'I count myself as normal' : an exploratory study of men with learning disabilities telling their stories about sexuality and sexual identity
The discussion of sexuality and its expression is commonplace. One only has to
look in a newspaper or turn on one's television for evidence of this. It is also a
topic of discussion amongst academics of various backgrounds. However, in
relation to people with learning disabilities, such discussion is often framed in
negative terms and is concerned with such things as abuse, HIV and sexually
transmitted infection, 'unwanted' pregnancy and challenging sexual behaviour.
Whilst there has been considerable research into such phenomena as abuse, and
the attitudes of carers to the expression of sexuality by women and men with
learning disabilities, there is little published research into the question of how men
and women with learning disabilities experience their sexuality or sexual identity.
This study sought to explore the way in which a group of men with learning
disabilities in South Wales experienced their sexuality and sexual identity using a
qualitative methodology, namely, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
It found, inter alia, that despite the participants seeing themselves as sexual
beings their opportunities for expressing their sexuality were often limited and
controlled by others. It also found that the participants saw themselves more in
terms of their differences with other men than their similarities. These and other
findings of the study are discussed in relation to relevant literature.
The dissertation concludes by considering possibilities for future research and
changes in policy and practice that may facilitate the appropriate expression of
sexuality by men with learning disabilities