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To Erase Stigma, Advocates ‘Undressing Disability’

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Jennie Williams has hereditary degenerative hearing loss.

Jennie Williams has hereditary degenerative hearing loss and said her group wants to “change the way society views sex and disability.” (Enhance the UK)

A new calendar featuring scantily-clad models with disabilities is designed to squash preconceived notions about sexuality among those with special needs.

Charlotte Otuonye and David  Williams both have cerebral palsy. (Enhance the UK)

Charlotte Otuonye and David Williams both have cerebral palsy. (Enhance the UK)

Zoe Lloyd has rheumatoid arthritis. (Enhance the UK)

Zoe Lloyd has rheumatoid arthritis. (Enhance the UK)

Dubbed “Undressing Disability,” the calendar produced by the British disability advocacy group Enhance the UK includes images of people who are deaf, blind and those with cerebral palsy, among other conditions, showing off their physiques.

Sporting little more than lingerie or swimsuits, the models are featured in studio portraits and on location, posing in an iconic London taxi and in front of British landmarks like Big Ben and the Tower Bridge.

Those behind the calendar are hoping to turn a few heads.

“All too often disabled people get ignored and desexualized, even ‘babied,’ being seen as people who just need looking after and not wanting or capable of having an active, healthy sex life and loving relationship,” said Jennie Williams, CEO of Enhance the UK and one of the models for the calendar.

Williams said her group wants to “change the way society views sex and disability.”

The calendar is available for free, but a donation is requested. All funds raised will go toward an inclusive sex and relationships education project, Williams said.

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Comments (21 Responses)

  1. Kevin says:

    What a great idea. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and when I use my stick I feel as though I’m considered unattractive or asexual.

  2. kimbers says:

    Disturbing … must we reduce everything to sexuality in our culture?

  3. fairlady68 says:

    I completely agree with kimbers who already posted here. “Sexiness” is not the be-all and end-all of human life, whether fully-abled or otherwise.

  4. Shawn says:

    Why is this disturbing? This is one aspect of these people’s lives, and part that they want to share. What’s the problem?

  5. Marsha says:

    Who is the target market for this type of calendar? My son has cerebral palsy and would prefer the same calendars that the non-disabled community uses.

  6. righteous indignation says:

    @ kimbers not disturbing at all. As humans, sex is about the only real and natural thing we do, everything else is make believe. Pretending it doesn’t happen and when it does that it is dirty or unnatural is the real issue. What is disturbing is this taboo that forces this to be hidden and then the only available source is porn and that is so limiting in what sex can be and is. They said we had a sexual revolution in the 60′s. I’m not seeing it. People are nearly hung up about sex now as they were prior to the 60′s.

  7. Linda says:

    I agree with the need to reduce attractiveness, competency, “normality” to everything sexual.

    Where is the SCUBA diver exiting her wheelchair into the water…….or the muscled tennis player chasing a ball? Where’s the wheelchair-using mom dropping her toddler off at pre-school?

  8. Linda says:

    Correction: What I meant was, I agree with the need to represent people with disabilities as “normal” individuals. But I don’t see why normalcy has to be reduced to sexuality alone.

  9. righteous indignation says:

    I agree Linda. Normalcy in all things would be a great ultimate goal. Everyday people in everyday activity. It saddens me that there are so many barriers in everyday life for disabled folks that normalcy is some distance off. Sex and sexuality perceptions are only one of the barriers. I would include this issue in with women body issues, where there has been dialog but not much for advancement.

    I live in a city where people consider second floor apartments with no elevator and a dozen steps into the building as wheelchair accessible.

  10. Ted says:

    Totally silly. Hope no federal funds for “research” went into the project.

  11. Jennie says:

    Hi everyone, I’m the founder of enhance the Uk and it’s really important for people to understand this campaign is about sexuality. Not about acsess issues or having an active Social life ( people diving in wheel chairs) etc. Those issues are separate campaigns that are very important in their own right and not to be mixed up with inclusive sex education which is the key element to what we do. We have sold over 300 calendars round the world so far in two weeks and many people emailing us with heart felt stories. This shows us that there is a need and place for this. It’s everyone’s right to have a active loving sex life if they wish and we are giving people the platform to be able start talking about it. Thanks for your comments it’s very interesting to read. Jennie.

  12. Leslie Walker-Hirsch says:

    EVERYONE has sexuality!!!! EVERYONE wants to be loved! PERIOD!!

  13. Emily says:

    I’m glad Jennie responded in this post because instead of deciding that this is ‘disgusting’, people should have checked out the organization. They would have seen how the organization is focusing its campaign around disability and sexuality, hence the calendar.

