Sterilization of People with Mental Disabilities: Issues, Perspectives, and Cases

By Ellen Brantlinger | Go to book overview

7

Sexuality and Parenting among Individuals with Mild Mental Retardation

Sexual expression and birth control are important aspects of most people's lives. For reasons connected with their condition, MR people may have trouble fitting in socially, and they may not have challenging careers and stimulating leisure pursuits. As a result, intimate social and sexual relations may be even more important for them than for others. In spite of their needs and desires, however, before the virginity movement became popular regarding sexual relations for the general public, abstinence had long been recommended and enforced for MR individuals. This chapter includes the results of my own interview studies of adolescents with mild mental retardation and secondary teachers of MR students.


ADOLESCENT STUDY

Seeking evidence about various aspects of sexuality and family living among individuals classified mildly mentally retarded (MiMR), I conducted in-depth interviews with 13 adolescents (5 girls and 8 boys with an age range of 14 to 18 years old). Perhaps the most salient finding of this study was that MiMR adolescents were very ill at ease in hearing or using sexual terminology. For example, Shelly (pseudonym, as are all names in this report) said: "I hate it when boys call me . . . call me . . . it starts with an h . . ." (Ellen: "Whore?") Shelly: "Yeh, I'm not really you know!" Donald admitted: "Talking's hard for me"; Will confessed: "I feel kind of weird saying all those things." At various points in the interview, Terra said: "I feel kind of strange talking"; "Oh, I don't know, I hate to say it"; "I just get nervous about these things"; and "Oh God, I'd never hear the end of it if they found out I was talking about some of these things." It was clear that

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