"Oddly enough, ...in most of my dreams, I'm not disabled."
July 11, 2013 1:09 AM   Subscribe

Seeking Sexual Surrogates is a short (5:28) documentary by NYT's Stefania Rousselle looking at sexual surrogacy for the disabled in France, where the practice is illegal. And continues, regardless.

Some elaboration on the documentary and its subject by James Hamblin in The Atlantic.
But some French people like Laetitia Rebord, who is confined to a wheelchair due to spinal muscular atrophy, are campaigning passionately against the committee's decision. She's 31, a virgin, and wants to have sex -- "In her sexual fantasies, she is a fit and impetuous blonde who dominates her male partners." As she told Rousselle, "Eventually, one has to address the issue and understand why we are demanding this. I can't move. I can't masturbate."
posted by 2N2222 (13 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

This is one of the most beautiful ideas I've ever heard of.

Orgasms for everybody!
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:55 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm going to quickly say that sometimes I make sarcastic remarks but this isn't one of those times. This is really a beautiful thing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:02 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I suppose French society is conservative in some respects but it's still a surprise to me that they of all people would turn puritanical about this.
posted by Segundus at 5:36 AM on July 11, 2013

I remember reading a forum thread somewhere about this guy who, while not a full on surrogate, helped a disabled couple get off. Mostly he would wrap his hand around the female partners hand and help her to stimulate the male partner. To him it was a job. It was clear that it was a very important job and he did it with respect and care towards those he was working for. There was a picture of the couple and it was really touching, because due to their disabilities, I don't know how else they would have ever been able to experience that...

So how can you tell someone that they aren't allowed to experience what Terence McKenna says is like going to the grave without trying psychedelics, going to the grave without having sex means you never figured out what it was all about... (that's an inversion of the quote, and I don't know if I parse it 100% that I agree with that, but that's the basic idea... being sexual is part of being a human/animal in a body).

Good for those who carry on and fight for the rights of everyone to be able to have that physical intimacy in whatever way shape or form they need.
posted by symbioid at 6:41 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's the relevant Opinion of the French National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences (PDF, in English). The opinion is less driven by puritanism (though it may play a part because SEX!) than by the usual concern in France about the "merchandization" of the human body. Gestational surrogacy is also illegal (even when non-commercial), as well as commercial blood or sperm donation. But then prostitution is legal (hence the accusations of hypocrisy). Dwarf tossing falls in between (not formally illegal but can be made illegal locally). IANAFL so I cannot comment on the legal principles behind this. Anyway, the Ethics committee is only consultative and the topic is not going away. It will probably be placed on the agenda of the next National Conference on Disabilities in 2014.
posted by elgilito at 6:42 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

So you can rent your body to a corporation who will put you to work in a poisonous chemical factory or crippling your wrists with years of data entry till you can barely hold a soup spoon, renting your genitals to the sound-of-body who want to get off is cool, but it's "merchandization of the body" to rent your mouth out to someone's orgasm in a therapeutic context.

"Oh yeah France, well I'll see your accusations of 'Murrican-Puritanism-&-Violence... And raise you Gallic-Philosophical-Incoherence!"*

*yes, technically that's a string bet, but it works as a rhetorical device even if its disallowed at the table.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Oh yeah France, well I'll see your accusations of 'Murrican-Puritanism-&-Violence... And raise you Gallic-Philosophical-Incoherence!"*

I realize the temptation to make the French into laughingstocks is still strong as ever, in spite of that horse having been dead from beating for, oh, 70-odd years now, but, y'know, look at anything about healthcare in the US ever and then get back to the rest of the world on hypocrisy surrounding care of and respect for the human body and autonomous decisions surrounding it (I'm motioning towards abortion there). This is why stereotyping is not helpful. Just as stereotypes and exaggerations that confound, say, the US South are also unhelpful, as they ignore and deny the influence of a great deal of people who are actively working towards equality, freedom of choice, and so forth. It would be more helpful to discuss the actual subject rather than going "har France har we can snark at you just like we imagine you snark at us even though I've never actually met a French person and don't speak French so it's entirely in my US-media-saturated imagination". (Ask yourself whose purposes that might serve. Hint: the interests of the media corporations. Look at what they lobby for.)

