Too Dumb to Have Sex?

A British man with a I.Q. of 48 and a “moderate learning disability” has been banned from having sex by a High Court judge, who cited the man’s inability to understand what he was doing.

The 41-year-old man, Alan, was presented to the court as a social and able man, but one “seriously challenged in all aspects of mental functionality.” He was also accused of making lewd gestures toward children at a dentist’s office and on a bus. Alan lives in a a home provided by his local council, where he developed a sexual relationship with another man, known as Kieron.

From there, the local town hall began court proceedings to limit Alan’s contact with Kieron, citing his lack of full mental capacity. The controversial Court of Protection is able to hear and rule on such a case because of the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, which states,

Judges have the power to make life-or-death decisions for people deemed to lack the intelligence to make them for themselves—such as ordering that they undergo surgery, have forced abortions, have life support switched off, or be forced to use contraception.

Alan told officials that “it would make me feel happy” for his relationship with Kieron to continue. A psychiatrist told the court that Alan “believed that babies were delivered by a stork or found under a bush,” and that “sex could give you spots or measles.”

The judge, Justice Motsyn, acknowledged the thin line that the case was straddling, but he ruled that Alan should not be able to have sex until he fully understands the possible consequences:

Mr. Justice Mostyn said the case was “legally, intellectually, and morally” complex as sex is “one of the most basic human functions” and the court must “tread especially carefully” when the state tries to curtail it.

But he agreed that the man, known only as Alan, should not be allowed to have sex with anyone on the grounds that he did not have the mental capacity to understand the health risks associated with his actions.

Justice Motsyn ruled that Alan is now subject to “close supervision” by the local authority that provides his housing to prevent further sexual activity. However, he has ordered the council to provide him with proper sex education “in the hope that he thereby gains that capacity.”

When a judge is coming out and directly acknowledging that a case is raising questions of “civil liberties and personal autonomy,” you know it’s a murky situation. They’re not saying the man did anything wrong. They’re really just trying to protect him. And you’d assume more analysis went into this decision than the story shows, but—regardless of what the legal statutes are–it’s still such a gray decision. Is it legally, intellectually, and morally just to prevent an adult, albeit a mentally deficient one, from having sex?

What do you guys think? Should a judge be making a ruling like this? Or should Alan be allowed to have sex, despite his mental deficiencies? We want to hear from you.

—Photo coolperson851/Photobucket


About Ryan O'Hanlon

Ryan O'Hanlon is the managing editor of the Good Men Project. He used to play soccer and go to college. He's still trying to get over it. You can follow him on Twitter @rwohan.


  1. Oh god – your language! “Too dumb…” The reporting on this case has been really bothersome. Lots of people apparently appalled by the decision but using really unhelpful and demeaning language.

    The man can’t give informed consent. What’s grey about that? I work with survivors of sexual abuse who have learning disabilities and assess capacity on a number of issues, and I hope there is no confusion here that the fact that something ‘feels nice down there’ does not consent make.

    The mental capacity act was an extremely liberating piece of legislature in that it established capacity to consent was context or decision specific, can change over time, was not based on IQ itself, and said we should assume consent unless there are reasons not to believe the person can’t consent.

    After some sex education Alan may be fully able to give informed consent and return to his relationship. It’s not his ‘mental deficiencies’ as you call it which are the problem, it’s his informed consent deficiencies.

  2. about 30-40 relaxed sexual xperiences, should bring him to the real world faster.

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