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Already Doing It

Already Doing It: Intellectual Disability and Sexual Agency

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
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    Already Doing It
    Book Description:

    Why is the sexuality of people with intellectual disabilities often deemed "risky" or "inappropriate" by teachers, parents, support staff, medical professionals, judges, and the media? Should sexual citizenship depend on IQ? Confronting such questions head-on,Already Doing Itexposes the "sexual ableism" that denies the reality of individuals who, despite the restrictions they face, actively make decisions about their sexual lives.

    Tracing the history of efforts in the United States to limit the sexual freedoms of such persons⎯using methods such as forced sterilization, invasive birth control, and gender-segregated living arrangements-Michael Gill demonstrates that these widespread practices stemmed from dominant views of disabled sexuality, not least the notion that intellectually disabled women are excessively sexual and fertile while their male counterparts are sexually predatory. Analyzing legal discourses, sex education materials, and news stories going back to the 1970s, he shows, for example, that the intense focus on "stranger danger" in sex education for intellectually disabled individuals disregards their ability to independently choose activities and sexual partners-including nonheterosexual ones, who are frequently treated with heightened suspicion. He also examines ethical issues surrounding masturbation training that aims to regulate individuals' sexual lives, challenges the perception that those whose sexuality is controlled (or rejected) should not reproduce, and proposes recognition of the right to become parents for adults with intellectual disabilities.

    A powerfully argued call for sexual and reproductive justice for people with intellectual disabilities,Already Doing Iturges a shift away from the compulsion to manage "deviance" (better known today as harm reduction) because the right to pleasure and intellectual disability are not mutually exclusive. In so doing, it represents a vital new contribution to the ongoing debate over who, in the United States, should be allowed to have sex, reproduce, marry, and raise children.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4205-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: Violations of Sexual Life
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Introduction Sexual Ableism Exposed
    (pp. 1-22)

    In January 2011, the Honorable Mr. Justice Mostyn of the Court of Protection in the United Kingdom ruled that a forty-one-year-old man, “Alan,” who has an intellectual disability, was banned from participating in sexual relations, particularly with his male partner, “Kieron.” In the ruling, Alan is described as having “a vigorous sex drive” that “has led to sexual relations with persons of both genders, although it is not suggested that Alan has ever had heterosexual coitus.”¹ The judge remarks in his ruling that Alan and Kieron’s relationship involved penetrative anal sex, mutual masturbation, and oral sex. Both Alan and Kieron...

  5. 1 Questions of Consent Rethinking Competence and Sexual Abuse
    (pp. 23-46)

    InLooking White People in the Eye, Sherene Razack wonders how feminists can “talk about the social context of women with disabilities without reifying the othering that marks this context in the first place.”¹ More explicitly, Razack asks us how we can discuss sexual assault and abuse without recognizing that the very labels and management of disability make this abuse more likely. In discussing cases of abuse involving women labeled with intellectual disabilities, Razack outlines how to recognize the social circumstances surrounding sexual abuse, even when commentators frame the victim as “enjoying the experience of sexual abuse,” thereby perhaps denying...

  6. 2 Pleasure Principles From Harm Reduction to Diversity in Sex Education
    (pp. 47-82)

    Stephen Lance’s 2007 Australian short filmYolknarrates the experience of Lena (Audrey O’Connor), a teenager with an intellectual disability, who steals a copy ofThe Joy of Sexfrom her local library at the moment her sexual knowledge and curiosity are awakened.¹ Lena also carries around a chicken egg that she calls her baby. Lance juxtaposes signs of reproduction, fertility, love, and sexuality in his film, highlighting Lena’s understanding of self as a sexual being. Her interest in sexuality and the technicalities of sex is marked in the film by her question to her mother on the mechanics of...

  7. 3 Sex Can Wait, Masturbate The Politics of Masturbation Training
    (pp. 83-104)

    The 2008 Australian filmThe Black Balloonnarrates the story of teenager Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) and his older brother, Charlie (Luke Ford), as they adjust to life in a new town in New South Wales.¹ Charlie is autistic, and his autism is presented as causing obstacles to sexual self-fulfillment and brotherly unity. In particular, Charlie’s masturbatory habits provide dramatic obstacles to Thomas and his budding relationship with classmate Jackie (Gemma Ward). Unlike the scene inYolkdiscussed in the preceding chapter, wherein Lena uses a stolen copy ofThe Joy of Sexto explore her own body, Charlie’s public masturbation...

  8. 4 Reproductive Intrusions The Fight against Forced Sterilization
    (pp. 105-124)

    In a 2005 editorial in theChicago Sun Times, bioethicist and lawyer Katie Watson questions, “To be blunt, families give up a lot to care for a cognitively impaired child. Is it so wrong to ask the disabled individual to give up the right [to] have children in return? Might this be a fair exchange?”¹ In answering her own questions, Watson refers to case law that has been clear about the inability of the state to interfere in the reproductive freedoms of another: “The law says no person’s reproductive options are contingent on the needs, desires or judgment of another....

  9. 5 Not Just an Able-Bodied Privilege Toward an Ethics of Parenting
    (pp. 125-144)

    In an interview with the Mother’s Movement Online, feminist historian Rickie Solinger discusses her photography exhibit “Beggars and Choosers: Motherhood Is Not a Class Privilege in America,” co-curated with artist Kay Obering. Solinger comments that the exhibit “interrupts the curriculum” by asking viewers (especially on college campuses) to “rethink what they ‘know’ about who makes a legitimate mother—and who decides. The exhibition becomes an occasion for offering social justice perspectives and good information about the experience of mothering in the United States in the early twenty-first century.”¹ Accordingly, the exhibit offers images of women “clearly engaged in being loving,...

  10. 6 Screening Sexuality Media Representations of Intellectual Disability
    (pp. 145-172)

    In the previous chapters, I explored the sexuality of individuals with intellectual disabilities in relation to issues of sexual abuse, competency and agency, sex education, and sanctioned approaches to sexuality, namely, masturbation training and nonreproductive heterosexuality. In this chapter, I attend to the ways in which the sexuality of individuals with intellectual disabilities is represented in more popular forms of media. Specifically, I examine television movies, talk radio, and film from 1980 to the present to historically trace out the ways in which characters with intellectual disabilities are represented in relation to issues of sexuality and reproduction. I attempt to...

  11. 7 Smashing Disability Sexual Transgression and the Lady Boys of Bangkok
    (pp. 173-190)

    While reality shows are not new, a reality show choosing to broadcast on the web the everyday lives of a group of individuals with intellectual disabilities is part of an emerging trend in complicating traditional representations of disability. Specifically, in contrast to the messages of sexuality analyzed in the previous chapter, this chapter explores patterns of gender and sexual transgression inThe Specials, a web-based reality show thatThe Guardiandescribes as a “docusoap.”¹The Specialsfollows five white young adults with intellectual disabilities, Hilly, Lewis, Lucy, Megan, and Sam, living together in Brighton, England. Imagined asThe Real Worldmeets...

  12. Conclusion Dismantling Ableist Assumptions
    (pp. 191-194)

    In my introduction to gender, women’s, and sexuality studies courses, when I first discuss sexuality with the students in the class, I preface the discussion with the following caveat: “If you aren’t more confused, at the end of class today, than you are now, at the beginning of class, I haven’t done my job.” Usually I get a few confused stares, maybe a giggle or two, but in general my statement about the need for confusion is met with general uncertainty. Isn’t my job as a professor to make things clearer? Shouldn’t I be unlocking the “secrets” of sexuality?


  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 195-198)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 199-248)
  15. Index
    (pp. 249-256)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-257)