Medical Professionals, Clinical Distance, and Sex

Hi folks - This is a mostly GQ topic but we’ll probably be settling for anecdote, so IMHO it is.

Medical professionals learn what I’m going to call “clinical distance” (if there’s a better official term please share). Namely when poking or prodding or looking at somebody you don’t forget they’re a human, but you compartmentalize what you’re paying attention to. Specifically, you don’t attend to any sexual thoughts involving them. Even if you’ve got a handful or eyeful of their sexual parts at the moment.

At the same time, medical pros learn a lot about anatomy, And a certain amount about the functioning of all parts, including the sexual ones. Some of that knowledge presumably can / could be used to be a better sex partner. And in general, just as pilots are stoked about airplanes, medics are stoked about human bodies.

Separately, medical pros are people too. They have SOs, they have a sex life of some level, sexual desires, kinks, and all the rest.

With that background (and feel free to pick it apart if it’s BS)…
The question is whether and how the medical training and/or clinical distance thinking affects for good or ill the personal sex lives of practitioners.

Are they extra skilled sexually? Extra motivated? Are they bored with all flesh having seen far too much of it in raggedy condition 8-12 hours a day? Does how they think about and handle patients at work leak consciously or unconsciously into how they treat their SO? Is this a known occupational hazard? etc.?

Why am I asking you ask? Good question.

Anyone who’s been married or LTRed with somebody long enough will have served as amateur nurse, changing a wound dressing your partner can’t reach, helping them while they barf up food poisoning, feeding them via spoon when they’re too ill with flu to feed themselves, etc.

And in those moments, despite the fact this is the person you love a lot and you swap fluids with regularly, they are utterly non-sexual to you right now. Or at least that’s been my experience.

So I wondered if medics have a problem with their vastly greater amount of similar conditioning at work leaking into their normal home life.

My cousin is a doctor. He has four children. That’s all I know about this topic.

I had started a thread about this seven years ago. The consensus seemed to be that, no, it does not negatively affect one’s sex drive. Positively? I don’t know.

I have a friend from within the polyamorous community and I know something of his modus operandi from being a partner with a person who was also his partner. Yes, some medical practitioners have great reverence for the erotic physiology of the sex (or sexes, presumably) to which they are attracted, and take great pleasure from knowing how to elicit certain sensations and how to know that a certain sensation is, in fact, being elicited.

I think this is an interesting question, and I’m curious to see responses. But I’d like to remind folks that this is not penthouse, and that we don’t want a lot of “ooh la la” types of posts, as they can be very off-putting to those who feel objectified by them.

(This is a pre-emptive mod note, not meant as a response to any posts that have been made.)

Any vicariously thrill I got from seeing attractive female patients was extinguished long ago. I quickly couldn’t even remember if I’d seen a regular female patient naked before or not unless I knew that she was someone I’d done prenatal care on and/or delivered her baby.

And early on the Mrs. and I agreed she’d take all her medical needs to her doc, unless it was urgent/emergent.

At any rate, we’ve retained an ongoing passion for each other that’s lasted over 47 years now.

Thanks doc.

And congrats on 47 years. I’ve got a ways to go to get to that record.

As to @Velocity, that was a great thread and cite. Just the relevant info and told in a mod-pleasing manner. At least as of 2014 SDMB standards.

William Nolen’s 1970 The Making of a Surgeon has an interesting anecdote. He talks about internships and residencies, and poking and prodding bodies was just an everyday occurrence. However, he wrote that one day he got on the elevator and standing there was this beautiful woman, naked from the waist up, with her arm in a sling the only thing covering her breasts. He asked her if she needed help, and she said she just couldn’t get her robe on. He recalls that since it was outside his normal medical practice, it was the only time he thought of a female patient as a sexual being.

During my clinical training it was easy to remain professionally distanced from female patients, focused as I was on doing things right (and the equally motivating fear of screwing up).

I am not going to go into detail about pathologists and body parts, but needless to say they are not stimulating in the way the OP is inquiring about.

One of the things I found most unrealistic and downright comical about the movie Eyes Wide Shut is how the physician played by Tom Cruise found himself repeatedly aroused by good-looking female patients. Judging by the clinicians with whom I have interacted, this is not a problem. In particular, two OB-GYNs I know seem to have a extraordinarily high percentage of patients who are morbidly obese and as far as I can tell, these MDs have little trouble resisting extramarital temptations.

There are certainly examples of docs (fortunately relatively rare) who’ve gotten in trouble for overfamiliarity with patients, in some cases constituting assault or worse, and been disciplined by state medical boards or criminally prosecuted - including recent high profile cases involving physicians examining/treating students and student-athletes. But we’re probably talking about sociopaths in those instances.

