Tag Archives: sex
This piece contains lots of spoilers.
I wanted to love this book, I really did. I have enjoyed the couple of Julie Ellis novels I’ve read, but this one just tipped the charming/not happening scale a bit far. It has a really strong heroine in Vicky, who escapes the Russian pogroms to build a new life in America, trying to negotiate a difficult family situation and life as a prominent businesswoman. But there are lots of issues in this book that really grated, for example, every time a black servant is given an order, Ellis always points out how they were delighted to do it.
I’d just like to focus on the disability issues for now, though. There are many, not least with the disability-as-punishment trope cropping up at the end when the antagonist of the piece, Vicky’s son, has a stroke and is paralysed. He’s then housed in the cottage in which his mentally ill father shot himself. The very same cottage in which he kept Vicky while pretending she had a mental illness because he didn’t like the direction in which his mother was taking the company. Yep, it’s a bit of an intense novel.
But what I really want to talk about is the characterisation of Anita Roberts. Anita is married to Mark, a man Vicky falls in love with. So, naturally, she has to be a deceptive, evil shrew because that is the way “the other woman” gets sympathy in romance fiction. Except, she’s a wheelchair user, so it gets a lot more… interesting.
At first, Anita is set up as a martyr, the victim of a tragic accident who is doted on by her charming husband. They are a ‘special couple,’ Vicky is given to understand, and Anita is the darling of their social circle. As it turns out, she’s shrewd and conniving. She uses the excuse of the accident to deny her husband sex, even though the doctors said that they could have an ‘almost normal sex life’! It turns out that Anita never really wanted sex before the accident either, and now her horrible cruelty of not wanting sex has been unleashed! How terrible! It couldn’t possibly be the case that Anita doesn’t owe Marc sex, and she has become confident enough in herself to not engage with a sexual life she doesn’t really want. No, indeed. It is all about Marc’s pain and setting up his affair with Vicky. Anita’s not wanting sex gets to be the strange part, gets to be part of her evil scheme against poor Marc.
So, we’ve got the good crip who turns out to be hiding a deeply bitter and nasty nature. That’s old hat. But it was quite something to see that set up with a gendered aspect, too. Anita’s out to disparage Marc’s achievements and interests constantly, and she forces him to do ‘whatever she asks’ because otherwise he’s a terrible husband to his tragically beautiful and “damaged” wife. I suggest we identify a new trope, the Bad Shrewish Crip. The perfect mix of misogyny and ableism, out now at a bookstore near you.
But I really start to grit my teeth when we bring Anita’s Jewishness into it, because she perfectly fits the JAP stereotype. The Jewish American Princess is held to be a nagging, high maintenance woman with expensive taste and no sense of how irritating she is. And Anita is a JAP all over: she pokes fun at Vicky for having been a maid, loves designer clothing, and ends up forcing her husband to move to London as it is the only ‘civilised’ city on Earth. She’s simply set up as the most horrible conglomeration of disability, gender and racial/ethnic/cultural/religion stereotyping I have encountered in quite some time. The Bad Shrewish Jewish Crip, maybe?
So, in short: wanted to like it, feel kind of bad saying this because I like the author, but for goodness’ sake, this was one of the more frustrating reads of my year, and that is really saying something.
In the winter of 2009, when Kiran was 5, his parents were told that he had preschool depression, sometimes referred to as “early-onset depression.” He was entered into a research study at the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, which tracks the diagnosis of preschool depression and the treatment of children like Kiran. “It was painful,” Elizabeth says, “but also a relief to have professionals confirm that, yes, he has had a depressive episode. It’s real.”
Social psychologist and bioethicist Asch says that a lack of familiarity may be one reason for professionals’ biases toward people with disabilities. “Very few professionals know people with disabilities as peers,” says Asch, who teaches at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass. “Their only contact with people with disabilities is in a crisis situation, where the professional is [called on for help]. So the notion among some professionals is that people with disabilities always need help and can never give help or nurturance to another human being or provide a child with security or protection.”
This is not a story about “taxpayers’ money” – most disabled people who have local authority-funded care plans are only allowed to spend these on basic services such as help with washing and dressing. What it is really about is moral outrage over an isolated case, which is also a smokescreen for much more disturbing attitudes towards disabled people’s lives.
“With race, sexual orientation and disability, you are talking people’s core identity — things that are unchangeable,” she said. “What do we get out of making fun of things that people cannot change, other than degrading them and making them feel they are not part of society.”
The Band-Aid-like patches, coated with microscopic needles, generally don’t hurt. Moreover, they may actually work better at delivering vaccines and some medications, according to recent research.
It’s not like there are many role models out there in the media. The disabled are rarely portrayed as sexy. Brave, yes. Melancholy, sure. Angry about their lot, check. Objects of concern and pity (stop calling me “special”!). But sexy? No. The hot babe who gets the guy isn’t limping toward him, gnarled fingers grasping his strong shoulders as they kiss. And if she is in a wheelchair, it is only temporary.
At the same time, I have this nasty prickly little feeling inside me which tells me, “what right do you have to write about this issue? You’re perfectly able-bodied. You’re so able-bodied you’ve been holding write-ins at the Paperchase Cafe for years. It’s not like you’ve ever done anything to be a good ally to people with disabilities.”
