My Sweet Tunibamba

by Belle Waring on April 23, 2006

This is a very interesting post about sexuality and sex education as it applies to women with disabilities. (Obviously much could be said about men with disabilities as well.)

It raises questions in my mind. What does it mean to “have the mental age” of a 12-year-old? Should you necessarily have the sex life of a 12-year-old, for all your days? I think all of us can imagine both the nightmare of a mentally-disabled woman raped in a poorly-monitored group home and the nightmare of a mentally-disabled woman who is ruled out of bounds wrt any form of sexual experience by well-meaning supervisors.

The painful legacy of mainstream treatment of stipulatively “sub-normal” women and men [i.e., forcible sterilization] might incline us to extend the human rights of sexual autonomy to people who cannot reliably employ them on their own behalf. Or, American preoccupation with child sexual abuse might lead us to rule out-of-bounds an entire realm of human experience when we think about disabled adults.

As a mother, I am interested to hear about what the parents of disabled children think about this. I would be even more interested to hear about what disabled adults have to say, with the hopeful caveat that at least a few disabled adults read our blog.

When I was a kid there was a Latino family living in a house up the street from us. They had a funny hand-lettered sign above their door which said “my sweet Tunibamba.” None of us ever knew what that was supposed to mean. Of the 12 kids living there who were under 15, I would say 10 had Down’s syndrome (this is just a superficial judgement, but possibly somewhat accurate.) The meta-meaning of “Tunibamba” in my family was “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Like, “you think you know about this, but maybe ‘tunibamba.'”



Matt 04.23.06 at 9:01 am

I don’t have anything interesting to say about people with physical disabilities having sex and kids. The situaiton with the mentally disabled, especially those fairly seriously disabled, is clear, I think, at least in one aspect- they should not have children as it’s unfair to the children. Several years ago there was a very interesting NY Times magazine article (it probably became a book, though I can’t recall for sure) about this. Imagine being 10 years old and already more mature and smarter than your parents ever will be. Of course that’s quite psychologically hard, but it seems that, in addition to being dangerous it almost always leads to pretty serious developmental problems too. Importantly, the reasoning here isn’t eugenic- most mental disability isn’t genetic, it seems, but rather that it’s unfair to the potential children. I don’t think this means that mentally disabled people should not have sex lives, but they, at least at a certainly level of disability, should not have children. Thankfully the two are compatible.


a nut 04.23.06 at 11:21 am


Who gets to decide which woman/man with a mental/physical disability is “good enough” to have children? Isn’t that getting back into the dangerous grounds of eugenics? Please read other similar links which can be found on the I See Invisible People blog where the Carnival of Feminist XIII is being held.

Also, I appreciate the link! And I appreciated your thoughts on the subject, too.

But I must point out that perhaps you should have read my post on People-First Language first so perhaps you wouldn’t have used *mentally disabled woman* and instead switched to more positive and inclusive speech such as a *woman/women with a mental/physical disability*.


Bill Hooker 04.23.06 at 12:49 pm

Google informs me that Tunibamba is a community in Ecuador.


y81 04.23.06 at 1:04 pm

a nut: I don’t get that. You can call me a “Yale man.” You don’t have to call me a “man from Yale.” You can call me “an American.” You don’t have to call me “a person from America.” Etc., etc.


Belle Waring 04.23.06 at 1:26 pm

dude. what is this “google” you speak of?


maureen 04.23.06 at 1:28 pm

Because, dear y81, it is an attempt to recognise that whatever condition may complicate this woman’s life her PERSONHOOD is not disabled.

As an example, I have a condition which is usually referred to as a disability – though it hasn’t held me back much – but I have been and remain a fully functioning human being.

Only the ignorant would seek to describe or define me by this “disability” – only the foolish would dare!


albert 04.23.06 at 1:42 pm

y81- If you don’t the point, it’s because you’re not trying. If Yale and America are seen, or in the past seen, as negative or inferior labels, the point would be the same. It has to do with subsuming the individual (and the merits of that individual) into a particular grouping, instead of identifying their individuality first. It’s also important whether you’re applying the label to yourself or to other people.


