On SAGE Insight: Representations of Disability, Sexuality and Disabled Sex

Article title: Lost in representation: Disabled sex and the aesthetics of the ‘norm’

From Sexualities

Recent debates on sex and disability have focused on questions of representation as, after a long exclusion from popular culture, disabled intimacies have emerged in the social landscape. Despite positive framing and a significant interest from both disabled and non-disabled audiences, academic critics have suggested that the images are problematic. As Darke (2004) has observed, they conform to an aesthetics (and ontology) of normalcy – ‘the belief that there is an essentially correct way to have been born, look like and be’.

This article
examines depictions of disabled sex as mediated by normative representations of sexual performance and popular images of disability. It analyzes the ways in which disabled intimacies become encoded for mainstream reception through adaptation strategies that adjust disabled sexuality to a normative representational demand. The author argues that the increased visibility of disabled sex in the media occurs through assimilative, rather than transgressive, channels and that, to enter popular representation, disabled sexualities must be tuned to the demand of popular taste.

Abstract

This article examines depictions of disabled sex as mediated by normative representations of sexual performance and popular images of disability. It analyzes the ways in which disabled intimacies become encoded for mainstream reception through adaptation strategies that adjust disabled sexuality to a normative representational demand. Contextualizing recent popular images of disabled sex with studies on representing disability in popular media, the article shows how, despite the emergence of a new disability paradigm, the experience of sex and sexuality by people with disabilities becomes aesthetically subjugated to the ‘tyranny of the normal’. The author provides an insight into narrative strategies of the popular as well as examining methods used for relating disability and sex in popular culture. The article also advocates for the extension of popular narrative codes to ensure a more inclusive depiction of sexual pleasures, which although deemed ‘disabled’ are, nevertheless, erotic.

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Article details
Lost in representation: Disabled sex and the aesthetics of the ‘norm’
Anna Malinowska, University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland
First Published 19 Apr 2017.
Sexualities
DOI: 10.1177/1363460716688678

 

 

 

     
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