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Case study: sex and support?

In this video, Denise Beckwith and Tom Shakespeare describe different ways of supporting sex for people with disabilities across their life course.

In this step we look at sex and disability and some issues around support.

There is significant stigma around people with disability and sex. In the above video, Denise Beckwith and Tom Shakespeare discuss some of the stereotypes around disabled people and sex, including that people with disabilities are asexual, over-sexual or just simply can’t have sex. As both Denise and Tom point out, people with disabilities can and do have sex. As we discussed last week, attitudinal barriers are the primary issue for people with disabilities in having sex.

Both Tom and Denise point out some supports which might be useful for disabled people. Being recognised as someone who can and will have sex is the first step towards receiving supports. For example, many disabled people do not receive adequate or appropriate sex education. Nor are their needs for sexual activity respected or taken into account. Tom and Denise suggest that supports to engage in sexual activities might include sexual therapy or surrogacy, access to sex workers or sexual facilitation.

Talking points

  • In the video, Tom Shakespeare repeats the phrase that people with disabilities have sex “like everybody else”. Why do you think he emphasises this? Are there any dangers in using a phrase like this?
  • Why do you think there are stigmas and misperceptions about disability and sex?
  • What mechanisms exist for supporting disabled people to experience sexual intimacy in your own local context?
  • How does this example help to illustrate how support needs might vary over the course of someone’s life?

This ends the Basics for Week 4. In the next step, we Expand our interests by examining the ways in which assistive technology can be used to support a good life for people with disabilities.

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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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