The disabled have a right to a sex life

Movie reelIn the film Mark (played by John Hawks), starts learning about his sexuality with the help of Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sexual surrogate. Sexual surrogates are sometimes hired for experiences in which the objective is for a client to learn about his or her sexuality over a finite number of sessions. Generally clients have a physical disability which has limited their exposure to sexual experiences.

‘The Sessions deals with many commonly held myths and stereotypes,’ says Natalie Hamam, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at La Trobe University Bendigo. ‘While some viewers will find the film’s content confronting, it deals with relevant and important topics that we don’t often talk about.’

It is because people sexual concerns are often overlooked by health care professionals that Ms Hamam decided to begin research in the area.

Research into disability and sexuality

Ms Hamam has interviewed thirty people with physical disabilities such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and stroke about their sex lives for a doctoral study with the University of Sydney.

‘Despite the problems these conditions caused, the people participating in the study reported satisfying sexual lives and they wanted to share part of their story in order to help others. This research highlights the importance of learning from people who have already uncovered solutions to problems that trouble others.’  

Ms Hamam has presented her preliminary findings at national and international conferences.  She is also the author of a review of educational materials about sex after stroke in the Journal of Stroke.  

‘It is also helping occupational therapists and other health professionals talk to patients about their sexual concerns and offer advice about what might be possible.

Don't be denied a sexual dimension to life

‘I would encourage people with a disability to look for whatever information they think they need, talk to loved ones and seek out advice from people they trust.  People should not feel that they are denied a sexual dimension to their lives just because they have a physical disability,’ says Ms Hamam.

Ms Hamam's review Sex after stroke: a content analysis of printable educational materials available online, is available on the web. She also encourages medical practitioners, patients and primary carers to view her research paper Sex, drugs and the medical role: A case report of a man prescribed Alprazolam following stroke, which focuses on a man who cannot speak following his stroke and how he managed to get a his doctor to address the sexual dysfunction he was experiencing as a result of his medication.

The Star Cinema will screen an ‘Oscar encore’ season of The Sessions from Friday 15 February until Monday 18 February. Screening times can be viewed at Bookings are recommended and can be obtained by calling Star Cinema on 5446 2025.


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