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Further Information : Benefits of sexual expression

How sexual expression benefits disabled people

Many health and social care professionals are aware of the importance of sexual expression in disabled people’s lives but are unable to take the relevant steps to enable the needs to be met. Because they know they cannot help, they try to avoid the subject, which can lead to serious problems.

However, sexual expression is a right, listed as part of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, also known as ICF, a WHO classification of the health components of functioning and disability.

The benefits of sexual expression include the following.

  • Disabled people gain confidence and experience increased well-being once their sexual needs are met.
  • Those in pain need fewer pain killers once they are experiencing orgasms.
  • The mental health of deaf-blind people improves if they have a sexual outlet.
  • People with spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy can feel far more relaxed, with no spasms for a while, after orgasm.
  • People with learning difficulties have fewer behavioural problems once they can enjoy a sexual outlet.

However, the possibility of disabled people’s being able to access these benefits depends on staff dealing with their behaviour appropriately. Unfortunately, when staff don’t know what to do, they may do nothing; worse, as a result of unclear guidance, they give advice that is so poor that sexual expression can become the challenge in itself. For example, staff might restrain someone who was masturbating in their own living room because they thought that was wrong, or might ban sex between two young men because they did not approve. Staff need to be trained to understand capacity legislation, personalisation and how to enable people in sexual expression.