Dangerous Love

I have a friend, K, who is mentally challenged. Inherent in her handicap is a certain immaturity, but in many ways, she is very smart. She makes friends easily, comes up with amazing insights into people and situations, and is very empathetic. I met her when I was a tutor for literacy and she was my student. K needed just a little literacy training; she could read like a champ, but needed some help with comprehension and retention (something even the non-mentally challenged often need help with!). I was impressed by her ability to read considering her handicaps.

K is 30 years old, but when you meet her, you would think she’s about 15 due to her stature, youthful appearence, demeanor, and manner of speech. She’s petite and very cute. In the past she has told me that she wanted to have a boyfriend of her very own and was waiting for that special person to be with.

Anyway, K moved to the east coast last summer with her parents, and as I expected, has made a ton of friends through the special education classes she attends, bowling, parties, etc. She told me about a special boy (man) she met in a special ed class who seemed to be interested in her. K has never had a boyfriend and was excited at the prospect of having someone in her life.

Today she called me and I am very sad for her. The boy’s (man’s) mother decided that he would not be allowed to date her because she fears a pregnancy could result. As you might imagine, this would be very difficult for all concerned due to the mental challenges of both parties. Not that there has been any opportunity for that to happen as they have not even gone on a date yet, but this mother is apparently erring on the side of caution.

I understand this mother’s concerns. I empathize with her. But I also feel bad for K and the man. To be adults and to have your life choices so severely monitored by a parent must be extremely upsetting. Of course, it’s for their own good, but isn’t socializing and living a full life for their own good as well? I am not prepared to make any judgments about the parents’ actions, I can only imagine the trials they have been through to do the best possible job protecting their handicapped child. But I can’t help but feel that there must be a way for these sweet. wonderful handicapped adults to be with each other. So what’s the solution? I think if I were the mother of a high-functioning, mentally challenged son I might think of getting him a vasectomy. I know this is controversial, the sterilization of the handicapped. But in this case, I think it would improve the scope of his life and make more life experiences possible. Experiences like love, responsibility, and sacrifice.

What are your thoughts on this issue?



Filed under Life

8 responses to “Dangerous Love

  1. This is a tough one. Does the man have enough mental capacity to comprehend what a vasectomy? Likely not, but if so his informed consent should be sought. In the absence of that consent I’m torn.

  2. It’s a tough situation. I really don’t know the rules of who has control of the situation. I think if two people love each other, they should be allowed to find a way to make it work. But how? I have no idea…

  3. seb

    Wow, that is so sad. The vasectomy sounds like a very good idea, but the friend would have to be willing and able to comprehend what it was in order to have that operation of course!

    Finding love is one of the most beautiful parts about life, and it’d be a shame for K and her friend to miss out on that aspect.

    Yet, like you say, I understand the parents’ fears, but at the same time, it’s an enormous thing you are taking away from your kids if you don’t let them experience love.

  4. Les

    Geez Sonja! You’ve been browsing in the Canned worm shop again…..this is a hard one.

    Its easy to criticise the mother but to be rational she has been looking after him for 30 years or so( dont think you said his age) so you would have to assume she knows him well.

    A friend of mine looks after a house with 5 challenged residents…Every friday night they take them to a hall where all the others that reside in these type of houses meet.Sometimes there is 60 or so and they blow up balloons and have a dance….They are even allowed to have a couple of beers too. Lots of romance blossoms.
    I think the mother needs to find this sort of environment for her son.
    Vasectomies can be reversed so I cant see any problem with giving the boy one.

  5. Sonja says:

    All of you are so compassionate, and I love that. Many people take the hard line that if they have lowered mental capacity they have no business having sex and being in a couple. I just can’t go with that “black and white” approach, and feel that everyone deserves to give love and receive love. I am so happy to have readers like you who are insightful and kind.

  6. I am with the others on this – it is such a tough issue and a very real issue.

    I have worked with a very good friend of mine on a paper – hopefully soon to be a book on issues of sexual consent for mentally handicapped teenagers. She works for Mencap and issues such as this are a very real problem for them. She also is working on providing housing units for young couples in similar situations to this. It is better for the people concerned and in terms of the care and cost of providing for them ( ie cost to the state).

    Vasectomy for the man concerned is a much more preferable answer to hysterectomy for the girl concerned, both in terms or seriousness of the operation, but also in terms of ongoing health and recovery.

    I would like to think that the young man in question could consent to such an operation.

    It is horrid to think that they should be denied their special relationship.

  7. I don’t have much experience with this kind of situation and even though having a vasectomy seems a bit extreme to some it would present a situation that would allow him to experience a relationship with another person. An emotional and physical relationship could only benefit those in their situations.

  8. The mother understands how difficult it can be to care for a special needs child, that it is a lifetime commitment above and beyond the usual. She has the perspective none of us have, and given that, can see how much harder it would be for her son to raise a special needs child alone (as eventually she will be gone). She is being practical and honest about what is ahead for her son. But she is not facing the truth of what is at the heart of all humankind, the internal drive and desire to connect with another human being, the instinct to touch, be touched, to procreate, etc. It is in all of us, special needs or not. It is the reason why the idea of “abstinence” as a form of safe sexual practices fails, because science demands that we reproduce. How many kids and 20+ year olds have self-control to the degree that they can “just say no” to their raging hormones? Add to that the inability to think it through and reason to the ultimate end result and you have a “disaster” approaching. You cannot stop these two (or another, if they are denied now they will find someone, somewhere down the line, perhaps when parents aren’t there to help and guide-or stop). Eventually something will come from it. Best to find a way to give them a rich and full – and safe – life. A vasectomy is optimal, though not always reversable. They will always be special needs people, and eventually they will be on their own, so reversing would not be advised anyway.
    I say talk to the mother about the vasectomy. And Pray she isn’t a staunch Catholic, for K and her son’s sake!

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