Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh, for love of sex. . . .

Thank you so much Charlotte for the chance to participate - I've never done this, so in light of the subject, I feel like a virgin! ( :

When given the choice to write about religion, sex, and/or politics it was a no brainer for me – sex always wins! But in our overly sexualized society - what aspect hasn't been discussed ad nauseam?

How about sex and the mentally retarded?

Oh no, did I actually say that – the R word? Partially for clarity, partially for reaction, and partially because I know this group can deal – but I promise that now that I’ve said it, from this point forward I’ll exchange “retarded” for “developmentally disabled”.

I’m a lucky woman. I have many friends who carry the label of developmentally disabled. I’m not going to speak for my friends in this blog, just about them – this is all me!

As I mentioned earlier, almost everything in this country is sexualized – breast feeding babies, pre-teen panties stamped with “party girl”, you know what I mean. . . . what appears to be the one exception is our stereotype of people with developmental disabilities. You know the game – those people are sweet, without a care in the world, always a smile on their face, blah blah blah. Such a strange phenomenon, and really such bullshit! In every way, people with developmental disabilities are like me and you. They can be nice, they can be assholes, they can be funny, they can be mean – and like their "typical" friends, they have all the same needs, wants, and fantasies when it comes to sex!

I remember the first time it really hit me – I’m in highschool and playing with some teenagers who were diagnosed with autism. There was this one kid who loved to play with a big red ball – and had some funny tactile stuff – so we would take the ball and bounce it on his chest and every time it hit we’d say “boom, boom, boom” and make him laugh. This was his favorite game for a good long time until the day he took the ball and clearly placed it over his genitals and said “I want boom boom”. I look back and think “yes honey, we all do!”

Fortunately for me, it’s fairly easy. I have a great husband who likes sex as much as I do, and in between, I have a few favorite toys that always do the trick. I get lots of physical touch, caressing and love – I consider it as important as air, food, and water. This is one of the main things that separate me from my friends with disabilities. And for the people I know, it’s not their lack of wanting.

So what is it? Sometimes it’s their parents who can’t move beyond the fact that their children are now adults with adult feelings and needs. Many parents will have a judge give them complete authority to control all the decisions in the life of their son or daughter with a disability. How many of us would get laid if our Mom was still making all our decisions?

Sometimes it’s the “professionals”. I sit in countless meetings where the person with a disability is supposed to be involved but the rest of the group is out talking the one person who’s opinion matters most in the discussion. Often times, we’re focused on everything but sex. Is he being compliant to the many staff in his life? Is he taking a shower every day? Is he serious at church and quiet at work? Poor little Johnny with Down syndrome is having these behavioral episodes every night – he insists on shutting his door and the staff can’t allow it because he may need help in the night, they have to be able to hear! Well yeah, poor little Johnny is trying to get off and no one is even considering it. If you have a disability and masturbate with your door open or in public settings, you’re going to have bigger stronger staff around you and your not going to get the privacy you need.

I have actually sat in meetings where the person has found a lover and the team of staff and family are spending all their time working on a solution to keep them apart. The team worries that they might not understand what they’re doing, they might not be safe doing it, and then there’s the pregnancy issue. It’s never black and white – but last time I checked people with disabilities are still people and have the same right to fuck, fuck up, have unsafe sex, and get pregnant like the rest of us. What is happening here?

I spoke with a long time friend last week who was talking about his loneliness. Struck by a car as a kid, he lives with a brain injury that affects almost every aspect of his life. He told me that he’s so lonely; he doesn’t always want to live. He’s over 40, but has never had a real girlfriend, the touch of a person who wanted to be intimate, or sex – never. Ugh, I’d want to die too.

Some people find ways to get around this – sexual surrogates had a bit of popularity in the 80s (that’s over with now) and the brave and able will make their way for a massage with a happy ending – at least every once in awhile. But mostly there’s nothing happening – nothing that any of us would want to be a part of. Here’s some statistics I want to share:

• Among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of females and 32% of males are victims of sexual assault.

• 49% of people with developmental disabilities, who are victims of sexual
violence, will experience 10 or more abusive incidents.

• 33% of abusers are friends or acquaintances, 33% are natural or foster family members, and 25% are caregivers or service providers.

Don’t these numbers sound like we’re in Africa or something? I guess I have to take back my statement that they’re not having sex, they are, but unfortunately, it’s still not the kind any of us would choose. California had a law on the books until sometime in the 1970s for mandatory sterilization of people with disabilities. This was not because they wanted to prevent pregnancy from consensual sex – there was still no acknowledgement that they were even interested. It was to prevent pregnancy after abuse. Disgusting.

So here’s what I’m saying – at some point in all of our lives we will have the opportunity to become friends, neighbors, or coworkers with a person who has a developmental disability. That person is as likely as the next to want to talk about the hot delivery guy, the fantastic privacy of porn on the web, and what is the best sex toy! Let’s celebrate how healthy sex is for everyone – not just the folks we consider “normal”.



Clare said...

A thought-provoking post Julie. I enjoyed reading it.

Unknown Mami said...

Thank you! I'd never stopped to think about this before.

Charlotte said...

So awesome! I'm in car on wy to bill's but I couldn,t stay away! -im so glad I picked u.very informative post. Bill gave mike a megaphone already.

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you! I'm glad it wasn't too much, I was having comment anxiety! ( :
I really like the picture. . . I found it by searching for "making love". The way they share a heart is great!

Anonymous said...

Love to Bill and his bride!! Have fun Charlotte!

Helen McGinn said...

Oh my gawd! What an amazing post!!! I totally have thought of this issue before, because of an old friend and I get angry when I think that people feel that their job is to prevent a grown adult from experiencing one of the most normal, basic functions. Thank you for posting this, it is brilliant. x

sherri said...

great post, those statistics are frightening. One of the most romantic things I've ever seen was when I was substitute teaching a developmentally disabled class once. I witnessed one young boy a girl in the class to the prom. It was just one of those perfect moments in life.

ekpeddy said...

Such a basic thing that gets forgotten about (or hidden). Thanks for writing about it in a clear and beautiful way. xoxo liz