Matt 04.23.06 at 1:48 pm

I suppose I don’t see the point or importance that much of the language issue. However you want it is fine with me. And I agree that there are some cases where it might be hard to deicde who can take care of a child, but I hope we can agree that there are pleanty of clear cases, and that someone with serious mental handicaps cannot properly raise a child, and that it’s unfair for the potential child in such a case. Just because there are hard cases doesn’t mean we should ignore the easy ones.


y81 04.23.06 at 2:05 pm

I am still not with the language police. You are saying that there a special rule for “negative or inferior” characteristics? That seems pretty invidious. How do we know which characteristics are negative or inferior for this purpose? Can we say “gay man”? “White man”? “Jewish woman”? “Nearsighted man”? “Educated fool”?

Now if there were a rule that said that a noun representing a human being must always precede its modifiers, that would be comprehensible, though it would not in fact reflect the way English is spoken. But a rule that a noun representing a human being must always precede any negative modifiers is unworkable, because no one could agree on what is negative for this purpose.


bi 04.23.06 at 2:46 pm

y81: I don’t get it either. Sorry, but when someone calls me a “person who studies computer science” instead of a “computer scientist”, it doesn’t suddenly make me feel more individualistic.

In my opinion, anyone who goes on language jihads like these has a huge problem upstairs. I’m not sure whether that means they should have children, but hey, it’s not in my power to decide…


albert 04.23.06 at 2:48 pm

y81- Don’t be like that. That’s not what I’m proposing. Perhaps you’re aware of Stephen Colbert’s ‘black friend’ Alan?

This isn’t about how English is spoken, it’s about the consequences of speaking a certain way. Perhaps you’re of the ilk who believes that language has no politics?


albert 04.23.06 at 2:50 pm

bi- You’re totally right. I have a problem upstairs. And you’re a subject class because you’re a computer scientist.


etat 04.23.06 at 3:05 pm

There’s an ouroboros in the house. If a popular attitude towards someone’s condition is the determining factor in creating disability, then wouldn’t it make sense to identify those whose attitudes are doing the disabling, rather than generalizing such practices onto the whole of society? It may turn out that disablers have a particular inability to understand the workings of discourse upon bodies, and need to be understood in terms of that particular disability. Or are we all so complicit in this that there’s no point in making any distinctions? That would suit me just fine.


KCinDC 04.23.06 at 3:20 pm

Albert, so if it were Stephen Colbert’s “friend who is black” Alan, that would make it okay? What evidence do you have that switching to people-first language improves the lot of the people being referred to?


maureen 04.23.06 at 3:55 pm

Persons finding all this difficult might wish to start here –

Persons wishing to see “the evidence” should note that they have 30+ years’ worth of research to plough through.

And, yes, it does make a positive difference. Take my word for it – I’m more likely to know than you are!


jayann 04.23.06 at 3:59 pm

The British Council of Disabled People (the main umbrella body) used to insist on disabled not with disabilities, and probably still do. (I’m disabled.) I prefer that term but dislike their enforcing its usage.

Still, it’s good to see someone turn up and raise the issue.


sasnak 04.23.06 at 5:06 pm

My shoes hurt too, Dad. My shoes hurt too.


djw 04.23.06 at 6:34 pm

When people call me Dave and I tell them I prefer David, they don’t bitterly complain about “language police” or “language jihads.” Someone made a polite request/suggestion about the most respectful way to address a person or group. No one’s issuing any arrest warrants. The nature of the response is profoundly out of proportion.


Laura 04.23.06 at 6:46 pm

My aunt used to teach sexuality to disabled teenagers in the Bronx. She was convinced it was a good thing for them. I’m sure she’s right. That article in the Times last week was good, but I was horrified by this statistic…

“50 percent to 85 percent of women with mental retardation were sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and 25 percent to 50 percent of men. Of those assaulted, 49 percent had been abused 10 times or more. “


Robin Green 04.23.06 at 6:46 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Having sex with a woman with a mental age of 12 is morally equivalent to having sex with a 12 year old girl. We shouldn’t have one be legal and not the other.


