Sex And Disabilities: Followup

Well, here it is. Laci Green and her friend Olivia discuss Sex and Disabilities.

My first reaction? Big thumbs up. I am so impressed with how much diverse ground they cover. I especially appreciated Olivia admitting that she’s less able to talk about sex and people with intellectual disabilities, since that kind of disability isn’t her personal experience. That said, I think she was probably right to say that the main issue is consent, and then Laci suggested that it would depend on the individual … which is probably always a safe answer when it comes to sex in any situation. I will be curious to see what others with disabilities think of this video. It was way more specific than most of what I have seen and heard on the subject. Most commentary doesn’t go beyond just saying, kind of annoyed, “Of course we can have sex!”

More like this please!

Sex And Disability

Two young women smiling and facing the camera. Left has long, wavy blonde hair, wears glasses, and is somewhat crouched down. Right has medium blonde hair with pink highlights, glasses, and is sitting in a power wheelchair
From the Sex + Tumblr blog, via Sunshine, Been Keeping Me Up For Days.

The photo caught my eye, but this isn't really a photo post. The young woman on the left is Laci Green, who has a really well put together YouTube Channel called Sex + a frank video series about sexuality with Laci Green, where she gives information and advice on sex and sexuality. She apparently is working with her friend on the right on a video segment of her show on sex and disability. I like that they’re asking for people with disabilities to send them questions.

I also liked one of the topic tags on the post where I found this … that says: HOPING THIS WILL BE GOOD AND NOT TERRIBLE.

I think I know what she means. It could be really amazing, or it could be cringe-worthy. I went to Laci Green’s YouTube Channel and watched some of the videos. They are very frank, very “sex-positive”, and as far as I can tell, very responsible and accurate. The key to making this all appealing is probably her fun, feisty tone.

So, I’m optimistic. The only possible drawbacks I can imagine finding in her sex and disability video are:

1. If it is so pitched to young people that oldsters like me might find it alienating, and

2. If it is so pitched to women alone that guys like me might feel left out of the discussion.

I would have no objection to either of these if that is the usual nature of this channel. And I’m sure I’ll learn something interesting no matter what. But it would be really great if the video includes a hetrosexual male perspective … really all gender and sexuality perspectives … and maybe has a word or two for older folks with disabilities on returning to a sex life, or perhaps beginning a long delayed sex life.

Yes, one could make a whole blog about sex and disability, and not run out of topics for years.

Disability And Hotness

Smart Ass Cripple - December 30, 2013

I’ll be honest. At first I didn’t understand what Smart Ass Cripple was getting at with this one. I’m not 100% sure I fully get it now. But this quote I think captures the main idea, and it’s a doozy:
"It says that even if you’re crippled you still have a lot to look forward to, if you’re hot. Yes, plenty of opportunity still awaits you if you have gumption and a can-do spirit and you’re hot.”
I’ve been getting more and more interested in the body image aspects of disability lately, what with the Mannequins video making me cry, and Tumblr sites like Disabled People Are Sexy. I think there’s a lot to think about here, and I love to see people exploring ways that everyone can be beautiful. However, I don’t think we’ve come all that far, really, from conventional standards of beauty. And I do think that people with disabilities who are also conventionally attractive have a markedly different experience of disability from those of us who are not. I won’t say markedly better, because there are so many other variables that affect each person. But if nothing else, conventional attractiveness seems to make it a lot easier for non-disabled people to relate to people in wheelchairs, people with prosthetics, people who use crutches, or who have other noticeable disabilities.

I’m not at all sure what this means, or what it should lead us to do, but I think it’s true.

I Can Stop Blogging Now, It's Been Done Perfectly

Stella Young, Letters To Thrive - October 4, 2013

I just read this “Letters To Thrive” contribution by the Editor of Ramp Up, a disability website affiliated with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It was posted earlier this month, and has been reblogged many times, so I’m sure tons of people have already read it. But everyone needs to read the letter, so I am posting a link to it here. I want people with disabilities, young and old, male and female to read it. I want parents of kids with disabilities to read it. I want teachers and counselors and disability service providers to read it. And it couldn't hurt for everyone else in the world to read it, too.

A lot of it is about sex and relationships, but it’s about so much more than that, too. If aliens landed and destroyed all disability-related writings except this one, I think we’d still be in pretty good shape. I really almost feel like I can stop blogging now, because this says it all.

