Wednesday, 6 December 2017

VAW 2017: Masculinity: The Abuse of Sexuality Rights of Men and Teenage Boys with Learning Disabilities

by Edward Oloidi

This blog entry explores the impact that the gender of men and teenage boys with learning disability has on their sexuality rights. Literature explored highlighted the abuse of sexuality rights amongst men and teenage boys with learning disabilities linked to perception of masculinity. Suggestions are made for practice.

Research findings show that disabled persons are more susceptible to abuse compared with others in the society (Northway et al, 2013). Smith et al, (2011) highlighted issues of intimate partner abuse amongst disabled persons. Thus confirming that individuals with whom they are familiar are often behind the sexual abuse (Mind, 2007). The recent revelation by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme found a staggering 4,748 of sexual abuses were reportedly committed over two financial years (2013-14 and 2014-15) against disabled adults (BBC, 2015). Of this figure, 63% were committed against adults with learning disabilities (LD), perhaps an indication of the prevalence of sexual abuse amongst both men and women with LD. Despite the growing evidences on the risk of sexual abuse of disabled individuals (Mind, 2007), others often label disabled people as the perpetrators of sexual abuse (Ellison et al, 2015).

Perhaps underpinned by feminist ideology of female history (Hill, 2016) or traditional views of female gender inferiority (Young et al, 2012), females with LD are often seen as victims of sexual abuse and rape (Khalifeh et al, 2013). By contrast, males are characterised as perpetrators (Young et al, 2012). Societal norms of gender roles and attached behaviours appeared to prejudice views on acceptable experiences amongst individuals based on actual or perceived sex or sexuality (Green, 2008) – particularly men and teenage boys with LD. A masculine view of these individuals appeared to dominate perception of their sexuality rights (Wilson et al, 2011). Such masculinity appeared to prejudice views of sexual behaviours amongst men and boys with LD as predatory, aggressive and problematic (Young et al, 2012). Consequently, the conflicting dilemmas of perceptions held of LD as dependence and masculinity as independence constitute limitations to rights and sexual health amongst men and teenage boys with LD (Wilson et al, 2012).

The impact of this predicament manifests itself in studies linking men and teenage boys with LD to sexual abuse (Hays et al, 2007). In the past, attempts to deal with this perceived troubling situation has witnessed abuse of the sexuality rights and health of this population. This includes medical (Sajith et al, 2008), chemical and surgical (Carlson et al, 1997) sterilization of men and teenage boys with LD. Recently, Wilson et al (2011) identified measures such as the conditional representation of men and teenage boys’ sexuality rights. Underpinned by the social construct of masculinity, conditional sexuality represents socially motivated representation of sexuality rights particularly amongst men and teenage boys with complex LD (Wilson et al, 2011). This in turn dictates the level and quality of sexuality support (Jorrisen and Burkholder, 2013) provided to individuals – this signifies that the reported incorporation of masculinity theories in various studies on the lives of men and teenage boys with or without LD (Wilson et al, 2012) exclude sexual health needs of this population (Wilson, 2011). An indication that socially motivated ‘problem-led’ views of masculinity continue to present a dilemma to the recognition of sexual health and rights amongst men and teenage boys with LD (Wilson et al, 2011).

Several factors have been highlighted as major contributors to failure to detect, prevent and support the recovery from the trauma of sexual abuse by persons with LD. Central to this is health care professionals’ lack of knowledge of indicators of abuse (European Nursing Congress, 2003) which could potentially militate against practitioners’ responsibilities to identify and support abused individuals (Moss et al, 1997). Although knowledge of indicators of sexual abuse has been described as crucial to support (Sequeira, 2006), emphasising the need for education on sexual abuse amongst all care professionals involved with individuals LD. However, a shift towards better understanding on how to support sexual health and rights of individuals with LD will not only assist the development of a ‘healthy masculine sexuality’ (Wilson et al, 2011), it will prevent sexual abuse of individuals with LD in general.

Edward Oloidi is a third year PhD student currently working on a project entitled: ‘A mixed methods investigation into how perceived public perceptions regarding personal and sexual relationships of adults with intellectual disabilities might influence social care workers’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours’ (Wales). Edward undertook a two-phase study involving critical incident technique driven qualitative interviews with 18 Social Care Workers (SCW) across community living services at phase one. Findings informed the development of quantitative surveys for exploration of larger views amongst SCWs at the phase two of the study.

Edward has previously worked as part of the local community learning disability team supporting adults with learning disabilities across community living services. Having completed a post-graduate certificate in health and social care professional education (PGCE) in 2013, Edward is a qualified teacher and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Bradley, J. (2015) Sexual abuse of disabled adults revealed. London: BBC. [Online]. Available from:

Ellison, L., Munro, V. E., Hohl, K., Wallang, P. (2015) Challenging criminal justice? Psychosocial disability and rape victimization. Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice, 15(2) p. 225 – 244

European Nursing Congress (2003). Abuse going unnoticed due to lack of skills. Nursing Standard, 18 (5), 9, p. 15 – 21

Green, T. K. (2008). Discomfort at Work: Workplace Assimilation Demands and the Contact Hypothesis, 86 N.C. L. REV 379 396-97.

Hays, S. J., Murphy, G. H., Langdon, P. E., Rose, D., Reed, T. (2007). Group treatment for men with intellectual disability and sexually abusive behaviour: Service user views. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 32, p. 106 – 116.

Hill, B. D. (2016). Sexual Admissions: An Intersectional Analysis of Certifications and Residency at Willowbrook State School (1950–1985). Journal of Sex and Disability, 34, p. 103–129

Jorissen, S. L., and Burkholder, G. J. (2013). New measures to assess attitudes and intended behaviours of paid caregivers towards sexuality of adults with developmental disabilities, Disability Studies Quarterly, pp. 1 – 21.

Khalifeh, H. et al. (2013) Violence against People with Disability in England and Wales: Findings from a National Cross-Sectional Survey. PLoS ONE8(2): e55952.

Mind (2007) Another Assault. London: Mind.

Northway, R., Melsome, M., Flood, S., Bennett, D., Howarth, J., Thomas, B. (2013) How do people with intellectual disabilities view abuse and abusers? Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 17(4), p. 361–375

Sajith, S.G., Morgan, C., Clarke, D. (2008). Pharmacological management of inappropriate sexual behaviours: a review of its evidence, rationale, and scope in relation to men with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52(12), p. 1078–1090

Sequeira, H. (2006). Implications for practice: research in to the effects of sexual abuse on adults with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Adult Protection, 8 (4), P. 25 – 31

Smith, K., Coleman K., Eder, S., Hall, P. (2011) Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2009/10: Supplementary Volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2009/10. London: Home Office Statistics.

Wilson, N. J., Shuttleworth, R., Stancliffe, R., Parmenter, T. R. (2012). Masculinity Theory in Applied Research with Men and Boys with Intellectual Disability. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 50 (3), p. 261–272

Wilson, N. J., Parmenter, T. R., Stancliffe, R. J., and Shuttleworth, R. P. (2011) Conditionally Sexual: Men and Teenage Boys with Moderate to Profound Intellectual Disability, Journal of Sexualities and Disabilities, 29, pp. 275–289.

Young, R., Gore, N., McCarthy, M. (2012). Staff attitudes towards sexuality in relation to gender of people with intellectual disability: A qualitative study. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 37(4), 343–347.

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