For a lot of women, a trip to the gynaecologist’s office is probably one of the least erotic things imaginable. The unflattering strip lighting, the paper gowns, the cold speculums – no thank you.
One section of the BDSM community begs to differ. Gyno-fetishists like to play out the roles of a gynaecologist and patient, performing fake exams using real medical equipment. Specialist companies like medicaltoys.com and medfetuk.com sell “medical grade” equipment to make roleplays more realistic, involving speculums, thermometers, stethoscopes, latex gloves and even stirrups. The most serious enthusiasts invest in examination chairs, which can be bought from legit medical supply websites and cost thousands of dollars.
“I love being able to look into a vagina and seeing the cervix at the end of the speculum,” a post on one internet forum elaborates on the appeal of using medical equipment on a partner. “Being able to actually look into and see the interior of a woman’s vagina is an uncommon view that most don’t see about that woman.”
The very idea might make non-gyno enthusiasts clench their legs together, but this fetish isn’t as niche as you might expect. There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to it, including this one with hundreds of members. The website fetish.com has a detailed guide to gyno exam roleplay. Pornhub has almost 1,000 gyno-related videos, some with over 1 million views.
I joined a forum where enthusiasts discuss everything about the fetish, including recommendations for equipment, favourite videos and practical concerns such as stirrup positioning. Within minutes of joining, a member started chatting to me.
Alex* has been interested in the fetish for years but believed he was alone until discovering online forums. “My wife isn’t interested so I attend play parties,” he said, referencing the organised meetups popular across the BDSM community. He says he enjoys the feeling of power that comes with performing an examination, pointing out that the dynamics involved in the fetish aren’t that unusual. “All sex is about this – about power.”
Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, educator, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life. The psychological side of a gyno fetish and other forms of medical fetishism make perfect sense to her. Like other forms of BDSM arguably been made more mainstream by films such as 50 Shades of Grey, gyno fetishism follows predictable power dynamics: “Gynaecological fetishism has a classic dom/sub power dynamic, with the patient in the submissive role,” she explained. “Like all intimate examination fetish, it's about the thrill of humiliation and violation in a contained setting.”
The idea of the fantasy and its contained setting was echoed in posts by women forum users. “You can tailor it to your fantasy needs,” wrote one, “and include things that would never happen in a real exam.”
But on the whole, women on the forum were very reluctant to speak to me – the majority of forum users appeared to be straight men, an observation confirmed by Alex. “Hard data is,” he said, “there are just way more men here.”
I asked Lola Jean, another sex educator, what might be going on. “If we’re speaking heteronormatively, I’d guess that this has to do with the fact that their partner ’playing’ the doctor is male,” Lola explained over email. “If you’re seeing a GYN then you probably have a vagina and the unease likely comes from the inherent power dynamic not only between doctor-patient, but between genders.”
I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s a feminist issue. After all, a cis man has no direct experience of a real gynaecological exam and the associated, let’s face it, discomfort. Is gynaecological fetishism tapping into outdated ideas about certain reproductive organs being mysterious and unknowable? Could this, in turn, encourage the fetishization of our bodies in an old fashioned and unhealthy way?
Tonya Jone Miller worked as a sex phone operator for over 15 years and roleplayed gyno fantasies for clients over the phone. She estimates that about 5 percent of her callers were interested in it, and disagrees with my theory that the kink might be misogynist.
“I think for a lot of men, it comes from a place of wanting to better understand the female experience,” she tells me over Skype from her home in Portland. “In the past, a woman would never explain to her partner what went on in the gynaecologist’s office, but now there are videos, there are forums where people can discuss this stuff.”
Still, I was starting to think that this was one fetish with a particularly strong taboo among its women followers – or at least, something seemed to be preventing them from describing their experiences. Then I was introduced to Melissa Vitale, Communications Director for NSFW, a private members sex club in New York City. Melissa explained how gynaecological fetishism can, and does, empower women sexually. “I love this topic!” she replied instantly when I emailed her. “I never knew medical role play could be so erotic until one of our clubhouses had a medical-themed room.”
She added: “I didn’t get it myself until my partner and I played in that room and immediately I wanted him to be my OBGYN and take advantage of me. It was really erotic because unlike every other time I’ve been in stirrups and felt powerless and ashamed – this time I felt empowered and sensual.”
Tonya can see the appeal. “It takes the onus off the woman. She’s able to just relax and let it happen and isn’t responsible for how her body responds,” she says. “In a lot of ways, we’re conditioned to be pleasers, to always please our man. This fetish allows for freedom from that.”
I’ve written about pretty out-there fetishes, but gynaecological fetishism seems to carry more of a taboo than most. Before meeting the few women who were happy to discuss it with me, I was struck by a deafening silence from women who were into the kink. (It’s perhaps worth noting that those who offered personal stories about gyno are all sex educators or working directly within the sex industry.)
The kink scene and its online communities have created an openness about sex, and are changing the way we think and talk about sex and fetishes for the better. But, for the time being at least, it seems this particular fetish, with its focus on women’s bodies and women’s experiences, is still shocking for some. Hopefully this attitude will slowly change – whether or not you’re up for getting into the stirrups.