A Tender Proposal for Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day: A Tender Proposal for a Touchy Subject
The right to be touched, the right to love and be loved, the right to be viewed as a person with sexual, sensual and intimacy desires and needs—sounds basic, right? Sure, it’s not in the Constitution or any legal or governing document, but I wonder, should it be?

Too often, our society perpetuates a host of myths surrounding sexuality, sensuality and intimacy, and we buy into them! “Sex is easy…sex should be spontaneous…your sensual feelings never change…you shouldn’t talk about your needs.”

Or how about: “Sex is only for the able-bodied…Those challenged by disabilities and chronic and life-altering illnesses don’t desire sex, love or a partnership…They have a hard enough time just dealing with everyday life.”

You get the idea. These myths can strike at the very heart of who you are. They influence how you see yourself, your sense of self, your self-esteem and how you conduct your life. Worst of all, they silence voices, the ones that say, “Here I am, ready to be held, desiring to be touched and interested in love.”

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I am here to say: Enough with these myths! It’s time for a change. Voices need to be heard, changes need to be made, and yes, everyone has the right to be touched by loving hands.

So what do you do about it? Well, you start the conversation. You educate. You show and tell the world the truth. You do it through the media, through writing, through your voice. YOU DO IT BY EXAMPLE!

One place they’re “doing it,” if you will, is in England. It’s ironic that in 1776, we fought a war to free ourselves from the oppression forced upon us by the English monarchy. We created our own laws, our own government and the most powerful of documents, the U.S. Constitution containing the Bill of Rights.

But where can we find a document or program that begins to recognize the rights of the disabled or chronically ill to be thought of as sexual beings? How do we begin to honor these kinds of sexuality, sensuality and intimacy rights?
Perhaps this is not a matter for our government but for individuals, groups and organizations who need to speak out and step up the process of change.

In England, changes are being made publicly that affect the intimate lives of individuals challenged by illness and disability.

Susan James Donaldson, in her January 10, 2013 article on abcnews.go.com, introduced the world to a woman (an ex-madam) in England ”who is investing $100,000 in a fully staffed, nonprofit brothel facility to serve those with physical and intellectual challenges, both men and women, gay and straight (she is already working with sex workers to provide services to this population). This woman envisions a sexual health center that would be handicapped-equipped, with transportation provided for clients who need it, as well as other services.”

Perhaps we’re not ready for this type of facility, yet. After all, the only state where brothels are legal is Nevada. And prostitution remains an incredibly controversial subject. There are those who support sex workers’ rights, while others feel this occupation demeans those who participate in it. That’s not what we’re here to debate.

What I’m here to do is to remind people that sexuality is a part of life, and though some have special needs that must be addressed for them to experience physical connection, these needs are nothing to be ashamed of or dismissed; they should be honored.

There are many wonderful people here in the U.S., professionals and non-professionals, who do incredible work everyday to better the lives of millions of individuals living with disabilities and illness, including helping them to feel the connection of touch. Together, we need to continue the fight for the cause, even though this remains in some circles a touchy subject.

More needs to be done, and on this Valentine’s Day, let it start with you. So embrace your sexuality and sensuous side. Most of all, believe you are entitled…you deserve to be touched, desired and to have love and intimacy in your life. We all do.

Eva Margot Kant, LCSW, is a speaker, educator and clinician in private practice; her website is: www.evamkantlcsw.com
For more, you can attend Ms. Kant’s lecture “Sex Takes Two But Starts with You,” on 2/7/13 at 7 pm, at the JCC, New York, NY. Or join her webinar, “Sexuality and Intimacy for Couples with Disabilities,” through United Spinal Association, on 2/14/13 at 3 pm.
Originally published 2/6/13; http://www.icsny.org/blog/test-post/