"I don't feel quite as different": Participants from The Sexual Politics of Disability, twenty years on

Sarah Richardson, Tom Shakespeare (Lead Author)

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper reports on follow up with eight participants in the Sexual Politics of Disability study (Shakespeare et al 1996), twenty years after the original research. Participants generally felt more confident about their identity, and their place in the world. As they aged, our participants felt more comfortable with their changing bodies, and contrasted this to their peers, who were only now experiencing limitations and discomforts of ageing, and were becoming less confident in their bodies. This reduced the salience of impairment as a difference. However, there was still stigma attached to disability, particularly to mental health conditions. Most participants had achieved relationships and intimacy over the years, whether or not they were currently single. The internet offered some additional possibilities for sexual contact and was experienced as equalising. People felt confident in their sexuality and relationship choices. Several had widened their horizons in terms of potential partners or rejected traditional monogamous relationship models. All respondents expressed concern about how welfare changes had undermined people's choices and well-being, and considered that attitudes to disability were still problematic. Overall the follow up research confirms the claim of the original book, that the problem of disabled sexuality is not so much 'how to do it' as 'who to do it with'. However the message from these respondents is that over time, disabled sexuality itself becomes less of a problem, as people in their fifties become more confident and comfortable with themselves
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • Disability
  • sexualities

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