Men Associate Digital Rectal Exams With Homosexuality

Previous research has pointed to embarrassment and offensiveness as general reasons why men avoid digital rectal exams (DREs) and colonoscopies. But seven researchers decided to probe deeper to determine why men are embarrassed and offended by these tests. Their study, published in the American Journal of Men's Health, identified an underlying reason why many men opt out of DREs: they associate them with homosexuality.

There was a general dislike of colonoscopies, and some men considered the insertion of a medical device (colonoscope) an affront to their masculinity. But the test men had the most trouble with was the DRE, where a doctor inserts a finger in the anus to feel for physical abnormalities. According to the researchers:

  • "Regardless of race or education, men experienced DREs more negatively than colonoscopies because penetration with a finger was associated with a gay sexual act."

I found these results fascinating and incredibly sad. The men in this study felt their masculinity was threatened simply because two common medical tests involved penetration of the anus, and that opinion contributes to their tendency to avoid the tests altogether.

Still, sexual orientation is what the majority of men in the study focused on when commenting on their negative opinions of the digital rectal exam. The pervasive social opinion that being gay strips a man of his masculinity is demeaning, and I imagine it only makes it harder for men to determine and embrace their sexual orientation.

The study indicated more research is needed to explore the reasons men avoid screening. After all, gay men avoid it too, so sexual orientation -- and opinions toward it -- can't be the only factor at play here. Sometimes we all do things that run counter to what's best for our health, and avoiding screenings is one of them.

Regardless of the sexual orientation of a friend or loved one, please encourage the men in your life to get proper screening.

Related Articles:

Source: Winterich, Julie and Quandt, Sara. "Masculinity and the Body: How African American and White Men Experience Cancer Screening Exams Involving the Rectum." American Journal of Men's Health (22 Jul. 2008): online. Accessed 23 Jul. 2008.

Previous research has pointed to embarrassment and offensiveness as general reasons why men avoid digital rectal exams (DREs) and colonoscopies. But seven researchers decided to probe deeper to determine why men are embarrassed and offended by these tests. Their study, published in the American Journal of Men's Health, identified an underlying reason why many men opt out of DREs: they associate them with homosexuality.

There was a general dislike of colonoscopies, and some men considered the insertion of a medical device (colonoscope) an affront to their masculinity.

But the test men had the most trouble with was the DRE, where a doctor inserts a finger in the anus to feel for physical abnormalities. According to the researchers:

  • "Regardless of race or education, men experienced DREs more negatively than colonoscopies because penetration with a finger was associated with a gay sexual act."

I found these results fascinating and incredibly sad. The men in this study felt their masculinity was threatened simply because two common medical tests involved penetration of the anus, and that opinion contributes to their tendency to avoid the tests altogether.

Still, sexual orientation is what the majority of men in the study focused on when commenting on their negative opinions of the digital rectal exam. The pervasive social opinion that being gay strips a man of his masculinity is demeaning, and I imagine it only makes it harder for men to determine and embrace their sexual orientation.

The study indicated more research is needed to explore the reasons men avoid screening. After all, gay men avoid it too, so sexual orientation -- and opinions toward it -- can't be the only factor at play here. Sometimes we all do things that run counter to what's best for our health, and avoiding screenings is one of them. Regardless of the sexual orientation of a friend or loved one, please encourage the men in your life to get proper screening.

Related Articles:

Source: Winterich, Julie and Quandt, Sara. "Masculinity and the Body: How African American and White Men Experience Cancer Screening Exams Involving the Rectum." American Journal of Men's Health (22 Jul. 2008): online. Accessed 23 Jul. 2008.

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