Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Two Men, One Woman, Your Opinion

It was hard not to notice her.  I was in a hotel gym that had a cable machine. This is something I can use and do a wide variety of exercises. I was about half way through my routine when I noticed her. I have a habit of closing my eyes when I am doing an exercise as that helps me stay focused on what I am doing and to not be distracted when counting reps. She had come in when my eyes were closed.

I only saw her back. She was a petite woman, on an elliptical machine and she was working hard. I'm gay and all but that doesn't mean I don't notice when a woman is really fit and strong. She was. I went back to what I was doing knowing that I had only a few minutes more before I had to go upstairs and shower and change and get ready for the lecture day.

My eyes were closed and I was counting, very near done, when I heard two men talking about the woman on the elliptical, about what 'a  nice ass' she had, and mooning over her figure. I'm thinking, 'ah, shit, leave her alone, she's just doing exercises.' Then, they burst out laughing, 'Holy shit man, Holy shit."

I finished my count and saw what they saw. She had finished her routine and was getting ready to use another machine. She had Down Syndrome. She was quite beautiful. She was really in shape. The two men immediately shut down their sexualized talk about her.

I'm conflicted. I'm not comfortable with sexualized talk about anyone by anyone in a public forum. I may be a prude but I figure that people need to just keep their mouths shut about other people's bodies or attractiveness when out in the world. Fat bodies, thin bodies, fit bodies, different bodies, all need to be able to just be and that means that others just be quiet.

The reason for my conflict is that their understanding of her as an adult woman, with Down Syndrome, shouldn't eliminate the fact that she is hot. That she is attractive. That she is an adult sexual being. That doesn't disappear because she has an intellectual disability.

Some may disagree with what I'm saying here. I have been accused of sexualizing people with disabilities, I tend to think that I'm suggesting that people with disabilities have been de-sexualized in the minds of the systems that support them and many of the parents who raise them. For me it's a simple equation. They are human, they are sexual, that's it.

I understand all the risks of victimization, trust me.

I hear stories of exploitation, a lot.

But here in this situation, it seemed to me that a woman's disability simply erased her sexuality, erased her attractiveness, erased her adulthood, and erased her full humanity.

What do you think??


clairesmum said...

You articulate the dilemma well...I think I agree with you, she is an adult woman with an attractive body and if she was worth noticing/admiring from the back, then she is just as valuable and attractive when you see the front of her body, including her face.

I hope she was oblivious to the whole exchange! You have shared how hard it is to carry on as if nothing has happened when you hear this gratuitous commentary!

ABEhrhardt said...

That those guys are real jerks. And the kind of people who make the world a dangerous place for women like her.

As if their opinion mattered.

Lauralee said...

There's a young man that I've seen a few times that looks at one of the women I support in that sort of "I'm interested" kind of way.

I really didn't think much about it beyond it's too bad she's nonverbal, can't really start a conversation. When I mentioned it to my coworker, though, she was horrified. What a pervert blah blah blah...

But then, for some of my coworkers-for-two-more-shifts-only the notion that nonverbal people are sentient is still somewhat challenging.

Ron Arnold said...

After starting / stopping / re-thinking / re-writing a few times, I've reached the conclusion that I have an opinion and it doesn't say much about our species.

Jayne Wales said...

