Most women think that they have to do what their doctor or midwife is suggesting, even when it doesn’t feel right to them. But the truth is, when it comes to your body it’s your right – and your responsibility – to be sovereign. That means expecting to have your boundaries respected, and if something doesn’t sit right with you, feeling confident speaking your truth.
Hands up if you’ve ever had a massage and the pressure was too firm or painful or otherwise uncomfortable and yet you didn’t say anything?
I know I have.
Or, have you ever been in a situation where a professional – maybe a beautician or a hairdresser – was wanting you to try something new and you didn’t know how to say no?
Yep, I ended up with tattooed eyelids thanks to that one.
Or how about you’re with your lover – someone you know and trust – yet this time you’re not really into it or it’s hurting a little but rather then say so you keep going?
Oh yes, I’ve been there too.
The reason I’m asking you this is because I know I’m not alone when it comes to not always speaking my truth or asserting my body needs. The truth is most girls and women have never been taught body love and body autonomy, and most girls and women would prefer to say nothing and suffer in silence then risk conflict or rocking the boat.
Here’s the thing, I want you to know that it’s ok for you to say NO and I want to put this into context of modern gynecological and obstetric care.
A particular example that has prompted me to write has been observing how different clients process their experience with vaginal ultrasounds.
In each case there’s been a sense of unacknowledged violation in that none of the women were expecting to experience a vaginal ultrasound, and so were caught unprepared and off guard. In the moment of being asked, ‘is it ok if I do a vaginal ultrasound?’ both the fact that they weren’t expecting it and the fact that this procedure is being suggested by a medical professional – someone perceived to be in a position of power – meant none of the women were in a position to fully consent.
Sure, they may have said ‘yes’ but from witnessing the aftermath of this experience my sense is these women needed more time to process the request AND to understand it’s ok for them to say ‘no’ in order for their ‘yes’ to truly be consensual.
I say this because I’ve recognized varying symptoms of trauma in these clients as each woman subconsciously tries to process the confusion of an experience that appears to be a violation of her inherent body intelligence against a backdrop of a culture that has taught her this is normal.
When I describe the response as trauma, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective energetically it’s as if the body has experienced shock, yet the shock can’t be processed consciously because such invasive procedures to the seat of female sexuality go unquestioned in modern healthcare.
After all, in any other circumstance it would be reasonable to conclude that a woman has the right to feel violated if someone with whom she is not physically and emotionally intimate inserted something foreign into her vagina, yet when it comes to modern obstetrics and gynecology this is deemed par for the course.
Yet whilst socialization may have conditioned us women to unquestioningly say ‘yes’ to invasive procedures – be it vaginal ultrasounds, pap smears or vaginal exams – our wild and instinctive body intelligence says ‘no’. And I believe this body ‘no’ is amplified in the deep feminine intelligence of a pregnant woman – with whom vaginal ultrasounds are increasingly common.
The effect of shock on the body is disconnection – when the body says ‘no’ the survival response is to disengage and disconnect.
In the case of unsanctioned vaginal ultrasound or exams, the energetic response is to withdraw energy from this part of the body, to disengage from the physical, sensory experience and to divert energy out of the body into the head. This is the same pattern common to ‘survive’ sexual abuse – to escape what is going on ‘down there’ through disconnection.
As a TCM practitioner, I notice that women feel unstable and ungrounded after the experience of an unexpected vaginal ultrasound: overly talkative or chaotic, emotional and unstable, like there is a bubbling of energy that is palpable, something uncontainable wanting to spill over and threaten the status quo. The violation to the deep feminine runs so far back we’ve forgotten the truth of our inherent genius, and She’s outraged.
Now, I’m not saying that vaginal ultrasounds or exams are right or wrong.
I’m saying your body, your choice.
But I also put it to you that a woman’s body has been a commodity for so many eons that for most women their relationship with their own body is not one of love and respect but personal abuse, and that certain conditions need to be met before choice can become conscious and empowered.
The generational compliance of women saying ‘yes’ even though they don’t like it or it doesn’t feel right to them, and to not want to create waves is something that needs to be talked about and acknowledged by healthcare professionals who are in a position of trust when it comes to women’s bodies.
“The horrendous trauma that the Feminine has endured has somehow become so normal in our culture that in many cases it goes unnoticed, unseen!”
– Elayne Kalila Sophia, Priestess Presence
I’m suggesting that within the framework of our current mainstream model of obstetric and gynecological care female sexuality is vulnerable, and that the progressive future for woman-centered healthcare is with enhanced sensitivity and respect to women’s bodies, her boundaries and inherent genius – number one of which is teaching women it’s ok to say ‘no’.
It’s the sensitivity that’s called for. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for technology or medical instruments. I’m saying that it’s essential for the care provider to exercise absolute sensitivity to a woman and her body when approaching female sexuality, and to go out of the way to create conditions that give women the ability to consciously say yes or no.
Otherwise how can we expect to change the culture of sexual abuses against women when our very health institutions fail to offer autonomy and reverence for the unique needs of female sexuality: gentleness, patience, space, respect, boundaries?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine there’s a treatment that involves acupuncture to the Hui Yin point located on the perineum, between the vagina and the anus. In order to perform this treatment, there’s a protocol that’s followed that demonstrates respect for female sexuality and an understanding of the unique needs of women:
First the practitioner must describe the treatment to their client in detail, going through the full process and making sure the woman is completely clear and understands exactly what’s involved and answering any questions in order to get the clients consent.
Then, if the client does consent, they do not receive the treatment there and then.
They’re asked to come back the next week.
This is key because it acknowledges that women often feel intimidated in such situations and may be coerced into treatment that doesn’t feel right to them because women are taught to please others and not speak up for themselves. This ‘cooling off period’ allows the woman to leave the room, to go home and tune in to her inner voice, giving the client full permission to change her mind and be the authority when it comes to her body.
This is informed and conscious consent.
Can you imagine a world where hospitals and birth centres pioneered the way for women to live in right relationship with their body?
This is a sensitive topic and I speak from the heart when I say if you’ve been triggered in any way by this conversation, please consider making an appointment to transmute any unresolved trauma within the body or mind related to this.
Curious to know more about Sexual Sovereignty? I highly recommend the Jade Egg Mastery Course.