Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 337–356 | Cite as

Legal Rights or Simply Wishes? The Struggle for Sexual Recognition of People with Physical Disabilities Using Personal Assistance in Sweden

  • Julia BahnerEmail author
Original Paper


The purpose of this study is to explore the lived experience of sexuality for people with physical disabilities using formal personal assistance services in Sweden, from their own perspective. This is analyzed in relation to the aims of personal assistance services according to Swedish law, which states that they should be framed in terms of autonomy, integrity and self-determination making it possible to live a good life, on the same terms as non-disabled people. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews with ten assistance users and through observations on an online discussion forum for people with disabilities. The main findings of the study concern participants’ struggle to be recognized as sexual beings in order to be able to live as desired, as well as the different strategies needed to overcome obstacles in sexual expression. Results indicate the need to train personal assistants about handling assistance users’ sexuality and sexual situations.


Physical disability Personal assistance Sexuality The construction of normalcy Social policy Sweden 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

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