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Onscreen Disability Sex Representation Interview

Let's See More Mainstream Sex Scenes Starring Disabled People, Please and Thank You

(L-R): Jillian Mercado as Maribel and Leo Sheng as Micah in THE L WORD: GENERATION Q

Disability representation in entertainment is lacking, to say it lightly. Disabled couples, relationships, and intimacy are rarely ever seen, and when they are, they're plagued with stigmas and stereotypes. Only recently, sex scenes in shows like Sex Education and The L Word: Generation Q have highlighted intimacy in the disabled community, which was desperately needed. "Seeing disabled bodies in the media is rare enough as it is, but seeing them in a sexual setting?! That's basically unheard of!," Ms. Wheelchair Virginia Ryann Mason told POPSUGAR in an email interview. Hollywood has shied away from showing disabled people in a sexual light, essentially casting them in asexual roles. Disability and sexuality are not seen in the media, ad campaigns, entertainment, anywhere in the public sphere in the public sphere. Yet, seeing disabled bodies in romantic and intimate settings is extremely important. "Not only does it help show society that we truly are just humans with the same wants and needs as everyone else," Ryann said, "it also helps show those living with disabilities that they are sexual beings who are deserving of pleasure and sexual gratification."

"Not only does it help show society that we truly are just humans with the same wants and needs as everyone else, but it also helps show those living with disabilities that they are sexual beings who are deserving of pleasure and sexual gratification."

Being exposed to these kinds of scenes is important for both disabled and nondisabled people. "As a disabled person, I had questions surrounding disability and sex, but I didn't really have anything that demonstrated that it's just as 'normal' whether you're disabled or not," disability blogger and advocate Holly Greader told POPSUGAR. By not seeing representation in movies, shows, or media in general, this allows disabled sex to be framed as forbidden or even nonexistent. In Sex Education, there's an incredibly intimate scene between Maeve (played by Emma Mackey) and Isaac (George Robinson), in which Isaac explains that he still has an ability to become aroused despite his disability (caused by a spinal cord injury), but the ways in which he becomes aroused may differ. "The message is quite simple: disabled people can have sex too," said Holly. "Be respectful, ask questions if you're unsure, communicate, and most of all have fun!"

Normalizing sexuality and intimacy within the disability community is long overdue in the entertainment industry. "Put [disabled sex] in the media without drawing extra attention to it. Treat disabled sex scenes or intimacy scenes in the same way you would treat non-disabled intimacy/sex scenes," Holly said. The more that people openly talk and see disability and sexuality as one, not as two separate entities, the more normal it will become. "Disabled bodies are sexy and deserving of intimacy and pleasure," Ryann said. "The sooner we make these changes to the way we discuss and represent disabled intimacy the sooner we can give the disabled population the tools and confidence they need to further advocate for pleasure in their own lives and normalize disabled sexuality to the able-bodied population as well."

Image Source: Showtime
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