PAID SEXUAL SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY: Exploring the range of modalities offered throughout the world


Discourse pertaining to the rights ot people with disability are most often embedded in issues concerning increased inclusivity within the workforce, accessible parking and buildings, meaningful participation within societal activities and access to affordable technology', support aids, accommodation and transportation. Increased visibility and representation of people with disability within the film industry, television programmes, advertisements, performances and exhibitions have also contributed towards a growing awareness of the rights of people with disability (Wotton 2016b). Acknowledgement and recognition of people with disability as sexual beings has become the “last frontier.”The quest for connectivity and basic human affection for people with disability has often been marred by the politics of body autonomy, religious and moral stances and physical and legal barriers. Additionally, within social media and public commentary, there is a constant debate regarding whether sexual expression should be regarded as a human right or merely a human desire (Heidari 2015; Miller et al. 2015).

This chapter explores the different sexual and socially structured frameworks some people with disability utilise to explore their sexual expression, outside of the usual dating and relationship paradigms. It examines the professional capacities of sex workers, sexual surrogates, sexual assistants and masturbation services, identifying their current geographical locations and reviewing the nuances within each modality. The legal frameworks in which each operates will also be discussed, as well as identifying their similarities and differences.

Information and observations included within this chapter are derived from the authors lived experience of being a sex worker for over 26 years, from the accumulative research which informed her Masters dissertation, Sex Workers Who Provide Services to Clients with Disability in New South Wales, Australia (Wotton 2016b), knowledge gained during her Churchill Fellowship (Wotton 2017), professional networking with academics and individuals, participation at a range of conferences and ongoing involvement with the organisation Touching Base Inc., which she co-founded in 2000. The integration of these personal and professional experiences has assisted in framing the different sexual service modalities on offer for people with disability, from a complex and holistic perspective. This chapter is an extension of the authors research in this area (Wotton and Isbister 2007; 2017)

The right to sexual expression and pleasure

Regardless of increased visibility in the media, multimedia platforms and on TV, the sexual rights of people with disability is still an incredibly contentious issue. As Tepper (2000a) noted, “the intersection of sexuality and disability is often associated with victimisation, abuse and purity.” People with disability are still often regarded as being either hyper-sexual (McCabe 1999;Taylor Gomez 2012) or completely asexual (Esmail 2010). Both these fallacies are shrouded in fear, categorising the person as either being someone “out of control,” whose deviant behaviour needs to be controlled and managed, or someone who is both socially and sexually vulnerable. These misguided beliefs lead to further disempowerment of people with disability. This has included a lack of opportunity to receive any sex education, as well as forced sexual segregation, physical and sexual confinement and even marital prohibition (Jungels and Bender 2015; Sakellariou 2006; Taylor Gomez 2012; Tepper 2000). Other barriers identified, precluding people from enjoying full sexual expression, include a lack of accessible and meaningful resources around sex, sexuality, choices and options; a lack of clear policies in disability organisations to guide workers and support staff; an unwillingness from staff to assist in transportation, communication or purchasing even basic equipment, such as lubricant or sex toys; a fear of ridicule from service providers, support staff or carers; pervasive religious beliefs of others or their service providers; disapproval from family and friends; poverty; infantilism; isolation and a lack of peer support (Magnan and Reynolds 2006; O’Dea et al.2012; Shuttleworth and Taleporos 2016; Silverberg and Odette 2011).These restrictive environments strip people of their dignity, bodily autonomy and their own agency and yet, as George Taleporos once stated, disability does not abolish the need and potential for sexual expression (2001, p. 156).

Whereas the majority of people with disability around the world enjoy being sexually active with no need for specialised or specific assistance, some people with disability have chosen to utilise a number of different paid sexual services. These include booking a sex worker, a sexual surrogate, a sexual assistant or receiving a un/paid masturbation service. The remainder of this chapter will explore these differing modalities, outlining the description of the services, the geographical location of where services are offered, the pricing structure of each and the aims and objectives of the service. Additional information covered includes examining the motivation of the client to seek such services, the availability and eligibility of both the service provider and the client, as well as outlining specific organisations who may facilitate training for those who provide the sexual services.

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