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Sexual rights of the disabled

by someone Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 10:53:18 AM EST

Today, Aftonbladet, a Swedish evening newspaper, has two articles about the sexual needs and rights of disabled persons. The question is: Should the government provide the severely disabled who might have a very hard time to ever find a sexual partner "the normal way" with access to sex workers? Should there be a state-run prostitution service for the disabled?


Let me note that in both articles the sex seekers are men looking for women. Were one to actually set up such a service it would obviously have to cater to all genders and sexual preferences to be properly non-discriminatory.

I am also including an older article on vision interpretation of pornographic material for the blind. This issue seems easy to me. Yes, of course legal pornographic material should be made accessible. I think that the article makes some important points about sex, sexuality, and disability, and how it leads to kinds of exclusion one would perhaps not readily think of. The question of special equipment for sex mentioned in one of the articles seems easy as well. Yes, of course this should be available free of charge.

But on prostitution in general, I don't really know where I stand. In general I think making prostitution illegal creates more problems than it solves. Probably. Most likely. But I don't know. A special exception of prostitutes for the disabled seems very strange indeed, if we choose to believe that prostitution is degrading for the prostitute. But I don't know. What do you think?

Han vill gå på statlig bordell He would like to visit a state-run brothel
Sverige borde ha statliga bordeller. Det tycker författaren Johan Nordansjö, cp-skadad sedan födseln. "Det är ett mänskligt behov att få kroppskontakt." Sweden ought to have state-run brothels. This is the opinion of Johan Nordansjö, an author who has Cerebral Palsy since birth. "It is a human need to have bodily contact with another person."
Hans debutroman, Mitt nakna jag (Debutantförlaget) handlar om en rullstolsburen man som kommer i kontakt med en prostituerad. Boken, Mitt nakna jag, tog elva år att skriva och enligt Johan Nordansjö är det en roman som vill ge insikt i hur en rullstolsburens liv kan se ut, och samtidigt ett inlägg i sexköpsdebatten. His first novel, My naked self, is about a man in a wheelchair who comes in contact with a prostitute. The novel took eleven years to write and according to its author it is a book to give insight into the life of someone confined to a wheelchair, and at the same time intended to be part of the debate on prostitution.
[...] [...]
Danmark ger handikappade sexhjälp Denmark gives help with sex to the handicapped.
I Danmark är sexköp lagligt till skillnad från hur det är i Sverige. Myndigheterna hjälper funktionshindrade med kontakter med prostituerade. I det danska socialdepartementets utredning "Vägledning om sexualitet - oavsett handikapp" från 2001 står det att sexualitet är en grundläggande mänsklig rättighet. Det står även att det är vårdpersonalens plikt att hjälpa den funktionshindrade med att kontakta prostituerade. In Denmark prostitution is legal, unlike in Sweden. The state helps the disabled to contact prostitutes. In a document by the Danish social department, "Guiding on sexuality - for all disabilities", finds that sexuality is a fundamental human right. Further, it states that it is the duty of care professionals to help the disabled in contacts with prostitutes.

