Taboo²: Sexuality and Disability

By Jeff MannesLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Netflix series like Sex Education and Special have brought the topic of sexuality and disability into greater public focus in recent years. But ableism still shapes sexual life a lot. A report between taboo and fetishization.

Ableism. This is the name given in social sciences, disability studies and the movement of people with disabilities to the socially institutionalized and individually internalized system of beliefs that constructs disability as an inferior human condition and people with disabilities as marginalized "others". This then manifests itself quite practically in discrimination against and prejudice towards people with disabilities. The not-so-correct term could also be "disability discrimination".

Similar to racism or heterosexism, ableism can be found throughout the whole society and in many spheres of life. For example, in films and series, evil pirates are always shown with wooden legs, eye patches or hooked hands in order to dehumanize them, while good pirates, with whom viewers are supposed to identify, almost always live without disabilities. Or so-called "inspiration porn", which is not about pornography in the sexual sense, but about people who are disabled being described as "inspiring" and "admired" simply because they do everyday things. Ableism shows up where people with disabilities are met only with pity, or in architecture when streets and buildings are not designed to be barrier-free. Ableism also surfaces in medicine, when people with disabilities are being discouraged from making independent decisions about their bodies. Or when people with disabilities are treated and spoken to like children. It also emerges in people with disabilities themselves when they internalize society's negative beliefs about their own person and feel ashamed of their disability. And it comes out in sexuality.

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Taboo²: Sexuality and Disability


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