Personal experiences which have influenced the
lives and opinions of those involved in social care.

How would you feel if a service user with whom
you were working told you that he or she wished to use the services
of a prostitute? What if the individual in question was a disabled
elderly widower, living in a care home, who craved sex with a
woman, and who believed that he would never again have a
relationship with a woman which might involve sex? Even if he did
develop such a relationship, he knows sex would be difficult
because of where he lives.

Sometimes we grow professionally and ethically
by thinking the unthinkable and seeing what it feels like; like me,
you might find the situation I am raising unthinkable. I am
thinking about it because of a recent conversation with a man who
has thought seriously about the possibility of using a professional
agency to access sexual opportunities. His situation overlaps in
some ways with the one I have raised.

Let’s think the unthinkable together. Imagine
that a client has told you that he wishes to procure the services
of a prostitute and wants you to help him. What should you do?
Should the fact that you do not value prostitution as an activity
prevent you from doing what you can to help him? Should the fact
that you believe that prostitution is about the degrading misuse of
women by men, prevent you from doing what you can to help? Should
it make a difference to what you decide to do, that you find the
idea of anyone paying for sex distasteful? Or the fact that you
consider it immoral? In this, as in other areas of your
professional activity, should your personal values intrude in your
work? Can you get yourself off the hook by citing the law?

Let’s assume, for the moment, that you have
decided to help this elderly, physically disabled man to find sex.
What will you do? Should you make a booking for him with a woman
who is willing to provide this service; and if so, how would you go
about locating her? Should you arrange for a taxi to take him to a
rendezvous, or take him there in your car? Should you help him into
the building or leave him at the door and collect him later? Or
would you expect your client to get there on his own?

But perhaps you will conclude that in spite of
the fact that he has sexual rights, this physically disabled older
person does not have the right to have sex, unless he can make a
relationship with someone who wishes, in a properly reciprocal way,
to have sex with him. That would be sad, but it is one of the
realities of life for most people. Or at any rate, it is one of the
realities of life for people who live in the UK. In other European
countries, including the Netherlands, sex is obtainable for anyone,
even outside a reciprocal relationship, provided that the price is
right. There are even services that cater specially for the needs
of disabled people. Are we right? Or are they?

Gavin Fairbairn is professor of
professional development in nursing and midwifery, University of

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