Disability, because sexuality is still taboo

Disability, because sexuality is still taboo


In a society constantly exposed to sexual content and messages, talking about sexuality still remains a taboo. This is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that Italy is one of the few countries in the European Union (together with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lithuania, Poland and Romania) which does not provide for sex education as a compulsory subject in schools, leaving the assignment to non-homogeneous initiatives on the national territory (as evidenced by the latest report of the European Commission on the subject). Then there is what many industry experts define as “a taboo squared”, or rather the sexuality of people with disabilities.

An attempt to break down this wall of prejudices was carried out with the bill 1442 deposited in the Senate in 2014 by the exponent of the Democratic Party Sergio Lo Giudice. The proposal called for the establishment of a list of assistants for the healthy sexuality and psycho-physical well-being of people with disabilities. However, for eight years, on the legislative front, everything has been silent: “It was not possible to schedule, and after the end of that legislature there have been no concrete developments in Parliament – ​​explains Lo Giudice -. The discussion began to enliven in the country, but from a regulatory point of view we stopped there".

According to the former senator of the Democratic Party, the theme "cries revenge" because it concerns a fundamental right of the person: "The right to free sexuality is a constitutional right recognized by the Court, which today is therefore in fact violated . All issues related to sexuality in the Italian Parliament have always had a great deal of difficulty moving forward, let's think of LGBT+ rights and civil unions. When it comes to family and sexual or reproductive rights it is always a difficult path. I wouldn't bet a penny on the fact that in this legislature we get to discuss such a law. Although in my opinion this should be a battle without political color " .

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What is an operator of emotions and sexuality?

The topic is back in the news in the debate on civil rights thanks to the deed deposited by the Tuscan regional councilor of the Pd Iacopo Melio, who asks the junta to take action at the Conference of the Regions to deepen the figure, conceived and built by the team of specialists from the Lovegiver association, of the operator to emotion, affectivity, body and sexuality (oeas) for people with disabilities. "It is a qualification open to anyone, but above all to psychologists, teachers, nurses, health workers, social workers – explains Melio -. As a therapist, he will have the task of educating people with physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities to lead them to discover their body, their emotions and their pleasure, making them as autonomous as possible so that their right to psychophysical well-being is guaranteed"

"Furthermore - adds Melio - , it will also be of fundamental help to families and caregivers to create the most suitable context for respecting the privacy and intimacy of the disabled person. To do this, a limited number of meetings is foreseen, just as the achievement of a complete physical relationship is not foreseen, precisely to avoid the emergence of another type of involvement between the therapist and the 'user' of the service. The sexual assistant, in fact, does not deal with sex work ” .

An important distinction given that it has created quite a bit of confusion in the past, limiting the discussion on the topic. “With this help, the disabled person could, should it be considered useful, go and explore some dimensions that involve their senses and contact with themselves, learning new aspects of their personality, discovering a new dimension of their body, which sometimes , based on the limit presented, it could only be touched for hygienic maneuvers", says Giovanna Cortiana , psychologist, psychotherapist, clinical sexologist and professor at the Italian Association of Applied Psychology Sexology (Aispa).

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The function of the oeas

The bill 1442 had been written precisely together with the Lovegiver association which has been fighting for years for the recognition of the oeas: "This operator, fo signed from a theoretical and psycho-corporeal point of view on sexuality issues, it helps people with physical-motor and/or psychic/cognitive disabilities to live an erotic, sensual and/or sexual experience - reads the website of the 'Association -. The oeas, on the basis of one's training, sensitivity and availability can help to rediscover three dimensions of sex education, the ludic one, i.e. discovering one's own body, the relational one, i.e. discovering the body of the other, and the ethical one, i.e. discover the value of corporality".

Since 2013 Max Ulivieri, president and founder of Lovegiver, has participated and organized over 360 conferences and dozens of training courses on the subject. "Clearly I would be happy if this figure were included in an official regulatory framework, but waiting for the long times of politics we are going ahead with our training courses because time for these people is often scarce and very precious - he says - . It can be a specialization of a wider path of assistance or you can become an oeas. For the latter option, an access test must be taken with our psychologists, the level of empathy and the ability to get involved are investigated. Aspirants must have a free and playful vision of sexuality (which does not mean libertine), they must know how to listen and have a lot of patience, no judgments or prejudices. At the end of the 200 hours of training and 100 of apprenticeship, one becomes OEAS and fiscally results as an operator for the psychophysical well-being of the person".

The operators trained up to now are 50% women and the other half men . “In Europe there is no OEAS, we thought of this figure: abroad we can speak of sexual assistants. Ours does not want to be a judgmental distinction but simply a clarification, because it would seem to us to simplify the complexity of the oeas, above all for its educational function, which is central for us - continues Ulivieri -. The meetings we organize with those who ask for it are limited in time precisely because our aim is to make these people independent, not to create customer loyalty, as happens with sex workers ”. All the different disabilities are taken care of, but at the moment "most of the requests come from families of children with autistic spectrum disorders" .


Who proposes an official classification the figure of the oeas speaks above all of help for all those families who today are “totally abandoned by the institutions on this front - Melio specifies -. They do not have the right tools and services, nor obviously the skills to deal with the issue. Some caregivers are forced to take their sons and daughters to sex workers. which (in my opinion) doesn't involve anything bad, except finding yourself in an unregulated regime, but it is good to clarify that this path is not something specifically therapeutic in any case, although sex tends to give psychophysical benefits regardless. Still others, from the numerous messages I receive, are forced to personally meet the needs of their sons and daughters and this must be told however heartbreaking and abominable. This is why the qualification of oeas should be recognized".

According to Melio, the 2014 text is now outdated, it should be revised. "It is not detailed enough, it does not take into account very important aspects, such as that of safety, always fundamental, even more so in a country where the majority of women with disabilities suffer harassment - adds Melio -. This is why I intend to try to write a new proposal in the future, expanding the existing one which is in any case good, to be proposed to fellow parliamentarians who I already know are willing to take on it, such as my friend Marco Furfaro for example".


The sexual well-being of people with disabilities still clashes today with fears and prejudices. "Some people with disabilities are considered hypersexual, that is, with frequent sexually characterized behaviors, considered inappropriate in inappropriate contexts, or eternal children, for example when we are faced with a cognitive limit - explains Cortiana -. There is a basic prejudice, which considers the sexual sphere as the least of thoughts of a person with disabilities. In my ten-year experience with children, on the other hand, I can confirm that have the same questions and curiosities as kids their age. In reality, sex life is part of a person's quality of life and c as such it should be considered. The taboo is linked to fear, to the fact that in some cases it can make even operators uncomfortable who don't know how to approach disability in the sexual sphere".

A lack of culture and training, behind which fear is also hidden: " There is a fear in giving information about sexuality and procreation. Even in the developmental age there is often a discussion whether to involve or not children with disabilities to sex education lessons because they are afraid of 'awakening' desires and thoughts that, according to many, could hardly be satisfied in life.In my experience, on the other hand, I know people with disabilities who have had and are having relationships, even stable, and who got married. A lot of knowledge needs to be made about this. Let's think of when, for example, a person with a disability identifies as hypersexual: it often indicates a lack of education on what is 'right' to do in a private context and in a public. Perhaps this difference is explained for everything else and not for sexual behavior. Then there are cases in which cognitive development does not go hand in hand with physical one and we have or a maturing body and misaligned cognitive development. The sexual moment is and still remains a moment of self-discovery and one's body, so it can be an enriching experience" .

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