Looking at sexuality, ethics and intellectual disabilities!

When does consent not count?

In 2015, Conor Gallagher reported a story where a Dublin woman with Down syndrome was allegedly raped by a 34-year-Faisal Ellahi (Down syndrome woman ‘lacked capacity to consent to intercourse’). The man plead not guilty stating that the sex was in fact consensual, he also stated that he was unaware of her limited mental capacity. It is a common misconception that those people with Down syndrome or other forms of intellectual disabilities do not feel the need to explore their sexuality. However, the real is, that all people including those with intellectual disabilities have sexual needs, desires and feelings and these need to be addressed and explored. As a society we have made it difficult for people with disabilities to explore their sexuality but placing down laws that restrict this exploration by calling it protection.

Downs syndrome

But what is an intellectual disability?

Down syndrome,  is a form of an intellectual disability characterised but not limited to: a deficit in at least two areas of adaptive behaviour which can be an inability to self-care, communicate, work or learn, a clear lack of social skills, purpose or direction; and an IQ of 70 or below (The Intellectual Disability Rights Service, n.d). A person with an intellectual disability, even a mild one would have little comprehension of what the legal process required of them without help. In Australia, one needs to seek ‘informed consent’ that is when a participant engaging in sexual relations lacks the capacity to consent, the participants should be informed of all relevant information before deciding if they wish to continue (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2017). It is also important to note that the capacity to consent is subject to change, a participant might agree to sexual activity and then say no once sexual conduct begins just like how consent works for everybody else.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Back in the Dublin courtroom, the court heard that the woman with Down syndrome lacked the ability to consent to sex (Gallagher, 2015). This was due to the fact that the woman could not independently protect herself, the court also heard that she had a trusting nature because life had not taught her to be cautious of others. This is not the man’s fault that she was not given the adequate tools or information to make an informed decision – the woman consented to an act she thought she was prepared but perhaps was not. There is a lack of education and sexual discourse as it is somewhat of a taboo to think that people with intellectual disabilities are engaging in sex. The court also heard that people with intellectual disabilities in fact have sexual desires and have the right to express them (Gallagher, 2015). There is a real contradiction here where we have started to address that people with intellectual disabilities are sexual beings but we are still limiting their sexual conduct and discourses. To help provide a healthy sexual experience for people with intellectual disabilities there must be more education around sex, consent and sexual practices but we are creating legal barriers that effectively halt sexual expression. That is like telling your child it is okay to paint with whatever colour they like and with whoever like, finding out your child was painting with your neighbour’s child and then reprimanding the neighbour’s child.

The sexual revolution comes in education – that is liberation!

I am not so naive to think that a sexual liberation for people with intellectual disabilities is upon us, and of course these laws and rules and stigmas stem from the vulnerability that abuse is much more likely to happen to someone who cannot comprehend sexual discourses. However, it is my claim that this is part of the problem is if someone is unaware of sex, their sexuality and consent they cannot agree or disagree to a notion that they can’t comprehend. By educating the intellectual disabled with age appropriate information they will be able to comprehend, process and consent or reject sexual advances. Being able to understand and process someone’s sexual advances and in turn giving them agency to decide if they want to do with their bodies. This course of action can also be seen as a tool of protection rather than the current model of action we take which is clearly not working.

Personal morals vs sexual ethics:

Are your beliefs clouding your judgement?

The most problematic part of this debate is how someone feels towards this issue will be dependent on their moral fiber, each person will bring a slightly different opinion to the table. What you must do is look at this from an ethical standpoint, is it morally okay to sexually repress people with intellectual disabilities because the idea makes you uncomfortable? Or is this merely a praxis to eliminate possible sexual abuse against those most vulnerable? Is better education needed for families, partners, caregivers when helping someone explore their sexuality? Or is it only okay for an intellectually disabled person to engage in sexual acts with another intellectually disabled person? At the end of the day we understand that we are all sexual beings and until there is more tailored approaches for each person and better education we are not going to see any changes to this system that clearly isn’t working.

What On Earth Is Sex Positive Teaching For Children?

Sex Education At School

Being trained as a teacher, I quickly learnt that my being in a classroom isn’t just to provide an academic education – but also in supplementing the learning that is provided at home regarding life, and the development of an individual. A great teacher is not just an educator, but we’re trained as, and develop into, a counsellor, a nurse, a sociologist, leaders, role models, and for the most part we have to be wearing all of these hats at once. Add to this the idea that in today’s classroom there is a full spectrum of abilities and skill sets and a great teacher must be able to provide differentiated teaching to fully support each individual child as they learn at their own pace and with respects to their ability. When you factor all of this in, a teacher is not just an academic educator, but they’re someone that a child looks up to as they grow and develop their personalities.

