“They just said inappropriate contact.” What do service users hear when staff talk about sex and relationships?

Source: JARID

Abstract

Background

Research into how people with intellectual disabilities (ID) pursue intimate relationships in care settings presents some contradictory findings; despite increasingly liberal staff views, service users experience significant restrictions. This study attempts to explore this gap within a secure hospital, examining service user’s representations of staff discourses about sexuality and intimate relationships.

Method

Semi-structured interviews with eight service users with intellectual disability were analysed using critical discourse analysis.

Results

Analysis enabled construction of 11 themes falling into three categories. Dominant discourses appeared to maintain the integrity of the institution, enable staff to occupy a position of power and demonstrate service users’ responses to perceived control.

Conclusions

Discourses around sex appear to serve the interests of staff and the hospital, while being restrictive and often incomprehensible to service users. Implications for service development, and future research directions, are considered in the context of “Transforming Care.”

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