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Title: The sexual lives and identities of women with learning disabilities : exploring the significance of social norms and institutional practices
Author: Brace, Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0001 3474 4110
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis explores how a small group of women with learning disabilities give meaning to sexuality, and how institutional processes within family and service settings influence this. It focuses on empirical data gained primarily from interviews with sixteen women, supplemented and contextualised by data drawn from a focus group with six women, and observations of a course on sexuality for men and women with learning disabilities. The theoretical framework draws on the social model of disability, which suggests that disability is socially produced; Foucauldian concepts of regulation and normalisation; and symbolic interactionist notions of how sexuality is constructed through social interaction, alongside Foucault’s notion of sexuality being ‘produced’ via normative discourses. The research is therefore embedded within a framework that explores how women with learning disabilities are subject to a number of very particular regulatory sexual accounts and discourses, including those that relate specifically to ‘learning disability’, as well as gendered normative accounts that can act to compete with those in relation to learning disability, or work with, and underscore them. The study therefore explores where and how this group learnt about sexuality, teasing out some of the institutional accounts and discourses around sexuality, learning disability and gender that respondents reported coming into contact with; the kinds of institutional practices that influenced the agency of respondents, thus underlining or challenging the kinds of accounts and discourses of sexuality they reported encountering; and the various accounts and discourses of sexuality reflected in respondents’ own opinions in relation to sexuality, gender and learning disability. Findings suggest that respondents were subject to contradictory accounts, discourses and practices in relation to sexuality within institutional contexts, and that these both underscored norms related to the label of ‘learning disability’, as well as gendered and (hetero)sexual norms. Respondents themselves expressed a range of views in relation to sexuality. However, many accounts reflected the norms they reported encountering within family and service settings.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available