Nov 302015

Sex, Sexuality, and Disability

New study investigating how to support people with disability to have sex

Facilitated sex has been a hot button issue for a long time, with concerns ranging from ensuring disabled people’s privacy to supporting a safe (including sexually safe) workplace for attendants and assistants.

Lead researcher, Dr Russell Shuttleworth, says the need for facilitated sex support is often ignored by disability services and policy makers.

“Some people with disability may need assistance from their paid carers or support workers in order to express themselves sexually or participate in sexual activities (this is called facilitated sex),” Dr Shuttleworth explained.

Read more about this research project.

Undressing Disability: Speaking up for sexual needs

A short profile of Enhance The UK’s advocacy around sexuality support services for disabled folks. Answers some of the questions about workplace safety for support workers and personal care attendants. Thought-provoking introduction, too.

Much of the social discourse about advertising involves the inappropriate sexualization of people in ads, especially women. But what if a group of people actually asks you to sexualize them?

Read the whole article here.

CR [Czech Republic] Has First Five Sexual Assistants For Disabled People

More support for sex and sexuality assistance for people with disabilities needing physical help to meet their needs and desires; this time it’s about getting support services from people who don’t also provide daily care or assistance. The article makes a distinction between the services these assistants provide, and sex work services. Sex work isn’t illegal in the Czech Republic – people can legally offer sexual services for hire, but it’s illegal to pay for those services. Yes, sex work laws in most countries are that confusing.

The first five female sexual assistants, specially trained to provide paid services to disabled people, have started to work in the Czech Republic, Lucie Šídová, director of the Rozkoš bez Rizika organization (Bliss Without Risk, R+R), which has trained the assistants, said today.

“The sexual assistants have been chosen carefully. They decided to do the work themselves. They have long-lasting experience with men and with the work with human body,” Šídová said at an international conference on sexual assistance in Prague.

Read the whole article here.

3 Ways You Might Be Marginalizing Disabled Asexual People (And What to Do About It)

Terrificly informative article by Cara Liebowitz. I met Cara, and heard her speak on this topic, earlier this month. Glad to see her message reaching more people.

I’d never questioned my sexuality before – I’d dated guys on and off and I always felt romantic attraction to them – but being in the sex-filled culture of college simply confused me.

Read the whole article here.

Margaret Campbell Using PhD Study to Erase Stereotypes Regarding Disabled People and Sexuality

More sexuality and disability research -out of Canada this time – exploring gender identity and expression as well as sex and sexuality. The researcher hopes to include recommendations for policy changes that will improve disabled people’s lives in relation to their genders and sexualities. I’m impressed that this article, in a mainstream community newspaper, didn’t try to sensationalize this story, but instead gave a straightforward report on the researcher and her work.

“What I’m looking at in my PhD research is the various ways people with disabilities experience and explore both their gender and sexuality in the midst of sociocultural assumptions and stereotypes that have traditionally worked to desexualize individuals with disabilities,” she explained.

A large portion of her research has gone into identifying physical or attitudinal barriers people with disabilities experience in an attempt to reach a fulfilling and actualized gender or sex life, she said.

“What has been excellent is listening to my participants share their experiences and the creative ways they dealt with the issues they face.

Read the whole article here.

Sex Ed

What does kinky mean and should I try it?

Love this deeply supportive, respectful post exploring definitions of kinky sex, but most importantly affirming that we’re all okay, no matter how adventurous (or not) our sexual choices are.

…and the beauty of sexual expression is your sexual journey doesn’t have to look anything like mine and it can still be deliciously, beautifully pleasurable and valid. There is no one way of doing sex, of living out fantasies, of keeping things fresh and new.

If that’s true…if there is no one way of doing sex, then what does it mean to be kinky?

Google defines kinky as “involving or given to unusual sexual behavior.”

But what is unusual to me and what is unusual to you are probably different.

Read the whole article here.

Toy Queries

It’s refreshing to see some sex toy advice that isn’t a sales pitch. With their trademark humour and kindness, Scarleteen answers questions about whether vibrators interfere with an IUD (hint: They don’t), and about how to make sure any toy is giving pleasure, not pain. Particularly love the last line: ”
Go forth with your new found knowledge and masturbate without fear

Read the whole advice column here.

Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence

This is one of the saddest, most infuriating, incidents of child sexual abuse I’ve heard about in a while. Deaf children were sent to a special school, isolated from their families for months at a time, not permitted to use or learn sign language (they were expected to learn to speech-read (read lips) and speak English only), and their trust and bodies were violated. Ultimately, these children were also betrayed by the legal system.

These stories are hard to read – important, but hard.

These Haunting Posters Break the Silence on Disabled Women with Abusive Partners

We know that intimate partner violence can affect people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and physical abilities. But many people’s voices get left out of our conversations on IPV – including disabled women’s.

See the posters (or read the transcripts if you can’t see them) here.

Sex and Disability Books

QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology

Trophy Wife: Sexuality. Disability. Femininity.

Nov 182015

Writer and sex educator Kaleigh Trace “works with words and dildos.”

I first met Kaleigh when she presented at the Guelph Sexuality Confrence on disability, desirability, and resistance. She’s thoughtful and charmingly funny in person, as well as an ace presenter. She’s also a refreshing voice in the sex and disability field, with lots of personal and professional experience behind her.

Kaleigh graciously answered some questions about her work for Ready, Sexy, Able. Thanks Kaleigh!


Robin:You lecture and write a lot about sexuality and disability, but you’re also a sex educator at a feminist sex shop and you do some general disability awareness education, right? Can you tell us more about what you do? What does a typical Kaleigh work day look like?

Kaleigh:My days really vary all the time. Most days I endure doctors in the morning and sell sex toys in the afternoon, which I suppose is a pretty good balance of the bad and the good. I often teach workshops for Venus Envy in the evening, covering topics ranging from sex & disability to oral sex. And then it seems seasonally I find myself doing the really fun stuff of going to conferences and/or organizing around disability justice. Last winter a friend and I co-organized a protest to try and urge the city to more affectively clear the sidewalks, so that disabled folks could finally leave our homes (East Coast Canadian winters aren’t pretty). And then this past summer I presented at a different conference/festival every other week it seemed, which meant a lot of talking about disability politics with like-minded people.
I suppose that ultimately, my days aren’t typical. Which I like. And even though I am only occasionally doing big projects that advocate for disability justice & inclusion (like protests and presentations), I sort of feel like being a politicized disabled femme moving through the world means I am doing a little bit of advocating and a little bit of resisting all the time.

Robin: What would you most like disabled people to know about sex, sexuality, and intimate relationships?

Kaleigh: Oh my. I’m not sure. As a younger, less self-assured disabled person I would have loved to have had older disabled peers around to tell me that my body is valuable, desirable, sexual and good in and of itself. In my experience, having a body that deviated from the norm made it more difficult for me to figure out how to love myself and how to explore my sexuality.
For folks who are already fully imbued with that knowledge…I hope people know to communicate. Talk, sign, text, blink – however communication works for you. Essentially, use your body to take the space you need. Ask for pleasure. Demand for access. Our capacity to communicate for ourselves about ourselves is such a powerful tool in exploring sex, sexuality and intimacy.

Robin: What would you most like nondisabled people to know about disabled people’s experiences of sex, sexuality, or intimate relationships?

Kaleigh: Hm. Check yourself? Check the assumptions you have made about how bodies work and what bodies are desirable. Learn how to ask questions about comfort, positioning, needs, pleasure, access, all the things. Don’t assume that all bodies work the same, that all people require the same touch. Just check yourself.

Robin: Which writers and activists do you turn to over and over again for education or inspiration?

Kaleigh: I could reread the words of Mia Mingus, Eli Clare, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha over & over again. Reading other disabled activists writing about their experiences is the best way for me to feel kinship and to learn more about myself & my community. It’s a sweet relief and the perfect challenge all at once.
And then sometimes, I just watch youtube clips of Gillian Anderson being tough as fuck over and over again, because watching femmes get shit done is like listening to the perfect pump-up power jam.

