Systemic Desexualisation of People with Disability
Written by Jason Clymo
Illustration by Hattie Reid
Hey XES blog readers!
My name is Jason Clymo and I am a 25 year old queer man with disability. I’m a model, marketing/tourism professional, and business owner. I’m also an activist, and am extremely passionate about the representation of people with disability in mainstream media. One topic I’m extra passionate about is the systemic desexualisation of people with disability - AKA the wide-spread notion that people with disability aren’t sexy and/or sexual.
Society has been built with systems that prioritise certain types of people over others, and people with disability are often marginalised by these systems. This experience (along with other discriminatory behaviours) is referred to as “ableism”.
Ableism exists everywhere, so it really shouldn’t surprise you that it is experienced throughout dating and sex as well. Whether it’s being automatically friend-zoned, ignored on Tinder/Bumble/Grindr, or asked “Can you have sex!?!?!” - it exists. But why? Why do non-disabled not know better? Why is it that even some people with disability believe they can’t be sexual?
Well! Two of the main pieces of the puzzle are ignorance and representation. To make things simple, I’m going to explain the issues at hand - and then provide some solutions.
ISSUE: Most non-disabled people (and some people with disability) hold a very silly belief that we can’t be horny little ratbags, just like them. When the bulk of society holds this belief, it then becomes very hard for people with disability to rebel against that and feel good about sexy times.
SOLUTION: Non-disabled people need to take some time to research and educate themselves on the experiences of people with disability. In fact, all people who experience some sort of privilege should learn about that privilege, the system they benefit from, and the people who are marginalised and discriminated against via said system. There are LOADS of amazing people with disability out there who are sharing, educating and spreading the good word of inclusion. Find us, listen to us, learn about ableism, and discover how saucy and sexy we really are. Then take our lead, amplify our voices and make some positive change alongside us. Here’s a fab list of Instagrams to get you started. PS: If you don’t do this you’re probs going to continue to be ableist, and that’ll mean you’ll miss out on some fun times with some really yummy people with disability.
ISSUE: People with disability aren’t represented in a sexual way... Fashion, media, TV and film all inform the unconscious biases that exist in society. The way they portray people with disability has the power to create or dismantle ableism. The way they portray people with disability also has the power to create or dismantle the idea that we are/can be sexy and sexual. This is why it’s SO important for marginalised communities to be given the opportunity to control how we’re represented. As a person with disability, I often feel like I’m under-represented and/or mis-represented - especially when it comes to sex. When was the last time you watched a TV show or film, and a character with disability was depicted in a sexual way? I honestly think I’ve only seen one show in the last 2 years where this happened... This lack of representation ‘unconsciously’ tells people that “people with disability can’t have sex and aren’t sexy”. This results in wide-spread desexualisation, which causes barriers, ableism and discrimination.
SOLUTION: HIRE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY! Let us control the narrative for once. Hire us as actors, journalists, models, screenwriters, consultants, directors, editors, and so on. Let us represent ourselves the way we want and need to be represented.
Of course, much of this has been simplified to serve the purpose of this blog. But let me make it even simpler for you... I’m disabled and I have sex. I have good, fun, hot sex. I’m disabled and people find me sexy. I am a sexual person - just like most of you...
Jason Clymo is a 25-year-old queer, white man with disability. He is a model and activist who is incredibly passionate about the representation of people with disability in mainstream media. Jason is also the co-director of J2 Content Creation.