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Ajutila exhibition, from photographer Hormoz. Anne Bernas / RFI

Being disabled does not mean you can not love. However, to mention "handicap", "love" and "sexuality" remains difficult in France, as well on the part of the persons concerned as of the others. Why and how to fix it?

Only a wheelchair at the foot of the bed recalls the reality. Naked, entwined, the beauty of images takes over all other physical signs. The visitor wonders at first sight who the couple is the disabled person.

Cindy agreed to pose naked for the photographer Hormoz . She has been paraplegic since birth. It is this young woman of 37 years who proposed to the artist to make this series of clichés on the sexuality and the handicap, knowing that Hormoz had already realized photos on people with reduced mobility (PRM). " I wanted to talk about the emotional life in the disabled, because the subject is taboo , she says. People would have to get used to seeing naked bodies, imperfect bodies. "

Evoking disability and sexuality is a sensitive topic. There is one undeniable commonality between the disabled and the disabled: the desire and the need to love and be loved in any way.

Consider the person as a whole

Yet the most absurd clichés circulate in opinion. "A disabled person has no sexuality except masturbation", "he can not have children", "can he fall in love? Does he only know how to love? », Etc.

The exhibition is aptly titled Ajutila, "free" in a Malian dialect - tribute to the Malian origin of Cindy. Because prejudices persist wrongly. Whose fault is it ? Information that does not circulate, the insufficient training of professionals, but also the difficulty of exercising rights, even if " we talk about it more than before, through training courses, conferences, etc. "Tempers François Crochon, clinical sexologist and president of CeRHes, the Disability and Sexual Resources Resource Center.

" It's a shame that we do not consider the person as a whole, continues François Crochon. If we spoke more easily about sexuality in education, we might have less violence, fewer sexual dysfunctions, fewer troubles too. Sexuality is one element among many that is essential to overall health and it is important to integrate it rather than prescribe antidepressants or anxiolytics for a variety of ailments that are sometimes due to sexual dysfunction. . "

Difficulties to love

" Sexuality is important for everyone, but it's not easy for anyone, " wrote famed psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto. And more than ever for the motor impaired who would be more than 3 million in France according to a study of the Ministry of Labor in 2015, including 880 000 wheelchair.

Sex has always been an important thing in his "life before". Now, how to do, how to have an erection, an orgasm, questioned Maxence, paraplegic since April 2018 following a ski accident. Very quickly, the subject of his sexuality worried him, he consulted a sexologist in a personal capacity to have information on the procreation, because the center where it is does not have any.

" We are supervised for many things in reeducation, but the sexual domain is minimized, even evicted. In each rehabilitation center, there is a physiotherapist, a physical activity teacher, an occupational therapist, a psychologist, but there is no sexologist. While we ask a lot of questions about it, "says the 35-year-old musician.

However, all institutions that receive people with disabilities are obliged to provide sex education. " We can talk about sexuality in homes, explains Cindy, but we can only talk about it, we can only make us want, but it is almost impossible to act. "

Although it is extremely difficult to have sex, Maxence says that he has had a love affair with another paraplegic from his center. " It was forbidden, for hygienic reasons, but we did it anyway. But sometimes, before it was common knowledge, I got up discreetly in the night, around 4am, to get back to my room, he remembers, before the morning staff turnover. "

The right to privacy, to privacy, to have appropriate sex education are all rights that vulnerable people have, reaffirmed in 2002 and 2005 in the context of the "disability law". In addition, the 2006 UN Convention reaffirms the need to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities without discrimination. Few resources are available to them to enjoy this right to sexuality, associations are mobilized to offer them this pleasure.

Controversy around sexual companions

" We people with reduced mobility are the smallest minority in France, " explains Maxence. The most vulnerable people need help to access love and sexuality, to build a sexual identity to meet partners, to be able to have children if they wish.

" We have the role of the hero and the weak. We are seen as courageous people, says Cindy pertinently, and at the same time, since we can not do certain things, we are taken for weak by the valid ones. While these also sometimes need help, physically and psychologically. The only difference is that we do not see it anymore "

If sex workers are present in many countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, they are officially banned in France. Prostitution is free, but clients have been penalized since 2016. The right to sexuality for all opposes a refusal of the commodification of sexual intercourse and the legalization of a form of prostitution.

The Association for the Promotion of Sexual Support (APPAS) is thus considered a pimp. A paradox since it is well established. A hypocrisy she denounces. " The recognition of sexual support leads to the legalization of prostitution," says Marcel Nuss, a member of the association based in Bas-Rhin, but if the accompaniment was free, it would not pose any problem. And to add bluntly: " A person who accompanies voluntarily is a woman, or a man; but a person who is paid to help is a whore. "

Too many requests to satisfy everyone

In the meantime, the APPAS works without any problem, despite the absence of subsidies. Since 2013, she has been campaigning for support for the emotional, sensual and / or sexual life of people with disabilities. It trains volunteers (including health staff, people with disabilities themselves, etc.) to provide this support, since 2015.

" We trained 70 people in four years, including about thirty in operation," explains Marcel Nuss. And we have so far registered 2,500 requests for help from customers with disabilities. From 18 to over 80, men are the main claimants, with women representing only 7 to 10 percent of clients. " An accompaniment lasts at least an hour and a half, he continues, there is a lot of listening time, always with a prior meeting when a person is new. "

Altruism or lure of profit, the accompanying persons are, unanimously testimonials, a considerable emotional and sexual aid for the handicapped persons. " I've been a long time against that," concedes Cindy. Because for me it was a trained person. In fact, I realized that companions could bring us a lot. It should be a law, since it is already practiced in France, it is a secret of Polichinelle. "

" The sexual accompaniment is one answer among others, which is done according to free choice, " says Dr. Crochon. And to explain that accompaniment also means in some cases to play the role of help during a sexual relationship in a quadriplegic couple.

In a modern hyper sexualized society where sexual freedom has become possible at the cost of decades of struggle, the disabled remain marginalized. " Sex is ubiquitous in our society, analyzes the clinical sexologist, but talking about it remains taboo ."

A taboo that Cindy wants to break through the exhibition. " We had very nice comments on the photos, " she says, " it gives hope that sexuality among the disabled is becoming commonplace. Because talking about it is already an important step. "

Ajutila exhibition, from photographer Hormoz. Anne Bernas / RFI

The Ajutila exhibition will be visible at the Departmental Days of the CDCESS (Departmental Coordinating Committee for Health and Sexuality Education) in Essonne, then at Namur Town Hall in Belgium in December.