Stuff Mom Never Told You: Disabled Sexuality

The podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You, is one of the most comprehensive podcasts on intersectional feminist and gender/sexuality studies available. In the episode entitled, Disabled Sexuality, hosts Cristen and Caroline explore the varied difficulties and barriers which people who have disabilities face in expressing or being sexual. The concept does not seem very hard to comprehend: people with disabilities are just like everyone else who has sexual desires, but their ability to express those desires often encounters distinct challenges, whether stemming from their physical disabilities themselves, or from sociopolitical opposition.

A common problem faced by many in the disabled community is the de-sexualization of persons with disabilities. Stemming from hegemonic ableist concepts, the loss of perceived sexuality for people who have disabilities is connected to other ideas, like the perceived loss of masculinity or femininity, or a general paternalistic tendency directed at those with disabilities. As disability researcher, Shanaaz Majiet notes, “the portrayal of disabled women – be it in literature or people’s prejudices – often depicts ‘the passive’, subjugated woman who is submissive and asexual” (77). These tendencies reveal larger sociopolitical forces which work to repress disabled sexuality specifically. The common conception of people with disabilities as being either impotent, perverse, or otherwise sexually deviant, because of their disability, is problematic to say the least.

The social erasure of disability and the general desire by many to make disability less visible, and to all but eliminate disabled sexuality, play crucial points in the history of disability and sexuality. The othering of people with disabilities lends to perception of them being innately asexual and, potentially, unattractive. In order to combat the problems associated with othering and the de-sexualiztion of people with disabilities, there must be an effort to normalize and destigmatize disability and sexuality, and, especially the intersection of the two.

 

Shanaaz Majiet. “Sexuality and Disability.” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, no. 28, 1996, pp. 77–80., http://www.jstor.org/stable/4065761.

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