modesty

Why Men Avoid Healthcare: The Elephant in the Room

There have been numerous campaigns encouraging men to have testicular exams, prostate exams, and routine physicals in hopes of finding problems at an early stage when they might be more readily addressed. Despite those efforts many men still avoid healthcare until they have a problem that just can’t be avoided any longer. Why? Often it is modesty, the elephant in the room that the medical system ignores and that most men won’t talk about.

Men will give you every excuse under the sun for not going to the doctor except for the real one. Yes they lie to you. Society has deemed it not manly to be modest, so few men will admit to it if asked let alone speak up in healthcare settings. It is easier to just not go to the doctor.

When a man speaks up is his concern acknowledged and spoken to? Not usually. The response is often “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.”, “We’re all professionals here.”, “Are you afraid of women?” or “We don’t have modesty here.” That’s not acknowledgement of the patient’s concern but rather phrases to shut down the conversation and obtain compliance. It usually works, but then some of those men won’t be back. Rather than show a little empathy, their embarrassment is made worse.

Men can choose to go to male physicians but when it comes to intimate exams and procedures they face a sea of female nurses and techs at every turn. It is all but impossible to find a urologist who hires any male nursing or tech staff. Finding a male sonographer to do a testicular ultrasound often requires searching far and wide. Virtually every hospital in the country has a Women’s Health Center staffed by women for women. Where are the Men’s Health Centers staffed by men for men? Why the double standard?

A subset of this that many female physicians don’t understand is that there are men who trust you and willingly submit to your exam but then they are ambushed by female chaperones being brought in. They may not say anything or they may joke about it to pretend all is OK, but they may not come back to you again. For many men it feels like you’ve turned their exam into a spectator sport. Women don’t have male chaperones, so why are men treated this way?

Male exposure is generally treated much more casually than that of women. An abdominal exam for example does not require the genitals be exposed, yet for men often his gown is lifted fully exposing him. Perhaps a sheet will then be put over his genitals but he’s already been needlessly exposed at that point. Put the sheet down first. Needless intimate exposure casualness abounds throughout the male patient experience. Being polite while doing it does not change the fact that he was exposed needlessly or for longer than was necessary.

Some men are not modest. Some prefer female caregivers. However, many are modest and they are routinely forced to surrender their dignity in order to receive healthcare. Except for certain ER and OR scenarios we don’t do that to modest women. Hiring a few male nurses & techs in urology and other areas where men commonly have intimate exposure would go a long way towards conveying that their dignity actually matters. Then you’ll see them more proactively going to the doctor.

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Robert Underhill

View posts by Robert Underhill
Bob is just an average guy.  More specifically he is a retired corporate executive, husband, father, grandfather, volunteer with several  historical and preservation organizations, amateur genealogist and chief putterer around his country property in Vermont.  Drawing upon his many experiences as a patient and men he knows he hopes to bring some attention to an issue which for some men is a real barrier to seeking medical care.

1 Comment

  1. KJKMarch 1, 2024

    This is articulate and accurate. It is ridiculous that urology practices whose patients are 70-80% men have no male nurses, and worse, no male med techs. So a female med tech, often with a second trainee or chaperone watching, preps male genitals or removes catheters or performs other direct male genital care. Med techs are not professionals like nurses and doctors. And my experience has been that these med techs are not trained to respect your privacy or preserve your dignity. They could start the encounter by saying that they will try to respect your privacy after telling you what they are going to do, but typically don’t. Instead, you are left undraped and exposed for longer than necessary, often with other operative level females in the room. The double standard compared to female health care is breathtaking hypocrisy. Imagine a woman in stirrups at the gynecologist undraped with male med techs present. Doesn’t happen.

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