Sisters of Frida CIC is an experimental co-operative of disabled women. Founder member Eleanor Lisney FRSA discusses their new programme of workshops that examine disability and sexuality.
Last night one of my new colleagues expressed surprise when I mentioned my children – she said she had no idea that I had children. She did not mean it to be malicious but the fact I have children often surprises people. I think, to be brutally honest, most people do not expect disabled people to be sexual beings, let alone have offspring.
And for disabled women it is doubly problematic. Consider the stereotype of being a woman – a caregiver, a sex object, mother, housekeeper – you get the picture. Many of those roles are not seen to be within the capacity of disabled women. In the media, films about disability and sexuality are almost always from the perspective of disabled men where they have their needs fulfilled by non-disabled women. For example, Me Before You (even if he did not think it was enough to keep him living), and The Sessions. There are not many based on the needs of disabled women (excluding Children of a Lesser God).
Very little space is afforded to the sexuality of disabled women or how to factor in disability in the search for companionship, romance, relationships and sex. These narratives are missing. I was made aware how much so when I joined the group of women who attended the first Sisters of Frida workshop (one of a series of four workshops) lead by Sisters of Frida steering group members, Lani Parker and Dyi Huijg, on Dis/ability and Sexuality. This workshop was titled 'Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way.'
As disabled women we have a wide range of experiences, positive and negative, around disability, sex and sexuality. Disabled women are sexy, sexual, passionate, loving, desirable, hot, beautiful, strong and much more! Our experiences of sexuality are also affected by different kinds of oppressions such as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.
In this workshop we explored what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others.
I felt we really shared our experiences as disabled women intersected by faith, culture, and sexual orientation. We examined the differences with impairments, acquired and from a young age, we spoke about chronic illnesses, the barriers and effects of medication and age. Does sex alleviate pain, do we/should we have sex when we are in pain? We compared the attitudes of social workers, medical practitioners and partners – in and out of relationships, domestic abuse from families, society and community pressures.
I cannot wait for the next session. I hope more people will come to visit this wonderful space where we afford each other sisterhood and non-judgemental sharing.
To find out more about the Sisters of Frida workshops visit: