Intimacy in an Iron Lung

The developing status of sexual surrogates for the disabled, as part of a right to health and well-being: So wrong?

"As my father lay dying and his private nurses washed him, made him comfortable and gave him his medication, they also lingered gently over his private parts as they sponged him. These were mountain girls from the state of North Carolina to whom death and sex were integral with life."

So comments Google+ user Ray Chatham in the discussion surrounding a short documentary released last week from The New York Times' Stefania Rousselle. Rousselle investigated the state of sexual surrogacy for disabled people in France, where it is contentiously illegal.

Surrogacy involves paying a professional who engages in intimate contact (broadly defined, though certainly not always intercourse) with a patient. It technically began in the early 1970s, and is maybe best known as something done to help people with extreme anxiety about sex to gradually work past it.

In a different sense, it's also used for patients with serious physical disabilities -- and, maybe even thornier, mental disabilities like dementia. You might remember the 2012 film The Sessions, for which Helen Hunt got an Oscar nomination playing a surrogate who worked with a poet paralyzed by polio. The story was based on the real experiences of Mark O'Brien, who by the end lived in an iron lung for all but a few hours per week, and ultimately lost his virginity to a surrogate.

Read more at the Atlantic