Disability and Pornography Essay

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Pornography is any medium that depicts erotic behavior for the sake of sexual arousal. This controversial subject is most often associated with magazines and movies but also includes books, art, cartoons, and other media. With the advent of Internet-based media and commerce, the pornography industry has expanded into cyberspace, thus allowing for greater product accessibility while maintaining relative user anonymity.

One of the many genres of pornography is pornography depicting people with disabilities. This genre, which spans nearly every media type, displays people with a wide range of disabilities engaged in sexual acts alone or with others. Most often, in this type of pornography people with physical disabilities play characters with disabilities, those with amputated limbs, who use wheelchairs, or who have vision impairment; however, people without disabilities have also been cast to play characters with disabilities. Overall, women with disabilities are more prevalent in the industry than men.

With respect to interpersonal violence, a critical feminist perspective views pornography as degrading, oppressive, and exploitive for women, as they are objectified for the sake of sexual arousal of pornography consumers, who are mostly men. This male centered objectification ultimately promotes inequality and subjugation, which are seen not only as forms of violence but also as pathways to other types of abuses such as physical and emotional abuse. When considering women with disabilities in pornography, this critical view is expanded, as women with disabilities are perceived to be more vulnerable and therefore in greater danger of sexual abuse, exploitation, and subjugation.

Other feminist perspectives view disability pornography differently. Many sex-positive feminists tend to believe that everyone should have freedom to make their own sexual choices, including accepting a broad array of human sexuality, which includes pornography. In this view, pornography is but an avenue for individuals to freely display their sexuality, both in creating it and in using it. From this perspective, people with disabilities participating in the pornography industry are exerting their sexual freedom by displaying their sexuality in ways they choose. Therefore, pornography tends not to be viewed as a violent act toward women with disabilities, as they, like all others participating, are displaying their sexual power and freedom.

Third-wave feminism tends to view pornography more pluralistically, as it may have both beneficial and damaging effects at the same time. For example, women with disabilities who participate in pornography may benefit others by reducing the social stigma where people with disabilities are viewed as asexual, unattractive beings. Conversely, by participating in pornography, women with disabilities may promote the emotional and physical abuse of women with and without disabilities. This feminist view differs from others, as it does not present a dichotomy, where pornography is either good or bad. Instead, it acknowledges that those participating in its creation may interpret the pros and cons differently, thus leaving the interpretation to the participant women.

Disability, Sexual Abuse, And Pornography

Exploring the topic of disability and pornography from the various feminist perspectives allows for a broad discussion; however, those with disabilities and the practitioners working in the field tend to be more focused on pornography’s impact on sexual abuse. In fact, it is widely accepted that the presentation of pornography to people with disabilities, without their informed consent, is a form of sexual abuse. Those most vulnerable to such abuses tend to include people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (ID/DD). This higher risk can be attributed to a variety of factors, including communication difficulties, lack of understanding about the event or its legality, desire for acceptance, power differentials, and/or fear. Similarly, as identified in the literature, pornography usage by people with disabilities, particularly those with ID/DD, may be an indicator of sexual abuse.


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