Loneliness and Its Opposite: Sex, Disability, and the Ethics of Engagement

Duke University Press

Few people these days would oppose making the public realm of space, social services and jobs accessible to women and men with disabilities. But what about access to the private realm of desire and sexuality? How can one also facilitate access to that, in ways that respect the integrity of disabled adults, and also of those people who work with and care for them?

Loneliness and Its Opposite documents how two countries generally imagined to be progressive engage with these questions in very different ways. Denmark and Sweden are both liberal welfare states, but they diverge dramatically when it comes to sexuality and disability. In Denmark, the erotic lives of people with disabilities are acknowledged and facilitated. In Sweden, they are denied and blocked. Why do these differences exist, and how do both facilitation and hindrance play out in practice?

Loneliness and Its Opposite charts complex boundaries between private and public, love and sex, work and intimacy, and affection and abuse. It shows how providing disabled adults with access to sexual lives is not just crucial for a life with dignity. It is an issue of fundamental social justice with far reaching consequences for everyone.
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About the author

Don Kulick is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. His books include Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes.

Jens Rydström is Professor of Gender Studies at Lund University (Sweden). His books include Sinners and Citizens: Bestiality and Homosexuality in Sweden, 1880-1950.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Feb 16, 2015
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Pages
376
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ISBN
9780822375845
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Language
English
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Genres
Health & Fitness / Physical Impairments
Health & Fitness / Sexuality
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Don Kulick
In this dramatic and compelling narrative, anthropologist Don Kulick follows the lives of a group of transgendered prostitutes (called travestis in Portuguese) in the Brazilian city Salvador. Travestis are males who, often beginning at ages as young as ten, adopt female names, clothing styles, hairstyles, and linguistic pronouns. More dramatically, they ingest massive doses of female hormones and inject up to twenty liters of industrial silicone into their bodies to create breasts, wide hips, and large thighs and buttocks. Despite such irreversible physiological changes, virtually no travesti identifies herself as a woman. Moreover, travestis regard any male who does so as mentally disturbed.

Kulick analyzes the various ways travestis modify their bodies, explores the motivations that lead them to choose this particular gendered identity, and examines the complex relationships that they maintain with one another, their boyfriends, and their families. Kulick also looks at how travestis earn their living through prostitution and discusses the reasons prostitution, for most travestis, is a positive and affirmative experience.

Arguing that transgenderism never occurs in a "natural" or arbitrary form, Kulick shows how it is created in specific social contexts and assumes specific social forms. Furthermore, Kulick suggests that travestis—far from deviating from normative gendered expectations—may in fact distill and perfect the messages that give meaning to gender throughout Brazilian society and possibly throughout much of Latin America.

Through Kulick's engaging voice and sharp analysis, this elegantly rendered account is not only a landmark study in its discipline but also a fascinating read for anyone interested in sexuality and gender.
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