Do you guys remember that movie called Benny & Joon, starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson (plus Aidan Quinn, Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt, and William H. Macy but really who cares about the other people because it has Johnny *swoon* in it. I really only watch stuff that has Johnny in it because it has Johnny in it)? It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, and I quote lines from it a lot–my favorite being “having a Boo Radley moment, are we?”
Hahahahahahaha! It gets me every time. My entire life is a Boo Radley moment, I swear.
I even named my kittens Benny and Joon because I got them just after the film came out. (I know it’s weird, but fuck off. They’re cute names.)
Anyway, the movie, in case you’ve never seen it, is about a mentally disabled woman, Joon, living in the care of her brother, Benny. One evening Benny loses a poker game and winds up having to take care of his poker buddy’s super- weird but not totally nuts cousin, Sam, who is played by the Deppster. I don’t know exactly what Joon suffers from, but it might be something like Asperger’s. Sam is just kind of quiet and uneducated although very smart. Sam and Joon are immediately drawn to one another and begin a secret romance. Benny eventually finds out and rails against Sam for taking advantage of his sister when really, Sam just understands and appreciates her multitudinous quirks since he has quite a few of his own. Problems arise when Joon decides she wants to live a more normal life with Sam, and Benny struggles to protect her from the real world which she has been totally unable to deal with.
I’m not gonna tell you how it ends in case you want to see it.
What’s interesting about the movie is that it raises some important issues about the disabled and their perfectly natural desire for sex and romantic love despite whatever challenges they may have.
I remember when my grandmother was in a nursing home in the Alzheimer’s unit. It was severely frowned upon for the patients to have romantic contact with one another, even though they so clearly wanted it. They separated my grandmother from her boyfriend which I thought was kinda mean. WHY CAN’T MY CRAZY GRAMMA HAVE A FUCK BUDDY? What’s she gonna get, pregnant? Crabs? Her maidenhood stolen?
Like two star-crossed lovers, somehow they kept finding each other and going for a roll in the hay, despite the staff’s best attempts. She didn’t recognize her own children, but this last love interest in her life brought her happiness in that awful haze of dementia. From the looks of it, a LOT of happiness.
Would it have killed the staff to turn the other cheek? Slip ’em a bottle of astroglide now and then?
Why is love and sex for the disabled such a taboo subject? Why do people get the heebies when they even think about it?
Are they not human? Do they not need physical, sexual contact just like everyone else?
I believe they have a right to their own sexuality–it’s cruel to deny anyone their fundamental and natural urge to procreate or share physical love. Yet, we don’t educate them the same, and that tends to make them particularly vulnerable to sexual health risks, unintended pregnancy, and sexual exploitation.
How sad is that?
In the UK, there’s a controversial new social policy document called Putting People First: Transforming Adult Social Care that provides funding to help meet the disabled person’s needs, whatever they may be.
Including visits to a prostitute.
And folks over there are getting their knickers all twisted up in knots because they don’t want to pay taxes for a mentally challenged guy to get laid by a Dutch hooker, and I kinda see their point.
I don’t think I’d be too thrilled about it either. I mean, yes. Love and sex are basic human urges and everyone has the right to be a part of such things, but hey–some people NEVER find that. There’s no social program to help the rest of us get lucky, so why should the government (or in reality, the taxpaying populace) help the mentally disabled in this way? Aren’t there some people who, through no fault of their own, are just physically and socially repulsive? Are we going to send them to the whorehouse with a stack of Benjamins too? (Of course in the UK it wouldn’t be Benjamins, now would it? What’s the slang for money in Britain? I have no idea. A stack of Elizabeths?)
I just have trouble drawing a line for where to stop the “assistance” because there’s plenty of us fully functional folks out here who are struggling too. For example, I can’t do math for shit, but nobody has offered to get me a mathematician for me to have my way with for a few hours: balance the checkbook, do the taxes, show me his slide rule…
And please don’t get me wrong, Toy with Mes. I think it’s a lovely thought and in a perfect world, everyone would get help with their problems, but the fact is that life sucks and it sucks for everyone in some way. We can’t fix it all. There must be a better way to help these folks fulfill this basic need without the government sponsoring it. Maybe they can have some sex ed classes and the people who graduate get some birth control and go to a mixer or a special singles club and find a mate that way. There may even be a chance at a Benny & Joon love affair instead of an emotionless encounter with a hooker. That just seems like it might do more damage than good.
I’m just thinking out loud here, you guys… I don’t claim to know anything about social policy or dealing with disabled people. In fact, I’m a little anxious around them because I’m so scared I’ll say or do something accidentally offensive and I don’t want to be that asshole.
I thought it would be an interesting thing to bring up to you Toy with Mes. You always have such great perspectives on stuff (plus you’re hot and I love it when you sip your coffee that way). Do you guys get the heebies when you think about disabled people doing Sexy Time? Do you think the British government should be sponsoring visits to Amsterdam brothels? Do you think they should at least take them to British brothels and help the local/national economy? Where do you draw the line?