A Happy Place of Taboos - Maey T.
At the image's focal point lies the Satisfyer Pro 2, an extremely popular sex toy embraced by today’s young women. Around the Satisfyer, sunflowers emerge, constructed from antidepressant pills.
I chose this artifact because I wanted to address the enduring societal taboo surrounding sexuality and disability, especially for women. Because for a long time, it has been widely assumed that disabled women cannot engage in sexual activities, perpetuating their infantilization (Santos, 2007). Sex toys have the potential to significantly benefit individuals with disabilities, although discussions about this topic are often suppressed. These toys offer something beyond what humans can provide and can empower those with disabilities by fostering sexual independence (Kaufman et al., 2003). They enable self-pleasure and provide control over one's own experiences. Acquiring a sex toy is a powerful statement, symbolizing one's recognition of their right to pleasure (Kaufman et al., 2003). However, these toys are frequently designed with non-disabled individuals in mind, shedding light on ableist assumptions about sexuality (Santos, 2007). This doesn't mean that people with mobility issues can't use sex toys; solutions can be found, but it's crucial to have open discussions about these challenges (Kaufman et al., 2003). When looking at the background, most people notice the flowers first. However, when taking a closer look, it becomes evident that these "flowers" are actually pills. Similarly, people with disabilities are often seen primarily through the lens of their disability, but they are human beings deserving of a fulfilling sexual life. Additionally, the (sun)flowers represent hidden disabilities like depression or anxiety, conditions often treated with medication that can affect sexual function.
I am interested in Disability and Sexuality because I am studying Health Care Science, Policy, Management, and Law. During my academic journey, I had the opportunity to work as a caregiver in a housing facility for individuals with disabilities. This experience provided me with invaluable insights into the often-overlooked sexual needs of people with disabilities. Witnessing the potential for improvements in the organization and care provided within this facility motivated me to shift my career focus from medicine to policy making, with the aim of creating changes in social care. When selecting topics for my exchange program, Disability and Sexuality immediately stood out to me as an area I wanted to explore. I recognized the complexity and significance of this subject, especially through the lens of my host sister, who lives with spina bifida and requires daily assistance. Despite her physical challenges, she has the opportunity to experience a loving and intimate relationship with her boyfriend, which I realized is not the norm for individuals in her position. My personal experiences have also shaped my perspective on this matter. I have personally encountered the impact of medications that significantly affect libido and one's sexual life. It saddens me that these crucial topics are often shrouded in silence. I believe having discussions about this topic is imperative, not only for individuals who rely on such medications but also for people like my host sister, as they deserve the opportunity to lead fulfilling and normal sexual lives despite their disabilities.
This subject has impacted me by making me understand own my ideas about the topic of disability and sexuality better. It gives me the foundation to work on ideas that might not be sex-positive and came out of a place of fear or misjudgement. I never realized how frequently people with a disability are being desexualized and portrayed as people without sexual expression and desires. Which often leads to the assumption that they are incapable of having these aspects in their life (Liddiard, 2017). The good enough sex model really opened my eyes, because I had never considered that sexual dysfunction might not be a dysfunction at all, but just could be treated as something you could work on in an intimate relationship (Dr. Katie Heiden-Rootes, LMFT, 2021). This, along with other models, serves as a compelling illustration of the capability of individuals with disabilities to engage in intimate relationships. Also, the pizza metaphor discussed in the Ted talk by Al Vernacchio, I found truly inspiring as it let me reflect on my own relationship and what I wanted to add to my pizza, and that sex life is not always as straightforward as the commonly used baseball model. But everyone can just add whatever toppings they want to their pizza, just how they like it.
I hope my artifact inspires viewers to start thinking about their presumptions and see possibilities instead of obstacles. I also wish that the topic of sexuality and disability will become a more discussed topic and that one day it may not be a taboo topic anymore. That people with a disability are able to talk about their desires and are able to have wonderful intimate relationships. Just as I my friends are able to talk about our desires and our Satisfyers and how we can recommend them to each other. In my view, what we need more than pathology-based models of sexuality are sex-positive models, that empathize with acceptance and openness (Burnes et al., 2017). This will not only gain more acceptance but working with these models could also enhance one’s love life and communication (Burnes et al., 2017). One way to implement this could be by both training and practice approaches, with my current education, I hope one day to have the position to be able to make actual changes in this field. That hopefully, gives people that were neglected as sexual human beings before, the possibility to experience an intimate life just like every person should be able to have.