Would you date a disabled person?


1:30 pm - March 19th 2012

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contribution by Lisa Egan

This weekend has seen much outrage over the billboard for C4’s new show The Undateables.

The poster makes it look like it’s probably going to be another attempt at revamping the Victorian freak show for the modern audience. However the woman in the top right corner of the billboard is a friend of mine and she says of the show that:

It’s a really controversial title but if you actually watch the programme it’s really good. Very funny in parts and honest.


I have mixed opinions based on the billboard. On the one hand I don’t want to be derided by the media even more, but on the other hand I am undateable and I think it’s a subject that needs addressing.

Four years ago The Observer Sex Poll found that 70% of the population would never sleep with someone with a “physical disability”. And that’s just the people willing to admit that to the man from Mori with a clipboard. I’d wager that the real number is higher because of people who wouldn’t shag a disabled person but wouldn’t confess to it because they know that admitting to being prejudiced isn’t cool.

The timing of the show is quite apt because the looming benefit cuts will make a lot of disabled people even more undateable.

undateable. The Welfare Reform Act means anyone that claims Employment and Support Allowance because of a condition such as cancer, who might be capable of some work at some point in the future (but not immediately), will lose their income after one year if they have a partner earning more than £7,500 per annum.

If you can’t claim an income because you’ve got a partner and two people can’t live on their income there’s only one option: Separation. Cameron once claimed he wanted this to be a “family-friendly government;” breaking couples up seems a bizarre way to achieve that.

It’s also going to mean that someone like me who’s not currently in a relationship will never be able to live with a partner because after one year of being together I would lose my income. I am one of the most determinedly independent characters on the planet. I could never put myself into a situation where my partner was expected to “keep” me.

Worse still – the conversion from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment redefines the word “bathe” to “clean one’s torso, face, hands and underarms”. The government have a dictionary unlike any I’ve seen. Apparently disabled people no longer need to be clean from the waist down. That won’t help my dating prospects.

I personally still wouldn’t be comfortable with a billboard branding me as ‘undateable’.

But despite the outcry from mostly non-disabled people, my friend’s immediate reaction to seeing that picture of the billboard she’s on was:

Where was that pic taken? I want see it so I can take a pic of me with it.


Lisa Egan tweets from here and blogs at LisyBabe’s blog

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Reader comments


I have even dated women, so I don’t know what would be wrong with dating a disabled person.

One the one hand, we have people claiming that family friendly tax policies wont have any effect on the likelyhood of someone falling in love and wanting to get married.

We then have people saying that curbing child benefit on large families wont have any effect because no one has children for the financial benefit.

…now you are claiming that you wont go on a date with someone for fear of falling in love and losing out on financial benefits.

Come on – you can’t have it both ways!

(and to be flippant, if people are separating due to financial concerns, doesn’t that increase the potential dating pool and thus make it easier to find people to go on a date with?)

3. Man on Clapham Omnibus

I would not date a disabled person. My wife would kill me!

“I’d wager that the real number is higher because of people who wouldn’t shag a disabled person but wouldn’t confess to it because they know that admitting to being prejudiced isn’t cool.”

Not sure we can really equate not finding certain groups of people sexually attractive with being prejudiced against those groups of people. I’d be considerably more likely to shag someone who looks and sounds like Honeysuckle Weeks than someone who looks and sounds like BB King, but I’m not sure that means I’m carrying around a lot of objectionable prejudices to do with age, sex, race, accent, nationality, or – I guess – physical (dis)ability. Feelings of guilt about the sort of adult humans one happens to find attractive, or not, don’t strike me as the sort of thing we really ought to be nurturing.

(Don’t get me wrong: no doubt prejudice against disabled people is part of what’s driving those figures. But it’s a bit of a stretch to think that everyone who doesn’t tend to view disabled people as potential sexual partners is therefore prejudiced against disabled people, in just the way that it would be a bit of a stretch to think that everyone who doesn’t view men/black people/octagenarians as potential sexual partners is therefore prejudiced against men/black people/octagenarians.)

5. Chaise Guevara

Bit of a broad question, isn’t it? Surely the real-world answer in most cases would be “Yes, unless I found their specific disability to be a big turn-off”.

Cameron and Clegg would date a disabled person if they thought it would get them elected. In fact I don’t think there is anything they wouldn’t do for power.

