Two weeks ago I posted a photo of a Buzz Lightyear toy deeply implanted inside the bottom of some poor schmuck. The image was from a book of X-ray images, Stuck Up, wherein lies many a snapshot of a fetish or folly gone wrong. If you are a nurse, you have perhaps had these types of images shown to you in the breakroom. Maybe you’ve laughed at a 70-year-old’s desire to have a penile implant or sneered when you found out that your patient had perforated their bowels with a 2-foot-long, 4-inch-wide fisting dildo. The truth is that many of us nurses truly suck at talking about sex with our patients and end up often unintentionally slut-shaming our patients. One reason for this is the complicated history that nursing has with sex. Nurses make complex dosage calculations and life-saving decisions with our patients daily and yet we are still asked if we can “give a sponge bath” wink, wink, eye roll.
The relationship between sex and nursing has been a historical clusterfuck impacting the images of nurses and the way we care for our patients for centuries. Nurses are dually the targets and mistresses/masters of the slut-shame.
Why, you ask? Well, it goes way-way back to the 1500s, when the sick were so sick that only unwed working women would tend to them and by “working women” I mean sex workers. Nurses by day, and prostitutes by night. It would remain this way for the next 300 years, at which point cities like NYC gave sex workers the option of becoming nurses rather than going to jail. In a piece on the history of the sexy nurse by Dan Gentile, he examines the images associated with nursing throughout time, from the cartoon of Betty Boop to the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse creating a masturbatory image for sailors worldwide. He goes on to talk about the influence of porn on the perception of nurses, specifically the nurse in the cinematic tour de force Deep Throat as the fluffer (porn term, i.e. the warmup) for medical fetishes. With these images in mind, I can’t help but be reminded of Nurse Jackie having sex with the pharmacist or Jenny from the 1980s film, The World According to Garp, who rapes a patient in order to have a baby. Ethics be damned.
Uniforms have changed and nursing has been elevated to a serious profession yet the image of the slutty nurse lingers. Throughout history, many have tried to fight the “naughty nurse” image by turning us into angels and nuns. Florence Nightingale dignified nursing and created a true profession out of it but brought along with that dignity a certain selfless serving purity to the bedside. She required her nurses to not have any embellishments. These nurses were closely supervised outside of work and could be asked to leave if they were caught with a man, even if they were just seen walking down the street together. Obviously, Flo saw sexuality and gender through a binary lense. It seemed that while Flo was more than willing to train some prostitutes in the art of nursing, she made it clear that they would no longer have a need for their sexual selves. It was rumored that she even took this a step further by only selecting those women whose beauty would not distract from their healing work.
Today, the nursing image has turned into one of three iterations: an uptight sexless shrew (the holy nurse), Nurse Ratched (the battleaxe nurse) or one of the stars of Kung Fu Nurses a Go-Go (the naughty nurse).
Now, of course, I am talking about the dilemma of the female-bodied nurse in this post. The male nurse has his own set of issues when it comes to understanding his masculinity and being shamed in “women’s work.” And I say this without apology. We can go deeper with the topic of male nurses in a future post.
I remember when I was in nursing school, there was a bevy of beauties in one of the clinical locations. They were a group of stunning young women who had been in the profession for a few years. All had long hair, which they let flow freely while doing wound care. None of them wore scrub tops, and instead wore long-sleeved t-shirts that would show just a bit of belly when they went to hang a new bag of NS (saline). I used to refer to one of these nurses as “the one with the stripper name,” I think it was Jubilee. Perhaps, these women had indeed aspired to star in some naughty nurse film, or perhaps I was forcing a puritanical view on professional women. Jubilee’s parents were probably celebrating her when they named her. How would they know that one day someone would expect her to swing around on an IV pole?
But nurses do that, people do that, we prejudge and at times shame those around us and sometimes even our patients. Last week, I wrote about Mr. Carrot, he was a mid-thirties, well-spoken, white man who had the good sense to place a carrot in a condom and then up his ass. The trouble started, as it usually does when you have something lodged in your ass, with stress and his sphincter freaked out and locked up. He is not the only one I’ve seen in this situation. There was a small man with a small vibrator that had been lost in the anal abyss, another gentleman that had used two different dildos to release his frustration, even after puncturing his colon with the first. With each of these admissions, the patients were met with snickers, gossip and, if available, shared pictures. These patients had a need for care and comfort and were instead shamed by Healthcare professionals.
Does this mean that patients should be scared to seek help when their acted-out fantasies have go awry? Absolutely not, in fact, although we sometimes have a hard time addressing the private parts of wellness, we always take pride in the care and comfort we bring. Nursing is a profession built on the art and science of care. The science of nursing involves the procedures, the poking, prodding and puncturing. The art of nursing as Florence Nightingale called it, is the care and comfort, which may involve a bedbath but primarily is about being present, physically and emotionally, with the patient and advocating for our patients. So regardless of our personal hangups, we will give you the best care we can, you are the reason we chose to become nurses.
And for our part, nurses and health care, in general, need to get past their age-old struggles around dealing with the sexual body.
Nurses need to know our own complicated professional history with sex, and embrace all aspects of our profession.
To all my fellow nurses, I say, own that “naughty” part of you that wants your scrubs to hug in all the right places. Place those angel wings on while suggesting what you know is the right medication for that patient to the newest resident. And when 15 “family” members all come at once to feed your patient (who may be NPO, “no food or drink”) be your best Ratched/ Ratchet self and kick them out. And when you are confronted with the patient that lodged something in the wrong place, slept with the wrong person(s) or caught something they wished they didn’t, you need not slut-shame them because there’s a little freak in all of us, including you, that you might not want “caught” either.
Nurses have had to fight like dogs to be seen and respected as professionals. Along the way, we lost parts of our history. Once upon a time we healed the community from inside the bed, and those images linger but now that we have moved to the bedside and beyond, many of us have forgotten private parts are a still an integral part of wellness. So support your nursing comrades, regardless of their self-expression, Nurses of Instagram, and be gentle when you care for those future stars of “Sex Sent Me to the ER” .
One last thing, let's maybe not with the sexy selfies in the hospital bathrooms because hospital bathrooms can be pretty gross. However, I appreciate what I imagine is stellar hand hygiene. So keep that up.
Here’s one IG murse, 21 more can be found in this Buzzfeed fluff piece ;).
djohnson696Stay on that work and workout grind!❤💪
jbeitz08Wow. Where do you go to see a nurse this hot? 😍😍😘
shawnachrismanThirst trap for real 😩
_disney360_Starting to feel sick 😝