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One of the best examples is in William Shakespeare’s Richard III, who is written as twisted in body and mind or, as he says of himself, “rudely stamped” and rendered impotent by his physical limitations.Disabled people have also been stereotyped as being hypersexual – a claim used against women with learning difficulties in particular.By 1914 nearly two-thirds of US states had made it illegal for “feeble-minded” and “insane” people to marry.The so-called ‘Ugly Laws’, first passed in the 1880s, prohibited the “unsightly” from being seen on the street at all. The legitimisation of eugenic views throughout Europe and America ended in a logical, if horrifying, outcome: the systematic murder of thousands of disabled people in Germany after the Nazis came to power in 1933.Another powerful archetype, Tom Shakespeare says, is the unconscious – and sometimes conscious – attitude surrounding reproductive fitness that suggests having a disabled partner is potentially contaminating as it could pass the ‘problem’ on to the next generation.Disabled people have challenged this on many levels: for example, sexual relations are not all about procreation, not all impairments are inheritable, and many disabled people accept their impairment and the possibility that it might be passed on.
The key attitudes identified by Shakespeare appear as threads throughout myth and literature, from classical times onwards.
There was an expectation that disabled people’s sexual desires should be set aside and ignored, because they should not – or could not – be satisfied.
The second trope is that disability is a punishment wreaked for committing a sin and, as such, the disabled person is a wholly unsuitable sexual partner because they are evil and, paradoxically, powerful.
What the audience can’t see though is the hearing condition that means she must work hard to follow the beat during her glamorous routine.
A number of disabled performers have taken to the stage to entertain mainstream audiences in recent years, although in her routines Dollar (unlike some) does not refer to either her hearing impairment or her depression, which she writes about with candour and insight.