I was challenged yesterday to explain my involvement in this video. The challenge came because the person who was upset with me 'thought I knew better.' Words flowed like 'inappropriate' and 'vulgar' and 'offensive.' What I wasn't able to find room to do was what they asked me to do, explain why I had written this, when requested by Open Future Learning, to write short vignettes about support, about service, about disability and about ableism.
Several years ago, working in Ireland, I was teaching people in their early 20's about sexuality and abuse prevention. All the participants had Down Syndrome. At one break I referred to a young man as 'just a kid.' Now I did this because I was way older than him, I meant no disrespect. But disrespect was taken. He turned on his heel and stated clearly and loudly, "I am a man!" I felt the slap he intended. My usage of that word in his presence, my calling him that word, ignored a lifetime of being considered 'a big kid' and having his adulthood diminished. That was the starting point of me really looking at whether or not I was able to see people with disabilities as adults.
When it came to writing some vignettes for filming, I sat down and thought about a variety of situations. The theme of adulthood, and asserting adulthood kept coming to me. I remembered speaking to a couple with intellectual disabilities who were having trouble in having their relationship recognized as legitimate. It was called 'cute' and 'sweet' and there were a lot of subtle put downs. They felt like they were treated like two kids in kindergarten that got a crush on each other. He joked, "If they only knew we fucked." We all laughed.
Hence, the video.
I am not unused to controversy. Over the course of my career, I have been the cause of much of it. Being pro-sex and pro-adult at a time when that was not a popular view was a bit of a rough road. Some of the reaction to this reminds me of that.
Some will say they are offended at the language.
Some will say they found the use of the language in that situation rude.
Most won't identify the patronizing tones of the women commenting on the couple who were right in the midst of othering the couple as maybe needing to be brought up short with the fact of the adulthood of the couple in question.
Advocacy against the subtle and not so subtle ableism that rides behind and against adulthood, sexuality and the right to be respected and it cloaks itself in words that turn the everyday into clinical terms 'inappropriate' the word that has been used to bludgeon people with disabilities into submission, 'unprofessional' another tool to target those who work towards freedom and respect for the people they serve.
But in the end.
I think the video is funny.
I think the video makes it's point.
I think the actors had a blast making it.
Sometimes a good slap in the face is a wonderfully bracing thing . . . be it literal or figurative. I watched the video on Facebook. I thought it was excellent.
I loved it.
Also brings to mind this poetry from Mouth Magazine back in the day (probably NSFW).
Dear Dave. The actors did have a blast making the videos. I know because I was with them that whole day. Every actor that participated chose whichever scenario spoke to them most deeply. The company always works that way. Nobody is ever asked to participate in anything that feels uncomfortable or at odds with their personal values. Many discussions were had before rehearsals began. The performers in that scene include a mother and son who specifically wanted to be a part of addressing the issues you raise. It was a hilarious day and everyone got paid.
Wow did somebody entirely miss the point!
"Disabled people are allowed to say
but they're not allowed to say fuck."
I’m sorry you got told off for being a part of such an awesome video. And I’m sorry that whoever did that telling off clearly didn’t understand what they watched, because if they had they would have understood that it was addressing attitudes like their own. People with disabilities, whether physical, intellectual or both, are sexual beings. They have relationships, and that includes sex. As long as everyone is consenting and there are no weird power imbalances, what’s the problem with that?
I get talked to like I’m a child quite a bit, people bend down to talk to me and use a patronising sing song tone of voice. They assume me partner is my carer and ask him about my capabilities. It’s infuriating and I usually tell them where to go. I know it’s so much worse if you have an intellectual disability though, both from having people assume that of me and from working with teens with IDs in my pre-disabled life. The only way those attitudes are going to change is by challenging them, so thank you for being a part of that.
No need for explanation video was clear and funny.
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