7. Chaise Guevara

@ 4 GO

Agreed. I suspect that insofar as prejudice is a driving force, it’s mainly by proxy – people who wouldn’t date a disabled person because their mates would take the piss about it.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ Sally

“Cameron and Clegg would date a disabled person if they thought it would get them elected. In fact I don’t think there is anything they wouldn’t do for power.”

I don’t think that comment leaves you as much on the moral highground as you think, Sally…

Bizarrely, some disabled people complain when they get a bit of interest.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-13013076

I think that, in assessing those claims by members of the public, we need to take into account the fact that many will have a mental picture of a disabled person that precludes the possibility of attraction. Personally I haven’t found that people flirt with me significantly less now that I’m visibly disabled, and I’d wager the same is true for many others. The benefits issue, however, is a significant one. I’ve spent all my adult life in poverty because I chose to stand by my partner when he got ill, meaning that nothing I earned ever made us any richer than we’d be on benefits alone; and it will be even harder for people now. Many people will avoid getting into relationships that put them in that position, even with people with whom they are happy to have casual flings. But there is, of course, another option besides separation, and that is the acquisition of illegal income. I suspect that, with these changes, we’ll see a lot more disabled people doing things like dealing drugs in order to get by, and that won’t be good for anyone.

I suspect that “physical disability” and think “facial deformation” or something similar. Were you to show them Susan Peters, Marlee Matlin or a young Bruce Payne they might well change their minds.

I’m in a relationship with a guy in a wheelchair, we live together; if I were to leave him, he’d gain almost an extra £1000 a month in benefits. It’s bloody expensive going out with a disabled person.

“Agreed. I suspect that insofar as prejudice is a driving force, it’s mainly by proxy – people who wouldn’t date a disabled person because their mates would take the piss about it.”

Well if this is true, this is why I think maybe posters like the Channel 4 one are maybe not helpful?

People take the piss or admire what they are told to. Sorry but this is the case. Things come in and out of fashion, like curvy/overweight/skinny body shapes, skin colours even, etc.

I feel like powerful media organisations shouldn’t be putting these faces on a poster with the word “undateables” on it, I’m nervous that it reinforces the idea, and legitimises “taking the piss” out of someone for dating a disabled person.

I mean, even a simple question mark after the programmes title would have made it into a question that they are challenging, not a statement or label.

@10, it IS bizarre isnt it? The silly freaks should be grateful of harassment on facebook. Ho, ho, ho.

Oh, my sides.

Pagar

You’re joking right?

You’re not seriously saying disabled people should be grateful for sexual harrassment on the internet?

OH and my answer to your question is yes, I have done.

Michael- expensive, but worth it I hope (spoken as a DisAbled person, with a smile.)

Libertarian Lou- You took the thought out of my mind.

Yeah. I can see a lot of thought processes (not entirely pleasant) going into those survey answers. The general population are embarrassed by disabilities. There’s also a huge lack of understanding about long-term medical problems. Even if a person might be okay with it themselves, they might worry what their friends/family will think. They might wonder about heritability of conditions and how that might impact on their fantasy of 2.4 perfect kids. They might worry about what they’ll be expected to do as an intimate partner of a disabled person. They might worry about financially supporting someone. And will they be any fun? Aren’t disabilities really boring? Being in pain all the time, that’s a bit heavy! Wouldn’t want to take that on! And so on. None of this even remotely fair of course but I wouldn’t be surprised.

And yes, forcing sick/disabled people to be financially dependent on their partners is hardly going to improve this situation. Nothing kills the romance quite like a carer/dependent dynamic.

My partner has had to do a lot in terms of support over the years, and thankfully he’s still around, but I am quite surprised by this still. Which just goes to show how we are encouraged to think of ourselves as a burden rather than fun, awesome people who would make great and loving partners.

@Sarah Yeah, he is worth it :)

People take the piss or admire what they are told to. Sorry but this is the case. Things come in and out of fashion, like curvy/overweight/skinny body shapes, skin colours even, etc.

Well – it is the case to some extent but not entirely. I doubt humans admire facial symmetry because of cultural biases, for example, and I think it would take a formidable process of conditioning to make people appreciate severely disproportioned features. And, besides, if you could I’d think people like Carlos Slim and Donald Trump would be spending billions trying to achieve it…

I’m an equal opportunities shagger.

