Disability and sexuality, part 1

I was on a train about a year ago, the first time I’d been on a train in my wheelchair. I was sat in the wheelchair section along with some guys off to a football match. It was ten in the morning and they’d been drinking. And were talkative. I ended up left alone (as far as I was aware – it turned out there was a women round the corner listening to this who only spoke up once they’d got off the train…) with them for the 22 minutes between York and Leeds. And they were awful. They completely invaded my space, leaning on my chair and many other things which I’m not going to go through. But then, basically out of nowhere, one of them asked if I could have sex what with being in that thing, insert wild gesturing towards my chair. What the f***?

I’d “known” them about ten minutes and now they wanted diagrams about my sex life. And felt it was completely fine to ask for them. Not ok. Way way way not ok. But I was alone with them and had no idea how far they were travelling and I couldn’t move to another part of the train.

So I handled it in the only way I felt safe, with humour and changing the subject. Inside I was fuming and wanted to have it out with them about how inappropriate it was but I felt too vulnerable. If they’d turned nasty, I’d have been stuck. Indeed, when they left one of them hugged me and the other full on kissed my lips. Again, not ok.

But… and I am in no way excusing their behaviour, society paints people as asexual so when they were faced with a young woman in a chair I suspect they genuinely couldn’t put two and two together. I suspect they’d have hit on anyone who was female and near them on the train but it just so happened that it was me and my disability. And I think it threw them through a loop.

Which is why we need to talk about disability and sexuality.

So, can disabled people have sex?

Yes.

Wait, you want more than a one word answer? I think you’re probably wanting to ask how disabled people have sex then. And the answer is long. Probably infinite. Because, like with abled bodied people, everyone likes different things and is capable of different things. Indeed the sex that a disabled person has will probably vary depending on the partner, like with abled bodied sex…

But isn’t it a bit rubbish?

No. Again, everyone enjoys different things and are able to do different things.

I think it’s important to remember that we have mental disabilities, sensory disabilities and physical disabilities and obviously they will all have a different impact on sex. Often the difficulties people have in understanding how disabled people have sex is with regards to physical disabilities. Issues around learning disabilities tend to focus more on before sex, in particular around things like consent. And people seem to on the whole forget about mental illness when talking about how disabled people have sex… FYI, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses can impact on your sex life. Perhaps that’s a different blog post.

Go on then, how do you do it?

Firstly, what do you mean by sex? So many people are referring to penis in vagina penetration when they talk about sex. Which is so uncreative… I can’t have penetrative sex as I’ve discussed here previously but I still enjoy lots of other things. You just need to explore more, see what works for you and your partners. Kiss, cuddle, use sex toys, make use of the bed raiser, have strategically placed cushions…

And communicate. The odd grunt and groan here and there probably isn’t going to cut it – can you tell the difference between the “keep going that’s amazing you’re rocking my world” groan and the “shit, my hip just dislocated but I don’t want to say something and ruin the mood” groan? Make it sexy, make it dirty, make it intimate.

You might need to talk beforehand about some things – where are you in pain, where should I avoid touching you, what happens if…, is the bed or the floor or the bath best for you, how does your disability affect you when it comes to sex…

There might need to be another person involved for example to help you get undressed or to get you onto the bed etc.

And if things go off course, humour is helpful. Except if you’ve just accidentally knee-ed your male partner… Turns out that’s not so funny… Oops!

But other than that, it can be a lot like “normal” sex.

Sexuality and disability has information about sex with partners and masturbation including ideas for particular conditions etc. And talk to your professionals.  Some of them will be squeemish and not answer your questions or try and deter you from having sex but that’s their issue not yours.  Keep trying until you get the info you want.  Sexuality is part of who you are and a healthy sex life can be great for your overall wellbeing.  Plus, orgasms are apparently great for pain relief.

Have fun and stay safe!

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Personal strategies for living a good life

One of the last sections of my Future Learn course is around personal strategies for living a good life with an impairment.

