When Doctors Don't Believe You're a Virgin

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader adds another story to the nascent series:

When I was about 16 years old, I passed out when I got home from school. My period had been going on for longer than two weeks, so my mother thought it might be related. She took me to the emergency room. The doctor, a woman, said she thought I was having a complicated pregnancy. I told her that I was a virgin, that I attended an all-girls school, and that I didn’t even know any boys other than my two brothers.

She said I was lying and that teenagers always lie about being virgins. My mother didn’t say anything to refute the doctor, I think because she always thought doctors were right. They agreed that I should have a pelvic exam. I never had one before and I wasn’t too keen to have one either. My mom wasn’t in the room, because they told her to leave. When the doctor started the exam, she roughly jammed her hand in and I started screaming because I was in so much pain. She turned to a nurse in the room, who was holding me down, and coldly said, “I guess she was a virgin.”

On the way home, my mom said she could hear me screaming down the hall. A few weeks later we were sent a bill for $500.