The ethical morass of sexual surrogacy for the disabled

France has banned the hiring of sexual helpers, ruling that "the sexuality of the disabled cannot be considered a right." The Atlantic's James Hamblin isn't so sure.

Aminata Gregory embraces one of her patients
(Image credit: New York Times)

France's National Ethics Committee effectively banned sexual surrogacy in March, as Stefania Rousselle just documented in a video for The New York Times (watch above). What exactly is sexual surrogacy?

It "involves paying a professional who engages in intimate contact (broadly defined, though certainly not always intercourse) with a patient," says James Hamblin at The Atlantic. Since the 1970s, surrogacy has been used to help "people with extreme anxiety about sex to gradually work past it," but it's now increasingly used to fulfill the needs or desires of seriously disabled people. That raises a lot of ethical issues, says Hamblin, but it's not at all clear that, as the French ethics board ruled, sexual surrogacy is "unethical use of the human body for commercial purposes." Here's an excerpt:

In advanced stages of illness, love and sexual attraction can grow increasingly disparate. Equating them may actually be problematic for the person whose body may be paralyzed and atrophied, but who is no less loved. Were the practice [of sexual surrogacy] more open and mainstream, and for a long while professionally conducted, would concerns over stigma dissipate?

Near the end many of us will pay for people to help us walk, put food in our mouths, change our diapers. We'll lose our relationships that afford close physical contact.... Surrogacy does not replace a loving relationship, and it shouldn't be expected to. We don't refuse the help of a physical therapist because it won't be as good as having never gotten hit by a bus to begin with. When real love is on the table, take it. When the table is missing, or someone's axed the legs, then there are surrogates.

Read the entire article at The Atlantic.

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