The Gynaecologist in the Basement: The Strange Case of Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Cosby

Article by La Sentient Truth (Blog) /
March 25, 2015 /
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The Cosby Show was an iconic TV show that became the model for upper middle class black America, but there was one paradox in the plot, one muffled script hiccup that never fully made sense to me: The gynecologist in the basement. I remember watching as a kid, obfuscated first by the fact that Cosby casually ran a doctor’s office from his basement, not an office or hospital, but even more, I was perplexed by why he had selected OB/GYN for the good Dr. Huxtable’s practice. Even a seven year-old knows a gynecologist is an odd choice for a television representation of the ideal profession for a man with five kids, particularly since it didn’t add much to the character or plot. I’d sit in front of the television, unconvinced that Dr. Huxtable could hold a steak sandwich in one hand, slip into a white coat in the other, subterraneously dig into a woman’s vagina, and kiss his wife moments later when she walked in from work. Conveniently, Claire Huxtable never entered his office, but rather always remained literally above his fantasies in the good part of the house. His space, regardless of how near or oddly intimate with young women, was his alone. As a writer, I know that the psychological meat of this subtextual narrative is truly a delicious chew. Duality doesn’t happen serendipitously in art. Not like this.

For artists deeply imbued in their crafts, devising mechanisms of expression that enable the re-creation of self through a mix of reality and fantasy, is artistic utopia. For example, author R. L. Stevenson, born into privilege, mirrored the dark side of the upper class mild mannered gentlemen in his novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Similarly, Toni Morrison’s novels all twist and turn in that tight space she once occupied, where little black girls yearn to manifest a shared concept of beauty. Junot Diaz, a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic, tends to explore the evolution of womanizing Dominicans melting into America. And it’s not only literary writers, but comedians and visual artists who also use their mediums to reflect parallel versions of themselves. Frieda Kahlo’s self-portraits, painted during periods of physical confinement, reflect not just her own image, reimagined in bright abundant detail, but her sexual subjectivity, wrote Tatiana Pentes in her essay Cruel Beauty. Cosby, a giant among comedy writers and performers, is no different from other great artists. His creation, Heathcliff Huxtable, a proud black doctor, educated at black colleges, a lover of black arts with a beautiful family and a goddess for a wife, was a fictional duplicate of Cosby’s own life as an influential African American. Even his wives names, Claire and Camille, were phonetic substitutes, a common device for writers. “The art of comedy comes from taking your pain and translating it into a funny re-creation of it,” Keenan Ivory Wayans told Oprah. Everything on Cosby’s show was the consummate reflection of his own life. Thus, the question begs answering, what in Cosby’s life did the gynecologist in the basement duplicate?

The gynecologist fantasy is one that is impolite to discuss in our society, but do a Google search and you will find that the idea of restraining a woman in medical stirrups and sexually controlling her is a real turn on for some folks. Serial rapist and killer David Parker Ray, built an secret chamber beneath his home, where he would take his drugged victims and strap them into a gynecologist’s chair, and torture them mercilessly.

As a profession, Gynecology offers not just access to women’s genitals, bodies, reproductive organs, and offspring, but her emotions. ‘Gynecologists are caretakers; they also implicitly or explicitly grant or deny permission for emotionally charged behavior,’ wrote Roberta J. Apfel in her book To Do No Harm: Des and the Dilemma of Modern Medicine. The pleasure behind the gynecologist fantasy is absolute physical, emotional and sexual control, granting the role of gynecologist a power that can be tremendously self-deifying. “Medical-themed sexual fetishes are often about powerplay: a “doctor” in a position of power who has access to, and knowledge of, a body and can seemingly do whatever he or she likes to it. Also, with such vast and intimate knowledge, the “doctor” is potentially able to provide pleasures that mere mortals don’t have the knowledge to achieve,” said Lauren Rosewarne Psychologist and author of the book Part-Time Perverts: Sex, Pop Culture, and Kink Management. Gynecology is notoriously populated by perverts, whose careers are a deliberately chosen form of perversion immersion, Rosewarne wrote in her book.

2014, Johns Hopkins settled at $190 million lawsuit against gynecologist Dr. Nikita Levy, who secretly filmed thousands of women over 25 years with cameras hidden in pens and key chains. Dr. Levy committed suicide.

2014, Dr. Robert Hadden of New York Presbyterian Columbia Hospital was criminally prosecuted and sued for orally raping restrained pregnant patients.

2014, Dr. Paul Becton Jr. was charged with secretly photographing his patients.

2014, Dr. John Yacoub is convicted after he secretly drugged and photographed his patients.

2013, Dr. John Marshall was charged with drugging and raping sedated patients.

2011, Chicago gynecologist, Dr. Bruce Sylvester Smith, was sentenced to 18 years for raping patients while their legs ankles were strapped into medical stirrups.

2011, Dr. Kevin Pezeshki was convicted of sexual assault after inserting his fingers into the vagina of a hospitalized patient and ejaculating on the bedsheet.

2006, Dr. Charles Momah was sentenced to 20 years after 44 women accused him of forcing them into vaginal probes, pressuring them into surgeries, prescribing excessive painkillers, to which they developed addictions, blackmailing and raping them as well as allowing his brother Dr. Dennis Momah, to impersonate him during appointments. “Dr. Momah’s Little Shop of Horrors,” wrote one patient in her lawsuit.

There appears to be a profile for perverted gynecologists that is eerily similar methods to the pattern of allegations against Cosby, the gynecologist in the basement. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud describes a civil war of the psyche, two structural planes of thought, one visible and the other covered. This dichotomous universal human concept is present in philosophy, and spirituality such as Ying and Yang, and Heaven and Hell. In art it is symbolized as visible or invisible, above or below, which correspond to good or evil. For example, Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory where the insidious Dr. Hyde came alive, was a private semi-underground labyrinth on the side of the house beside the garden. The libidinous Phantom of the Opera was tortured by shame and hiding between two worlds, the subterranean sewers and the wings of Paris Opera. When he was Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell’s sex slaves were confined deep in the cellars below the city. Edgar Allen Poe lured his victims to underground catacombs, and hid his wife’s body behind a wall in his – basement. Use of the subterranean to symbolize secrecy has long been prevalent in the collective conscience.

In his 1969 stand-up comedy routine, It’s True It’s True, Cosby speaks for several minutes about incapacitating women with a drug called Spanish Fly. As comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans pointed out, the comedian takes his own pain and re-creates it as something funny. Yet, the definitive irony is Cosby’s greatest work of art, The Cosby Show. It contained a contextual and subtextual duplicity that was the consummate reflection of Cosby’s life, allowing him to play out his psychosexual fantasies by masterfully controlling his wife, family and image. Beverly Johnson said she knew she didn’t have a chance against Cosby when she realized he was brazen enough to give her the phone number to where his wife slept. It’s a strange case; on TV, there’s a gynecologist in the basement, but in real life, Dr. Huxtable has a dark side and his name is Mr. Cosby.