Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Sexy Like Us

Expanding Notions of Disability and Sexuality Through Burlesque Performance

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2019), 13, (4), 377–392.

Abstract

People with disabilities often have their sexuality denied or dismissed in mainstream culture, which prohibits disabled bodies from being considered sexy bodies. The article explores how burlesque performance can open a space for people with disabilities to display their bodies onstage and expand the notion of what kinds of bodies and performances can be considered sexy and sexual. This type of stage performance allows for a prolonged stare that helps audience members normalize body variability, while the storytelling element allows disabled actors to create spaces of identification with the audience through narrative. By using burlesque techniques to perform disability in innovative ways, disabled actors can create a space for individuals to be considered sexual beings because of disability, not in spite of their embodiment, thereby expanding notions of sexuality and sexual practice for all bodies.

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Works Cited

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Wilson, Jacki. The Happy Stripper: Pleasures and Politics of the New Burlesque. London: I.B. Tauris, 2008. Print. Google Scholar

Allen, Robert C. Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1991. Print. Google Scholar

Baynton, Douglas. “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 2017. 17–34. Print. Google Scholar

Berne, Patricia, Jamal T. Lewis, Stacey Milbern, Malcolm Shanks, Alok Vaid, and Alice Wong. “‘Beauty Always Recognizes Itself’: A Roundtable on Sins Invalid.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 46.1–2 (2018): 241–50. Web. 1 May 2018. Google Scholar

“Brave Sheffield Woman Performs Burlesque Routine in Wheelchair and Wearing Stoma Bag.” The Star, Sheffield, UK. 20 Dec. 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Butler, Alexis. “Re-Vamping History: Neo-Burlesque and Historical Tradition.” Canadian Theater Review 158 (2014): 44–47. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1999. Print. Cohen, Rena. 9 Feb. 2017. Personal interview. Google Scholar

Disman, Adriana. “The Politics of Burlesque: A Dialogue Among Dancers.” Canadian Theater Review 158 (2014): s1–s16. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Dodds, Sherril. “Embodied Transformations in Neo-Burlesque Striptease.” Dance Research Journal 45.3 (2013): 75–90. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Fraser, Mat. “Mat ‘Seal Boy’ Fraser Burlesque Performance.” 12 Jan. 2012. YouTube. Web. 1 May 2018. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1996. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Staring. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Google Scholar

Graves, Cassidy Dawn. “An Interview With Disabled Burlesque Performer Cerebral Pussy.” NYU Local. 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Henry, Elsa S. “Self Casting and Burlesque.” Feminist Sonar. 10 Sep. 2012. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Kafaim, Shayda. “Reclaiming and Honoring: Sins Invalid’s Cultivation of Crip Beauty.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 46.1–2 (2018): 231–35. Web. 2 May 2018. Google Scholar

Kafer, Alison. “Desire and Disgust: My Ambivalent Adventures in Devoteeism.” Sex and Disability. Ed. Robert McRuer and Anna Mallow. Durham: Duke UP, 2012. 331–54. Print. Google Scholar

Kafer, Alison. Feminist, Queer, Crip. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 2013. Print. Google Scholar

Kuppers, Petra. Disability Culture and Community Performance: Find a Strange and Twisted Shape. New York: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2011. Print. Google Scholar

Lewis, Bradley. “A Mad Fight: Psychiatry and Disability Activism.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 2017. 103–16. Print. Google Scholar

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. Special Edition. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1997. Print. Google Scholar

Mairs, Nancy. “Sex and Death and the Crippled Body: A Meditation.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Ed. Sharon L. Snyder and Brenda Jo Bruggeman. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2002. 156–70. Print. Google Scholar

McRuer, Robert. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York UP, 2006. Print. Google Scholar

McRuer, Robert and Anna Mallow. “Introduction.” Sex and Disability. Ed. Robert McRuer and Anna Mallow. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2012. 1–34. Print. Google Scholar

Mossman, Mark. “Visible Disability in the College Classroom.” College English 64.6 (2002): 645–59. Web. 15 Oct. 2015. Google Scholar

Muñoz, José. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999. Print. Google Scholar

Nelson, Adiba. “She’s Sitting Pretty.” 3 Story Magazine. May 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. Google Scholar

Sandahl, Carrie. “The Tyranny of Neutral: Disability and Actor Training.” Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance. Ed. Carrie Sandahl and Philip Auslander. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2005. 255–68. Print. Google Scholar

Sexy Voices. Realwheels Theatre Company. Dir. Rachel Peake. Vancouver, BC. 12–14 May 2016. Video performance. Google Scholar

Shakespeare, Tom. “Joking a Part.” Body & Society 5.4 (1999): 47–52. Sagepub.com. Web. 15 Oct. 2015. Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. Print. Google Scholar

Snyder, Sharon L. and David T. Mitchell. Cultural Locations of Disability. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. Print. Google Scholar

Takemoto, Tina. “Love Is Still Possible in this Junky World: Conversation with Sheree Rose about Her Life with Bob Flanagan.” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 19.1 (2009): 95–111. Web. 2 May 2018. Google Scholar

Wilson, Jacki. The Happy Stripper: Pleasures and Politics of the New Burlesque. London: I.B. Tauris, 2008. Print. Google Scholar

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Details

Author details

Milbrodt, Teresa