Z 04.23.06 at 8:11 pm

Interesting topic. My wife lead an instituion taking care of people with acquired mental disabilities (following a cranial traumatism) and I worked, albeit briefly, with people with severe mental disabilities. I think the first thing we should recognize is that disability is a term encompassing vastly different phenomena. Especially, acquired disailities can raise specific questions, and they are far more prevalent than usually thought (at least than I thought). Besides, you may have seen someone and thought of her as severely disabled while in fact she is not and met another person who superficially looked perfectly able but who in fact had lost all hope of a fullfilling life.
Of course, legal, moral and health issues interplay here but I must say I am appalled by statements such as #19. There is indeed a huge difference between a woman (and a man by the way) with a mental age of 12 and a twelve year old child. First of all, I am not sure what mental age of 12 means, this kind of terminology has long been abandonned in my country and I assume by the WHO. Secondly, an adult with mental capacities typical of a twleve year old child has adult desires and needs, I would have thought this obvious. I don’t see what pretext can be given to forbid them to fulfill these desires. Now of course people with certain mental disabilities are sometimes unable to make appropriate decisions. To give an example, the suppression of sexual inhibition is a very common consequence of cranial traumatism and I can assure you that this is a disturbing disability. It seems to me that in this case, it is up to the tutor or curator to decide, probably with the advice of a psychologist.
In the institution my wife led, there were several occasional and more stable couples, sexual education was readily dispensed and contraceptives freely available. Some of the persons there had lost everything in an accident: their memories, personality, physical and mental abilities. Who would be so cruel as to deny them one more pleasure of life?


bi 04.23.06 at 10:44 pm

maureen: I don’t see “30+ years of research” there, just maybe 30+ years of rants.

djw: First, it wasn’t a polite request. If you say “Please call me David” and the other guy says “Um, I think I still prefer to call you Dave”, and you reply “Only an ignorant would seek to call me Dave! — only the foolish would dare!” … do you think that’s polite? (I didn’t make up the “foolish” and “ignorant” part.) Second, they’re selling this People-First Language not as a way to address a specific person or group, but a way to address everyone. Will you consider this degree of intrusiveness to be polite?

Z: Interesting. But what about having children?


Daniel 04.24.06 at 2:08 am

Sorry, but when someone calls me a “person who studies computer science” instead of a “computer scientist”

what if you were black and someone kept on referring to you as “a black computer scientist”?


bi 04.24.06 at 2:18 am

Daniel: Well, obviously it doesn’t improve things to change that to “a person who’s African-American and who studies computer science”, does it?

I don’t get what on earth’s so great about using the word “person”. I’m a person, you’re a person, he’s a person, she’s a person. We’re all persons. Wow, I feel so unique already! :-|


Elliott Oti 04.24.06 at 2:30 am

I am still not with the language police. You are saying that there a special rule for “negative or inferior” characteristics? That seems pretty invidious. How do we know which characteristics are negative or inferior for this purpose? Can we say “gay man”? “White man”? “Jewish woman”? “Nearsighted man”? “Educated fool”?

The best way to determine whether a characteristic is negative or inferior is to see whether the words “language police” or “politically correct” appear in conjuction with a defence of the usage of that particular characteristic.


Elliott Oti 04.24.06 at 2:36 am

Daniel: Well, obviously it doesn’t improve things to change that to “a person who’s African-American and who studies computer science”, does it?

So do you, in normal speech usage, continually use the phrase “white computer scientist” or “white programmer”? Do you use sentences like “I got on the bus after buying a paper from the white tobacconist, and after paying the white conductor my bus fare, went to see my white dentist”.

What word stands out in the sentence I just wrote? “Tobacconist”, “conductor”, “dentist” or “white”?


eb 04.24.06 at 2:52 am

Some of my best friends are people who are best friends with me.


bi 04.24.06 at 2:54 am

Elliott Oti: What on earth are you arguing against? I was debunking the idea that this Person-First Language thingy improves the lot of people being referred to and affirms people’s individuality and all that. What are you trying to debunk, if there’s anything you want to debunk in the first place?

If I replace “dentist” or “white dentist” with “person who practises dentistry” or even “Dr. Lee”, does it mean that I’ve suddenly recognized the life-affirming fact that the dentist is a unique complex individual like each one of us is? Of course not! In the end, I’ll still deal with this Dr. Lee as any patient deals with any doctor. Maybe if I go out with Dr. Lee for drinks and chit-chat, now that’ll be different.

Same for disabled folks. I’m all for helping the poor and the weak, but you don’t improve their lot by just calling them by a different term.


maureen 04.24.06 at 3:10 am

And there you have it, bi! I’m not poor. I’m not weak. I don’t need your help.

