Sex and Disability: Making Toys Accessible

In the process of working with my group on our final project on sex and disability, I came across this website.  It is essentially a compilation of information about ways to adjust particular sex toys to better fit one’s needs, or advice on what kinds of toys are most ideal to fit particular needs (ie: suggestions of what is best for folks with hypersensitivity or decreased sensitivity; lots of information about materials and allergens, etc.).

Most of the time toys are being marketed with the sole intention of selling as much as possible (what a surprise, capitalism).  I appreciate that this particular site wasn’t really looking to sell people things but trying to help people figure out what might work best for them.  The site also offers its advice in ways that are very class-minded; they list a number of inventive ways to repurpose common objects as sex toys.

Thought I would share!

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Thinking About Harry Potter, Disability, and Cultural Studies

CW: mention of child abuse/neglect

For another class (an English class at Smith about witches, witchcraft, and witch hunts), I was assigned Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as reading.  In revisiting that text at this point in my life, I realized there could be enormous potential in a disability studies reading of the Harry Potter series.  Specifically, I am thinking about trauma.  (And I will focus mostly only the protagonist’s traumas, even though there are many other characters whose experiences could offer interesting insights).

There is no denying that Harry Potter goes through and lives with a lot of trauma throughout his life.  Yet none of it is really recognized as trauma in the books (or if it is, the only way Harry is shown dealing with it is suppressing his emotions and persevere despite all odds; a lovely intersection of toxic masculinity and ableist ideology).  Harry’s status as person reduced to sleeping under the stairs in the Dursley house is somehow romanticized as quirky, ie: Harry gets his Hogwarts letters addressed to him as “the Cupboard Under the Stairs.”  But Harry’s forced occupation of that storage space is an element of the horrible abuse inflicted upon him by the Dursleys.  It is also not cute or pleasing to know that Harry’s future school (and the people who placed him in the Dursley’s home in the first place) are aware of the abuse that  happens and do nothing about it.  So, I ask myself: what would be different if Harry Potter was written with mind to disability, trauma, and abuse, rather than brushing them off.

If Harry’s traumas and subsequent experiences of the affect of trauma were recognized diegetically, then I imagine that the very plot of later Harry Potter installments would cease to become possibilities at some point.  Ie: care-givers for Harry would not ever allow him to live with the Dursleys again; Dumbledore would stop asking/ expecting Harry to do dangerous, anxiety-inducing things at the risk of facing violent people; the Tri-Wizard tournament simply would not exist (or would have existed but been cancelled for the well-being of all involved).

Imagine: a Harry Potter who has his traumas recognized and validated as traumas by people around him.  A Harry Potter who comes to understand himself as disabled. What would happen?  What would happen if this world-renowned series boasted a protagonist who was disabled?  Would the Harry Potter series have had its wide-reaching scope and influence if it was written with mind to trauma and disability? How might my childhood had been different if I was exposed to texts in which the answer to every problem was not just to persevere, but sometimes to have limitations and to recognize them?  The possibilities are powerful.  I somewhat long to write fanfiction that incorporates a disability studies  lens, as I think the results could be wonderful.

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?