Robin: What are you working on right now? What’s coming up for you in the next year?

Kaleigh: Good, hard question! I don’t totally know. I am reticent to speak about the future because it’s all a little murky. My book, Hot, Wet & Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex, has been alive in the world for just over a year now, and I am feeling really ready to move forward from it and write some new work to attach my name to. I would like to get back to blogging, after taking a small hiatus. I would like to travel more and connect with other disabled folks across Canada & the U.S.
I did just finish putting together a new website where I want to write new posts pertaining to sex but also all things disability related. I’m excited about that! You can now find me at My previous blog, The Fucking Facts, was really fun and brought a lot of success and positivity to my life. But I sometimes felt a bit required to only write about sex there, and I would like to have space on to write about everything from orgasms to femme politics to disability survival. So, please check that out to learn about my future endeavors and new projects.

Nov 172015

Day 3 of the Breaking Silences Sex and Disability Conference at Wright State University.

Deviant Sexuality and Disability: The Hypersexuality of Women with Bipolar Disorder

Meghann O’Leary, M.A
University of Illinois at Chicago
Hailee Gibbons, M.S
University of Illinois at Chicago

Most of the academic and popular literature on sexuality and disability focuses on how disabled people are desexualized, or seen as nonsexual. Meghann and Hailee mentioned several writers and theories; one term that was new to me (though the idea is familiar) was Harlan Hahn’s concept of “asexual objectification.” This is the idea that disabled women, disabled people of any gender really, are seen as things that don’t have a sexuality – in the most extreme cases, as things that don’t have a humanity. IN a session I went to earlier in the week, asexuality was presented as a sexual orientation, a way someone relates to their own sexuality, so I use the terms desexualization or nonsexual instead. I’m hoping Meghann and Hailee will mention this shift to more inclusive sexuality terms in their literature review. Maybe Hahn’s term can be updated to “nonsexual objectification.” Updating the concept this way still contrasts pervasive attitudes towards disabled people with the ways North American cultures tend to sexually objectify people.

(here’s more information on the theory of asexual objectification.

These theories usually describe the experiences of people with visible physical disabilities.

Women diagnosed with mental illness, especially bipolar disorder, are instead seen as hypersexual. “Hypersexuality” is one of the bipolar disorder symptoms listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), the diagnostic tool most often used by psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners in the United States. There’s no definition of “normal” sexuality to go along with this “symptom.” For that matter, there’s not really a definition of hypersexuality beyond evaluating behaviours like how many partners a patient or client has had, or how frequently they’re engaging in sexual behaviours.

So, each mental health practitioner makes their own judgments about what is normal, and how or whether their patient or clients deviate from that. (And medical and mental health practitioners rarely get a lot of training in sexuality, let alone in how to manage their own professional biases and personal beliefs around it.)

With no standard, sexual preferences, orientations, and sexual practices might be labelled as hypersexual, as deviant, in a way that medicalizes sexuality and sexual choice.

I asked the presenters whether practitioners tend to evaluate things like whether the patient or client is using safer sex practices, showing judgment in the partners they choose (I.E. Not having sex with their coworkers, their children’s teachers, etc.), and how they feel about their sexual activities and choices. They didn’t know about any research around this, but as people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they shared that they had never experienced or heard of clinicians’ doing this type of in depth evaluation, and that the evaluation focuses on numbers of partners and frequency of sex.

The other part of this research is an examination of popular media. TV shows and films with female characters who are either specifically labelled as bipolar in the show, or who are understood to have mental illness and behave in ways folks with bipolar disorder are expected to behave, usually show these characters as out-of-control sexually. The narrative in one film mentioned in this session showed the character losing her job because she slept with all her coworkers; her struggle and eventual triumph in the movie was establishing a stable, heterosexual, monogamous relationship with the male lead.

Most media depictions of women with bipolr disorder or other mental illness that involves erratic behaviours or emotions are white.

