to fortify negative attitudes toward disabled women's sexual eligibility and capabilities
as lovers, wives, and mothers.
Positive images of disabled women and men rarely appear in mainstream media such
as magazines, newspapers, films, or television (Butler 1999). On the rare occasions
whentheydoappear,theyareasexually objectified, whereas nondisabled women's bod-
ies are sexually objectified. Women are bombarded with physical images of “beauty”
and “femininity” through media representations. While these images represent an ideal
as beautiful, desirable, and sexually eligible (Lons dale 1990; Shakespeare, Gillespie-
Sells, & Davies 1996; Wendell 1996; Gillespie-Sells et al. 1998). The body beautiful
fixation in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian sexualized environments effectively displaces
disabled women as potential sexual partners (Finger 1992; Watson 2000), in a similar
manner to how pregnant women are placed off limits as suitable sexual partners, being
equally regarded as sexually unavailable (Longhurst 2001).
Although attitudes toward sex are more liberal in contemporary society, attitudes to-
ward disabled people having sex have changed at a much slower pace. As a result dis-
abled people are often spatially and socially excluded from sexual expression. Drawing
further upon in-depth interviews, we will explore in detail the spatial and social pro-
cesses that influence disabled women's sexual expression and participation in intimate
Disabled people are not often welcome in contexts where sex is on the agenda.
For example, nightclub and social venues may aim to cater for young people,
smoke and loud noise may all prove barriers to disabled people's participation.
(Shakespeare et al. 1996, 88)
The inaccessible nature of the built environment has a significant influence on dis-
abled individuals' presence and participation in social spaces. Factors such as inaccess-
ible social venues and a lack of accessible public transport exacerbate social exclusion.
Even today, when affordable accessible transport is available, for example Handicabs
(based in Edinburgh), the service does not facilitate social inclusion or spontaneity; it
can only be used for two journeys per week, and must be booked forty-eight hours in
advance. Taxis, as an alternative mode of transport to social venues or events, may be
prohibitively expensive for disabled people, especially for those with low incomes or
those who are reliant upon benefits as their main source of income. Therefore, for some
women, their opportunities to meet others, form relationships, and participate in sexu-