The Simon Heng column

The subject of disabled people and their sexuality is one of the last taboos

Encarna Conde is the 45-year-old president of the Andalusian Ataxia Groups. She has ataxia (a condition causing an unsteady gait and shaky movements) and is a wheelchair user. When she contacted Antonio Marcos, a producer of Spanish porn movies, to complain that disabled people did not feature in his films, Senor Marcos held a casting session for aspiring disabled porn stars. When no one came forward, Encarna Conde volunteered herself.

The resulting film, Breaking Barriers, ends with a discussion between Senora Conde and the producer. “It was very pleasant, though I was somewhat cowardly,” she said. “Disabled women have to take steps forward and one should always be happy if one breaks a barrier. Everybody has the right to make their own sexual choices.”

The subject of disabled people and their sexuality is one of the last taboos, particularly in this country, where we have ambivalent attitudes towards sex anyway. Whether it concerns people with learning difficulties having the right to have sexual relationships, or older people being “allowed” to have sex with each other in care homes, the underlying attitude is that people who need care shouldn’t have an active sex life.

If we live independently, we can get advice and information on most topics – apart from sex. The message seems to be: “Yes, it’s possible to have a successful sex life: we know about people who have managed it, but please don’t ask us for any help or advice.”

I have conflicting thoughts about pornography and disability. On the one hand, disabled people should be free to express themselves sexually, as in every other way. On the other, workers in the sex industry don’t always have complete freedom of choice. One can argue that inclusiveness can have no barriers, or that pornography objectifies its participants, and disabled people have always complained about their objectification. Disabled participation in pornography could be someone’s fetish, but one person’s fetish is someone else’s challenge to accepted stereotypes about sexuality and beauty.

Either way, Encarna Conde has opened a Pandora’s box.


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