Tuesday, June 12, 2012


by Doc Sigerson

The late eighties fell on me hard. After being fired from a gas station job for assaulting a customer, I scrounged for odd jobs to supplement the unemployment benefits, preferably those jobs in which the compensation would be “unreported”. To get by, I sold books culled from my own library, and I did get a part-time gig working for a retired rare book dealer who needed a dog’s body as he was limited in mobility, but the gig petered out when he started paying me in books instead of cash. I endured a one day affair as a walking chocolate chip cookie which involved a huge foam costume and handing out coupons for a free sample. A direct mail advertising venture failed to pan out. Then I saw an ad in the local alternative weekly newspaper for a medical school that needed nude models. They offered $15 per hour, which hitherto had been more than I had ever been paid. Hoping that they would work with any and all body types, I sent them a letter.

The Bastyr College, later to become Bastyr University, offered a four year course in naturopathic medicine. They hired a half dozen guys, five who worked frequently as artist’s models for life drawing classes at the nearby University of Washington - and me. Our purpose was to teach second year medical students to perform the male pelvic exam, mostly by being the body upon which they could take some practice pokes. We had a three hour orientation class followed by an physical examination where a doctor showed two guys at a time what a proper exam would feel like. He put extra pressure on my prostate gland so that I would be certain, unequivocally certain, mortally certain, through the fucking roof certain, that I would know exactly when the student’s forefinger would be pressing through the rectal wall upon my gland and not taking the spelunker’s tour. On the day of the live labs we sat in on the anatomy class with the students and found out that not every med student is the sharpest knife in the drawer, judging by some of the questions they asked.

I was concerned about the size of the audience I would entertain with my debut. The worst case scenario would have me standing mother naked on the stage of a vast lecture hall, seats filled to capacity with what passed for college students, the professor a white-haired man of advanced years welding a long tallywhacker of a pointer, intoning, “and this (thwack!) is the male genitalia!” Sure, I have had the usual young man’s share of exposure. The years spent in the public school system where communal showers are the norm for both gym classes and after school sports were spent without mishap, except for one hapless classmate who became aroused in the locker room surrounded by naked boys thereby becoming an object lesson for those uncertain of their own orientation. Interestingly, he is now a member of the so-called Tea Party, though I am not asserting a cause-and-effect relationship. In the army I was spared the notorious, and by then obsolete, “short arm inspection” whereby soldiers fell into formation on the parade ground wearing only boots and a raincoat which would be flung open when the medical officer passed by as he sought signs of dreaded venereal disease. The induction center, however, was the scene for a mass examination of fifty-or-so young men foolish enough to enlist. We queued up in two parallel lines facing each other, wearing nothing but skivvies and socks. On command, one line did an about face, while the doctor in center aisle went down the other line. Each recruit dropped his drawers while the doctor checked for hernia. Then that line did an about face, the doctor retracing his steps, checking this time for hemorrhoids as the recruits bent over, cheeks spread. The doctor repeated the procedure for the second line and all along no one’s privy parts were exposed to the gaze of his fellow recruits. What’s crazy, in retrospect, is that at no time did the doctor wear gloves as he examined all those privates of the soon-to-be privates.

In those years between 1977 and 1989 the world learned of A.I.D.S. and its halfwit brother, H.I.V. Gloves, either latex or vinyl, became paramount to the safe conduct of medical procedures and examinations. Gloving, de-gloving, and even double gloving were drummed into the heads of these students, becoming their mantra as they divided up into groups of four or five, each group led by an instructor or a proctor, that is, a savvy senior classman. The live labs were held in the school’s practicing clinic, not a classroom, and each of us models were assigned a real exam room.

There I stood in the unheated room - a thin hospital gown, white guy pale shins and black socks -when a group of four entered. Included in that first group was Native American girl from Eastern Washington, the part of the state which remains extremely rural and agro-centric. An inordinate amount of time she dwelt upon my testicles and sac. She lingered. The room grew quiet. When the instructor hinted that she should move on, the girl said that this was her first time examining male genitals other than her experience growing up on a cattle ranch where she assisted her father and brothers castrating the bulls every year. I happen to be a taurus, I said.

Next up was a doe-eyed laddie who rolled my penis between his thumb and finger as though he were appraising a fat postprandial cigar and assumed such an air of the true connoisseur that I was forced to suppress a shudder, turned my eyes to the clock above the door and I set my mind to digging up a childhood memory of when as a boy scout I had sculpted and slept in an snow cave in one of the several gigantic glaciers on Mount Rainier during the coldest winter night of the year. I repeated to myself the bank robber’s advice to stay calm and no one gets hurt. Also I kept my gaze fixed on the clock as the young man seemed eager to make what I shall charitably call “inappropriate” eye contact.

The second year there was a new mom in the group who was nursing her newborn baby quite openly with her full breast exposed and right in front of me as I was being examined. While this was not exactly an erotic situation, anytime I start getting my buttons pushed there is sure to be a reaction. No noticeable twitching, let alone a full blown raging hard-on, but I did start leaking. Ah, dear me. The instructor told the class that a clear discharge was common but a discolored discharge would be cause for concern. Not just my body, but my bodily functions were now on view and a subject fit for group discussion. Ah, dear me. Then the new-age-in-your-face mommy half-joked that her lab report would be pasted into the child’s baby book as the her first pelvic exam, the very first step on the child’s future medical career. The tike was asleep, blissfully oblivious and made not a sound - not a gurgle, not a burp, not a tiny baby fart. The baby and I were both there, but only one of us had been marked for life.

In the third year I encountered the Wesley Crusher of Alternative Medicine, a young overly earnest baby-faced fellow who couldn’t wait to jump into the captain’s chair and take command. Part of the male pelvic exam is checking the inguinal canal for signs of hernia. This is done by using a finger to trace back the spermatic cord from the testicle and invaginating, that is, turning inside out, the scrotum until the finger reaches a triangular shaped opening in the corner of the groin. This is the inguinal canal whence the testicle descended during puberty. A finger is placed over the opening, the patient is asked to turn his head and cough. The coughing causes the diaphragm to put pressure on the bowel and if there is a hernia, that is, a break or breach in the bowel wall, then quite often the hernia can be detected by the finger as the bowel pushes out through the canal. If the doctor’s finger is small enough, and most female doctors have petite fingers, then the finger can actually intrude up into the inguinal canal which is a more reliable check. Believe me, that is a feeling quite unlike any other. So Ensign Crusher thinks he feels the bowel protruding on my right side and jumps into a spiel as to how I should proceed in naturopothic treatment and how he would be willing to see me in clinic and .... The instructor cut him short, reminding him that I have my own medical plan and that there is no naturopathic treatment for hernia. After the class, the instructor checked me herself and confirmed that I probably had a right inguinal hernia and that I should consult a surgeon.

I did this job every May for three years and I had continued even after I was employed full time and no longer needed the money because I felt that helping to train doctors to detect cancer was a worthwhile and important pursuit. After the third year, the school gave up the program because of the expense and instead the students practiced on each other. For a few years thereafter, I included the job title “Teaching Assistant at a Medical School” on my resume and I even tried to impress young ladies by telling them that I had taught medical students to perform pelvic exams.

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