Meh, good-looking people see doctors, too. I’m sure most doctors who treat teens and younger adults see their fair share of patients with attractive bodies. Sure, some patients are too young to arouse your prurient interest. Some are too old. Some are the wrong sex. Some are too fat, or too thin, or too sick to be attractive. (Very sick people really don’t look sexy, despite what you sometimes see in the movies.) But some are attractive.

I’m not a doctor, but i went to a nature camp where we sometimes dissected animals. And once, as a counselor, I was leading some kids dissecting a road-kill rabbit. And it was completely fascinating seeing how the rabbit was put together, and how the food moved through its digestive tract. And then I left to use the restroom, and returned, and there, on the table, was a disgusting corpse with its guts spilling out.

It gave me quite a start. It hadn’t changed much when I left. What changed was my concentration, and my state of mind.

I would assume that good doctors have a similar cognitive dissociation between patients and sexual bodies as i had between the dissection and the disgusting corpse.

I recently re-read that book (again - it’s one of my favorites). That’s not quite how it happened, but close.

He had a patient who was some kind of showgirl, and she was there to have her broken arm examined. She walked into the exam room wearing a fur coat (this was in the 1950s), and when he took her arm out to examine it, he found out that she had nothing else on underneath that fur coat! She told him that it was too difficult to get dressed with her arm in that sling, so she decided not to wear other clothes until it came off.

And yes, he did say that if she had come in for a routine breast exam, there would have been nothing sexual about it at all, but because he was surprised by it, he nearly took a grab at them but did restrain himself.

p.s. That chapter also included commentary on things people would do in (usually) futile attempts to circumvent impotence. My favorite, for want of a better word, was the drunk man who couldn’t get it up, so his girlfriend shoved a swizzle stick into his urethra, and not only did it not work, but they couldn’t pull it back out again. YEEEE-OWTCH!

P.p.s. Many years ago, when I was just out of high school, I worked in an office in the typing pool (yes, it was that long ago) and one of my co-workers, who was several years older than me, said she asked her gynecologist, “How can you do this all day, and then go home and have sex with your wife?” He replied, “Do you think about your typewriter when you go home?” She said she didn’t, and he replied, “I don’t either. To me, it’s just a job.”

IANAD, but if there are doctors who do tend to philander or can’t stay faithful, I would venture a guess that it’s not because they get to see naked body parts every day but rather that being a doctor tends to be a position of prestige, wealth, authority, etc., who are considered attractive by the opposite gender, and that they might be tempted to bone people for the same reason many people with high social status, power or wealth do - because it’s a power rush and it’s gratifying to be affirmed and re-affirmed as someone who’s considered desirable.


I hope you didn’t think my query was about medics (doctors, NPs, nurses, techs, etc, without limitation) misbehaving with their patients or, in your specialty’s case, their charges or whatever the industry term is for the dearly departed.

That was totally not my point. The point I was asking about was the opposite: whether being trained and motivated to be scrupulously medical with patients might have a chilling effect on being sexual in appropriate situations while off duty. Or that medical expertise might be a boost to sex in appropriate situations while off duty.

Which the many pros have since said is simply not a problem.

Never to the former and not that I ever noticed for the latter.

Far too many clients who tried to push the limits of appropriate: all the damn time.

I have a little anecdote that might shed further light on the question (or maybe not). But I did find it interesting.

After the retirement of my wonderful old family doctor, my new doctor was young, female, and pretty. I was immediately impressed by her knowledge and her use of high-tech in her practice. The fear that I had was of any situation that might involve my (ahem!) male nether regions.

In fact exactly such a situation did occur later on. Long story short, apparently medical school training in this regard is pretty good, or else her instincts were excellent. She managed to reduce this male’s fearful examination into an everyday ordinary thing of no consequence at all.

It might affect your personal life if you put in 24-hour shifts at the hospital dealing with difficult cases and come back home physically and emotionally drained…

I would worry a lot more about being in a relationship with, e.g., a CIA spook who spends all day lying and manipulating people for a living than with a physician.

On the flip side, I know multiple female friends of mine who have been blatantly sexually assaulted by doctors under the guise of medical examination. It may only be a tiny minority of doctors but those doctors interact with a lot of patients to the extent that it’s a thing women have to watch out for when dealing with a new doctor.


I admit that I’ve mostly selected female doctors for general practice and ob/gyn. But I am happy to report I’ve never run into that. It did feel weird when a medical student who aspired to become a family doctor tried (and failed) to insert in IUD. But he was perfectly professional, and clearly focused on the task at hand. The male …doctor? tech? who imaged a patch of my breast that my PCP wanted checked out was also very task-focused, so much so that he was clearly frustrated and disappointed NOT to find any significant lumps. Which was weird in a different way, not not a sexual way.