It was hard not to notice her.  I was in a hotel gym that had a cable machine. This is something I can use and do a wide variety of exercises. I was about half way through my routine when I noticed her. I have a habit of closing my eyes when I am doing an exercise as that helps me stay focused on what I am doing and to not be distracted when counting reps. She had come in when my eyes were closed.

I only saw her back. She was a petite woman, on an elliptical machine and she was working hard. I’m gay and all but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice when a woman is really fit and strong. She was. I went back to what I was doing knowing that I had only a few minutes more before I had to go upstairs and shower and change and get ready for the lecture day.

My eyes were closed and I was counting, very near done, when I heard two men talking about the woman on the elliptical, about what ‘a  nice ass’ she had, and mooning over her figure. I’m thinking, ‘ah, shit, leave her alone, she’s just doing exercises.’ Then, they burst out laughing, ‘Holy shit man, Holy shit.”

I finished my count and saw what they saw. She had finished her routine and was getting ready to use another machine. She had Down Syndrome. She was quite beautiful. She was really in shape. The two men immediately shut down their sexualized talk about her.

I’m conflicted. I’m not comfortable with sexualized talk about anyone by anyone in a public forum. I may be a prude but I figure that people need to just keep their mouths shut about other people’s bodies or attractiveness when out in the world. Fat bodies, thin bodies, fit bodies, different bodies, all need to be able to just be and that means that others just be quiet.

The reason for my conflict is that their understanding of her as an adult woman, with Down Syndrome, shouldn’t eliminate the fact that she is hot. That she is attractive. That she is an adult sexual being. That doesn’t disappear because she has an intellectual disability.

Some may disagree with what I’m saying here. I have been accused of sexualizing people with disabilities, I tend to think that I’m suggesting that people with disabilities have been de-sexualized in the minds of the systems that support them and many of the parents who raise them. For me it’s a simple equation. They are human, they are sexual, that’s it.

I understand all the risks of victimization, trust me.

I hear stories of exploitation, a lot.

But here in this situation, it seemed to me that a woman’s disability simply erased her sexuality, erased her attractiveness, erased her adulthood, and erased her full humanity.

What do you think??

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