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Title: Mental nursing and 'sexual deviation' : exploring the role of nurses and the experience of former patients, 1935-1974
Author: Dickinson, Tommy
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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Male homosexuality was illegal in England and Wales from 1533 until 1967 and, along with transvestism, was considered an antisocial 'sexual deviation' that could be 'cured'. Nurses were involved in administering treatments to cure these individuals. This study used oral history interviews with fifteen nurses, along with documentary sources, to examine the meanings that nurses attached to these treatments, and represents the first attempt to examine nurses' perceptions on providing such treatments. The study also conducted oral history interviews with seven patient's and explores their experiences of receiving these treatments to obtain a better understanding of the topic in question and claim a 'history from below' which allows us to see historical practice from a new perspective. The period examined by this thesis was 1935 to 1974. It begins with the publication of the first official report on the use of aversion therapy to treat homosexuality. This publication, along with prejudicial attitudes towards homosexuals and transvestites in the media and in literary, medical, sociological and legal discourses, provided some momentum for the use of aversion therapy to cure these individuals. The period ends in 1974 with the seventh printing of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic Statistical Manual version II, which removed homosexuality as a category of psychiatric disorder in the USA. None of the patients in this study reported that the treatment had been effective and all were left feeling emotionally troubled by it. The study explored a number of influences that may have motivated nurses to administer these painful and distressing treatments. Nurses' work was largely constrained by the asylum-type conditions in which they worked, and the character and quality of patient care was largely influenced by the medical staff, who appeared to have overriding control of both the institution and the nurses working within it. In addition, due to their limited knowledge base, nurses believed that it was pertinent for the well-being of a patient that nurses obey medical orders. They took on the status offered to them of obedient order-takers. Nevertheless, from accounts gathered during this study, some nurses covertly undermined their superiors and engaged in subversive behaviours to avoid participating in this aspect of clinical practice. The thesis offers a hitherto undiscovered insight into the role of mental nurses caring for patients receiving aversion therapy for sexual deviation. In doing so, it provides insights into the way nurses may behave when a particular set of social, political and contextual factors are at play. As the first study to focus on exploring the nurses' role in caring for sexually deviant patients, it provides in-depth historical analysis of this subject and related issues as well as a basis for further historical analysis in this area. It is envisaged that this study might also act as a reminder of the need for nurses to ensure that their interventions have a sound evidence base, and that they constantly reflect on the moral and value base of their practice and the influence that science, societal norms and contexts can have on changing views of what is regarded as 'acceptable practice'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available