Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 93–111 | Cite as

Sexuality and people with intellectual disabilities: A historical perspective

  • Winifred Kempton
  • Emily Kahn


Until the 1960s, the sexuality of people with mental retardation was handled by denial and suppression. The eugenics movement of 1880–1940 led to forced mass sterilization and the segregation of these members of our society. The civil rights movement and the “sexual revolution” were among the catalysts for change as was the move toward normalization and deinstitutionalization of people with mental retardation. In the last 25 years, parents and professionals have begun to work together to find ways to help mentally handicapped individuals to understand their sexuality and to engage in appropriate self-affirming sexual behaviors. We have established goals, guidelines, and curricula for sexuality education. We have trained parents and staff and developed policies for handling sensitive issues, such as sterilization and problematic sexual expression. The AIDS epidemic has provided new impetus for improving education and training in this emerging field.

Key words

history sexuality developmental disability 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Kempton W: The mentally retarded person.In The Sexually Oppressed, 2nd ed, H Gochros, J Gochros (eds). New York, NY Association Press, 1984, ch 17, pp 239–257Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Davies SP: The Mentally Retarded in Society. New York, Columbia University Press, 1959Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Crissey MS: Mental retardation: past, present, and future. Am Psychologist pp 800–808, Aug 1975Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rosen M: Independence for the mentally retarded. Intellect Mag, Mar 1975Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Proceedings of the Association of Medical Officers of American Institutions for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Persons: Sessions: Media, June 6–8, 1876, Columbus, June 12–15, 1877. Philadelphia, J B Lippincott & Co, 1877Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Terman:In The Mentally Retarded in Society, SP Davies (ed). New York, Columbia University Press, 1959Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Paul EW: The sterilization of mentally retarded persons: the issues and conflicts. Family Planning/Population Reporter 3(4), Oct 1974Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Edgerton RB: The Cloak of Competence: Stigma in the Lives of the Mentally Retarded. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Collins D: Children of sorrow: A history of mental retardation in Kansas. Bull History Med 39:53–78, 1965Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Carelli L, Kempton W: The sexuality of the institutionalized adolescent.In The Sexually Oppressed, L Gochros (ed). New York, Association Press, 1977Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Edgerton RB: Good reasons for bad supervision: “dating” in a hospital for the mentally retarded. Psychiat Quart Suppl, pt 1: 221–233, 1964Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rosen M: Conditioning appropriate heterosexual behavior in mentally and socially handicapped populations. Unpublished presentation at AAMD meeting, Washington, DC, May 29, 1970Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Perske R: The dignity of risk and the mentally retarded. Mental Retardation 10(1):35–39, 1972Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Johnson W: Sex Education and Counseling of Special Groups. Springfield IL, Charles Thomas, 1976Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Bass M: Marriage, parenthood, and prevention of pregnancy. Mental Retardation J 68(3):621–627, 1963Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    A Resource Guide in Sex Education for the Mentally Retarded. New York, SEICUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S.), 1971Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Gendel E: Sex Education of the Mentally Retarded in the Home. Arlington, TX, National Association for Retarded Citizens, 1965Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Comfort A: The Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Love. New York Pocket Books, 1974Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kempton W, Forman R: Guidelines for Training in Sexuality and the Mentally Handicapped. Philadelphia, Planned Parenthood, 1975Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kempton W, Gordon S, Bass M: Love, Sex, and Birth Control for Mentally Retarded. Philadelphia, Planned Parenthood of SE PA, 1982 revGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Human Sexuality: Portfolio for the Mentally Retarded (large drawings of sexual activity). Seattle, Planned Parenthood of Seattle-King CountyGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Jim Jackson Models of Human Genital Anatomy. Arlington, MA, Jim JacksonGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Effie Dolls (visual aid mannequins). Moline, IL, Judith FraningGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Fischer HL, Krajicek MJ, Borthick J: Teaching Concepts of Sexual Professionals. Denver, JFK Medical Center, 1973Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gordon S: Facts About Sex for Today's Youth. Fayetteville, NY ED U Press, 1978Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kempton W: Sex Education for Persons with Disabilities that Hinder Learning. Santa Monica CA, Stanfield Publishers, 1988 revGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kempton W, Stanfield J: Life Horizons (slides and manual)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Edwards J: Being Me. Portland, OR, Ednick CommunicationsGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Craft M, Craft A: Handicapped Married Couples. Boston, MA, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Champagne MP, Walker-Hirsh LW: Circles: a self-organization system for teaching appropriate social/sexual behavior to mentally retarded/developmentally disabled persons. Sexuality Disability 5(3):172–174, 1983Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Stiggall L: AIDS education for individuals with developmental, learning, or mental disabilities.In The AIDS Challenge, M Nelson, M Quackenbush (eds). Santa Cruz, CA, Network Publications, 1988Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Griffiths DM, Quinsey VL, Hingsburger D: Changing Inappropriate Sexual Behavior: A Community-Based Approach for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. Baltimore, MD, Brookes Publ Co, 1989.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Haaven, J, Little R, Petre-Miller D: Treating Intellectually Disabled Sex Offenders—A Model Residential Program. Orwell, VT, The Safer Society PressGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Haavik SF, Menninger KA II: Sexuality, Law, and the Developmentally Disabled Person. Baltimore, MD, Brookes Publ Co, 1981Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Andron L: Sexuality counselling with developmentally disabled couples.In Sex Education and Counselling for Mentally Handicapped People, A Craft, M Craft (eds). Tunbridge Wells, England, Costello, 1983Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kaeser F: Task analyzed masturbation instruction for a profoundly mentally retarded male: a data based study. Sexuality Disability 8(8), Spring 1987Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Mitchell LK: Behavioral Intervention in the Sexual Problems of Mentally Handicapped Individuals in Residential and Home Settings. Springfield, IL, Charles C Thomas, 1985Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Winifred Kempton
    • 3
  • Emily Kahn
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Hall-Mercer Mental Health/Mental Retardation CenterPhiladelphia
  2. 2.Health EducationTemple UniversityPhiladelphia
  3. 3.Haverford

Personalised recommendations