If you could manage to be polite I’d be slightly more comfortable but in the final analysis I don’t give a toss.


ajay 04.24.06 at 4:51 am

If someone with a disability can function without needing any help in society, then surely they don’t have a disability, do they? They’ve just got something different about them.
Disability implies lack of ability. Blind people can’t see. People with spinal damage can’t walk. People with head injuries have difficulty with their memories. So they need help – guide dogs, wheelchairs, access ramps, nursing care, etc. A man who loses a finger isn’t disabled (unless he wants to play the piano) because he can get by independently.
So if maureen doesn’t need anyone’s help, then surely she isn’t really disabled?


maureen 04.24.06 at 5:25 am

Most “disabled” people are more disabled by societal attitudes and artificial barriers to their full participation that they are by whatever is supposed to be wrong with them. If “bi” patronises me on a blog I can shrug it off. Where it is a doctor – has happened – or a bank or a potential employer then we have a problem.

I’m disabled – if we must use that word – in one minor and one major way.

I depend upon a good relationship with my doctor who will keep signing the prescriptions for the medication which works very well, thank you, and because she knows me and the story well enough to take my word for it if things start to go wrong – rather than waiting until I’m carted off in an amulance and then believing me!

More importantly, I can run into a brick wall of ignorance or a significant discrimination – any hour, any day, anywhere. Some of those discriminations have held up my career, all put the onus on me to explain at length about my condition, my abilities, my wishes. It can get boring.

We’ll leave out the fact that the condition is potentially fatal. So is life!

If I am “not disabled” it is only because I have been able to insist on being treated politely and to take on the burden of all that explaining.

But enough already – no more about me. Surely some of you guys know people with disabilities and could ask them plainly and directly.


Elliott Oti 04.24.06 at 9:14 am

“What are you trying to debunk, if there’s anything you want to debunk in the first place?”

The point being made, which you may have not grasped yet, is that the meaning a descriptor carries is context sensitive and can be insulting or demeaning even if it is 100% true, and even if you yourself have no idea how it can be insulting or demeaning.

If I replace “dentist” or “white dentist” with “person who practises dentistry” or even “Dr. Lee”, does it mean that I’ve suddenly recognized the life-affirming fact that the dentist is a unique complex individual like each one of us is?

Suppose someone says “There goes Dr. Bernstein, the Jew doctor”. Is that the same as the sentence “There goes Dr. Bernstein”? Would it have the same connotations if the speaker was a Klan member? What about if the speaker were himself a Jew?

Let’s get a little less Politically Correct. Suppose, every time someone saw Dr. Bernstein, he were to say “There goes that legless cripple Dr. Bernstein”? What impression registers the most strongly on the listener: the fact that Dr. Bernstein completed 10 years of medical school and earns six figures a year, or the fact that he is a legless cripple?

Now it’s true the political correctness language jihadists have made it impossible for us to refer to people like Bernstein as legless cripples in polite company, and we are forced to use euphemisms like “less abled” or “differently abled”, however much we would like to call a spade a spade.

But that’s not actually the point.

The point is whether you choose to define someone primarily by his or her handicap, disability, or leglessness, or that handicap or disability is secondary to the issue of who that person is, does, or has accomplished. Your choice of phrasing is instrumental in conveying your meaning. The examples with “white conductors” or “black programmers” is to show you, by flipping the tables, that the continual definition of a person by otherwise irrelevant characteristics happens all the time. Whether the usage of these characteristics are insulting or not, is however context sensitive. “There goes Amy, the big-boobed programmer” and “There goes Amy, the big-boobed stripper” manage to use the adjective “big-boobed” in respectless and respectfull ways, respectively.

The choice of phrase you use remains, as always though, entirely yours.


KCinDC 04.24.06 at 10:02 am

Elliott, if the description is irrelevant, it’s still irrelevant if the language is changed to a clunky bureaucratic phrase. If it’s irrelevant, it should be omitted entirely.

In the case of Belle’s post, where the disability is essential to the point of the discussion, then downplaying it doesn’t seem appropriate.


paul 04.24.06 at 10:17 am

How about we all agree to use the term “gormless bithead” instead of “person who studies computer science?

I understand that this same issue is also quietly not uncommon in facilities for the care of older people. Dementia can act as a sexual disinhibitor, but even without that complication there seems to be a general inability of US society, at least, to handle the idea of sexual expression by people under care.


a nut 04.24.06 at 10:46 am

Wow! Such a discussion that is going on at this place.

I don’t think it’s really all that hard to understand people-first language with regards to persons who have varying abilities. And kcindc, great point! That’s exactly how we’d like to see society – where physical descriptors aren’t needed because the whole of society will (and very well should) be readily accessible for all.

