In 1993, Irving K. Zola identified the sexual freedom of disabled persons as a pressing but neglected issue, usually drowned out by policy focussed on access to public and commercial life. Since then, public health and education policies in much of the world have addressed sexuality for disabled persons only as a problem to be managed (by parents, by group-homes, by medical care providers), and not as a right of access to self-expression. Increasingly panoptic governmentality has constructed a very particular, individual, “healthy sexuality” that marginalizes disability, leaving it always-already as a disqualifying category.
“Healthy sexuality" is produced in and by the twinned, vexed mandates of public health and public education (see, for example, Mary-Louise Adams’ The Trouble with Normal). Over the past 25 years, “healthy” sexuality has been increasingly viewed not only through the lens of consent (an obvious good), but also through the inclusion of sexual activity only if it serves “attachment” within monogamous pair-bonds (a less obvious good) between subjects assumed to be equally agential. In this now-pervasive model, sex is not “healthy” unless it is nobly promoting intimacy, or deeper understanding between the monogamous couple. We see this evolutionary model at work in most sexual education curricula and in web-based education.
Hence, this special issue seeks to challenge the normative assumptions that underpin ideas about “healthy sexuality,” who can enter into legitimate pair-bonds, and the largely reproductive demands of the pair-bond concept itself. We seek to interrogate the idea that non-disabled persons never desire those with disabilities as equals, that sex between the apparently “normal” person and the person with a disability is necessarily one of predation, and other such assumptions. We seek papers that address the legitimacy of desire of and for disabled persons. We also seek papers that address the rights of disabled persons to sexual expression that does not meet the normative assumptions of the pair-bond model, while also not assuming that disabled persons have no legitimate interest or ability to enter into reproductive and emotionally bonded sexual relationships.
Useful touchstones for inquiry might include, but not be limited to, Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow’s Disability and Sexuality; J. Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure; Anne McGuire’s War on Autism; and Jonathan Mitzi and Anna Kirkland’s Against Health, and Kathryn Stockton’s Growing Up Sideways, along with others writing more broadly about affective life and disability, such as Mel Chen, Sami Shalk and Kateřina Kolářová. Emerging work grounded in theory at the intersections of disability, race, and class through feminist theories of embodiment will be of particular interest. Submissions might develop insight based on discourses of “risk prevention” from work such as Julie Passanante Elman’s Chronic Youth that asks us to consider the exploitation of youth – whose putatively “disabled” brains in adolescence render them largely unable to make “good decisions” without the policing of various state agents – for political ends. In other words, a critical interrogation of “risk prevention” as it is applied to disability, and the problematization of some populations as especially risk-oriented is most welcome.
The special issue seeks to:
The web-based, open-access format of the CJDS allows us to welcome audio-visual and multi-media submissions. We encourage inderdisciplinary and disciplinary work that considers artifacts and ideas like:
• Medical journal case reports
• Public Health policy
• Medical records
• Public education/outreach programming
• The categorization of desire along axes that silence and marginalize PWD
• “Mental illness” as a discrediting status that constructs some people as categorically incapable of having “sex lives” or intimate relationships
•The structuring of neurodiverse people as a group that is, by definition, neither interested in nor entitled to an intimate/sexual life
•The problematization of sexuality and desire in queer identifications and/or racialised disabled bodies
• The connections and divergences between HIV status, disability politics, and the creation of “proper” sexual subjects
• Considerations of asexuality, asexual identity as non-pathological
Contributions from any discipline and methodological framework are welcome, but all should be familiar with and work from a stance that takes disability as a legitimate position from which to produce knowledge and to interrogate the limits of standard thinking about disability, sexuality, and health.
Send full submissions via email by August 1st, 2017 to:
Morgan Holmes, Special Issue Editor
Canadian Journal of Disability Studies
Professor, Dept. of Sociology
Wilfrid Laurier University