherwise?

Patient confidentiality seems to be a huge affair in the UK; I get the impression that it's not as strictly adhered to in Sg. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

aliendoc said...

I personally don't think the patients are concerned with breach of confidentiality. I believe there is an inherent reluctance/embarrassment to talk about this to anyone - probably a cultural & societal thing...

igakunogakusei said...

I mentioned the confidentiality thing because I was appalled to find that some of my relatives assumed their doctors would share information with spouses, even when they hadn't explicitly consented. I personally would not be blurting my sexual history to someone who would blabber.

But perhaps part of the general embarrassment surrounding sexual problems stems from perceived 'judgment' that patients would receive from their doctors.