Monday, January 23, 2012

Disability and Sexual Surrogacy, Part III



My previous postings on the late Mark O'Brien, a writer who used an iron lung, and his interaction with a sexual surrogate, will be amplified by Breathing Lessons, a short (approximately 30-minute) film on his life. It is available on SnagFilms.

It is mid-way in the film before O'Brien begins to discuss his loneliness, his interaction with the surrogate, and how it affected him. Even those poor at reading the non-verbalized messages underlying conversation can see that surrogacy was a less than perfect experience. 

Do I judge him harshly for his choice? No, no. I simply think neither the therapist or the surrogate understood the ramifications of the prescription. O'Brien may have wanted the experience of intimacy, but having been in both situations, I cannot see how five sessions of artificial intimacy (talk, touch, caress) ending with one session of sexual intercourse gave the man anything other than one sexual experience that worked to amplify his loneliness.

O'Brien may have received just what the doctor ordered, but from everything I see in the film, he wanted intimacy within an ongoing relationship, a thing both the physician and the therapist should have recognized -- and recognized surrogacy would not provide.

It is fascinating how important sexual/emotional intimacy is to individual humans even as we both misunderstand the complexity and duality of its nature and rationalize its value and purpose.

That such a thing of value, a thing allowing a human being to be completing human, can be restricted or denied by a disability is one of life's strange, twisted mysteries.
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