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Saturday, February 03, 2007

An Intimate Decision

When I launched my blog in September, my goal was to talk about life with the disease, leaving no topic untouched, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be. So there was no way that I could ignore an article I found describing how Nick Wallis (left), a 22-year-old with Duchenne's living in the UK, hired a prostitute so that he could experience sexual intercourse before he dies.

An interesting note to the story is the fact that the encounter was arranged with the support of Sister Frances Dominica, a nun who runs Helen and Douglas House, a hospice facility for young adults, where Mr. Wallis often spends time.

Mr. Wallis, who wrote, in his own words, that he had always hoped that sex "would be just one part of a close relationship," had come to the conclusion that it was unlikely to happen. While he described the experience as "satisfactory," and was glad to have had the "tenacity" to go through with it, he also characterized it as "emotionally unfulfilling."

And that is why I would not consider something like this. I already know that I would feel the same way because I know how I am wired. Sex, in and of itself, has little meaning to me. Like Mr. Wallis, I have always wanted to be in a true relationship. It is highly unlikely that will ever happen for me, but that's how life goes. You don't always get to achieve all of your goals.

But sex is not going to fulfill this desire. With the slim probability that I will be in a relationship, I have chosen to pour my energy into my work, into writing my book and making a difference for those whose lives are affected by Duchenne's.

That said, I have great respect for Mr. Wallis' decision. This was something he wanted to do -- something he had every right to do -- and he did it. I don't see any reason why paying for sex is illegal; it harms no one (unless we're talking about sexual slavery). All parties involved do so of their own volition. Furthermore, it is commendable that he has publicly discussed his decision because it raises the subject of sexuality and disability, which is not addressed nearly enough.

Bloggers, such as The English Courtesan, have expressed their support for Mr. Wallis, while others, such as Pastor Tom have been critical. While the pastor may have a point about the "idolatry" of sex in our society, why should Mr. Wallis, by virtue of his disease, be denied the opportunity to do something that everyone else can do? What Sister Frances did to support Mr. Wallis (read her explanation here) demonstrates that she has a true understanding of her role as a clergy member.

Nick Wallis' decision is not the same as mine. But time and time again, I would defend his right to make that decision.


The English Courtesan said...

Thank you so much for this Josh and for giving me a different perspective too (and one that's undoubtedly much more knowledgable than my own).

I agree entirely on all of your points here. Like you I found it sad that the experience for Nick was not fulfilling, and maybe that's a reflection of the fact that sex is only part of any relationship. As Nick himself put it so lyrically, it's the holding hands, the loving and being loved, that he misses. That is the part that's so difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in the concept of a paid relationship.

Yet what seems sacred to me is the fact that it was Nick's right to decide and noone else's. To me this is a human rights issue and Nick, like anyone else, should be allowed to spend both his time and his money (for it was his and not the Hospice's) however he chooses. It seems there was an element of 'carpe diem' to his decision too. He has already lost the use of his hands and some of his opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, so I think that was part of his wish to use the ability to experience sex before it gets too difficult.

Whilst I don't share Sister Frances' Anglican beliefs, I can't help feeling as you do, that what she did was truly Christian in the very best sense of the word.

Livvy xxx

Lene Andersen said...

Before my first sexual experience (which was much later in life than most people), I often thought of hiring someone. However, as a straight woman, that didn't seen as easy as it might have been had I been a man. I never did, though, exactly because of the same reason as you: I wanted sex to be part of a relationship, to come out of love. But sometimes I wonder what might have happened if the possibility had been there. If, say, sexuality was an open topic and there perhaps were sex surrogates available as part of various rehabilitation programs. Of course, that would assume that the wider world would have to face that people such as myself are sexual beings and I'm pretty sure that that's not going to happen in my lifetime.

Kimi said...

Josh, as I promised, here's part of my email to you...

I totally understand your definition of "committed relationship." Obviously I'm not a believer in waiting for marriage for sex. Yes it would be ideal. Making love (not sex) should be reserved for 1 special person, but since we are not perfect many times our first instinct on who we "love" isn't always correct. That being said, what is your position on friends w/benefits? Is that any different than what the UK DMDer did? I mean yes, there is no exchange of money but in these types of relationships each party is somewhat selfishly getting what they need out of it whether it's physical or emotional. I've sorta been in this kind of relationship and at that time I thought it was the right thing for me. Now I'm not sure what I'd chose since I've experienced meaningful sex. At the time, we both loved each other but the intensity or type of love wasn't mutual. Yes, at one point we both thought we'd settle for each other and marry one day, but we both did not have the "you are my soul mate" type of love for each other. For the sake of a good insightful conversation, what's your take on all of this?