Penile hygiene: puberty, paraphimosis and personal care for men and boys with an intellectual disability

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Supporting men and boys with an intellectual disability (ID) to meet their penile hygiene needs is perhaps one of the least acknowledged but most confronting issues facing care staff. The delivery of intimate hygiene can be a challenging topic particularly as it has been drawn into the emerging sexuality discourse and the ongoing abuse narrative. Compounding this challenge is the lack of guidance in intimate care for support staff. In addition, whereas the male with an ID outnumber the female, female care staff greatly outnumber male staff. Whether this situation affects outcomes for men and boys with an ID is unknown but it is an issue which should be examined. This paper reports data from two separate studies, one quantitative the other qualitative, which sought to explore penile hygiene as a male health issue. Results show the practice of care staff to be inconsistent, the views and values of care staff to be divergent. Some patterns and contextual differences were identified depending upon the gender of care staff. An emerging dialogue described some of the positive contributions that male staff make to men and boys with an ID. The penile health needs of men and boys with an ID are being compromised by a lack of guidance, training, knowledge and limited gender-sensitive care.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-114
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2009


  • sexual health, men's health, penile hygiene, foreskin, intellectual disability