Marijeta Mojasevic – ENIL Youth Network member, an Independent Living activist from Montenegro and a member of the ENIL Youth task group on sexuality and relationships – shares with us her blog article. It contains Mrijetas’s reflections on the issues disabled people meet with regards to their intimate relationships. At the end of the text you will find a message from the ENIL Youth task group. Contribute to the research they are carrying by spending two minutes to complete their survey (only for members of the Youth Network)!
In this time when media and other means of mass communication are overloaded with all aspects of sexuality issues and relationships, and because it is an attractive and interesting topic especially for young people, I was wondering: why there is still a taboo when discussing this issue in relation to disabled people? Are we being considered as non-sexual beings, or is it just that non-disabled people consider us to not be capable of having relationships in an ordinary way?
Part of the answer came to me when I was in a shop with my ex-boyfriend, who was not a disabled person. A lady who was working there asked me, while he was not there, if he was also a disabled person (she knew me for some time, so she was familiar with my disability). When I answered no, she was very surprised, and she could not hide it. In my culture, this is one of many unwritten rules: if you have any kind of disability, you should only date disabled people or you should not date at all. But if you, by any chance, date a non-disabled person, he or she will be considered as a hero. I cannot say anything about cultural differences in your countries, but this stereotype is one of the main reasons why I despise my culture on some occasions.
Last year, I participated in a study session related to sexuality and relationships for disabled people and realized that the original question posed and the answers will be similar in many European countries. Sexuality and relationships for disabled people is considered a taboo because of the general attitude that if you need help doing a regular daily job or even have some support needs, you will not be able to attract or meet a person who is not your personal assistant, but your date or more. Similarly, when you have an invisible impairment, you are perceived to be damaged and should just be with damaged ones – that is the general opinion. No!
Firstly, sexuality by itself is such a broad term and such critical opinions cannot fit in its meaning. Someone will be attracted to a disabled person not by standards of society, but by such small things that norms of stereotypes and prejudices cannot affect, such as: smile, nature of a person, way of thinking, shape of lips…the number of combinations is unlimited. And it is especially important to point out that gender is unimportant.. All that matters is chemistry.
Secondly, the real deal is not how much disabled people can do to be an ‘equal partner’ in a relationship. Here, it’s not a question of being equal, but having an understanding for someone’s access and support needs, because every relationship should be based on understanding.
And finally, if you are ‘damaged’ like society thinks you are, you should fight to tell your side of the story, just to prove that you can communicate! So, we should say: Yes, we are sexual beings. Yes, we know that someone can be attracted to us. Yes, we know that relationships can be part of our life. Yes, we believe that sexual acts should be part of that relationship, even with correct support – when it is necessary. And those who think the opposite – go away!
Message from ENIL Youth Sex and Relationships Task Group:
We are currently collecting the opinions of young disabled people in regards to finding out what campaign topics are most important to them on this issue. If you are a member of the ENIL Youth Network, please complete the survey, following this link.
The deadline for responses is 1 April 2017.
If you require the survey in a different format, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org