Regulating, fostering and preserving: the production of sexual normates through cognitive ableism and cognitive othering

Date added: August 12, 2020
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People with cognitive disabilities are commonly positioned as risky sexual subjects. This article discusses the discursive production of sexual normates in the form of desirable and normative able-minded sexual subjects, in scientific research on the sexuality and cognitive disabilities of younger and older individuals (in particular those with dementia). We identify three interrelated discourses: regulating sexuality; fostering sexuality; and preserving sexuality. The first of these, regulation, pathologises sexuality of people with cognitive disabilities as faulty and in need of restriction. The second discourse, fostering, is more affirmative and argues for educating for a ‘healthy’ sexuality of people with cognitive disabilities, to mitigate risks of abuse. This discourse is more salient with younger people. The third discourse, preservation, in contrast, is more visible with older people with dementia and affirms sexuality so long as it is consistent with a ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ sexuality of the past. In conclusion, scientific research reinforces the cultural ideal of the rational and autonomous individual (and as such the mature/adult) capable of making independent decisions and engaging in healthy, good sex, based on stable sexual identities. Findings demonstrate how age intersects with cognitive ableism to intensify the cultural anxiety that exists around the sexualities of people with cognitive disabilities.

 

Linn J Sandberg, Hanna Bertilsdotter Rosqvist & Alisa Grigorovich (2020) Regulating, fostering and preserving: the production of sexual normates through cognitive ableism and cognitive othering, Culture, Health & Sexuality, DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2020.1787519

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