Sometimes, it's just a cigar

This is our truth, tell us yours

A right to sex?

This is only an opening shot, an invitation to debate – please, pitch in, tell me where I’m wrong and where I’m right. And please excuse any errors of language or form.

The right to sex. It’s a conversation we’re part of sometimes, because we talk about sex where others can hear. It happened on Twitter last night, and I felt I had to respond,  in long form, not 140 characters.

Do people who we regard as disabled, or less able, have a right to have sex? Is it the state’s responsibility to address that right, and make it real? (Apologies for the clunky formulation, but there is a huge distinction between rights in theory and rights in practice.)

It’s not just a theoretical question, or one for the moral maze. For many of the people our society regards as disabled or less able the state is a provider of care and support, and the enabler of many of the activities that we hope will provide a fuller, and richer life.

The first thing to say is that the language of ableism serves in many cases to medicalize difference, and to excuse our indifference to the needs of others by saying that the problem is not our poor service design, or indulgent, hard to access buildings, or a cruel, be like me or be ashamed culture, effectively claiming that people who are different are less able. They may be less able to do things the way we choose to do them, but the first challenge is for us to ask ourselves why we chose to do things the way we do, not to stigmatize others.

The second point is this. The myth of a right to sex rests on the idea that everyone else is at it all the time, that we are the lonely under-achievers in a world consumed by a sexual frenzy. Sadly, this isn’t always true, and there are plenty of people who we do not medicalize as differently able who also can’t find a sexual partner, including those who don’t want to.

Designing services or cultural structures to deny others the opportunity to enjoy sex if they have the opportunity is wrong, but to turn that into a right to sex is also wrong. It puts the emphasis in the wrong place, and normalizes a narrow range of experience as if it should be the aspirations of everyone.

What do you think?

Advertisements

19 comments on “A right to sex?

  1. jemima2013
    May 20, 2014

    I think you have hit on something really important looking at a social model of disability here, as you know I abhor the argument that anyone as a right to sex, if we look instead at structural barriers I think it makes far more sense. If society puts barriers in the way of a person with disabilities having the kind of sex life they want then that must be addressed. It is not a right to sex, it is about challenging structural disablism

    Like

  2. michey1978
    May 20, 2014

    A well expressed opening salvo. I have a couple of thoughts. I’ve always assumed that those in the Disability Community do not actually believe that sex is a right; rather strategically hold that view, in order to challenge assumptions about ableism and disability. Sex is a way the ultimate symbol of physical ability, life literally begins with sex. So the image of the disabled person having sex is a powerful contradiction.

    The second point is one can really not under-estimate the access issues within the sex industry. From lapdancing club to massage parlours such establishments seem to almost architecturally exclude the disabled. Such places usually have an anteroom leading to a private room, and that way to the latter is nearly always a staircase. It may sound paranoid, but its difficult not to come to the conclusion that that is by design.

    I have a friend who organizers protest. He once got about 20 wheelchair users together and tried to get in to a Spearmint Rhino, in Leeds I think. They were all denied entry on the grounds of health and safety.

    So whilst I do not think sex is a right either, I may sometimes adopt the language, as it provokes a response.

    Like

  3. cartertheblogger
    May 20, 2014

    Michey
    As regards sex establishments having that design feature of a flight of steps, I always thought it was either to make police raids more difficult, or because the sex industry tends to occupy the less attractive and less desirable properties on the edge of retail areas.
    I understand the argument that saying sex is a right is a necessary provocation,and also useful shorthand – that’s why this post was couched as an invitation to a debate….

    Like

  4. Brian Westlake
    May 20, 2014

    don’t worry, able bodied people and poor hard done by sex workers, your scorn, your hate for “different,” your open and frequently expressed ridicule of me for the way I was born and your sense of being entitled to treat me like subhuman shit because of it is more than safe.

    Prejudices so deeply ingrained in you that you won’t even admit that they’re there and the effect they’ve had on me means you’ll never have to worry about me feeling like I have a right to sex.

    Oh no, I’m a cripple, and we all know what people think of cripples and other assorted freaks of nature, don’t we? You shun them. You shun people who don’t shun them. You mock them to their face, you ridicule them behind their backs. You hate, hate and hate some more. Sex? SEX? For spastics? Fuck off. No sex for spastics. Those guys can fuck off. Plus they’re all stalkers and rapists and wierdos, anyway. (Probably because they don’t get any sex, but lets not let our circular logic wreck a good kicking of the disabled.)

    I get it for fuck’s sake. I have no right to sex. That’s been made abundantly clear to me in my 40 years living among humans who do get to fuck. Human contact, affection, love, those are luxuries for pretty,healthy people. The way every single last fucking one of you reading this has always treated people like me socially shows very clearly what you really think of us. We’re the shit on the pavement you step around. We’re the cancer you want cut out of you. We’re the hated, the scorned, the rejected, and instead of talking about our right to sex, you need to start talking about your right to kill us, just gas us all and be done with having to ever even consider the idea that maybe, just fucking maybe, we’d like a cuddle and a fuck ourselves once in a fucking while.

    Like

    • Wickedjulia
      May 23, 2014

      I’ve worked for 2 attorneys with disabilities and a disability rights activist, none of them had a problem getting laid or getting married. If no one wants to have sex with you, you might want to take a moment to think about why.