Meghann and Hailee suggested that this is because women of colour are already hypersexualized – any sexual expression is seen as being out of control – especially in film and television depictions. Mental illness in white female TV and film characters is used as a creative tool to develop hypersexuality and tention. It also offers an element of cure or healing; the characters usually wind up not behaving so “inappropriately” by the end of the story, also reinforcing the idea that illness should always be fixed and that women should be sexual, but not too sexual and only sexual in accepted ways.

I think this research is raising important questions and issues, such as whetehr a person’s sexual behaviours are intentionally chosen, or are driven by brain chemicals and reactions that make evaluating safety and personal preference feel dificult or unneceessary – whether sexual activities and choices are done and made with consideration of safety, or are erratic, either without consideration of danger or with delusions of invincibility (E.G. “No one will find out I’m having an affair.” “I won’t (or can’t) contract STIs.””

Another important takeaway is that clinicians need to make sure they don’t use their own feelings about whether it’s okay to be sexual with more than one partner, to have group sex, to have sex with someone of the same gender, to engage in BDSM activities – to label a patient as deviant when they’re just acting out their wishes and desires.

 Resources  Comments Off on The Hypersexualization of Women With Bipolar Disorder: Breaking Silences Day 3
Nov 122015

Peer Advocate’s Experience of Deaf Women’s Disclosure of Sexual Assault

Noelle Opsahl, Master of Education of the Deaf (M.E.D.)
Gallaudet University

First, a cool thing. Noelle, the presenter,told us that this was the first time she’d given this presentation in English, though she’s presented it in ASL (American Sign Language) several times. Noelle is hearing, and English is her first language. Given that ASL wasn’t even considered a language until a handful of decades ago, it hits all sorts of awesomeness buttons for me that this work was presented through, and grew through, this language.

Noelle gave the audience a brief outline of Deaf culture, hearing privilege, and “Big D” versus “Little d” deaf community.

If you’re not familiar with deafness or Deaf culture, this question-and answer page from the National Association of the Deaf is a helpful place to start.

This page from Gallaudet University has more information specifically about Deaf culture.

It’s a big thing when anyone discloses they’ve been sexually assaulted. whether they’re telling the police, a friend, a family member, sometimes even their own diary. So many emotions can come up, including (but never limited to) fear, denial, shame, embarrassment, relief, back to fear, and more.

How someone reacts to this disclosure can play a big part in how or whether the person who experienced the violence feels safe enough to ask for practical help, mental health services, and anything else they need to help their healing process and help them stay safe.

After several D/deaf people disclosed their experiences of sexual violence to her during her stint as a peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, Noelle Opsahl decided to study D/deaf people’s experiences of disclosing sexual assault or intimate partner violence, particularly to hearing people.

She’s in the midst of her research now, so her presentation focussed on teaching us the basics of D/deaf community and culture, and the nature of sexualized and intimate partner violence in the Deaf community.

The Deaf community has a long history and culture. It (the community) is mostly made up of people who grew up Deaf, and communicate primarily (or even exclusively) through ASL. The community is small, tightly-knit, has cultural norms and taboos that are different from those in English-speaking American culture. (There are, obviously, Deaf communities around the world, all speaking different forms of sign, so to keep things simple, and because its the community Noelle spoke about most in her presentation, I’m talking about folks in the United States.)

No matter where in the U.S. members of the deaf community live, they’re socially and culturally connected, and often know each other, or have heard of each other.

When D/deaf people disclose that they’ve experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, they face additional barriers that hearing folks don’t face. If they’re disclosing to a therapist, doctor, police officer or other helping or law enforcement professional, there will often be a third person in the room – the interpreter. Disclosing to an interpreter, even with confidentiality agreements interpreters sign as part of their work, could feel really vulnerable, and, I imagine, could make disclosing feel like more work than it’s worth.