“Because disability studies collects a huge range of impairments, each of which are experienced differently in everyday life and have different impairment effects, there is no end to the personal strategies people with impairments use to support a good life.”

That being said, it does suggest some examples; community, the spoon theory as a means of helping people understand and mindfulness.

I started to respond with my own personal strategies but ran out of space so I thought I’d carry on over here and invite your ideas and strategies as well.

Community

Online community is a huge way I cope with things. I blog and use twitter to “meet” other people with my condition which helps me feel understood as well as having people to offer helpful tips such as what bottle opener works best. These friends also understand the impact of society and it can be so helpful to know you aren’t alone in dealing with things such as access issues or abuse. Indeed, it helps me to realise that I am not the problem, if it’s happening to other people then it’s not about me personally. I could rationally reach that conclusion but the individualistic nature of western society can really make things feel personal.

Pacing

Pacing is one of my really important strategies. If you have chronic pain or fatigue, do look it up. It’s the idea of doing something for slightly less time then breaking then going back to it rather than doing a lot of something all at once and then paying for it.

Humour

Humour is essential. Admittedly, my humour tends to be dry, sarcastic and biting but there you go.  The first day I had care we got into a bit of a mess getting changed. It, like a lot of my life, is undignified and humour can make it easier to cope. It can still get me down of course, it just means I’m not always down about it.

Without a degree of humour, it’s hard to let someone else wash you intimately.  It can become tense and awkward if you let it.

Action for change

This is something mentioned by one of my fellow students.  Instead of coming up with personal strategies to navigate a world which isn’t designed for us, we should challenge that society.  And I think this is really important and there are lots of ways of doing it, from raising awareness by sharing your experiences to hanging off a bridge in your wheelchair.

A moan

It’s not a very fashionable thing but having a bit of a moan from time to time can help.  Don’t get stuck there but getting frustrations off your chest can be cathartic.  And can help with awareness raising!

Support groups

This should probably be included with community but there’s something more specific about a group of people who are experiencing the same things as you.  With that shared knowledge, you can problem solve, you can suggest ideas which have helped you, you become more aware of shared issues and can come up with ways to address them.

Netflix days

Sometimes, we need a down day.  And if that’s watching netflix in bed, do it.  I remember a conversation with a friend who has mental health issues where she was describing how helpful it can be to give yourself a day to indulge in things.  So long as you have a day or time in mind to force yourself back out of it.  My fear of giving in and not getting out of bed has long been that I’d just never get out again.  So this ensures that won’t happen (sort of) whilst giving you the crash time you might need.

Acceptance

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference

– Reinhold Niebuhr

I’m not religious or in AA but the sentiment expressed in the serenity prayer is one that I think is important when it comes to coping with long term illness and disability.  There are lots of frustrating things I can’t change – I can’t make myself better for example – and getting stuck in a place where I’m angry about it isn’t helpful (there’s a grieving process around coming to terms with acquired disability which is fine, but it’s not a place that’s nice to get stuck in).  It’s taken a long time but I feel I’ve mostly accepted my illness and that’s so much better for my mental health and wellbeing.  And then there are things I can (attempt to) change such as my old workplace being inaccessible.  And this is a much healthier way to use my frustrations and anger.

Creativity

Whether it’s a page in my art journal or a bit of work on a canvas, creating things helps me in many ways.  It’s a distraction from my pain, it gives me a sense of achievement, it’s a way of expressing myself and probably helps in other ways that I’m not really aware of.

image

***

What strategies do you have?

Disability and sexuality

edited to add links to blog posts

Woah.  So.  I had this idea for a blogpost about disability and sexuality, sparked by a blog I read and I’ve just covered a brief look at this in my future learn course.

Then I sat down and thought about it and was like where on earth do I start…

There are so many things to talk about:

And that was just a five minute throw stuff down on paper exercise…

This is clearly a HUGE issue and one which will not fit into one blog post… So.  I’m going to go away, do some reading and then come back with some more info and thoughts about some of these issues.

