Reading the work of Robert McRuer always makes me think.
Perhaps as a heterosexual someone who has, for the most part, enjoyed the privilege of ability, I have never considered the privilege nor debated the merits of linking compulsory heterosexuality with compulsory able-bodiedness, but as I delve further into the letters written to Tissot, and in particular letters related to disorders of a sexual nature, I have come to reflect on how closely linked are issues of disability, sex and the state.
Who defines the healthy body?
Who defines the diseased body?
How are they treated?
And what role does sex play in all of this?
We have only to consider the Contagious Diseases Acts in the nineteenth century and, during the eighteenth century, Tissot’s decision to stop responding to those engaged in masturbation. McRuer discusses the case of a Ducth wheelchair bound senior citizen, Hennie van den Wittenboer, to make his case. De Heer van den Wittenboer launched a legal battle to argue for the value of sex as one of the “primary needs of a human being” (qtd. 113). The case has, since, become a marker for Dutch values; the way in which the Dutch state defines itself towards its own citizens and in relation to other nations. It has, indeed, become reflective of the Dutch state’s ‘autobiography’. There are lessons to be taken from this, lessons that are cause for both optimism and wariness. As McRuer points out:
A crip theory of sexuality… would insist on thinking seriously about van den Wittenboer’s rights and pleasures while being wary of how those might get discursively positioned by and around the state. (Robert McRuer, “Disabling Sex: Notes for a Crip Theory of Sexuality,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies , 17.1 (2010): 107-117, p. 114)