Sex and Disability

Sex and Disability

Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 11 illustrations, 3 figures Published: January 2012

Disability Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Sex and Sexuality, Theory and Philosophy > Queer Theory

The title of this collection of essays, Sex and Disability, unites two terms that the popular imagination often regards as incongruous. The major texts in sexuality studies, including queer theory, rarely mention disability, and foundational texts in disability studies do not discuss sex in much detail. What if "sex" and "disability" were understood as intimately related concepts? And what if disabled people were seen as both subjects and objects of a range of erotic desires and practices? These are among the questions that this collection's contributors engage. From multiple perspectives—including literary analysis, ethnography, and autobiography—they consider how sex and disability come together and how disabled people negotiate sex and sexual identities in ableist and heteronormative culture. Queering disability studies, while also expanding the purview of queer and sexuality studies, these essays shake up notions about who and what is sexy and sexualizable, what counts as sex, and what desire is. At the same time, they challenge conceptions of disability in the dominant culture, queer studies, and disability studies.

. Chris Bell, Michael Davidson, Lennard J. Davis, Michel Desjardins, Lezlie Frye, Rachael Groner, Kristen Harmon, Michelle Jarman, Alison Kafer, Riva Lehrer, Nicole Markotić, Robert McRuer, Anna Mollow, Rachel O’Connell, Russell Shuttleworth, David Serlin, Tobin Siebers, Abby L. Wilkerson


“As a political intellectual project, Sex and Disability aims toward a queer disability refusal of the normalization of our bodies, desires, spaces, imaginations. This refusal is an opening: what might happen to queer theories and practices of sexuality if we centered disability? ... [T]he editors have set the stage for future conversations, political action, and, really, hotter sex.” — Alexis Shotwell, Signs

“[R]apturous and sophisticated in both scope and nuance.” — Jacob Miller, Cyberhetoric

“[S]timulating, thought-provoking, and fascinating. Many of the entries left me with food for thought, including some intriguing reframing of social issues that will inform my own work in the future.” — S. E. Smith, Global Comment

“Although sexuality studies and disability studies have independently generated much scholarship, few have sufficiently bridged the disciplines as extensively as this anthology and showed as convincingly that "sex and disability" do in fact come together.... Recommended.” — Y. Kiuchi, Choice

“The vast majority of the contributions that engage with queer and disability theory here are, by turns, beautifully written, engaging, perceptive, hilarious, and nuanced. . . . [A]n intellectually invigorating read.” — Anna Hamilton, Bitch

“Overall, Sex and Disability is a substantive volume more than worthy of the reader’s time and energy.”   — Rebecca Housel, Journal of American Culture

Sex and Disability is one of the most important volumes to appear in disability studies in years and, I would hazard to guess, in sexuality studies as well.” — Bruce Henderson, Journal of Sex Research

“Limited texts are available on the topic of sex and disability. This vast collection of essays adds to the literature by providing theoretical constructs for conceptualizing sex and disability.” — Laura M. Tuck, Sexuality and Disability

“This book shows sex to be at work in encounters and objects not usually considered to be erotic, and marks the terrifying and exhilarating ways in which disability turns up in unexpected places. Such an undressing of sex and disability as is provided in this collection is sure to have a significant impact on disability studies in the years to come.” — Kelly Fritsch, Canadian Journal of Disability Studies

“The queer rejection of heteronormative futurity found in Mollow's essay, and the broader acknowledgement of a wide spectrum of crip sexual politics, discourses, and positions in the pages of Sex and Disability, offer an important counterpoint to the Hollywood version of disabled sex represented by The Sessions.” — Ellen Samuels, Disability Studies Quarterly

“Though McRuer and Mollow acknowledge that they are not the first to bridge these fields, what they do here, and quite impressively, is to harness the energies of this emerging discourse into a single volume at a defining moment in disability studies and disability culture. . . . One of the anthology’s most exciting elements is the complicated interplay its essays stage between body theory and embodied experience.”   — Cynthia Barounis, symploke

