Exposed: The Hidden History of the Pelvic Exam, 2024
The pelvic exam. If you’ve ever had one, you’re probably already wincing. It might be considered a routine medical procedure, but for most of us, it is anything from unpleasant to traumatic.
In Exposed, noted historian Wendy Kline uncovers the procedure’s fascinating—and often disturbing—history. From gynecological research on enslaved women’s bodies to nonconsensual practice on anesthetized patients, the pelvic exam as we know it today carries the burden of its sordid past. Its story is one of pain and pleasure, life-saving discoveries and heartbreaking encounters, questionable procedures and triumphant breakthroughs. Drawing on previously unpublished archival sources, along with interviews with patients, providers, and activists, Kline traces key moments and movements in gynecological history, from the surgeons of the nineteenth century to the OB/GYNs of today.
This powerful book reminds us that the pelvic exam is has never been “just” a medical procedure, and that we can no longer afford to let the pelvic exam remain unexamined.