What does ‘sexuality’ mean to you?

Usually when I ask people that question on our courses, I get a list of associations: gender, choice of sexual partner, emotional connections to name just a few. However, we do tend to associate sexuality with the sexual act – but it actually involves far more than that. It affects what we wear, how we talk, who we choose to hang out with – it is part of our core being, an essential part of who we are.

Ann Craft made the point that ‘we are all sexual beings”, regardless of our level of disability. And although that might seem obvious, it seems to me that we sometimes forget that, especially when supporting people with more profound learning disabilities. The law states that if someone cannot consent to sex, then they can’t have sexual relations with another person – which seems right and reasonable.

However, just because someone doesn’t meet the criteria for consent under the Mental Capacity Act, does that mean that they don’t have any sexual feelings? And going back to that wider definition of sexuality, don’t they still have the right to express their sexuality in other ways – in how they dress, who they make friends with?

It’s National Learning Disability Week

The theme for this year is ‘celebrating friendships and relationships’. We still have a long way to go in supporting people with learning disabilities to achieve emotional and sexual fulfilment – as professionals, we put barriers in the way all the time, even if unintentionally. Whether it’s lack of privacy in a shared support setting, lack of opportunity, lack of education, even the law – all can limit people’s chance of making friends and forming intimate relationships. But when it comes to people with profound learning disabilities, it all gets even harder!

Something to think about…

I will leave you with another quote from Ann Craft – one that deeply resonated with me when I read it for the 1st time:

Sexuality

So if you support people with profound learning disabilities, get to know them, communicate with them, find out who they like and don’t like, allow them time and privacy for self exploration. And please don’t forget that they are “sexual beings” too.
If you would like to explore these issues further, book a place on our course “Let’s talk about sex… and learning disabilities” on Monday 3rd October in Central London.