Ska jag köpa sex till sonen? Should I buy sex for my son?
Är det okej att köpa sexuella tjänster till funktionshindrade ungdomar? Författaren Sören Olsson ställer den förbjudna frågan i en debattartikel. "Jag har själv inget svar men vill ha en diskussion", säger han. Sören Olsson är känd som en av författarna bakom de populära ungdomsböckerna om Sune och Bert. I en debattartikel i det senaste numret av tidskriften Föräldrakraft, som vänder sig till anhöriga till unga med funktionshinder, undrar han hur en förälder ska agera när barnet vill utforska sin sexualitet. Is it okay to buy sex for disabled youth? The author Sören Olsson is asking the forbidden question in a debate article. "I have myself no answer, he says, but would like to have a discussion about it. Sören Olsson is known as the author of the popular youth books about Sune and Bert. In a debate article in the latest number of the journal Föräldrakraft addressing those related to disabled youth he asks how a parent should act when a child wants to explore its sexuality.
Downs syndrom Downs syndrome
Sören Olsson har en tonårspojke med Downs syndrom som dessutom lider av ett allvarligt hjärtfel. "Min son förklarade att han ville vara naken med en tjej som på film, vilket fick mig att börja fundera över frågan, säger Sören Olsson. En kompis föreslog att han skulle ta med sig grabben till Danmark och betala en prostituerad. Först tyckte jag det var det vidrigaste förslag jag hade hört. Sedan blev jag mindre säker. Om min son över allt annat önskar att en gång i sitt liv få vara naken med en tjej, hur långt ska jag då vara redo att gå?" Sören Olsson has a teenage son with Downs syndrome and a serious heart problem. "My son explained to me that he would like to be naked with a girl, like in the movies, which got me thinking about the issue." he says. A friend suggested that he bring his son to Denmark and pay for a prostitute. "At first I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had heard. Then I got less sure. If my son more than anything wishes to once in his life be naked with a girl, how far should I be willing to go?"
Ingen sexköpare Not a sex buyer
Sören Olsson poängterar att han absolut inte förespråkar sexhandel: "Prostitution är inget vackert. Jag är ingen sexköpare. Men jag vill peka på en problemställning som inte är enkel." Frågan om sexhjälp till handikappade är även uppe till debatt i riksdagen i dag sedan riksdagsledamoten Elina Linna (v) krävt fria sexhjälpmedel till funktionshindrade. "Jag anser att landstingens hjälpmedelscentraler ska tillhandahålla gratis sexredskap till funktionshindrade precis som de erbjuder andra sorters hjälpmedel", säger hon. Sören Olsson emphasises that he is not advocating for the sex trade. "Prostitution is not beautiful. But I want to point to a difficult problem." The question of sex aid to the disabled is even debated in the [Swedish] parliament today after the MP Elina Linna (left party) demanded free sexual aids to the disabled. "I believe that the aid centres for the disabled should provide free sexual equipment to the disabled, just like they provide other kinds of equipment", she says.
Ska landstinget även erbjuda sexhjälp av nakna tjejer? Should they also offer sex help in the form of naked girls? [And naked boys, I would hope! --someone]
"Jag har svårt att se sexuella tjänster som en ersättning till naken hud och närhet. Som vänsterpartist kan jag inte acceptera prostitution. Men det finns ett bedrövligt svårt problem här." "I have a hard time seeing professionally provided sexual services as a replacement for skin and closeness. As a member of the Left party I cannot accept prostitution. But it is a terribly difficult issue."

