For disabled bodies even more so as it creates

For this
assignment I chose to read an article from our eleventh week called Wait,
What?! Society’s Misconceptions about Sex and Disability. In this article the author’s purpose is
to, in their words, “get people thinking about how to raise awareness in
regards to these misconceptions” QUOTE
of disabled bodies and sex. In an effort to do so, the author goes through a
number of common misconceptions that most people have about disabled people and
sexuality/sex such as: disabled people being asexual or just not having sex,
thinking that a disabled body “doesn’t work right”, assuming that wheelchairs
and other such devices have any bearing on a person’s sexuality, a woman’s
ability to conceive/carry/give birth is determined by her wheelchair, if a
person’s disability is not visible then it must not affect their sex life, and
in terms of cognitive disabilities there is the common assumption that “individuals
with sever conditions don’t have sex because it’s too hard for them to
understand what sex is or how it works” QUOTE.

 

After each misconception listed, the
author discusses why they are just that – misconceptions. In a
non-condescending and slightly humorous manner, the author explains how these
beliefs are false and provides a real, more informed response to them. A quote
from the article that I found to be not only particularly amusing but equally
accurate was “I, personally, was unaware that my wheelchair itself had any
connection to my vagina, or that wheelchairs are some sort of orgasm blocking
device” QUOTE. While remaining informative,
the author makes a witty jab at the notion that an individual’s use of a
wheelchair might keep them from not only having but wanting sex altogether.

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The author makes very good points about
the assumptions we make and the misconceptions we have of disabled bodies and
sex. Their argument that most people cannot seem to look past the physical
aspect is quite true and I believe that this promotes the false notion that
people with disabilities are not sexually attractive or that they are, in some
sense, oversexualized – that is to say that they are seen as “childlike” in a
way, not meant to be sexual.

 

In the beginning of the article when the
author states that “the biggest and most widely accepted misconception is that
disabled people are asexual” QUOTE,
they note that people’s first thought is “who has sex with a disabled person?”
QUOTE. In my opinion, I think that
many people believe that only a
person with a disability would want to have sex with another person with a disability
and that otherwise they (disabled people) would have to pay for sex. I think
that this uninformed way of thinking is very damaging and creates negative
misapprehensions about disabled bodies even more so as it creates almost a
sense of pity that the only “normal” sex that they could have is sex that they
have to pay for because the assumption is either “who has sex with a disabled
person?” QUOTE or only disabled
people can have sex with each other.

 

The idea that disabled bodies are not
sexually attractive really begs the question: “who is sexy?”. What is
considered as sexual and sexually desirable and who makes that decision? Are
the people that society considers “beautiful” really more attractive than those
who are not? Attraction is based on the individual and it is the result of
various factors including personality, looks, timing, sexual fantasies, etc.

However, living in a society where people with disabilities (PWD) are severely underrepresented
in the media and the only image of beauty we see is the tall and thin abled
body, it can be difficult to start thinking of disabled bodies – bodies that
clearly do not fit into that category – as “beautiful”. In the absence of
representation, the message that is conveyed, purposely or not, is that disability
cannot be beautiful. The fashion world and the beauty world, when combined
produce Instagram, are where we look to see the heightened, idealized versions
of ourselves that help shape our own style which is critical to personal identity.

Attraction, more than anything, is a connection between two people, and imposed
beauty standards may have nothing at all to do with it.

 

Despite this, there are people that think
that only PWD can/want to have sex with other PWD however that is not the case.

While some of them might due to their common experiences and understanding of
each other’s life experiences, that is not always the case and for the most
part, disabled people do not care. When we think of needs we tend to think of
them on a more basic and fundamental level such as eating, bathing, sleeping,
etc. than other needs such as communication with others, sexual desires,
intellectual development, etc. This divide is wider in the case of PWD. If a
PWD needs help to have their basic needs fulfilled, then their ‘other’ needs are
consequently seen as irrelevant.

 

People make curiously narrow assumptions
when it comes to disabled people’s sexuality – or lack thereof as it is more
commonly perceived. Consciously or not, it seems that our airbrushed society wants to assume that only
the abled body should be getting laid. The general, and rather ignorant, view
is that disabled people do not have sex, or if they do it is with another
disabled person. As with old people and the under aged people, we prefer to
believe that they are safely tucked up in bed alone and not sexually active in
the least.

 

I, myself, have not had a personal dating
experience with a disabled person. However, last year I was enrolled in
Professor Bobby Noble’s Intro to Sexuality Studies course and for one of our assignments
we had to go visit a feminist sex shop in Toronto called Good For Her. I decided to go with a friend of mine and the entire
time that we were there, the employee was very helpful and answered all of the
questions I had about the products they were selling. Feminist
sex store owners see themselves as part of a larger movement to create a safe
space for education and enhancing sexual potentials and Good For Her was no
exception. This concept was reflected in some of the items they sold including
a type of pillow called the “Wedge/Ramp Combo”. While it didn’t seem to be
advertised in any specific way, when I asked the staff member why someone may
be interested in purchasing it she explained that it would be good for people
with limited mobility. Although the store was not wheelchair accessible, they
also sold something called a “Door Jam Sex Sling that the staff member also
described as useful to people with limited mobility.

 

Prior
to this experience, I had not given a lot of thought  to how those with accessibility issues may
seek pleasure. The experience was eye opening as I gained a greater
appreciation for what is available regardless of preference. As humans, we all
have our own preferences on who and what we like and better understanding that,
 especially so
able-bodied folks can check their ableism regarding what they find
un/attractive, helps to promote healthy sexual appetites and remove
shame and negative stigma.