The nurse as a sex object in motion pictures, 1930 to 1980



A content analysis of 191 motion pictures featuring 211 nurses as significant characters was conducted to determine the nature and extent of the motion picture industry's depiction of the nurse as a sex object and to identify changes in that portrayal from 1930 to 1980. Seventy-three percent of the nurse roles characterized nurses as sex objects. The frequency and intensity of stereotypes of nurses as sex objects rose significantly during the 1960s and 1970s (p < .0001). Exploitation of the nurse as a sex object was more common in the larger nurse roles. However, in films with a strong emphasis on professional nursing in either the story or in character development, sexual stereotyping of nurses was uncommon. It was concluded that the image of the nurse as a professional care giver was incompatible with that of the nurse as sex object, and that the motion picture industry has opted primarily to present the latter image. The extremely negative sexual stereotype of nursing promulgated during the past 20 years is cause for concern. Actions that the nursing profession can employ to counter the unfavorable portrayal of nurses in 1980s motion pictures are suggested.