The Pros and Cons of Sexy Photos

This blog is pretty weak on photographs. That's partly because I'm a terrible photographer, and partly because I haven't completely figured out the legal and ethical issues involved in reposting interesting photos I see on other disability-related websites. Do I need permission to post them on my blog or website? Permission from whom? What if I provide a link back to the source, is that enough?

Still, just seeing the amazing photos other peoples' blogs and websites is part of what got me excited about disability art and expression again, after a long period of feeling stagnant about them.

For example, there's the Tumblr blog, Disabled People Are Sexy. It's worth a look.

What I like about these photos is that they call up lots of strong emotions in me … a wide variety of feelings, but none of them anything close to pity, revulsion, or depression.

Of course, sexy pictures of people with disabilities may simply objectify and marginalize in their own way, just as pictures of pitiful children in braces did back in the days of Polio, and toddlers with leukemia do today on Facebook. The difference, I think is that it seems at least like the people in the "Disabled People Are Sexy" photos want to be photographed, want to be seen. Being in these photo shoots seems to be liberating for them, not humiliating. Hard to say though. It's probably a good idea to keep an open mind in every way with these pictures.

To that end, I also recommend reading a reply by the blogger to a negative comment:

AmputeeOT Followup: "Devotees"

One of AputeeOT's videos is about "Devotees", people who are sexually attracted specifically to people with disabilities.

I had heard before of the fact that there are people who are attracted to people with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, but I didn't know there was a term for it, or that it was any kind of recognized subculture. My first reaction was that it's more like a "fetish", and therefore mostly a negative thing, at least from my point of view. I still feel that any such attraction worthy of a name is probably more of a fetish than a milder interest. I also suspect that most "Devotee" attention is objectifying more than appreciative. That is, it is an attraction that is very narrow, that doesn't involve much personal connection, and that turns people with disabilities into objects of highly focused interest rather than appreciation of the whole person.

On the other hand, maybe that's not saying much. A lot of sexual attraction is objectifying. Are guys who are heavily into breasts or feet, or women who are into big muscles or mustaches (or breasts or feet for that matter) all that different from people who are attracted to amputations or paralysis?

If these attractions are just the first step … the hook if you will … that can lead to a fuller connection, then fine. It's when they stay laser-focused on these particular aspects that the attraction of Devotees would be troubling to me, and unwanted.

That said, I don't object to Devotees per se. I think it all depends on behavior and whether the interest … or fetish … leads to real human connection.

Here's what Wikipedia says:

Note: Wikipedia identifies three sub-groups, Devotees, Pretenders (people who like to pose as disabled), and Wannabes (people who actually want to become disabled), abbreviating them together as DPWs.

A couple of quotes that stood out for me:
"Despite the explosion of the DPW Web [Internet sites], many disabled people remain unaware of the attraction. Those newly introduced to it often report initial alarm and deep shock. Subsequent reactions (often after further research) appear to involve deep introspection and an eventual revision of attitudes." 
"The [disability rights] movement perforce backs the DPW stance that the disabled ought not to be branded unattractive and asexual, but by the same token resists suggestions that they ought to welcome the attentions of a sexual minority. If it has any real stance on DPWs, the movement is generally negative, seeing them as unacceptably needy and fetishistic. Despite early hopes that DPWs were welcome allies in the battle against lookism, the movement has found that they do not offer any escape from the tyranny of visual norms; they merely pile bizarre standards atop mainstream ones. In addition, the 'hero adulation' and protectiveness elements of the attraction are ideologically most unwelcome to the movement."
Weird, wild stuff … sometimes, but not necessarily, in a bad way.

Home Sweet Home?

Mentally Disabled NY Newlyweds Find Home
Frank Eltman, Associated Press - July 2, 2013

Until the couple's ADA lawsuit is resolved, this sounds like a happy ending for Paul and Hava Forziano. I'm glad they are continuing the lawsuit, because there are fundamental rights here to defend, real questions about the role of service providers, families, and the state in the lives of cognitively impaired adults, and possibly an important examination of the meaning of consent, and who can legally give it.

Personally, my bias is for a very, very broad view of consent here. To me, a person would have to be seriously, severely cognitively impaired for consent to sex and marriage should be questioned. Maybe with in-between situations of moderate impairment, there should be an obligation on the part of service providers to facilitate as much sex education and marriage guidance as needed for each person. It sounds like the agency involved here just wanted to ignore the issue altogether, which is probably the root of the problem.

I also still wonder whether another group home is the answer. How about an apartment they could rent, with hired help as needed? Still, this seems to be what the Forziano's were after, so good for them ... and welcome home.