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Research indicates that persons with disabilities have love and sexual desires, just like normal human beings. However, due to the existence of certain taboos, persons with disabilities face serious challenges in exploiting their potential as sexually active individuals. The numerous existing myths discouraging sexual activities amongst people with disabilities inhibit them from exercising their conjugal rights. Society views the physically challenged persons as sexually unfit, which leads to stigma amongst the aforementioned group.
One of the greatest challenges that physically and developmentally challenged persons face in their sex lives is a societal misconception (Ballan, 2001). Society views disabled persons as entirely different beings, and in some societies, they are regarded as outcasts, and thus their sexual needs are overlooked. This paper highlights society’s perceptions of people with disabilities. In addition, the paper explores society’s views on sexual practice among persons with disabilities. The essay will look into the challenges and setbacks facing the physically challenged persons in their sexual lives to come up with a number of recommendations on how to improve the group’s sexual lives.
Persons with disabilities face the challenge of stigmatization due to their physical conditions (Esmail, Darry, Walter & Knupp, 2010). Society views the disabled persons as asexual and incomplete, and thus they cannot engage in intimate relationships. The problem of stigmatization is compounded by the view that society tends to ignore the sexual rights of physically challenged individuals by terming them as asexual beings. Research indicates that many people are reluctant to engage in intimate relations with persons with disabilities (Nevid, Fichner-Rathus & Rathus, 1995).
Fear of taking the responsibility of providing care to disabled lovers is cited as the major reason why most people avoid relationships with this group of persons. This realization is a clear indicator that society takes the disabled as children who cannot take care of themselves. In addition, research reveals the perception that disabled groups should only engage in love relations with persons who are equally disabled (Ballan, 2001).
This perception creates a feeling among the disabled persons that their sexual capacity is different, thus leading to increased stigma amongst them. In most cases, people with disabilities are socially inactive for fear of being stigmatized by physically fit persons. Regarding developmental disability, most people assume that the disabled have reduced sexual desires due to certain deformities in their sexual organs (Nevid et al., 1995). Due to this external stigma, persons with disabilities have reduced self-esteem, and their confidence reduces drastically, thus creating an internal feeling of asexuality (Di Giulio, 2003).
Hetero normative view of sex and beauty
Research indicates that most people are attracted to the physical appealing of a person when engaging in love. According to a research carried out in 2010, most people in the United States define the term ‘sex’ as the act of penile-vaginall intercourse with an attractive physically fit person of the opposite sex (Esmail et al., 2010). Unfortunately, this definition excludes the disabled persons, hence the perception that such people cannot have sexual partners. Peer influence is also cited as another factor that leads to the rejection of relations with disabled partners (Nevid et al., 1995).
Physically fit persons will thus shy from engaging in relations with the disabled for fear of being criticized by their peers. Research shows that most people value the beauty of their partners, and thus physical attractiveness becomes the yardstick of gauging beauty (Ballan, 2001).
As earlier mentioned, most people define beauty to include physical fitness. This misconception discourages people from engaging the disabled in sexual relations. The challenge is further compounded by the thought that the disabled cannot take care of themselves. All the aforementioned factors lead to the isolation of the disabled from mainstream society. This seclusion causes stigma amongst disabled persons, and it affects the individuals’ self-esteem negatively, thus making it difficult for them to engage in romantic relations (Di Giulio, 2003). The misconception on the childish nature of persons with disability is said to affect men more as compared to women, as men are expected to be the breadwinners in society, and thus disability robs them of the ability to provide for their families.
Lack of information and sex education
The available research indicates that 50 % of persons with disabilities have never received any form of training on sexuality (Esmail et al., 2010). Information on sex is only obtainable from parents and friends since it is not included in the school curriculum in the majority of countries across the world. The general population or people without disability benefit from sexual training from friends and family members. With the attitude towards people with disabilities, most parents and friends tend to be reluctant to offer such training to disabled people in society. Research also indicates that the majority of disabled persons shy from seeking information regarding sex from friends for fear of being intimidated and victimization (Nevid et al., 1995).
Furthermore, sex education and training, which is available to other groups of people, is shallow, and it does not have an effect on their perception on sexual relations with the disabled (Ballan, 2001).
Key issues to be addressed
Training on the issue of sex should be availed to both the disabled persons and the society at large (Di Giulio, 2003). Such training should aim at educating the public on what the definition of sex is coupled with highlighting healthy sex practices and relationships. In addition, the training should aim at eliminating the misconception that the disabled persons are asexual and unfit for intimate relations (Nevid et al., 1995).
On the other hand, the disabled groups should be educated on their sexual rights and encouraged to accept their status in order to fight stigma. Truthful information, which is free of orthodox perceptions, should be availed to all disabled persons without discrimination (Di Giulio, 2003). Rehabilitation centers should be established to offer counseling services to persons with disability, hence ensuring that they are free from stigma (Esmail et al., 2010). Education relating to HIV/AIDS should also be provided to the disabled persons in a bid to help in averting the dangers of unsafe sex. Persons with disability are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. The training offered to the disabled should thus incorporate self-defense tactics (Nevid et al., 1995).
The education on sex offered by parents and friends is incomplete and biased and it does not exhaust the sex topic as required (Ballan, 2001). Formal training on sex should be launched and included in the education system. Such a move will facilitate in changing the societal perception on sexuality, because knowledge is power and education is one of the many ways that individuals can gain knowledge.
For a long time, persons with disability have been neglected in society. They are viewed as outcasts and their rights to sex are overlooked. In most cases, they are regarded as asexual beings, and thus the majority of physically fit people tend to shy from engaging into sexual relationships with the disabled. The physically challenged groups are viewed as incapacitated beings that require unparalleled care and attention, which explains why many people avoid them. Most people have a misinformed definition of sex and they only believe that sex can only occur between two physically fit partners.
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Additionally, there is a perception that the disabled can only engage in relationships with their disabled counterparts. These ill formed perceptions cause stigmatization amongst the groups, thus leading to low self-esteem and reduced desire to engage in intimate relations. The disabled groups suffer from stigma caused by a feeling of rejection and lack of proper training on their rights.
People with disability have no access to education on sex since their caregivers regard them as sexually inactive, hence ignore their educational needs. Research indicates that close to 50% of the disabled groups have not gained any form of sex education. In a bid to counter the prevalent orthodox perceptions on the disabled people in society, proper education on sex should be offered. Training should also be extended to the disabled who deserve the right information on sex. The individuals should also be educated on the best ways to choose relationships coupled with how to use protective measures, whilst engaging in sex. The training needs of the disabled can be achieved through the establishment of rehabilitation centers.
Ballan, M. (2001). Parents as sexuality educators for their children with developmental disabilities. Siecus Report, 29(3), 14-19. Web.
Di Giulio, G. (2003). Sexuality and people living with physical or developmental disabilities: a review of key issues. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 12(1), 53-68. Web.
Esmail, S., Darry, K., Walter, A., & Knupp, H. (2010). Attitudes and perceptions towards disability and sexuality. Disability & Rehabilitation, 32(14), 1148-1155. Web.
Nevid, S., Fichner-Rathus, L., & Rathus, S. (1995). Human sexuality in a world of diversity. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Web.