Sexualizing Men's Touch: Male Nurses and the Use of Intimate Touch in Clinical Practice

  • Harding T
  • North N
  • Perkins R
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Abstract

Drawn from a larger study, this article reports the experiences of a group of male nurses regarding the use of intimate physical touch. Using discourse analysis, interview data from 18 male nurses were analyzed and related to existing text on men as nurses. The analysis reveals that although touch is important in nursing care, it is problematic for men because discourses have normalized women's use of touch as a caring behavior and have sexualized men's touch. Participants described their vulnerability, how they protected themselves from risk, and the resulting stress. The complicity of nurses in sexualizing men's touch and the neglect of educators in preparing men for providing intimate care are revealed. A paradox emerged whereby the very measures employed to protect both patients and men as nurses exacerbate the perceived risk posed by men carrying out intimate care. Deconstructing and reframing prevailing discourses around nursing, gender, and caring involving touch can help to legitimize men's involvement in physical caring.

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Authors

  • Thomas Harding

  • Nicola North

  • Rod Perkins

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