Dr. Rachel Pope on the stigmas surrounding women’s sexual health

“There are just a lot of barriers, unfortunately, to speaking freely about women's sexual health,” says Rachel Pope, MD, MPH.

In this video, Rachel Pope, MD, MPH, discusses stigmas surrounding women’s sexual health. Pope is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of Female Sexual Health at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio.


Unfortunately, there are a lot of stigmas around women's sexual health. It continues to blow my mind that there is so much stigma around something that actually got us here. We all are here because of sex, because of intercourse. From the very beginning of time, that's what's been necessary in order to continue our species and yet, for women, the sexual component is heavily stigmatized. You see this around so many different cultures around the world; it's not just our American culture. It's just taboo to talk about intimacy, and especially from the woman's perspective. There's cultural stigma, there's stigma when things go wrong, or when they aren't working correctly. There's stigma [around] even just reaching out about those problems. Unfortunately, I find, even in my office, where I am specifically taking care of women's sexual health care needs, women still tell me that they're embarrassed to talk to me about it, or they're worried about bringing it up. [Through] my intake forms, [my nurses and schedulers tell them] on the phone, and then I have to tell them when they're present with me: This is why we're here. We want to talk to you about this. This is why this clinic exists. This is why my job exists. I'm happy to hear about the issues; please tell me as much as you're comfortable about and I'm probably going to ask some intimate questions also. And if you don't want to talk about it, we can pass on it. We can talk about something else, but this is why this is why the clinic exists. There are just a lot of barriers, unfortunately, to speaking freely about women's sexual health.

This transcript was edited for clarity.

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