      Like

      • jemima2013
        May 24, 2014

        I didnt write a reply to Brians’s comment, using that wise old adage, sleep on it. However my response has not changed, and is very much the same as yours.
        I have had sex with people with disabilities both working and purely for fun, both Carter and I have different disabilities, tho they are perhaps not relevent due to passing privilege, however I know that if Brian contacted my work site I would not meet him. My first, and most important screening takes place with the initial email, and the attitude portrayed here would mean a very firm no.
        There are many reasons people do not have the sex lives they want, disability is one, but as you say so is bad attitude and a sense of entitlement.
        Carter has been much kinder in his reply, I think tho that is a gender thing, we spend our lives surrounded by people who think they are entitlement to make sexual demands, from cat callers to gropers, and that wears away at kindness

        Like

        • Wickedjulia
          May 24, 2014

          I dated a man with disabilities while in college (and yes, we had sex). We broke up because his sense of entitlement led him to believe he had the right to constantly attack my self esteem. I asked him to stop, pointed out the behaviors that I found objectionable, even went as low as to mimic his behavior back at him to make my point, all to no avail. I could not get it through his head that his sense of entitlement did not give him permission to try to cause me emotional pain so I ended the relationship. It was that entitlement that drove me away, that and his general sense of white, male, privilege. Not his body and how well it worked or met the societal standard of ‘normal’.

          I agree that it is very much a gender issue. Women constantly deal with men and their ‘entitlement’ to our bodies in the form of street harassment, micro-aggressive speech in the home and workplace, the media, etc all the way up to sexual assault. I don’t think most men can truly understand the onslaught of male entitlement almost every woman deals with on a daily basis. So when confronted by any man able bodied, disabled, or anywhere in between projecting the “I think you’re hot (or I’m just horny) so you owe me a fuck and a cuddle”, we turn away in disgust and anger. Because that man and his entitlement is just a drop in the bucket of bullshit we deal with every single goddamned day.

          Because women don’t feel as if we are entitled to sex. We like sex, we enjoy sex but we don’t feel as if we are owed sex. When we are refused by someone, we pine and move on. We don’t become enraged at everyone for not giving us what we wanted from one person at one time. If given a chance to have safe, emotionally uncomplicated sex with a skilled, attentive partner, women will jump at the chance. We are just as inclined toward casual promiscuity as men. Safety is the key. We have to feel safe and we have to have some assurance that our partner knows what the hell they’re doing so we can enjoy sex with them. A man boiling with rage and a sense of entitlement does not feel safe, regardless of his ‘ability’.

          Like

          • jemima2013
            May 24, 2014

            stands and applauds 🙂

            Like

  5. Wickedjulia
    May 20, 2014

    My friend an I argue about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs all the time. In my opinion, classifying sex as a need as basic as food and water is an endorsement for sexual assault and rape culture. We know that people can live without sex in a way that they cannot live without food or water. No one has a right to sex.

    However, I am fully in favor of the legalization of prostitution via the New Zealand model. It would not be unreasonable to me for a person with a disability to visit a prostitute and have part or all of the expense covered by insurance or the state as a way to improve their mental health.

    Like

  6. Wendy Lyon
    May 21, 2014

    From a legal standpoint, in terms of international human rights law, rights are conceptualised as placing three different levels of obligations on governments: to respect, protect and fulfil. Respect means that the government doesn’t pass laws that interfere with the enjoyment of the right, protect means the government takes steps to prevent interference by state bodies or third parties, fulfil means the government takes positive steps (including allocation of resources) to actively ensure people’s enjoyment of the right.

    Assuming we’re talking about consensual sex, I would say that there is a right in terms of the right to respect; there is not a right in terms of the right to fulfil; and there is a limited right in terms of the right to protect which depends on the nature of the interference.

    Like

    • jemima2013
      May 21, 2014

      It is the right to respect that I think is paramount

      Like

      • Wendy Lyon
        May 21, 2014

        Well, in terms of the relevance to anti-sex work laws, which I think is where this discussion arose, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. If making it illegal to pay for sex prevents people with disabilities from having it – and I am not saying that it does, just following the line of argument – then that would interfere with the state’s obligation to respect, just as effectively as the Irish law I linked to does. The difference is that it would do so indirectly, rather than directly like the Irish law, and it’s easier for states to justify laws that indirectly interfere. Certainly, as a lawyer, it would not be the basis on which I would challenge criminalisation of clients.

        Like

        • jemima2013
          May 24, 2014

          Indirect discrimination is i think where this needs to be looked at, which is why the right to sex doesnt help disabled people a much as perhaps Mikey thinks it does. These are body autonomy issues, a right to be listened too, a right to be invloved with things like care plans and so forth.
          Tuppy Owens, legend and hero, has written some great guides for carers, pointing out how refusual to book a sex worker infringes laws on discrimination, without ever having to fall back on the right to sex.

          Like

  7. Wendy Lyon
    May 21, 2014

    An example of a disability-related breach of the first kind of obligation is section 5 of Ireland’s Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 which basically makes it impossible for an unmarried person with a “mental impairment” to consent to sex.

    Like

    • jemima2013
      May 24, 2014

      That is scary, and seems out of the dark ages 😦

      Like

  8. cartertheblogger
    May 23, 2014

    Brian
    Stop and think about something.
    We’ve published your comment.
    I’m not arguing with you, or contesting your experience. If you think I have shunned you, or treated you as less than me, or used my privilege to put you down, that’s your experience.
    I know lots of people experience sex and intimacy, and you tell me you don’t. You believe the divide between being able bodied and not being able bodied is also, in your experience the divide between experiencing sex and intimacy and not experiencing it.
    I’m not going to dispute that analysis. That way lies only a dispute about privilege.
    Let me put it another way.
    If no-one wants to have sex with you, and you have a right to have sex, who should I coerce into having sex with you?

    Like

  9. Pingback: What is sex? | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

  10. Pingback: Roll out the red carpet. | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

  11. Togel.Io
    December 13, 2016

    I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s
    both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve
    hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about.
    I’m very happy that I stumbled across this during my hunt for something relating
    to this.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on May 20, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: