These Disabled Porn Performers Are Changing How We Talk About Sex and Disability

Billy Autumn, Lyric Seal/Facebook

"Disabled people fuck. Not showing that in porn, not including us in the platform, is harmful and inauthentic," Billy Autumn (NSFW), a disabled sex worker, told Mic.  

Autumn, who identifies with the pronouns "they" and "them," has an array of conditions believed to be stemming from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited disorder that affects the body's connective tissue. They are in an industry that isn't typically thought of as particularly welcoming of disabled bodies, but they are not alone. In an effort to change how society feels about sex and disability, sex workers like Autumn are becoming increasingly visible — and they're vocal about their desire for more representation.

Billy Autumn.Source: Billy Autumn/Instagram
Billy Autumn.  Billy Autumn/Instagram

The performers interviewed by Mic had both invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain or hearing loss, as well as visible disabilities, such as crutches or a wheelchair. Most agreed that the sex industry provides a flexibility that is rarely offered by other types of jobs. 

"Having a disability and being on disability support, it's nice to still have a job that I can do as I want. I can save up spoons, as they say," adult performer Mara Dyne, who has fibromyalgia and chronic pain, told Mic. "It's all right if I can't do anything the next day because it's not an everyday job. Being able to work my own hours, there are quite a few disabled people that I know that do sex work of some variety, particularly because of these freeing schedules."

While disabled bodies are typically ignored by society at large and often viewed as totally asexual, that isn't the case in the alt porn industry. There are a number of alt and queer porn sites doing their part to hire performers with diverse types of bodies. 

"I got involved with adult work through the queer porn site Crash Pad Series, which I found as a fan early in transition, and it really grabbed me," Maya Mayhem, a semi-retired adult transgender performer, told Mic. "I saw queer, trans, disabled bodies of all types being celebrated (it was certainly better than anything else I'd found at the time), and I felt strongly drawn to it."

"I saw queer, trans, disabled bodies of all types being celebrated."

But even though performers with disabilities might be more welcome in a fringe industry like the alt porn world than say, the fashion world (which recently featured the able-bodied Kylie Jenner in a controversial wheelchair photo shoot for Interview magazine), that doesn't mean the adult industry is perfect in terms of representation. 

In mainstream porn, for instance, disabled adult performers are either ignored entirely or featured in niche fetish films. In the 1970s, for instance, the amputee porn actress Long Jeanne Silver became famous for using the stump of her amputated leg for penetration. 

Queer and visibly disabled porn performer Lyric Seal has always been a performer, and got into porn after erotic modeling. A wheelchair user, Seal, who identifies with the pronouns "they" and "them," said that the mainstream porn industry is similar to Hollywood in its willingness to represent differently abled people.  

"People have an idea of what bodies the public is ready to see, and what bodies the public is not ready to see. And similarly when we're talking about sex, we're talking about what bodies are people willing to see as sexual," said Seal. "If you're willing to see them be sexual, in what form do we have to accept that sexuality? Do they have to being fetishized? Do they have to be a stereotype?"

Seal said that fetishization of their disability is not only simply part of the job, but something they are OK with — when they're on-camera, at least. 

"Personally I don't have any problem fetishizing my body. I really don't. Particularly as a job. I think that, like, feet are fetishized, so why shouldn't a certain kind of feet be fetishized?" Seal told Mic. That changes, however, off the set: "When I am personally interacting with somebody, I know if they are fetishizing me, and I know if I can handle it or not. And if I can handle it, it's usually because I'm getting paid."

Lyric Seal.Source: Lyric Seal/Facebook
Lyric Seal.  Lyric Seal/Facebook

Despite being an intellectual contemporary to mainstream directors, Seal has struggled to find mainstream success. "It's interesting having a name and visibility in queer porn and alt porn, and not being someone that's even getting a second glance for most other companies," they told Mic. "In a way I want to reach out directly [to producers and performers] and be like, 'Hey, do you think you have room for my body? Do you think you have room for other bodies like mine?' But the problem is also people know their membership."

Seal said the number of media request they get speaks to the lack of representation in the industry: "If I'm getting reached out to as like a constant representation of disability in porn, that means there is not enough of it. I get asked for interviews more often than I get asked to shoot," they told Mic.

Disability awareness consultant Andrew Morrison-Gurza of the activist organization Deliciously Disabled agreed. When asked about the treatment of disabilities in mainstream porn, Morrison-Gurza, who made headlines in June for organizing an orgy for disabled people, told Mic that the issue isn't underrepresentation so much as "there is no representation of disabilities in mainstream porn. We as a culture still have a huge issue when it comes to [seeing] the disabled body as sexual."

If given the opportunity, Morrison-Gurza said he himself would love to do porn. "It would be so exciting to sexualize the wheelchair, and sexualize the disabled body [and] the whole experience of having to get somebody undressed, and all the things that somebody with a disability does," he told Mic. "All of those things could be part of the porn."

Andrew Morrison-Gurza.Source: Andrew Morrison Gurza/Facebook
Andrew Morrison-Gurza.  Andrew Morrison Gurza/Facebook

Seal suggested that as a society, we can all do better by talking about and treating people living with disabilities as full-fledged, sexualized adults, rather than as children. 

"One of the ways that disabled people experience ableism is non-consensual infantilization and non-consensual protectiveness from society in this, like, fucked-up, paternalistic way. As if we are all like wards of the government," they said. "We are in a lot of ways thought about as people without agency. People who cannot consent. People who cannot desire."

Through the sex work disabled porn performers are doing, Morrison-Gurza thinks we can change the way we talk about disabilities and desirability. Unlike a fashion shoot, featuring disabled performers in porn can force society to see those with disabilities as sexual beings. 

"I think people without disabilities and the able-bodied community have not been given an opportunity to see disabilities as sexy. So by not seeing that they simply don't equate sex with disability. It needs to be put in their face in the nicest possible way for them to consider it as sexy," said Morrison-Gurza.