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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Disability and the right to sex

There's an article on the BBC website today about a young wheelchair bound male who's first sexual experience was bought in a Spanish brothel.

The article is framed around the question of acceptability for disabled people to visit brothels. So it's not all good - this is pretty patronising. It implies disabled people need special treatment because they are so unattractive they cannot express their sexuality without help or intervention.

I was surprised to read that somewhere this is believed to be true - there is a scheme in the Netherlands where a voluntary group provides sexual services for disabled people. Apparently most clients pay for 'the sex' themselves but some local authorities subsidise the service. That's kind of like sex on the NHS, right?

My own thoughts on prostitution; I am struggling to come to any real conclusion. On the one hand I would be instantly put off someone if I knew they had visited a prostitute. However that is just a personal reaction. It doesn't necessarily mean I think prostitution should be illegal.

It is often suggested that the majority of sex workers get into the profession as a last resort, or a response to factors they cannot control. I would interpret this to mean they had little power over their position, eg. they need to be there to make a living. So I tend to support criminalisation those who buy sex - as they are in the position of power in the transaction. I think this concept can, and is, applied to other situations of imbalanced power in supply and demand exchanges as well (eg drug dealers vs buyers).

I do believe that our patriarchal and capitalist system perpetuates a society in which prostitution can happen, and if this was to be broken down, the attitudes that allow and create a 'need' for it would not exist.

Anyway, there are some great quotes in the piece, for example counselling psychologist Simon Parritt, "I think everybody has the right to a sexual identity," but "I don't think everybody has the right to sex with another person. That involves somebody elses rights."

Anna Bowden, of Eaves, a group that helps vulnerable women,"We reject the view that men have a right to sex." I guess by 'men' she means 'people'. After all, women buy sex too - or maybe they have a right!

Cari Mitchell, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, "Prostitution is consenting sex between adults." This could be the last word on the matter if it was the case each and every time. But in reality, it's not.

There are some really interesting comments on the feature too, from disabled, celibate by circumstances, as well as able bodied sexually active people.

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