However, when you have states like mine who still rank #49th out of the 51 states and the city whose mayor said he’ll fight the Supreme’s decision to make all public schools fully accessible by 2007 – it’s a wonder how we’ll ever get to that point isn’t it?

Here’s a thought: If you wouldn’t define someone only by their race/religion/class, why would you define someone only by their various abilities? Isn’t that also an unfair classification and judgment?

To use more inclusive and less confining language is not the work of “language jihadists” (nice assinine way to refer to it btw), but of those who wish to see the world become a better place for all humans regardless of ableist thought.

And that’s exactly what the defensive posture to this new way of thinking is: normative behaviors for an ableist society.

With that, I leave you with the words of En Vogue, “Free your mind!”


Elliott Oti 04.24.06 at 11:04 am

“Elliott, if the description is irrelevant, it’s still irrelevant if the language is changed to a clunky bureaucratic phrase. If it’s irrelevant, it should be omitted entirely.”

Two things:

First, the point is not whether it’s relevant or irrelevant, the point is where you choose to place the emphasis, as in the micro-choice between the phrase “he’s a disabled person” or “he’s a person, with a disability”. Is one a “programmer with an erectile disfunction” or a “walking Viagra ad who also happens to be a programmer”. Are you defined by whatever problems you may happen to have, such as halitosis, or dentures, or back pain, or are these problems that you, a person, have?

It’s not a radical or difficult concept, and the problem lies not with one innocent slip of the tongue on a small blog somewhere, it lies with the pervasiveness of mass usage in daily life everywhere.

Secondly, see posts #2 and #4 for the genesis of this subdiscussion.

(And thirdly, though omission is desirable, clunky bureaucratic phrases are often preferable to the “raw truth”).


jayann 04.24.06 at 12:09 pm

Surely some of you guys know people with disabilities and could ask them plainly and directly.

It seems they don’t.

I am now sorry, Maureen, that I took issue with you. The case you make is, though replies to you here suggest not, 100 per cent clear. I happen to disagree with it, perhaps because rather too many people with my disability prefer not to call themselves disabled because of the social stigma attached to being disabled.


maureen 04.24.06 at 2:26 pm

No problem, jayann. Cheers.


SamChevre 04.24.06 at 3:57 pm

I have no coherent opinion, but would really like to see Michael Berube’s thoughts on the issue.


jayann 04.24.06 at 4:40 pm

samchevre, some of Michael Berube’s writing on disability is online. I’d expect him to say “…with disability/disabilities” but don’t know whether he dislikes “disabled”. He’s in the UK right now, you might email him when he gets back.

Maureen, thank you.


SamChevre 04.25.06 at 7:16 am

Thanks JayAnn–I have read a decent lot on the terminology question. I was meaning I’d like to see his thoughts on the initial question posed by Belle–how can we and how should we think about sexuality in the context of mental disability.


a nut 04.25.06 at 10:27 am

samchevre: there is a search bar on his blog.

His take on language.

His “Jamie” posts.


Ozma 04.25.06 at 12:30 pm


I was thinking about this part of your post:

“might incline us to extend the human rights of sexual autonomy to people who cannot reliably employ them on their own behalf”

and wondered, who really employs the right of sexual autonomy “reliably” on their own behalf? My sister is developmentally disabled, and she’s been in her share of not so great sexual relationships. I think, yes, that her developmental disability has contributed to this. At the same time, me and all my “non developmentally disabled” friends have managed also to get into our share of not so great sexual relationships. So should we be allowed to continue to employ the right to sexual autonomy “on our own behalf?” We have not manifestly not demonstrated the ability to do so “reliably”.

People with developmental disabilities by and large do need kinds of support/assistance that people without developmental disabilities do not. But there’s not a bright line. My sister is in a very good relationship right now, and she learned from some of the bad ones. I don’t know what her “mental age” is: the term is of limited use. If it’s the end of a long day doing errands she has found boring and she is getting unreasonably cranky about going home, her mental age is about 7. If it’s laughing at Dave Chapelle or Monty Python her mental age is that of a funny, reflective, sophisticated adult.

People with developmental disabilities live in bodies that go through developmental stages — a grown woman is going to have sexual feelings that a child won’t. The idea that sex for that grown woman should be criminalized is just stupid. Might she need some caring looker-outers around her while she figures stuff out? Yes, just like she might to live in an apartment on her own. But again it’s a matter of degree — every young person living on his/her own for the first time, or starting to explore her sexuality — also needs caring loooker-outers around him/her.

