blond little girl with collared shirt sitting on ground, sepia filter

No Naked Physicals for My Kids

I was molested by my pediatrician when I was 7 years old. It was difficult to convince my mom of it because I didn’t have all the legal terms at my disposal, so all I kept saying was that I don’t think my doctor should have touched me there if I had only been taken in for a cold.

The touching always lasted longer than it should have which was my first sign that it was not appropriate. When it kept happening, I began to dread each time my mom had to pull me from school to take me to an exam, because I knew she didn’t care that I was uncomfortable. And that was the ironic part. My mom was the one who waited 6 months after my birth before allowing my own father to change my diaper and refused to let us attend sleepovers because she said she couldn’t trust my friends’ fathers. Yet, the first time I was fondled inappropriately, she was right in the room watching and didn’t even realize it was happening.

split up, but why did something this intense (which I still vividly remember) happen to me on her watch? The answer is simple.

She trusted a doctor more than she trusted her own daughter.

Eventually, my mom listened to me and switched pediatricians. I never had those bad experiences with the new doctor, and I was happy to later be at an age where I could decide for myself what could be done to my body and what could not. However, now that this scandal with the Olympic doctor has taken over the news, it seems my situation probably happens a lot more than I thought. And it is only now that people are willing to entertain the idea that doctors are not God, and that children have a voice.

I don’t have a daughter, but I do have a son, and I believe his body parts should be protected just as carefully as anyone else’s to ensure that he grows up knowing he has a right to decide what happens to his body. Therefore, I will not consent to him getting naked physicals before he is of age to express to me if he’s okay with it or not.

Some parents might argue that this is extreme, because he doesn’t have the right to do what he wants with his body if he is only 3 years old, and my reply is, “Why not?”

I pay close attention to the ways I interact with my son so he learns that I respect his body and that others should too. I do not forcefully take off my son’s clothes if he’s refusing a bath. I wait until a few minutes later when he’s done playing or in a better mood, because at that point he is usually more willing and we don’t have to struggle to take off his clothes against his will (an unhealthy way to make him think he should let adults do whatever they want to him).

When it comes to potty training, we do not rip off his underwear or diaper and make him sit on a toilet until he’s ready. If he wants to keep his underwear on, we allow him to do so. At doctor’s appointments, we also state that we do not want his privates to be touched and our pediatrician doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.

 Meanwhile, others out there might say, “You are harming your child by not allowing the doctors to do their job,” to which I laugh because if you don’t believe that part of a doctor’s job is simply to follow the guidelines (check things on a list for what defines a physical) so he can properly bill your insurance for a physical, you probably are not aware of lots of other things — like the fact that you can research the purpose of a physical online, and that you can learn for yourself which portions of a physical are crucial and at what age and why.

There are also many compelling views presented on how doctors try (or don’t try) to deal with patient modesty in general since there’s the expectation that everyone be fine with disrobing when it’s not always required and some patients refuse. You can also see that Europeans rarely give children physicals where they have to completely undress. So why does America? I don’t know.

All I know is that my son doesn’t need regular examination of his testicles as long as he wasn’t born with anything specifically wrong and there no red flags.

And more importantly, I am the only voice between my son and his doctor, and if I can’t be sure that he’s okay with a stranger touching his private parts, I won’t allow it. If I force him to be subjected to things he’s not comfortable with, he will start to wonder why there are exceptions to mommy’s rule that no one can touch his private areas, and worse, if these exceptions should always be made with certain individuals (i.e. doctors, family members, babysitters?). It’s a confusing thing that can lead down a bad road and that’s what I’m trying to prevent.

Call me irrational, but I sleep better at night knowing my son is learning that each individual has control over his or her own body. One day he will see that this means girls get to decide what happens to their bodies too — something some pregnant women are still having to battle in court or scream as they’re tied down to tables for C-sections or catheters they never consented to.

It’s never too early to instill these types of values into boys, and it’s always the right time to remember that a child is a person with thoughts and feelings, too, regardless of how small they are.

