“Uncomfortable”; “Humiliating”; “Traumatic”; “Scarring”--words too often used to describe pelvic exams. Most of the 90 million U.S. women who actually get pelvic exams believe the exam is supposed to hurt. Millions more avoid care because they feel disrespected by their health care providers, often because of their sexuality, gender identity, race, or income. People can't believe it when told that, if done correctly on a healthy person, pelvic exams should be pain-free. And everyone should feel respected when on the exam table.
The documentary, At Your Cervix, enters U.S. medical and nursing schools to break the silence around the unethical ways in which medical and nursing students learn to perform pelvic exams. These practices—which include requiring nursing students to perform exams on each other in front of faculty, and medical students “practicing” on unconscious, unconsenting patients—lead to the reality that many patients find their pelvic exams humiliating and painful. The film challenges the existence of these egregious practices by highlighting an ethical and more effective way of teaching the pelvic exam introduced nearly 30 years ago: the work of Gynecological Teaching Associates (GTAs), in which the “patient” herself is the teacher.
Filmmakers Amy Jo Goddard and Julie Carlson are New York City GTAs and tell this story from their perspective as women’s health activists.