Or, if there is no interpreter, the Deaf person and the hearing professional might be communicating through writing. Some members of the Deaf community are not fluent in English reading and writing, so this is not going to be the best way for them to get or give information, let alone feel safe and heard around something vulnerable. I was surprised (though I guess I really shouldn’t be) to learn that hearing professionals, such as doctors or police officers, will sometimes, instead of finding an ASL interpreter to help them communicate with a D/deaf person coming to them for treatment or to report a crime, will instead turn to, say, another person in their office who just happens to have a basic knowledge of finger spelling. (Finger-spelling is only a small part of sign language – same as being able to spell out the letters to a word is only a small part of any spoken language.) Noelle made it clear: Don’t do this for important conversations, just don’t. I’m imagining that doing this would be something akin to asking a colleague who’s preparing for a vacation to Italy by reading an Italian phrase book for tourists to come translate for a patient or victim who speaks only Italian.

Disclosing to a hearing person can also be complicated if the person who typically acts as the survivor’s interpreter is also the abuser. This is one of the ways abusers (particularly, but not only, hearing abusers) will isolate their D/deaf victims.

DeafHope, an organization providing culturally specific education and services to D/deaf people, has identified specific behaviours common to abuse by and of d/deaf people, including:

  • Abuser says no one will believe the victim because they (the abuser) is well-known and respected in the deaf community.
  • Abuser justifies invasions of privacy (such as routinely reading victim’s texts and emails without permission) by saying this is culturally acceptable in the Deaf community.
  • Hearing abuser tells children not to use ASL to communicate with their D/deaf parent.

I think this information is especially important for folks working in the sexual assault and domestic violence response fields because much of it might not be recognized as abuse without some knowledge of Deaf culture. Someone persistently signing in someone’s personal space, for example, might simply be perceived by a hearing person as rude; or, the hearing person, with no knowledge of sign language, might not even know that signing in someone’s personal space signifies anger.

The full DeafHope Power and Control Wheel is here.

This model was adapted from Domestic Violence Intervention Project’s Power and Control Wheel.

Both of these wheels use gendered language, with the man as the abuser and presuming the woman is the abused partner. While man-to-woman intimate partner violence is prevalent, and has gotten the most research and intervention resources, anyone of any gender can abuse or be abused in a relationship. I really would like to see more intimate partner violence research and intervention organizations using gender-neutral language so that more people will feel safe to reach out for help.

Noelle’s presentation was full of information, and I’m excited to see where her research goes.

I’m also really glad that her work was included at a disability conference, since the Deaf community and disability community usually see themselves as having different goals. (Many people in the Deaf community do not think of deafness as a disability.)

One more thing I should mention: Noelle was clear that she is a hearing person, that she has advantages and power as a hearing person, and that, as a researcher, and as someone who spends a lot of time with the deaf community, she’s in no way speaking for D/deaf people. I’m not the best judge since I’m not part of the Deaf community, but I think she succeeds in this. Her presentation was educational, without trying to explain what it feels like to be D/def or part of the Deaf community and without making generalizations about anyone’s experiences.

Keynote Presentation: Harilyn Rousso

Harilyn is truly an elder – an experienced and wise person – in both the disability rights and feminist communities. She has my endless admiration for all the work she’s done, and the honesty she shows in her stories. Hearing her speak, and read from her memoir, was a pleasure, and an education.
Many of the stories in Harilyn’s memoir Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back echo the themes of both movements – moving away from helplessness towards independence, expressing sexuality, and building positive self-esteem and body image.

Don’t Call Me Inspirational puts words to the experiences many of us have had growing into adulthood with physical disabilities. Being blind, learning to drive was never on the table for me, but Harilyn’s words in Driving High feel so familiar. Deciding to take this rite of passage was an internal conflict, being tugged between being coaxed to learn by her mother who knew how crucial it would be for her independence, hearing her doctor say she’d be a hazard to other drivers, experiencing her own doubts:

I, too, had doubts about my driving, but these had little to do with my physical limitations. The image of myself as a driver was incongruous with some internal experience I had of myself of needing to be cared for and directed, of not being able to be in the driver’s seat of my own life.

And these words, from On Not Looking in the Mirror lodged in my mind as soon as I heard them, and have stayed with me: “I buy a full-length mirror, not to please my mother–although she would be pleased–not to fix myself but to find myself.”

