“The Vulcans have it right”: Comparative perceptions of gender and sexuality by individuals with and without neuropsychological disorders

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2014-05

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Abstract

Previous research has determined that gender identity and sexual orientation, experiences of courtship, and sexual behavior are constructed and communicated both verbally and non-verbally. Accordingly, it is possible that individuals with disabilities that affect their ability to communicate non-verbally could have unique understandings and experiences in regards to gender and sex than those without similar disorders Due to the difficulties these individuals experience with non-verbal communication they may have different perceptions of gender and sexuality. This study employed a qualitative phenomenological approach along with grounded theory in order to compare the experiences of gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual experience of individuals with neuropsychological disorders to those without diagnosed disorders. A semi-structured interview protocol was used and was designed to understand the experiences of the participants and their perceptions of gender and sexuality. Respondents were also presented with five short videos designed to test their understanding of what sexually charged interpersonal communication might look like in the real world. The videos were designed to show interpersonal communication between a male and female, each with differing levels of flirtation. Specifically, the variables that were changed are the physical distance between the two people, level and amount of eye contact, and physical touch. The data collected from interviews of 20 respondents indicates there was little difference in how they presented their own gender identity as well as how they determined others’. Atypical participants experienced more difficulty with communication and social interaction than the neuro-typical participants. Leading them to experience social anxiety resulting in fear of communication, social interaction, and romantic relationships. There was a perceptible difference in sexual behavior and sexual experience. The participants, who identified as being diagnosed with a learning disability, had less romantic and sexual experience than those without disabilities. They also articulated difficulty with romantic relationships and social anxiety resulting from the difficulties they have with communication and interpreting interactions.

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Keywords

Gender, Learning disabilities, Sexuality

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