Disabled Sex Workers

CW: Sex, sex work, pornography

 

When you think about pornography, the very typical idea of white, blonde, hairless, vanilla, heterosexual sex comes to mind. However, one thing that many people tend to forget about is that conventional porn is always ablebodied porn. Recently, Mic did an interview with a few disabled porn stars who are changing the way that sex and disability are viewed and talked about. (You can find that article here.)

Many people tend to think that in general, disabled people are often labeled as asexual, non-sexual, or are infantilized to the point where sex is thought to be out of the question. Couple that with the fact that disabled people might have mobility or sensory issues that lead them to use mobility assistants (like wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches), or are chronically ill or are unable to feel, etc., sex isn’t something thought about for disabled bodies. But the sex workers in this interview feel very strongly about turning this idea on its head. “It would be so exciting to sexualize the wheelchair, and sexualize the disabled body [and] the whole experience of having to get somebody undressed, and all the things that somebody with a disability does,” Andrew Morrison-Gurza says in the interview. (Morrison-Gurza was also the sex worker that organized the disabled-centric orgy in Toronto last year.) Porn stars Billy Autumn, Maya Mayhem, and Lyric Seal also weigh in on using disabled porn to uproot the porn industry and to prove that “Disabled people fuck. (Autumn)”

In class, we recently discussed how sex and disability are often two things that don’t go together in general society, and that disabled people often take the time out of their day to fight for the fact that they are, in fact, sexual beings. Gayle Rubin says that “A radical theory of sex must identify, describe, explain, and denounce erotic injustice and sexual oppression,” and the fact that these sex workers are disabled and make porn that is consumed by the public is an absolutely radical way to denounce the very typical narrative that porn must be cookie-cutter to be consumable (Rubin 149).

Sex workers already have enough of a struggle as is, especially in a society that is so sex-negative. But disabled sex workers have to work around both their disabilities and their lines of work to navigate the daily narratives that tell them that they should not be existing as they are.

 

References
Rubin, Gayle. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” From Gender to Sexuality. New York City: n.p., 1994. 143-78. Print.

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3/28 Class

Hello all,

Caedyn and I will be having an open discussion in class, but here are the questions we want you to think about.

Gayle Rubin’s Sex Hierarchy Circle: Where do disabled people fit in this model? Is it possible for disabled people to be in the circle?

How can you compare sexual agency to disability movements?

What can privacy be considered as, and how can the sex life of a disabled person be no longer private? Are there different levels of privacy between able-bodied and disabled-bodied people?

How does capitalism continue to exclude disabled bodies, especially in the realms of sex and sexuality?

Is there a relationship between queer and disabled bodies because of the view of their bodies as ‘unhuman’ because of the inability to reproduce?

What are the implications for disabled people due to erotophobia? 

Obviously, the discourses about disability and medicine are created by the medical model of disability. However, where does the discourse come from that disabled people are sex-less, and where can we look to change it?

Health Tracking Apps

Today, Apple had a talk in which they released information regarding their new iPhone and iPad. Along with this, the CEO mentioned new software in the iPhone called CareKit that will help apps like mPower to track and monitor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease or things like diabetes, mental health, etc. mPower in particular was talked about because it is celebrating it’s one year anniversary. It’s an app for people with Parkinson’s Disease, which can monitor users 24/7 if they like through voice recording, games, walking, etc. and then sends that information to Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit research organization. This new software makes it easier for more health apps to be created and furthers the abilities of tracking options/capabilities.

Their purpose, and the purpose of this new software according to Apple, is to be able to do “clinical studies with unprecedented reach”. The concept of having something monitoring you at all times and sending data to scientists is one that puts the medical model in your home and literally in your pocket. These groups have a focus of treatment and cure, which can be useful but also problematic. I am particularly interested in mPower because I personally have a tremor disorder similar to PD and there are constant pushes to find some kind of neurological answer behind why tremor disorders occur (since no one truly knows). In some ways, apps like this can be helpful because it allows for people to easily track their own symptoms and potentially learn how to manage their illness, but their information is being sent to who knows how many people who want to oversee and regulate bodies. Technology like this brings the medical model into the private sphere (your cell phone) and there’s no way of knowing what the information your phone is sending might generate.

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2016/03/21Apple-Advances-Health-Apps-with-CareKit.html

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/4528/parkinsons-app-celebrates-milestone-featured-by-apple.aspx

Class facilitation 3/21

3/21/16: Exile and Pride by Eli Clare

Facilitated by Jessica Beliles, Erin Scott, and Eli Bergman

 

**To begin, we want to acknowledge that this piece is a memoir. Eli Clare uses the self as the epicenter to springboard his theoretical discussion. In light of this, we just want to say that we welcome and encourage bringing in a discussion of self within any of these topics.

 

  • How do you see the thread of ‘home’ that Clare identifies in the introduction woven through the chapters?

 

  • What does ‘home’ have to do with disability studies/activism/intersectional politics?

 

  • Clare consistently describes “chasms” between different parts of self: ie: he describes “waiting for my bone marrow to catch up to my politics[…]no longer in my body, unable to contain the tug-of-war between what is home and what is war zone.”  Does this kind of conflict of the self resonate with you, or with your understanding of disability studies?

 

  • Clare introduces the concept of the body as home. In discussion of exile, there is exile both from the physical place of home and the self. How are these types of displacement intertwined and how do they inform one another?

 

  • How do bearing witness and pride intertwine and inform one another?

