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A recent study suggested that female doctors make better doctors than male doctors, and it reminded me of an experience I had in college when I was failed by three different male professionals within the span of a few weeks.
It started in 2013 with a youthful impulse. I wanted to try something one of my friends touted as being quite successful. Caroline* had gone to a piercer and requested a Vertical Clitoral Hood (VCH) piercing, and she did nothing but raved about it for weeks. The most persuasive comment was about how it intensified her sensations during sex when the piercing rubbed against her clitoris.
I needed to know what it was like! Who wouldn’t want to intensify their sexual experiences?
I found my way down to a local tattoo and piercing shop that I had been to before, and I went in without hesitation or concern. I had done my research – it was a safe and common piercing for women. I told my boyfriend what I wanted to do, and he was supportive. The anatomy was easy to manipulate and the piercing was simple. It should have been quick and easy, and after a short healing period I would be able to try out just how much it intensified sex.
My boyfriend was with me, and he held my hand. It took the piercer several long minutes to get himself situated and kept shifting the tube around. I kept looking at my boyfriend for an answer as to why it was taking so long. He smiled and told me it was going to be okay.
Suddenly, there was the pain. My body went limp, and it felt like every nerve sizzled and then went dark. I stared at the ceiling and seemed to memorize the pattern of the indentations in the ceiling tile. The piercer finished and then cleaned up the area. He proclaimed it was over, and I went home.
An hour or so later, I pulled my boyfriend into the bedroom and asked him to take a look. Something wasn’t right. My boyfriend pulled back my skirt and looked. He lifted his hand and rubbed my knee.
“I’m sorry, but he messed up.”
I began to cry. I knew something had been wrong.
He went to his computer and started to research obscure female genitalia piercings. When he found the one that described my piercing, he gasped. My boyfriend grabbed his phone and called over to the store.
“You screwed up. You didn’t give her a VCH! You gave her an Isabella!”
(The above link doesn’t display an image).
The piercing went through my clitoris
The piercer denied that he made a mistake. The piercer said we were wrong.
We went back an hour or so later, when I finally felt I could go without screaming.
On the same table, I laid back and looked at the same ceiling tile.
My boyfriend pointed.
“That’s her clit. See how it is isn’t contained to her hood?”
The piercer backed up and repeated “no” a dozen times. He offered me a free bottle of solution to clean the piercing. We didn’t take it, and we left.
My next call was to a local attorney. He told me that he knew the business owner was mortgaged to the skies, and even if I won a suit against him it wouldn’t pay out because my costs and subsequent damages were so “insignificant.” While he was referring to financial numbers and the calculation to determine damages, it was quite unsettling to hear him say my experience was “insignificant.”
The following day I made an appointment with my gynecologist. He wasn’t in the office, so his colleague saw me. He conducted a few tests, and because I had not lost sensation throughout the area indicated I wasn’t actually injured.
My regular gynecologist saw me a few weeks later for my annual exam. I went alone to the appointment because I thought I was in a safe place. I was very, very wrong.
Dr. Coleman entered the room, my chart open, and said “so I heard you like to make bad decisions?”
Sitting on the table, in my gown, I stared up at him, my brows knit together.
“What in the hell are you talking about?”
“I read the story about your little piercing. That’s pretty funny.”
I stared at him.
“My body was marred, and you think that’s funny?”
His smile dropped.
“Do you know how resilient the nerves in your clitoris are? You weren’t in any danger.”
My eyebrows raised.
“Which is why I came to the doctor after this happened. You went to medical school, not me.”
He smirked again.
“Let me grab a nurse.”
He quickly left the room. I stared at the floor for a moment – I couldn’t believe it had happened! I couldn’t believe how unprofessional he had been nor how insensitive he was regarding the nature of the disfigurement.
While the worst possible outcome was losing sensation in my clitoris, the outcome I did experience was traumatic.
Voices were muffled through the door.
“Does she still have it in,” a woman inquired.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t know what she expected. Who would ever want a genital piercing?” My doctor’s voice echoed through the door as he slowly opened it.
I stared at them, and they quickly stopped and watched me. Still in my gown, I got down off the table and grabbed my clothes.
“I’m getting the hell out of here.”
They tried to stop me, apologizing as they regained their professionalism, but I wouldn’t have any of it.
I changed in a bathroom and left.
After a couple of weeks, I finally felt like I could have it removed safely. My boyfriend removed it, and the entire situation was for naught. Perhaps I wasn’t at risk for losing sensitivity in my clitoris, but I didn’t want a piercing through my clit.
The piercer, the attorney, and the gynecologist all minimized my experience – that I was victimized by a careless piercer – because it was not something that they understood.
Since this experience, I have worked with female doctors and attorneys who have viewed my situation differently. The support I have received from them has cast a shadow on my previous experiences, when I was degraded by professionals I should have been able to trust.
*Names have been changed.