The reading was followed by a question-and-answer session.
When an audience member asked how she’s managed work-life balance with everything she’s accomplished, harilyn laughed, and pointed out that she’s done all this work over decades. She shared that she paces herself, that she’s stopped trying to prove anything to anyone. Many disabled people find themselves in the position of feeling like they have to prove themselves by doing everything mor and better than other people – playing “supercrip” as Harilyn put it.
She also had some solid advice for professionals about addressing their own biases around disability, as well as around race, class, and other marginalized experiences. Therapists and other helping professionals, Harilyn told us, like to think they don’t have biases and assumptions, but they do. They can’t do their work well if they don’t face and work through these assumptions. She also encouraged helping professionals to keep listening, and to be comfortable with saying that they don’t have all the answers. Harilyn didn’t mention this, but I’d like to add that many people have strong personal fears about disability and illness, so it’s especially important for helping professionals to understand their own fears so they don’t project them onto disabled patients or clients.

UP Next: Day 3: The hypersexualization of women diagnosed with bipolr disorder, closing “Town Hall” session, and my own thoughts about how to use what I’ve learned.

Nov 092015

Thoughts and observations from day one of Breaking Silences, Wright State University’s first sex and disability conference.

I opted for participating in discussions over taking notes, so these session summaries are just that, summaries of the content and my reactions to it.

Bringing (A)Sexy Back: Exploring Disability and Asexuality

Cara Liebowitz of That Crazy Crippled Chick wants to make sure we’re not leaving asexual disabled people out of conversations around sex and disability.

People with disabilities have been treated as nonsexual beings for such a long time. The efforts to correct that narrative have resulted in focussing on disabled people’s sexiness and sex lives, not on sexualities as a whole. IN general, for people who are disabled or nondisabled, we have a narrative that tells us that sex is all about looks, and about bodies, and about having sex with partners, and there’s practically no room for the words of people who have looked at and thought about their sexualities, and realized that they don’t experience sexual attraction or desire the same ways, if at all.

I’ve understood asexuality theoretically for a while now, but Cara gave some examples that helped me understand the experience better.

IN college, Cara’s friends would say they were “horny” all the time. Cara asks: What does horny feel like?

Asexuality isn’t necessarily the absence of sexual thoughts or feelings. Many asexual people desire and enjoy romantic relationships. Many have “passionate friendships” – Cara described these as close friendships with lots of physical (not sexual) intimacy like hand-holding, snuggling, etc. this makes a lot of sense to me since most people thrive on touch.

Some people on the asexuality spectrum do have some kinds of sex, with themselves, partners, or both.

Cara gave the example of an asexual person exploring sexual activity with a romantic partner. finding that they Enjoy learning about their body and they enjoy closeness and connection with their partner, but that they’d be just as happy having a pizza and movie date.

What does all this have to do with disability?

Some disabled people are asexual.

When sex and disability researchers and activists criticize the way disabled people are wrongly seen as asexual, we can be implying that asexuality is bad.

Cara suggests we use the terms nonsexual and desexualized to talk about the erasure of disabled people’s sexualities.

People also tend to use a lot of ableist language when talking about asexuality – assuming something must be medically wrong with an asexual person, that people are broken for not wanting sex.

Lack of sex drive. Disintrest in being sexual with a partner. Those are only problems if the person experiencing them says they’re problems.

Cara reminds us not to use all-or-nothing language in our quest to prove the sexiness of disabled people. Many disabled people want their sexual desires to be recognized and celebrated for what they are, but not all.

Two informative pieces Cara referenced in her presentation:
If You Can See The Invisible Elephant, Please Describe It

Asexuality and Disability

Sins Invalid

I think the announcement that Sins Invalid would be one of the Keynote presentations sold me on going to this conference.

It was worth the trip for that alone, though I was disappointed the whole Sins Invalid cast wasn’t there to give us the energy and passion of a live performance.

But, we did get to see a live performance by Maria Palacios the “Goddess On Wheels”, a showing of the Sins Invalid documentary, and a question-and-answer session with Maria Palacios and Sins Invalid Founder Patty Berne.

