Woman and Disabilities Term Paper

Pages: 16 (5037 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Women, Disability, Sexuality and the Image of the Ideal Woman

Women, Disability Sexuality and the Image of the Ideal Woman

The proposed course of research here is on the subject of women, disability and sexuality. The expectation of society is that disabled women are disabled sexually as well as physically because society cannot perceive women with disabilities in a way that is compatible with society's image of the "ideal woman." That is, the woman who is physically, emotionally and psychologically healthy; educated or intellectually alert, financially independent, reproductively healthy and capable of producing offspring; and able to balance all these things in a way that does not reveal her weaknesses.

This paper will attempt to gain a sense of the psychological, physical, emotional, and social realms within which disability impacts women's sexuality. That is: How does society respond to women who are physically, noticeably disabled; and how does society respond to women whose disabilities are not observable? How do women suffering noticeable and unobserved disabilities express themselves sexually? How do they touch their femininity in a way that allows for them to be fulfilled sexually? Do Stereotypical images of "the ideal woman" impact a woman's disability beyond the physicality of that disability?

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In researching the topic and seeking answers to these questions, the research will rely upon existing studies and research to reach conclusions and understanding of the subject matter. Those works will support the introduction to the study with input from a woman whose own disabilities have served to inform her study on women, disabilities, and sexuality; Susan S. Stocker, 2001.

Alexander McKay's (2001) research on women, disability and sexuality and reproductive health will serve for forming a basis in thought for connecting to women and their reproductive health and sexuality.

An example of an "extraordinary body" will be taken from the study by Rosemary Thomson, and will serve as an example of how society arrives at an image of the ideal woman, versus that of the flawed, disabled, or freak woman.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Woman and Disabilities Assignment

Insight as to new perspectives on sexuality will be gained through the work of Zira DeFries, Richard C. Friedman, and Ruth Corn (1985). Although these insights will be contrasted with perspective in 1985, and today.

Gelya Frank (2000), will be relied upon extensively to supply the case of Diane DeVries, a physically disabled woman, who achieved a full and sexually active and satisfying life in spite of her disability. Frank's case study provides the perspective from which society perceives women with disabilities.

Women who suffer "invisible" disabilities, and whom are affected by reproductive disability, will be informed by Satya B. Bellerose and Yitzchak M. Binick (1993). Their work will contribute to the understanding of how women who are not able to reproduce are actually severely disabled by nature of the condition that renders them incapable of being reproductive, and by virtue of their inability to bear children.

Finally, G.J. Barker (2000), will serve to provide closing remarks, contributing insight to this research as to men's overall reaction to women with disabilities. Male attitudes are the product of the image of the ideal woman, which is an image that disabled women are challenged with overcoming, in addition to their disabilities.


Susan S. Stocker (2001), writing for Frontiers - a Journal of Women's Studies, discusses at length her own experiences as a hearing disabled woman, and how her disability shaped her life from a very young age, including her sexuality (p. 154). Stocker's first-hand experiences, and her forthright discussion in detail of her emotional rollercoaster ride during which she struggled to overcome her disability and its saturation of her overall well being, identity, family relationships, and, as an adult, her sexuality (2001, p. 154). Stocker creates the basis for a broad insight into understanding disability and sexuality from the perspective of the woman who suffers a disability, beginning with her earliest life recollections (2001, p. 154). Stocker also discusses her sense of perfectionism that arose out of her desire to compensate for her disability, and that this sense of perfectionism was constantly in competition with the disability itself, in an effort to overcome it (2001, p. 154). While Stocker attributes her obsessive level of quest for perfectionism, which, in her case, manifested itself in athletic superiority and shaping her body into one of a superior athlete; women who become disabled later in their lives, especially as young adults, and as women who have not had the opportunity to compensate for their disability in the way that perhaps Stocker did, are no less, and perhaps even more so, impacted by that disability and its affects on their sexuality. Like Stocker, most women are obsessive in their pursuit of physical perfection, even if they are not physically the image that contemporary society associates with the physically ideal woman. Thus, when women are confronted with debilitating and life threatening disabilities, they tend to suffer not just the physical affects of their disability, but the emotional trauma and crisis in confronting their physical imperfection in a way that has a life altering impact on their sexuality.

This study explores the impact women's disabilities on their sexuality, the most intimate aspect of their femininity. The attempt here is to bring to light the problems that arise for women with respect to their continued expression of their sexuality, their intimate relationships, and what they perceive as the quality, or lack thereof, in the sense of personal sexual fulfillment post disability. The questions that will be explored here are: How does disability impact intimate relationships between a woman and her sexual partner? How do women whose relationships withstand the pressures and the trauma of disability manage their relationships to continued success in spite of disabilities? How does disability alter women's perception of themselves sexually?

These are very personal and difficult questions, and an attempt is made here to explore and answer these questions in the most frank and forthright manner that research of existing studies allows. The goal here is to present the research from the perspective of women, but it will rely upon input from the intimate partners of the women who are the focus of this study too.

The Ideal Woman

Most men, when asked to describe their ideal woman will give a name as a visual reference. For instance, today's man might say Angelina Jolie, the actress, who has in recent years gained as much celebrity for being the ultimate "earth mother," as much as she is famous for her naturally puffy lips, large almond shaped eyes, and great body and for being savvy enough an actress to have parleyed it into large sums of money for each film she makes. Agreeably, there is a lot there to admire, and it would reflect, too, the man priorities of a man who might use her name as a visual reference. Such a man would want a woman who was a professional, capable of earning a salary that could, if she so elected, to support her independent of a husband's income. It would suggest, too, that he was interested in a woman who was as comfortable in her role as a mother, charitable, but as intelligent as she was beautiful and charitable.

Finally, a man who might use Jolie as a reference for his ideal woman would also be suggesting that he would like his woman to be sensual and, presumably, going by the actress' reputation, a woman for whom sexual intimacy with her partner was as much a priority in her life as were all these others things previously mentioned, and that she would be capable of balancing her sexual intimacy with all these others interests and responsibilities and never falter at them - at least not that we know about. It is also likely that he has absolutely no idea who Angelina Jolie is, or how she actually goes about balancing her life, which, because she's a human being, albeit a human being of the female gender; she is likely not the image of perfection that a man using her as the image of his ideal woman would like to think that she is.

The point here is that no woman, probably not even Jolie, can live up to the "image" of Angelina Jolie the actress, mother, world ambassador for children's welfare, and power paycheck without missing a few of the juggling balls and even letting at least some of them become completely out of control on occasion. The ideal woman expressed in the example of Jolie, or any other "image" of perfection that a man responding to the original question might suggest; is just that, an image of perfection, which the ordinary woman is hard put to live up to. However, for the contemporary woman, this image of perfection has shaped the way in which many woman perceive themselves, and is the driving force behind multi-billion dollar industries in cosmetics, diets, exercise, fashion, and, today, surgical reconfiguration of her natural body that encourage women in their pursuit of self perfection.


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