As a French citizen I wholeheartedly agree that it being illegal is not right. Consent should be included in the debate to a greater extent; surrogates are people who consent to these activities, who, to all accounts, establish boundaries that protect both themselves and the emotional well-being of their clients, and their clients are also consenting adults. Granted, money changes hands; somehow I suspect that if it were indeed viewed as a health service, it would more easily be accepted – health services in France are covered by national health insurance. So the money changing hands would not be between individuals, but between taxpayers, just as it is in the cases of other consensual medical procedures.
posted by fraula at 11:42 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Vice did a doc on this a while back, but in Japan.
posted by Halogenhat at 8:35 PM on July 11, 2013

I support legalized prostitution so that all people who have problems letting their sexual freak flag fly and understandably want to do so can get to happy land. But legalizing prostitution for only the disabled puts us in a sexual ghetto and I wish you'd all legalize prostitutes and leave out the discussion of whether the disabled really have some of inalienable right to orgasms like it's this incredibly enlightened discussion to be having.
posted by angrycat at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2013

(sorry, that was more angry than I had intended and didn't mean to hate on those who think this beautiful. let me try again)

The danger here is that people, as they tend to, lump people with physical disabilities into a group, so that if you are visibly physically disabled, people think they know what is going on with that person. For example: Let's say that we have sexual surrogates or whatever the fuck for the disabled, so essentially orgasms for all, hooray. So, NYT Headline: SCOTUS Rules the Disabled Can Now Fuck Whenever, Wherever, or the like. Below the fold: SCOTUS defines those who are eligible for legalized prostitution as those with spinal cord injuries.

I have a SCI. For a thousand reasons I've been able to pretty easily to have post-SCI sexy times. But the day we institutionalize a special thing to provide sexytimes for X group of people is to promote the idea that X group is asexual without that help, and hey, I need more ableist bullshit like I need a kick to the head.

Well, that maybe wasn't less angry but hopefully that was more articulate
posted by angrycat at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm also leery of using the medical model to justify sexual services for people with disabilities. All this talk of surrogates seems like a way to sanitize the desires of people with disabilities. "See, it's not about fucking. These people need THERAPY." No, thanks. Too much of my life is defined in medical terms. I don't need to have my sexuality framed that way, too.

I have spinal muscular atrophy, the same disability as the woman in the video. And it makes the search for a romantic partner really challenging. But I don't need someone to give me confidence or teach me about my body. I'm pretty comfortable with who I am. I just need someone to occasionally fuck the living shit out of me. How is that not sex work? And why should access to sex workers be limited to people with disabilities?
posted by wintermute2_0 at 3:28 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

To clarify the situation here: prostitution is perfectly legal in France. People with disabilities can pay for sexual services just like anyone else (I wouldn't be surprised that some prostitutes are actually specialized in that market). However, creating a specific status for sexual surrogates would allow for a better organization of such services (guidelines, legal aspects etc.) and would make them eligible for health care coverage and thus available for low-income disabled people. Procuring is illegal in France, so a group of sexual surrogates cannot set up an office, for instance, as it would be considered as a brothel.
posted by elgilito at 3:01 AM on July 13, 2013

If prostitution is legal in France (whoa, didn't know that, I approve) then in the eyes of this disabled chick, there is less reason for the setting up of a special category. In my eyes, this makes the stigma even worse: ok you live where prostitution is legal, but even so you need a special assist to get a prostitution.

Again: I agree that making sex easier for folks is GREAT what I don't want is an institutionalization of the idea that if you are X, then you need assistance to get sex. I think a discussion that elides the stigmatization of the disabled is missing something really important
posted by angrycat at 6:00 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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