The horrible thing is that the voice is right.
I’m wondering though, if it would be worse if I let the voice hold me back. That I have to wonder is, I think, pretty bad. Able-bodied people can talk about disability issues, and do, all the time. I’ll probably fuck up at some point, but that happens, right?
It’s that dreaded question, upon meeting: So, what do you do for a living?
It hurts. And what’s worse, people often don’t stop there; they keep on asking. ‘Oh, you don’t work? Why not? So are you on the dole then? Are you looking for work? But how do you afford to live? A pension? What are you on a pension for?”
Honestly, sometimes I just want to tattoo it on my forehead: “Hi, I’m Cinnamon Girl, and I’m insane. Thanks for the tax dollars!”
You see, I have a psychiatric disorder, and receive a disability support pension as a result. I don’t work to make my living. I also don’t want to disclose to every last person I meet that I have a mental illness. But, with that
loadedinnocent question, that’s pretty much what I’m forced to do.
To be clear, Brennan’s Asperger’s is never directly mentioned by her co-workers. Her social awkwardness, typical of the syndrome, is frequently the punchline of jokes or leads to the repetition of one of Brennan’s favorite phrases, “I don’t know what that means.” However in interviews, Emily Deschanel, the talented actress who plays Brennan, often states that her character does have a mild form of Asperger’s.
The lack of awareness Brennan’s co-workers show about her Asperger’s, leads me to believe it could be considered an invisible disability. At first glance, Brennan appears “normal” and the only way her co-workers would know about her Asperger’s is if she tells them and then proceeds to advocate for her unique needs. In fact, she has made steps towards self-advocation already, at one point last season asking her psychologist, Dr. Lance Sweets, to help her understand social cues and to read facial expressions.
Peopel who don’t know you gasp and think life must be unbearably dificult, draining, and emotionally tough when you have a child with a disability – but to be honest, it’s the endless phonecalls, wrangling and organisation that can shit me to tears. Picking up Miz M from childcare yesterday, where she beamed delightedly and kicked her little legs and waved her arms, that was lovely. Trying to help her eat slices of mango was sticky but, hey, just fine. Making the fourth phonecall to the same organisation to try to organise for her mobility device to be fixed, on the other hand, brought a hot flush of frustration to my face and tears of irritation to my eyes. Put on hold while the woman I needed to speak to was on another call, after which the original unhelpful phone-answerer got back to me and said oh, she’s left now, and won’t be back till tomorrow. This, at 9 am.
Of course! That is, some of us do, but there’s nothing about disability that means we don’t ever have sex. As with any other group in society, some of us are sexual and some of us are asexual. Some of us are celibate, some of us are in steady sexual relationships, some of us like a one night stand. Which is to say, we’re far from being a sexual monolith! (… as it were.)
The reason PWD aren’t considered as sexual – particularly “visibly” disabled PWD – is that the idea of “the perfect body” as the only sexual body dominates popular discourse. Additionally, we have the stereotypes of PWD as pathetic or stoic, far removed from the sexual. Not to mention the fact that disabled people tend to be shoved away from the general public. This idea is not due to some inherent aspect of disability that negates sexuality, it’s just bigotry. The lack of recognition for PWDs’ sexuality has meant, less so in recent years, that a lot of PWD aren’t given appropriate sex education. Without proper sex ed, it’s harder to take charge of one’s own sexual life and body. This lack of information has its role in enabling the high rates of abuse against PWD. There is a lot of horrific policing of the bodies and sexuality of disabled women in particular, as you’ll read about on this blog in less 101-type discussions.
When those PWD who are sexual are seen as such, it’s often to the exclusion of many modes of sexuality. Remember, disabled people, like non-disabled people, have all sorts of sexualities that can change throughout life. We can be queer and straight, poly and mono, kinky and vanilla (which is not to say that all of those are exclusively sexual identities, either). Not everyone is into or can have PIV intercourse, and all kinds of sexual activity are as legitimate as the participants consider them to be. And, of course, implicit in the question ‘Do disabled people have sex?’ is the question ‘Do disabled people have partnered sex?’ As such, that’s the question I’ve been answering, but it’s best not to forget that masturbation is fun, too!
There’s another myth that PWD only have sex with other PWD. This is based on the assumption that no one “normal” would want to have sex with someone who doesn’t fit into rigid norms. Sex isn’t just for young, white, abled, straight couples, no matter what TV tells you. Of course, the idea that sex with disabled people isn’t ideal means that it’s sometimes harder for disabled people to find sexual partners. To which I say, people with that kind of bigoted attitude are missing out on some really great sex.
Disability often influences a person’s sex life, as it does many other aspects of life. (Not to mention framing disability as this overarching barrier to sex obscures the fact that, you know, other factors have their role in how and if a person is sexual.) Pain or fatigue or physical features, for instance, can have an impact, but that doesn’t mean PWD are never sexual. Because there are so many different types of disability – and some people have multiple disabilities – there are lots of different changes PWD and their partners might make to make sex possible, easier or just more fun. This could include clear communication when a partner has an anxiety disorder, assessing which positions are most comfortable with a particular body shape, adapting sex toys for people with limited motor control and a whole range of things.
Disabled people’s sexualities exist, and are quite as varied and wonderful as those of non-disabled people.