Disposable Vaginal Speculum

The names of items, such as the disposable vaginal speculum, are also essential. This medical device is most commonly used in a medical environment to dilate and hold open the vagina. Most items, in obvious or subtle ways, indicate who they are for. The intended users may by the scale of an object, its ease of use, the location of specific sections of it, or cultural coding that may signify specific professions, age groups, genders, or skills. The term’speculum’ derives from the Latin verb specere, which means ‘to gaze (at),’ implying that this is a seeing object. Like with other medical equipment, the indicated use of the speculum is generally the doctor or scientist who will manipulate it with their hand and see through it. But, every medical gadget has another user: the person whose body it will be administer to.

We can better grasp how both of those users are set into the way such devices operate if we investigate the speculum’s design history. The 3D-printed vaginal speculum seeks to bridge the gap between the two users since it is designe to be a DIY instrument that anybody with access to a 3D printer can create rather than a specialised device that will only by a professional clinician.

Red GynePunk Disposable Vaginal Speculum

This printed version of the Disposable Vaginal Speculum is affiliate with GynePunk, a community of feminist bio-hackers whose purpose is to ‘decolonize gynecology’. They empower those who feel disempowered by typical patient-doctor interactions, primarily by disseminating open-source instructions on how to create and use tools such as the speculum and histological equipment such as a centrifuge, a microscope, and an incubator that allow people to analyze their body fluids at the molecular level. In their work, they disrupt the way medical devices are often utilized by medical professionals; instead, GynePunk attempts to place these tools in the hands of those whose bodies they are on.

GynePunk Medical Supplies

GynePunk is intereste in understanding how the often-violent history of sexual health has resulted in specific ways of researching bodies, like the disposable vaginal speculum. J. Marion Sims (1813-83), known as the “Father of Modern Gynaecology,” is one name they mention in their harsh usage of the tool. Through years of often painful experimentation on enslaved women in pre-emancipation Alabama, USA, he invented a specific type of speculum as well as surgical techniques and commissioned the instrument that bears his name from a silversmith, basing its shape on a bent spoon that he had used in gynecological exams. The u-shaped Sims speculum was create for use by a gynecologist, but its most effective usage is dependent on the examinee adopting a certain ‘Sims’ posture’ to allow examination.

Charles H. Bushong’s Sims Position,

While Sims and his followers touted his disposable vaginal speculum design as revolutionary, other types of specula have been in use for over 2,000 years, such as this one from the Science Museum in London that was discover in Lebanon. Such ‘Roman’ speculums often had projecting blades that could be open internally, and more modern ones are fairly similar, but frequently feature a ‘site’ through which the user may see. As a result, the shape of the speculum is determin by a function of eyesight. Despite earlier precedents, these instruments were not widely used until the early modern period, and have been describe medical historians as the gradual displacement of midwifery by male professional medics, as well as a shift in the expertise involved in birthing from knowing through touch to knowing through seeing, denoting the user as the one who looks.

Roman Disposable Vaginal Speculum, 100 BCE-400 CE.

The disposable vaginal speculum’s infamous history is also linked to the Contagious Diseases Acts, which were first passed in 1864 and allowed for the mandatory vaginal examination of women suspected of ‘common prostitution’ in an attempt to reduce the high rate of syphilis among soldiers and sailors across the British Empire. This emphasis on the use of the speculum as a diagnostic tool was scientifically dubious because the symptoms of syphilis could not be easily observed just by looking through the speculum, and those subjected to the law testified to feeling brutalized and often injured by its use, indicating that the ostensible ‘usefulness’ of the instrument is call into question.

While some recent attempts have to redesign the speculum to take into mind the body it is being used on, commercial makers continue to focus on what it provides people who look through it. In reality, the sensation of the speculum on the body is fully recognized as a significant component of its application in the register of kink, where medical-grade speculums for sex play.

When we examine the 3D-printed disposable vaginal speculum. We observe a depiction of a typical instrument that is still configured for a person to hold and see through it, rather than a real tool that would for a medical checkup. As such, it reflects not an ideal design for self-knowledge. But rather an ambition that the instrument’s violent past be address, and maybe the instrument is modifie to account for users at both ends of the speculum.

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