Paying for sex; the many obstacles in the way of men with learning disabilities using prostitutes
Article first published online: 22 MAR 2012
© 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
British Journal of Learning Disabilities
Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 121–127, June 2013
How to Cite
Jones, C. (2013), Paying for sex; the many obstacles in the way of men with learning disabilities using prostitutes. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41: 121–127. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3156.2012.00732.x
- Issue published online: 16 MAY 2013
- Article first published online: 22 MAR 2012
- Consent to sex;
- disability politics;
- empowerment issues;
- It is not against the law in Britain for adults to give another adult sex in exchange for money, and many people do pay for sex. It is almost always men who pay for sex.
- Some men with learning disabilities would like to buy sex.
- Men with learning disabilities who go to sex workers often get into trouble.
- There are special sex workers who are keen to help people with disabilities, and they often work with people with physical disabilities.
- There is a law that makes it a serious crime for care workers to assist people with learning disabilities to use a sex worker.
- The author believes that this law is unfair and needs changing.
- Many people think that women are harmed through sex work. This might be true, but it is not the fault of people with learning disabilities that this happens.
We live in an increasingly sexualised society, and the buying and selling of sex is a feature of this society. The laws about prostitution are complex, but the act of selling or buying sex is in itself not illegal. The author has extensive clinical experience of hearing the stories of men with learning disabilities who do use commercial sex workers and often come to harm in the process. There are other sex workers who have considerable experience of serving people with disabilities, and to date have generally served people with physical disabilities. Section 39 of the Sexual Offences Act makes it a serious crime for care workers to assist people with learning disabilities to engage with sex workers. It is argued that this is contrary to the spirit of Equal Opportunities for people with learning disabilities and against the move towards personal budgets and the freedom to spend them. This law should be reformed. Prostitution is inherently exploitative of women and reinforces the dominant message that women's bodies exist for men's pleasure. This is not a helpful message for men and women with learning disabilities. However, the opinion of this author is that people with learning disabilities should not be expected to shoulder by default any moral responsibility for changing social attitudes. The extra obstacles in the way of accessing sex workers amount to discrimination, and this is wrong.