Respectful Insolence

Are you sexually active?

It’s a simple question that we as medical professionals often have to ask, but one that is a minefield when it comes to answers.

To take a cue from our former President, I suppose it depends on what the meaning of the word “active” is.

Comments

  1. #1 speedwell
    May 7, 2007

    Ask like this:

    1. Have you ever used tobacco? (yes|no) How often? In what forms?
    2. Have you ever had alcoholic drinks? (yes|no) How often? What kinds?
    3. Have you ever had sex? (yes|no) How often? With what sort of partner?
    4. Have you ever had surgery?…. etc.

    Point being, if you precede it and follow it with a couple expected questions of the same format, you can make it all seem quite routine and eliminate a lot of discomfort.

  2. #2 Elizabeth Reid
    May 7, 2007

    Well, what *does* it mean, exactly? It’s relatively easy to define if one is in an ongoing relationship and has sex every three nights like clockwork, but there’s a lot of space between that and total virginity. What if I, the patient, had sex with a new partner the day after the last time I saw my doctor a year ago (so I might have acquired a new STD) but not since? What if I had sex three days ago, after which my partner and I broke up and I’ve vowed celibacy for at least a year? What if I’m married but my partner is depressed and we only have sex once every six months or so? I think it would be easier to answer if it was clear what the doctor really wanted to know.

  3. #3 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 7, 2007

    As a regular blood donor, I am accustomed to such questions: Have you had sex with a gay male? Have you accepted money or drugs for sex? Have you lived in Britain?

  4. #4 Joe
    May 7, 2007

    Keep in mind- sex is like bridge: if you don’t have a good partner you need a good hand.

  5. #5 Koray
    May 7, 2007

    Yeah, it’s a bit vague as to how active is considered active by the medical community. However, it’s quite disconcerting that these morons are having sex.

  6. #6 tbtam
    May 7, 2007

    Speedwell has it right – it takes more than one question to get at the information we docs need, that’s whay I always follow up with a second (and sometimes a third…)…And all my patient questionaires have the question “Any new sexual partners since your last visit?”

    One of these days I will post the answers I get on the new patient questionaires to the question “Are you sexually active?” They are often (intentionally) hilarious. Patients, like us docs, can also have a sense of humor…

  7. #7 TheProbe
    May 7, 2007

    Sure beats…

    Are you sexually active?

    No.

    When was the last time you had sex?

    This morning.

    I thought you said it were not sexually active.

    I wasn’t. I just laid there.

  8. #8 TheProbe
    May 7, 2007

    Sure beats…

    Are you sexually active?

    No.

    When was the last time you had sex?

    This morning.

    I thought you said it were not sexually active.

    I wasn’t. I just laid there.

  9. #9 Adria
    May 7, 2007

    In the Bible Belt, the question is a little different.

    ‘Are you married?’
    ‘No.’
    ‘Well, if you get married and think you might be pregnant…’

  10. #10 khan
    May 8, 2007

    I wish the blood donation questions had an option:
    “I haven’t had sex with anyone in 10 years”
    ——————————-
    It’s been so long; I don’t remember who brings the goat.

  11. #11 ellen
    May 9, 2007

    Back in the day before I was sexually active, I went for a gyno visit. The nurse asked me the last time I was sexually active, and I said I wasn’t. She said, when was the last time? I said, I’m not sexually active. This went on for a bit and did take a Clintonian twist, and eventually I made something up to make her happy. It boggled my mind that it didn’t occur to her that by “not sexually active” what I meant was “not sexually active” and I was unable to spell it out since she was so intent on my sexual activity that I started to think I was the crazy one and must be sexually active by some definition (although you would have had to have stretched the definition pretty damn far to think so). I don’t think I got good medical care at that visit.

  12. #12 Matthew L.
    May 13, 2007

    Similarly, back in high school one time when my doctor asked if I was sexually active during a checkup, I responded with a mournful/frustrated “Don’t I wish!”

    He had to stop for a minute to stifle the laughs. I must have caught him off guard.