“Thank you so much for helping me! A lot of women who do pelvic work will not work with men, so it can be difficult. I am so glad you agreed to see me because I think this is really going to work.”
A man who recently came to see me for pelvic floor dysfunction and pain told me this at the end of his session. It is one of the most humbling and thought provoking things I have yet heard from a client.
As a women working in pelvic care, most of my pelvic floor dysfunction clients are women. But on occasion men like the one who prompted this post will come to me seeking better pelvic floor health. I think they are very brave to be willing to entrust a women with this type of information because talking about painful sex, sexual dysfunction, incontinence, and pretty much anything else that stems from our genital regions can often be difficult to talk about with people we’re closest to, never mind a stranger. On top of that, they are speaking to someone whose physiology is different preventing the listener from having in first hand experience with their specific issues. Even someone like myself who has dealt with pelvic floor dysfunction cannot fully appreciate what a man with this condition will go through.
There is also the need to overcome internalized cultural stereotypes. Women experiencing pelvic pain often feel broken, lost, or as if they might have done something to deserve a sub par sex life. But avoiding sex is semi-more acceptable societally because women are somewhat expected to have a lower to just plain low sex drive (an extremely frustrating and invalidating view, but there nonetheless). For men, much more of their social masculinity is still tied to the literal or figurative penile function. Men have described to me spikes in anxiety, depression, and even moments of the loss of the will to live when they experience pain after ejaculation or with erection. Though the high stress on male sexual prowess might make it more urgent to seek professional assistance, it undoubtedly is no easier to to discuss a perceived limitation of one’s self; after all, most Viagra pills are consumed by men who do not need them.
To make matters more complicated, most pelvic floor health professionals are women (the exception being within the urology field) so once someone, man or woman, gets up the courage to seek help, they will most likely find a female practitioner with whom to work. Perhaps because we spend days or more every month attending to uterine needs or because of the fascinations of childbirth or because of the abominably high prevalence of sexual trauma among women that this is the case. But whatever the cause, if the majority of practitioners are women and many of these will not treat men, how much does that limit men’s pelvic floor health care? Reasons for refusal of care are varied. I know personally a couple general massage therapists who no longer work on men due to their bad experiences with sexually predatory behavior exhibited by past male clients. Others had traumatic experiences when they were children. Still others just find it easier and more comfortable to work on women.
While it is essential to always work within your comfort, I hope that women pelvic floor care providers can self examine the validity of their concerns. The past behavior of previous clients does not dictate the behavior of men you have yet to meet. It is also important to consider that a man might prefer a woman because of his own history of sexual abuse.
As for men suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction and pain, I encourage you to continue to be brave and reach out for help. Looking for a male provider might require a more specific Google search and possibly a longer commute. If you are more comfortable with a women, I wish you easy paths to finding one who is open to male clients.
I know personally how much pelvic floor pain sucks for chicks; how much it interferes with an active life even beyond sexual activity, the emotional distress it can cause, the feeling of brokenness it inspires, the damage to self esteem, and the worry that this is just the life you must accept. I simply cannot imagine that it is any easier for dudes. So if you’re a man in the Haddonfield, NJ area looking for a way to work through your sexual pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and/or incontinence issues, know that you can turn to someone local. I hope to work with you soon!
Share your experience with pelvic floor practitioners in the comments! Have questions? Text (856) 857-7535