Mental capacity can have a direct influence on sexual development, sexual experience, sexual expression and sexual health, however it should be remembered that under the Mental Capacity Act all individuals should be treated as being able to make their own decisions until it is shown that they are not able to do so.
Having said that, the Sexual Offences Act states that a person can only consent to sexual relations if they have the mental capacity to make that choice and that they only have the capacity if they understand the nature of the act and the reasonably foreseeable consequences.
Therefore it is essential that support workers and other health and social care professionals provide individuals with the education and information they need to make informed decisions. This can include topics such as sex education, an openness to talking frankly about sexual subjects and the importance of protection.
Mental capacity can influence sexual development if an individual can not understand sexually mature behaviours and attitudes. It can affect sexual experience if an individual is unable to comprehend the possible after-effects of unprotected sex. It can affect sexual expression if the individual can not understand what is socially acceptable. And it can affect sexual health if an individual is unable to understand the health risks of sexual intercourse.
However, in all these cases, mental capacity should not be confused with a lack of education.