By the way, the Future Learn course I’m doing is great.  It’s called Disability and a Good Life; Thinking through Disability.

It’s been so much more interesting and in depth than I was expecting.  I’d kind of signed up to just see what it was like and throw in my experiences and opinions and partly to make sure that it wasn’t just lots of able bodied people talking about this unknown concept of a disabled person.  But I was so wrong.

We’ve covered so much; history of disability, disability around the world, who counts as disability, attitudes, intersectionality (which is where sexuality has come in) etc.  If they run it again, do it.  If not, they’re running a sister course in August called Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability.

The productivity myth

Every single moment of your life needs to be spent being “productive”.

Once again, I am so grateful for twitter. Without it, the only person of a similar age I’d know who isn’t actively seeking employment would be my sister. With twitter, I am in contact with a number of people of working age who are not able to work. And that is a powerful model in a society which tells us we have to be productive. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t internalised this message. Which isn’t surprising given how prolific it is.

Today I’ve received an email link to top productivity hacks, a twitter link to managing your business whilst working full time and numerous Pinterest pins about getting the most out of your day. And I’ve probably missed a few hundred similar articles. And it’s not just “making the most” out of your day. There are lots of people preaching about the value of getting up fifteen minutes earlier. And we’ve all come across the idea of stopping smoking as we sleep. Even at night, we are still required to be productive. Preferably you’re also multitasking so you’re being even more productive.  And when we’re not being productive, how many of you are feeling bad because you aren’t being productive?

You’re making jewellery in your spare time for pleasure? Well make that a legitimate way to spend your time and get selling it…

And when you’ve got to the end of doing all the things productively, you’d best be planning on using that hard earned time for more productive things.

And this is one of those occasions where I am thankful to my illness. I cannot be productive all the time and it’s so nice being off the treadmill. It took a long time before I could start to let go of the guilt – “I should be doing x… I need to do y… I’m useless…” – and this is still something I struggle with. But I now plan rest into my life as if I were planning an activity. If I’m doing something Monday, I need to to make Sunday and Tuesday more restful. In my case it’s essential but I think most people would benefit from looking at the balance in their lives.

Side note: I’d like to add that I am a huge fan of efficiency. Drives me up the wall when people do things in an inefficient way but efficiency isn’t the same as being productive. You can do loads of things quickly and be efficient but if you have an hour and you’re not working, well by gosh, you aren’t being productive.

When someone asks you what you’ve done with your weekend, do you freeze and say not much because what you’ve done doesn’t feel productive? Even if you really enjoyed your Netflix and takeaway.  I know I used to.

Sister to the productivity myth is the busy is better lie.

People wear their busyness as a badge of pride. “Oh I can’t stop, I’m back to back meetings… sorry I’ve not had chance to ring you, I’ve been super busy…” Being busy has become synonymous with being important.

And yes, we might get a lot done as we push through our busy lives… But we also get exhausted and irritable and snap at our partners, children, goldfish… And I suspect being constantly busy or feeling you should be probably feeds into mental health problems.

I know people who work ridiculously long hours and consequently never really see their families. I think working long hours can make us feel indispensable and that can be a really nice feeling so we do more.  Then people expect that as a minimum so you have to do a bit more… But, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, there are very few things in this life that can only be done by you. If you’re suddenly working 70 hours a week, chances are, your boss needs another member of staff… Someone else can do that. But it’s much harder for someone else to take your wife out for an anniversary meal or throw your friend the best birthday party or any of the things which fall by the wayside because you’re busy being busy.

This feels like an appropriate point to throw in some poetry:

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

By William Henry Davies

I’m not denying there are situations where working three jobs and barely sleeping is the only option. That in itself is a horrific state of affairs in this age.  This post is more aimed at people who have the luxury of earning enough to cover the rent and bills and food.

Being busy isn’t in itself bad, but being busy because it boosts your self worth, makes you feel important or because you feel you have to suggests to me that you need to think about it. And not being busy busy busy will give you time to do that.