For this reason, when it comes to the important topics – a teacher must think carefully about, and reflect on, their behavior and approaches both within and outside the classroom. For the most part, a lesson isn’t just learned in the space of forty five minutes, it’s often reflected upon, applied to a concept repeatedly, and then accepted or dismissed whereby the response to that concept becomes routine. Considering that sometimes, a child will spend more time with their teacher on an average school week than with their parents, what role does the teacher have in a child’s development and learning?

What Is Sexual Education For Children?

I want to explore this with the idea of sexual education for children. An often hotly debated topic around the world, and arguably one of the most important. People’s reluctance to discuss sex, gender, sexuality, and even pleasure often means that children grow up obtaining their information from popular media, pornography, peers and the internet. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it is supplemented by proper education and discussions both within the classroom and at home, when used by themselves as a source of knowledge and learning, it can often be detrimental to an individual’s confidence, sexual ability and performance, and even their understanding of self in their macro and micro world. Children, for example, developing into a sexual being will often consume pornography without necessarily understanding that it is a performance. Numerous studies, including a Dutch study published in Journal of Sexual Medicine, have demonstrated the effects that pornography has on the way teenagers of both genders approach sexual activity – simply because they don’t necessarily understand the performance aspect of it. For this reason, as well as many others we’ll touch on today, when it comes to sexual education, one of the most important terms that people need to understand is sex positive learning.

Teachers are excellently placed to handle this discussion – since there are critical components in health and physical education that discuss reproduction, the body, biology, pregnancy and the science around that. Why then, can we not also lend the discussion of sexual education into examining concepts of consent, pleasure, satisfaction, health and happiness? Aren’t these all aspects of sex, especially since we are one of the few species in the world that engage in ‘reproduction’ for the act of pleasure as well?

Sex Positive Education For Children
Image: The Birds And The Bees

What is sex positive learning and will it turn my child gay?

Contrary to popular belief by opponents of same sex marriage and institutions that do not necessarily agree with different types of relationships and genders, sex positive learning will not turn a child gay. It will not make them become transgender, and it will certainly not turn them into a deviant of some kind. Sex positivity is about a positive approach to sex and gender. It’s about the acceptance and acknowledgement of all consensual sexual activity and states of beings. It acknowledges the concept of pleasure within sexual activity, as well as the need for experimentation and learning. It’s both a simple, yet complex ‘movement’, and as we go along I’ll do my best to unpack the term.

In short, sex positive learning and teaching gives a child an understanding of the world around them. It helps them become more confident in themselves, and arguably increases their social skills because of this. Society has often been placed in a dichotomous world of male and female, gay and straight without taking into account the fluidity of gender and sexuality. For someone that doesn’t necessarily feel that they fit into this binary, they can quickly feel isolated, depressed and ashamed as they struggle to determine why they feel/act/are different than what society and everyone else around them is telling them that they must be. That’s one of the most isolating thing about the concept of labelling, especially in queer society – the diversification of labelling is both encompassing through its variety, but limiting in its exactness. Sex positivity is an essential component in understanding the diversification of the world and the uniqueness that makes us, us. It does this through not only understanding sex and sexual activity, but also discussing that dreaded concept of pleasure which we so frequently seem to ignore.

How can you engage in sex positive teaching?

It starts at home – and it starts at an early age. You’ve all seen the beautiful photos of cute babies holding hands, and being friends with other babies that are of a different gender or even race. Racism is learnt and is not an innate state of being. Throughout our childhood, and upbringing, we are conditioned to behave a certain way, and we pick up the traits of those around us, or are influenced by someone we hold dear. With this in mind, sex positive teaching begins early. There’s no one ‘talk’ that can initiate sex positivity, it’s a repeated conversation, it’s the way that we react to things, and it’s the language that we use to discuss it all. Take for example a small boy that repeatedly attempts to play with his genitals. We’ve all done it, we were all kids, and it’s just how we respond to that which is important. Traditionally, we might have responded with phrases such as ‘if you keep playing with it it’ll fall off’, or ‘that’s disgusting stop playing with it’ – phrases which instil a sense of shame and embarrassment, which creates negative experiences. He’s just exploring his body. A sex positive approach would be along the lines of – if you’re going to play with it, do it in private time. It’s not appropriate to do that in public. See the difference in the response? You’re acknowledging that it’s okay to do so, but that there is a time and place for these things. Sex positivity is about teaching correct terminology, teaching the concept of consent, and a variety of similar concepts. This is an example of sex positive teaching for a toddler, but how can that occur in the classroom?

