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And You Want to Know about My Sex Life?

No, this title is not just a sleazy way to get you to read this post; it’s really the topic of this blog. Read on.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog,

Tell Everyone about Your STDs and IV Drug Use

About how blind people really have no privacy when filling out those probing medical questionnaires you’re given when checking in at the doctor’s office.

In theory, anyone needing assistance completing these forms by dictating their answers is supposed to be directed by the medical staff to a private space in the office to do this, but, in practice, this never happens. You’re just handed the form and expected to fill it out by dictating your responses in the middle of the waiting room to whomever you came with. Medical privacy be damned.

Incidentally, I’ve been told that the primary reason for this policy is to accommodate the significant number of patients who are functionally illiterate. That is, some patients can read, but their reading skill is inadequate to fully comprehend the forms they are being asked to complete. They know what it means to “pee” but don’t know what “urinate” means.

I was dreading the prospect of having to run this gauntlet one more time when I scheduled my annual appointment with my urologist. While I really like my doctor, his office staff is a disaster. To be delicate, I’m certain none of them was in competition for class valedictorian, and, if this weren’t enough, every one of them has the interpersonal skills of a New York cab driver. So, I know from long experience, they will seemingly go out of their way to make the questionnaire experience as difficult and embarrassing as possible.

However, this year the practice sent me an email encouraging me to check-in electronically and, as part of the process, they included the dreaded personal medical survey. At last, a way to have real privacy.

Well, not quite. As it developed, the questionnaire wasn’t entirely compatible with the text-to-speech software that converts the print on the screen of my computer into speech so I had to enlist the college student who works for my wife and me to help me fill it out. Any time you’re going to see a doctor specializing in anything between the navel and the knees, you can count on completing the questionnaire being an especially precarious proposition, so I knew this was going to be a little risky.

After all, this was a urologist, but the young woman who would be helping was uncommonly mature with an extensive background in the sciences.

All was progressing well. We had gone through the basic demographic information. We had even negotiated the inevitable inquiries about toileting. (Remember, this was a urologist.)

How frequently do you urinate?

Do you have difficulty urinating?

How frequently do you have to get up to urinate at night?

Not since my kindergarten teacher has anyone shown such interest in these topics.

All of this was a little awkward but far preferable to answering the same questions in the middle of the waiting room with an audience of strangers.

Then, she turned to an entirely new topic: “Would you describe your sex life as satisfying?” I swear I’m not making this up.

I’m reasonably certain that, when the founders of our country guaranteed freedom of speech in the first amendment to the Constitution, never in their wildest dreams did it occur to them that one day it would cover a topic like this.

For some reason, this was not a “yes” or “no” question but a fill-in-the-blank, and I told her to write, “None of your damn business.”

If this weren’t enough, the following question was “Would you be interested in a more fulfilling sex life?”

Now, this must set some sort of record for the most leading survey question ever.

I thought this was a pretty unusual experience, and, when I was telling my wife the story the other evening at dinner and saying that I thought it would make for the basis of a blog, she simply added, “Did I ever tell you about the time that I had to fill out the forms at the gynecologist a couple of years ago with the male college student we had working for us at the time?”

I’m sure it was a great story but at this point I’d already had more than enough self-disclosure for one day and didn’t ask.

So, the next time some politician waxes on about the glory of the First Amendment, just remember – there are limits.

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