End Note: You know how people say you teach or write what it is you need to know? Well, with the help of tarot, I realised I was writing this blog post about not having to be productive all the time at the same time as getting stressed out because I currently don’t have a purpose or way of contributing to the world… Yes ill health retirement is an extreme of not being productive all the time but it’s still OK. I’ve been productive for years. I will be productive in some way in the future. It’s OK that I’m not being very productive right now.

Taking up space*

The issue of taking up space is one that seems to come up time and time again in my life.  As a young child, I was quiet and well behaved and easy to miss.  As I got older, my depression convinced me that I was worthless, useless, a waste of space.  I withdrew, I would withhold opinions, I wouldn’t challenge things I knew were wrong.  I dumbed down my intelligence.  Older again, and this time it would be anorexia that would convince me I took up too much space.  I was literally too big.  I was metaphorically too big.  Fast forward again and this time the culprit is my disability.

Something happens when you start to use a wheelchair you take up more space literally and this isn’t always an easy thing to do.  In this society we are told that women should not take up space.  (If you’re a male wheelchair user, I’d love to have a chat about this with you, especially if you’ve not always used a wheelchair and can compare the difference.)

There’s no denying it. The chair takes up space. It doesn’t fit it a regular car, it doesn’t fit in some shops, in cafes people have to move for me. And all the time I’m apologising for it. I can’t reduce the size of my chair or the space I take up so instead I am constantly stuck in apology mode.

I’m so sorry that my existence is having some impact on you. I’m so sorry you’re having to adjust your path to get past me. I’m so sorry I’m trying to get a table in a restaurant and you’re having to move to accommodate me. I’m sorry I embarrassed you when you came out of the disabled toilet and got ‘caught’ by a disabled person**. I’m so sorry for existing as a disabled woman.

And yet I feel I can’t stop apologising. As a disabled woman my chance of having a crime committed against me is quite high. I’ve had people get annoyed (thankfully only in that British way of grumbling loudly to their friend so far) when I’ve not played the game and not apologised for the few seconds I inconvenienced them. I’ve had people grumble that I shouldn’t go into town on a weekend because it’s busy. I try to avoid this anyway as I hate crowds but that is my choice.

My wheelchair takes up space but I should still be able to go where I want when I want. Except again, this isn’t a reality. Because there are places where no amount of apologising will help me. I can apologise all I want but I’ll never get into the corner of the shop which is crammed full with displays in the aisles; “If you tell me what you want, I can get it”…”I’m sorry… I don’t know what I’m after…” and I leave.

 

With every half-finished sentence, every statement ended with a question mark, with every apology we offer to someone who has wronged us, minor or major, we deny ourselves, we deny our value.

With every tentative whispered proclamation, with every “I think…” when we know, we deny ourselves the space we are owed.

We are so socialised to believe we are not allowed space that we are complicit in our own erasure.

We make ourselves small so others are more comfortable. If I make myself small, people don’t have to face my disability and with it their own mortality, their own imperfect infallibility, the imperfection of me, the guilt I seem to impose on them. If I make myself small, they don’t have to face themselves, their lack of consideration when I turn up at the party and there’s a step into the house or the bathroom is upstairs.  “I didn’t think…” they mutter…as if I’m the one who should be embarrassed.

 

Every time I tell a shop that it’s ok when they don’t have a ramp, I’m letting them off.  I’m telling them that I’m not important and it’s ok that they aren’t accessible.  I’m giving them permission to reduce the amount of space I can take up.  Whether that’s in their shop or in their minds.

Every time you have to ask for the key to the disabled toilet or get a stranger to go into a shop to ask a member of staff to bring out a ramp or get told to go in the back entrance by the bins, you are told that you are not important.  You are not as valued or as worthy as other people.  You are told that you are a burden, a nuisance, an ‘other’. That you should not be there.

