Situating the Female Body: Clinical and Everyday Distinctions

Mie Kusk Søndergaard*, Rikke Sand Andersen, Dorte Ejg Jarbøl, Sara Marie Hebsgaard Offersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearch


Research shows that many women do not seek care for gynecological disturbances such as intercycle spotting or pain with intercourse. Both social and medical sciences have pointed at taboos or embarrassment to explain hesitation around healthcare seeking relating to the reproductive organs. It is suggested that (cis)women are embarrassed to discuss gynecological concerns with healthcare professionals, especially male ones.

Departing in prolonged fieldwork in Denmark, this paper discuss clinical encounters for gynecological problems. The fieldwork included participant observations of consultations about and examinations of gynecological symptoms by both male and female doctors in general practice clinics for 4,5 months, observations of everyday life in 6 key informants' homes over 4-6 months, interviews with 11 gynecological cancer patients, and interviews with 25 women experiencing gynecological disturbances.

Our preliminary analysis shows that conversations around gynecological
disturbances unfold in relatively unproblematic ways within clinical encounters,
and embarrassment seems to be more present in everyday life than in the clinic. In order to explore how and why gynecological disturbances are tinged with different sorts and levels of embarrassment, we draw on Mary Douglas' theory of matter out of place (1961). Matter out of place describes how things, which are not in the place they belong, elicit psychological dissonance which results in disgust. We suggest that gynecological sensations are matter out of place in everyday life, but not in clinical encounters. On the contrary, general practice can be seen as a specific kind of place where gynecological sensations belong, and in this paper we point to how actions and the environment in general practice creates a place of belonging for otherwise hidden sensations.

The research has potential implications for future research. We suggest that expressing embarrassment about healthcare seeking for gynecological problems in interviews cannot necessarily be taken to reflect what happens within clinical encounters.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date22. Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 22. Jul 2023
EventSociety for Menstrual Cycle Research 2023 conference: The Period is Political: Menstrual Research, Policy, and Practice - Bethesda, United States
Duration: 20. Jul 202324. Jul 2023


ConferenceSociety for Menstrual Cycle Research 2023 conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • Gynecology
  • General Practice
  • Embarrassment
  • Taboo
  • Healthcare seeking
  • Symptoms


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