Let’s talk about stereotypes, and double standards. The ‘sexy nurse’


Sexy Nurse Basketball Cheerleaders.

We ran into a little double standard today on SMYS, and I would love to talk about it. A guy complained about a picture of barechested guys, identifying as nurses.

Ok, everyone knows I hate the sexy nurse thing.  I. Hate. It.  I try to swallow my feelings because others (non-nurses mostly) think I am very sensitive about it, and I do not like to force my beliefs on anyone.  I had to go on autopilot last Halloween.  The sexy nurse costumes actually cost this group hundreds and maybe thousands of good members, but I didn’t want to add another restriction to the list.

We were all in agreement about the sexy nurse toddler shirt, as it was pretty disgusting. Because making CHILDREN sex objects is just not ok on any level.

At the very beginning of the “Show Me Your Stethoscope” phenomenon, we lost perhaps MORE members than that because of the guy nurse ‘beefcake’ pictures.  There was a nurse who got so many likes on a barechested picture of himself that he imploded when I deleted it (because I felt it was marginalizing male nurses as sex objects, and him in particular).  He was horrified that I deleted his picture, because it got so much attention.  Quite honestly, I am sure he got a lot of attention in his real life, based on that picture. I had a hard time relating.  It is possible that I was insensitive.


Washington DC Party with SMYS. Flo Approves.

But here is the thing…. There IS a ‘sexy nurse’ stereotype.  I have had patients and physicians mention it.  It is kind of icky.  I feel like it robs our profession of the respect we deserve.  The short vinyl skirt and nurse’s cap are insulting.  It is someone pretending to be a nurse and sexualizing the profession.  We go INSANE when someone impersonates a nurse, but we are not bothered at all when it is accompanied by sexualization? Weird.

A member who we will call R.B. recently posted a ‘shower’ picture showing his safe staffing bracelet.  I found it hysterical, but was that because he was a guy, or because only the back of his shoulder and his hair were visible?

So, is it ok to post barechested pictures of yourself in a healthcare group, identifying as a nurse? I don’t mean ‘is it morally ok?’ or ‘is it ok according to my religion?’ or ‘is it ok with me aesthetically?’.  I mean, is it ok for the profession? Does it perpetuate a stereotype? Does it marginalize nurses? Does your action actually impact the way nurses are seen by the general public?

I know, right? A lot to think about.  You thought you were just showing us the awesome muscles you got at the gym, folks! 🙂 Why is it ok to sexualize MEN in nursing, and not women?

Discuss. Halloween is coming around again.











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Author Janie Garner

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Lisa says:

    I’m also torn on this issue. I hate the “sexy nurse” thing. That said, if they are taking pictures of themselves I don’t mind. Frankly, I loved the pic of the male nurse with his shirt off. There is also floating around the characterization of the big, fat, ugly female nurse and I hate that more than the sexy nurse. So, for Lisa Nemchek, I don’t mind.

  • For in-depth discussion of the naughty nurse stereotype, The Truth About Nursing has been studying this stereotype, along with many others, since 2001. We have FAQs that might interest you such as
    Q: What’s the big deal about “naughty nurse” images in the media? I mean, no one believes nurses really dress like that!
    http://www.truthaboutnursing.org/faq/naughty_nurse.html and
    Q: But I’m young and hot and I love people to think nurses are sexy! Promiscuous girls rule! Anyone who objects to the “naughty nurse” image must be an old hag “nursing leader” who hates sex and freedom, right?

  • Charlene Taymor says:

    I have always believed that the ‘naughty nurse’ was offensive and professionally damaging. I’ve had male patients (in the ICU, mind you) ask me if I was one of those nurses that gave those amazing massages. I always quickly replied, and with no hint of humor in my voice or eyes, nope! I am old (I was more than 30 yo in 1976, when I entered nursing), certainly not glamorous in scrubs, not working in a sexy environment (surrounded by death, fear, and suffering), but still the ‘naughty nurse’ prevailed (I retired in 2014). In fact, it was once generally believed that nurses ‘knew’ things, sexual things, that other women didn’t…and it was presumed we were promiscuous, or at least willing and easily available. Could anyone who has worked even one shift not find that demeaning? And speaking of diminishing the importance of the work we do…how about ‘Nurses’ Week’…don’t get me started…

  • Kristine Warnecke, BSN, RN says:

    I have always thought the ‘naughty nurse’ was demeaning to the profession of nursing as a whole. It doesn’t matter if your male, female, E.T., fairy godmother, etc. it brings about an image that we are untrained and easy. Which is something that nurses before us fought hard to change. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy eye candy just as much as the next girl. There is a time a place for it though.

  • Ramona says:

    When I was a young nurse, I went to one of those adult stores and bought a costume that was utilized for a special occasion/anniversary for my husband and myself. It was fun but we certainly didn’t get our money’s worth out of the expenditure! I am 45 now and probably considered more on the “old hag” end of the spectrum at this point, but I honestly dont care about the sexy nurse stigma. I believe it is how we handle those confrontations “on the job” that matter. We should be professional in our response and not let it be a flirtatious encounter

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