Parasexuality in genitourinary investigations: A qualitative study

Allyson Lipp*, Chris Shaw, Paul Gill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Genitourinary investigations are performed on a large proportion of middle-aged and older men and the majority undergo investigations for prostate issues. The effects that genitourinary disease can have on men depend on the type of problem, investigations required and treatment including impotence, gynaecomastia and urinary incontinence that have lasting devastating physical, social and psychological effects. The aim was to explore older men's experience and views of intimate and intrusive genitourinary investigations and specifically to develop hypotheses and theories concerning gender and sexuality issues in intimate genitourinary investigations. Methods. Written informed consent was obtained for this qualitative study. Data were collected through one-off, semi-structured interviews involving 15 men in the first year following patient's last urological procedure. Initially, multiple themes were identified and when analysed further concepts were repeatedly present. As the urological investigations were limited to men, gender and sexuality became prominent issues in the data. Results: On analysis, the term parasexuality appeared to explain the dynamic of the situation. Parasexuality is a modified form of sexuality which is channelled and limited to maintain propriety. This was not expressed as sexuality in its overt, explicit sense, but instead a type of covert sexuality where professional boundaries are maintained but nonetheless undercurrents remain. This managed version of sexuality created a common currency by which interactions between staff and patients could take place safely. Feeding into parasexuality were gender role stereotypes and for some of the participants this reflected their own experience, context, historical and cultural norms. Intimate contact in the form of exposure and handling of the participants' genitalia during the investigations particularly challenged the boundaries of parasexuality. In order to remain parasexual, many of the participants suppressed their sexuality. Viewing staff as professional was an additional strategy used by participants to limit any sexuality as parasexuality. Conclusion: This study has contributed towards the appeal for more studies to examine privacy perceptions of patients in genitalia-related care, however, it is by no means definitive. Parasexuality goes some way to explain the dynamics of communication between older men and health care professionals during genitourinary investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2014


  • Gender
  • Genitourinary investigations
  • Male
  • Masculinity
  • Men
  • Parasexuality
  • Patient
  • Sexuality
  • Urology


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