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Undressing Disability: Emily Yates at TEDxYouth@StPeterPort (Transcript)

Just a little update for you: Sophie is now engaged. Yes, it’s very good news.

All right, so let’s go back to that word “disability”, and the fact that very few of us see it as desirable and attractive and sexy.

Why is that, and how can we change that? I’d like to propose three ways of doing so. The first one being to ask questions, the second one to increase our inclusivity, and the third one to up the ante in how caring we are.

Let’s look at the first one: asking questions. I get asked plenty of questions about my disabilities, and not all of them are ones that I want to hear. Quite a few men come up to me in a bar, think they’re being cool, think they’re chatting me up.

Before they even say hi to me, they ask me whether or not I can have sex. My answer: “Yes I can, my friend, but I won’t be having it with you.”

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So, how can we ask the right questions? How do we do it? One way of doing that is via The Love Lounge. You’ve heard a little bit about it there. The Love Lounge is run by myself and Mik Scarlet, who is quite a well-known TV personality.

You may have heard of him. What we do is we run an open forum where people with disabilities, their friends, their family, their loved ones, anybody that knows them and has a question, can write in with anything regarding disability, sex, relationships, dating. You name it, we’ve heard it, and we’ve answered the question. We’re the only forum out there that allows this to happen. It is really, really important that these conversations are starting, and they’re happening, and more people are talking about disability, sex and relationships.

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Especially with the online world today, I have so many young girls writing to me, saying they’ve just set up a Tinder profile, and they are not sure whether to put their wheelchair within their profile picture, or to put something about their disability in their bio. The answer is: it is totally up to them.

But it is really, really vital they get that information that they need. And they have a forum, an opportunity, a platform to express their feelings. I really do urge you, if you have a disability yourself, or know somebody that does, or you’ve got a burning question that you really want answered, to write into us at The Love Lounge, via Enhance the UK.

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The second point that I’ve got to make is all about increasing inclusivity. When we think about access and inclusion, this is a really tough one because we often think about wheelchair ramps for hotels, great; British sign language interpreters for people that are deaf, brilliant; and guide dogs for the blind. All these things are absolutely amazing and vital for an inclusive society. But what we often don’t consider is the social sphere that we’ve got going on. Within that social sphere exists sex education within schools.

What I want to propose is that we have inclusive sex education. Because, as you heard in the video, disabled women are twice as likely as their able-bodied peers to suffer from sexual abuse. Twice as likely.

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Now, we all know and probably accept that disability does equal a degree of vulnerability. But what doesn’t aid that vulnerability is the fact that sex education in schools currently isn’t very relatable for anybody with a disability.

A girl in a wheelchair would sit in a lesson, and she’d be watching these sex ed videos, and their bodies would function totally differently to hers. They don’t look like her body looks. So she comes out of the lesson with, actually, very little knowledge of how her body would work within sex. Very, very similar situation for somebody who is hard of hearing or somebody who has a learning difficulty.

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The content within these sex education lessons is really tough to understand if your reading age isn’t particularly high, for example. You come out of the lesson none the wiser about intimacy and relationships.

Where are you supposed to get that information from? We can now see that’s where that vulnerability increases, and that’s where the chance of sexual abuse increases as well. It’s really, really important that we think about that. Enhance the UK have set up a petition on change.org.

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So please, if you fancy signing it, please do so, just search for us.

The third point: upping the ante in how caring we are. Many young disabled people require a little bit of care and support, within their home lives, within their school lives, whatever they’ve got going on. One thing that often isn’t in any of their care plans is anything to do with sex and relationships. Particularly for young disabled boys going through puberty, they are often labelled as naughty, aggressive and angry.

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When, actually, they are probably really flipping sexually frustrated, with nobody to talk to about it, nowhere to turn, and no idea of what’s going on within their bodies. This is something that, again, we must change.

The good thing is that we are all sat here today, and we’re having a conversation about it. And these conversations are happening, they are increasingly becoming out there for people. So, there is something that is going on that’s brilliant.

But there is also another side of my talk that I need to talk to you about. And that’s a rather uncomfortable subject of devoteeism. Devoteeism is probably something that not many of you have heard about, because it really is an underground world. It is something that I have only just discovered after presenting a BBC 3 documentary on disability and sex. Devotees are people who find people with disabilities sexually attractive because of their disability.

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By Pangambam S

I have been a Transcriber and Editor in the transcription industry for the past 15 years. Now I transcribe and edit at SingjuPost.com. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know. And please do share this post if you liked it and help you in any way.