I would love to begin a dialogue about how the disability experience can be a sexy one. **It should go without saying that these will likely to contain adult and sex positive content.**
I am in a small coffee shop on my motorized mobility scooter. Such a device takes up space. A lot of space. I sit absentmindedly staring at my iphone, hoping to preoccupy myself with my facebook feed until my latte is prepared. I palpably feel the stares of other other patrons burn laser holes in my back. I look up to see if they have called my name and to make sure I’m not obstructing an aisle (I most certainly am). I press my scooter forward a bit. It makes a hum and an audible clicking sound. Just then I catch the gaze of a young man. I smile at him and his gaze instantly fixes itself on a simple two-line quote painted on the wall. I look in the direction of the quote, read the silly cliche quickly and glance back at the man. He is staring at the quote intently, with such focus he looks like he is painting the quote over and over with his eyes. Then I realize, he is doing everything in his power not to stare at me, the young attractive girl in the power scooter. My coffee is taking forever, as they need to brew a new batch of beans. I return to my phone to further pretend like I don't notice the establishment workers and patrons wishing this weird strange body of mine would leave. By this point I’ve clogged the isle so badly a table has to be shifted to allow others to exit the shop. I pretend not to feel others wishing me to leave. I apologize for being in the way at least nine times. Everyone is kind and smile at my awkward jokes, but I feel those smiles slip to grimaces as I look away. Then, I look over at the man and he is still staring at the quote. I almost yell at him “look, that quote isn’t the next greatest work of philosophy. Wayne Gretzky is not, in fact, the next Nietzsche. You can look at me, because I am a human and I am here!” Just then they call my name. I fumble for my coffee and go to exist. Before I open the door, I look back at the man who I have finally caught the gaze of, lick my lips ever so slightly, purse my lips around the straw, and wink. In almost a comedicly split second, he gasps, jumps, then breathes a sigh and then grins back. I smile and leave to go. I feel eyes on me as I exisist the shop. As I cross the threshold, I think I hear a collective exhale.
The disabled experience is one of performance (maybe that’s why I’m doing this whole acting career bullshit). I’m a point of fascination, simply because no one is quite sure how good at functioning as a human I am. The tension my body holds can be painful. Will I or will I not fall over? Will I run into someone? Will I break something? (I don’t even know the answer to these things, yo.) My body and the events that may conspire are one of newness, curiosity, and wonder. At it’s root, everyone wonders how functional I am. How good is the weird body at being a person? How does it function simply? As an actor, I am thankful everyday for this weird body, because it contains so much interest. I, too, am learning new things about it every day. I can (well, whether I like it or not) control a room’s attention with a single footstep. So many actors would kill to be so powerful.
However, disability can turn into a societal blind spot. Due to politically correct shammers, many abled-bodies are too scared to interact with PWD’s at all. I’m positive that you have all heard parents hiss at their children “it’s not polite to stare” or the shush when a child wants an explanation of bodies of difference. Due to the fear of being offensive, all learning that could begin to happen at a young age is cut off, stifled, and muted. We exist in a world right now, of extreme sensitivity. Often that comes from at the expense of both my humanity and the immediacy of what is happening in the moment. The situational tension my body creates is ignored to save face and be polite.
But I’m tired of being polite. I’m tired of the blind spot speaking for my body, because something a lot more deadly will take its place. That deadly thing is media narratives surrounding disability. Those narratives are often of inspiration, tragedy, and the worst: innocence. When the media covers stories about PWD’s the disability is a thing to overcome, or deal with which makes the PWD almost a saintly, holier than thou, figure. When was the last time you saw a PWD in a movie in which the person just gets a coffee and goes to work at a simple office job? You probably haven't, because these don’t exist. Instead, there is a swell of orchestral music in a minor key as the PWD lays in bed and other abled bodied characters talk about ~how hard it is for them~ (this movie will probably win at least one Academy Award). When people don’t interact with me, these narrative are what fill their minds. And lets be real, these narratives are the antithesis of the way I live my life. I am not holy. I am not saintly. I am not inspiring. I am not innocent.
The narrative of innocence is especially damning because it is a narrative of asexuality and allure less existence. (I will admit right now, that there is nothing wrong with asexuality, but for the purpose of this series, I need to draw the line that disability and asexuality are not mutually exclusive or even tied at all.) Disabled bodies are fascinating, but disabled bodies aren’t always very sexy. The question surrounding my body is ‘how well I can exist’ and the first part of primal existence is sexuality. Understanding disabled bodies as sexual beings, is, to me the first step in being aware of disabled people being productive, active members of society. Once people have that one question answered, they are much more apt to understand the capability of the foreign and freaky disabled body.
So I’m on a quest to reclaim this narrative. To do this, I realized that it is much more than just existing. My beautiful, curvy body, is not often sexualized (which from a feminist perspective, is awesome, I suppose), because it is not often seen, due to that pesky blind spot. In order to change me narrative, I have to both direct the gaze and redefine it. Not only can you warmly invite a spectator to stare, by incorporating a suggestive persona. By adding the suggestion of sex, it often causes a question within themselves Additionally, by adding sex into the mixture, the looker and the looked at relationship is skewed. I am normally that one looked at with the understanding that the abled bodied looker has the upper hand status. By skewing this line of status, the relationship becomes communal. There is a presence of togetherness and awareness of one another's’ personhood. And just like that, the blind spot is gone and I am a human.
This series will go onto address more tangible questions, problematic systems, and tips. While this post is incredibly meta, it is the window into my own personal purpose for these investigations. Can't wait to talk more sexy soon!