Syntolkad porrfilm en rättighet 2004-05-13 Vision interpreted pornos are a right--published 2004-05-13
av Sara Shamloo Ekblad, Styrelseledamot Riksorganisationen Unga synskadade by Sara Shamloo Ekblad, Member of the board or directors, the National Organisation of Young Vision Impaired
I dag kommer CP-magasinet i SVT 2 att sända ett inslag där vi inom Unga synskadade (US) har syntolkat en porrfilm. Bakgrunden till detta är ett beslut som US tog förra året då vi ställde oss positiva till att syntolka en porrfilm för att även synskadade ska ha rätt att bilda sig en uppfattning om porr. Frågan väcktes av mig, som också är engagerad feminist, eftersom porr och sex i dag kan sägas vara en del av kulturen i Sverige - oavsett om vi vill det eller inte. Det är en flitigt debatterad fråga i medier och inte minst i feministkretsar. Today the CP-magasine in SVT 2 will show a segment where we in Young Vision Impaired [Unga Synskadade (US)] have vision interpreted a pornographic film. The background is that last year US took a decision to support vision interpretation of pornography so that also the vision impaired will be able to have an experience of pornography and form an opinion of it. The question was brought by me, who is also an engaged feminist, since pornography and sex today can be said to be part of the culture in Sweden, regardless of whether we like it or not. It is an often debated question in the media and in feminist circles.
Som synskadad har man inte samma möjlighet att liksom seende ungdomar i alla fall tjuvkika lite på TV 1000 eller i en porrtidning för att på så sätt ta ställning. Vi tycker att detta är ett väldigt tydligt exempel på det utanförskap det kan innebära att vara synskadad. Man har ett informationshandikapp. Man kan inte ta del av en stor mängd information som andra tar för given. Det gäller allt ifrån tidtabeller, menyer, kartor, filmer, tidningar, böcker och skyltar till extraprisannonsering i butiker. US tar inte ställning för eller emot porr, vår målsättning är att information ska vara tillgänglig för dem som vill ta del av den. Ingen annan ska ha makten att avgöra i andras ställe vilken information de ska få ta del av, oavsett om det är 'bra' eller 'dålig' eller vad de uppfattar vara 'nödvändig' information. As vision impaired one does not have the same opportunity as seeing youth to secretly watch a bit on TV 1000 or look in a dirty magazine, and thus be able to take a position on this. We think that this is a very obvious example of how the vision impaired end up being excluded. One ends up having an information handicap as well. One cannot take part of a large quantity of information which others take for granted. Everything from time tables, menus, maps, movies, newspapers, books and sign. US does not take a position for or against porn, our goal is that information should be available for each one that wants it. No one else should have the power to decide which information one can take part of, should it be 'good', 'bad', or what they think of as 'necessary', information.

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A very interesting topic. I don't know where I stand on legalized prostitution either, but state run brothels don't strike me as a very good idea.
Where would you draw the line for who would get to go? Just the physically disabled, or also the mentally disabled? What about socially handicapped or love-shy persons?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 11:19:29 AM EST
It's a difficult one, someone, and it'll probably set off debate.

Imo, there are a number of layers to peel away (no pun intended). First, obviously, that the sex workers involved should be entirely willing to engage in this kind of activity. That may seem like a no-brainer, but very large numbers of "sex workers" have been trafficked, enslaved, brutalised, or at the very least did not freely choose to be "sex workers". It's a perfectly defensible point of view that, in fact, all sex workers were forced by circumstances aka poverty into their profession. It's also a defensible point of view that modelling for pornography or practising prostitution are irremediably demeaning, dehumanising activities for those who carry them out.

If you hold those sorts of views then I imagine you're bound to respond negatively to the proposals above. Which leaves you with the conclusion that masturbation and sex gadgetry is all the disabled will get, unless there's a mass volunteer movement of non-professionals who are willing to give more than a free hug. It's a painful dilemma -- this father seems to be right there in the difficulty of it:

I have a hard time seeing professionally provided sexual services as a replacement for skin and closeness

The word "love" is not pronounced (as a cheap euphemism for sex, fortunately, but unfortunately not seriously either). Thinking about it reminded me suddenly of something I saw quite often years ago. A group of twenty-or-so men, mostly with Downs syndrome, walking from the home where they were kept shuttered away (this really was some years back) to the village church, their only outing each week. Walking two-by-two, a half-mile along a lane. Orderly and quiet, yet many of the twos in fact couples, tenderly holding hands. Some in the village complained, but the curate OK'd it. What else could they do? he said. That seemed to show commendable open-mindedness, yet at the same time those men were shut away out of sight and a kind of condescending unction of the Church smothered the reality of their sexuality. Better to be nice about it than have it get nasty and leap at your face..?