23. Chaise Guevara Travel Edition

@ Libertarian Lou,

As Ben Six, that’s probably true to an extent. But then again, skinny women are apparently in vogue (and indeed in Vogue, ho ho) and have been for ages, but many men, self included, will tell you they prefer an hourglass figure.

My point, really, was that (unless I’m built differently to the rest of you) you don’t look at a person and consciously choose to fancy them. So not being attracted to disabled people *might* be a sign of bigotry, but it’s not proof.

We saw how Cameron used his disabled son as nothing more than an electoral prop to con people into thinking he supports the NHS. He is pure evil. And Clegg is the same. They would sell their own families down the river for power.

25. the a&e charge nurse

Does amputation count as a disability?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YPeVNWikPw&feature=related

25. Yes.

I wonder if people, when asked this question, thought Stephen Hawking rather than Ian Dury. “Disabled” could mean anything from highly disfiguring to has to walk with a stick.

@ Lou

You’re not seriously saying disabled people should be grateful for sexual harrassment on the internet?

No, of course not.

My point was that different people have different sexual preferences. Never give up.

I haven’t……

@Sally 6

“Cameron and Clegg would date a disabled person if they thought it would get them elected. In fact I don’t think there is anything they wouldn’t do for power.”

The best own goal I’ve seen this year.

And, yes I would.

Ted @ 29

I don’t know if Clegg would date a disabled person, but I know he would have no second thoughts about fucking a few disabled people to gain approval from the Right Wing press.

I don’t know what depresses me more, the Channel 4 advert, or some of the responses here.

I’m one of those disabled people who expressed their anger at the C4 poster. Whatever good the programme might do by discussing the rampant disablism in society, and in relationships, is going to be utterly undermined by unthinking, ignorant reactions to the advert. People can be made to think about their prejudices, but that requires them to be made to consider them in a context which doesn’t objectify disabled people. The advert fails to provide that context. The best that can be said about it is that it doesn’t set out to display disability as a disgusting freak show, that’s C5’s speciality.

Some of the commenters have taken issue with Lisa for raising the financial issue, but for the 400,000 disabled people facing having no income whatsoever under ESA time-limiting, and the several hundred thousand more who will slip into that situation if they enter a relationship, those fears are very real. I know, I’m living them.
.

32. Charlieman

@7. Chaise Guevara: “…it’s mainly by proxy – people who wouldn’t date a disabled person because their mates would take the piss about it.”

That’s a bit of a lad value, isn’t it? Lads grow up, more slowly than us perhaps.

Many disabled people look normal and you wouldn’t know that they had a disability until you asked them to bob for apples. We scarcely notice people with limps or who wear thick spectacles or wear hearing aids. Socialisation of disabled people has been good on some terms — recognition as equal citizens — but we’ve never quite worked out manners or the awkwardness of life. We may not recognise — or consciously disregard — that disabled people are different.

New building construction rules require that they can be accessed by a wheelchair user. But it is difficult to do the same for a partially sighted wheelchair user. Ancient monuments do not subscribe to building construction rules. Our treatment of disabled people is defined by manners and the awkwardness of life; at the same time, we praise ourselves for doing the good thing.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 David G

That’s a very good point about the ad, one I hadn’t really thought about before. Could be a case of “never attribute to malice that which could be more easily explained by incompetence”.

34. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Charlieman

“That’s a bit of a lad value, isn’t it?”

Absolutely. In fact, it’s me at 17 – not a “lad” by any stretch of the imagination, but painfully concerned about what my friends thought. For the sake of my soul I’m glad that disability never came up, but there were girls I fancied but never tried to chat up for exactly that reason. Too goth, too “lame” in the playground sense of the word, and so on.

As for the rest of your post, we have a huge cultural and instinctive problem with highly visible disability. The instinct is to mock, patronise, or reject. The cultural side of us is worried about staring and worried about turning away. And this all adds up to us not treating human beings as human beings. It’s utterly fucked, and I’m not sure how we can address it.

And we have a problem with invisible disability too, of course. Namely where we assume/pretend it doesn’t really exist, and people with major depressive disorder need to just cheer up.

35. Charlieman

@34. Chaise Guevara: “…but there were girls I fancied but never tried to chat up for exactly that reason. Too goth, too “lame” in the playground sense of the word, and so on.”

I respect your honesty.

“As for the rest of your post, we have a huge cultural and instinctive problem with highly visible disability. The instinct is to mock, patronise, or reject.”

