Between the cold, clinical nature of a doctor's office and all that poking, probing and prodding, there's a special sort of anxiety attached to a medical examination. That is, unless you have a medical fetish.
While many people would be happy to never set foot in a hospital again, members of this BDSM subculture are more than pleased to hear the slap of latex against their provider's wrist or feel the cold diaphragm of a stethoscope on their chest — so much so that they incorporate it into their sexual practice via porn or roleplay. Given that there are so many different types of tests, treatments and exams, medical fetishists are spoilt for choice when it comes to procedure play, which can range from getting a cast or dressing up as a nurse to receiving a gynecological exam, catheter insertion or enema administration. Rather than going to an actual clinic with a licensed medical professional, they instead go to a dominatrix's dungeon to try and get "pregnant" from fake semen injected up their rectum.
At least that was the case for medical play specialist Mistress Odette during a recent client session in her dungeon, which encompasses a main room, a full medical laboratory and plenty of tools. And though some may be taken aback by this kind of "edgeplay" — or sexual activities that push safety boundaries — as Dr. Mark Griffiths explained, medical fetishism is "quite inclusive and wide-ranging," as it can encompass sexual attraction to medical professionals, nurse roleplay and bodily examinations or procedures.
But what exactly is the appeal? For the most part, medical play is about the dominant-submissive relationship between a medical professional and their patient, who is relegated to a "patient, specimen or subject" while being examined by an authority figure. According to Mistress Odette, her patients get aroused by the power dynamics attached to an objectifying medical gaze that's only concerned with dissecting a body in order to provide a diagnosis. And the result is a complete disregard for your individual autonomy, seeing as how your "health and wellness is being mediated by someone else," which is something Mistress Odette can play on through things like small penis humiliation.
For most of her patients though, the implication that their naked body is "dirty," "toxic" or "infectious," especially while she wears personal protective equipment, can also be a huge turn-on, even when she's not performing procedures like an enema. However, she said it's all part of processing a client's insecurities and facing their fears head-on. Because while they're being rejected on the surface, Mistress Odette said that many medical fetishists use this sort of scenario in order to "take some kind of charge over something that they actually feel like hurt them in the past" by being the one who chooses to eroticize it.
"Doctors hold this power over us [...] They can heal and free us from pain or they can tell you that you're sick and dying."
This can also be a form of worship. Though instead of the fascination and reverence inspired by a goddess, it's an awestruck kind of fear elicited by a human who, quite literally, determines whether you live or die. And as Mistress Odette said, there's something about being a little scared that can turn you on.
"[With doctors] we give them this extreme and direct access to our bodies in really terrifying ways," Mistress Odette said, adding that it's all about the sexual humiliation a patient experiences when "giving up their bodily control." And what's particularly interesting is that she also has many doctor clients who, she believes, enjoy the power reversal when someone else is occupying the position they're usually in. "Doctors hold this power over us, and can alienate us with their knowledge and [clinical terminology]," as Mistress Odette explained,
"They can heal and free us from pain or they can tell you that you're sick and dying," she continued, before saying that her doctor clients like experiencing the helplessness that can sometimes come with being a patient who only interacts with doctors in their "most vulnerable state."
Echoing this sentiment is Kyle*, a college student from Ohio who's particularly interested in cardiac exams and orthopedic braces, as they insinuate a level of powerlessness. Additionally, he said that these particular fetishes are also rooted in real life, such as the hot male nurse treating his hypertension, which sparked Kyle's interest in watching his heart rate respond to arousal. Meanwhile, his attraction to casts comes from the brace he had to wear in high school as a gay man attracted to the "more athletic guys" who'd also wear support braces.
"The thing that turns me on the most is the vulnerability of it. If you are wearing a cast or brace then you are restricted in movement and could possibly be subject to the whims of someone else," he said, adding that it's "almost a softcore bondage scenario," because it restricts movement and you can see "someone athletic who is vulnerable."
Much like Kyle, a friend of Mistress Odette's named Medical Slave* explained that there's something incredibly sensuous about being hooked up to monitoring equipment and being played with when she's "sedated into a twilight state."
"The feeling of being sedated makes the body just let go and enjoy it even more," Medical Slave said, clarifying that she doesn't like to "engage in anything that leaves marks or permanent damage," which is one of the things Mistress Odette likes to make clear to her patients.
Despite having received a lot of unofficial training from doctors and nurses, Mistress Odette won't engage in anything that causes "lasting harm," especially since "the stakes can feel pretty high" and "the techniques prohibitive, because the rules and protocols in the medical fetish scene are strict" — even though she gets asked "almost daily whether [she] will castrate people."
"I don't do anything that's irreversible. That's a hard line," she said, though she will do things like suturing "people's balls over their dicks," since you can "take the sutures out and go back to your office." However, irreversible procedures aren't the only thing she refuses to do, as Mistress Odette also draws the line at fetishizing disabilities.
While disability fetishes aren't something she encounters normally, she's aware that acrotomophiliacs — or those who fetishize amputees and/ or want to cut their own limbs off — do exist, though she also thinks it's different from other iterations of medical fetishism.
"It's not super related to [more general] medical fetishism, because I think it has more in common with other fetishes that can be disempowering for the subject," Mistress Odette said. "The ones that fetishize people who are different from them." Even so, she still tries to "steer clear of people who like to fetishize bodies in that way, because that's in the same vein of things like racial fetishism. That's about depersonalizing someone else in a way I don't love. Especially as able-bodied people who don't deal with people fetishizing our bodies in that way."
Kyle added that he'd "never enjoy" something that exploits someone who's permanently disabled. "That is just not right, [but] my feelings are that casting and bracing are something that are usually short-term, not a lifelong disability," he said. "I honestly wouldn't enjoy it if I thought I was negatively impacting anyone or could be perceived as exploiting them."
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Somewhat similarly, the pandemic has also caused an uptick in COVID-related fetishism, which can be interpreted as problematic given the number of deaths related to the virus. However, this kind of play is still less common than you'd think, as even Medical Slave was surprised to hear about the phenomenon, saying that she "hopes there's no one who truly wants to find someone with COVID to play with," seeing as how it's so dangerous. But as Mistress Odette relayed, she does have some requests for vaccine play, though it's usually from people with a pre-existing interest in it.
"I definitely did like a roleplay where I was like a 'bimbo vaccine.' Like vaccinating someone, but instead of it protecting them against corona, it made them a silly little bimbo for me to take advantage of," she said, before acknowledging that this also plays into "conservative insecurities." But like she hypothesized before, COVID-related vaccine play could just be a way for people to face something they're really afraid of, because this is a way to "take control of that fear through making it erotic."
Granted, if there's one thing Medical Slave wants to say, it's that people interested in medical play should take it extremely serious and start slow with a professional medical domme or a trustworthy and knowledgeable partner given the potential dangers.
"I only play with medical or surgical assistants and physicians for that reason. It's too much of a danger if not," she said, adding that this is a safeguard for her as someone who's into the more "extreme parts of medical play," like sedation. But if you can do that, Mistress Odette says medical play can actually be therapeutic for some, especially those who are processing a related trauma.
"People are working through what they're working through, like if someone has had a negative experience with a doctor and really wants to roleplay it out," she said. "And if you're turned on by it, you're turned on by it."
*Names have been changed for anonymity.
Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.
Photos courtesy of Alexandra Kacha