Our Bodies, Ourselves: An Examination of Female & Disabled Embodiment




Carroll, Libby

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Popular and profitable internet and social media platforms have eased access to pornographic materials around the globe. Pornography is everywhere, all the time. One troubling outgrowth of internet pornography is a phenomenon known as inspiration porn. Coined by the late disability activist Stella Young, the term “inspiration porn” refers to any objectifying depiction of a disabled person that treats the person as a source and site of inspiration for nondisabled people. The operating force behind inspiration porn is a narrative of disabled people as stark figures of otherness, overcomers of broken bodies, or grateful recipients of charity. Inspiration porn thus reduces personhood from a complex web of essence and identities to a singular marker of selfhood: disability. By conflating human essence and identity—by equating what one is with who one is—inspiration porn effectively denies personhood to disabled people. In this paper, I argue that the philosophical and theological assumptions undergirding our cultural ideology, rhetoric, and practice toward women and disabled people leads to an objectification of both people groups, resulting in pornography. I analyze prominent images of inspiration porn to identify and illustrate the similar logic of objectification at work within both erotic and inspiration pornography. Finally, I explore alternative phenomenology and theology of embodiment that offers generative contradictions to pornography’s denigration of “extraordinary” bodies.



Philosophy, Theology, Feminist Theory, Embodiment, Disability Studies, Pornography