Very interesting question
I think if you're in a gym then you'll get noticed. There are female only gyms but I notice hot women everywhere so that makes no difference.
I see women who aren't standard shape with many other things going on that aren't standard either and get transfixed by them. I really do think I've always noticed women more than men. I comment to women about how good they look probably a lot more than I would to men and yes sexy comes into that. I see no reason to wear a Burkha or not comment when I'm in a conversation relationship
A waitress of middle age yesterday said how much she liked my dress and poncho
I went into my doctors and three people told me wow you look great. I felt well and good after.
But for any woman we want to feel safe in places as do men. So from a general feeling of safety not sure whether I'd feel comfortable if I was drawing the ' wrong ' type of reaction. So I'm uneasy about it as a woman in case their comments and looks are about what they would like to do to me too!
If they are admiring my toned physique in a gym and that's it I'd be ok with that. If it's nasty then I don't need it.
That goes for me or a sister in anyway.
To turn me into a non sexual person because I have a disability would be so hurtful.
I remember a situation that floored me when a health chief commented that he understood why a young woman with disabilities got abused
He said she's bloody good looking and sexy if she didn't have Downs Syndrome.
It was a long time ago and I was so angry about it. I've wrestled for years with that comment.
I've had the biggest and best laughs about sex and men with women with disabilities. Uninhibited demonstrations and comments that brought out the prude in me
A fabulous lady announcing loudly at a Christmas lunch how she wanked the postman through the railings for jam tarts when she was incarcerated in an institution
I remember saying oh ... didn't you feel you were being used? Quietly so no one could hear as I was embarrassed
She looked at me l, threw her head back and roared with laughter
Country accent which was wonderful
Oh no you silly woman
I love jam tarts!
Shut me up and my introverted and uptight wats!
It's context and place and safety and what you're educated about and comfortable with
No difference for any of us
My memories of the same lady acting out child birth at a party of women has never left me
I don't think I've ever laughed so much ever
The same ladies funeral drew people far and wide who she had kept going in the institutions
As her coffin was being take out the ' inappropriate' goodbye Lizzy, ta ta Liz, love you Liz words and care I've never heard before we're saud. It took its own momentum
She was a Joan Rivers of her time and drew the genuine and the belly laughing
We can be taught how to lighten up but we owe to each other safety and support when it gets mean or dangerous
So make what you can if that because I'm muddled still myself but it's about us as sisters and being safe not about anything else!

Debbie said...

In my opinion, so many people with Down Syndrome (and other developmental disabilities) are viewed as "children", no matter what their chronological age or maturity level. My daughter is about to turn 18 and looks very, very young. However, she is obviously no toddler, and people continue to address her as if she is three years old.

Debbie, NJ

Debbie said...

So many people view people with Down Syndrome (and other Developmental Disabilities) as "children", no matter what their chronological age or maturity level. My daughter is almost 18, but people still talk to her as if she is three years old.


Ron Arnold said...

Ok - thought a little more. People have preferences. Those guys had a preference for someone who was built like her, but not her disability. There's also a larger societal pressure there too. I mean, what IF one of the fellows still thought she was attractive when she turned around? Would he be considered perverted, a deviant, an abuser, pedophile or potential rapist? Would his friend be like: "Dude, no."

I think the question is larger than the two guys in a gym ogling a young woman with
Down Syndrome. There are a TON of considerations involved, and honestly - I can only answer for me. Would I (or had I) ever been attracted to a person with Down Syndrome? No. But even if I had, would I personally feel as though the playing field were 100% level if I ever was and had an opportunity to have a physical relationship? Probably not. Is that a bias on my part? Or is it preference on my part? And what's the difference?

Did you ever watch the TV show 'Travelers'? There is a similar situation presented there, except in a staff / consumer way - but without the physical differences seen in a person with Down Syndrome. I didn't care for the way they wrote it, but then, they wrote it for the values of their potential audience . . . .

Girl on wheels said...

Men started making inappropriate comments about my body when I was 11, and believe me I looked like a child at that age even if I was tall. From 14 onwards I had Men twice my age trying to pick me up, and that’s when the groping started too. I have been grabbed by the arse, by the breast and once between my legs. It is not a good feeling to not to be able to be out in public without being turned into a sexual object. It was only recently that I realised that nothing like that has happened to me in years, and what changed? I became a wheelchair user. Suddenly I stopped being sexualised, to the point that people assume my partner is my carer. I did notice that aspect straight away but not that the harassment had stopped. It’s weird to have become mostly invisible at the time of my life that I feel most attractive, now the only time I get noticed is to pitied. Which is so much worse because the sexualisation had nothing to do with me, it was about me having boobs and an arse. But the pity that’s about me, as is the bending over to talk to me, the patting my knee or head, the talking to me like I’m a child, the talking about me whilst I’m in earshot. I think I’d rather have the groping to be honest.

Ettina said...

"They are human, they are sexual, that's it."

I am asexual. Does that make me inhuman?