  14. Amanda says:

    I agree with many of the below comments. Instead of asking why they are not sexualized, why not start asking why hypersexualization of human beings is normalized.

  15. Anita Maroun says:

    This horrifies me – do we really have to publish these kinds of pictures to get across the idea that persons with disabilities are sexual beings? How about just working to get society to see all persons – no matter who they are – as human beings with all that implies?

  16. Mendy Hecht says:

    This is reprehensible, outrageous, offensive, disgusting and everything but unforgivable.

    We as a society have managed to continually reduce both genders to our basest instincts–and each time you think Hollywood, TV and pop culture have hit a new low, along comes another “Miley Cyrus” like this one to reduce it even lower.

    Is this what we have come to?

    Are we so sexualized that now we must sexualize even disability?

    If there is one corner of society that has remained untainted by this rampant epidemic, it’s the disability community.

    Guess not anymore.

    These people should retract this offensive publication and apologize. We’re all for integration, but leave disability out of this current of the mainstream, thank you.

  17. Rachiti says:

    For those who say this is inappropriate – do YOU have a disability? If not, then please open your mind and let us shine some light in. Since I cannot speak for everyone, I speak from my own experience. When the media constantly shows images of what beautiful, sexy, attractive women are SUPPOSED to look like – I cannot help but compare myself to them. Because of my physical disability, I will never be able to achieve that look no matter how hard I work for it. I will always look different. The media – including social media – rarely posts photos of women with disabilities and labels them as beautiful. When they do, most often they use women who have had breast cancer but are “otherwise” pretty…or were considered “normal” before the cancer. They don’t use people who cannot achieve “normal” with reconstructive surgery.

    EVERY woman and man deserves to feel attractive. It’s not about focusing on this to the exclusion of all other aspects of personhood but rather because one is virtually never told they ARE attractive by media. It is up to us to remind each other and the world that we are beautiful too. We deserve to feel the way traditionally beautiful people feel. We deserve to feel desirable and pretty.

  18. Ken Tigar says:

    This is not an example of sexuality but of objectification, an issue that the disability community already struggles with. While each participant has the choice to put herself in the calendar, we should also be critically aware of the purpose of these calendars: to titillate through the placing of a nearly naked women on display for the gratification of modern society’s phallocentric view of women’s bodies as objects. As people in the disability world have for years struggled with being objectified — a position of subordination to a dominant perspective — the creation of such a calendar suggests that the validity of the physicality of a person with disabilities rests solely in positioning itself for objectification and consumption. Sad.

  19. Sam says:

    I’m disturbed by people being disturbed about this. Sex is a huge part of who we are. We all need to feel sexy and desired.

  20. Ferdinand says:

    I’m all for disabled individuals wanting to appear normal or sexy, and I think this sort of thing could be a step in a good direction. Ideally, of course, the mainstream media would just feature disabled models in ordinary lingerie calenders, but yeah, baby steps. Having said that, can we all PLEASE stop saying that sex is for absolutely everyone and the only natural thing we ever do, and so on? I’m not trying to make this about me, but I am asexual, and being part of a group that’s completely invisible is certainly not any better than being marginalized. Please keep sharing your opinions on the calender issue, but try to do so without alienating anyone else who might be reading.

  21. Patricia Elaine Chandler says:

    It all comes down to this, on an individual level: Your percep is Your Reality.

    It is sad we live within a Society on planet earth which encourages the search for self awareness through the eyes of someone other than our own.

    What is wrong with “sex”? Well, exactly what is it? Is it an activity, attitude, look, being? What is it’s Real Purpose? Why do we need to attach our Outer Being to Feel Respected, Accepted, Validated, LOVED???

    What’s so wrong with the way each and every one of us was Born?

    I am not a sex, gender, object, purpose, title, label, class, status, thing to be acknowledged, observed, assessed, surveyed, adorned, awarded, accepted and I don’t need anyone, particularly Strangers Gawking at me in a glossy magazine Validating My Person, physicality or otherwise because, bottomline, if I Can’t Accept and LOVE myself just as I Am, the rest is moot!

    No one can see Me the way I see me. Some days I look crappy with makeupz a really nice outfit, hair done perfectly and some days, as soon as I awake and make it into the bathroom still with one eye closed, trying to wake up after 4 hours of restless sleep, I feel I’ve never looked more Beautiful! I don’t care what the WORLD thinks about. And I have no idea what sex is for anymore because it has absolutely nothing to do with LOVE.

    Today, most profoundly sad, is the fact that money Can buy Sex! How are the profits from the “pinups” going to be spent and, what’s next?

    I wish I could still have children and I thank God I do not!

    We need more Pictures of People LOVING People. Period.

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