The intensive care unit is a stressful place to work, so the nurse manages her mental health by taking breaks to post nudes. She sneaks off into the bathroom, locks the door and drops her cerulean-blue scrubs to her ankles. For a few minutes, all the trauma in the ICU — the sleepless hours, emergency procedures and pervasive, overbearing sadness — is condemned to a foreign dimension. “It’s an escape for me because my job is extremely intense. It distracts me from the stress for a moment, then I go right back to work,” she tells me.
I meet this particular nurse on the global symposium for naughty nurses: GoneWildScrubs, a subreddit that encourages real women, working in real hospitals and real clinics, to reveal what they’re wearing underneath their occupational polyester. (Founded in 2014, it’s currently home to 168,000 subscribers.) Scroll through and witness a distinct spin on the typical self-shot thirst trap — hundreds of nurses in break rooms and wash stalls, scrubs pulled aside, so that cold metal stethoscopes and plastic lanyards can lay on top of surreptitiously donned lingerie, or nothing at all.
The mere existence of the forum isn’t surprising. The naughty nurse, as a genre, reigns supreme above all other pulp masculine fantasies. She’s been emblazoned on Blink-182 record sleeves, in red-blooded Animaniacs pickup lines and in every pop-up costume outfitter since, let’s say, 1998. But GoneWildScrubs has no time for simulacrum, and elevates the fantasy to an exacting degree of authenticity. The subreddit’s rules ban any and all nurse cosplayers — no tawdry Halloween miniskirts — to restrict the venue to genuine medical practitioners who feel as if they might have something lascivious to share while on the clock. According to the subreddit’s moderator, who posts as Dan Dynamo, nothing costumed and buxom can ever supersede the quieter seduction of a real nurse, in real scrubs.
“Scrubs are very simple and also revealing,” he explains. “Like seeing someone walk around in pajamas or underwear. The thin fabric helps accentuate the subtle lines of the undergarments. When a nurse leans in over you or bends over to jot down some notes, the clothing allows your eyes to catch glimpses of their breasts beneath. Given the situation you’re in, this is all very taboo. They can’t cross the line, and you can’t either. That’s why so many people are drawn to GoneWildScrubs. It gives both viewers and posters a safe place to cross that line.”
IRL, though, the naughty nurses I spoke to keep their Reddit careers secret. The ICU worker says there’s only one person in her hospital who knows about her clandestine bathroom photoshoots, and another woman, who just started posting on GoneWildScrubs, says the eat-their-young environment of nursing labor encourages her to keep her medical nudes as anonymous as possible. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both of them were introduced to the kink by men in their lives, for men are far more likely to attach an aching, illicit arousal toward a female-coded role in the workforce. The former’s husband has long been fascinated by her “tight little scrubs,” which makes her posts part of an ongoing post-marital game. The latter was inspired by a “guy [she] was hooking up with,” who was profoundly enthralled by his newfound reality of sleeping with an RN. He seduced her into the same cult, and for the first time in her life, she’s able to see her scrubs as a feminine weapon.
“Nurses are generally caring and empathetic. I guess it’s that side that has an attractive air to men,” she tells me, when I ask her to diagnose how she’s quickly cultivated an audience eager to celebrate a mixture of sex and palliative diligence. “Maybe it’s mommy issues. Freud would have a field day, I’m sure. Most guys I’ve chatted to say they hold nurses in high esteem, but it plays into that fantasy realm.”
The ICU worker echoes the same sentiment. The posts that are most successful on GoneWildScrubs toe the line between feverish oversexed delirium, and what’s actually possible during a checkup, in relative public, under the piercing fluorescent lights of a beige clinic. The community seems to concur that sleeping with your nurse is a distant part of the fantasy. It’s way more fun to want to sleep with your nurse, and she’s more than happy to play that part. “Regular nudes on Reddit show so much but don’t leave too much for wild imaginative acts,” she explains.
None of this changes the fact that this version of the naughty nurse kink directly interacts with a professional environment, and it’s understandable why a patient may be uncomfortable with a caretaker attending to their own sexual curiosities in between treatments. I reached out to Lola Jean, a sex educator in Brooklyn, for her thoughts on that dynamic. “We should be policing our own kinks and not letting society dictate that. As an overall notion in kink or otherwise, we shouldn’t put others at risk or harm, unless this has been consensually agreed upon,” she tells me, adding that she doesn’t think snapping a nude in a break room disrupts that code of conduct, unless the nurses are specifically being careless.
Things, however, get more complicated when you reverse the roles. Masculine medical fetishism absolutely exists; it’s a fundamental pillar of ER, Nip/Tuck and Grey’s Anatomy. The difference, of course, are the number of high-profile sexual abuse cases (e.g., Larry Nassar), which all involve doctors violating the same trust between patient and practitioner that ScrubsGoneWild fantasizes about. Again though, Jean reiterates that within the context of a subreddit with a rigid set of rules for posters and viewers, medical kink can operate consensually. “A kink will be different for any individual person, man, woman or otherwise,” she explains. “[Society’s perception] changes on gender identity, social status or any other factors. We like to make other people’s business our business and assign a morality to this.”
Dynamo, the moderator, tells me his favorite uploads on ScrubsGoneWild have an air of “sincerity” to them, in a way that runs counter to the bosom-y, oversaturated excess of how the kink manifests in pop culture. He has no use for the sweaty, Pamela Anderson overkill of naughty nurses, because they could never hold a candle to the true naughty nurses who hide out in wards across the globe. (In particular, Dynamo likes the posters that frame the viewer as a patient on the exam table; for him, that’s the best way to simulate the tripwire of reality.)
“There’s a level of trust and professionalism that goes along with working in the medical field. These are people that have seen it all, aren’t here to laugh or criticize, are highly intelligent and are aware of the boundaries between themselves and their patients. When you go to the hospital, sex, beyond the clinical aspect, should never enter one’s mind,” he tells me. “They’re touching your genitals to check for cancer, not for a sexual release. That boundary, for both the patient and caregiver, is a strict taboo. And therein lies the kink. There’s aspects of power, dominance and vulnerability, all in an environment where sexual gratification shouldn’t enter one’s mind.”
I suppose Dynamo deserves props for creating a space where he, and those who share his proclivities, can explore the outer limits of naughty nursing without putting anyone in danger. Personally, I find it slightly reassuring to know that even in the dark depths of intensive care, a place where half a million people die each year, a little bit of carnal human curiosity is able to shine through.
Horniness, as always, is the force that binds us together.