Sex & Disability Archive

At Pleasurable, we firmly believe in the importance of our collective histories. Documenting our #OwnVoices provides understanding into not just who and where we have been, but who we are becoming and where we need to go. By gathering what we can for the archives before so much of that content disappears, we capture a snapshot of disabled sexuality and of disability and sexuality in the fledgling years of the digital age. 

However, we have existed longer than the internet — and while the contemporary concept of disability dates back only to the nineteenth century, our existence pre-dates that conceptualization by thousands of years. Antiquity documents us, and our disabled ancestors, rarely from the lived perspective of disabled people. We, the crips, gimps, sicks, crazies, mads, spoonies, chronically ill, neurodivergent, PWD, Deaf, blind, and so many more, have the right to tell and preserve our stories as we have always existed. We should fight to document that existence as a resistance to our assimilation and extermination.

Archives and collections on sexuality do currently exist, such as the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University. Disability is documented at The Disability Archive at the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds and the National Disability and Arts Collection & Archive. However, none of these archives and collections focus on the disabled sexual experience

Pleasurable’s Sex & Disability Archive allows disabled people to own their sexual histories.

Pleasurable pledges to work in conjunction with others to archive the following:

  • The original works or documentation of the original works of the sexual lives of disabled people.These stories may appear in many mediums, such as: academic journals, body art, books, ceramics, drawings, documentaries, electronic arts, films, glasswork, graphic narrative media, installations, magazines, music, music videos,  paintings, performance art, photography, printmaking, storytelling, sculpture, speeches, textiles, zines, and more.
  • Because disabled people have not been accurately represented in the mainstream media we have turned to other formats to tell our stories. Our stories are told through print or digital ephemera, such as: business cards, buttons, diaries and journals, fliers, home movies, letters and other personal correspondence, manuals, newsletters, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks, patches, postcards, pins, social media content, stickers, student papers, user-created content and media, various websites and online communities, and more.

Though a collection of mementos and narratives capture memories, it can never be fully coherent in its many individual pieces. Only in its existence as a whole archive does a general gestalt and an era’s zeitgeist begin to emerge. We expect to develop several themes among the more current items of the archive. One that we are particularly interested in documenting is the growth of the disability justice movement and the adoption of its values by more people, particularly those outside of activist communities. As these values spread, the ways in which the majority of the disabled population desires and requires social recognition changes. 

A disability and sexuality archive will fulfill those needs by providing diverse resources from multiple models of disability. The social model of disability critiques the “acceptable” crips and the “assimilated” disabled person. Culturally, many of us still play up to ableist assimilation standards, inspiration porn, and a desire to fully fit into non-disabled society. But there is no one way of being disabled, let alone a way of “best practices.” No uniform disabled experience exists. Our individualized existence is a resistance to ableist norms, so get used to it; get used to us, and get used to our anger.

We’ve been denied the right and ability to speak for ourselves, to be ourselves, to have our own agency. By being denied these rights, we have been denied the right to our own histories. We have had our pasts rewritten by those in power. They continue to deny our present-day selves our rights, including the right simply to exist as disabled people, and if we wish, to be proudly sexy disabled people: disabled people celebrating our own sexual agency by engaging in sex if and when we want with other consenting adults.

Pleasurable’s Sex & Disability Archive is here to bear witness to all of this and more.

For now, our current collection can be browsed at LibraryThing.