The BBC recently published a story about the sadness of living without sex where countless people wrote in explaining how not having had sex had impacted upon them in any different ways, from feeling alone and unloved, to feeling shame and stigmatised. You can find the story here.
It’s really said that in today’s society there is such a stigma around people who have not had sexual experiences. I remember as a teenager feeling abnormal and strange because I still hadn’t had my first kiss when I left school. I am sure there were numerous others that I knew who hadn’t, but let’s be honest you don’t hear about what people don’t do, but what they do. I distinctly remember thinking that no one would ‘fancy’ me and obviously I was totally unattractive. It didn’t do my confidence much good. When sexual experience was bought up in conversation, I generally did everything I could to either change the subject or leave the room. Later on after college when I hadn’t lost my virginity I became even more embarrassed and awkward. I too experienced that sense of shame and I was only a teenager. I can only imagine the older you are the harder it becomes due to that pressure and expectation that ‘normal people’ are having sex.
So where does this pressure come from? I lay quite a bit of the blame at the media’s door. With more than 75% of prime-time TV shows having sexual content there’s just no escape. And it’s not just television. Listen to popular music and consider how many sexual references there are in the lyrics. Then use the Internet and porn is everywhere regardless of whether you’re looking for it or not. If you listen to the media, basically everyone’s at it.
Reading this article made me think about the Undressing Disability Campaign that Enhance the UK runs. There’s evidence to suggest that disabled people have more difficulties with body image and self-esteem (clearly not all disabled people). This in turn can make it more difficult for people to engage in sexual relationships. Disability and sex is also still a taboo. Then if you add the shame that people feel (regardless of whether they are disabled or not) about not having sex, it’s not difficult to see that this is not a good combination for someone’s emotional wellbeing.
There are also numerous disabled people who have another hurdle to get over. There are people our there who have capacity to consent to sex but are not able to have sex because of the rules or lack of privacy in their care homes, for example. This is awful. Now I want to be clear, no one has a right to sex. Sex is a two-way street and consent is needed from both people. But surely we can all see that everyone has a right to the same opportunities to be able to engage in sex with a willing participant, as long as they have the capacity to consent? To be denied that right because, for example there is a little emphasis placed on the importance of intimate relationships, or because the care home does not have a clear policy on what carers should and shouldn’t be able to do to support someone to engage in sexual relationships is surely completely unjust.
In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is that no one deserves to be stigmatised for not having had sex, but equally no one who has capacity should be prevented from having intimate relationships with a willing participant.