“Mollow and McRuer have edited an important book. The collection is an exciting contribution to the fields of disability, queer studies, and queer theory. Every chapter is an inspirational read, but taken together, the contributions provide insightful discussion with layers of reflection that would be difficult to incorporate otherwise. The volume not only shows the multiple ways sex and disability are intertwined, but also invites readers to think beyond established understandings of those concepts, thereby challenging boundaries and transforming ideas of disability and sex.” — Nina Mackert, H-Disability, H-Net Reviews

“The book's main contribution lies in asking: 'What happens to our models, central arguments, and key claims when we politicize sex and disability together?’ The range of answers in this collection demonstrates how generative this approach can be for rethinking issues of bodies, desires, and identities. It will surely inspire future work at this rich intersection in feminist disability studies in particular, where sexuality meets gender and disability.” — Anson Koch-Rein, Hypatia

" Sex and Disability well demonstrates the environmental insight that embodiment is never solitary, never finished, never the work of humans alone." — Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, GLQ

"This is a big collection, literally, politically, and theoretically. With essays drawing on sociology, anthropology, literary studies, history, and cultural studies, as well as some more lyrical, performative, and autobiographical, Sex and Disability will be indispensable for a wide range of audiences in gender studies, disability studies, queer studies and beyond." — Siobhan B. Somerville, author of Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture

"This riveting collection of essays is a fascinating rethinking of what sex and disability could feel like together, affirmatively and generatively. Opening with a candid, frank introduction that moves deftly between the autobiographical and the political, the volume mounts a serious challenge to the sex-ableism of queer theory and the tendency to think of sex and disability in negative terms. Having read about pregnant men, the vagaries of touch, amputee devotees, and sex addiction, the reader will emerge uncertain about what exactly sex is, who has it, and with what. More trenchantly, these works demand an acknowledgement of how notions of ableism severely limit broader experiences of sexual erotics, intimacy, and arousal. Kudos to the editors for undertaking this important project." — Jasbir K. Puar, author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Robert McRuer is Professor of English at the George Washington University. He is the author of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability and The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities.

Anna Mollow is a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction / Anna Mollow and Robert McRuer 1

Part I: Access 1

1. A Sexual Culture for Disabled People / Tobin Siebers 37

2. Bridging Theory and Experience: A Critical-Interpretive Ethnography of Sexuality and Disability / Russell Shuttleworth 54

3. The Sexualized Body of the Child: Parents and the Politics of "Voluntary" Sterilization of People Labeled Intellectually Disabled / Michel Desjardins 69

Part II: Histories

4. Dismembering the Lynch Mob: Intersecting Narratives of Disability, Race, and Sexual Menace / Michelle Jarman 89

5. "That Cruel Spectacle": The Extraordinary Body Eroticized in Lucas Malet's The History of Sir Richard Calmady / Rachel O'Connell 108

6. Pregnant Men: Modernism, Disability, and Biofuturity / Michael Davidson 123

7. Touching Histories: Personality, Disability, and Sex in the 1930s / David Serlin 145

Part III: Spaces

8. Leading with Your Head: On the Borders of Disability, Sexuality, and the Nation / Nicole Markotic and Robert McRuer 165

9. Normate Sex and Its Discontents / Abby L. Wilkerson 183

10. I'm Not the Man I Used to Be: Sex, HIV, and Cultural "Responsibility" / Chris Bell 208

Part IV: Lives

11. Golem Girl Gets Lucky / Riva Lehrer 231

12. Fingered / Lezlie Frye 256

13. Sex as "Spock": Autism, Sexuality, and Autobiographical Narrative / Rachel Groner 263

Part V: Desires

14. Is Sex Disability?: Queer Theory and the Disability Drive / Anna Mollow 285

15. An Excess of Sex: Sex Addiction as Disability / Lennard J. Davis 313

16. Desire and Disgust: My Ambivalent Adventures in Divoteeism / Alison Kafer 331

17. Hearing Aid Lovers, Pretenders, and Deaf Wannabees: The Fetishizing of Hearing / Kristen Harmon 355

Works Cited 373

Contributors 393

Index 399
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5154-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5140-5
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