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'They've said I'm vulnerable with men': doing sexuality on locked wards

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2016
Issue number5-6
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)641-658
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date2/06/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In intellectual disability services, women’s sexuality has long been considered a problem, with women being removed from their residences and segregated from men as a form of protection. This paper draws on ethnographic research based on a secure unit for people with intellectual disabilities in England. It suggests that staff and clients are concerned about the client mix on the unit, and that staff feel protective towards women service-users. Physical contact on the wards is highly regulated and all spaces are described as ‘public’, therefore women are not afforded privacy to explore their sexuality. During interviews, many of the women disclosed experiences of childhood sexual abuse and some were unsure about their sexual orientation. This paper argues that life on the locked ward positions intellectually disabled women as both sexually vulnerable and as fundamentally asexual. This prevents women from learning the skills needed to make informed choices about sexual partners.