Facilitated Sex and the Concept of Sexual Need: disabled students and their personal assistants

Earle, Sarah (1999). Facilitated Sex and the Concept of Sexual Need: disabled students and their personal assistants. Disability and Society, 14(3) pp. 309–323.

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Abstract

This paper explores the complex issue of facilitated sex, an issue that has received very little attention by the disability movement. It draws on a small, qualitative study of a personal assistance scheme in a British University, and on interviews and correspondence with disabled students and personal assistants. The paper discusses the way in which disabled students define their sexuality as a 'need', but highlights how this view is not shared by those providing assistance. Personal assistants are more inclined to define sexuality as a sexual 'want' and to conflate physical impairment with either asexuality or a limited potential for sexual activity. The discussion concludes by suggesting that, whilst the issue of facilitated sex is morally complex, the sexual needs of disabled people are more likely to be met if the issues of sexuality and facilitated sex can be discussed and negotiated, in a frank and open manner.

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