Hi vambrace, you are very welcome to post here!
It is totally understandable to have anxiety surrounding gynecologist appointments and pelvic exams! I have a few articles I can share with you, and I’ll talk through my thoughts to hopefully address some of your concerns.
It is generally recommended that people with uteruses and periods visit a gynecologist or their doctor annually to discuss menstruation and general sexual health. You can take the process slowly and one step at a time - don’t feel pressure to jump directly to a pelvic exam. My hope is to let you know that you can ease into gynecologist appointments. If/when you go for the first time, you should feel that the decision to visit an OB/GYN is your own (not your doctor’s or Scarleteen’s or anyone else’s) and that you feel heard and respected by your doctor and your anxieties have been addressed.
There are many reasons why people visit OB/GYNs. You’re right that sex and sexual activity is one of them, but the majority of reasons for an OB/GYN visit are not related to sex - general health, menstrual cycles concerns, pelvic pain, questions about discharge, pap smears, and more! This article does a great job going through the details of what a first gynecologist visit can look like.
That all being said, I really recommend reading this article: “Do you need a pelvic exam? Maybe... or maybe not.”
It sets up the importance of patient autonomy and sovereignty over decision making in medicine, and how to advocate for yourself with your doctor. It also says the pap smears are often over-prescribed.
Do you have a primary care doctor now that you would feel comfortable asking to learn more about gynecologist appointments? I wonder if it is possible to set up a consultation with an OB/GYN so you can talk through your concerns and questions about pelvic exams with them without the anxiety of a pelvic exam looming in the same visit. I can imagine it would also be helpful to build some trust and form a relationship with your gynecologist before having a more difficult appointment set up.
I feel like I wrote a lot of things down, but I just want to summarize to say that it definitely is nerve-wracking to think about setting up a gynecologist appointment, especially when there isn’t often a lot of transparency about what these appointments entail. The bottom line is that you should only make one if you want to. If you do decide to , you have the right to understand exactly what will happen during the appointment and feel that your concerns are being addressed. Do you have other questions I can help with?
(*Also, as a last side note - it doesn’t sound like your past sexual experience was high risk, but if you ever want to, most all STI testing can be done through a urine sample or blood work, and does not require a pelvic exam.)