About a year ago, I went on a service trip to volunteer in Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma. The group was composed of about 12 undergraduate students, only one of whom was male. During this time, I was also taking a class on issues in women’s health. At one point while we were playing a card game, the conversation circled to cancer and one of the girls said, “Did you know that men can get breast cancer?” As someone who has always been interested in health, I did indeed know this. In fact, I had heard it many times throughout my life and thought that even though it was a rare occurrence, many people know it to be a possibility.
In response, I threw out a lesser-known possibility that I had only just learned about in my women’s health class. “Did you know women can get prostate cancer?”
The response was what I expected: disbelief. “No they can’t! Women don’t have a prostate!” they cried in collective protest.
“Yes they do. It’s the G-spot.” Check out this article to learn more about how the female prostate functions and the way in which it is homologous to the male prostate.
At the mention of the term “G-spot,” there was an outcry. Despite there being only one man in the group, the girls were uncomfortable at my mention of this organ. I was not shocked, as I knew it would cause a stir before I even said it, but I was still saddened by this reaction. Somehow the idea of breast cancer in men is interesting and inoffensive, yet even to a group of young women, the mention of prostate cancer in women is unacceptable and embarrassing.
One cannot blame these girls, however. They are not an anomaly; they are among the majority of women. We live in a society that continues to deny women’s sexuality, while at the same time objectifying them for sex. In this vein, science on female sexuality and sexual organs is lacking. Although the female prostate, also known less accurately as the Skene’s gland, was first recognized by Western scientists as early as the 1600s, debate about its existence still continues today in the scientific community. When it is talked about at all, it is usually outside of the realm of science and referred to as the “G-spot,” being spoken about in a sexualized way, rather than as an organ and component of sexual and reproductive health. It is no wonder that girls are skeptical about its existence and its function.
Yet, the evidence is clear that, like the male prostate, the female prostate produces a chemical called PSA, high levels of which can indicate prostate cancer. This=”http://www.examiner.com/article/women-have-prostates-too” title=”article”>article from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute explains some more of the science behind this. When no one is educating generations of young women about their bodies, it is important that we take a proactive stance and educate ourselves. We, and not doctors, are the ultimate authorities on our bodies. If we do not even know the parts of them, how they function, and how they are supposed to feel, we will not be able to report symptoms to a doctor when they occur. I urge women of all ages to be free of shame regarding all parts of their body. If we cannot even talk in an abstract manner about an organ that we all possess in a private gathering of women, how can we break down the gender barriers in this culture and eradicate the cultural shame around women’s sexuality and health?