 

  • Clare gives a lot of consideration to language and the history of naming.  How is language related to pride?  How is language related to exile?  Can one individually reclaim or give new meaning to words, or does reclamation require community?

 

End discussion:

Clare tackles the desexualization of disabled bodies in media portrayals and in constructions of sexual identity. He discusses the relationship between sexual objectification and “the creation of self-defined sexuality.” In one example, he discusses his friend’s experience:

“When I was in high school, I’d go cruising with my girl friends. The boys would hoot and holler at us, Hey baby, you’re hot, or just wolf whistle. But later if they saw my leg braces and crutches, they’d come over to me, quietly apologize, tell me they didn’t mean it. They were sincere. Now 20 years later, now that I’m a dyke, I’m hungry for sexual attention. I want dykes to wolf whistle at me, to stare at my body, not as though I were a freak in a freak show, but stare, eyes full of desire, eyes undressing me. I want them to still mean it after they see my wheelchair” (128).

–>This is reminscient of “The Lust of Recognition,” a video produced by Mia Mingus featuring Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ellery Russian. The video can be found here https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/video-crip-sex-crip-lust-and-the-lust-of-recognition/.  Directly under the video is a link to download the transcript.

CW for mentions of sexual abuse and incest in the video.

How can the concept of the lust of recognition be used to supplement and nuance Eli Clare’s discussion of sexual objectification and sexual subjectivity?

Anna Stubblefield & Disabled People’s Sexual Agency (or lack thereof)

TRIGGER WARNINGS: (possible) rape and sexual abuse, ableist rhetoric around intelligence, development and communication, racism

I’ve been mulling over the case of Anna Stubblefield for a while now, and trying to think of the best way to write a blog post about it here. I am still so puzzled, and maybe that is just the only thing to be sometimes. I’ve tried to condense this post as much as possible, but because the case is so complicated, it is somewhat long.

A brief overview, based on details gleaned mainly from this article in NYT:

+ Anna Stubblefield was a philosophy professor at Rutgers University, and an a white, presumably able-privileged disability rights activist. She learned a great deal from her mother, who was also an activist, about working with disabled people to provide better accommodations. Her ex-husband is a black tuba player and classical composer and they have two kids together. Anna was / is very involved with anti-racist work as well as other social justice issues, too.

+ Several years ago, she began to work with a disabled black man, D.J. or DMan, who has cerebral palsy and is presumed to “have the mental capacity of a toddler” (along with a “very low IQ”). She disagreed with the professional assessment of D.J.’s intelligence and social / relational abilities, and, at the request of his family, began to work with him using facilitated communication, which is a contentious method that potentially allows disabled people to communicate, but which has also been largely discredited (for an overview of the ways in which it has been debunked by mainstream scientific discourse, see this wikipedia article). It is assumed that it is actually the facilitators’ ideas and thoughts that are being communicated, and that the disabled people in question cannot communicate this way.

+ However, many people within disability justice communities, including many disabled people, argue that mainstream perspectives on facilitated communication have an obvious ableist bias and that this method should not be discredited. From this marginalized perspective, DMan’s agency should be respected, and, for example, the ideas presented in this article in DSQ, written by him using facilitated communication, should be respected.

+ Supposedly, Anna and DMan fell in love with each other and had an affair. When Anna told his family about the affair and that they wished to get married, his family was horrified and pursued a legal case against Anna, claiming that there was no way D.J. could consent to a sexual relationship with Anna, and that she had raped him. As this case has been proceeding, many different arguments have emerged, some of which can be reviewed at the following links:

In the face of all of this media coverage, and so much more, I still remain confused. Obviously, I care more about what disabled people, activists and otherwise, have to say on the subject. It’s clear that DMan has no voice, or is granted no voice, in all of this. The judges do not allow any facilitated communication to take place in court because it has been scientifically discredited. I also wonder about how, as a black man, he is also shunted into categories of exclusion and abjection. What kind of power dynamics are at play between a largely white and academic disability activist movement on the one hand, and a much less privileged black family on the other? These are all really significant questions. It seems that Anna really believes she had consent, and I don’t know what to say to that. So many “taboo” relationships are just outright lambasted rather than paying attention to the interstices and nuances. But, on the other hand, what if it is true that DMan was raped, violated, and given words that were not his own? Our legal system relies on the ability to find definite answers, but in this case there don’t seem to be any, really.

 

 

This Tuesday: Eli Clare at Smith College

An Evening With Eli Clare
Tuesday, March 22nd, 7-9pm Stoddard Auditorium, Smith College
Join queer disabled writer and activist Eli Clare for an exploration of cure and a reading from his newest unpublished book.

Join queer disabled writer and activist Eli Clare for an exploration of cure and a reading from his newest unpublished book.

Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure

Using memoir, history, and critical analysis, Eli uncovers how cure as an ideology serves many purposes. It saves lives, manipulates lives, prioritizes lives, makes profits, justifies violence, and promises resolution to body and mind losses. He grapples with this knot of contradictions, maintaining that neither an anti-cure politics nor a pro-cure worldview can account for the messy, complex relationships we have with our bodies and minds. He tells stories and histories from disability communities, people of color communities, fat activist communities, and queer and transgender communities, always drawing upon an intersectional analysis of race, disability, sexuality, class, and gender.

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This event is wheelchair accessible. If you need other accommodations to access this program including ASL interpretting please email Emma Cornwell at ODS@smith.edu.