As an English and History teacher, there were times when we would discuss characters, and the way people would live in the past. I consider this an excellent time to be mindful of my approaches and how I can supplement a child’s learning when it comes to the understanding of sex, sexuality and gender simply by making comparisons of the times, as well as including language that doesn’t reinforce the binary that they’re used to. Sex positive teaching can be as simple as not calling a unisex classroom ‘guys’, or it can be about acknowledging that pleasure is associated with sexual activity when examining the motivation of a character. It’s about being transparent, and not demonising sex, and doing all of this in an age appropriate manner. Some might ask – what role does a teacher have in all of this? Teachers are excellently placed to deliver this information as they go through their everyday teachings and often it’s a simple matter of adjusting language and the perceptions of certain activities. Such mindfulness can be complemented by attitudes, and education at home – answering the more personal specific questions as they develop and grow into mature beings.

By this stage you should have a basic enough idea of what sex positivity is. It’s a difficult concept to narrow down because of its broadness, as well as its interpretation to different people. From here, you need to look at sex positivity yourself. I’ve given you the toolset, I’ve provided you with the basic concepts – and from here on out it’s your own development, and self-awareness that will guide your relationship towards a sex positive attitude. There’s no right or wrong answer – so long as you keep the basic principles in mind regarding pleasure, contraception and sexual exploration. Teachers have it tough – we’re often damned if we do and damned if we don’t. So maybe, if we can take a step towards the right direction together, we can turn everyone, into great teachers.

Author: Stephen Smith – BA Of Social Sciences, M.EdSave





What is Sexual Wellness?

doctor checking vitals

Sexual wellness is an essential factor that is required in human life to be able to fully experience happiness whether you are a man or a woman.  The way we as human being now express or even define sex is totally different to yester-years.   With things being more accepted with same sex, cross-gender, transgender the boundaries have begun to disappear and things that were considered perhaps taboo decades ago are now accepted as not necessarily being the norm, but being a choice.

Sexual Boundaries Have Begun To Disappear

Sexual Wellness

Sexual well-being and health needs are of concern to people of all ages, however particularly among those from young adults. You should always endeavors to examine and learn from the issues of the individuals who might be sexually dynamic with the opposite sex, same sex or both and additionally for those who are not or have not been sexually dynamic. It is the well being focus’ objective to give quality clinical administrations in a domain that is non-judgmental and conscious of every person and in addition his or her protection. Men’s Health Services, Women’s Health Services and Transgender Health Services are accessible. Points of interest of administrations are depicted underneath.

Sexuality Is Human

Sexuality is a vital part of being human. Adoration, friendship and sexual closeness add to solid connections and self worth. In any case, alongside the positive parts of our human sexuality, there are likewise ailments, blended feelings and unintended results that can influence our sexual well-being. An open exchange of sexuality issues is critical to advancing sexual well-being and obligation. Often it is necessary to seek advice from specialists and being open, conversing with your partner is exceedingly vital to stay well. Sexual wellness alludes to the numerous elements that effect sexual capacity.  Any of these elements can affect a man’s physical and psychological well-being, their relationships and long term health.

These days there are numerous ways to get sexual satisfaction for men as well as women, that too with or without the involvement of their intimate partners. Sex toys have importance in making their sexual activities more exciting and satisfying. There are varieties of sex toys  available that you can choose from according to your specific sexual needs and requirements.

Adult Toys & Sexual Wellness

These kinds of adult toys include female vibrator, male masturbator, chastity restraints, dildos, nipple ticklers, cock rings along with various other toys for men as well as women. Every man or woman has their own specific needs and requirements to enjoy sex alone or along with their intimate sexual partner. Hence, it depends on you that which kinds of sex toy would be well-suited for you to getting the erotic arousal. By identifying your appropriate needs and requirements in terms of sex toys, you should choose them for you so that you could get fantastic stimulation and enjoy them with your partner.

If you have no any idea about adult toys and are confused in purchasing such things you need not to be worried. Online resources would be helpful for you in this regard. There are large numbers of websites especially sex toy review websites available over the Internet, which provide detailed information and reviews about various adult novelties for men as well as women. You should go through these sites and find appropriate sex toys that are right for you. After reading reviews on these sites, you will be in a position to choose right products for you along with your partner so that you could enjoy your sexual activities.

These toys are very helpful when absenct from your partner to stimulate yourself and achieve sexual satisfaction. If you have to go away from your intimate partner for a long-period of time and you are not able to have intercourse, sex toys could be the perfect option for you. Using these  you can get the ultimate sexual pleasure and so now, you can understand the importance  in sexual wellness of these things.

As you know that sexual organs are one of the most sensitive organs in the human body, which needs to be utmost care. Hence, you should always use health-friendly sex products.  Then, you can maintain your sexual wellness without making any compromise.