It takes two to make it awkward
We were required to take a class during each of our basic science semesters called: Doctor-Patient Relationship (DPR). I've mentioned this class here before- it always sort of cracked me up that we had a class to teach us how to be decent human beings and interact with other people.
Over drinks one night, a couple of us were casually reminiscing about those classes. I couldn't remember the name of our first DPR professor and accidentally called her "Floppy Johnson-" Freudian slip, my bad.
Dr. Floppy Johnson was this sweet (and odd) little old lady who strongly believed in the importance of making your patients feel comfortable no matter what you were asking them. She taught us how to take sexual histories from the patients. She made us role-play at asking and answering these questions. I think she even made some students act out a couple of scenarios in front of the class. At the time we all giggled and did as she asked, but I'm pretty sure most of us were simply relieved to not be in histology lecture or anatomy lab.
At the time I didn't realize the importance of that joke of a class. DPR ended up being one of the most useful classes of our basic sciences curriculum.
In clinical rotations I've had to ask lots of people their sexual histories. And I always ask the way Dr. Floppy Johnson taught me. Maybe it was all that role-playing, or maybe we just got our giggles out in an appropriate environment, but asking sexual histories has never bothered me and I always try to make sure my patients aren't uncomfortable.
I've always been a big believer in the theory that it takes two people to make a situation awkward. And in the situation of you talking to your doctor, your doctor shouldn't ever be the awkward one. If we, as physicians, expect you, as patients, to tell us your whole history, and I mean whole, even the potentially unusual/kinky/gross stuff, we need to be able to ask in a courteous and non-judgmental sort of way.
During this rotation I've had to sit through too many awkward sexual history interviews where the physician asking the questions is freaking out so the patient freaks out. This makes me sad. We need to ask these questions. They're important to your medical care. And it's our job not make it not weird. We're the professionals. We set the tone and we need to do better.
So I'd just like to take a moment and apologize to every patient whose doctor has made them feel awkward or uncomfortable or judged about their sexual practices in any way.
I guess every physician didn't have a Dr. Floppy Johnson in their lives to teach them any better.