I'm not going to get any conclusion out of that, am I? I'll leave it to you and others.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 11:58:52 AM EST
Which leaves you with the conclusion that masturbation and sex gadgetry is all the disabled will get

Sexual aids for the disabled also includes ones to allow two of them the 'get it on'. I have read before (years ago, so I am not likely to find those articles) that quite often, since there are disabled communities, romantic events between two disabled persons occur. A common problem, which I would hope that a country like Sweden could do well on, is that they might need some help figuring out how to 'do it' and that it is difficult and uncomfortable to get this help. Unless care professional have the explicit duty to address the issue, quite often it just never comes up. The gadgetry involved is often expensive and evaluation of individual situations might be necessary to find custom solutions. For the mentally disabled the issue of sex never being addressed is even more common, and discomfort about it is very large. I am hoping that this is part of the debate in the parliament and that they agree to fund something useful.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 01:52:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sexuality is a fundamental human right

I really have a difficulty with that. A right ? Tell me it's a very basic and profund need for us as for all other living beings, and I agree.

And then the debate's nature is not quite the same, because the community has no duty to protect the right and thus provide the infrastructure - only to recognize the need and see to it there are no obstacles, which is quite different.

It is a recent phenomenon, those claims for new rights.

by balbuz on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 12:09:38 PM EST
Agreed.  It's an emotional need, not a physical right.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 12:23:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it could be better worded along the lines of "the state shall not forbid consensual sex and shall not allow groups or individuals to control the sexuality of others."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 03:25:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The paragraph on Sören Olsson's son troubles me, not for any reason regarding morality (I am, as always, a militant social libertarian), but because of the question of publicly running and financing it.  But, in the interest of taking a stand (despite not having thought about it long enough for that stand to be firm), and even setting aside the issue of the physical health benefits of sex, should we not consider the mental health of people who, because of disability, have missed what I think is clearly a critical a piece of the human experience?  I think I have to vote, "Yes," on that.

These people are not going to experience the side of love and emotional closeness in this scenario, but should we not at least provide them with the illusion?  Being known and accepted by someone in that way matters deeply to us.

And, after all, we cover prescriptions for Levitra, so why not this?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 12:21:58 PM EST
It's good to see a discussion on this, it isn't an easy topic to approach and it has certainly been left to the side as much as possible in the past.

I'm not sure how much things have progressed more recently - the fact that there has been public discussion on it is big progress - but I've come across plenty of situations of disabled children (generally those who are segregated), not being given any form of sex education.  This causes huge problems as they get older because their bodies will still have developed, and they experience the same feelings and urges and desires as everybody else but they have no idea what is going on.  Think of how confusing it is for any child/adolescent/adult to get their head around emotions and sexual feelings, but when you are living in complete ignorance of where it has all come from and what it means, it gets expressed in negative and often inappropriate ways.

If there is enough awareness and mobility to somehow find the way through this to being intimate and having sex, then there's the risk of pregnancy, getting physically hurt and so on and not understanding the implications of what is happening.

This is why I very much believe that disabled children should be given sex education in a way that is as accessible and relevant as possible and that they are given choices for ways of expressing themselves sexually.

For adults/adolescents who are physically disabled but with no mental disability or learning difficulty, there's even less of a reason to not provide a proper sex education and options for being sexually active in some form, even if it doesn't involve the type of intimate relationship that one may wish to have.  

The disability movement is campaigning strongly towards having choice and control in all areas of life and that has to include the sexual nature of human beings as well, even if it is a topic that causes the public to squirm.

I did see a programme on tv a few years ago about sex services for disabled people in the UK, and the boundaries were clear, the disabled people involved were treated with dignity and respect and the prostitute was professional and treated it as a job like any other. Indeed, her disabled client was a regular.

My reaction to this is that it is, and should be, possible and should be more widely available for disabled people to engage in sexual activity if they chose.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 03:11:19 PM EST
it is the duty of care professionals to help the disabled in contacts with prostitutes.

That's a whole debate in itself.  Does this duty amount to handing over to specialist professionals or taking personal care to a new level?  At what point does a care worker become a sex worker?

Bearing in mind that, in the UK, being a care worker has to be about the most exploited and underpaid profession there is-and the care worker may well be the employee of the disabled person.  Power imbalances don't run in only one direction.

by Sassafras on Fri Feb 16th, 2007 at 11:40:35 AM EST


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