I think, as with so many things, if we had a different kind of society (more emphasis on everyone being surrounded by an adequate number of caring looker-outers) then the project of resolving these kinds of questions in terms of rules (mental age of 12? no sex for you!) would seem less compelling and more silly.


ian 04.25.06 at 1:52 pm

I have to confess that I skim read the comments in the middle since they got rather repetitive, so my apologies if my point has already been made. Having said that…

For years I refused to register as disabled (in the UK) not because I didn’t accept the fact of the disability, but because of the stigma it attracted with some of the more gormless employers, who persisted in seeing the disability not the person. In 99% of cases, the modifier ‘disabled’ [or ‘black’ or ‘Jewish’ or ‘fat’ or…] is simply irrelevant – and therefore redundant. In the 1% or less when it is relevant, then I can see no reason to avoid ‘disabled person’ – indeed I find the various circumlocutions used to avoid that formulation to be at best distracting and often offensive in themselves.

All of which is of course a long way from the subject of the post, which raises extremely difficult questions to which I have no real answer other than to point out that the prissiness about sex and disability is often applied to those who have no mental incapacity whatsoever. Recall for example some of the garbage spouted about the film ‘Crash’ when it was released.

…and don’t even mention sex and the elderly!

(A counter example to that however here)


jayann 04.25.06 at 4:19 pm

Sorry I misunderstood you, samchevre.


Seamus 04.25.06 at 6:54 pm

I am wondering something about “mental age”. A friend of mine was diagnosed many years ago as having a “mental age” of 14, following an accidental injury. She fully believed this diagnosis, as did her family, and has (in my view, unfortunately) informed people around her of it. After the injury, she subsequently did okay in college, average grades, obtained a bachelors degree from a nationally ranked science program in 3.5 years.

Yet she has faced a great deal of discrimination in her life, in her career and social life, due to minor visible disabilities and also an assumption of mental incapacity. Furthermore, I was harassed by various authorities because of our friendship, which was a contributing factor towards our becoming very distant for quite some time. There are those who felt that any close male friend of hers simply had to be in an inappropriate/abusive relationship with her, and acted accordingly.

Her current attitude is that she has a low “mental age”, but a high IQ. Could this even be possible? From what I’ve read, “mental age” and IQ basically measure the same thing. Just as pounds and kilograms can both be used to denote weight, although one is a unit of force and the other a unit of inertial mass, aren’t “mental age” and IQ both measurements of the same thing?

Isn’t the simple assumption here that the diagnoses of a mental age of 14 was … WRONG?

Or can someone both be intelligent, yet not functioning at an adult level?

I’m basically hoping that someone who is a medical doctor/psychiatrist will answer this question, if anyone like that is reading. My friend has self-esteem issues and lacks confidence in her own mental ability, and I cannot help but think that, even if technically true, the diagnosis she took to heart all those years ago was psychologically very hurtful. As were the ways that others have reacted to it….


bi 04.26.06 at 7:54 am


I’m not a doctor, but even with this rather outdated model of “mental age”, we can play some interesting games.

First, any pronouncement of one’s “mental age” (MA) is useless if not accompanied by the “chronological age” (CA) at which this judgement was made. From what I remember, the classical IQ model has it that a person’s intelligence can be calculated as MA / CA * 100, and this figure doesn’t change after a certain (chronological) age — in other words, MA is linearly proportional to CA.

What this means is that, even if your closed friend had a “mental age” of 14, now that several years have passed, this “mental age” according to the classic model will also have increased correspondingly. And once her “mental age” reaches 18 (or whatever the legal age of adulthood is), she wins.


theorajones 04.28.06 at 3:31 pm

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Having sex with a woman with a mental age of 12 is morally equivalent to having sex with a 12 year old girl. We shouldn’t have one be legal and not the other.”

But a disabled person with “the intellectual capability of a 12 year old” is NOT the same thing as a 12 year old.

There are at least two things that make one an adult–one is intellecutal capacity, but the other is life experience. Developmentally disabled people may only have the hardware of a 12 year old (which is a grodd oversimplification), but they at the very least have years more life experience.

What would be exploitative for a 12-year old might not be for a developmentally disabled 35-year old. It’s not like the disabled stop developing at 12, and stay 12 forever. It’s more complicated than that.

They aren’t morally equivalent, because a disabled adult is not, in fact, a large child. They didn’t stop developing, they just developed differently. See the distinction?

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