Letting yourself be who you are and owning that in a society which does all it can to prevent this is a powerful act.  Without it, the issues which make us feel unable to take up space will be perpetuated and will continue to reproduce.  We need to challenge the physical issues which keep us “in our place” but also the attitudinal issues.  Why should I apologise because you need to let go of your boyfriend’s hand in order to pass me on the pavement?  Why should I be embarrassed when I ask you to pull a chair in so I can get past?  All I have done “wrong” is to exist with a disability.  If you can’t deal with it, you should be the one apologising to me.

Taking up space is a truly political act.  When I was at my worst with anorexia, I had no capacity to question or object to the way society treats women, the patriarchy was having a great time. When I can’t access buildings or facilities because of my disability, I can’t easily or effectively object – I can’t physically get to the people I need to complain to.  I can’t make them see me.  They’ve engineered that well.  Preventing us from taking up the space we’re entitled to is a fantastic tool of an oppressor.  Let’s try and break that.

Take up your space and take it up proudly.  We are all human. We all deserve to take up space.

Check out Vanessa Kisuule’s “Take up space” for some excellent poetry about women and space.


 

*I’m going to use the word space a lot.  I mean literal space as in the physical footprint I have when I stand or sit or lie down.  I also mean audible space – the space that is inhabited by noise.  Like all ‘spaces’ there is a finite amount available. In this case, people who are shouting take up more of it.  Similarly, I might be referring to the space in societies’ consciousness.  Or the space for ideas and thoughts and opinions.  This idea of space as more than physical is talked about by Rosalind Jana.

**not all disabilities are visible but I’ve had a lot of cases of people who misuse disabled toilets, normally because they are getting changed or want a shit…

Does gender matter when it comes to mental health diagnoses?

The housekeeping…

Firstly a bit of housekeeping. I’m referring to gender here, not sex; gender includes the societal influences and roles we play rather than just pure biology.  i think this is vital in this discussion because whilst some mental illness is biological, down to genes etc, the environment around a person and their socialisation plays a huge part in causing mental ill health.

I’m focusing mostly on male and female here but am aware that not everyone fits into those gender boxes however, as these are what society predominately uses, it is a helpful way to think about it. Even if you are not male or female, the chances are you are perceived as one or the other which means you’re likely to be affected by the biases and stereotypes
related to that gender. I recognise that not fitting into the male/female boxes is likely to bring it’s own difficulties especially when it comes to engrained social biases and stereotypes. I think how gender affects mental health diagnoses when you’re not cisgendered (your gender matches the sex you were at birth) is probably a blog post on its own and is probably better written by someone with more experience. Similarly, your sexual orientation and how that plays with mental health diagnosis is also not something I’m going to cover right now but sounds interesting to look into (and I feel, as a bi woman, a bit more qualified to speak about that).

Within this discussion we need to remember the historical context in which gender and mental health sits. it would be a travesty to ignore or forget about the way women have been oppressed through the use of mental health diagnoses. a prominent example is the Victorian ‘mad woman in the attic’, a much critiqued view of mental illness.  There are many writers who unpick the use of diagnoses to oppress women who weren’t submissive and obedient. Its an interesting area to read about and there’s lots of blog posts, articles, books etc about it. Here however, I’m looking more at the point of diagnosis in the contemporary world, mostly focussed on the developed world or the global north.

Er, get to the point…

So, men and women can experience a vast array of mental health issues for which they may receive a diagnosis and treatment related to that diagnosis. Having had the issue of equality and mental health diagnosis come up a couple of times in conversation with friends, I wanted to look into it a bit more.

Is there a difference?

Overall, the rates of diagnosed mental illness in men and women is much the same (and is under diagnosed across the board), but disparity does arise when it comes to the rates of diagnosis.

Diagnoses of common mental disorders including depression and anxiety are made up of mostly women eg depression is twice as likely to be diagnosed for a woman than a man.  However when it comes to alcohol addiction in developed countries, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 12 women will receive this diagnosis at some point. Take another example; men are more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder than women.

Interestingly, according to the WHO, there is little gender difference for diagnosis rates of severe and rarer mental disorders such as schizophrenia.  I wonder if this is because they are rarer so have a less engrained stereotype?

