Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How frivolous is sexuality?

On the Society for Adolescent Medicine mailing list, there's a discussion about a pediatrician's 14 year old male patient who has frequent bilateral testicular pain relieved by masturbation. An instantly familiar diagnosis and remarkably not attested in the medical literature. A correspondent forwarded a 11 year old paper from the journal Pediatrics, "Blue Balls": A Diagnostic Consideration in Testiculoscrotal Pain in Young Adults: A Case Report and Discussion (106:4, October 2000, page 843), with accompanying letters. Featured prominently is the fact that masturbation is a good answer, and that Dr. Jocelyn Elders lost her job for advocating teaching masturbation. The upshot of both the paper and the mailing list discussion is that no one knows anything: the only way available for doctors to address the issue was to suggest ruling out serious medical conditions.

When discussing sexuality issues without severe medical consequences, there's a real uncertainty or self-consciousness: some may see sexuality as existing outside the realm of health and medicine, and dealing with sexuality risks being seen as frivolous. Sexuality is certainly part of health, but when will sexuality be treated as part of health?

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