Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Virgin's Visit to Planned Parenthood

Before I left New York, I had one last very important thing to do: make an appointment at Planned Parenthood for a pap smear, a pelvic exam, and, most importantly, a prescription for birth control.

I've mentioned this need for the Pill before, way back in September. But changing pharmacies and states meant I couldn't transfer my prescription, so I had one blissful month on the Pill, with minimal cramps, before I returned to my normal debilitating pain. To get a new prescription required seeing a doctor, but I hate going to the doctor, and I was scared about facing my first gynecological exam. I kept putting it off, hoping my cramps would lessen each month, but they never did. So finally, the week before I moved to Toronto, I called Planned Parenthood and scheduled an appointment.

I have health insurance, but my network only includes doctors in my home state, except in the case of emergencies. Luckily for me, Planned Parenthood charges the uninsured based on our income. Unluckily for me, I still paid about half of what I earn in a week (well, half of what I earned before I received my raise for moving to Toronto).

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Protesters waving brochures in my face, calling me a murderess, throwing pig's blood on my car? I've seen video footage and read firsthand accounts of how far extremists have gone outside clinics.

I was prepared, though. I was all ready to put on my most virginal smile and clasp my hands together as if in prayer. I envisioned myself approaching the protesters spewing hate and responding with a call to prayer. Then whilst praying, thank the Lord for blessing me with the strength to remain chaste and the opportunity to find like-minded individuals on my way to see a doctor. Spout off some drivel about Paul's call to singledom and virginity before praising the people around me for also remaining pure virgins as God intends. I was going to end with a plea that the doctors find something to relieve me of my monthly burden as it leaves me bedridden and unable to do God's work for two days every month.

(Un)fortunately, there were no protesters. So I'll have to save my shaming speech prayerful reproach for another time.

The first thing I noticed in the clinic was an overwhelming sense of sadness. I don't know what I was expecting, but not this. Sterile. Bare. Faded outdated posters on the walls. Signs in English and Spanish. Near silence in the waiting room, with just the drone of the television in the background. Mostly women, alone. An unsmiling teenage couple. Brusque receptionists.

Even though there weren't that many women there, I waited more than an hour past my appointment time, despite being 15 minutes early. Finally I spoke with a woman who took my medical history and confirmed the purpose of my appointment.

This was probably my favorite part, which I know sounds weird. Bear with me here.

Her reaction when I said I was a virgin was priceless. I could've knocked her over with a feather. I strongly had the feeling that none of her patients had ever confessed to being virgins before. And when she said, “Why were you so shy about it? It's nothing to be ashamed of!” (because when asking me my sexual history, I said sexually active, but not having intercourse at the moment... don't oral sex & mutual masturbation count as active?), I quickly reassured her that I wasn't. I was tempted to explain that I actually broadcast my virginity online via my blog and twitter, but instead I just said that the boyfriend and I are both waiting for marriage.

This segued into a line of questioning I've never received before, and even if it was unnecessary for me, I really admired Planned Parenthood's commitment to women's health and well-being. She started asking me about my relationship. First just casual questions, like how we met and how long we've been dating. Then slightly more personal questions, like how serious we were. Finally, the point of the inquiry: how did he treat me? Did he ever hit me? Did he ever threaten me? Several very specific questions to see if I'd ever been abused.

Obviously, the boyfriend treats me like [insert nerdy more rare than platinum metal here]. He would never hurt me, and he would do anything to protect me.

But that's not true for all men. Some men are abusive. I really appreciated that at Planned Parenthood, those questions were included as part of my medical history.

So this led to the actual exam and the discussion on how necessary a pap smear and pelvic exam were for a virgin.

Confession: I had never had a gynecological exam of any sort before, mainly because I was terrified. Technically women should start having them right before they start having sex or when they turn 21. If you turn 21 and you're not having sex, it's strongly encouraged, but not completely necessary. So I kept putting it off. But since my below-the-waist action is no longer strictly solo, I figured I should face my fears for the sake of my health.

I met the doctor who would be examining me. She said I didn't have to have a pap smear and pelvic exam that day since I was a virgin, but I should get one within a few months regardless. I agreed to it, and the other woman led me to a room. She took pity on my clearly terrified and ignorant self, and she told me everything I could expect. She then left the room so I could strip naked except for my socks (oh, hey, just like skype sex!) and put on a paper gown (not like skype sex).

The doctor returned and very kindly narrated everything as she went along. Not to insult the intelligence of most doctors (and dentists, for that matter), but I'm not sure they know the dictionary definitions of “pain” and “pressure.” Whenever a medical professional warns me, “You'll feel a little pressure,” I prepare myself for a hell of a lot of pain. The pap smear was no exception. Holy shit, that hurt. But it was over really fast. The pelvic exam hurt too, but not as much, and it was even faster. Then a quick breast exam, which is more about teaching me to do self monthly exams than anything else. Then, finally, I was done!

I don't have the receipt handy, unfortunately, so I can't break down the costs of everything for y'all. But the real cost of my appointment was much much more than what they charged me.

Which leads to my little PSA for today.

If you're pro-choice, rock on.

If you're pro-life, I beg of you to do some research and not just listen to the media and the pulpit. I'm a virgin who needed birth control and a gynecological exam. I have health insurance, but it doesn't cover routine exams out-of-state. I had no where else to turn. Planned Parenthood offered the services I needed, at a discounted price based on my income. It is not right for you or our government to dictate what sort of health services I can and cannot have. When the government restricts centers who offer abortion services, regardless of the other services offered, all women suffer, not just ones who seek an abortion.

Oh, and in case any Rush Limbaugh supporters are reading this...

I take birth control, but I am NOT a slut.


  1. Belle, I have been in the exact same situation as you since I was 16. I went to the health clinic because my doctor was male (and one of my friends dad's so talking about my Vajayjay with him wouldn't fly). They always found my virginity extremely amusing but in a good way. A LOT of women use birth control for purposes other than preventing pregnancy. So Rush Limbaugh can suck it!!

    1. I'm glad it's not just me! Prescription hormonal supplements are about so much more than just not getting pregnant. I'm doing my damnedest to explain this to basically everyone I know.


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