I did not hear you. I read about it but that does not suffice.

36. Daniel Factor

Yes!

MY wife has Spina bifida we met and we were married we have been married for 41 years now, so some people do marry disabled people, sadly ten years ago an accident left me more disabled then she was.

Many disabled people do not go out into the community, it’s difficult.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 Charlieman

“I respect your honesty. ”

Well, I like to think I’ve grown up somewhat in the past decade. It’s easy to be honest about someone who in many ways isn’t really you.

If the question is as reported in the linked article, then the opinion survey was either unhelpful or looking for a generalised answer.

And the answer to the question of would I date a disabled person is yes, but only if my wife was to become disabled (this commitment thing is a right pain…). I can’t help but wonder whether some element of the survey might actually be explained by now base line of ‘would you sleep with someone without a physical disability’, and seeing what the no rate would be there. Without that, we have quite a wide margin of error…

Seriously, I once dated a very attractive wheel-chair user – until I found out she was a swinger!

40. If it was possible to ‘like’ a comment on LC I would have ‘liked’ yours!

You’d be shocked to see how this disabled boy was treated by an Easter procession: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/dingli-easter-procession-children/

My fiance is physically disabled, and he is a stallion in the bedroom.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Who is really Undateable? | Indigo Jo Blogs

    [...] Channel 4 has been advertising a forthcoming TV show titled “The Undateables”, in which they try to hook up various people with disabilities and disfigurements which might have been getting in the way of them getting a date up until then. The advert features six people with different impairments, some of them not noticeable with others more obvious — the one at top right clearly has Osteogenesis Imperfecta or “brittle bone disease” — and the slogan “Love is blind, disfigured, autistic …”. It starts at 9pm on 3rd April. (More: Lisy’s TV Thoughts, Same Difference, Blue Crisps, Lisa Egan @ Liberal Conspiracy.) [...]

  2. Rebecca Boot

    RT: @snugglefairy Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bvHsPUug via @libcon

  3. Hovellin' Hermit

    RT: @snugglefairy Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bvHsPUug via @libcon

  4. bc

    RT: @snugglefairy Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bvHsPUug via @libcon

  5. David Gillon

    @LisyBabe looks at the anger at C4 over 'Undateable' http://t.co/a3pQbzJp Interesting article, but depressing comments #disability

  6. Terese

    Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/SeC82vuU via @libcon

  7. Lilacwheelz

    @LisyBabe looks at the anger at C4 over 'Undateable' http://t.co/a3pQbzJp Interesting article, but depressing comments #disability

  8. Liberal Conspiracy

    This was interesting. RT @libcon: Would you date a disabled person? http://t.co/xOGSnfUY

  9. Marcus A. Roberts

    This was interesting. RT @libcon: Would you date a disabled person? http://t.co/xOGSnfUY

  10. Hermes Trismegistus

    not if they vote conservative >> Would you date a disabled person? http://t.co/IBOIzosw

  11. Peak Oil Crash

    not if they vote conservative >> Would you date a disabled person? http://t.co/IBOIzosw

  12. Michael Bater

    Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5JmdqIui via @libcon

  13. Pamela Wilson

    RT @lisybabe RT @libcon: Would you date a disabled person? http://t.co/cYkeBrzP

  14. Gareth Hart

    Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/vimyKnEl via @libcon

  15. Terry Bryan

    Undateables: debate goes on. Would you date a disabled person? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Himsh3dI via @libcon

  16. Christian Wilcox

    Undateable?: http://t.co/lIMZB1HU. I know I am. I found out the hard way. The Public can be very prejudiced. It's far from cool out there.

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  19. Alex Vosper

    channel 4, keeping it classy http://t.co/w74vQq0V

  20. Jon Bateman

    If current drug addicts could be as easily identified then The Undateables would have a more deserving group to exploit http://t.co/CFrfoweo

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  23. The Undateables? Disability rights, but Channel 4 wrongs | showbiznews1.com

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  24. StéphanieLucien-Brun

    "The undateables" émission polémique au Royaume-Uni #handicap #changerderegard http://t.co/VEup60Ec & http://t.co/NVAb0y7y

  25. Why Is The Undateables Unwatchable? « Same Difference

    [...] portrays six persons with disabilities in their quest for love. This title looks bad on paper but even worse when put on billboards across the UK, where towering images of people with disfigurement or wheelchair users with the [...]





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