Disability Representation in Erotica is tough topic for me to write about, but I often get asked about it, so I will share my thoughts. It is difficult for me, because there is often a thin line between including people with disabilities in erotica and fetishizing disability. Unfortunately, most of the erotica I have seen seems to be more fetishizing disability. Positive representation of people with disabilities in erotica, to me, would be focusing on a person who happens to have a disability, but is also sexy. Fetishizing disability is where the primary focus on the disability itself. This fetishizing is harmful to people with disabilities.
How can erotica include people with disabilities in a positive way? I would love to see more people with disabilities producing their own erotica, or at least having a say in how the erotica is portrayed. For example, it can be very empowering for a person with a disability to be in erotica and to be seen as sexy AND disabled. The focus needs to be the person…it is the person who is portrayed as sexy. It is Not about sexualizing the disability itself. It is not about sexualizing their mobility devices…wheelchairs, canes, etc. Sometimes even well meaning producers of erotica too often make it more about the disability and less about the person. When the title of the books or film is based around the disability, I personally think it is fetishizing. It ultimately hurts those of us with disabilities.
The goal in including people with disabilities should be to make that person feel sexy, not make them feel like they are there just because of their disability. It should empower, enrich and make that person feel good about themselves.
Fetishizing, on the other hand, can have a detrimental effect on people with disabilities. It can damage the self esteem of the actors as well as observers who also have disabilities. Fetish erotica plays into how we are different. In my opinion, as a woman with a disability, we do not need another thing focusing on our differences and making us feel separate.
Positive representation means people with disabilities are included with able bodied people. Positive representation would have the benefit of allowing others to see people with disabilities as adults with same sexual needs and desires as everyone else. It would show that we can have a disability but we can also be sexy.
I was interviewed for this article in The Mighty last year, and the author, Renee Fabian, also includes her recommendations for positive representation in erotica. I haven’t seen them all personally, but this may be a good place to start if you are seeking to see disability portrayed positively in erotica. Links are adult only 18+ and NSFW.