Q: Being one of those poor uninsured types, I went to the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco to get some stuff in my throat checked out. I described my problems — weird tonsil spots and a lump in the back of my throat — to the evening’s practitioner and said that I had felt around back there with my finger. He seemed kind of shocked. I didn’t say that I learned how to suppress my gag reflex when I was 20 so that I could give better blow jobs. No, Dan, I was quiet and polite. So he looked in my throat with a tongue depressor. He told me what the tonsil stuff was and I was relieved to find that it was a nonproblem. Then he tried to usher me out. I said, “Well, what about this other thing? The lump in my throat?” I explained that I couldn’t see it, I could only feel it, and I asked the practitioner to put his finger down my throat and feel around.
“Fine,” he replied, “but this is the last thing I’m going to put in your mouth. Just in case you have some sort of fetish.”
I have a lot of empathy for the folks who work at free clinics (they see a lot of freaks and schizos), which is why I didn’t immediately pitch a fit. But, damn it, when I go to Planned Parenthood for an exam, they don’t tell me that they aren’t going to feel around in there with their fingers because they think I might have a fetish. They stick their fingers in my cunt and feel around to make sure nothing funny is going on.
After the practitioner felt around a little bit, he said he didn’t feel anything. Then he said, “You wouldn’t believe how many people come in here with that fetish,” and he removed his hand from my mouth. I never felt him touch the spot where the lump actually is but I couldn’t tell him to do it again because of the fetish comment. I left feeling completely marginalized.
So do you have any idea what the fetish is that he was referring to, Dan? Is it having someone gag you? Is it having someone feel around the back of your throat? Is it having, specifically, a doctor do it? And what would be the appropriate response to a comment such as the one the practitioner made? My friends have suggested that I write a letter to the clinic management. Do you think that he was out of line making a comment like that? Or do you think that he was within his rights to not do something that made him uncomfortable? The only thing that I can think of that could’ve actually made him uncomfortable was that I was wearing my leather wrist restraints, which I always wear. Your thoughts? —Tonsil Shocked
A: You had me until the last line, TS. You showed up at a free clinic wearing bondage gear and you were shocked — shocked! — when the overworked, underpaid practitioner wondered if you might not be there for a cheap thrill?
Look, TS, there really is such a thing as medical fetishism (we’ve discussed it recently in this space), and inconsiderate medical fetishists have been known to show up in doctor’s offices, free clinics and emergency rooms seeking unnecessary tests, swabs, enemas and worse. So it’s understandable that this practitioner, who may have encountered medical fetishists seeking cheap thrills in the past, would be wary of a woman in wrist restraints who asked him to stick a couple fingers down her throat and “feel around.” And it probably didn’t help that you were requesting a rather unorthodox throat exam.
“You never really stick your finger into someone’s throat,” said Barak Gaster, MD, an internist at the University of Washington and Savage Love’s regular go-to medical guy. “A request like that would be so out of the ordinary that I could see it throwing a doctor for a loop.” And how do doctors look for lumps in throats? If your lump can’t be seen or felt during a regular external neck exam, “typically you’re sent to an eye, nose and throat specialist for a direct laryngoscopy, which is a fiber-optic scope that lets you look into the back upper throat.”
I know, I know: Some folks wear wrist restraints and other leather gear to publicly affirm their BDSM lifestyle. But before the BDSM community attempts to bore me into submission with tons of angry e-mails, let me say this: Did the practitioner use the best choice of words? No. Could he have been more sensitive about the lump in TS’s throat? Yes. But sensitivity is a two-way street, my kinky friends, and TS has to take some responsibility for her own actions. Just as doctors should be courteous and nonjudgmental when it comes to medically neutral issues like, say, sexual orientation or kink (and courteous and judgmental when it comes to medically harmful issues like, say, barebacking or crystal meth), patients are obligated to be courteous and respectful. As TS knows that this poor guy has to deal with a parade of “freaks and schizos” all day (what a sensitive choice of words!), she could have shown a little consideration and left her fetish gear at home that day.
If that’s not possible — if TS just can’t be parted from her bondage gear — then she should arrive at the doctor’s office armed, at the very least, with a sense of humor. Instead she arrived wearing wrist restraints and left with her panties in a bunch. The patient, not the doctor, is to blame for that.
(I attempted to reach the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic for comment, but they were closed. Oddly enough, the clinic’s outgoing message claimed they were observing a “federal holiday” on a day that wasn’t a federal holiday. Hmm. Anyway, if the clinic or the doctor involved wants to get their two cents in, please write.)
Q: “Phillip” had a long ponytail. He was smart and cool, but chicks hated his gross hair. Our girlfriends told him that girls would be all over him just as soon as he lost his ponytail. He finally cut it off and, lo and behold, girls flocked to him. Now he’s engaged to one of them. The problem is nobody likes this girl. She’s a selfish, controlling bitch who plans to move Phillip out of state when they are married. He doesn’t want to move but seems to be going along with it. He’s totally whipped and seems really unhappy. Our question to you: Is it appropriate to tell him not to marry this woman? We’ve had friends tell us not to, as it would likely be a friendship killer. But he’s going to move and he’ll basically be out of our lives. We honestly feel like staging an intervention. Still, we all feel like assholes for even thinking like this. We know she’s not right for him, but should we tell him that? —Friends Against Controlling Bitches
A: Sometimes the most loving thing a friend can do is be an asshole, FACB, and it’s definitely asshole time when a friend is about to marry the wrong person. If you’re not willing to risk being an asshole now — even when it risks destroying a friendship — then you’re not Phillip’s true friend. And, like you said, if he goes ahead and marries this woman you’re probably never going to see him again anyway, so get that intervention together ASAP.
Attention, Readers: Are you a straight woman who likes to watch gay male porn? Bret Fetzer, a writer and a friend, is working on a story about women like you. If you’re up for talking about the why and wherefore, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send letters to email@example.com