3 thoughts on “No Naked Physicals for My Kids

  1. I really, really appreciate you writing this. My son is 18 months old. I feel the EXACT same way as you. I am a single mom. So I am the only one who changes his diaper and clothes. Sometimes I have to leave my son with my dad and I get weirded out knowing that my dad has to change my sons diaper. My dad has never ever done anything weird or inappropriate with me, but his COUSIN did when I was younger, and when I told my parents about it, they got mad at me and thought I was lying and trying to slander my fathers counsins name… it was really shitty. I never forgave them for that. My dad and my uncle and everyone else in the family seems to like to tickle my son and I am NEVER okay with that. I do not like it when people lift up his shirt to blow rasberries on his stomach, I do not like it when people tickle him period. Whenever I voice myself my mom always says I am being overly…. “something” – I can’t stand my parents telling me how to raise my son. Unfortunately I do live with them but I know I do not have to stand up for the mistreatment of my son. I love how you made it very clear to me that I have a right to put boundaries up for my sons sake. Thank you so much for this, I really appreciate this because now I know its okay to let my son know that people dont have to tickle or touch his tummy AT ALL.

    Question. My son is 18 months and he is not talking yet. He says about 4 words only…. I want him to start speaking soon so I can start explaining all this stuff to him, about his body and his privacy etc… Do you have any links to any other articles you wrote on helping your child learn to speak?

    1. Hi Sophia! Thanks for visiting my site and taking the time to read. This article actually appeared on Scary Mommy but not everyone understands it. The point I’m trying to make isn’t specifically about doctors (though I do have a fair amount to share about them too lol), it’s that kids have a right to say no and if you’re not even willing to listen to why they’re saying no, then how will they learn to speak up for themselves later if their own mother didn’t give them the right to object? I’m so glad you’re taking steps to protect your son!! It really does start with family. I’m just now starting to tell my husband that my son shouldn’t have to hug his family members if he doesn’t feel like it, because even though he’s a boy, his body is private, too! Think of how many little girls are forced to hug family members or told to not object when they don’t like something (whether it’s food or a touch). We have to change that if we want to stop making adults feel like sexual abuse is something they must accept.

      I’m sorry about what happened in your family. We had some things too that I never talk about on my blog or anywhere else due to privacy for our family members, but this one is my story to tell and I have no shame in it. Do not let others tell you that you cannot raise your son the way you would like, even your mom…she grew up in a generation where women are taught to be silent and that politeness means putting yourself second to what others want. It took me 27 years to learn that it’s okay to say no to birthday/holiday parties, and I was both proud and embarrassed of myself for it, but now I’m just happy and trying to understand the roots of our culture so I can empower other moms and women to feel okay saying what they want not only for themselves but also for their kids.

      IT IS DEFINITELY OKAY TO TELL OTHERS TO NOT LIFT YOUR KID’S SHIRT. lol if people think you’re weird or overly [fill in the blank], lift their shirt one day and see how they react. Kids are little but they’re people too and deserve the right to not be treated like a toy. You’re amazing for realizing it 🙂

      My son is 3.5 years old and was kinda quiet at that age, too. They say child development comes in stages and that if they’re not progressing in one area, it’s because they’re working on another. My son was learning his colors and ABCs at 18 months to about 24 months. He stopped caring about that stuff for almost a year though and I’m now realizing that it’s because he was working on his speech. He speaks full sentences now and uses prepositions and adjectives properly; he’s even grasping the meaning of some of the phrases my husband and I use which is so cute and funny haha.

      I started referring to his ‘privates’ around the time he was turning 3 and he totally gets that no one can touch them or look at them. He’s not yet potty trained but from the age of 2 he was asking me to change his diaper in separate rooms so I try to give him privacy even when changing his pull-ups these days. My husband doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but I’ll do whatever I can to instill in my son that his body is private and his and deserves respect. I worried also about me not being able to explain all of this to him until he could start speaking but I suggest starting early. He might be able to understand you even if he can’t speak back; I started by telling my son his body part names in the tub so it’s a casual conversation and not as scary as sitting him down and telling him what molestation is and how to avoid it and what to tell mom. Eventually I introduced concepts like ‘these are only for you, and no one should touch them or look at them’. I think he definitely understood because when I wiped him one day he told me I wasn’t allowed, which was tricky, so I explained to him again that until he’s potty trained, he has to be wiped but I let him do it himself whenever possible and explain explain explain explain over and over again everything I can so he feels free to ask questions and doesn’t think I’m doing anything bad to him.

      I’ve actually got an article scheduled to post about why milestones don’t matter, because every kid is different so don’t stress too much about his speech. Just talk to him as much as possible!! I’ve never babytalked my son, and now when he talks he’s got mostly good grammar and a lot of vocabulary. The more you speak to your child, the more they have in their head and when they’re ready to speak, they will be that much better at it (in my opinion). I’m sure you’re a great mom and his speech will boom when it’s time! 🙂

Leave a Reply