The documentary is touching, powerful, creative, unabashedly sexual, edge-pushing, and thought-provoking. I especially appreciated that the performance includes hard-hitting and painful details of disability history, including the forced sterilization of disabled people and medical experimentation on people of colour. That history is important, and not really well-known, and adds complexity to the sexier elements of the film. The beautiful is so much more beautiful when set against the ugly.

Maria palacios’ performance was sensual, her poetry both lyrical and firmly planted in her lived experiences of disability.

This line has stuck with me:

Flirting is the projection
Of what the soul wants to say
What the heart wants to speak.

You can read some of Maria’s poetry here

Exposing Undergraduates in Human Sexuality Courses to Sexual Health Among People with Disability

Frederick Peterson Psy.D. and Colleagues

This was an overview of some preliminary research by professors who teach undergraduate human sexuality courses.

They wanted to know what kinds of material on sexualities and disabled people they should include in these courses, so they asked their students to anonymously submit any questions they had on the topic.
The most common questions asked, in different ways, how disabled people have sex, or if disabled people even want sex and feel sexual desire

I’ll admit I was surprised by this. I suppose I thought that even if people couldn’t figure out how physically disabled people would go about engaging in the acts around sexual pleasure, that they’d at least not have questions about whether disabled folks even desire that pleasure.

Reasons suggested for these responses: Students’ lack of knowledge about sex in general. Lack of exposure to concepts that disabled people date, have intimate relationships, have sex. Lack of exposure to disabled people in general.
The researchers also suspect that lack of sexual diversity and accurate information in education systems such as Abstenince Only Until Marriage programs (which often teaches incorrect facts about sex, sexuality, safer sex and birth control) also might colour students’ idea of what is possible.

This research is fascinating, and I’m eager to see what the next stages will be, including what conclusions the researchers will draw about how to teach undergraduate students about sexuality for all people, including folks with disabilities. Pete (as he likes to be called) pointed out: The research can only tell educators so much, since students only know to ask about what they don’t know. there could be and is plenty that people don’t know they don’t know.

Reclaiming Maternal Identity: The Impact of Forced Sterilization of Women with Disabilities

Alette Coble-Temple , Psy.D.
John F. Kennedy University
Kayoko Yokoyama, Ph.D.
John F. Kennedy University
Megan Carlos, Ph.D.
American School of Professional Psychology Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Area

Loved this presentation! There’s a lot to say about and in response to this topic, so I’ll just give a short overview of the presentation here.

Experiencing microaggressions day after day can negatively impact a person’s mental health. (or example: “No, but where are you REALLY from?”-Racial Microaggressions and their effect on Mental Health.

With this in mind, the presenters started with the idea that the history of forced sterilization and other reproductive violences against people with disabilities has left its mark on the identities of girls and women with disabilities, especially around reproduction and parenting.

Some examples of microaggressions against disabled girls and women around reproduction:

  • Doubt that a visibly disabled woman’s baby is hers.
  • a visibly disabled parent being asked who takes care of their baby?
  • Healthcare providers showing surprise when a disabled patient becomes pregnant
  • Healthcare providers (and others) assuming that a disabled pregnant person will want or need to terminate the pregnancy.

It’s not just reproductive injustices of the past that stand in the way of disabled people becoming parents.

Many states have laws preventing disabled people from becoming parents.

Some people hold a deep (and well-founded) fear that their baby or child will be taken away from them by social services. This has happened many times, for no other reason than that one or both parents had a disability. Removing a child from its family when it is happy and safe in that family is an unnecessary trauma for the child, parents, and other family members.

Disability is still used in divorce proceedings as a reason to award full custody of children to a nondisabled parents, whether that’s the best choice for the child or not.

The statistics and stories in this presentation were grim, but the overall feeling was one of mutual support.

The presenters were open to questions, and invited audience members to talk about their own experiences and feelings about having children (or not having children). Two of us shared that we had chosen not to have children for reasons related to our disabilities, and our stories were welcomed as part of the overall narrative around disabled people, choice, and parenting.

Next up: Day two of Breaking Silences: “Don’t Call Me Inspirational, and, Research Into Deaf People’s Experiences of Interpersonal Violence.