Pelvic mesh victims disgusted at suggestion of anal sex as solution
Australian victims of faulty pelvic mesh implants have expressed disgust at doctors’ suggestions of anal intercourse as a solution to their ruined sex lives.
A disturbing email exchange between doctors emerged earlier this month as part of a federal court class action in Australia, which was launched by hundreds of women who had the devices implanted to treat common childbirth complications.
The devices, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, caused chronic and debilitating pain, including during intercourse.
The emails reflected a callous attitude towards women among French gynaecologists involved with the company.
In the emails, doctors talk about alternatives to sex for women suffering painful intercourse. “It is no less true that sodomy could be a good alternative!” one doctor wrote. Another discussed the difficulty of raising sexual matters with his patients.
“I said to myself, there you go, for your next prolapse [patient], you talk to her about orgasms. OK! But also about fellatio, sodomy, the clitoris with or without G-spot etc,” he wrote. “I am sure of one thing: that I would very quickly be treated like some kind of sex maniac (which, perhaps, I am) or a pervert, or an unhealthily curious person.”
The attitudes accord with evidence before the current Senate inquiry into the devices, which has heard women were advised to consider anal intercourse as a solution to the extreme pain caused by intercourse.
The comments outraged members of the Australian Pelvic Mesh Support Group, which sent Guardian Australia a collection of anonymised responses from women to the revelations.
Many of the women said they had encountered similar attitudes from their own doctors.
“My husband and I were given advice [about] sexual activity,” one woman said. “We were gobsmacked. The whole sexual deviation thing is supposed to make the pain and complications from mesh go away. I find this type of advice disgusting.”
Another woman said the comments were demoralising and devalued women. She said they represented another form of abuse.
“Our vaginas have been abused by mesh and now doctors are suggesting our anus be abused. Despicable! Only a misogynist could think this way,” she said.
A third woman wrote that the “appalling” comments showed a complete lack of respect to the women involved. Another wrote that they suggested women were nothing more than a receptacle to satisfy men.
“The suggestion that women who are unable to have vaginal intercourse should practise anal instead completely devalues a woman’s right to a full and healthy sex life as an active, empowered and fulfilled participant,” she said.
“It suggests that a woman is nothing more than a receptacle to satisfy men and that ‘any hole will do’. I’m appalled that anyone, particularly a woman’s treating medical practitioner, would be so thoughtless and arrogant as to suggest that anal sex is an adequate solution to sexual dysfunction.”
Greens senator Rachel Siewert is chairing the senate inquiry into the devices. Siewert described the treatment of many of the women as appalling.
“The way many women have been treated when trying to get treatment and support when they have had bad outcomes from mesh implants is appalling, including suggestions by medical professionals that anal intercourse is an alternative to vaginal intercourse after mesh implants have gone terribly wrong,” she said.
“We have heard a lot of harrowing evidence during the inquiry – so many women have been horribly impacted by mesh implants. There is a clear pattern emerging of poor processes and advice which is leading to women having their lives severely impacted.”
The class action is continuing in the federal court.