Disability and Sexuality: The Phenomenological Breakdown of an Able-Bodied Sexual Culture Open Access

Ferrando, Maria (Spring 2021)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zk51vj215?locale=en


Historically, the needs and capacities of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have been constructed through medical models of disability that, originating in eugenic logics, have served to exclude people with IDD from broad society. Particularly in regard to notions of sexuality, people with IDD have experienced barriers to sexual expression (and thus, to sexual culture) because of protectionist notions that falsely define people with IDD as necessarily vulnerable to sexual abuse. Using a phenomenological standpoint, this thesis argues that disability, as well as able-bodiedness, are products of social construction that serve the implicit purpose of bolstering the status and position of able-bodied people as “normal” against people with IDD who are conceived as “abnormal.” Deconstructing notions of normality and abnormality strengthens the conditions for meaningful platforms for people with IDD to express themselves as sexual citizens.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Phenomenological Analysis of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (8)



Chapter Overview

Chapter 1: Introducing a Phenomenological Understanding of Disabled Embodiment (16)

On Phenomenology and Embodiment

“Problem-bodies”- The Creation and Embodiment of Disability


Chapter 2: Historical Perspectives (24)

Social Darwinism

The rise of institutionalization

The Practice of Sterilization

Community consequences


Chapter 3: Disability Today- Accessibility and Sexuality (37)

The Self-Advocacy Movement and Global Measures for Human Rights


Sexual Rights and Barriers to Care


Chapter 4: Disability on Display (50)

The Role of Disability Within Media

The Sanctioned Stare

A Phenomenological Analysis of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Within Media

Love on the Spectrum


Disabled Embodiment and the Release of Compulsory Able-bodiedness in Keep the Change


Conclusion (67)

Bibliography (70)

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