In England, a 21 year old man with learning disabilities is receiving government funding to take a trip to Amsterdam for the purpose of losing his virginity to a prostitute. This is just one of the many people receiving sexual services funded through a Â£520million scheme introduced to empower those with disabilities. This story and its responses are pretty complicated and bring up some important issues about sexuality, disability, sex work, and proper use of public funding.
People living with disabilities face plenty of stereotypes including ones that portray them as uninterested in sex, so its great when service agencies and social workers address the fact that they are indeed sexual beings like all people. There are some great resources out there that help people with disabilities stay healthy and aware while exercising their rights to a rewarding sex life. When Early to Bed first opened we supplied masturbation aids to an assisted living home, and just recently we ordered a special masturbator for a man with mobility issues. It is important that we continue to help all people feel empowered about their bodies and their sexuality.
The social worker of the boy receiving the trip to Amsterdam claims, “Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.” Jezebel points out the sobering point that this is similar to language used by misogynists to defend rape, “The disabled man in question certainly has the right to seek sexual satisfaction â€” but claiming he has the right to receive it, at government expense if necessary, risks setting a dangerous precedent.” The idea that men have right to access women’s bodies is ugly and harmful, but the sex in this scenario is consensual as all sex should be whether paid for or not. One thing I like about the story is that it displays an aspect of sex work that is often ignored by the public– sex workers provide a service by giving sex and connection to people who have difficulty finding it elsewhere. But does any one else find it odd that a country where prostitution is illegal has no problem sending a young man to see one elsewhere?
So, is sex a human right? No, but sexuality is. All people are sexual from the time they are born until they die, regardless of mental or physical ability. That’s because sexuality is way waaaay bigger and broader than genitals and tits being rubbed sucked or fucked. Flirting with a cutie, sharing secrets, gazing at yourself in the mirror, smoothing on lotion, wearing lipstick and heels or binding and packing, getting your nipples pierced, and telling someone you love them are all parts of sexuality.
Should taxpayers foot the bill for a 21 year old’s sex holiday? Hell no. There are tons of other 21 year olds who are virgins out of social awkwardness, cosmetic misfortune, or simple lack of opportunity. No one is going to pay for their dream vacations. I have no problem if a private organization decides to provide free lapdances and dating service memberships, but in a country where half of people with disabilities are living in poverty and nearly a quarter have reported being discriminated against while trying to access goods or services there are better things on which to spend tax payer money.