Both sexuality and disability are complex terrains, offering a realm of possibilities that are often made unnecessarily complicated and unattainable by the mental maps we draw of them and the artificial barriers we erect.
Disabled people might not have many spaces where they can speak openly about their sexual experiences or even sexual curiosity. There is a heavy monitoring of disabled young people especially, and this can mean that exploration, which is often how many of us discover sexuality, can be limited. Moreover, since the experiences of disabled people are not seen in popular media such as films, we can (and probably do) imagine we will have the same or similar experiences as non-disabled people – which is often not possible.
I cannot let anyone see the stretch marks, the cellulite, the saggy breasts. I cannot reveal my hideous body. I feel anxiety well up inside me even as I visualise this eventuality. I read about ten ways for a fat person to have meaningful sex. I learn that throwing a cloth over the bedside lamp will help hide my flaws.
What vindicates the argument that women with disabilities (WWDs) should be deprived of sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights is scary. Harmful stereotypes of WWDs include the belief that they are hypersexual, incapable, irrational and lacking control. These narratives are then often used to build other perceptions such as that WWDs are inherently vulnerable and should be ‘protected from sexual attack’.
In the spirit of the Games, I watched the Netflix film Rising Phoenix which documents the history of the Paralympics and its impact on the world in making visible the topic of disability. It also tracks the personal and professional journey of some of the top Paralympic athletes who share their challenges, frustrations and motivations.
Everyday Feminism’s comic illustrates the complexity and diversity of sexuality, revealing how sex can sometimes be pleasure-affirming and sometimes not, and asks us to talk about ALL KINDS of sex – the good, the bad, and the hilarious.
Dr. Lindsey Doe debunks myths around disability and sexuality, at once carving out space for affirming and inclusive discussions and challenging negative and harmful stereotypes. Emphasising the sexuality of people with disabilities as rich and diverse, Lindsey wonders what inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights really mean.
The virtual world allows me to challenge the hold of patriarchy on my ‘effeminate’ body; in a sense, it allows me to evade the policing of desire that my body shares with another, its flows and slippages, the messy and the unkempt. While virtual sex offers a window to revisit the sensual, it is also not immune to limitations and insecurities.
It is the winter of 2013, and my father and I are sitting at an awkward distance from each other…
Dalit women are primarily viewed as victims and survivors of various kinds of violence. Reification of the Dalit identity has led to the boxing of our existence whose dimensions are solely defined by the savarna (dominant caste) gaze. Our self-assertions of identity are commodified to create a warped limiting of our lives, creating an image that is voiceless in the minds of our potential suitors. We are not seen as being capable of desire, love or happiness; we don’t exist as individuals outside of violence.
Apart from systematic exclusions faced by individuals, evidently the mandatory use of a biometric-based digital ID has also reshaped the understanding of an individual’s agency and right to bodily autonomy. Gender and sexuality seem to no longer be matters of an individual’s right to privacy. With digitisation, disclosure of one’s gender and sexuality has become a hindrance to accessing one’s rights.
You see, numbers are tricky, data is tricky. More importantly, data is dehumanising. Add sexuality and intimacy to this and the waters get even murkier. Maybe it’s good to leave a few things unaffected by too much data. Maybe we do not want to talk about data and sexuality. Maybe we instead want to talk about why data around gender and sexuality must not be recorded, and instead, maybe focus on why we should honour every kind of sexual preference which is within the purview of the safe and consensual.
Online dating can be great fun but it comes with some risks. This quirky and in-depth Digital Security Guide by Access Now on How to Date Online Safely tells us how we can engage with fellow dating-app users while making sure we are safe from harm.
Period tracking applications can also inform you about your general reproductive health and also caution you in case of an anomaly with respect to it. As menstruators in our undergraduate years, the primary reason I saw my friends using period trackers were to keep a track of when to carry menstrual products to college or avoid the risks of pregnancy.
If you live in an urban metropolitan city, you must have seen women dressed up in company uniform, carrying a heavy bag on their shoulders, their attire shouting a brand name with logos all over her. Their bodies become an advertising ground for a company’s marketing. Sometimes, the bag is a portable salon that they carry to their client’s (home), who book the beauty service using a mobile application. These ‘workers’ enroll themselves on the platform company that operates as an intermediary, to get bookings on-demand.