People living with disabilities are frequently denied fundamental elements of well-being – visibility, agency, dignity. The cultural denial of their sexuality, disability activists say, is another feature of their dehumanization. Many people living with disabilities masturbate, experience sexual attraction and engage in sexual activity. But these facts do not align with stereotypes of disabled people that those living without disabilities confuse for reality.

“For nondisabled people, the idea of disabled people having sex doesn’t fit with their mental model of how they understand disabled people. We are perpetually infantilized so there’s that conundrum. They also largely don’t see us as lovers, parents, partners, one-night stands,” said Kara Ayers, associate director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. “Superficial ideals and misogyny also play a role here in people being fairly inflexible with what (or) who they consider sexually attractive.”

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