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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Whether you be a wheelchair user, an amputee, or managing incontinence on a regular basis. That issue is really, really attractive to a devotee. It might be hard to believe, but if I were sat in a bar with hundreds of models, a devotee might just pick me.

Now, there’s something about devoteeism which can be really empowering. You know, disabled people feel 100% accepted for who they are, for every little piece of them, and especially for the pieces of them that mainstream society has often told them are not very desirable.

So, devotees can be a great thing. But there can also be a lot of vulnerability and power issues surrounding devoteeism. Devotees are known to stalk people with disabilities, are known to set up fake social media profiles, are known to film disabled people on their mobile phones as they are going and doing their weekly shop. This is something that people with disabilities and without disabilities need to be made aware of.

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Devotees can also create online catalogues of what they call Disability Porn. Don’t mistake this for the porn that we all know. Disability porn rarely has any sexual acts in it whatsoever. It really does just involve people with disabilities doing the most boring, everyday tasks that you can imagine. Transferring from their bed to their wheelchair, having a wash in the morning, going around Tesco, or getting in and out of their car. To me and you, not really worth seeing.

But the whole point is that these tasks exhibit the disabled body and show a struggle which devotees find sexually arousing. I’m not here to judge, I’m not here to advocate for or against a relationship with a devotee.

What I am here to advocate, and what Enhance the UK is here to advocate, is for everybody to know their sexual rights, for everybody to have an opportunity to have a filling, satisfactory, consensual, exciting relationship, whether they have a disability or not.

We are also fighting for an informed understanding within education, an inclusive education at that I hope I’ve given you some insight into the world of disability and sex.

Thank you so much.

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