Sexual Rights: Are They Honored or Taken Away?

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Twelve sexual rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Privacy, choice, respect, pleasure, acceptance, speak up and out, knowledge, safety, equity, and autonomy.

I want to explore the topic of sexual rights. There are many lists online of what sexual rights are, but what I found most useful was this Sexual Rights Statement that was developed by the Sex Education Implementation Oversight Committee in their efforts to support implementation of the new Illinois law: Public Act 101-0506. 

The committee (including self-advocates) compiled what they believe are the rights and then, the self-advocates and the Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance ( created Easier-To-Understand Sexual Rights statements that fit under the various rights. They have also been translated into Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Polish (they are the most common languages, other than English, spoken in Illinois). 

The self-advocates who worked on this project included: John Paschedag, Adam Cooper, Carl Nave, Amy Foster, Richard Hollenbeck, Cathy Saunders, James Cansler, Heather Clark, Adam Wiser, Mollie O’Connell, Lindsay Tonyan, Mary Grace Cheveraud, Curtis Harris, Timotheus Gordon, Jr., Jaime Jay Cornejo, Dina Bergman, Derrick Morris, and Eddie Harriel. 

I have included some of the quotes from Self-Advocates from the Sexual Rights Statement below, but you can read the full statement on the Sex Education webpage for Illinois here:

When I read over these self advocate statements, I think of these 10 main points.  Click the title link to read the full article (as they become available) on each of the 10 points.


“I have the right to say what happens to and with my body.”


“I have the right to privacy in showing and sharing my sexuality.”


“I have the right to learn how to keep myself safe from someone hurting me sexually and to use what I learned to help keep me safe.”


“I have the right to be safe and feel good when having sex or sexual activities.”  


“I have the right to explore and to say if I am a man, a woman, a combination of both, or neither.”


I have the right to make my own choices about my sexuality:

“I have a right to choose who I want to date, where I go on dates, and to have privacy when I go on dates.”

“I have the right to decide if I do or don’t want to have sex or sexual activity. 

I have a right to change my mind.” 

I have a right to not go on dates and not have sexual intimacy.”

“I can decide if I want to get married, when I want to marry, and who I want to marry.”

“I have the right to decide if I want to have children or not. I can also decide when and how many children I want to have. I can decide how I want to have children whether it be by myself, naturally, adoption, surrogacy, or with medical help.”


“I have a right to learn about sex, safe and healthy sexual relationships, and reproductive health.”


“I have a right to get information and learn in a way that I can best understand through videos, large print, audio, pictures, easy-to-understand language, or a combination of all.”

Speak Up and Out

“I have a right to speak up and speak out if someone has hurt my body or my mind. I have a right to tell someone if my rights have been violated.”


“I have a right to choose how I define my sexuality and sexual expression, and have those choices respected.” 

“I can choose what education, information, services and resources I want, and a right to have those choices respected.”


Self-Advocates: Do you feel that these rights are honored and given to you?

If yes, that is wonderful. 

If not, what can you do to change that? 

Those of you who are supporting and love self-advocates: 

What are you doing to make sure their rights are honored? 

If you aren’t, what can you do to change that? 

Everyone deserves these same rights whether the person has a disability or not, but chances are people with disabilities are less likely to feel that they have these rights. 

How can we all make sure these rights are honored for all? 

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