Photo courtesy of Dr. Joachim Pömer
This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Going to a gynecologist and showing this stranger your vagina is both terribly intimate and reassuringly anonymous. You're lying there, paying someone to take a thorough look at your love tunnel, and while you know he or she has literally seen thousands of them, you can't help but wonder: What does this person think of my vag? How does it feel for them to be in such close proximity to my labia? What drives a person to choose this profession?
Dr. Joachim Pömer (34) has his own clinic in Linz, Austria. When I asked him how the hell he became a gynecologist, he told me about a trip to Namibia when he was 28, where he witnessed a few women giving birth. There, he realized that he wanted to be part the moment when a new life comes to existence. While he was prepared for that one question, he wasn't prepared for the other ten I had for him.
VICE: What is the most disgusting thing about your job?
Dr. Joachim Pömer: The word "disgusting" shouldn't exist for doctors. The last thing a woman needs is a gynecologist looking disgusted. Women often come to us with heavy periods, with periods that won't end, or just for a routine checkup. I occasionally pull tampons that got lost out of vaginas. There's nothing uncomfortable or disgusting about that, it's my job.
Is it true that your patients' feet often smell worse than their intimate areas?
It's like when you go to the dentist and brush your teeth beforehand—women generally have had a shower a while before they see me and they're fine. A healthy woman doesn't smell bad from her vagina. Special intimate hygiene is even counter-productive. We see vaginal fungi especially with women who have been using specific vaginal cleansing products over a longer period of time. Water is enough to keep it clean—I would always recommend a healthy woman to just leave it be. If a woman does smell bad there it's usually because she has an infection. It's my job to make sure she gets rid of that.
How many patients shave before seeing you?
I have a research paper here that states that over 60 percent of women shave their intimate zones on a regular basis. I don't think that if a woman normally doesn't shave she would change that especially for her gynecologist. Some women come here for emergencies, which are never the right time to shave. It's really not important.
Does pubic hair not get in the way of your work?
No, removing your pubic hair is just a question of taste. A woman can think for herself whether she wants to do it or even discuss it with her partner, but she doesn't have to worry about what her gynecologist thinks of it. Only when we're operate it can be important to remove hair, but if she hasn't shaved herself we'll do it for her.
What was the most absurd thing you learned about sex in your job?
I learned that there's really nothing absurd about consensual sex. Don't worry about what other people may think and just do what you want to do—as long as it's consensual of course, and doesn't involve anything illegal.
Have you ever gotten turned on by women getting undressed in front of you at work?
No. Patients come to me as a matter of trust. It might sound difficult to believe, but you have to be able to switch off your own sexuality. I can do that at work.
What is it like when you bump into a patient in the supermarket?
I say "hello." If the situation allows it, we might have a chat and if my wife and son are with me, I'll introduce them to her. I never talk about my work to my wife because as a doctor, my patients' issues are confidential. But if I run into a patient who quickly mentions that she has some issue or other, she can schedule an appointment with me there and then. But I wouldn't talk about it in detail on the street or in public.
Have you ever slept with a woman and thought, She should really have that looked at?
At work I blank out my sexuality, and in private I blank out my job. I'm married and love my wife. If I noticed that something's not right during sex or during her pregnancy I would tell her—that's what you're in a relationship for. That has nothing to do with my job.
What does your wife think about your job?
It did stress her out a bit in the beginning. A lot of doctors we know are divorced because they don't spend enough time with their families. At first she was a bit unsure about it, because she didn't know what it was like for me to see partially naked women all day. She's fine with it now, though. She even tells her friends to come see me if they need a checkup. I think that's the best proof of trust a wife can give you.
Can you find the G-spot easier than other men?
There's still some debate on whether it even exists at all. But doctors have claimed to have found it on the front wall of the vagina, a few centimeters above the urethra—where there are a lot of nerve cells. There are glands there that can be stimulated, too. So, yes sure, we gynecologists do believe that we can find it.