‘Subordinate nurses’
in ‘Curing queers’
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This chapter offers an interpretation of some nurses' acceptance of and participation in aversion therapy for sexual deviations. The nurses used humour as a way of coping with the absurdity of administering aversion therapy. Referring to the nurses as 'subordinate' was a self-fulfilling prophecy and it was inevitable that some would take on such an obedient role. The 'subordinate' state enrolled assistant nurse (SEAN) was introduced with the Nurses' Act 1943. Joanna Bourke argues that many health care professionals witnessed the war as an immense laboratory for experimentation and the testing of theories. John Hopton argues that the model of militarisation extended to civilian nursing and nurse discipline became more severe and stressed the importance of class distinction, duty and self-sacrifice. The medical experiments carried out in Nazi Germany and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment were non-therapeutic experiments.

‘Curing queers’

Mental nurses and their patients, 1935–74




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