Inconvenient desires - Rachel D.
This artifact by Camille Holvoet depicts the way in which many medicines used to treat disabled people lowers their sex drives. The sexual desires of the disabled community are viewed as inconvenient thus the lowered libido is not counteracted by medical professionals. Society views the disabled as non-sexual beings.
I chose this artifact as it touches on the lack of sexual support there is in the medical field for those who are being treated with disabilities. Medications such as benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety), Tegretol (anti-convulsion) and corticosteroids (steroid medication) all are known to lower libido. Often people who are being treated with these medications are not informed or offered support in counteracting the effects of lowered libido. It is abundantly clear that those in the disabled community are already highly sexually isolated due to social reasons. When it becomes difficult for a person to desire sexuality and intimacy it is far more likely that they will isolate themselves further. It is deeply important that sex becomes a prioritized part of the health conversation from medical professionals.
The sexuality of a person with a disability should not be viewed as an afterthought nor as an inconvenient desire. When viewing the desires of a disabled person in such a manner sexual injustice is at play. Turner (et al. 2018) states that sexual inequality may discredit the full personhood of individuals. The artist of this artifact, Camille Holvoet, has a developmental disorder and paints to express all her desires and frustrations post diagnosis. In the artifact presented you can see the frustration felt as the medications that keep her healthy also heavily discredit her as a sexual being. This artifact represents that sex is for all consenting adults and no minority groups deserve to have their sexuality swept under the rug.
My personal history that heavily influences my passion for sexual injustice surrounding disability is the impact it has had on my own father. My father was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) at 3 years old and has had a steady decline in his mobility since, now leaving him wheelchair bound. My father became single when I was a very young child and since has had no guidance in how to navigate a romantic or sexual identity.
Seeing him go into hospitals and rehabilitation centers multiple times over the past 10 years and receiving no guidance in any aspects of his personal life is something that I had not noted until now. With that being the case, it is evident that those who are not in a minority group do not think outside of their own sexual identities. This is the clear problem in the category of disability in sex. Seeing somebody so close in your life experience such isolation is a catalyst to viewing the problem.
This unit has opened my eyes to the importance of sexual literacy and sexual empowerment. Any human being that has the desire for sex needs to have a safe space where they can be aided and taught how to partake in sexuality that is considered outside of the ‘norm’. Sexual literacy is power and is a human right and I believe it should be the responsibility of healthcare workers and support workers to provide an environment where sexuality is prioritized.
The gem I am taking away from partaking in this project is the need for social justice in the sexual health field. A quote by Manchikanti (et al. 2020) states “’Closing the health gap’ refers to intervening at individual, community, and societal levels not only to increase access to health care, but also to address the social determinants of health and eliminate health inequities.” Society does not include sexual health/wellbeing as being a part of the health gap. This is clear for able bodied individuals, let alone those with a disability. Intervening at an individual level within the healthcare sector is the most straightforward and safest way to provide sexual help and guidance to those with a disability.
Rowen (et al. 2015) expresses that people who have disabilities that hinder them from having ‘normal’ sexual experiences are often categorized as asexual. This is due to a bias that many healthcare professionals have regarding people with physical disabilities. This is a prime example of the deep importance of in-depth sexual education that must be delivered to health care professionals. Once again, the sexual health gap in widened.
Medication used to help maintain a disabled persons quality of life is of the utmost importance, and so is their sexuality. Closing the health gap will only be achievable when every single individual’s needs and desires are held at the same level of value. This unbiased view of disability and sexuality will continue to stay with me past the duration of this unit.
I hope my artifact urges viewers to consider their positionality when viewing disability and sex. As an able-bodied person, it is easy to disregard anyone else's sexual needs, especially those we often unfairly categories as asexual. I also urge the readers to consider how much sexual medical guidance they have received in their lifetime. If it is like myself and many others, it is safe to assume not a lot. My positionality is as a heterosexual able-bodied female. If I am not receiving medical sexual care, the people we as a society view as non-sexual beings are at an even lower chance of receiving that care.
I encourage readers to open up the conversation of disability and sex or sex within any minority group. Those who are in a majority group are the people who are safest to touch on taboo subjects. When a subject such as sex within minority groups is vocalized and normalized it becomes a part of the social norm. Acknowledging disability and sex is one of the few mays to destigmatize it and deisolate those who are struggling with it.
Finally, I would like viewers to openly and honestly consider how important sex and intimacy is to their life. How would you feel if suddenly any access to sex you had was taken away? Until we reflect upon our own experience it is difficult to fully grasp to social isolation felt by people who cannot access sex in the traditional way that able-bodied people do.
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