American Able: Disability and Sexuality

Feb 21, 2011
Tagged with: American Able: Disability and Sexuality

Advertisements by American Able parodying clothing retailer American Apparel have questioned whether or not disability can be sexy. In a sequence of photographs, a model with a disability, Jes Sachse, is shown posing in skimpy outfits.  The twenty five year old model has Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome.  This disability is characterized by a small mouth with taut, puckered lips that look the person is attempting to whistle, sunken eyes, drooped eyelids, a long philtrum, scoliosis, and one leg longer than the other. People with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome often have difficulty eating, speaking, and walking.

American Able remade 13 of American Apparel’s advertisements.  American Apparel is known for their red-hot sexy ads and American Able has not toned it down one bit.  In an ad entitled “Workout, Jes wears nothing but a headband, green gym shorts, a tattoo on her left arm, and a tattoo on her chest.  In another, she wears nothing but shorts, knee high socks, and the ever present tattoos.

The photos were taken by Jess’ friend Holly Norris who has questioned traditional beauty.  American Apparel asserts their models are “normal, everyday girls”.  However, they only use normal girls that all have the same body type:  young, thin, and what the public would consider highly sexual.

This idea of who is beautiful and what’s sexy that we see in the media all the time isn’t necessarily what beauty is to me or to you. Rarely, if ever, are women with disabilities portrayed in anything other than an asexual manner, for ‘disabled’ bodies are largely perceived as ‘undesirable.'”

People with disabilities are very rarely depicted in mass advertising campaigns.

According to Jes, “What I hope comes of this is that people can view disability differently and see that people with disabilities are sexual. So many people are trying to come to my aid and protect me from being exploited and they want to prevent disabled people from living their lives.”

Jess says that she looks confident because she is confident both in the project and in her body.

Author: Melissa

  • BobLujano

    People with disabilities are sexual beings like everyone else. The only thing that would be considered as exploitation is if the woman was not paid for her modeling. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.