Deconstructing Rhetoric on (A)Sexuality with Lydia Brown

The D Center Presents:

“Deconstructing Rhetoric on Disabled (A)Sexuality with Autistic advocate and activist Lydia Brown!”

The desexualization of disabled people has a long, troubled history of forced medical procedures, laws prohibiting disabled people from marrying, and the widespread denial of age-appropriate sex education for disabled children and youth. The infantilizing presupposition that disabled people should not have agency over their sexuality is profoundly disturbing in its theoretical, political, and practical implications for asexuals, the disabled, and disabled asexuals in particular. Disabled people are assumed to be asexual, incapable of either the cognitive choice to engage in sexual activity or the emotional desire to exist as sexual beings, yet disabled asexuals are presumed to have “chosen” their sexual orientation because of internalized ableism.

These realities reflect the problematic idea that those considered “proper humans” make decisions based on what is rationally advantageous, whereas those who are deemed “subhuman” make decisions out of animalistic or emotional impulses. When applied to the field of sexuality, society mandates that sex should ideally be chosen rationally for objective purposes, often procreation, and not simply for irrational, thoughtless indulgence of animal instincts. As part of this notion, people thought to be “less rational” are thought to be incapable of experiencing a legitimate sexuality. Thus, their sexualities are labeled pathological and taken as further evidence of illness and unreason. This is related to the idea that the knowledge, ideas, experiences, and feelings of privileged people are untainted by personal biases and subjective interpretations, while the knowledge, ideas, experiences, and feelings of oppressed people cannot be removed from such biases and subjectivity. This also mirrors how queer sexualities were likewise classified as a mental illness in the past, wherein society de-legitimized queer sexualities in the same way that disabled sexualities were and are de-legitimized. When applied to theories of sexuality in the context of systemic oppression, the sexual experiences of privileged people are considered to be chosen objectively by reason, while those of oppressed people are deemed irremovable from their bodily desires.

BIO: Lydia Brown is an Autistic and multiply-disabled disability rights activist, scholar, and writer. She interns for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and is a member of the Autism NOW National Autism Resource and Information Center National Advisory Committee, the National Council on Independent Living Youth Caucus, the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Consumer Advisory Council, and the Board of TASH New England. Lydia was the 2012 Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership Center for Workforce Development. In 2011, she served on the Adult Services Subcommittee of the Massachusetts Special Commission Relative to Autism, and in early 2012, she served on the National Youth Leadership Network’s Outreach and Awareness Committee. Lydia is a student at Georgetown University, where she is actively working to engage interested students, faculty, staff, and administrators to establish, develop, and sustain a Disability Cultural Center on campus. Her site is

Access Info:

*Please refrain from wearing scents and fragrances. For more info on how to be scent free check out:

*Also no flash photography will be taken at the event by a community member.

This event will be ASL interpreted and captioned.

Saturday, April 27th
Husky Union Building (HUB), Room 332

There is accessible parking just North of the HUB–“parking lot N22” on the campus map:

To request disability accommodation, contact the Disability Services Office at: 206.543.6450 (voice), 206.543.6452 (TTY), 206.685.7264 (fax), or email at The University of Washington makes every effort to honor disability accommodation requests. Requests can be responded to most effectively if received as far in advance of the event as possible, preferably at least 10 days.

Please email with any questions or concerns.

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