So do men and women just have different mental health susceptibilities?

To answer this question, I think we need to start by mentioning that mental illness can be caused by a vast number of things including genetics, life experience, poverty etc.

The WHO states that gender specific risk factors include the nature of the stereotypical gender role, stressors and negative life events. We then have to consider that women are disproportionately affected by gender based violence, low status, economic disadvantage, responsibilities for the care of others etc.

Looking specifically at PTSD for example, because they are more likely to experience sexual violence, women are obviously more likely to have PTSD as a result of that violence. 1 in 3 women who have been raped develop PTSD instead of 1 in 20 when looking at non victims. And at least one in five women suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.

When it comes to the impact of other types of abuse, we know that women who experienced childhood sexual abuse or partner violence as an adult, rates of depression are 3 to 4 times higher than the rest of the population. I’m obviously not saying that men do not suffer abuse, of course they do, but the figures are much higher for women. Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%.

In terms of life events impacting on women and their mental health, an estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children.

Similarly, low status, low income and the burden of taking care of others can place a lot of stress on a woman and in turn result in associated mental illness; women make up around 70% of the world’s poor and are paid significantly less than men. This lack of resources results in higher stress and being less able to seek help, or seek the same quality of help, as men who are earning more, which in turn makes things worse. People with higher income or good health insurance are more likely to seek support and therefore . This lack of resources means that women can get trapped in difficult situations such as domestic abuse as they have limited means to get out and this will obviously have some impact on mental health.

OK, so men and women have different types of mental illness, fine.

No. Sorry, it’s not that simple.  Men and women may in general experience different types of mental illness.  But we don’t know that.  This is because of gender bias occurs in the treatment of mental illness. Even when presenting with the same score on a standardised test, women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. Remember above, we noted that women are more likely to have this type of diagnosis than men…

There is also a difference in presenting for help. Women are more likely to approach their primary carer, such as a GP whereas men are more likely to turn to a specialist and are the main users of inpatient care, again, potentially affecting diagnosis. If you turn up to a substance misuse centre you’re likely to end to with a related diagnosis. Turn up to your gp who hasn’t got much experience about these things and doesn’t ask you the right question, maybe you’ll get a different diagnosis.

Returning to alcohol, men are more likely to admit to having a problem with it than women, again providing a possible reason for the large gap in diagnosis rates between genders. It could also be related to men feeling unable, because of gender stereotypes, to get help for depression, anxiety etc and are self medicating with alcohol which in turn gets picked up as a diagnosis of alcoholism.

Gender stereotypes themselves can get in the way of a diagnosis as they reinforce emotional problems in women and alcohol problems in men. This can be a barrier to a correct diagnosis.

So, why does it matter?

Well, cynically, i think that more money would go into treating, preventing and researching the more common mental illness if they were more commonly diagnosed in men. yes, i’m a feminist so i’m going to say that but look at the differing attitudes between erectile dysfunction and pain women experience during sex. one has lots of money thrown at it, the other is barely acceptable to say.

A second reason why it matters is that it could help understand what causes, triggers or perpetuates mental health issues. if particular conditions are more common in women, can we unpick it further, is it biological or societal? can we do anything to prevent this, such as ensuring women have the opportunity to be economical independent or free from abuse? As with most of these things, prevention is vastly superior to cure.

Thirdly, if diagnoses are bias based on gender than there could well be lots of unsupported men and women who are struggling with their mental health because their support and treatment is wrong due to an incorrect diagnosis. Access to services might be formally or informally restricted because of gender – if alcoholism is seen as male illness it could put a woman off seeking treatment and support. There are numerous accounts of men who’ve tried to seek support for eating disorders and the walls they’ve come across and the stigma they’ve faced. Again, correct diagnosis may mean more men are diagnosed with an eating disorder which in turn would hopefully mean that more men feel able to seek support for it and in doing so, perhaps health practitioners would no longer think about gender at the point of diagnosis.

One commonly quoted stat is that men are more likely to die by suicide than women. What it misses out is that women are more likely to attempt suicide than men.  At the moment this means, in the UK, there is a lot of awareness raising going into supporting men who are suicidal. Which is great. However it seems to be at the expense of support for women. Perhaps diagnosis which wasn’t influenced by gender would help us to see the person in distress and help their actual needs rather than their perceived needs.


I’m fully aware I’ve not referenced things… However if you want to do some more reading and find out more for yourself, here’s a few links I found useful:

WHO
Guardian
Judith Trust

And for reading about whether men and women have different brains, check out Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender.  Well worth a read.

A weekend of documentaries

So it’s bank holiday weekend here in the UK. Traditionally a time for BBQs in the rain and DIY and fights about DIY.  However, always one to avoid the trends (and crowds), I have so far spent most of my bank holiday watching harrowing documentaries on Netflix.

Deliver us from evil-“this unsettling Oscar nominated documentary examines the life of pedophile Father Oliver O’Grady and exposes corruption inside the catholic church”.  The nature of the subject matter is always going to make this difficult documentary to get right.  And to watch.  I’m finding it hard to know what to say.  As a warning, a lot of film time was given to Father Oliver O’Grady and he didn’t, on the whole, come across as really understanding how wrong his actions were.

Louis Theroux-there are lots and lots of louis theroux documentaries on Netflix covering wider range of subjects.  If you’ve never seen any of his documentaries to check them out.

Addicted to sexting-I’m not really sure what I expected from this.  I think there is expecting a documentary aimed at teenagers probably about the dangers of sexting or at least some of the consequences and whilst it touched on that that wasn’t the intention of this documentary.  Definitely an interesting look into how people use technology and as with all technology it can be used healthily and unhealthily.  Which some couples using it as a means of flirtation and other the people becoming addicted.  Worth watching if only for the scene towards the end where people are asked to decode emoji messages…

Welcome to Leith-a more serious documentary, this looks at a small town in America with a tiny population which has the misfortune of becoming a target for white supremacists.  Their intent is to move into the town, take up most of the votes and essentially turn it into their own white supremacist community.  Not an easy watch, you probably find yourself getting angry but I found it quite illuminating.  Not knowing any white supremacists, it can be good to remind yourself from time to time that such hateful opinions exist.

Bridegroom-this is a harrowing look at the limitations put on same sex couples in America, specifically around rights during ill health and death.  I’m not one prone for tears but I cried a lot.  There’s not much more to say, the strength of this documentary is in the way it portrays the couple at the centre.

1971-one for conspiracy theorists!  A group of activists stole a number of documents from the FBI and this documentary looks back on the motives and repercussions of this.

The case against eight-another documentary with strong characters and one which will probably bring some tears to your eyes.  For those of you who don’t know, proposition eight, was a piece of legislation in California that took away the right for same sex couples to marry.  A team consisting of conservative and democratic lawyers, two lesbians and two gay men challenged proposition eight.  Their four year journey is charted in this documentary resulting in a groundbreaking decision that will hopefully affect the lives of many gay and bisexual people in America.

A girl like her-firstly I just want to say this is a mock documentary.  I wasn’t sure until I got to the end whether it was real or not and I really do think I needed to know that first.  This film looks at the impact of high school bullying from both the point of view of the victim and the perpetrator.  I believe the idea is that schools in America will be able to show this to their pupils and I believe that some material which goes with it to help form lesson plans.  Just as a warning, this film does look at suicide.

The hunting ground-and one of my final documentaries in this cheery bank holiday list, is about sexual assault and rape at university campuses in America and how the establishments themselves are complicit in the cover-up.  Primarily this film follows two activists, both survivors, to start to realise the size of the problem and the lack of support from the universities themselves.  The statistics and the stories really bring home the size of the problem and I guarantee that you will be shocked by the treatment that victims receive.

I really wouldn’t suggest that you watch all of these at once.  You will probably end up feeling very bleak.  However, that being said, I really would encourage anybody with a Netflix account to take advantage of the opportunity and watch some of the extensive range of documentaries.