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Sexuality, Mental Health, and Ableism

Meant to link this earlier... a wonderful post from cheshire_bitten on mental illness and the stigma around "crazies" having sex and sexualities. I reproduce it here in its entirety because it is just that important.

Mentally ill people are denied their sexuality. We are either predators (schizophrenia) or we are poor dears, to scared to be touched (depression, anxiety).

This is not new. Ancient Greek treatment of mental illness included celibacy.

Sex is bad, sex is harmful, and sex is something the disabled mind must be spared from.

I fuck.

My mind and my body seem disconnected. When I am sick I can believe that my actions will not affect my body because it isn’t mine.

Sex brings me back, sex is grounding, it is of this world.
I have never trusted unworldly enlightenment, the concept that understanding is gained by removal bothers me; this world is good enough for me.
“Fear of, disgust with, and refusal of sexual connection are common themes in the worldviews of anorexic and medieval saints and linked to food refusal” - The Anthropology of Food and Body By Carole Counihan
Staving, and removal of sexuality was avoid the reality of a sexual female body, where sexuality is viewed fearfully, a power which must be controlled, that men must be protected from, these women made themselves pure by removing the feminine fat deposits and menstruation.

Sex is worldly, and good mad women will do anything to avoid it. Anorexia holds the same social position as consumption did in 19th century England.

Good mentally ill women are seen as chaste, virginal, artistic and weak. Good mentally ill women cannot manage the changes of the world, and must be protected from it.

I have never been good, I am proud, I stand with my mental illness undefeated by it, I don’t make a good victim, and I fuck because I love it. It grounds me, because my illness doesn't put me on a pedestal. It doesn’t make me less human. I demand the right to be messy, to be complex. to not

To be me, blood, sweat, cum and tears

This issue, more than anything else, is what makes me not just sad but actually angry at the people who want to paint "sex positives" as frivolous, sex-obsessed, twittering fools who just never bothered to read enough. For all the emphasis that gets put on "examination" and "examining," I truly wonder why I see so few "radical" feminists "examining" who gets deemed worthy of sexuality and sexual autonomy.

The word "radical" stems from the word "root." One would think that "radicals" committed to social justice would then be people who seek out the roots of social ills, so as to better combat them. But the "radicals" I've run into, feminist or not, seem to find one Root at a time. For example, those busy with sexism ("radical feminists") seem to entangle themselves in anti-porn causes and not leave themselves time? energy? effort to ask about ableism. To notice that under an ableist system, they are permitted a sexuality -- however warped by sexism it may or may not be. Yet some, people seemingly invisible to them, are not permitted sexualities at all.

(This is, not incidentally, why I'm not a big fan of Figleaf's term "the no-sex class." Because women aren't. Women are, perhaps, the "controlled-sex class." Women's sexuality is policed, which yes, has the net effect of denying their true desires. But that's not the same kind of denial as being deemed not sexual at all. The real "no-sex class" would be the people who are deemed revolting animals for having, or wanting, any sex at all... and that class is not women.)

And that's the thing. People can find the flaws in the classic Enlightenment theory of autonomy, of the definition of consent, etc. all they want. I've joined them in the past, and may again someday. But in terms of really helping people, here and now, to have healthier sex lives, such an exercise strikes me as intellectual masturbation a lot of the time. When sexual autonomy is itself a luxury, arguing about whether it was designed for straight white men really ought to take a backseat to protecting the rights of "the crazies," here, to have and to want sex.

In a world where people deem one another unworthy of control over their own sexual destinies, the endless discussions of what motives are positive, are "okay," etc. strikes me as more of the problem, not a bold new solution that cuts off the problem at the dark, twisted "root" we've finally exposed.

What IS the solution? Simply letting everyone, no matter how self-destructive, do everything they want? Maybe not -- sometimes people DO self-harm through sex. Sometimes people DO make decisions that are unwise for them. But it seems to me that we can't decide this on a general basis, and would have to be close friends or counselors to any given individual in order to know for sure how her sexual behaviors affect her, or whether they spring from blighted roots.

And even when we actually know this, as I think we sometimes can, it seems to me the best tack to take is one of harm reduction, not of ideological conversion. "Hey Mary! We both know that your sex life includes this pattern here that isn't so good for you. Are there ways you can cut back on it, and still have your coping device when you need it, but need it less of the time?"

And if Mary says "No, buzz off, stop psychoanalyzing me, you have no right," well, then we buzz off. Whether we're right or wrong about what's good for her, her life is hers. That means she -- not us, not anyone else -- is the one with the right to decide whether she heals or crashes and burns.

Respecting someone is sometimes about giving her the space to succeed or fail on her own.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2008 10:04 am (UTC)
This is interesting. On Felife, a cyber-friend started a topic:

>Krazy Kinksters

>I'm a Krazy Kinkster. I continue therapy and occassional meds. However, I seem to present as "normal" on line. So who else is Krazy and who has found us Krazy Kinksters hot, loveable and endearing?

FWIW - looking backon my partners, responded:

>Thinking back to kinksters only, I reckon about 4 "normal", 3 "krazy", and 1 indeterminate who did have therapy and decided she was a sub through it. My count on the "normals" could be off. I would say that hotness and loveability is about even, though the "Krazies" do seem to push more.

>None are pathologically kinky, though. Kink is either a modest form of therapy or just a regular ol' kick.

If there is a to be standard for preventing sexual expression it should be the legal definition of "Incompetence", where the person so discribed it presumed competent unless proven otherwise. Even this seems excessively broad in reach and scope.
Nov. 2nd, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)

That is all i have to say.

*Especially* the paragraph about the "no-sex class".

(Although, i think the way the phrase "no-sex class" is used now has been a bit twisted from the way it was intended originally - it wasn't, in my understanding, meant to imply that woman don't or can't enjoy sex, but that patriarchy treats them as if they don't or can't. But then, the sort of "radical" feminists who are most vocal online nowadays (and how much do i hate using the word "radical" to describe them, cos i think sex-pos feminism is infinitely more radical) seem to uncritically accept most of the patriarchal assumptions about women's sexuality, just with the moral axis flipped, so... bleh)

Ok, so that *wasn't* all i had to say. But, fucking awesome post. Could be cross-posted at SexAbility?
Nov. 2nd, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Although, i think the way the phrase "no-sex class" is used now has been a bit twisted from the way it was intended originally - it wasn't, in my understanding, meant to imply that woman don't or can't enjoy sex, but that patriarchy treats them as if they don't or can't.

Oh, I understand that. I just don't think the kyriarchy does as much of that to women as it does to people with disabilities. With women it's a confusing, self-contradictory set of double standards. With disability it's "Oh, look at that, the alien wants to fuck. I think I'm gonna hurl."
Nov. 2nd, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
This is fucking brilliant. Brilliant! I swear if I had a nickle for every time someone said to me "ren, considering, um, how you are in the head, don't you think you shouldn't fuck?" and a penny for every time someone used how I am in the head to negate my actual decision to fuck like I choose I'd be a rich woman. People who are a little off the norm due to their mental wiring are not idiots who need to be treated like children ffs, they can make decisions. This post is full of win on that front.
Nov. 3rd, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
Respecting someone is sometimes about giving her the space to succeed or fail on her own.

Love that. So true.
Nov. 3rd, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah. It's not feminism's place (or the government's place, or the church's place) to play SexCop.

(And, before someone states the obvious, yes, I realize that radical feminists insist they are not for censorship or reparative therapy-like ways of changing people. There's more to playing SexCop than that, for one. And for two... I do think that holding the position they do does eventually devolve into being for one of those two things.)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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