Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 209–225 | Cite as

“I Want to Do it Right!” A Pilot Study of Swedish Sex Education and Young People with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Lotta Löfgren-MårtensonEmail author
Original Paper


In Sweden sex education has been compulsory since 1955. However, access to sex education seems to be insufficient in schools with special education programs. Concerns about unwanted pregnancies, sexual abuse and sexual risk situations make personnel insecure about how to best deal with the subject. A largely heteronormative perspective of sex education renders young gay people with ID an invisible group. Stereotyped gender norms where girls are supposed to be oriented towards love and relationships and boys towards sexuality make it more difficult for young people with ID to find a more subtle way to act. The aim of this study is to strengthen sexual health among young people with ID, and to develop a knowledge base culled from their own experiences that can help teachers in special schools to supply sufficient sex education. What are the experiences of sex education in young people with ID aged 16–21? In what way, and by whom, should sex education be supplied? What themes do the young people with ID consider important? Qualitative research interviews with 16 young females (9) and males (7) with ID aged 16–21 years have been conducted. Guiding the analyses is an interactionist perspective on sexuality. Results show that a restrictive script is geared toward informants with ID, focusing on sexual risks instead of challenging a discourse of pleasure, desire and intimacy. The study also shows that using critical pedagogy can help personnel develop a professional and adequate teaching model for sex education at schools for adolescents with ID.


Sex education Intellectual disability Special schools Norm critical pedagogy Sweden 



The pilot study was funded by Forskningsplattformen, Handikappvetenskap inriktning habilitering [Research Platform—Disability Research focusing habilitation], Sweden. The Plat form consists of a partnership between Region Skåne, Lund University, Malmö University and the Center for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (HAREC) to promote practice-oriented interdisciplinary research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Professional StudiesMalmö UniversityMalmöSweden

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